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Nuggets of Knowledge: October 2014

By October 9, 2014Nuggets of Knowledge
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In this antepenultimate 2014 edition of Nuggets of Knowledge, we have the usual fun mix of reflection, applicable tips, and the linguistics of food. (What, we like snacks, okay?) Also, some people decided to dress up for Halloween. (You’re welcome.)

So, read some good stuff from people we admire, point and laugh at the fools…uh, courageous and beautiful people…in costume, and then tell us what your favorite article was this month.

Also, go take advantage of all the candy that’s on sale right now. (‘Cuz we know that you love snacks, too. Why else would we be friends?)

Also, if you’ve missed it, check out our NOKlist archive.

Rebecca’s Pick

Deciphering the Menu: Decoding a Menu at Root & Bone

by Jennifer Schuessler



I must warn you: this article might give you the munchies.

Whether you’re a foodie or prefer eating peanut butter straight from the jar, Jennifer Schuessler’s article about Stanford linguistics professor Dan Jurafsky (and his recently published book) will change the way you see menus and food reviews – and writing – forever.

Schuessler describes how Jurafsky harnesses “data science” to identify patterns in how people talk about food. By turning to “the social side of computational linguistics,” he crunches huge data sets that deliver conclusions which only whet our appetites for more (and make wordsmiths drool), such as:

  • More-expensive menus tend to use longer words, with each additional letter of length correlating to an 18-cent-higher price a dish.
  • Four-star reviews tend to use a narrower range of vague positive words, while one-star reviews have a more varied vocabulary.
  • Reviews of expensive restaurants are more likely to use sexual metaphors, while the food at cheaper restaurants tends to be compared to drugs.

But it’s not just about the food. There’s an underlying challenge here for writers: What am I trying to communicate to my readers and are they getting what I’m dishing out?

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Olivia’s Pick

How We Got 2,000+ Customers by Doing Things That Didn’t Scale

by Alex Turnbull, Groove



A few weeks ago, Mack gave the team a big-picture-talk about Mack Web, who we are, and what we’re trying to do. She put some gigantic Post-Its on the wall, which had one-sentence statements on them (all of which were written with brightly colored markers, natch). One of them was about how the stuff we do is not scalable. (I believe the phrase was, “This shit doesn’t scale.”)

I see this exact sentiment echoed in this Groove post. Alex Turnbull explains why a lot of the tactics Groove uses to get people to sign up are non-scalable, and why that’s completely ok.

There’s a lot out there about the importance of building relationships, doing influencer outreach, and learning what motivates your customers. What I love about this article is that here, Groove gives meaning to those ideas. They illustrate what those ideas actually look like: the one-to-one emails, the insightful responses to all blog post comments, the goal to have a conversation with every single customer, and the scrapping to get the ones that got away.

What I also like here is the transparency. This stuff isn’t easy. It’s time-consuming. And taking things one customer at a time may seem counterintuitive, depending on your point of view. But it’s personable and genuine above all else. And as Groove’s results clearly show, it can work incredibly well. (You’ll see woven throughout this article themes about the power of authenticity and of letting customers and non-customers alike know that their views are not just heard but valued.)

It can be tough to get in that slow-growth, in-it-for-the-long-game mentality. But this article is a great reminder of why it’s worth it.

Plus, there are 6 specific non-scaleable growth tactics for you to try out here.

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Nat’s Pick

3 Seriously Undervalued Email Marketing Strategies

Post by Jimmy Daly, Vero



I chose this article not because it contains shortcuts or a mind-blowing idea for your next email marketing strategy, but because it gets back to the basics (three of them, to be exact – but you’ll have to read it to find out what they are). These are the fundamental pieces of good email marketing. After all, you can’t build anything awesome unless you have a strong foundation in place (just ask any architect or LEGO fan).

If you’re fairly new to email marketing I recommend reading this article, because it’s going to help you set up best practices for your email marketing strategy. For email marketing veterans, this is going to be a re-hash of three basic email 101 concepts. But hey, It doesn’t hurt to confirm that you, in fact, do know some of the basics, right?

Each tip includes examples from companies like Help Scout, Groove and Moz, so you also have valuable reference material (you never know what ideas you may come up with by looking at other companies’ email marketing campaigns).

Take a few minutes out of your day to read through this article, and see how your current email marketing strategy measures up.

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Mack’s Pick

We’re all kinda broken

By Jennifer Dary



Growing a company is not for the faint at heart. It’s some of the most challenging work I’ve ever faced. Not just for the labor and all of the physical effort required to build something great, but more in managing my own emotions and mental game that comes along with leadership.

What I love about this post from Jennifer is that she explains how leaders don’t have to be perfect. They just need to be cautious that their own personal agenda or leadership style doesn’t get in the way of the success of the company.

“But nothing – and no one – is perfect. Each company is broken in its own way, but this is what makes companies (and humans) beautiful to me. Maybe the good ones are just willing to admit their brokenness and to do something about it.”

Mack Web is far from perfect. And I certainly have a lot to learn as a leader. But knowing that we’re facing our challenges, being transparent about them, and continuously working to be a better company gives me hope that we’re on the right track.

I’d highly recommend this post. It’s a quick and insightful read.

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Mike’s Pick

5 Ways the Ad World Has Changed in the Last 10 Years

By T.L Stanley



Everyone keeps saying that the way you market your brand or product is rapidly changing and I fully agree. The funny thing is that the tactics are going back to basics. Build a brand with a personality and create real content that speaks to real people…duh!

It’s interesting to watch so many companies try so hard to create a piece of content that they hope will go viral. The problem with that thought is what happens next. If you don’t have the brand built on a solid foundation, don’t expect to retain a customer for the long haul.

“Consumers now have a sense of ownership about the brand they choose to bring into their lives. It’s consumer centricity, not brand centricity.”

The thing that is changing is all the data marketers have access to. Leverage the data to create a personal relationship with your customers and understand what means of communication work best to connect with them.

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Courtney’s Pick

How ‘Noticing’ Can Help You Conquer Your Biggest Challenges

by Shane Snow, Contently



“You see but you do not observe.” It’s hardly a novel thing to be obsessed with Sherlock Holmes these days. Although, unlike many, it’s not strictly Benedict Cumberbatch that holds my interest. (That’s what Martin Freeman is for.) We watch him do his thing and we gawk and marvel and think, ‘I could never do that.’

And to some extent, that’s true. But we don’t have to have an encyclopedia of cigarette ash in our brains to make the things we notice matter. In this article, Shane Snow points out that, so often, it’s not that we don’t notice things. It’s that we’re accustomed to dismissing things that don’t fit the pattern or that make us uncomfortable rather than figuring out what they mean.

Though there is little in the way of actionable tips, Snow’s examples of how the art of paying attention to what you see can lead to both great revelations and steady habits of success is a challenge to approach the world – and your work – differently.

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Ayelet’s Pick

The next big thing will start out looking like a toy

by Chris Dixon



In this evergreen post (still true after 4+ years), Chris theorizes that the reason most big, established companies miss out on the next big thing is because they see the next big thing and assume that it will never be anything but a toy. Like how music companies took so long to jump on the online music sharing bandwagon. Or how people made fun of Twitter at the start for being all about what people had for breakfast. And speaking of which, have you seen a Blockbuster store recently? Probably not, but I’m sure you’ve seen a Redbox machine or heard someone talk about Netflix or Hulu in the last couple days.

In the same way, this idea extends beyond the big companies. It can affect us all by keeping us from exploring new possibilities and thinking beyond conventional uses for products and services. Dismissing the next big thing stops innovation in its tracks.

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Ann’s Pick

The most important thing

by Seth Godin



Seth’s post is only three sentences long. I won’t ruin it for you, but I will tell you that I haven’t been able to stop thinking about it since the middle of last week. No matter who you are or what your role is, read it. And figure it out.

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Nuggets of Knowledge April 2014

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