Scobleizer Weblog

Daily link Saturday, April 17, 2004

The tulips really sucked. They are already all cut down. Why? It's been an unseasonally warm spring. But, had a nice time with the family anyway. Just don't go looking for tulips in Washington.

8:52:52 PM    comment 

Lenn Pryor: "Dave Winer interrupted and expressed his opinion that the staffers in the room DO NOT GET IT."

I was listening to the BloggerCon webcasts earlier. Channel9 has come up a couple of times as an example of corporate/customer interactions that are done right. It's nice to hear that Lenn is getting appreciation too.

I am so fortunate to be working for Lenn. And we both owe a lot to the execs above us: Vic Gundotra, Sanjay Parthasarathy, Eric Rudder (did you notice that Eric is active in Channel9?) and Steve Ballmer. These are the executives who aren't getting the credit for weblogging and Channel9 at Microsoft, but who deserve it. It's not easy taking a "we need to communicate better with our customers" stance at Microsoft. Remember, just a few years ago this was the company that tried to close down its MVP program.

Lots of times our executives are seen as bad guys. But, these four are the ones who are egging us on to do more for our customers. Eric Rudder said so when I nailed him in the parking lot.

Everytime you hear "Channel9 rocks" you should think of those guys.

They are putting their careers on the line to make Microsoft a more open, friendly, informative, and transparent place and I, for one, greatly appreciate that. When I say I love Microsoft, a whole lot of that love is due to these guys' attitude toward customers and people in general.

Is it hyperbole to say that careers are on the line? Absolutely not. Weblogging/corporate transparency is still an experiment in our society. How many other large companies have more than 100 webloggers? Ask yourself: why not? Because corporate openess is very risky. It requires taking an attitude of "hire great people and let them do their work." Not many corporations are willing to do that.

I'm very proud to work for a company that is becoming more open and transparent right before your eyes. Thanks Steve, Eric, Sanjay, Vic, and Lenn.

11:34:16 AM    comment 

OK, back to vacation. We're going to Skagit Valley, home of the Tulip Fields today. Here's an NPR report on what makes this place special. Better Tulips than the Dutch have, the hype says. We'll find out.

8:56:42 AM    comment 

How do you persuade someone to change their mind?

I've been thinking about this a lot. Why? It's my job. I'm an evangelist at Microsoft and I'm paid to persuade you to write software for an operating system that none of you have even seen yet.

But, let's avoid talking about Microsoft for now. Really everyone needs to persuade at some point. We persuade people to go out on dates with us. We persuade people to buy things from us. To hire us. To help us. It's a skill everyone needs, but we rarely think about.

So, since I can't be at BloggerCon, this is the talk I'd give if I were there.

What are the best practices in persuasion methods?

If you listen to Donald Trump's Apprentice show, or political advertising, you'll quickly pick up on the predominant method of persuasion:

Make the thing you're trying to persuade people to do seem like it's only good, and the behavior that you don't want people to do seem like it's only bad. Or, the "my stuff is great and their stuff sucks" method.

You think George Bush is going to say anything nice about John Kerry?

I watched the Apprentice show a week ago where the candidates needed to interview with Trump's team. Did they talk about any of their own weaknesses? Even when asked about what those are? No. Our culture has taught us that when you want to persuade you should only talk about the strengths of the things you are trying to get people to do, and only talk about the negatives of the things you don't want people to do (in this case, the interviewees wanted Trump to hire them and not their competitors. Persuasion skills at the highest level).

Why is this such a predominant method of persuasion? Well, it works. That's why advertising only discusses the positive aspects of a product and none of the negatives. Does McDonalds ever talk about the fact that eating its food will make you fat? No.

Ever talk with a PR person at a company? This is what they were trained to do. Only talk about the positive aspects of their company, never admit negatives. They believe that if you ever admit the negative aspects, it puts you in a position of weakness that your competitors can exploit. They believe it isn't the best way to persuade people to buy your products or support your company.

But, is this really the best way to persuade someone to do something?

I look at two recent experiences in my life where I was persuaded to do something using another method that I'll call "the authority method."

First, when I was buying a car I was predisposed to buy a Japanese model. Why? Cause of years of Consumer Reports. Because of personal experiences with American cars in the past. Because of feedback from my friends and my family (my brother, Alex, still can't believe I didn't buy a Honda or a Toyota).

But, when I actually went and looked at cars, the Toyota and Honda guys tried the "our stuff is best, the rest is crap" method on me. After all, that method has worked for years for them. The problem was that I had read Consumer Reports and they had said the Ford Focus was their favorite pick in the class. So, what happened? These salespeople lost credibility with me. I didn't feel comfortable. And when they pressured me to buy a car, I saw they were self interested and didn't care about me all that much.

Then I got to the Ford dealer (Bellevue Ford). First off, he admitted that Ford had had a quality problem in the past but that they were working on making it better, which resulted in an improved Consumer Reports score -- he didn't avoid the issue and said "we also offer our cars with a 100,000 mile warranty." Turned a negative into a neutral. He also said "don't feel pressured to buy, go and compare us to everyone else first." And everytime I asked about how the Ford compared to the Toyota or Honda, he answered the question and accurately too (I had just come there from checking out Toyotas).

If he had tried to play the "my stuff is the best and the rest is crap" line, he probably would have lost the sale. Instead, he played "I'm an authority and I'm looking out for your best interests" and that hooked me. He got the sale.

By the way, I've put 1800 miles on it without a problem and I really love the car. I've turned into a Ford evangelist.

Another story? Let's go to Sonoma last weekend. My parents took us to a half dozen wineries. I spent $35 in each one, except for one, Christopher Creek, where I spent $150. What happened there?

First off, in Sonoma, the wine is very high quality. At all the wineries. I didn't have a bad glass of wine all day long. The product there really is a commodity. You could buy any bottle of wine from Sonoma and be pretty guaranteed that it's a decent glass of wine. Yeah, some wines do rise above the rest, but that's not why I spent $150 at one winery. Not at all. Translation: wineries need to compete on something other than the quality of their product, since the guy next door probably has just as good a product as they do.

How did I find Christopher Creek? The first winery I was at "J" recommended them (I only asked after buying a bottle of their wine). I asked the greeter at J "if you were showing your family around Sonoma, where would you take them?" The first greeter tried to play the first persuasion method. She said something like "I'd just bring them here." Oh, please. But she admitted she didn't really know the area that well, so called over a more senior guy who took the authority route. He recommended Christopher Creek. And saved the day for "J."

Note how I will mention only two wineries here, out of half a dozen or so. This stuff makes that big an impression on me.

Anyway, when we got to Christopher Creek, the greeter (Rob) met us out in the parking lot (it was a little slow, so he was out making sure the grounds were presentable) and he had a great attitude "how about we go to the pool and drink a great bottle of wine?" Totally didn't take a "are you going to do something for me" attitude, but rather set up that he was looking out for our interests and wanted us to have a great time.

Needless to say, we didn't quite end up at the pool, but ended up in the tasting room (we had to pick out the perfect bottle of wine for the pool, after all). Where we started to have a great conversation. He was totally an "authority guy." Told us all about the history of various wineries and, without prompting, told us "go over and check out this place, they have a great Merlot, and check out this place, they have a good Cab, check out this place, they have the best tasting room" (he recommended "J" and his advice was correct, J had the nicest tasting room we'd be in all day long).

Even admitted when his product didn't come up to his own quality standards. And, he was passionate about his product (actually he was passionate about wine overall, which made him even more special). He opened two new bottles and tried them first. "Oh, that is good" he said, after trying one. "Oh, that is better" he said, before pouring each in our glasses. He was right, too. No other tasting-room people gave me the opinion that they enjoyed their own product.

One other thing happened at Christopher Creek that persuaded me to spend four times more there than at any other winery.

Hey Church of the Customer people listen up!

A customer walked in to pick up a case of wine. Amy was her name. She was obviously on first-name basis with the staff here. That instantly communicated to the eight people now in the tasting room that she was intimately knowledgeable about the product and the company. Rob asked her if she'd like to try the latest Petite Syrah they had produced. She said "I can't resist" and started talking with the rest of us. "Why do you like Christopher Creek?" I asked her. She said that she lives in Petaluma (nearby) and has an inventory of hundreds of bottles of wine and that she liked their wine and the company the best -- she was picking up a case of "futures" which demonstrates that she wanted to be an authority on wine.

She could have stopped right there. I was convinced. But then she told us all about their production process, about their parties, about their buying club. About the experiences that she's had.

And she sold us on the lifestyle of wine. It gives her great joy, she told the eight people sitting at the tasting room bar. I'd never met a wine evangelist quite like Amy before. But she convinced us that we should try more wine in our lives, and that Christopher Creek is a great place to start.

It made such an impression on me that I'm still thinking about Christopher Creek, and their customer evangelist, a week later.

Anyway, back to the topic. How do you persuade? In a weblog world where everyone has access to all the information on your company/ideas/you/your products/ etc.?

Do you take the "our product/idea/meme/service/etc is the best and the rest are crap" point of view? Or do you take "I'm an authority on this topic and I'm looking out for your best interests" point of view? Which is more likely to persuade you to change your mind?

Are you also looking to help customers become so passionate about your company and your product that they'll do a better job of selling your ideas/products/company than you ever could?

I'd love to have a discussion on the best way to persuade people. What do you think?

8:40:42 AM    comment 
7:14:01 AM    comment 

Since the BloggerCon webcast isn't working reliably (Jeff Sandquist, among others, is taking notes) I'm going to write up my own BloggerCon session titled "how to persuade." It's something I've been thinking of.

I wish I were there, but sitting on the couch, cuddling with Patrick while he plays his Xbox has its own rewards. Say hi to Jeff and Lenn if you're there.

7:12:56 AM    comment 

Jeff Sandquist is making fun of me in email. Turns out that the user experience team here did a survey of Windows users and found that only 2% run their screens at a resolution of 1600x1200 or higher. That's the res I work at.

People come over to my screen and ask "how do you get anything done?" They think that small icons and small words are hard to read. I, on the other hand, can't understand how they get any work done. I want more things on the screen at the same time.

By the way, the older you are, the more likely you'll use low resolutions (and at 39 I grok that most people don't like high resolutions cause Windows really doesn't make it easy to adjust font and icon sizes on super high resolution screens). Eye strain probably plays a part here. But I think it's also cultural. I watch how kids work. They have 15 windows on the screen at one time. Some kids that Microsoft Research has studied have dozens of IM conversations going on at the same time. The best way to do that kind of thing is with a high-resolution screen (or multiple monitors).

When Jeff interviewed Pat Helland, he admitted not being able to keep up with his grandchildren's IM's. This isn't cause Pat isn't smart. It's not cause he doesn't understand computers. It isn't because he can't afford a high-resolution monitor. It's cultural and he admits it. He grew up in a time when people didn't have IM.

Anyway, they are making fun of me as an "edge case." Yes, I am an edge case. But I've learned that today's edge case is tomorrow's mainstream user. Just ask the kids.

Or, ask Bill Hill, head of the typography division at Microsoft. He uses a 3500xsomething IBM monitor on his desk. I'm so jealous.

7:03:40 AM    comment 

I woke up early to listen in on BloggerCon (the webcast and IRC channels are here). Having a great time with the family. Patrick is sitting here. He is the early riser in the family. I don't know how he gets up before 9 a.m.

6:45:57 AM    comment 

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© Copyright 2005
Robert Scoble
My cell phone: 425-205-1921
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Last updated:
5/11/2005; 12:50:26 AM.

Robert Scoble works at Microsoft (title: technical evangelist). Everything here, though, is his personal opinion and is not read or approved before it is posted. No warranties or other guarantees will be offered as to the quality of the opinions or anything else offered here.

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