Planning People and Laughing Markets

Sometimes, you build marketing collateral for a market that is completely unexpected. And while on the way, it teaches you, once again, why Steve Blank, Eric Ries and Co. are right: everything you rationalize and think about is only an opinion about the way the market will react to it; facts exist only in the real world.

I have a friend who is a very experienced technology consultant, Reuven Lerner. He has been doing Web consulting - Python, Ruby, Postgres, among others - and corporate technology training for decades, through his consulting firm Lerner Communications.

Reuven - who does excellent work; I have brought him to some of my client engagements where he has delivered excellent work - has been doing work with his clients in Israel, the US, Europe and China. He told me recently that while overhauling his Website, he planned to add a Chinese section. It makes sense, since his market includes many Chinese.

He also plans on adding a Hebrew section. That made sense to me as well, since he has many Israeli clients. But apparently, I was wrong.

The Hebrew section is not for the Israelis. Despite Hebrew being the native language of Israel, the lingua franca of the thriving Israeli tech sector is.. English. Not only do all Israeli technologists speak English, all Israeli schoolchildren learn English throughout their elementary and high school years. Further, when looking for professional information, English is the language they look for.

The Hebrew, on the other hand, is for the Chinese market! For various cultural reasons, many Chinese, especially in the tech sector, love Israel and all things Israeli.

Lerner Communications thus will have three languages:

  • English - for the general world and to appeal to the Hebrew-speaking Israelis;
  • Chinese - to indicate that he is open for business in China;
  • Hebrew - to appeal to the Chinese.

A few years back, several clients of mine looked to launch mobile apps (iOS + Android) for their markets. While the executive teams made critical assumptions about what the markets would want, I offered to go out into the real world and talk to people (and insisted they do the same). I spoke with my own contacts, experts in the mobile market, to learn from their experience, and then leveraged that education to have productive direct interactions with potential customers directly to discover what they actually would adopt and what value the solutions had for them.

There is an old Yiddish phrase, mensch tracht und gott lacht, "man plans and God laughs." When it comes to markets, we all plan, but the market has the last laugh.