Whether it's online articles or books, I read a lot. One of my favorite apps supporting this hobby is Pocket, a read-it-later app that I've been using for more than ten years. It's an essential tool in my information-consumption workflow, and it is one of the first apps I install when I set up a new phone or browser.
Earlier this month, I discovered another app in the read-it-later category called Matter. Although Matter is less than two years old, it already has features I did not know I wanted from Pocket. I also found its user interface to be very thoughtful and well designed. After a couple of hours of using Matter, I was convinced. I replaced Pocket with Matter on all my devices.
My experience above illustrates that there is rarely a winner-takes-all in today's business world. In a platform economy (such as ride-sharing and food delivery), while the incumbents may have years of market leadership, a new competitor can launch quickly at a low cost. There is rarely price competition because most apps have a free tier. As a user, I can always switch to a different app quite easily.
However, even if you have decided to block some time for continuous learning, you have another problem. There is an abundance of learning resources out there. What should you learn? What learning resources should you pick? You have limited spare time and you can't possibly learn everything.
Back in the '90s, before the internet and the search engine, I used to have to go to my university's library to find information. Today, we have the world's information on our fingertips, and we can find data about almost anything from wherever we are. Our challenge today is not about getting information, but about filtering the signal from the noise and turning that filtered data into knowledge.
I recently watched the excellent documentary The Social Dilemma on Netflix which talks about the rise of social media and how it influences our behavior and damages our society.
Social media today is a triple-whammy of forces. First, like any other business, the platform itself is trying to grow. This means getting more users and monetize them through advertising. Second, to get more and more users, the platform has to make users interact with each other and spend more time on the platform. They achieve this by incentivizing users to seek attention. You get attention not just when your online behavior is positive (e.g. funny and catchy) but also when it's negative (e.g. controversial and shocking). Third, social media platforms want to make advertisers happy because advertisers give them money. Advertisers want to change your behavior, which can range anywhere from the mundane (e.g. buying product) to nefarious (e.g. changing your vote — as entertainingly explained by another Netflix documentary, The Great Hack).
Technology and automation have made it very easy for marketers to find potential customers on the internet and blast out sales emails. My job title (CTO) is one of the key words that a lot of marketers seek out and not a single day goes by where I don’t receive a cold email or LinkedIn connection request from marketers offering their products and services. I know that my experience is not unique and therefore I'm motivated to write this post.
First of all, I know that sales is not an easy job and it takes skills to balance between helpful and annoying. To sales people:
Trust me when I say I read all your emails. Unlike many people, I love emails because I can read them at my convenience. But do you know what I hate? When you call me on my phone and interrupt me in the middle of work.
Unless your email is blatantly wrong (my name is Andre, not Andrea), I will reply to you. I know you prefer certainty, so as much as possible I will answer with a clear “Yes” or “No”. In cases where I answer “Maybe”, I will suggest a timeframe when you can follow up.
Because I take the time to read your email, I expect you to do the same. If I reply and say I’m not interested, don’t send another email in a week asking if I have read your email.
If we don’t know each other and you send me a request to connect on LinkedIn, please tell me why we should connect. I’m kind of old fashioned on LinkedIn and I don’t usually connect with people I don’t know.
To other people in similar position as mine (i.e. “buyers”), may I also humbly offer my suggestions:
Know what you need and want. In other words, have a plan that gives you clarity on the “what” and the “when”. Without which, you won’t know which vendors to talk to.
Archive emails from vendors and have a way to search them later. Outlook’s powerful search engine has really helped me in this area. I’ve made an engagement with a vendor based on a cold email I received in the previous year.