Can you ever stop learning?
No. The minute you start thinking that you have nothing left to learn is the minute you become a quitter. It’s not possible to know it all. If you think so, you’re never going to improve yourself. Your journey on the road to become an invaluable employee, friend, partner, family member, etc. has just ended. Boo.
But the truth of the matter is that sometimes it’s really hard to learn because we don’t want to check our egos at the door.
I recently read this post by Mark Suster called “Why You Should Embrace Opposing Views at Your Startup” on my new favorite entrepreneur-turned-VC blog, Both Sides of the Table.
The post starts off by making some solid points:
- What could you learn from looking at your competitors or other tech startups in a different way?
- Are you cynical about their chances in the market just because they seem to be hot in the press and that bugs you?
- Or you think their startup is a passing fad and yours is the real deal?
The part of his post that really struck a chord with me: “Even if you’re right – there’s something you may be missing.”
So true. As Mark’s post pointed out, it’s easy for us to get jealous in a situation like this. But that jealousy will only cloud your reasoning and cause you to miss an opportunity to learn something.
For instance: I work with tech startups. On top of that, I’m supposed to be the one making them seem like the shiny new object to everyone else. So it’s VERY hard to watch a competitor kill it in the press. There is one in particular that drives. Me. Crazy. Talk about hype. I’m still not convinced that anyone actually uses this product.
And I know there have been some “shady” and potentially unethical guerilla tactics behind their marketing strategy. Maybe the decision-makers and higher-ups at this company aren’t aware. I’m not saying this was condoned, but nonetheless it turns me into that little kid whining about how it’s “not fair.”
Well, you know what? If I adopt that mindset then I’m just as immature as the little kid. And at the end of the day, everyone heard about this company. So as much as it pained me to admit this, they had to be doing something right. What was it?
I sat down and really analyzed their strategy. As Mark Suster put it, you have to “be dissecting.”
Here’s what I saw:
- They defined the benefit instead of listing the attribute: I didn’t have to connect the dots to imagine what was so revolutionary or game-changing because they did it for me. It’s not that the product can do X, Y, Z….it’s that X, Y, Z can help improve my life and shift society as a whole. Does that make sense?
- They targeted early adopters of tech products (always a “must” with tech PR)
- They clearly broke down the key points of differentiation
- They had consistent messaging and strong positioning: they chose a space to live and then owned it
- They assembled brand advocates in different cities (ones that they carefully calculated out)
- They shared different parts of the company’s story with different news outlets, so everyone was able to have an exclusive and refreshing point of view on the story
These might seem like obvious points that should be a part of any company’s strategy, but there are SO many times when the marketing/PR team doesn’t sit down and think this through. Tech startups, in particular, can run into this problem because they often do something very innovative and get too caught up in the “tech” aspect of it without ever answering the simple “so what problem does this solve?”
I think I learned a PR lesson AND a life lesson from this situation.
I forced myself to learn from a company that I loved to hate.
And the next time around I was able to do it right for one of my new clients. I took what I learned and used it…and the results were extremely successful.
So please take this advice and do with it what you will: There’s always something or someone to learn from if you’re willing to swallow your pride.