⦜ Oblique opportunities

The goal of any business is to sustainably serve customers. That means informing people of what you have to sell (JTBD based) and forming an ongoing relationship.

The immediate approach is to advertise. Buy Facebook ads. Create football commercials. Go viral online. Those things all work, to a degree. But other things work too.

Ogilvy Consulting put their Nudgestock20 conference online. One of the main ideas from coordinator Rory Sutherland, is to solve problems obliquely; to try an unconventional approach. Let’s look at three ways that’s been done.

  • When Rich Barton cofounded Zillow, he wanted to buy Google Ads to direct realtors to the site so that Zillow could sell advertising to them. It was buying ads to sell ads and advisor Bill Gurley told Barton, “that dog won’t hunt long.” Instead, the Zillow team had to be creative with a solution and they conjured the Zestimate. It was so popular the site crashed when they launched.

  • Patty McCord wrote that Netflix invests heavily in customer service representatives because they kept people from cancelling. With good training, and an understanding about how they helped the business the reps reduced churn and increased word-of-mouth referrals.

  • Rory Sutherland talks about how restaurants not only have to serve good (enough) food but also how they must be clean. It doesn’t matter how may awards a venture has won if you and your date have a table by the bathroom. Reversing this, it’s likely that locations that offer seating with a view have slightly worse food (on average).

My experience at restaurants offers another oblique opportunity; were the kids bored? Eating out with children involves some combination of using phones, having conversations, and eating—depending on the age. If a restaurant can keep kids happy, that’s a solution too.