I’m a very lucky person. At the end of summer I will be traveling to New York to work with Seth Godin on a 3 month internship. It’s a big deal for me. Seth Godin and his great contemporaries are changing how we think about marketing (it’s not just a department).
When you read Seth’s blog you learn what text books don’t teach you. You learn the stuff that matters. You discover how to be better at the process of marketing, and how to improve every interaction. His work on telling authentic stories should be required reading for every marketer.
Now I think of marketing as a powerful tool to help consumers and fix problems, it’s inspirational. I’m excited to work with someone who continues to shape my opinion of marketing. More than that, I can’t wait to contribute. I can’t wait to become a better marketer.
Thanks Seth for having me, and everyone else that has helped me in recent months.
If anyone knows or can help me find somewhere to stay in New York, I will be extremely grateful.
(any tips on telling my girlfriend will be even more appreciated!)
Why are you here? Really, what do you enjoy about marketing?
I’m going to guess it’s the cool creative stuff? Perhaps the sugar-fueled brainstorming sessions? Maybe planning out a killer campaign that will change the world?
The reality of marketing is very different isn’t it? What does your to-do list look like right now? If it’s anything like mine it comprises a list of e-mails to send, phone calls to make, people to persuade, content to produce and pitches to prepare for.
This probably isn’t what you signed up for, but do you enjoy it anyway?
The irony is this, the execution, comprises about 90% of our work. CIM, Universities and other institutions that teach marketing focus almost entirely on the strategy. But surely, the easiest way to be a better marketer is to be better at the process. It’s to send better e-mails, make better phone calls, be more persuasive, produce better content, prepare better pitches.
What do you think? Do you really enjoy marketing, or do you just love the idea of it?
I want marketing and PR agencies in Cheltenham to start talking to each other. Like other towns, it’s competitive here. Lots of agencies are chasing too few clients, many of whom can’t afford much. The result is fierce competition, and a high level of grudges, negative opinions and lack of co-operation.
But why not? What would be so wrong with a dozen or so local marketers meeting up once a month and sharing advice? Why not discuss future trends, debate the local business situation and assess if working together might be worthwhile?
Imagine what might be accomplished. First, by sharing advice you’re encouraging your competitors to do the same. That helps you. Second, it means you both do a better job for your client. Third, and this is most important, it will improve the reputation of all marketers in this town.
Think what could be accomplished if businesses in local counties realised that when you hire a marketing agency in Cheltenham, you benefit from the collective wisdom of all marketing agencies in the area? A lot can be achieved from co-operation and growing the reputation of all marketing agencies in Cheltenham.
It’s a Utopian thought. Would you help your competitors?
In August 2006, Randy was diagnosed with pancreatic cancer. A year later he learnt it had spread and was given between 3 – 6 months to live. Shortly thereafter, he gave his last ever lecture. This lecture is one of the most beautiful, brilliant and inspiring lectures i’ve ever seen. It’s since received over 5 million viewings worldwide and Randy even managed to dictate a book in his final months.
You can watch the final lecture here (but you should set aside an hour in advance).
Randy passed away knowing that his success in life will long-outlast him. In addition to three children, Randy also created Alice, a 3D simulator that will help thousands of students develop their gaming and 3D reality skills. He pushed and led his students to great things, and they loved him for it.
Aside from the messages in the video, there’s a lot to learn from Randy Pausch. Great people naturally gain a following. Randy inspired everyone around him. He will no doubt be an inspiration to his three children when they watch lecture many years from now. He was certainly an inspiration to the students that turned out in their hundreds and gave him a standing ovation, and he is an inspiration to over 5 million people who have since watched the video.
He will be missed.
I rarely got to speak to the public I was trying to reach. Having a press middleman irked me, big time. Reaching people with your message was like playing Chinese whispers. You tell the journalist “I want to say this…” and the journalist replies “well, hmm, i’m going to decide to change your message to this…”
Which sometimes works fine, PR is valuable for many companies. It scales quite well, and people believe it. But I still think there is usually a better way to spend my time.
I was once working with a client who wanted more women to begin a career in trade skills. I spent my time working with various women’s magazines, websites and even managed to get some editorial in The Sun. At the time, I thought it went well.
Today I have that niggling feeling, as I do about many PR efforts, that the time could be better spent just talking directly to the people I want to reach. I think, had I spent my hours talking to women in career forums, at DIY centres and just mingling with the right people – the results would have been better.
What does everyone else think? Would you do better just speaking to your public?
The Wall Street Journal claims that most online communities fail:
Ed Moran, a Deloitte consultant who just completed a study of more than 100 businesses with online communities. Not surprisingly, these sites failed to gain traction with customers. Thirty-five percent of the online communities studied have less than 100 members; less than 25% have more than 1,000 members – despite the fact that close to 6% of these businesses have spent over $1 million on their community projects “A disturbingly high number of these sites fail,” Moran tells us.
I suspect no-one wants to do the hard work. The hard work is reaching out and talking to people one at a time. It’s talking to 10 – 20 people every day for a year or two, selling them in on the community and keeping them involved as it grows (trying delegating some responsibility!).
Gradually, it gets easier. Friends recruit friends, the community gains prominence, and then maybe you can ramp up some budget from advertising or PR to reach the masses.
But that first year…it’s hard, slow, work. But somebody has to do it.
Like sports teams, businesses should have talent scouts and online youth academies.
How hard would it be to find ten ambitious kids in high-school? Track their progress through school and college. Spend 30 minutes a week sending out copies of good books and highlighting great blog posts. As they get older bring them in for part-time work and internships.
By the time they graduate, the loyal few still in the program will be prepared and ready to join the business.
Just sounds like a great investment to me.
Global warming and rising oil prices means less people travel and meet in person. Developing technology and internet penetration means more people meet online. What does this mean for online marketing and engagement? I suspect it means three things.
1) Real life meetings become the goal. Getting people in your strategy to meet with you and each other in person is the holy grail. It cements the relationship.
2) Soft contacts are useful. We will interact with more people in less meaningful ways. These softer online contacts might be our future employers, employees, friends and lovers. It’s a sales funnel. Having lots of measurable soft contacts might be valuable (e.g. a PR account exec with lots of journalists as Facebook friends).
3) Learning culture differences to the internet. Skype, webcam meetings and e-mail chat changes things. Everyone has different culture, and some of these cultures might be less inclined towards these technologies. Who is less comfortable talking online? Is their less trust in online meetings? Is making a deal online as acceptable to all as making one in person?
It’s exciting, many concepts old and stale (International Marketing 101) become new again. Less talk about the rise of mighty China and more talk about how they are using the internet, how they communicate online, what are the similarities and difference?
Orange is going to spend £30m to reposition themselves as a company focusing on relationships.
Orange is an old marketing business doing old marketing. Old marketing does grandiose repositioning statements, big ad budgets and gets the message in front of people.
New marketing isn’t really new, it’s about the basics. It’s about having conversations with customers. It’s about facilitating these conversations, and empowering customers.
New marketing would’ve taken this £30m budget and handed it to customer service. New marketing would have demanded that Orange had an individual conversation with every customer (this makes it’s own ad campaign – “So have you received your Orange call yet?”).
New marketing would have trained the customer service people to ask about any problems the customer might have, and fixed those problems. New marketing would ask if the customer had any friends with the same problem they could help.
Maybe customer service might even enjoy a spot of proactive problem-fixing enjoy being proactive for a change.
In Online Community Management, online is just a location. Community Management can happen on the street, in coffee shops or at mac-world expos. But we love online, we talk and spend far more time discovering everything we can about ‘online’ than Community Management.
This is because ‘community’ is boring.
Would you rather play around with a new tool that links photo-tagging with Twitter, or would you rather read the latest research on how groups form? Or read a book about how people become isolated and estranged from groups? Or how culture is changing?
How about Management? Some people take a great crack at it, but we’re still well behind on the management frontier. What’s new about management and leadership of communities? How is leadership changing? What styles work best with different sorts of groups? How do you handle trouble-makers or splinters in the group? What age should you consider becoming a manager?
This is really important stuff, it will replace online as the sizzle that sells the steak.
By focusing on technology we’re reducing our value. Technology is always becoming easier to use and understand. So it shouldn’t be our selling point. Instead, we need to be sociology and leadership geniuses. By becoming experts at creating communities (online or offline), evangelizing and managing them, then we’re embracing change for the better.
In 1960 an American professor named Jerome McCarthy created the 4Ps (Place, Price, Product Promotion) to dissect marketing into chunks that marketers could easily understand and tackle separately. McCarthy did this around the same time Elvis topping the charts. Music has (sadly) moved on since then, but marketing lecturers still drill the 4Ps of marketing into their students. The problem, as any marketer will tell you, is they don’t use the 4Ps for their marketing efforts, they probably never did. At best, it’s purely a theoretical concept, at worst, it’s entirely irrelevant.
Luckily, a great thing happened in 1960, Seth Godin was born. Almost 48 years later, redefined the framework of marketing. It’s an important post for graduates. Forget what the last three years have taught you, and use this to plan your marketing.
Really, the best way to learn marketing isn’t to start your own eBay shop, it’s to learn to market yourself (thanks Matt). So apply Seth’s framework of marketing as a self-marketing tool, we can begin to understand how marketing really works. Seth suggests the goal of marketing is connections. Connections based upon Interactions, Products, Stories and Data. Here is how any graduate can apply this.
First, use data to find the opportunities in your industry. Find where jobs are opening up, what are people doing, what’s going on in technology? What will people want today and tomorrow? Whatever you decide to do should be routed in this data.
Now create your story. Be your own brand. A story isn’t fake, they’re what you do. How about the young graduate that can implement these new social media tools into client strategies? How about the 100% reliable graduate that always delivers everything on time, to spec, free of errors? Even better, why not both? Find a story that fits what you want to do, then be that story.
Your product (your services) is how you deliver your story. Be great, brilliant rather. The best is a good target to aim for. Remember, you’re not selling anything to anyone, you’re solving problems. If you can solve someone’s problem better than anyone else, you get the job. So use data to find that problem. Provoking a positive emotion helps. Learn skills that will solve people’s problems (CSS, design, sales etc…) and add a bonus unique to you.
Now you’re really flying. You still need to reach people who will pay you. You could build up your beloved CV, crank out the cover letters and begin calling recruitment agencies. Or you could begin blogging, attending conferences and finding people just like you. You could discuss tomorrow’s major trends with top industry experts. You can figure out where you fit in. You could build great relationships and have allies helping you find the right sort of work you want.
Now are you creating connections? Are employers, clients, friends and colleagues talking about you? Have you given them reason to? Are you surpassing their expectations? Have you found that place within the realm of marketing where you both belong and excel. You might just find it’s a really enjoyable place to be.
If you can do this, then you’ve learnt how to market yourself. And if you can market yourself, marketing products will be easy.
I used to write for UKTerrorist, a website about an online game called Counter-Strike. From 2000 to 2004 we built a community of around 12,000 people. Now looking back, i've been wondering how we did it.
I think early on we ticked a lot of the boxes. We were very much part of the community. We met the big names (games publishers, top players, tournament organizers in person..often), in fact, we recruited most of the major figures to contribute to our website. That really helped. Three things made us successful where other websites failed.
- Names, Names, Names! 90% of our content was about people. People, people, people. Strangers, friends and enemies. Or to quote the Heath Brothers “Names, Names, Names!”. We wrote about people in the community. We highlighted the major people in the community, and then reported on them (players moving teams, major events, latest news – it's a bigger topic than you might think). A community is about people, nothing else (see the bottom of this post).
- Community Competition: We introduced a lot of competition amongst our community. We titillated young egos and at times helped instigated (friendly) rivalries.We ran our own events, used top ten lists and even UKT Personality of the Year (that was an extremely contentious one). Be sure to give a community not only a reason to come together, but a reason not to leave. Keep giving the community something to talk about, encourage them to continually top each other. But make sure it stays fun, not personal.
- Light ModerationThird, we had a very weak approach to moderation. Perhaps too weak, we let anyone say almost anything they wanted….a principle many users took full advantage of.
It took years to build the community and months for that community to dissipate when the content dried up. In those years we learnt a lot. Fundamentally, we learnt a community isn't really about a company, a product or a cause. It's about the relationships with the people that work for the company, that use the product or will benefit from the cause. Anything else is incidental.