Big data – the way information about every single detail of an aspect of somebody or something’s behaviour can be stored, and recast and reinterpreted to make an activity or a process more efficient, is all the rage these days. But then, so is Pen, Pineapple, Apple Pen – and that’s a bit daft. The point is, when it comes to us human beings, there’s no accounting for taste – and it’s therefore far, far harder to predict human behaviour – what we are going to want to do next, for example – than many “rock-star” founders think.
Algorithms and Social Media Marketing Ain’t All That You Know!
When founders used to say “we’ve developed an algorithm”, investors’ palms used to get sweaty and they would start to reach for their chequebooks. Now investors are facing up to fact that many of these so-called algorithms are clunky, poorly built, and generate data that is largely irrelevant. They are realising that on occasion data capture is handy, but on occasion it merely states the bleeding obvious.
“The data shows us that the target audience for your recruitment app aimed at female engineers is…wait for it…females with degrees in Engineering!”
“And how might we reach them”
“Let’s see now – Facebook!” – “LinkedIn” – “SnapChat!”
Right, right, and right, but if you are a bootstrapping founder you don’t need to be paying somebody to tell you to pay Facebook or Instagram or Twitter to market your product. You need to be paying somebody to develop your brand who has the same ideas and mindset and hopes and fears about your product as you do so that when you put it on social media it actually resonates with some people. Don’t worry about reaching your customers – social media can take care of that part. Worry about making a product they will fall head over heels for.
When Will I be Famous? – We Can’t Answer That!
Even Google admits that there is no known way to force your way to the top of their search algorithm– without paying them – no matter how powerful your data research or your SEO. Sometimes things just “go viral” – it’s not quite a lottery, but don’t be surprised if your rival’s product suddenly and seemingly randomly takes off likes a Russian hack and becomes the number 1 downloaded app on the Cote D’Azur – with a marketing spend that amounts to the founder drunkenly buying his friends beers at the end of the week whilst explaining to them about hockey stick projections and “the lean methodology”.
How does it happen? Chaos theory…a butterfly beats its wings in Argentina and there’s a tsunami off the coast of Japan. Explaining the bits in between is tricky, to say the least. These things happen for reasons we cannot altogether explain and that’s what makes tech related products and services such an exciting space to be in. The subtleties of discovering what people are likely to use and want that they don’t already have, and, crucially, could afford, are infinitely complex. It takes vision, not reams of data, to build a truly great app, service, or product. It takes guts, and gut feeling.
Leaders Lead – Followers Follow!
Leaders do things and make things even though they can never be sure if they will work – and hope people follow them. And by and large they do. There has been a lot of talk about the value of “experts” in this country, those who claim to have all the facts and the data-based insights to back them up. Those who say we should only act according to what the “data tells them”. But we don’t – for better or for worse, as much as we obey the rules, we disobey them. People – your customers – will behave in unpredictable ways – you cannot control it and you shouldn’t try to. This strikes at the heart of what tech startups and their disruptive founders are really trying to do. Disrupt. Obviously, they want to progress too, but there can be no guarantees of that. The proof of the pudding, as they say, is in the eating.
The Recipe For Success – Leave A Personal Stamp On Your Product!
Experts can give us a recipe that explains to us how if we put different and contrasting ingredients together in a certain way – we can create something that is wholesome and good. But it’s still up to us to bake the cake – and who can resist sprinkling in a pinch of cardammon here, a vanilla pod there. And adding their own special sauce.
In a congested marketplace, these points of difference are what make all the difference. Don’t be fooled by big data, and go with your gut. There’s a limit to what it can tell us – email addresses, dates of birth and shopping preferences do not a human being make.