Your cold emails compete with cat pictures for my attention

Unsolicited emails – the cold emails – have notoriously low reply rates. I’ve seen sales people celebrating 1% reply rates as a huge win. Honestly, isn’t that a bit embarrassing? Only 1 reply out of 100 emails and even that one reply is usually “no, thanks” or “don’t email me again“.

Common justifications for this abysmal reply rate is either people are too busy or simply throwing up hands and saying: “who the hell knows”. I think we can do better than this when it comes to understanding why cold emails don’t get replies.  ...  Read the entire post →

Your first sales hire should be two sales reps, and other tips

Recently someone asked me a question about hiring and structuring sales team in India.

Incidentally, someone asked a very similar question in our Inverted Passion slack group (now we’re 271 people). I shared my experience of growing an inside sales team at Wingify in India. In this post, I’m copy-pasting my answer from the Slack group and adding some more tips. ...  Read the entire post →

The Motivation, Emotion and Repetition (MER) framework for marketing

Our collective understanding of marketing has a massive hangover from the pre-Internet days. If you ask most people to define marketing, they’d go with definitions like “to inform about the product”, “to create brand awareness” or “to spread the word”. All these definitions are wrong because of the same reason: they serve company’s goals, not customers’.

This error of thinking in which the entrepreneur assumes customers have same motivations as s/he has is called the mind projection fallacy. This error is very common and hard to cure. I’ve written about how it affects entrepreneurs when they design products, get excited about new technology or seek new startup ideas.  ...  Read the entire post →

Organizations are habit maximization machines

Have you seen this famous video on Youtube where one guy dances and it keeps on attracting other people to join him? Soon enough this one person’s weird dance is a group dancing together. In case you haven’t, check it out (it’s just 3 minutes long):

Organizations grow similarly. Whether the founding team intends to or not, every startup project ends up acquiring cult-like habits. Here’s how that happens.

What makes company cultures different from each other?

Imagine your name is Paras and you’re the founder of a startup project (it could be a company, a non-profit, a religion or even a country). You have a weird habit: you like to come to office by noon and stay late (say until 8pm). You hire your first employee, and on the first day he comes to office at 9am (just like he did in his previous job). The empty office seems odd to him, and it becomes odder still when he sees you stroll by in office during his lunchtime. In the evening, since it’s the first day of his job, he waits for you to leave but the entire time, you are happily busy on your laptop. You leave office by 9pm and a couple of minutes after you, the new hire leaves. Thinking of his first day as a fluke, the new employee comes in early again tomorrow but the same thing repeats.  ...  Read the entire post →

How to create legal monopolies via network effects and economic moats

If there’s one thing that customers dislike, it’s the barriers in switching between competitive products. As customers, we want to retain our freedom. However, as entrepreneurs, we are incentivized to curtail that freedom. As I wrote earlier, head to head competition in a market pushes profits to zero. To make a profit, an entrepreneur needs to find a way to keep customers and competition away from each other.

There are two ways this separation can happen:

  • Prevent competition from entering into your market
  • Prevent customers from switching to a competitor

Obviously, these tasks are hard in a free market (and that is why market pays through the roof for companies with a sustainable competitive advantage). Unless you sell drugs, you can’t (and shouldn’t) hire an assassin to prevent competition. Nor, can you (and should you) threaten your customers with dire consequences if they switch. ...  Read the entire post →

Meta mental model

Mental models are shortcuts that help you think better. One of the most famous ones is Pareto’s principle which says that for many phenomena, 80% of effects come from 20% of inputs. Management consultants love mental models: BCG matrix helps you with manage a portfolio of businesses, Porter’s five forces model helps you think about competition and Peter Principle helps you understand why organizations become full of incompetent managers.

Mental models are abstractions of reality. They’re like proverbs. For example, “Actions speaks louder than words” tells us that revealed preferences carry more information than stated preferences (something economists now take for granted). It’s a fun exercise to go through popular proverbs and decide if these old mental models are still useful in our interactions in the modern world. ...  Read the entire post →

Speaking your mind is a public service

There’s a famous joke (that I discovered on Scott Aaronson’s blog). It goes something like this:

There’s a man standing in the Moscow train station, handing out leaflets to everyone who passes by. Eventually, of course, the KGB arrests him—but they discover to their surprise that the leaflets are just blank pieces of paper. “What’s the meaning of this?” they demand. “What is there to write?” replies the man. “It’s so obvious!”.

This joke gives a chuckle because without saying anything it points out how bad the living conditions were in the Soviet and how everyone knew that the conditions were bad. Yet, the Soviet Union remained in power from 1922 to 1991. How did it last so long when the public knew that central planning was devoiding them of progress? Surely, the large population (that included soldiers in the army) could have revolted against a few leaders. ...  Read the entire post →

Why startups need to be cult-like

Peter Thiel wrote in his book, Zero to One, that startups need to be cult-like. At that time, I didn’t completely appreciate his message, but now I do. By ‘cult’, I mean a group where members have values that are similar to each other, but extremely different from the outside world. Cults, as long as they don’t harm their members or others, are society’s exploration vessels. Because they’re cults, they obsess about arcane stuff that nobody else cares about. Most of the times, they keep it to themselves and rest of the world ignores them. But if they discover something valuable, rest of the world benefits.  ...  Read the entire post →

Staying relevant in a changing world

Many designers I know started their design practice by first practicing on Photoshop. Almost all marketers I know entered the field by reading articles on content marketing, Adwords, or Facebook Ads (SEO is long gone). Engineers in my day started learning web programming with PHP (apparently these days it’s Javascript / NodeJS).

Most self-made professionals get attracted to the methods and tools because they get immediate results. Want to do content marketing? Sign up on Medium, write an article and spread it. Want to write your first app? Use Bootstrap in the frontend and Mongo/NodeJS on the backend, and you’re up and ready in a couple of hours. Tools enable immediate gratification and that’s what makes them so attractive. ...  Read the entire post →

To get good startup ideas, look for anomalies

Most entrepreneurs are aware of product-market fit. It’s a good advice but I have an issue with the term “product-market fit”. It makes an entrepreneur focus on product first, market second. The words we choose to describe the world ends up shaping the world for us. This means not all “social networks” are the same and words you choose to describe an innovation has a significant influence on how much customers value it.

Repeated usage the term product-market fit, develops a mental model where the entrepreneur’s inclination is to make a product (or get an idea) first and then go out in the market to test it. In fact, that’s what Lean Startup and other methodologies suggest. Quick experiments and fail fast. ...  Read the entire post →