Archive for the ‘Marketing’ Category

“Competing Against Luck” – a book I read

May 6, 2017

I have not done book reviews, this is more like a cheat sheet or notes rather than an actual book review.

The author of this book is the famed prof. Clayton Christensen of HBS. He is a pioneer in innovation management and it is not an overstatement to say, he has dedicated his life towards this. He shot to fame earlier with the term “Disruptive Innovation” in the book “Innovator’s Dilemma”. He has been researching on the theory of “Job to be done” as the basis of successful innovation for the past two decades. He has been carefully building this theory based on collected data inductively.

The core premise of this theory is that customers are “hiring” a product / service to make a progress in their life situation and that they are not buying a product or service.  If they don’t like it, they “fire” the product. If an organization understands this, then the entire culture can be built towards this and there is less and less friction and things get done. The author points to numerous examples, but the two that standout are GM’s OnStar and Intuit’s TurboTax. The story of TurboTax is something we all (folks in Information Technology) can easily appreciate. In case of TurboTax, historically the software used to ask a whole bunch of questions in a wizard approach so it can prepare the tax form. The folks kept asking for what other questions can we ask to make your (customer’s) life easier and that they were getting so much feedback. The team was happy and set out to implement all these new questions in the wizard. However, when they started thinking what is that the user of the TurboTax want? He/She hates the tax preparation process (like everyone) and wants to get it done quick and correctly. They would be happy if they were not asked any questions! Thus they started working towards minimizing the number of questions, starting with automatic pulling of W-2 from payroll processors. Thus one should focus on “why the customers want to use your product?”. He quotes Ted Levitt “they want a quarter inch hole and not quarter inch drill”. If you understand that then you can build a product / service that results in a quarter inch hole.

According to the author, majority of the start-ups begin with the laser sharp focus on “the job to be done”, but they lose focus as they start growing. They lose sight of why the customer wanted them in the first place and starts focusing on the customer (demographics etc), the sales (geography, kind of stores, seasonal) and many more metrics that are getting collected. One very good perspective he reminded in this book on data analytics is that you (the management) decides on which data to collect and thus your results are skewed by analyzing the collected data as you don’t know anything about stuff on which data is not collected.

The book goes on to state how to identify the jobs to be done. Here are the broad five categories

  1. Finding a job close to home – Look at yourself (eg. Reed Hastings of Netflix)
  2. Competing with Nothing – Look at “non consumption”- people choose to continue the statusquo in the absence of a product / solution. – Airbnb – people would chose not to go when hotel space is not available.
  3. Workarounds and compensating behavior – Look out how people are accomplishing a task using different products. – Kimberly Clark created “Silhouettes” based on this approach.
  4. Look for what people don’t want to do – CVS created Minute-Clinics based on the observation that people don’t want to wait to see a doctor.
  5. Unusual Uses – Look out how people are using products that are not meant for that specific job. Arm & Hammer created so many products based on the observation how customers were using their “Baking Soda”.

Once you identify the “job to be done”, the book also explains how to convert that into a product that people want. Once you created the product, the book talks about how you can stay focused on it by discussing the “Fallacies of Innovation Data”.

  1. The fallacy of active vs. passive data
  2. The fallacy of surface growth
  3. The fallacy of conforming data

I want to end this entry with a couple of thoughts.  I always thought about the impulse purchase with a suspect. I’m not denying that someone buys a product on impulse, but most of the purchases are not impulse. The seed for that is sown a while back. This is explained in a very live fashion in this book as well on an interview documentary on a person’s mattress purchase in Costco. Those who frequent to Costco can truly appreciate this section (page 107 – 115). These pages has brought Costco live in my mind, written up so wonderful. This shows how you should analyze  why people buy your products, need to get to the root of it.

Having written on “Disruptive Innovation” and “Jobs to be done”, I would love to read or be involved in a research work on what is the optimal point to introduce new products without killing an existing product prematurely. In other words, what is the optimal way to cannibalize a product.

Browser Push Notifications

January 6, 2017

You might have heard about push notifications for apps (Android, Apple, Windows – for completeness sake :-)), but to bridge the gap, browsers are coming up with support for push notifications. Currently Firefox and Google Chrome support push notifications. You might have seen something like this recently when you visited a certain website. for eg: one from


It is a pretty cool feature. With email becoming ubiquitous and gmail tagging emails under “promotion”, you need a way to reach out to your customers on significant events.  I can state a laundry list of scenario where this will be useful.

Let us say,

  • You booked a flight and checked-in, the gate changed
  • You booked a ticket for an event, you want to show parking tips or parking coupon
  • You have a business website, wherein a crucial information is made available and the client need to be notified.
  • customer left items in the shopping cart, show promotional or price change alert

and more. Here is an introductory video on this

Yes, you can email, SMS  your clientele but in the world of diminishing attention, you need to grab as much an attention you can get.

Please drop me a line if you are interested to discuss or interested to implement this for your business.

Hosting websites – the cheapest option – Amazon S3

March 6, 2014

Every entity must have a website now! There are myriad options starting with Free. The Free ones are pretty much subdomains ( If you are handy and know how to create html pages, then read further. it is the cheapest option I came up with.

Create an account with Amazon AWS and sign up for S3, their cloud storage product. They charge you 10 cents a GB per month ( and $0.004 per 10,000 requests. The website HTML files and images altogether would be less than 1MB thus your monthly storage costs would be less than 10 cents.

Create a bucket in S3 called and copy the website files to it with appropriate folder structures. Once copied, goto the bucket properties and select “enable for static website hosting”. Next is the tricky part, you need to edit the bucket policy. I have no idea why Amazon would do this? It would have been much simpler if Amazon would have automatically created the policy once you enable the buck for static website hosting. They might point to security but this is bad user experience.

Anyway, now click on permissions and click Create bucket policy and paste the following script and remember to change it to you actual website name.

“Version”: “2012-10-17”,
“Statement”: [
“Sid”: “PublicReadForGetBucketObjects”,
“Effect”: “Allow”,
“Principal”: {
“AWS”: “*”
“Action”: “s3:GetObject”,
“Resource”: “*”

Now goto your domain registrar (godaddy,, networksolutions, 1&1…), create an alias / CNAME for “www” and point it to the S3 bucket’s public “Endpoint” under Static Website Hosting.

Once you are done with all this, create another S3 bucket called (without www) and click on static website hosting and select “Redirect all requests to another host name” and type Now whether a user types your website name with or without www, it will load correctly.

Here is the complete instructions from Amazon. Do not follow Route53 (it is not required. if you do it will add 50 cents per month to your cost).

Set up this way and the charge is only 8 cents a month.

Doodle marketing

June 14, 2011

Everybody knows about Google doodles these days. The most recent one I adore is the Guitar – what a lovely innovation? As I was thinking more about the doodle program, it dawned on me How about a doodle for every business. Sooner this  concept could become like an appstore.

Google is doing it to promote a cause. Any company can make up their logo to represent something – it could be used to showcase a customer by combining the customers’ and your logo (rather than burying it somewhere in the website under customer list),  a recent milestone in the company, a recent innovation etc. For ex: Yahoo is splashing their entire page with an ad when you login, you could take them to this kind of a storyboard page after they click on the initial doodle.

For example, GE can come up with an attractive doodle on the eco-imagination / logo to showcase how they helped Boeing / CSX on going green, How the green/black belts are helping the customers, the Smart grids and the like.

I would love to discuss further and develop on this idea with interested parties.

Found another blog entry from Wharton on similar lines. Here you go