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Weekly 3: Consistency amid change

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Summary: Look for durable trends. Be predictable. Don't change too soon. (~4 min read)
 

Idea Journal Weekly 3

April 12 · Issue #134 · View online
We combine 3 ideas to help you think differently and be more creative.

Summary: Look for durable trends. Be predictable. Don’t change too soon. (~4 min read)

#1. Many things are changing, but not everything
While much of the business world is focused on disruption and innovation, Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos makes a point to pay attention to things that won’t change. 
Here’s Bezos explaining his rationale during a 2012 fireside chat
“I very frequently get the question: ‘What’s going to change in the next ten years?’
And that is an interesting question – it’s a very common one. 
I almost never get the question: ‘What’s not going to change in the next ten years?’
I submit to you that the second question is actually the more important of the two, because you can build a business strategy around the things that are stable in time.’”
For example, customers are always going to want low prices and fast delivery.
As Bezos puts it: “It’s impossible to imagine a future ten years from now where a customer comes up to me and says: ‘Jeff, I love Amazon. I just wish the prices were a little higher, and you delivered more slowly.’”
#2. Sometimes you want to be predictable
Author and researcher Josh Kaufman writes in his book The Personal MBA that when people are purchasing something valuable, they want to know exactly what they can expect. 
They want their experience to be predictable. 
As Kaufman notes: “Unexpected surprises can provide a customer with a great experience, but if you’re not able to deliver what the customer expects in a predictable manner, it doesn’t matter how many bonuses you offer.”
Kaufman argues that three factors influence the predictability of a product or service: uniformity, consistency, and reliability.
1. Uniformity means delivering the same characteristics every time. 
Kaufman offers the example of Coca-Cola, one of the first large companies to combine effective marketing with product uniformity at scale.
Achieving product uniformity in the beverage industry is a feat. Creating, bottling, and distributing soda at scale is a complex logistical process.
A little too much flavoring or sugar and the final product can be totally different. No one wants their soda to taste different each time they drink it. 
Coca-Cola ensures that each can of Coke you have is the same as the last one – no matter where you are in the world. If they didn’t, their sales would suffer.
2. Consistency means delivering the same value over time. 
Your clients or customers have certain expectations about the value they get from your product or service. You don’t want to violate those expectations.
Kaufman again uses Coca-Cola as an example. One of the reasons “New Coke” failed in the 1980s was that customers expected Coke to taste a certain way, but the company delivered something new under the same name. Violating that consistency led to a swift decline in sales. 
Sales increased only when Coca-Cola restored the original formula.
The lesson is: if you’re offering something fundamentally different from your existing product or service, present it as something new.
3. Reliability means being able to count on the value being delivered without delay or error.
How would you feel if you spent a lot of money on a product and it didn’t work?
#3. Frequency leads to familiarity, which leads to trust
Marketing guru Seth Godin writes in his book This is Marketing that people don’t remember what they hear, what they read, or even what they see. 
“If they’re lucky, people remember what they do, but they’re not very good at that either.”
Instead, we remember the things we see again and again, the things we do over and over. We remember our uncle Fred, who came to Thanksgiving twenty years in a row, but not his date Sarah, who only came that one time. 
Godin notes that there are evolutionary reasons for this: “We have to prune memories relentlessly, and the easiest memories to prune are the ones that are random noise.”
Over time, this has pushed us to associate frequency with trust. What’s familiar is normal, and what’s normal is trusted.
But we often forget this when we market our work. We get bored and quit right before people start to get the message.
Many people start a project. They create a freelance business, get a few clients, then it sputters and they quit. Or they launch a company, raise money and spend it fast, hitting the wall “just before the good stuff happens.”
The market associates frequency with trust. If you quit in the middle of building that frequency, you’ll never get a chance to earn the trust.
Other Weekly 3 issues about consistency and change
Quote of the Week
“In these tempestuous times it often appears that everything is changing, and changing at an increasingly rapid rate. In such an environment a leader can gain a tremendous competitive advantage by being able to discern the few things that are not changing at all, or changing only slowly and slightly.”
- Author and university president Steven Sample in his book The Contrarian’s Guide to Leadership, published in 2002
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