Recently I listened to a fascinating interview of Jason Fried, President and co-founder of 37signals. Jason was interviewed by writer-entrepreneur Brian Clark, co-founder of Lateral Action, a wonderful blog that explores the intersection of creativity and productivity. Check it out at http://lateralaction.com/articles/jason-fried/ .
Jason and Brian cover topics on the business philosophy and mission of 37signals, and also subject matter in Jason's best selling book, Rework. The interview is germane to anyone interested in the defining principles of online marketing and entrepreneurship. Here are just 5 takeaways from this interview which is chock full of business insights and marketing advice.
1. Bond with your target (annoy the others)
37signals has a reputation for taking controversial stands. When you take strong positions and express a clear point of view some people will love you and some may hate you. But that's alright with Jason because the alternative is being somewhere in the middle where people don't understand you or care about you. He believes that this is a problem with many companies today. Because they are afraid of offending someone, they appeal to no one.
2. Teach to reach
37signals has no marketing budget and does not invest in traditional advertising. Rather, they take an educational approach to marketing by publishing content through their blog, books and public speaking engagements. Much of the content is free.
Jason compares this approach to a chef's. Chefs enthusiastically share recipes and ideas which builds an audience that continues to share the content with others. Chefs give something valuable to their audience. Many businesses, he points out, don't follow chefs. They fearfully protect their content. They advertise and advertising provides no value to their audience.
3. Learn to say no
This point sounds quite Zen-like to me. Focus on your point of view and learn to say no to most other things, he advises. What are your needs and problems? If you have needs, then there probably is a market with the same needs. Find that market, get their feedback. Ignore the noise of the masses.
4. Try "bootstrapping"
Jason advises small businesses not to seek investment money up front. Instead, try bootstrapping. Service companies (unlike software developers) don't have substantial upfront expenses, so concentrate on building a revenue base, customers, and a team.
This instills the mindset of a bootstrap company that has to make money, as opposed to a funded company that has to spend money. This mindset becomes habitual and cultural. It also builds your leverage with potential investors down the road.
5. On "Authenticity" and Transparency"
Jason takes issue with the terms "authenticity" and "transparency". He prefers the word "honesty". He points out that "it's none of your business" can be an honest answer. Transparency can mean that everything is your business, which is not true. You should share many things, but it would be irresponsible to share everything. Instead be honest, straightforward and clear.
So check out http://lateralaction.com/ and be sure to share it with a friend.