You made LinkedIn’s top 10 percent. Now, shut up about it

you're one in 20 million
Recently, LinkedIn sent out spam congratulatory emails to some of its members, telling them that they ranked in the top one, five, or ten percent of the most viewed profiles. Which sounds great, till you realize that LinkedIn has 200 million members. Now I’m no math whiz, but I’m pretty sure that ten percent of 200 million is 20 million. Even the lofty top one percent loses some of its luster when you realize it’s a distinction shared with 1,999,999 other users.

So if being a member of such a large crowd pleases you, that’s fine. But do you really want to brag about it on Twitter and Facebook? The distinction is dubious and the self-promotional element seems a little tone deaf. It’s kind of like trumpeting your Klout score or how many Google Wave friends you have. There’s nothing wrong with self-promotion, as long as it’s done with authenticity and class. By all means, shout out your accomplishments to your friends — they’ll be proud of you for the stuff you’ve actually done.

By the way, I’ve got nothing against LinkedIn for running this promotion. I give the company credit for getting people to promote the site for free.

Marketing lessons from the Romney iPhone gaffe

Twenty years ago, Vice President Dan Quayle made headlines for correcting a schoolboy’s spelling of the word “potato.” The boy had of course correctly spelled it, but Quayle told him that he had forgotten the silent e at the end of the word. Pundits and late-night talk-show hosts excoriated him mercilessly. It was, to say the least, an embarrassing gaffe. No one really believes that this meant that Quayle was uneducated or unintelligent; more likely, he suffered a momentary brain-lock and flubbed the word. (Although he later blamed a cue card that the school had given him.)

Now the Mitt Romney presidential campaign has suffered a similar bout of spelling ineptitude. The campaign released an Instagram-like app for the iPhone that allowed users to share photos emblazoned with pro-Romney slogans. At first glance, it seemed to be a pretty cutting-edge effort for a campaign that has long struggled to connect with voters. What they hoped to accomplish by enabling supporters to create digital postcards is unclear. (Seriously: who’s going to send them to people?) But in the end, the app made news for a completely unintended reason.

One of the templates that users of the app could choose was a small graphic of the lower 48 states with the caption “A Better America.” Only problem is, they managed to misspell the name of our country. Instead of “America,” the caption said “Amercia.” Which sounds vaguely like a medical diagnosis. (“I thought I contracted nasal amercia, but my doctor said it was only allergies.”)

A Better Amercia

from @DaveStroup

Not surprisingly, this mistake was caught quickly and went viral, with thousands of tweets poking fun at the mistake. Inexplicably, the app was still available in Apple’s App Store the day after the typo had gone viral. (It was fixed soon after.)

In one way, this mistake wasn’t as bad as the one Quayle made, because here the candidate himself didn’t actually make the error. (Presumably — Romney doesn’t seem the coding type.) But in some ways, this mistake is actually worse. People can forgive a momentary brain lapse like Quayle’s. But this was something else.

In all likelihood, the programmer who created the app knew how to spell America. It was very likely a typo: the digital equivalent of Quayle’s “potatoe.” Everyone makes typos. As a writer, I do it all the time. When writing the 90,000 words in my book, I probably made hundreds of typos. But the difference is that I reread every one of those words at least four times. And at least five other people reviewed my work as well. The reason for this is that I care about making mistakes and I try to pay attention to detail. And so do the people at Apress who published my book.

The programmer who created the app should have reread his work. The campaign official to whom he reported certainly should have checked the 10 or 12 templates in the app and made sure that there weren’t any mistakes. Given the size and import of the national campaign, there were probably several other officials whose approval was needed before releasing the app. In fact, it’s not beyond reason to expect that the candidate himself would at least take a look at it before it hits the App Store. The mistake was so glaring, anyone should’ve caught it.

But they didn’t. Since no one believes that the intelligent people who work at the Romney campaign actually have difficulty spelling the word “America,” this can only mean one thing:

They didn’t care enough to check.

And yes, we can all agree that in the scheme of things, this is a very minor mistake. But it’s a very visible one. And it sends the wrong message to the public.

It’s also not the first gaffe for the campaign. There was the time when Romney appeared in a commercial touting the value of American-made cars while driving in a Chrysler 300 that was actually manufactured in Canada. Or the time a senior aide compared the political map to an Etch A Sketch. Or the time that Mitt Romney named his son “Tagg.” (Just kidding.)

To be fair, I’m sure that the people involved in the campaign care very much. Many of them have put their lives on hold while they work tirelessly to get Romney elected. But the message they’re sending is that they don’t care.

Back when I had my law firm, I frequently received letters from law students and lawyers seeking employment. I was always amazed at the number of times that my name would be misspelled. I mean, “Shepherd” is a common English noun. It means, literally, “someone who herds sheep” (or “shep,” which isn’t a real thing.) Of all the variants of the name Shepherd in the United States, my spelling — the correct spelling, ahem — is the most common. But for some reason, people insist on spelling it with an a. (Actually I know the reason: it’s because astronaut Alan Shepard and his family didn’t know how to spell their name. Stupid astronaut. Nobody “ards” sheep. Or shep.) Other people double the p or lose the h. Many times, I’ve had people misspell my name as I was spelling it to them aloud. When I bought my first house, my name was spelled three different ways in the purchase-and-sale agreement. And none of them was correct. (Stupid lawyers.)

So whenever I received a job application from someone who hadn’t bothered to check the spelling of my name, I immediately threw it in the wastebasket. It’s possible that some of those candidates would have been exceptional lawyers. We’ll never know. Because they didn’t show that they cared.

The way I see it, being a lawyer is a job that takes attention to detail. (Just as being the president does.) If someone couldn’t demonstrate that attention to detail when they were trying to get the job, what would make me think that they would later show that attention after they got the job? Was I being too tough? Maybe a little overly sensitive? It’s certainly possible. But did they show that they cared? No, they did not.

In business, you often have opportunities to show that you pay attention to things and that you care about the work that you do. Nobody’s perfect and everybody makes mistakes. But if you want people to trust you — to believe that you care — you will make every effort to catch those mistakes before they cause harm.

Should a typo in a silly iPhone app have any effect on the outcome of the presidential election? Of course not. But when we evaluate people, we look at signs. And this is an unfortunate sign that the Romney campaign just doesn’t quite care enough.

Check your work. Show you care.

A political note: some people might read this and think that I must therefore support Obama for president. Not at all. I am a member of that rare species known as the Massachusetts Republican. (There are like six of us.) I actually agree with many of the positions that Mitt Romney campaigned on in the nineties when he ran for the Senate and for governor. In other words, I agree with neither candidate now.

How not to handle an unfavorable story

Massachusetts senatorial candidate Elizabeth Warren can’t seem to get clear of the story that she listed herself as a minority despite zero evidence that she is Native American.

From The Boston Globe:

“Politics 101: On issues that are potentially unfavorable, put all the information out, take the one-time hit, and move on,’’ said Darrell M. West, vice president and director of Governance Studies at the Brookings Institution, the nonpartisan Washington think tank. “That makes it a one-day story. The worst-case scenario is the story lingering for weeks and weeks, because it just creates doubts about the candidate.’’


The Globe‘s story also has a box with links to the chronology of her statements and the relevant Harvard documents.

Should I survey my customers?

This question recently came up from a colleague of mine. The answer I should have given was that he send all his customers a short form with the following on it:

Would you appreciate receiving a short customer-service survey from us? Please check all that apply:

❏ Absolutely not.
❏ Sure, why not?
❏ Yes. I really enjoy getting mail.
❏ Who the hell are you again?
❏ Yes, because it will remind me to have you send my files to your competitor.

But I didn’t. Instead, I answered along these lines:

No. Surveys are as reliable as polls. In other words, not at all. Why? To borrow the most-used phrases from recently departed (and long shark-jumped) show, House:

“People lie.”

People will tell you what you want to hear. People will tell you things to make you feel better. People will tell you things to make you think better of them. “And how was your meal tonight?” “Fine,” you grumble, even though it wasn’t at all.

Years ago, I considered moving my law firm from Boston to the suburbs, but I was concerned that customers and prospects would be less impressed by a suburban law firm. Some people suggested taking a survey. But who would admit to being so shallow that they cared what zip code my office was in? Any data from a survey like that would have had zero reliability.

People will tell you that they’re “satisfied” on a customer-service survey, then quietly go find another provider. If you really cared about your customers, you wouldn’t need a formal survey to know how they felt; you would already know. From, you know, talking with them.

I know people who have had decent success using surveys, but I think surveys tend to be exercises in narcissism that waste customers’ time and put them in awkward situations. If you communicate well with your customers, you don’t need surveys.

How to Intuitively alienate your customers

Imagine that you bought a new car. It drives OK. It’s not the sleekest or best-looking thing on the road, but it gets the job done, more or less. It gets you to your destination, if not particularly in style.

Now imagine that three years later, you get a recall notice from the auto maker. The form letter explains that it is discontinuing support for your model year, unless you pay for an upgrade that costs nearly as much as you originally paid (87 percent, in fact). Turns out, if you don’t upgrade, your car’s fuel pump will cease functioning altogether. You can go to the gas station and get your fuel, but the car will not be able to process it. Don’t complain to the gas station, though, because they’ll just tell you that you have to pay for the upgrade from the auto maker.

Here’s the company’s recall notice explaining why this must be:

We are committed to developing easy, straightforward cars that help you today and grow with you tomorrow. But it’s a balancing act – making our automobiles better and easier to use while still supporting older versions. So we offer support for the current version of our automobiles and the two previous versions.

Now here’s the kicker: except for enabling your fuel pump to continue working, the so-called upgrade improves nothing about the car that you care about. All it does is provide you with some tacky decals to put on your rear window and bumper, a new vinyl document case for your glove box, and a new floor mat for your passenger-side footwell. Except for the fuel pump being held hostage, you would never pay for this upgrade.

You wouldn’t tolerate this from a car company, or any other kind of company for that matter. But this exactly what Intuit, the makers of QuickBooks and Quicken accounting software, is doing to its customers.

Three years ago, I bought QuickBooks for Mac 2009 for my law firm. I’ve never liked Intuit, because it has always treated Mac customers like something that got stuck on the bottom of its shoe. The software interface has always been garbage, eschewing most Mac human-interface guidelines.

Now I get word that Intuit is discontinuing support for my version of Quickbooks. OK. I get that. All kinds of companies stop supporting outdated versions of their products. But there’s a huge difference between “discontinuing support” and actively crippling a product. According to the text of Intuit’s discontinuation notice, customers will no longer be able to use online banking:

You will see an error message when you try to download transactions, send online payments, or send online transfers. The error message you see depends on your download method. For example, you may see the message “QuickBooks is unable to verify the Financial Institution Information for this Download.” There is no need to contact your Financial Institution, as they will refer you back to Intuit to upgrade your QuickBooks.

(Now you can see where the post title comes from.) In other words, the software that I paid $220 for a few years ago will suddenly stop working in one vital respect unless I pay a ransom of $183 to “upgrade.” And I use the scare quotes because the so-called upgrade contains no improvements that a user like me would find useful.

I understand the desire to increase revenue from your products, and also the benefits of increasing your share of wallet from existing customers. But don’t sell me something and then make it stop working after a certain period of time. If you want to do that, sell me a subscription-based product (like QuickBooks competitor Xero). That way, I make my purchase decision based on the knowledge that it will work for a certain amount of time before I have to pay again.

Surprising your customers with sudden obsolescence is a great way to alienate them, and send them to your competitors. No takesies-backsies, Intuit!

Why paperwork feels like paperwork

Blame the lawyers:

Why would it be harder to write a regulation in plain language than in complex jargon? In part, points out Braley, it’s because of the job a regulation needs to do: taking a law that Congress has passed and “dealing with the fine-tuning . . . putting into words how certain conduct is supposed to be governed.” That means a regulation carries a heavier burden than other writing that government agencies produce, like forms and letters. “The lawyers get their hands on them and want to make sure that they’re absolutely foolproof as far as going to court is concerned,” said Cheek.

Nice piece by Leon Neyfakh in the Boston Sunday Globe on the attempt to bring plain English to government regulations.

Cheaper than an ad saying “Don’t work here”

Nice piece from HRLori about how the CEO of OMGPOP took to the Twitter to bad-mouth an employee who chose to leave when Zynga bought the company. Lori writes:

This is such a poor example of leadership. The high road would have been to wish the employee the best and be on his merry (very merry) way. It is up to any CEO to lead the company into the future, not look back with disdain. People come and go. Those who stay want to be there. It is evident that Shay Pierce didn’t want to be there. And that was his choice.

The CEO later apologized and deleted his tweet, but the damage to the company is done. You think they’ll have any trouble attracting talent in the future? I sure do.

Libraries are learning that fines don’t work

From The Boston Sunday Globe:

In Carlisle, it was a decision that the library trustees began discussing with Gleason’s director, Angela Mollet, almost a year ago. When Mollet mapped out the financials, she discovered that as a revenue stream, overdue fines are actually as much a cost as a benefit….

Moreover, processing the monies collected from overdue books bears its own costs in terms of staff time, for collecting and reconciling accounts, and infrastructure such as change boxes and safes….

“At the rate we were collecting fines, the management cost was greater than the revenue.’’

Too many businesses use fines and penalties to control customer behavior, usually without success. These “sticks” are more likely to cause resentment rather than encourage the desired results. Companies who resist this temptation, like the libraries in this article, give their patrons more credit while suffering no downside:

But she says that most library users seem to have a moral compass that compels them to return items punctually, and there has been essentially no discernible difference in the amount of time that people keep materials since the library began its no-fines policy.

Does your company penalize its customers? Might be time to rethink that.

Tell people how you used to suck

How do you market a brand when people already know that it’s no good? The best way is to:

  1. remove the suckiness
  2. admit that it used to suck
  3. then explain how it doesn’t suck anymore.

Most companies in this situation overlook the second step, but it’s crucial. One of the central truths of marketing (and advertising) is that people won’t believe you when you tell them your stuff is good. Of course you’re going to say that: it’s your stuff, and you’re very proud of it.

But the converse is also true: people will always believe you when you tell them your stuff is no good. Or was no good. I mean, who would actually lie about that?

Microsoft, whose marketing is typically as bad as its products, has just launched a brilliant and fresh campaign for its new browser, Internet Explorer 9. Even nontechnical folks understand that IE has always been, well, not good. They say they’ve improved it, which itself isn’t remotely novel. But they also own up to the fact that it used to be very bad. And that is unusual.

Their campaign is called The Browser You Loved to Hate. The site is clean, simple, and well designed. It starts off refreshingly:

Some people are trying the new Internet Explorer and actually liking it. Not that they would say that out loud.

And rather than beating you over the head to switch browsers, Microsoft aims considerably lower:

Your current browser is probably great…

So keep using it. But there are probably a few sites that you go to everyday, like Facebook and Pandora. And for just those sites, try using Internet Explorer…. And when you do, you might find some stuff you like in Internet Explorer. Check out below for more reasons Internet Explorer is actually good now.

There is also an amusing video of a guy who used to run around uninstalling IE (and destroying his Mom’s gluten-free gingerbread-house blog), plus some funny, quirky graphs charting the coolness of different products (like unnecessary beanies and Pabst Blue Ribbon).

Most interestingly, the word “Microsoft” doesn’t appear anywhere on the landing page of the site.

Microsoft isn’t the only one using the three-step “we sucked” approach. Domino’s Pizza went this route in a well-received ad campaign where actual customers said that their crust was like cardboard.

If your company — or even your industry or field (lawyers: I’m looking right at you) — is saddled with a public perception of suckage, you could do worse than to follow Microsoft’s and Domino’s lead and own that suckle. And then explain why you’re better now.

“Garden-variety marketing doucherosity”

Simon Sage of iMore uses what is now my favorite new phrase to explain how AT&T has created a little upgrade of its own. The much-maligned carrier used the cover of today’s new iPad announcement (and upgrade to iOS 5.1) to change the little “3G” icons on iPhones to “4G,” despite no actual change in speed or performance:

If you’ve updated your AT&T iPhone to iOS 5.1, you may have noticed that the signal indicator in the top-left now reads 4G instead of 3G. Now, before your mind gets blown all over the place, there’s no actual upgrade here; it’s just your garden-variety marketing doucherosity wriggling its slimy way into a software update.

Maybe it’s legally accurate, and maybe no one will really notice during the frenzy of the new iPad introduction. But in the end, it comes down to this: there are companies who play games like this, and there are companies who don’t. Who would you rather do business with? I just ordered my new iPad, and didn’t choose AT&T as my carrier.

“It’s so gentle a toddler could use it.”

Is this startup-launch video any good? No. This startup-launch video is f***ing great.

It’s just 1:34 long. Mashable sums it up:

If there’s one lesson we’d like CEOs to learn from the Dollar Shave Club, it is this: don’t take yourselves and your product so seriously. Either that, or pretend to take yourselves and your product so seriously that you go over the top and venture into the world of parody. Have fun with it, and your potential customers are much more likely to pay attention.

Humor sells.

How not to do online-chat customer service, by AT&T

Calling customer service can be very frustrating. Some companies realize that, and have begun offering online-chat services as an alternative. This makes sense. I would rather type a quick summary of my issue and read the answer realtime instead of waiting on endless hold. Plus, online chat allows you to avoid insipid remakes of Christopher Cross songs or worse, advertisements for other things sold by the company you’re currently unhappy with.

So when I had an issue come up with my AT&T, I noticed that they had a button for online chat. I had become a reluctant customer since the iPhone was introduced in 2007. I live in a major suburb of Boston, and yet in the four years I had an account with AT&T, I had an average of three to five calls drop a day. Every day.

So last November, when the iPhone 4S came out, I pulled the plug and moved my number to Verizon (actually, back to Verizon, because I had ported it to AT&T to get my first iPhone). This, of course, led to an unexpected complication.

You see, last summer, before I quit AT&T — “Ah wish Ah knew how to quit you” — I gave my 11-year-old daughter one of my previous iPhones and added her to my AT&T account. But after I moved my phone to Big Red, AT&T somehow forgot how to process my autopayments for my daughter’s account. Which led to my daughter getting pestered with texts and phone calls. “Daddy, what’s a deadbeat?” (OK, possibly not an actual transcript.) Read more

Facebook privacy, simplified

Lot of talk lately about online privacy, what with Google dramatically changing their policies recently. Facebook users have always had an uneasy feeling about the privacy of their postings, and Facebook hasn’t done a great job of educating its users.

One of the trickiest things has been commenting on other people’s posts, then being surprised to learn who can read those comments. To help with that problem, here is a very simple chart to tell you who can see your Facebook comments:

Simple Guide to Facebook Privacy
Click it to embiggen. You can also download it as a PDF. Feel free to share it.

A twitterable Twitter policy (updated)

This is a post I wrote nearly three years ago over at Gruntled Employees. But it keeps getting rediscovered and passed around in social-media circles. Since simplicity is at its essence, I figured it was worth republishing here. I’ve updated some of the facts. Feel free to adopt it as your own company’s policy. Just tell people where you got it when they ask about its awesomeness.

Twitter_logoYou know that something new has gone mainstream when the employment lawyers get involved. So it is now with Twitter, the microblogging service that is currently taking over the universe.

Twitter has grown rapidly and enormously. There are approximately six million users right now. (Update Feb. 2012 It’s now estimated at 462 million users. That’s a little bit of growth over three years.) This is much smaller than Facebook or MySpace, the older members of the social-media set. (Update Feb. 2012 What’s a “MySpace”?) But the pace of growth has been incredible; one source pegged it at 1,000 percent in 2008 alone. (Update Feb. 2012 Over the last three years, it’s like a jillion percent, which is one followed by a wad of zeroes, or ten to the wad.)

By most accounts, the demographics of Twitter users skew older and more professional than Facebook. For example, 83% of Twitter users are 26 or older, compared to 60% of Facebook users. (Source: this cool 2011 infographic.) That makes sense, since Facebook began as a college-oriented site. (There are also far more teens on Facebook than on Twitter.) Also, it is said that “Facebook is about people you used to know; Twitter is about people you’d like to know better.” (The widely repeated quote is from a Globe and Mail article by Ivan Tossel, but you have to pay to read it.)

Some of you may still be asking, “What is this Twitter thing, anyway?” (“And don’t say microblogging again, because that doesn’t help.”) (Update Feb. 2012 Are people still really asking this?) Twitter is a free service that allows users to send very short messages (called tweets) over the web to people who (in theory) care. How short is very short? No more than 140 characters, including spaces and punctuation. In fact, they even have a name for a tweet that is exactly 140 characters long: it’s called a “twoosh.”

According to the site itself, the point of the site is to “Find out what’s happening, right now, with the people and organizations you care about.” And of course, to tell the people who care about you what’s happening with you. To be sure, most people don’t care to learn about the humdrum of your daily life: “I’m still in line for my venti nonfat extra-hot latte.” Or “Mr. Biddles rolled over again. Silly cat. LOL.” That sort of tweet is of value to exactly no one. (Even Mr. Biddles would cough up that hairball.)

Where it does become valuable to businesspeople is where people answer the question, “What are you thinking about?” Or: “What is interesting to you?” Then you try to find other people who might share your interests, and you “follow” them to learn what they’re thinking about. Often, they will reciprocate by following you. Done right, people can use Twitter as a powerful networking service to get in front of potential clients or colleagues within their industry.

As often happens when employees start doing something new, companies soon want their lawyers or HR people to create policies to restrict it. This happened in the Nineties, when employers got nervous about email and internet usage. More recently, companies have instituted blogging policies, and guidelines for the use of MySpace or Facebook. So it’s no surprise that we’re starting to see requests for Twitter policies.

Longtime readers of Gruntled Employees know how I feel about the hyperlegislation of the workplace by zealous policymakers. Well-meaning HR professionals and employment lawyers tend to throw the baby out with the bath water when it comes to policing employee behavior, whether online or not. I generally advocate a simpler approach that involves treating employees as grown-ups who have judgment. See, for example, “A two-word corporate blogging policy” and “The world’s shortest employee handbook.”

With that said, here is my take at a corporate Twitter policy that has the extra added benefit of being itself twitterable:

Our Twitter policy: Be professional, kind, discreet, authentic. Represent us well. Remember that you cannot control it once you hit “Tweet.”

(Feb. 2012 update The “Tweet” button used to say “Update.”)

And yes — that’s a twoosh: exactly 140 characters of pure employment-law goodness.

By the way, you can follow me on Twitter at @jayshep — as long as you follow the policy, too.

[By the way, without realizing it, I totally boosted the cat-rolling-over bit from Guy Kawasaki’s excellent post, “Looking for Mr. Goodtweet: How to Pick Up Followers on Twitter.”]

How the Five Guys menu can help your company

A few months ago, when I was visiting my brother in Denver, he introduced me to Five Guys hamburger restaurant. Now I’m hooked. Each restaurant is clean and well lit, decorated with bright white and red tiles, and easy-to-read signs. There is a big box of peanuts for you to help yourself from while you’re waiting. The burgers themselves are as fresh as you will find (they use no freezers), and the french fries are fantastic.

But what really sets Five Guys apart is its menu. Check it out (click it to biggify):

As you can see, there’s not much there. They basically sell only five things: burgers, hot dogs, veggie or cheese sandwiches, fries, and soft drinks. You can add cheese or bacon or both to your burger or dog. You can choose a single patty (called a “Little Hamburger”) instead of the regular double patty. You can have your fries Cajun style instead of regular. And you can add all the usual toppings for no extra cost. And that’s it.

The menu is simplicity itself. They focus on a handful of items and they make them exceptionally well. Customers are not overwhelmed with a bunch of choices. It’s basically, “Burger, hot dog, fries, and what do you want on them?” Couldn’t be easier.

Contrast this with the complexity of the current menu at McDonald’s. There are too many categories with dozens of items, many of which aren’t even clear about what species they’re in. (Just what the heck is a “Big ’n’ Tasty” anyway?) Customers who don’t go to McDonald’s frequently and order their usual are forced to wade through too many choices while people wait in line behind them.

mcdonalds menu flickr | matt mcgee

What is more, with so many different food items to prepare, it’s unlikely that they’re all going to be good. Better to do a few things well, like Five Guys does (Five Guys do?), than to do too many things mediocrely.

The biggest irony here is that when McDonald’s started out, its menu looked much like Five Guys’: just burgers, fries, shakes, and soft drinks.

original mcdonalds menu credit: ebaumsworld.comMany businesses think that customers want a lot of choices. But too many choices tend to annoy customers and paralyze them with indecision. Too many choices takes away from the pleasantness of the experience, and eventually drive customers away.

No matter what business you’re in, don’t fall into the trap of thinking you need to offer your customers a lot of choices. Instead, focus on doing what you do best, and don’t do anything else. It’s easier for you, and easier for your customers.

Kudos to JCPenney for simplifying its pricing

Can new JCPenney CEO Ron Johnson turn around the fortunes of the ailing department store? He certainly hasn’t wasted any time making changes. The former head of Apple’s retail arm recently announced that Penney was radically restructuring its pricing strategy to make it simpler and less dependent on discounts:

“The customer knows the right price,” Johnson said. “To think you can fool a customer is kind of crazy.”

In the past, only 0.2 percent of sales came from full price items and Penney’s 590 unique promotions a year were confusing and failed to draw shoppers, he said.

Discounts are almost always a bad idea, as it makes it impossible for customers to discover the value of what you’re selling. And complexity in pricing inevitably frustrates customers, and sends them to your competitors. It will be interesting to see if these changes are in time to save JCPenney.

One word that will reinvent how you serve clients

Want to know what that one word is? Here are two easy ways to find out:

  1. Go grab your nearest unabridged dictionary. Turn to page one. Start going through each defined word one at a time. You’ll get to it eventually. (OK, maybe that’s not so easy.)

  2. Go to the LexThink.1 site and vote for my proposed talk, “One Word That Will Reinvent How You Serve Clients.” Just click on the handy “vote” icon (see image).


Voting ends February 24. There are 23 other proposals from a rogue’s gallery of big legal thinkers, and only the top 12 will be selected. Your vote will make a difference.

Then come to the ABA TechShow in Chicago starting March 28. The LexThink.1 program is Wednesday night at 6:30 CDT. You can sign up for free tickets here.

So what is LexThink.1? Well, it’s an evening of very short presentations with a challenging constraint: 20 slides, 18 seconds a slide (equaling six minutes exactly, or 0.1 to you lawyers who still use timesheets). The speaker has no control over the slides, which keep advancing like sands in the hourglass (or something) every 18 seconds. It forces the speakers to keep it brief and pithy, and to leave home all the boring bits. It’s inspired by Japan’s Pecha Kucha Nights, which allows a luxurious 20 seconds for each of the twenty slides. This is its third year; it was previously called “IgniteLaw.”

To see an example, here is my talk from last year: “Quantum Leap: How You Will Practice Law in 2019.”

No matter which proposals get chosen, it promises to be an amazing event. Hope to see you there. And thanks for the vote!

Want to learn more?

Get in touch with Jay today