Chaos is a ladder

If you’ve been watching Game of Thrones, you may recognise this quote from the shows master manipulator Petyr ‘Littlefinger’ Baelish.

Being born into a family of poor soldiers in a world where power & resources go to those born into the right noble families, Baelish has used his cunning to stir up chaos in order to advance his position.

Through his scheming, he’s managed to become the King’s financial advisor, then a lord of two of the ‘Seven Kingdoms’, and is currently plotting his way to becoming the next King. He causes chaos- such as wars and murder of key people (all while keeping his hands clean & the suspicion away from him), and then helps those caught up in the chaos solve their problems in exchange for advantageous positions for himself.

He is portrayed on the show as being one of the slimiest villains (in a show with many many villains) as he uses covert tactics, and is hard to pin down as to what he wants, shows no loyalty, and plays all sides- if it will work out in his favour. He is portrayed as the most morally corrupt.

However, in a world where the rules of the game are to assemble the biggest armies, learn to fight well (physically), and try to be born into the right family- he is the character on the show I root for above all the others as he’s one of the only true underdogs not being born into power, and his weapon of choice is his intellect. If I were directing, I surely would have portrayed him the hero of the story!

And then there’s the quote that sums up his life philosophy “chaos is a ladder”.

Now I’m not usually one for quotes. I find most of them to be upbeat feel good fodder with little substance such as “find your passion”. But this one happens to be my favourite quote of all time, and has quite a bit of practical application when it comes to spotting and making the most of opportunities- especially when the odds are stacked against you.

Chaos is when the same old same old doesn’t work anymore.

The order of what was is no longer. Things are now uncertain, and people may be panicked. The great thing about this is that people may be more willing to try new things.

If it’s not broke, don’t fix it can be the order of the day when things are good, and can lead to complacency and clinging to the status quo.

But when the status quo no longer works, it can be a great time to re evaluate things.

Your potential customers may be re-evaluating things too.

Those big, safe, established competitors you had swimming around, making sure nobody would touch you?

We’ll they may not be doing work that works anymore if the winds have changed.

Sure, what you may have been proposing in good times may have felt risky to those you want to court, but now that their house is on fire- what have they got to lose?

If the chaos is really bad, you may seem like their best hope- because what they are doing isn’t working.

Chaos is a time for renewal and change.

And for those who’re the underdogs and little guys, it can be a time of opportunity.

Is someone about to rise from chaos to topple New Zealand’s throne?

If you’re a fellow New Zealander, we all saw the Jacinda effect in action.

For those of you who aren’t, Jacinda Ardern is (as of the last 2 weeks) the Party leader of the main opposition party in New Zealand politics- the Labour Party.

For the last 3 terms, the National Party has been in power, and looked like a shoo in for yet another term, while the Labour Party has been changing its party leader almost as often as I change my underwear (which is daily in case you were wondering).

Again and again they selected conventional choices.

Those who’d been around the longest, stuck to the party tried and true policies of yesteryear, and made the party stakeholders feel safe. They also looked how you’d expect them to look- over 50, white, & male.

While they all ticked the boxes on paper that would enable them to govern somewhat effectively, they all lacked a critical ability that would get them there in the first place- salesmanship.

It’s an unfortunate fact of politics that to be able to govern, you must first be a great sales person and campaigner. Two skills which may not even be related. But it is what it is.

So for years they’ve burned through their list of ‘safe’ candidates, none of which were able to lift the party’s polling numbers.

And then rock bottom arrived- 24%, which was the lowest result since polls began in 1995. All of this just 8 weeks out from the election.

So with the house now ablaze, and having burned through almost all of the conventional options, there was one obvious solution: Jacinda.

And by obvious, I mean she was the obvious choice of the people. The people whose support is needed to win an election.

For a long while she’d been showing up in the ranks of preferred Prime Minister polls.

Despite being a relatively junior member of parliament.

This didn’t go entirely unnoticed by the establishment, who recognised her popularity, and took advantage of this by making her the deputy leader. Actually, I’m not sure why it happened, I’m speculating here, but it makes sense.

And in the weeks leading up to her being sworn in as the new leader, she’d been outranking the actual party leader Andrew Little in the preferred prime minister poll.

So she was clearly the obvious choice.

Only she wasn’t like the rest. She didn’t fit the mold.

Despite being in parliament for coming up to 10 years (so she’s clearly experienced), it’s been said she lacks the experience because she hasn’t achieved enough whilst there.

But I reckon it’s also because she doesn’t look right.

She is younger at 37, female, attractive, and able to have a laugh.

I know from experience that when you don’t look right your credibility comes under considerable scrutiny.
And by not looking right, I mean looking young.

You’re guilty until proven innocent.

You’re not given the benefit of the doubt- you’re perceived to be incompetent until proven with complete certainty otherwise.

It’s one of the last forms of discrimination that society deems to be acceptable.

Being female, attractive, and funny aren’t really issues in and of themselves, but when combined with a youthful appearance, these can add to the associations one may have with incompetence.

But she’s likeable, a great story teller, speaks with conviction, & in fact does come across as credible- which seem to be the primary qualifications needed to win an election these days. Qualifications which none of the others had.

And after only a couple of weeks, the party support jumped up 9% to a total of 33%.

There’s still 6 weeks left, so let’s see how far this goes.

Had the Labour Party not been almost burned to a crisp, I don’t think she’d been given a chance.

But when there’s chaos, what once seemed risky can instead seem like the safest option.

And it usually is.

Alien or a Foreigner? How to know when your idea is too ‘out there’ for customers to understand.

Over here we’re all about helping companies craft their product & service offerings so they’ll have something different to bring to their sea of sameness markets where everyone is more or less doing the same thing. And as an outcome of doing so, they’ll get more visibility, a higher chance of connecting with and being chosen by their ideal customer, be able to charge higher prices (and have their customers more than willing to pay), and more word of mouth (aka free) marketing going on.

So should you really push the boat out creatively and create something so unique that it’s like meeting an alien species for the first time?

Actually no. We’d not recommend you try take people to Mars. But how about Fiji? (or any other semi- exotic location on Earth).

One represents a disorienting confusion where you have no idea what’s going on, and in comparison the other is a pleasant novelty. In the grand scheme of things, Fiji isn’t all that different. There’s still people, water, food, and most of the stuff you’re familiar with- just with slightly different customs, weather, and scenery.

If you’re too different, you’ll likely confuse your customers.

And two things will happen- they’ll either not become customers, or you’ll spend too much time & money educating them to get them to the point of clarity where they feel like they are able to know what they’re actually signing up for.

I’ve got a little rule of thumb to make sure your audience lands in Fiji, & not on Mars: One Jump.

You can take people from where they are now, to one jump away. Not two (or more).

Which means grounding them in a sense of familiarity before telling them how what you do differs from what they already know.

A simple format to do this is :

It’s like —– except with/without ——-

Cars are like horses- only a machine made of metal & faster.

A kiwi is like a furry ball with a beak sticking out of it.

A dream is a movie that plays in your head while you’re sleeping.

What you can’t do is start explaining yourself by using a starting point which your audience doesn’t understand.

This would require 2 jumps (or more).

The first to explain what the thing is that they don’t understand that you need them to understand first before they can take another jump to what your thing actually is. Ugh, too hard.

I had this experience somewhat recently when a friend tried to explain what Blockchain technology was.

He explained that it’s technology to ensure that files that get passed from computer to computer always delete the senders copy, so that the recipient’s version is the only one that exists. This is for security and verification so files don’t either become a game of Chinese Whispers- with the information changing down the line, or to ensure authenticity of the original- as in, the file you have is the only one that exists.

(Actually he didn’t explain it quite like that, but that’s what I got from it).

But although I could understand the words he was saying, I couldn’t quite grasp the concept.

This is because I didn’t have a working knowledge of file sharing in the first place. I’ve never been in the position of seeing how files get distorted when passed down the line, or in what circumstances this would happen. I just didn’t have any awareness that this even happened in the first place. It’s not something I’d ever thought about.

I couldn’t clear one of the jumps.

A similar thing happened a few years back when trying to explain to me what ‘the cloud’ was.

…It’s when your files are stored on remote servers, and not on your computer so they can be accessed from anywhere….Ouch! Servers?

It wasn’t until it was explained like this that I was able to ‘get’ the idea:

The cloud is when your files are stored on the internet instead of your computer. It’s like email. All your emails aren’t stored on your computer are they?- you access them by logging into your email online.

At last!

I was able to understand it explained this way because I already knew what email and the internet were. So it only required one jump to explain that this was a wider category of storage called ‘the cloud’.

Using the One Jump rule, there’s 4 actions you can take if you’re getting the sense you’re in Two Jump land.

1: Explain the second jump.

This should only be considered if you have enough runway or a high enough price point to justify spending a lot more time and money communicating a three part message.

2: Find a jump off point your audience can understand.

This is for when you are able to find a suitable substitution for showing your audience what the current state of reality is.

This is what happened when I was able to understand what ‘the cloud’ was. Talking about servers was substituted for talking about email & the internet.

3: Find an audience who understands your jump off point.

This is about preaching to the choir. In the case of Blockchain technology- the choir I’m not.

In this instance, the choir would be those who have experienced problems stemming from file replication or adjustments as it travels from place to place.

4: If nobody understands your jump off point- jump ship!

Say for instance that you went back in time, before email & the internet even existed to try and explain what ‘the cloud’ was. You wouldn’t be able to even reference the internet. You’d first have to explain what the internet is. And that would be hard enough for people who’d never even experienced that.

In these cases, it’s probably just best for now to leave that idea on Mars.

The product is the marketing

So you’ve got a marketing problem aye?

You’ve worked out that if you can sell more units, courses, projects…whatever, then things will be fixed.
So naturally, the next step may be to seek out ways to get your product or service in front of the right people, with the right message, at the right time.

Depending on what you do, and what method is best for you, that may be networking, social media advertising, or cold calling.

Whatever you choose, most of the time it will work. Eventually it always does.

It’s a numbers game (or so you’re told). If you cast a net wide enough, eventually you’ll catch some fish.

But that can be the trap.

Because you’ll feel like you’re on the right track. And all you gotta do is repeat what you did last time, except times two to get two times the result.

Given enough time & money, you’ll get to where you want to go- just by increasing what has worked in the past.
If however there are others out there offering what you’re offering then there’s gonna be a bit of friction.

And those numbers in that numbers game you’re playing aren’t going to be as good.

You’re gonna find customers who have already with someone else, so they’re not going to go with you.

You’re gonna find those who’ve been in the game longer than you, who have larger customer bases, and brand awareness- so they’ll get more word of mouth and referrals than you.

You’ll find those with more experience under their belt than you, so they’ll be seen as the expert source on the industry you’re in.

You’ll find your ads competing with others ads too, saying things along similar lines. Customers have heard it before, so they’ll just tune it out.

And this is why your product (what you’re offering to your chosen market) really is the foundation of your marketing.

If you have a product that no one else has- and you don’t even need to get radical here, just different enough so that you don’t seem to customers like all the rest (and they actually have to prefer it over the alternative at least in some cases, but that’s another story for another day), then your advertising is going to start to be more noticeable- because you’re not saying what the others are saying. You’re not like them. So you won’t need to spend as much to get the result you’re after.

You may also start noticing less of “we already have a (what it is you have/or do)”. Which means less instant rejection, and potential to open up more business relationships.

And then there’s the free marketing. Oh yes.

Firstly there’s the news. And the name gives itself away. It’s called the news because they deal with things that are well…new. What you now have is new now isn’t it? And this is all free. So less money you have to spend on advertising.

Being in the news makes you look like the expert, and is effectively an outside endorsement for what you’re doing. Both these things mitigate people’s uncertainty around doing business with you, increasing the chances that they’ll go ahead.

People also notice things that are different, and make their way into conversation. Giving you free word of mouth marketing.

When you’re in demand and a party of one, you are able to charge higher prices. Why? Because customers can’t walk away and get what you’re offering elsewhere. You’re it. Else they can settle for the alternative.

So what are you gonna do?

Push, push, push, spend, spend, spend until you make your numbers? And repeating this forever?

Or investing time into crafting a hot knife that slices through butter?