Saturday, January 26, 2008

Translating Tipping Point

Sometime back I wrote an article for on my fave topic . word of mouth marketing tactics . The article struck a chord with the readers . i got a few emails message of appreciation . one of my friend asked me to write a book on the same topic . I am sure he was joking but his suggestion made me think something about Business bestsellers which is bothering me for a long long time . My biggest problem with Marketing Bestsellers like The Tipping Point , Crossing The Chasm,Innovators dilemma ,Purple Cow etc. is that Context of these books are not Indian , its not internet , its not mobile , it was not written with my neighbor in mind .

I think that there is an opportunity in translating these books for Indian audience ,Indian context, Indian industry and above all Indian entrepreneurs . this is what i am trying to do with this post .I am picking One of my Fave. book "The Tipping Point " by Malcom Gladwell and will attempt to show how this is relevant in india .If you haven't read this book . i suggest that you can read wikipedia article about it .

The Actors :The book says that whenever an idea spreads virally and attains tipping point , it is almost always due to the fact that somewhere in the process of IDEA Diffusion it catches the attention of Three type of people . The Connector , The Maven , The Salesman . First Question to answer : When it comes to your venture , Who can be the actor in this Tipping Point drama ? Where can you find them ? How will you identify them ?

The Connectors : wikipedia says " Connectors are the people who "link us up with the world ... people with a special gift for bringing the world together " . in Soc Nw. Speak Connectors are hubs on social graph. where to start ? our instinctive image of connector is someone who is a smart joe , FAST Talking , All knowing person with an opinion about everything , a walking encyclopedia of some sort . right ?? I am sorry to say but ..WRONG .

Reason we have this assumption is because this is the kind of person we want to connect with . but we miss a vital point here we or our customer feel a connection with them ? or do we see them on a podium? what is the defining link between you and this Smart guy ? is it bonding of homogeneity or spell of authority . if it is spell of authority than this guy is not a Connector . he might probably be a MAVEN [more on that later in the post ] . I know its sounds little vague there is a very fine line of distinction but I guess if you carefully read the paragraph above you will see the difference.

Now second and more important question : where to find them

Look around you and see whom you and your colleague feel connection with . Ideally this connection need to be a connection of affinity but it might be a connection of inertia . With connection of
affinity and regard its hard to exploit the guy's relationship because probably he would be smart enough to not go overboard with recommending your IDEAs .

But luckily, in most cases its connection of inertia . Every office , every housing society , every college , every Fixed route DTC Bus has someone whose business is to say hello to everyone . he is no authority on anything , may be you hated this chap while you were in college and so does everyone but still no one ever said it on his face. and one day he was absent from college and you noticed his absense, logically thinking it should have been a welcome change but hey , when he came back next day and shook hand with you ,Haven't you asked him " how come you were absent yesterday ? Everything ok ? " . There you are . this is what drives that guy . think if you can capitalize on it ?? think hard .

Look for the person who send most Fwd: Emails on your list ,try remembering the guys on LinkedIn who boast about ToplinkedIn 500+ , lookout for the guy who was first to join AMWAY while you were in college, the guy who is a frequent job hooper . guy who by every yardstick deservs to have a girlfriend but don't have one [ Connectors with Girl Friends are rare ] , The guy who is most visible and noisy in office parties and outings , The guy who always eager to drop you home if you stayed late at work [ and you avoid taking his obligation ] and finally guy who always complains that world is not been fair to him but he still continue with his mission of serving the mankind .

Connectors are everywhere and they offer a value to society but its VERY SAD that their contributions are never appreciated by society in general . why ? simply because people always take them for granted .

The Maven : wikipedia says MAVENS are "information specialists," or "people we rely upon to connect us with new information." They accumulate knowledge, especially about the marketplace, and know how to share it with others. fundamentally MAVENs are information broker , they are heavy consumers of media, Mavens are not naturally outgoing like Connectors but they are not BAD Communicator either . mostly you will find them in some strategic roles , where only way to win respect of your subordinates is to be more informed .they will be Project Leaders , CXO, Analyst .

Mavens will give you appointments very easily but they will keep the meeting short . Mavens maintain a communication link with connectors but they don't associate with them . and here is a secret they will never admit . in business MAVEN's are EX Connectors who play Connector's game on different level . a connectors who is available to a selected few . You know what I mean. Don't you ? :)

Now how to identify them ? Well....Its difficult . Not because they are hidden but because they are so rare . When Mavens speak, people listen but they don't speak much . In conferences they will be listening to every talk every discussion very carefully . while their connector friend would be in lobby busy exchanging business cards. they don't give out business card first and neither do they carry stacks of them . but if maven takes your business card stay assured he will visit every page of your website . In business Maven ship is mostly a personal branding exercise . Maven who fail to communicate properly is GEEK. Mavens are usually a good candidates for being entrepreneurs and vice versa .

If finding MAVENs is hard than using them for your benefit is even more so . Best advice is not to try too hard . don't try to approach them directly let the connector do that for you . and best tip to catch their attention is to surprise them with a new piece of information . this might make you look like yet anotherr connector for a while but that's OK .you will be on his radar. Trust me on this one if he is smart enough for your purpose and you are smart enough for his purpose he will make out the diffrence . just keep the link open and Buzzing .

The Salesmen : I have been salesman all my life and based on my experience I can say that Most People hate salesman . but the salesman for our context is not your typical Telemarketer or Door to Door salesperson . A better word for the purpose of our discussion is "believer" or "revolutionary" .

Truth be told , you can't enforce a revolutionary to sign up for your cause . but you can do two things
1 ) Try to cause a blip on their Radar 2) if they adopt your cause than please get out of their way . facilitate them but don't go over the board to endorse them . its very probable that you might have to
break up with them down the line . EBAY ,Digg,You Tube all are successful due to these people only but they can't officially endorse their act . they have tough time maintaining their relationship with these guys . there is a fine line and you should be shrewed enough to know where to draw that line . to sum up revolutionaries are a Nice to have problem .

Where to find them ? contrary to whats shown in Bollywood flicks they don't support a beard and a Red Tilak on their forehead. Profile of revolutionary is very industry or domain specific.There is one defining trait of revolutionaries which is constant across all segments . they are in your industry , they are good at something and they are frustrated & disillusioned . look for these traits . Geeks ,college student can be good candidate. some books also refer them as Early adopter , Power user, Compulsive contributor etc .

so that;s my $0.02 on Identification of ACTORS . I will cover other aspects of Tipping Point in sequels. In the mean time keep your feedback coming .
Wishing you a very Happy New Year .