Growth Hacker Marketing

If you are over the age of 27 and want to feel like an underachiever read this book. Ryan Holiday takes you on a journey from being VP of Mrketing at American Apparel,where apparently his days started quite leisurely and involved a steam room, to the bleeding edge of business growth.

The book is more about the mindset of Growth Hacking than anything else. And there is where it shines. Whilst many of it’s explicit examples are squarely targeted at the world of start ups the lessons are universal.

Holiday cracks open marketing with an analytical bent, challenges traditional thinking, mixes in an accelerated view of product development, product market fit and how to do so with a questioning, scientific mindset.

At it’s crux growth hacking is about using all tools at your disposal to grow a business. Marketing traditionally has been about generating future demand. And gets hung up on intangibles like awareness and branding. Growth Hacker Marketing brings the demand generation into the now and the modern technology platform of the web and social help facilitate that in ways that don’t look or feel like traditional marketing. But they still grow the business.

It’s a fun read, packed full of good references and examples. Additionally Ryan goes to the additional mile to share his recommendations for other great reads and next steps to get you on your way.

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When is an infographic not an infographic?

I’m not sure exactly when it happened, but it did. The concept of the infographic was hijacked to mean “any colourful (colorful) representation of data”.

And I know you could ‘argue’ that it’s ‘information’ in a ‘graphical form’. It’s an argument that is as developed as the thinking behind what the “infographic” has become. And if you use it I’m going to assume that you are in the group of marketers who are making the sort of “infographics” I’m critiquing. It’s OK to create cool, beautiful graphics with stats in them, just please I implore you not to think of them as or call them an infographic.

An infographic conveys a lot of complex data in a visual story that captures your attention at a high-level then draws you in. Subsequently delivering further layers of information in a consumable manner that would otherwise make your eyes glaze over. The result? You come away from it with some hitherto unknown insight into said topic.

An Infographic (click for readable source):

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Not an infographic, but that’s OK (link) just don’t call it an infographic Smile

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That’s right, just putting numbers or a chart/bar graph on a poster doesn’t magically bestow it infographic status.

Little known fact: some of the best Infographics are about coffee.

And this is one (below) of my favorites by The Oatmeal. Note how it’s not just a bunch of stats prettied up and how it mixes in all sorts of interesting information visually that helps you remember… such as the coffee belt bit.

Now, what do you think? And what is your favorite infographic?

Why Digital Isn’t Enough

The family was in the car.

We were on holiday in the motherland, England.

A favorite song came on the radio.

For you, the song I heard doesn’t matter.

Think of an old favorite. One with memories attached. From a great album.

Can you hear it? OK, let’s continue…

Music in the modern world

I certainly remember what struck me about the song I was hearing. It took me back to a time when I bought the album and listened to every song on it. Playing it again and again until it became the soundtrack for that particular time of my life.

My wife and I started talking about this phenomena. How we felt that there are less and less of those types of songs. Music had become more ephemeral and transient. Buying an album used to be more involved, we committed to it and got to know it. We felt connected to it. This was enhanced by the tactile feel, the touch, its physical presence… with vinyl this was extreme. We treated CDs with kid gloves to avoid scratching them, for fear the evil ‘skip’! There was that glint of rainbow from the CDs metallic surface. Album art, lyrics, song listing. It was a multi-sensory experience.

Now we have a world of songs available through subscription. We follow our friends and can see what they like. In theory we can discover more music. We can hear a song on the radio, tag it with our smart phone, add it to a playlist and have it blasting out over our home music system. There are clearly massive benefits to digital.

The written word

With books you can now carry a whole library with you, literally thousands of tomes on a single device. Amazon worked with the FAA testing hundreds of kindles to prove that the devices didn’t affect safety. And now you can use it for your whole flight eliminating one of the benefits of print on a plane.

Yet you can’t lend or gift a friend one of these books. It’s not allowed by the license. You don’t own that "book".

You can’t sit back in your office and peruse the real, albeit limited, library and be inspired to pick up a book and dive in. I find this is particularly important with factual books, packed full of expertise, books you want to dip into and out of. The same goes for poetry collections.

And of course paper still beats our current screen technology.

Photography

There is something wonderful about seeing my favorites in print, hung in an elegant frame, adorning a wall with great light in a way that catches me as I walk past. Pleasantly interrupting my moment with a memory of a person, a place, a feeling, a journey.

And yet with digital it is infinitely easier to create and share than it was in the days of film. In some ways this can diminish the value, when everyone with a smart phone is a photographer.

Consider the opportunity in learning the craft as fully as you can, pushing yourself in the creation, editing and developing of photos that are something you don’t simply take, rather a piece of art you make. Go beyond filters, get to know Adobe Photoshop Lightroom (the most important part of my photography gear) and how to digitally develop photographs. If you want to go even further take them back out into the analog world by getting to know the printing process itself, rather than simply sending them off to a ‘lab’ or Costco.

Note taking: The analog that refuses to die

Every time people proclaim the death of paper and hand written notes a new approach to bridge these this format with the digital arrives. The literal application of the technology; computerized pen and paper such as the Surface 3 does keep getting better. Yet companies like MOD Notebooks keep raising the bar, enabling you to *really* keep writing on real paper with a real pen and making it available digitally. I’m working on falling in love with MOD, so far they have delivered an amazing customer experience – that tweet is only part of it.

I, like many others, still feel something in that physical connection between fingers, pen and paper. Those senses are important. Something is happening in my neural pathways that creates indirect benefits from touch, and does more so than tippy tap typing on a keyboard. You can’t erase millions of years of evolution and how we interact with the world overnight.

Yet the power of OneNote for creating, storing, finding notes across all the devices in my life is so powerful. It is literally one of the most important tools in my life. The fact MOD "Syncs" to OneNote is a big part of how excited I am for MOD. Incidentally OneNote isn’t the only service MOD Syncs with, Ever Note and others are also on the list.

Other human beings

It’s not just about creation of and the consumption of art, it’s also about how we interact together. When I mentioned I was planning this blog on twitter @hf noted well that it un-teaches social skills. David Burkus nicely puts how confirmation-bias thrives in digital, pick an argument with a friend online (religion, politics, gun control are great topics) so they can go search and find things that back up their opinion. Don’t do it in person, he says, as you will find a way to come to a common ground.

Email allows us to juggle more, twitter allows us to network more. Between Facebook and YouTube not only are we enjoying cats doing zanier things than we otherwise could we are able to stay in touch with friends and family in ways unheard of before the dawn of such crazy witchcraft.

Yet we are not really dealing with the person. I frequently work with colleagues I never see. In some cases I’ve worked on whole projects and never met or spoken to some of the people involved. We all become virtual resources for each other spread out across the world. We are not interacting with people, rather with a fraction of who and what they are in a very narrow context.

The importance of multisensory experiences

For much of human history we supplanted one way of doing things with something better and relegated the old to the dustbin. The famous John Deer invention that made extracting value from the vast plains of the Midwest is no longer in use, but the plains are more productive than they ever. By in large nowadays the steam engine is nothing more than a fascination. You really have to love the art of physical writing to purse and practice calligraphy.

Vinyl provides a delightful multisensory experience, enhanced with the involvement of touch, sight and smell. Movies are taken to a whole other level with music. We owe it to ourselves to maximize the richness of our experiences. Life is better because of it.

Technology has continued a deep integration into our lives and in many cases there are a mix of generations in use. Each serving a different purpose. You can own a record player and have a subscription to a streaming music service. You can have your cake and eat it.

We seek to capture, improve, alter and share the analog. The first recording devices made this possible, they froze in time sensory experiences. Like Edison famously said about his recording machine, "Talk into it, it will talk back". Technologies were invented to stop things slipping away, to bring them back out again, to our ears, eyes and hearts. And to those of others. Yet at the other extreme technology can through digitizing make things once again ephemeral and transient

My challenge to you: Keep the "more analog" versions of these technologies alive. Utilize all of their benefits and have a more complete experience.

I like to think this serves as a reminder to get out there into the real, purely analog, world and enjoy the living, breathing, visceral moment itself.

How do you feel about the balance between digital and analog? How has it affected you?

What do you want to be when you grow up?

I was taking an early morning walk down to the breezy coast of West Seattle and was thinking about how it’s nice to have the down on the out bound so that I’m warmed up to deal with the hill on the way back. Then in my half-awake morning stupor a thought flitted across my cerebral cortex. It was about when we ask children about their future and that we don’t say "What do you want to do when you grow up". Rather we use the word be, not do. And I got to thinking about the importance of that little word. Two simple letters, a consonant and a vowel.

Fatherhood © Matthew Woodget 2011 www.fluidpixel.com

"To be, or not to be. That is the question." – Hamlet.

Unsurprisingly Shakespeare can impart some wisdom to us on this matter. Just as Hamlet was agonizing over the apparent helplessness of life he’s also torn as to giving it up. He’s trapped in a dark, tragic place where his very being is brought into question and he is thinking of ending it all.

In Hamlet’s despondency we come to recognize that when we are asking a child what they want to be we are not asking them about jobs or tasks or comings or goings. We are asking them what they want their life to feel like. And hopefully for it to feel quite the opposite of what Hamlet is going through. Think for a second of some of the classic answers that a child may provide to the question "What do you want to be when you grow up?".

An airline pilot, a fire fighter, a horseback rider, an astronaut. They know nothing of the grind of these jobs, of the challenges, the stresses. What they think about is what the people who do these things feel like. Or at least what their childishness imagines visualize… and I’ll give you a hint; in this case ‘childish’ is far from disparaging. Their minds soar with the thrill of flying a plane, the hero who saves those in danger, the wide open spaces and fresh air and camaraderie with animals, or a wonder and marvel of the earth and of the universe that being hurled into space on a rocket affords. It’s the very real, hear and now feelings of the child that they are tapping into and projecting into their future.

How does this relate to anything you may care about?

When it comes to what you do, think more about what you want to be. "What do you want to be… now!" This could be informing a career change where you are seeking something which will be better match with how you want to feel in what you are doing, or it could fuel your approach when tackling a particular project you are working on in a job you already love.

You maybe be an independent photographer or a cog in the corporate machine, it doesn’t matter. When it comes to how you interact with those you work with, the customers you build for or market or sell to, think about how those on the receiving end of your actions feel. What are they pursuing, what do they want? Every decision we make is intentionally designed to benefit us and how we feel. From consumer goods purchase to enterprise investments of grand scale. Good choices or bad we can’t help but put ourselves at the center. We do it because we feel it is the right thing to do based on any number of external stimuli. We just *have* to have *that* pair of shoes. The market data *clearly* states we must address things with a change in corporate strategy and if we win because of it *I* get the promotion. Even in a life of piety and sacrifice where everything you do is for others you are choosing this to satisfy a feeling in yourself, you feel it’s the right thing to do for moral or religious reasons.

Doing might be where the rubber meets the road and stuff gets made, built or shipped. But long before that there is being. Figure out what yours is, those around you, your partners and ultimately your customers and you will be able to tap into that powerful aspirational energy from your childhood when you once dreamed of mounting a screaming rocket to the stars.

How do you feel about this? Love to hear your thoughts, and feelings :-).

Surviving the death of traditional marketing

(cheesy overload of information © Matthew Woodget www.fluidpixel.com)

You probably won’t read this whole blog post. It’s true, CMO.COM recently had a great post on this; distraction. I’ve come to terms with it 🙂 This post will cover a lot of [very important] ground, I promise, so it will be worth it. Without further ado; welcome to the year of Blade Runner (2014). Building sized billboards and all.

Maybe it was MTV that messed us up. Maybe it was something else. All I know is that despite my four year olds apparently distracted behavior (I guess I just have to come to terms with the fact that he’s simply not listening to me) he’s actually very focused on what he does. When I try show him a trailer for a movie three out of four times he’s left confused and dumfounded (I’ve probably done it a maximum of four times). Go watch a trailer right now, come back when you are done. It leaves my son feeling uncomfortable, confused, he genuinely doesn’t like the experience. Brash, speeding images, a rapidly sped up narrative. As a father of young children I’m faced with the fact I’m part of a society in which this is par for of the course. Whatever caused it, we need to accept that distraction is paramount. We are bombarded with thousands of marketing messages a day. Research by Huge says 5,000 daily, in urban environments, double what it was three decades ago (as above). That’s just marketing messages. You think you consume all of that? You brain goes into auto pilot, it’s why you often can’t remember you work commute. Our brain is unimaginably complicated and deals with an even more impressive array of ridiculously tiny things each day. It’s good at filtering out the crap and getting us to where we are going. Thankfully it does this with the marketing noise too.

That’s my point. It’s NOISE. I turned up the volume on that on purpose 😉 We live in an attention economy, well covered by Jeremy Epstein. We have limited time, focus, bandwidth, hours in the day. When it comes to communicating with our customer are we going to keep fighting this fact? Or are we going to start with a strategy that engages? Whether or not you realize it you have a complex set of filters to deal with all of this noise. The thing is your filters break. What’s that? I hear you cry? My filters break? That brings us full circle to why we need to respect distraction and leads us to how we can deal with it. Jeremy has been banging on about this since at least 2007. CMO.COM blogged about it this summer. At some point this thing is going to reach critical mass, and blow up.

Good content needs a good story. It doesn’t have to be 500,000 words long. It doesn’t have to be an NPR series on the creation of a tee shirt in the current global economy (a great story by the way). It can be as simple as effectively conveying a feeling and a sense as can be done in a single photograph that invokes thoughts and ideas that you end up filling in the blanks to complete the tale. It does have to have a character(s), tension, depth, meaning, it must reveal something and needs to have a narrative. Different mechanisms can be employed to convey this. Storytelling is a cornerstone in our ability to get ideas to stick. It is the informational genetic code that enables an idea to survive and be passed on from one generation to the next. It’s why religion, Santa, the boogeyman, organ theft, and love stories all virally spread between and stick with us.

Push marketing is dead. Advertising is dead, banner ads on websites, radio ads, billboards, popups that appear before you can load a site, popups that appear as you start reading a site (and by pop up I mean the ones that are ‘in’ the webpage, not the 1999 version of a separate window adding itself to your desktop clutter. Yes, unfortunately those still exist). They are all dead. It’s only a matter of time before the last tombstone in the last graveyard of advertising is set in the ground. Blade Runner I love you but our future will not include those bill boards. There will not need to be. And I disagree with the assertion that it’s not dead, it’s evolving or simply changing. The point here is that push marketing is dead. And that to all intents and purposes the future doesn’t include advertising as we see it today. Marketing is often mischaracterized as being only about promotion, advertising et al. It’s so much more than that, it’s about a deep understanding of the people who might want your product, your product/service, how those things intersect and how you communicate about that.

One day there will be no advertising. Not as we know it today. There will be content. Content that you want to consume. That is shared because it has value in and of itself. Content that appears in relevant context to what you are doing and connects you to new things, services, experiences that you probably want. It will be more effective. Less annoying. With the evolution of big data and the internet of things it becomes broadly real sooner than you think. If you are a fan of Stephen Hawking you might enjoy watching Grand Design – The Meaning of Life. Where he covers that all of our choices may well all end up boiling down to a complex predetermination any way. If anyone every figures out a Theory of Everything they can monetize it by selling it as a marketing service. That’s a bad physics joke and I’m aware of how beautifully cynical it sounds, I wouldn’t be surprised to see it covered somewhere by Douglas Adam, Terry Pratchett or Ian M. Banks.

It all boils down to is Propaganda vs. Relevance. The crafting of propaganda has existed for as long as humanity itself. I’m told that after practicing law it’s the third oldest profession. Every conflict, war, work related butting of heads uses it as a tool. Its essence is that of one human being trying to convince another so it doesn’t comes across as such. If you are truly relevant and able to convince your customer to do something without them realizing it then you attain that mythic status immortalized by the quote "the greatest trick the devil ever pulled was convincing the world he didn’t exist". As evil as that may sound really it’s all about a respect for your customer, reaching them in a relevant way to connects them with something which they will be care about. Not wasting their time. Not adding to the noise.

Putting this into practice takes progressive engagement (Gartner, Hank Barnes). It’s about leading a horse to water. Stepping stones. Phases. Conversations. Moving forwards through and to something. I love presenting and I feel like I can always do better, so when I’m given the opportunity for "presentation skills training" I lap it up. Sometimes it’s screwed me up, made me over think myself. But it’s all good. One time I was preparing for a presentation, that I never actually gave because I ended up getting horribly sick and missing the whole event. The guy who did the training laid on a really salient point that interestingly maps to this topic. He said "What do you really think you can get across in an hour?" Great question. Right? Think about that for a second. You can’t educate, much. You can’t deliver all the details of your subject. It might take you ten times that amount of time to prepare the presentation. Aside: arguably if there are 100 people in that room then you owe it to their time investment to invest a hell of a lot of time in the prep, that’s another blog post entirely. The point is you can’t get it all across at once so don’t try.

The same goes for "marketing" or "advertising". Give your audience enough to want more, to come back, to take the next step, the "next action" where they consume your content and embark on a journey of relevance with you. The future of marketing is about storytelling via content that creates progressive engagement, not one of billboards.

If there is one thing Ridley Scott got right with Blade Runner it’s that in 2014 we’d still have billboards. What do you think? What sort of science fiction of marketing and advertising can you dream up? Leave it in the comments…

What’s your vision?

In some ways this is a follow up to the last post. They are certainly related. There we talked about the importance of making a decision to enable you to lock onto something and go after it. The thing is you need to see that thing, to do so you must have vision.

Vision serves as a guiding light. It illuminates your thoughts and gives meaning to your efforts. It is also a yardstick by which you measure the worth and priority of other thoughts. How can you prioritize when you don’t know what is more important than another? Practically speaking I tackle this by having "projects" (even smaller ones) that I know I need to get done and then use these as a filter to allow specific behavior through.

In other terms there is the old Shakespearian proverb "the truth will out". You can’t hide who you truly are, or what you think. You bleed out of you as if a broken sieve. On the receiving end have you met people who just oozed with a certain vibe, positive or negative? If you don’t have a vision and simply allow the whim of the day to guide you then this will become a self-fulfilling prophecy, a lack of focus will prevent you from attaining focus. What the….?

To take us on a bit of a side journey, albeit an important one. If you find yourself in conflict with another person and you must work with this person then be warned. The truth will out. You will expose yourself and your intentions. Except for the most masterful or Machiavellian amongst us (no, that’s probably not you or I for that matter) we can’t hide a devious strategy. Try be devious and it will come out. Bitter, yup they will taste it. Frustrated? Your intonation will rise and you will cut people of. You will expose yourself. Especially over time, it’s inevitable.

In this side journey its possible to see how vision can play a key role. When you need to work with "that" person how can you find a true ‘win-win’, a reason to commit, something to get behind. Keep coming back to that. Find the silver lining. Make it positive, beneficial to you both. What you will discover is that the truth will out. If you want to dig deeper into this I can recommend a powerful and moving book, As Man Thinketh, James Allen talks about thoughts being seeds that you sow in your mind. Positive or negative they will grow and flourish. "Every action and feeling is preceded by a thought."

Likewise if you are working on a project and have a clear vision and thus a purpose others will see it, feel it. The fact such an apex exists means people will be able to latch onto it, to navigate by it and to join you for the ride. Especially if you are working to find the essence of win-win in all relationships.

I’ll leave you with two platitudes that I respect allot; go fast and go alone, go together and go far. Secondly; you will get further in life with honey than with vinegar. Both of which speak to having a vision, and making it real through partnerships.

What is your vision? It could be for a project. Your career. A story. A work of art that you are creating. A business idea. I’d love to hear from you.