So I’m in the middle of writing a one-liner for a marketing campaign and I think I’ve hit on something totally hilarious and brilliant. I share it with Ralph, all beaming-like, ready for him to think I’ve struck marketing gold.
And he says… wait for it…
“Nobody is going to understand that.”
I’m dumbfounded. But… it’s hilarious. I launch into an explanation of the how-can-you-be-so-dense variety and he interrupts.
“I get it. But nobody else will. It’s an inside joke.”
I blink for a while, sort of pissed that he doesn’t like my idea, but reluctantly I have to admit that it is inside, and geeky, in that “I spend a ridiculous amount of time in front of my computer and when I’m not doing that I’m on my iPhone” way.
Besides shoving me back to the drawing board, the experience sparked a broader thought process, about my ability to connect with people outside of my personal and professional bubble and about the singularly focused viewpoint it’s so easy to adopt when you’re passionate about a particular thing.
And once I’d become self-consciously geeky and inadvertently indsidery, I started seeing warning signs everywhere that maybe I needed to get out of my bubble for a while and see what the rest of the world was doing.
If you know a little bit about me, by now you probably know that my thought processes are usually followed by many, many words. These are those words, and hopefully they can bring you a different perspective and get you thinking outside the bubble, too. The success and growth of your business depends on it.
Get Out Of The Echo Chamber
Figured I’d start here, since the first thing I told you to do was to stop listening to Chris Brogan. And while you’re at it, that goes for Amy Porterfield and Guy Kawasaki and all those other people who make marketers swoon when they speak and flat-out faint when they retweet us.
Heck, stop listening to me! (wait… just finish this post first…)
Don’t get me wrong. These people are all great and I join their webinars and buy their books and watch their videos. They are passionate about what they do and quite fabulously good at it. Which is exactly why you need to take a vacation from them.
Take their authority in a subject area (I want to learn that!) plus social proof (everyone else wants to learn that!) and you’ve got a pretty powerful combination of factors that has a major impact on our thinking and our behavior. I’m sure everyone in the group I mentioned would have gotten my joke. But they’re not my target audience, are they? (Hint: they’re not.)
After the smack-down from Ralph, I looked at my podcast list. I looked at my RSS feed. I looked at my Twitter list, my webinar schedule, my bookshelves. The more I looked, the more I realized how immersed I was in the online, in the marketing, in the “thought leadership”, and the more I understood I had to get the heck out.
I’m not advocating that you stop learning and looking to smart people to help you. But if the only thing you hear is the sound of your own voice bounced back at you, that’s the only thing you’re going to know.
At a certain point, learning becomes reinforcement and I was getting a huge dose of reinforcement. With all that reinforcement, how am I supposed to learn?
I have to start by getting out of the echo chamber, and so do you. Even if you’re a business owner and not-so-much marketer and you have no idea who I’m talking about (Chris whozzitnow?) I bet you have leaders in your industry who you listen to, who’s every word is magic and who inspire you to do better and be better. But whether you’re a fingerpainter or the executive of a Fortune 500 company, you’ve occasionally got to get out from behind the apron strings, meet your own experiences and do your own thing.
Any time you’ve passed “learning” into “reinforcement” you’ve just entered the echo chamber. This is where everything you hear becomes fact, everything you know becomes truth and everything you see is from the singularly focused perspective of the same people who think the way you think or at least have influenced the way you think.
I recently read results posted by Google’s Matt Cutts, from a survey he conducted of 1500 random “everyday people”. Turns out only about 20% of them knew what SEO means. In my brain, I’m thinking… is there still a person left on the planet who hasn’t heard of SEO? It’s everywhere!
Wrong. It’s in my bubble. 80% of the rest of the world isn’t.
Also recently, a client asked me about marketing on Facebook. I say he “asked about marketing” but really it was phrased more like “What is this Facebook thing?” I’m usually hired to tell people how to market on Facebook, not to tell them what Facebook is.
In a world where we’re accosted daily by huge Facebook user statistics, I admit I was surprised that not only did my client not have a Facebook account but he didn’t know or understand the first thing about it.
Being that surprised is not good. If this happens to you, if you find yourself being surprised by what other people say or if you find yourself not being surprised at all, then those are both good indications that you need a shift in perspective.
Ditch Twitter, Facebook, LinkedIn And Every Other Social Site You’re On
I’m treading into dangerous territory here, I know. For some, social media has gone beyond pastime and playing catch-up with old high school friends into, if not addiction, something close enough to be wearing the same hat.
And you use it for business, I know. You’d simply die without all that engagement, your Klout would plummet and nobody would repin you for a month.
But guess what? The world engaged before social media. In fact, the world actually engaged. People went out together for lunch or coffee. They showed up on each other’s doorsteps with pies and used – gasp! – the telephone to actually speak words to other human beings.
All this social engagement is great for business and really turns the tables on traditional push-marketing where companies could spew out a TV commercial or place a newspaper ad and have our attention. But online social engagement is completely different than actual engagement.
Believe it or not, there are still human customers in the world, beyond their clicks and likes and retweets. And these are the people we need to remember to engage.
If you put aside social-media-think for a while, you might find that having a cup of coffee with someone brings an entirely different perspective and sparks an entirely different conversation.
In real life you don’t have to speak in 140 characters. In real life you don’t get to share links and measure how many people clicked. In real life, you sometimes stutter and forget a word, lose eye contact and talk over each other.
You also get to lean into someone or step away, cross your arms or nod your head. So many things we say online have to be tempered with exclamation points and emoticons because how else will someone know what we really mean?
I worry sometimes that a younger generation will be so busy being social that they’ll forget how to socialize. Social media gives us an approximation of human interaction. It gives us the illusion of being involved.
I love it, it’s fantastic, it opens so many doors and has introduced me to ideas and people I otherwise never would have known existed. But it behooves me (and you) to remember that it cannot take the place of actually meeting with, speaking to and engaging – for real – with our customers.
Forget What You Know About Your Customers
If you’ve been in business for a while, you probably have a solid sense of who your customers are, what they want and need, where they are and how to reach them. I bet you have a great process and your marketing is rolling along.
When that happens, it’s time to jump ship. You’re probably too comfortable in your certainty, even languishing in your success. Unless you’re continually assessing, questioning and evaluating your customers and their needs, you probably aren’t evolving the same way they are.
I saw this some time ago with a client who was so convinced that he knew what his customers wanted that he saw no reason to try anything new. He had the best of intentions and took excellent care of his customers but he’d gotten stuck in “knowing”.
That scenario makes me sad because I see otherwise bright, motivated, dedicated people lose opportunities because they hold so tightly to what long years of trial and error and hard earned experience has taught them. It sounds like such a contradiction. How could someone who spent so much time passionately learning his business be missing opportunities?
The important thing to remember is that learning never stops. You’ll never know what your customers want because that will keep changing. Just like you’ll never know how to build a great website or how to rock your Facebook marketing. Oh, you know some pretty great stuff now. But wait five minutes. I bet you won’t know so much anymore.
Stop Chasing The Secret
Few things drive me as nuts as reading headlines and email subject lines that promise me some “secret”. The secret fat-burning food! The secret to making $10,000 in one day! The secret age-defying formula that nobody is talking about!
Apparently somebody is talking about it, because it’s in your headline. And if it’s going out to 50,000 of your closest friends via email, someone else must know it.
I know it’s an attention-grabber but if you don’t know by now that it’s a (tired) marketing ploy then you really need to deposit $10,000 into my Nigerian bank account.
Marketing is work. Business is work. We get up in the morning and go to work. We don’t get up in the morning to fulfill our secret mission. Some people have better luck, some are smarter, some are savvier and make money faster and easier than others. But it’s no secret. It’s just good old-fashioned brain-power, know-how, hard work and dedication.
Let me let you in on a little secret: you cannot get rich quick right now fast easy without even trying.
Here’s another secret that nobody wants you to know: if you want to be successful it’s probably going to be hard, it may be frustrating, it may even make you want to quit. But the only thing that will guarantee your failure is if you waste precious time looking for that one untold well-kept secret.
Heck, I want to know the secret, too. I go to the webinars and buy the books. I keep on thinking that somewhere just outside of my peripheral knowledge is the answer, the tipping point, the magic sauce that will get me from here to rich lady on a beach being served mojitos by half-naked Island men while I chat amiably with my minions via webcam. Ok, maybe that was TMI. But here I am, working.
Looking for some marketing or business secret conjures up images of rich people swirling their martinis and chuckling at the rest of us because we don’t know what they do, namely the secret road to success. That is, until some crazy whistleblower uncovers it and runs out to tell everyone what they don’t want you to know! Because that would just lead to socialism or something.
The sooner we understand that there’s no Facebook marketing secret, the sooner we can get to the business of building an audience and keeping them happy. The sooner we realize there’s no secret money-making plan, the sooner we can get back to the work of converting prospects into customers.
The sooner we stop buying into the idea that there is some knowledge out there, something that, if only we could find it, hear it, know it – would propel us out of mortgage-paying 9-to-5 mediocrity into martini-swirling success, the sooner we can actually work hard and be successful.
(PS: Chris Brogan doesn’t know the Secret either. He just worked damn hard. And by the way, if you don’t already, you should definitely be listening to him.)
That’s it. I’m all ranted out. I hope you felt a little spark of “yup” and “totally!” as you read this. If you have any other un-marketing ideas to share, please do. If you think I’m crazy, you can tell me that, too.
And if you do know the secret, just whisper it in the comment box below. I promise I won’t tell anyone.