Craft it like 37 Signals

Harvard Business Review recently did a really interesting article about 37 Signals. Apparently their secret sauce is recognizing that less is more:

“When you’re competing against companies that have so much more, the only answer is to do less,” Jason and David told me. “Do less than your competitors to beat them. Instead of one-upping other companies, one-down them. Instead of out-doing other products, under-do them.”

If Pareto’s law applies to your business (hint: it does) then you should absolutely be asking yourself questions like:

  • Does it really make sense for me to be vertically integrated? Or should I just pass on that other business?
  • Is any aspect of my product offering overengineered?
  • If I re-released a feature-dieted version of my product, would most people complain or be delighted?

Keep an eye on those icons

So I booked a Choice Hotel room this weekend, and being a non-smoker, selected a non-smoking room, as identified by this icon:

smoking1.gif

Except … that wasn’t the no-smoking icon. This is the no-smoking icon:

non-smoking.gif

Given the choice of millions of colors, why on earth would they reuse red?  Why not, oh, say, red and green?

Question: are any icons on your site ambiguous?

Are you an accidental spammer?

My friend Jeremy over at Being a Starving Graphic Artist Sucks asks, Do You Assume that Everyone Wants to Regularly Hear about Your Creative Freelancing Business?
Delete the words “Creative Freelancing,” and you’ll find it’s an effective question that every small businessperson should be asking themselves. The rules are:

  • Just because they bought from you doesn’t mean they want your marketing material.
  • Just because they met you at an event doesn’t mean they want your marketing material.
  • Just because they emailed you doesn’t mean they want your marketing material.

The best practice here is to use a double-opt-in newsletter provider and allow clients to sign themselves up. I use MailChimp (see examples here) and wrote software to allow Zen Cart users to use MailChimp too. There are many offerings in this space, but I think MailChimp is the best one for SMEs.

Guy Kawasaki on the Art of Sucking Up

“Suck up early and often,” goes the saying in corporate life – but is it really all that effective?  Guy Kawasaki throws in his two cents with a series of suggestions which, while not completely servile, are still unctuous enough the be annoying.   (For instance, Guy is not clear on the distinction between seeking empathy and begging.)

“Why?” is the question I want to ask.  Does anyone really believe this is more effective when the externalities of revolting your coworkers is included in the calculus?  I prefer people who deal with me in a straightforward, sincere and honest manner  – don’t most people?

I wonder if it’s the general increase in incivility and vulgarity in society which makes people think they have to overcompensate by sucking up  to their superiors.  I believe an even keel of being courteous and respectful to everyone – particularly those below you in the pecking order – is a better strategy.

Polling your users

I really like the idea of energizing the communication channel from your customers towards you using the web, so I was really impressed by My Starbucks Idea.  What surprised me though was that this wasn’t a simple blog, this was a SalesForce.com application.   I wonder if we’ll see an increasing number of these in the future.

Let’s hope we see some of these suggestions implemented and some exciting changes in your local ‘Bucks. 🙂