Dumb Ways to Die, smart ways to market

Before you read on, watch this.

This, in case you haven’t already heard it, is a video called “Dumb Ways to Die” about rail safety by Melbourne Metro. It currently has 28 MILLION VIEWS views on YouTube.

How did a safety video about such an incredibly dry topic spread so far?

(Short version: because it’s awesome.)

There are lots of wonderful features of this video: the charming soundtrack, the ridiculously adorable animations, the clever use of exaggeration…

But I think one of the most clever and most effective aspects of this video is how generous it is.

Generally, government departments want to deliver their message as cheaply and quickly as possible. Get in, scare the heck out of people, get out. BAM.

But this video spends 90% of its time off-point, being funny and catchy and completely unrelated to train safety. That extra time costs serious money (adorable animations not being cheap) and it takes the bighuge risk of not actually telling you what the video is about until the very end.

If the video had the same adorable animations and charming soundtrack but had delivered the point from the beginning, it would have been nice-but-forgettable. Making it less efficient has made it dramatically more effective.

It was a big risk to take. The creators of this video trusted that it was engaging enough that people would stay tuned in for long enough to get the message.

And they were right!

This is in dramatic contrast to the way most governments (and most of us) do marketing. They resisted the pressure to get to the point, they resisted the pressure to make it be efficient, and so they made a beautiful piece of marketing.

Would your marketing change if you trusted that people would be engaged right until the end? Tell us in the comments!

Compromising your vision (and how not to anymore, yeah?)

You come to me frowning.

Why do I keep compromising my vision? you ask. I have this idea in my head and it’s bold and glorious and world-shaking, but then when I make it… something happens. Something goes wrong. And what comes out is wishy-washy and mediocre and ordinary and Bleh.

“What’s your ratio of terror to excitement?”

About four parts terror to six parts excitement?

“Well, that’s a tiny bit higher than I recommend – my favourite ratio is three parts terror to seven parts excitement, so the excitement is more than double the terror – but it’s not impossibly high. How confident are you that you can deliver the undiluted vision of your work?”

Well right now not very, ’cos I keep compromising! But when I plan it it feels very doable. Y’know, a stretch, but a good one.

“Okay, that’s cool. Then my biggest question: How much do you trust the intended audience for this?”

How much… do I trust them?

“Yep. How much do you trust them to understand what you’re doing, and react in the right ways, and appreciate the value of it. How much do you trust them to applaud in the right places and laugh at your jokes.”

Oh. Yikes. I… don’t know? I can feel my pulse speeding up just thinking about it. I would say, “Not very much.” That’s a bad sign, isn’t it?

“’fraid so, jellybean. I think it’s the number one reason I see people compromising their vision – they don’t have enough faith in their audience’s ability to appreciate it.”

Is the problem me, or the audience?

“Possibly both. But they’re both your problems, anyway.”

Excuse me? you say, mock affronted.

“Well, there’s two potential problems here. Either you have the perfect audience for your best vision, in which case not trusting them is your issue to deal with… or you don’t have the right audience yet, which is also your problem to deal with.”

Oh. Yeah, I guess. I think I have a mix? Some people who would really love this… they’re the ones I was thinking about when I planned it. But also some who just totally won’t get it. If I think about them, I want to tone it down.

“Awesome self-awareness! So there’s a couple of things you can do. One is to do the marketing work to attract more of the People Who Get It, and to gently shoo away the others. The other thing is to do the internal work to build up your faith around a few key beliefs.”

Faith workouts? Pump up my belief muscles?

“Exactly! Here are the beliefs you have to strengthen:

1. My work is enough. And so am I.
2. There are enough people in the world who will reallytrulydeeply appreciate and support my vision.
3. The world is poorer every time I compromise my vision.
4. I am not here to cater to the People Who Don’t Get It.
5. The kindest thing I can do for the People Who Don’t Get It is to set them free so they can find their right people.
6. And the easiest way to do that is to deliver my work at full strength.
7. I am brave, and I trust my audience. I trust that they exist, and they love my work. I trust their intelligence, and I trust their intentions.

When all of those beliefs are strong, it’s much much easier to be bold and confident.”

I can’t prove these things, so I have to take them on faith?

“Pretty much. When you do it and succeed, you gain some evidence that there are enough people to support your vision. But next time you create a vision, it’ll always be new enough that you need to have faith again.”

So this never gets easy?

“Not so far as I’m aware. But it gets easier.”

Any more advice?

“If this is dizzyingly scary, start small. One tiny, bijou vision instead of a revolution. You can scale up as you get more resilient.

And I always recommend going faster than your fear can catch up with. That’s how I made my first ever product.”

Okay, thanks. Can you do me a favour?


Say the words?

“Of course. Now go forth and ROCK IT THE FUCK OUT.”


We high five and you stride away. You don’t see it, but I’m smiling proudly as you go.

Have you found ways to deliver your vision without compromise? Share them in the comments!

photo by: soopahgrover

Metrics for small businesses

It’s rather delightful when Biznez Owner Catherine gets to reclaim and reintegrate something that Day Job Catherine used to do.

Back in my last – and much-loved – Day Job, I was the Customer Liaison for a large web-hosting company. (In essence, I was the person who translated between tech and people.) One of my biggest achievements in that job, other than my epic lolly jar, was creating a dashboard for the IT department. One system to measure the health of all of our tech, across everything from number of incidents to available network switches.

The process of taking a mind-blowing amount of data and narrowing it into a meaningful and useful snapshot was very educational, but it took a long time before that education raised its head again directly.

’Cos while I was in the first stages of self-employment, I paid almost no attention to metrics. Money coming in the door? Getting more Twitter followers? Cool, we’re all good then!

I was running on energy, with very little idea where I was going.

But that first merry sprint ended, and ended with a crash. Suddenly I found myself thinking about metrics again, reinterpreting what I’d learned to a new scale. Here are a few of my thoughts on metrics for small businesses.

1. Only pay attention to metrics that create decisions.

Even for teeny bizzes there are sixteen bajillion things you could measure… Google Analytics alone has a hundred potential data points.

But the useful metrics are the ones that urge you to make changes.

For example, if you ran an ice-cream truck you could track the temperature every day. Seems valid, right? Well, it depends on whether you actually do anything differently depending on the weather.

If you still take the same number of supplies and drive the same route no matter what the temperature is, then that is a dead metric. It’s not being used for anything; a decorative waste of your time.

But if you tie the weather to sales and use the metric to decide at what temp the weather is hot enough to justify hiring your cousin Benny for the day to help, then suddenly that is meaningful.

I’m not saying you can’t measure non-action data, but it should not get regular attention. It’s interesting, but it’s not important, and should be treated accordingly.

2. Tie your metrics to a plan.

There is absolutely no point to increasing your Facebook likes.

There is absolutely no point to increasing your newsletter subscribers.

There is absolutely no point to increasing your website visitors.

Unless you have a plan.

You know, a goal you want to accomplish and a path to get there.

Metrics that aren’t tied to a plan or goal just track your progress to nowhere in particular. The only thing they accomplish is making you feel warm and fuzzy.

It’s kinda funny for me, the Cash and JOY ambassador, to be saying, “Forget that, it only makes you feel good.” But I want both halves of the equation for you, jellybean. Focusing on metrics that aren’t tied to a plan may bring you a bit of joy, but they are extremely unlikely to bring you cash.

The right metrics do both, and do it better. They don’t just measure growth, they measure growth with a purpose. Growth that gets you closer to your heart’s desire.

That shit is sacred, yo. I don’t want you to settle for meaningless enlargement when you could have meaningful flourishing.

And the right metrics make that more likely.

3. Hard metrics, and soft metrics.

Most people do one, or the other.

Some people can produce every single solid number about how their biz is doing: how many signups to this list, the conversion rate on this page.

Some people can tell you to ten decimal places how things feel: the excitement around a new offer, how they feel about the work.

You have to measure both.

The internal and external reality of your business are equally important. All data, and you will lose your joy (and your conscience) to become a number-increasing cog. All feel, and you will never explore the full power and potential of your work.

For the all-feel peeps, the challenge is to commit to and fall in love with the numbers, to give them the attention, and the unflinching acceptance of reality, that they deserve. To be brave enough to get real.

For the all-data peeps, the challenge is to commit to and fall in love with a difficult-to-quantify subjective reality. To give your gut the attention, and the unflinching acceptance of illogic, that they deserve. To be brave enough to get unreal.

4. How do small businesses measure their internal state?

I think the easiest method is to measure the output of an internal state. It’s hard to quantify the anxiety in your biz, but it’s actually pretty easy to measure your number of sleepless nights, or how often you want to go to work in the morning.

The key is to find a measurable behaviour that accurately enough represents the internal state you want to track. The better you know yourself and your patterns, the easier this is. You could measure your intake of cheese sticks if you know that’s a reliable internal barometer for your level of distraction.

5. Single data points are meaningless.

Knowing that you have 258 email subscribers doesn’t mean much by itself. Data gets meaningful when it has context.

Trending: are your numbers going up, going down, or flatlining?

Velocity: are you getting closer to your goal, at a speed you’re comfortable with?

The key to both of these assessments is about measurement over time. When you track a metric over time, it stops being data points and starts being a pattern. Patterns are a higher form of information, and something we can act and make decisions from.

6. Pay very close attention to sample size.

I would guesstimate that 85% of the most woe-ifying incorrect assumptions my clients make are based on data.

They’re just not based on enough data.

This is the downside to the previous point about wanting to find patterns in data. We are astonishingly good at doing so, and do it automatically.

This can be… a problem.

Sometimes the data is too small to draw meaningful conclusions from. But we do it anyway, and then regard our conclusions as gospel truth. (“No-one liked this offer.” “How many readers did you have at the time?” “About 50.”)

Be very conscious when you’re making judgements from small data sets. They are extremely inaccurate.

7. How do you manage your metrics well?

Firstly, fall in love with them. Realise that measurements aren’t a dry boring thing you have to do every now and again. Accurate, meaningful measurements are the ultimate power to make amazing things happen in your business, for you and for your clients.

Then, write out your plan. What are you trying to achieve, step by step?

Next, decide how you want to measure your results at each step of your plan. How will you know it’s working?

Now, make a solid and delightful system for gathering, paying attention to, and making decisions from your metrics.

Last, build in a fucking gigantic dose of gratitude and celebration for your metrics. Cheer for every sign, no matter how small, that you are moving in the right direction.

And then do it again, next time.

Do you want to know how to make a marketing plan that is metric-rich and extremely delightful? I’ve just finished running my ultimate planning experience, The Pilot Light. And I had such a good time I’m thinking about doing it again soon. Put your details in the form to learn more!

Changing the rules

I am about a week shy of completing the Tiny Insignificant Blogging Challenge – to whit, publish an article every day but Sunday.

I know that I can keep it up and deliver exactly as promised.

But it would be kinda stupid to do so.

I have discovered that I can indeed write an article every day before my client calls. But I am struggling with writing an article, doing client calls, and THEN writing something else. You know, like the weekly newsletter. Or the latest Provocateurs challenge. Or the sales page re-write I’ve been planning for a month.

While your writing muscles do improve with exercise, for now it appears that a thousand or so words is pretty much the maximum I can write every day without Problems. I’m out of shape, easing my way back into the word gym. And I’m experienced enough not to do the extra hundred push-ups, ’cos I know how it’ll make me feel the next day.

So for the remainder of the challenge, I am changing the rules.

I will still write every day, but like this:

Monday: sales page
Tuesday: article
Wednesday: newsletter
Thursday: Provocateurs
Friday: article
Saturday: catch up on anything incomplete, or start on the project list
Sunday: REST

If you’re a Provocateur (which you should be) and signed up for the newsletter (which you must be, surely. It is awesome.) you’ll get all of the benefits.

I will still publish every day. And I will keep my sanity.

I will also fail the challenge.

I’m fine with this. This was a self-imposed challenge, designed to do two things:

  1. Get writing regularly again.
  2. Explore, with awareness, my writing process.

I’ve accomplished both of those things. To complete the challenge as originally designed Just Because would be kinda stupid. To do so would mean that I’d fail at other things, like delivering the newsletter on time.

If there was the tiniest hint of “You’re just changing the rules ’cos you couldn’t do it, loser lady.” then I’d probably finish the challenge unchanged. But there isn’t. I know I could do this, I just think it would be smarter to do it differently.

So I will.

Have you ever changed the rules mid-way through and felt 100% good about it? Tell us in the comments!