Dr. G’s BrainWorks

I work at Dr. G’s BrainWorks full-time now, and I even have a fancy title. Ecommerce Director. (Bow before me.)

I’m allowed to work wherever and whenever I want, which is nice, but I decided to spend my 40 hours working in-store, just to see what works and what doesn’t.

I’m glad I did.

There is an obvious difference between the website and the store. Right now, I hear John and Phyllus both interacting with customers. John is interacting with Cindy, a 3 year old who’s interested in games that deal with matching shapes. Phyllis is trading stories about being a grandmother with Cindy’s grandmother, who brought Cindy in because she loves playing the games in the back.

The website can’t do that. Or, at least not like that.

Right now, the website is essentially a collection of digital shelves. None of the heart of the actual store. And, surprise, the store outperforms the site by infinite percent.

My title doesn’t feel so fancy now. What’s my plan?

Marketing is telling stories, and the story of the store needs to be obvious as soon as you hit the page. How will I do that?

Coming soon…

Books – The Icarus Deception Review

Books – The Icarus Deception Review

Seth Godin doesn’t write business books, he writes life books. (Can you tell I’m a fan?)

But he hasn’t always been that way.

The Icarus Deception marks a big departure in Seth Godin’s writing career in that his intended audience has switched from those interested in marketing to anybody who wants to make an impact.

Where All Marketers Are Liars tells the story of storytelling in business, The Icarus Deception urges readers to live a story worth telling.

It’s motivational, certainly, but not in the fluffy aphorism way. Godin places all the responsibility of carrying out the next world order onto your shoulders, and before the end of “Chapter Zero” you’ll already be convinced he’s right.

Successful people align their comfort zone with the behavior that keeps them safe. But what happens when the place of safety moves … and you don’t?

Why this book is worth a read through

Godin’s style of writing is like a bag of chips. You read one paragraph, and you won’t stop until the book is finished. (I might have a chip problem.)

But it’s not just an enjoyable read. The Icarus Deception challenges you and your worldview with every flip of the page. I promise you I am not exaggerating with that last statement.

He starts with deconstructing the popular notion of how our society disseminates ideas. Our accepted worldview is wildly different from reality because the way we interact with each other has been changing so rapidly and unpredictably over the past century.

To put the change in perspective, he provides a list of things that are new to modern man. I mean really new. New enough that we can’t possibly fully understand them yet. Among these new-fangled contraptions are public education, employee/employer relationships, and the basic concept of normal.

No, not normal as in a statistical concept. Normal as in ‘that guy’s pretty normal.’ So if you take no inspiration from this, you’ll at least get a sizable whopper of a history lesson.

His Call To Action

Ever the marketer, the entire book reads as a perpetual call to action. His request? Do something worth talking about. Fly higher.

Industrialists have always been cheered as they raced to create more efficiencies, more scalability, and more speed. But both the economics and the ethics of the last bit of industrialization don’t really scale. We can’t make it much faster or much cheaper, and dehumanizing everything we touch has a cost.

He called this book The Icarus Deception because he draws a lot from the Greek myth of Dedalus and Icarus. You know, the one where a father and a son are trapped on an island, so the father builds two pairs of wings so they can fly away. His warning to his son, Icarus, was ‘don’t fly too close to the sun, or the wings will melt away.’

Seth argues that today’s society doesn’t work that way anymore. The only thing that gets rewarded is risk. Flying too low will marginalize you to a petty commodity, easily replaceable and even easier to ignore.

So that’s his call to action. What’s mine? Read this book.

What To Do When Standing Out Is Difficult

One of my good friends is a musician, and he’s absolutely brilliant. As a local songwriter, he blows away his competition in terms of musical quality and sophistication. His nickname is ‘Maestro’ and he deserves it.

But he is also one of the least popular musicians I know. If I showed you a tune, you’d probably think I was showing you an indie songwriter who is famous to people cool enough to know him. You wouldn’t think he lived next door.

And why is that? While he’s a fantastic musician who deserves an audience, he sucks at promoting himself. Why does he suck at promoting himself? Because he’s human.

Human beings are hard-wired against standing out and getting attention. In the old days with tigers and cavemen, the caveman who stood out too much was catfood. Even in today’s high schools, standing out carries an unhealthy risk of everybody making fun of you.

So why can’t we make great music, build a great product, or start a great service and let sheer quality do the promoting for us? After all, word of mouth marketing exists, and it’s a great tool.

Simple. In order for someone to talk about your music, they need to know about it first. Our modern marketing environment is absolutely entrenched with people shouting about their music. They’re shouting so much that people who don’t want to shout think they can’t market any other way and people who do shout just end up drowning themselves out. It’s silly, really.

So how can someone stand out when the options seem so limited? The answer is clearly not shouting, thank god.

But it might be more painful, at first.

The key to standing out is to be counterintuitive. Go where the audience is already listening, but not saturated. A musician might make a good plan involving placing songs in films. Or even blog posts! Maybe even blog posts about marketing!

“Jimi Hendrix never had to use a blog post!” That’s right, he didn’t. But when’s the last time destroying a guitar was really a brave, unique choice?

Preaching To The (Bored) Choir

Frequency is the classic ingredient to classic marketing. Saying something twice to a hundred people produces more sales than saying something once to two hundred people.

Everybody worth their salt watches this metric closely. And anybody worth a bit more salt than others knows the frequency equation is far from perfect for an obvious reason. Too much is always too much. (How many times can you listen to “Sweet Dreams” before you go crazy?)

This curse is easy to fall into. And with Facebook, email, blogs, PLUS direct mail, print ads, and advertised discounts, it’s quite easy to act like a little marketing twit.

We need to think more sophisticated. Frequency is a ghost metric which only works given very specific circumstances. Instead, and I know corporate types are going to completely misunderstand this, measure your marketing against the ‘flow of conversation.’

Did I lose you? It’s ok, I literally just made up that term.

By flow of conversation, I mean make sure your marketing and messaging feels natural to each customer given their state of awareness.

Are you just starting the conversation? Introduce yourself! Make an impression. Dollar Shave Club makes excellent first impressions everyday thanks to their hilarious Youtube video explaining their USP. Content marketing is a process developed specifically to make a great first impression by being a valuable resource.

How about in the middle of the conversation, and the prospect is teetering on the brink of buying? A literal conversation is clearly the best route, but anything that mimics a literal conversation could work in a pinch. Email (keep it simple and text based), brochures, websites with detailed information, all of these could mimic a standard conversation about your product.

And after the sale? What do you say? Well, saying the same stuff you’d say to a new customer is as insulting as talking to an old friend like you barely know them. So say something different, something that says you know they know you. Think a good thank you note, or follow up to see if your product really did help (information marketers NEED to do this, or else I promise you’ll look like a scam. I’m talking about people who sell expensive PDF e-books online.)

And all of this, with technology introduced, actually creates more work for marketers, not less. Automation is not the answer unless you create an impeccable machine that mimics a real conversation and relationship. And even then, nothing beats a real one.

Why Expertise Marketing Trumps Awareness Marketing

First, a couple definitions:

Expertise Marketing- Positioning a company as the knowledge and skill leader of a related topic to their niche

Awareness Marketing- Plastering a company’s name, key products, and reputation in front of as many targeted eyes as possible

With that said, Expertise Marketing will always pay higher and cost less than  Awareness Marketing. Not because of some new trend in technology (though the internet does make the fact painfully obvious), but because Expertise Marketing works to build a clear, solid, trustworthy path to your sales floor using capital any good business should already have.

By publishing a blog, writing a book, attending/forming industry events, or even training your damn staff, companies can show customers first-hand why they’re products are trustworthy.

By providing advice that works and telling stories that resonate, you’re essentially giving customers a test-drive of your company without spending a single cent in production costs. Awareness costs thousands up front and

The downsides to Expertise Marketing exist, certainly, and here’s a few off the top of my head:

  • Somebody is going to have to spend time on it, no matter how busy the company is
  • That time is best spent on an individual with good writing skills, which is less common than any reasonable person would hope for
  • The returns aren’t immediate

By not immediate, I mean the test-drive has to ROCK. It has to work, work well, and look good doing it. Essentially, you have to prove your expertise one drip at a time.

But Awareness Marketing does reach more people faster, and the sensible approach would dictate a few ads here and there and maybe a supplementary campaign. (Yeah, that means a marketing campaign for your marketing efforts. I know.)

 

 

Advice For Young Marketers (Like Me)

I haven’t been in the marketing field for very long, just my entire professional career. Which is about a year now if you don’t count my years as a ‘struggling’ (ie not popular) musician (which I would argue is entirely marketing, even if not good marketing.)

But I have been in the field with more vigor and intensity than most people I know at this stage of their career.

And I’ll tell you what, there are many things about marketing you would never expect. Not if you learned about it from a school, or from MadMen (although MadMen is probably closer to reality than school is.)

Learn to write

I don’t mean reports. I mean literary. Short stories. Journalism. In other words, copywriting. If there is one skill I implore anyone to learn, it’s basic copywriting.

Face to face interaction will always be King, but the written word is quickly gaining even more traction. Hell, that’s all the internet is.

What is copywriting?

Copywriting is a style of writing specifically designed to get somebody to do something. It’s persuasive writing. It’s influential writing. In other words, it’s the only writing that matters in business. This blog uses copywriting principles, but if you want a great example to learn from, visit Copyblogger.com

Learn to take risks

Why? Risks are interesting. Risks aren’t gambles, they’re investments. Invest in risk all the time and develop your sense of good risk vs bad risk.

But more importantly than that, take risks because marketing is full of safe bets that aren’t actually safe at all. The ‘right way to do something’ is often very wrong in marketing because marketing is the process of standing out and doing something the ‘right way’ is the quickest way to blend in. Simple as that.

Learn to learn

Have you ever heard how it takes 10,000 hours worth of practice to become an expert? Well it only takes 20 hours to become competent at anything.

It only takes about 20 hours worth of practice with a guitar before you can strum chords well in a band. It only takes about 20 hours worth of learning time before you can code HTML better than 90% of the internet. Most other computer languages are the same way.

That 10,000 hours is the space between competent and amazing, but you don’t need to be amazing at everything. That’s a waste of time. Just be good at what you need to be good at and most importantly…

Learn to relax

The worst marketer is a stressed out marketer. The one way to make your marketing messages and ideas seem forced (and quite frankly pathetic) is to force them out in some desperate attempt. Desperation smells like death, and nobody wants to be around it.

Not only that, but when you’re not relaxed, you take shortcuts. You start believing snake oil salesmen. You start doubting yourself. You end up looking like a wimp who shouldn’t be around. But don’t take it too easy.

Learn to never put a limit on your ambition

Ambition is a marketer’s best friend. In fact, ambition is a marketer’s only job. If you can be ambitious, the rest will take care of itself.

 

Who Built The Pyramids?

Aliens? No, don’t be stupid.

The Pharaohs were an interesting lot of people. They had huge visions of legacy and prosperity, and they would stop at nothing to achieve it. And they did a pretty good job.

But what did they actually do to make that happen? They certainly didn’t do it themselves. And the projects were so massive and complex it clearly wasn’t pure brute force against an enslaved population. (Besides, evidence suggests a big slave population in ancient Egypt has been historically exaggerated.)

So who were the linchpins that turned one man’s ego driven vision into reality?

Talented people, of course! People who intuitively understood the rules of engineering and architecture and could draw up some plans for others to follow.

And so it is in business. If you’re going to start an operation, there’s really only one talent you really need, and that’s finding talented people.

If you can effectively discover, hire, nurture, and keep talented individuals, then there isn’t much stopping you from succeeding.

This is true with any project that requires more than one person. It’s true for companies, rock bands, political activists, even social and friend groups. (Who’s going to have a better time, a group of people who are talented at the art of interesting conversation and empathy, or a group of people who sit around and wait for someone else to say something interesting?)

So maybe the first thing a business does shouldn’t be ‘find a customer.’ Maybe it should be ‘find someone good at finding people.’

Think Big, Act Small

Build an empire. Conquer the world.

Nothing will stop your dreams faster than not dreaming big enough. Don’t aim to be mediocre. Aim to be the best.

But don’t get cocky.

Business is a very detail oriented…well, business. Don’t get so caught up in your grandiose vision that you think you don’t have to show up and say hi once in a while. Don’t think you can’t make incremental improvements.

Don’t get caught with a dull sword when you attack the dragon because you didn’t think to sharpen it.

Marketing Is About To Get Much Less Annoying

DVR. Netflix. Adblock software. Gmail Priority Mailbox. Spam filters. Do Not Call lists.

All of these inventions can tell you exactly how much demand exists for services that block unsolicited marketing. How much demand is there? Pretty much all of the demand.

And who can blame them? Nobody wants obtrusive, self-serving pitches and annoying loud as hell advertisements crufting up what is supposed to be a channel for valuable communications.

So interruption marketing doesn’t work. It’s a model so broken you can’t even find the pieces anymore.

But that is just one model. Just one idea somebody had long ago. It was embraced because it worked when consumers had three channels to choose from and companies had ad budgets bigger than their personnel budgets.

You can’t afford that anymore.

There will always be a competitor with a bigger budget than you. Compete here, and you’ll compete your business nose first into the ground.

So where do you compete? And how do you do it?

You compete with trust and intelligence. Allow yourself to become an information leader in (your niche in) your industry. Be the wikipedia for people looking for the information you specialize in.

Bricks, springs, telecom, software, hardware, pencils, notebooks, candy, cheap stuff, expensive stuff, services, freelancers, contractors…

All of these can benefit from the new type of marketing. The type where permission is asked for, not ignored. The type where interruption is not a part of the equation and people are. The type that pushes a company to create value with (wait for it) creativity, rather than transfer value by moving money around and hiding secrets.

Yes, it requires intelligent people on your team. Yes, it requires you to think hard about what you can bring to the world. Yes, it requires tenacity.

But, for God’s sake, that’s what business is.

If You Want To Be A Marketer

Don’t bother with formalities.

Yes, get an education and learn as much as you can every day, but forget the formalities. They’re not needed, and more often than not, they hinder your efforts.

I’m talking about the over-the-top sales pitch, the diehard standards for mediums like social media (usually coming from companies and artists with little to no following), and, my favorite, the endless slew of lingo and easy phrases that just cloud your conversation. (Conversation is for sharing and growing a mutual pool of information, not showboating or time wasting.)

If you want to be a marketer, all you need to understand is the function marketing represents: Help people find your company.

Help people find your company literally. Keep a moderate budget for simple and obvious advertising. (Need springs? We sell springs. Click here.)

Also, help people find your company in the right mindset. No use telling somebody about your cold medicine when they feel great. But when someone catches a cold you have their full attention.

One last thing: help people feel delighted when they find your company. Provide free expertise they need immediately or a genuinely enjoyable experience that’s easy to share. (Then help them share it.)

So no, nobody but your boss has a clue where you were educated. Nobody but your boss knows you show up exactly on time every day. Yes, your boss pays your paycheck, but who pays his? Serve them. Forget the rest.