Being cutting edge in marketing and digital takes bucking the obvious and resisting the conventional. Clients don’t want more of what they’ve already got and, to lead, you have to actually lead.
A trendy hair stylist is likely to have purple hair and spikes, not a conventional business cut. That’s because they need to demonstrate that they live by the most challenging thing they ask anyone else to do. A fitness coach needs to be buff; if he’s got a chips and dip physique, you’re not going to take him seriously about your own fitness goals, even if they’re somewhat different. A marketing strategist and digital strategist needs to be not just cutting edge, but bleeding-edge. It’s not about *which* tools he uses, and he doesn’t have to use every new gadget (strategy isn’t gadgetry), but a digital strategist should at least be an early adopter of new technologies – as a pattern. More importantly, he needs to be an early adopter of the most efficient *processes* for marketing and operating a business. Here are some examples of that:
I Don’t Carry Business Cards, and I’m NOT Alone
Business cards originate from the days of drawing rooms and parlors. A butler would carry a visitor’s calling card to the master of the house on a silver tray. These days, they mostly serve as scratch paper in a bind, precisely when someone *else* isn’t carrying a business card. In other words, your card is really for other people’s brands. We’re hard pressed to find anyone still storing these things in a binders, now. Instead, there are superfluous apps designed to scan them and convert the data into a usable digital contact. I lean the other way. My contact info is my website. I can safely assume that anyone going to my website can find the contact button and reach me. If they’ve never used a website before in their lives, perhaps not, but then it’s also probably not a good fit. So contacting me at all is the first step in screening for a match. If they can’t remember my website, of course I can write those six letters on the back of someone else’s business card. If they can, and they want to e-mail me directly, they just need my name – I’m Daniel@. If they still really can’t keep track, it’s probably not a good fit, again.
A colleague of mine who also doesn’t carry cards, uses this simple solution – he asks for their e-mail or cell number and sends them a note. That way, he has their contact info. It’s a great way to do it – it’s proactive. It shows you want their info, too. There’s a case for business cards in some situations but, as a digital strategist, it’s partly my role to resist antiquated technology for its own sake. If you’re going for someone who truly *thinks* digital, licking stamps and handing out flyers and cards isn’t an encouraging sign. And that comes from someone who has vinyl LP records and multiple typewriters, so it’s not a hatred of all things analog.
I Only Do Online Booking, and Some Day You Will Too
More and more doctors and dentists are doing Zocdocs for paperwork (start the process from their website) and asking clients to book online. My doctor’s office has 100% no-waiting appointments and ONLY books online. Hair stylists do it, massage therapists do it. It’s becoming the norm. So shouldn’t a digital strategist be an early adopter and help lead the way? If you’re looking for cutting edge, do you want the guy who is pulling or the one who is catching up? Would you go to a hair stylist whose own hair looked terrible, or a doctor who seemed unhealthy? A huge part of digital strategy is streamlining other people’s business processes; I get people into tools that make their entire business run more effectively. What would it say if I didn’t use those same tools for my own company; what would it say it my own business handed you a fax number or played phone tag to get you an appointment?
I Don’t “Do” Anything, and You Don’t Want Me To
Sometimes, when people don’t “get” what I do, I have to do what all strategists do, and that’s break down a cognitive barrier. They’ll ask me if I run their Twitter, or send out e-mail blasts on their behalf, or what. The nuclear explanation for me is “I don’t *do* anything.” I let that simmer a while, and then explain that strategy and implementation are essentially separate. If you go straight to execution, it may seem like streamlining, but your efforts won’t pay off, and you’ll go your first year wasting momentum. If you go to a strategist who sells you marketing *services*, invariably their “strategy” brings you around to purchasing the services they sell. So you end up paying for the sales call, and sales research, and the act of selling you (all in the name of “analysis”). There’s a conflict of interests.
The first strategic recommendation is get strategy involved before execution; the second is don’t mix strategy with execution. That’s why I lead marketing teams, as other companies’ external Marketing Director, but I don’t post things to their Facebook. Besides, once you hire a true strategist for execution, you’re paying the same fee to maintain your marketing as to design it; and that’s just inflated and unfair.
Of course, what I do is direct other people’s marketing and marketing teams, help construct those teams via insourcing and outsourcing, and direct marketing projects and campaigns. But what you’re using from that is my brain, not my hands We can get you nimbler hands; a nimbler mind is going to be a real stretch.
I Don’t Answer My Cell Phone
The way I work is to host marketing calls with stakeholders and implementers, to guide and direct their marketing. I manage the insourced and outsourced team, and strategize with the business owners or department head(s). A phone call by itself is nothing, and a meeting just to have a meeting is the bane of company existence. MadPipe’s meetings are called Momentum Sessions. That’s because, while no one can *guarantee* success (except in the mythical world of infomercials), I guarantee *momentum*. In other words, if you go where I’m leading – if you do your homework and keep up your end – you *will* move forward toward your goal. If I were to pick up the phone whenever it rang, I wouldn’t be able to deliver on that.
Ad hoc phone calls, with no preparation, with no context, aren’t powerful calls. If it’s booking an appointment, including for a sales conversation, I point you to my digital calendar. If it’s to maintain a current project, we have much more powerful tools we’ll be using that don’t require phone tag. After all, it’s not like I can put your marketing team on hold during our scheduled time, because someone’s dialing and I need to take another call. Sure, I could have a receptionist – but is that really what you want? You won’t get marketing strategy from a receptionist, and you’ll just have to make an appointment anyway. So why not just book the appointment to start with?
Phone time is sacred. It has to count, for you and for me. So it’s reserved for powerful calls, where all parties have prepared. Strategy isn’t effective when it’s advice given off the cuff. Set up a time, set the topic, and prepare and you’re on the way to something richer
I Live in the Cloud, and Lease Property There
My office is a burn bag. I’ve often said I could toss a match over my shoulder, pick up a laptop at the nearest Apple store, and be back to work in an hour. My data is securely backed up, and my work occurs virtually, so I’m not stuck in one physical location. Ironically, I’m tied to a desk in Brooklyn most days, for one reason. I have a lot of hardware. 4 monitors keep my company running smoothly. I can do it from a laptop, but it would take longer.
Being in the cloud mean I don’t send file attachments, unless I want a document to be the definitive version, like a contract. I used shared documents and shared planning and communications tools, because everything I do is about working collaboratively with companies and teams. I start my day writing a bit of content for my own marketing, clearing the inbox, and checking on communications flags from the companies whose marketing I direct. Couldn’t I just go back to e-mail? Well, yes, if I want to fill up everyone’s inbox, including my own, with endless carbon copies, countless document versions, and not be able to distinguish To-do’s from FYI’s in my overflowing inbox. But it’s not my job to create more inefficiency. My role is to remove barriers to getting the marketing done.
So, I quickly remove e-mail back and forths to some more productive context. If I didn’t, I wouldn’t be demonstrating a) the need to improve, and b) that there are new ways to think about communicating with an audience, which is what marketing strategy is all about. In short, my sales would consist of rhetoric, not demonstrable value. Part of my role in companies is to get them on platforms and into processes that plow through this mess and, after a short adoption period, make them never miss the old ways.
I Automate Anything I Can
You can’t automate marketing, but you can certainly automate a lot of the processes that support it. Again, as a marketing leader and early adopter, I take my own medicine, and MadPipe runs on a whole slough of automated processes. I don’t log into Google Analytics, I have it feed a central console, along with lots of other analytics. If that’s not enough, I have it send me report cards. If I need to go to a conference, I hit a button on my phone, and a car arrives; is my time better spent circling the block for a parking space or tweaking the concepts in a presentation? I don’t log into every social media platform at all the various high engagement times from my audience – 5am, 9am, noon, 6pm, 12am, 2am. Who has time for that? You don’t, and neither do I. I pipe all social output to a central place, and send all social input from a central place.
Those things are just the basics. Face it, to compete regardless of the size of competitors, you need the Batman toolbelt, and the Batman processes. Batman, of whom incidentally I’m a big fan, is all about force multipliers. Faced with an even challenge, his constant training gave him the edge. With a superior enemy, he used an emotional force multiplier – fear. Fear may not be useful in marketing, but being aware of emotional force multipliers (EFMs) *definitely* is. Is your marketing person talking to you about that? And faced with an overwhelmingly superior force, Batman resorted to his tool belt – he used technology as a force multiplier.
I will say here and now, that’s how MadPipe does it, for MadPipe itself and for its client companies. MadPipe creates superhero brands by using a mix of training (in processes), EMFs, and technological tools as force multipliers, so that any company can compete with any other company. Doing the “Batman thing” requires a different kind of thinking, that’s slightly unconventional and far enough outside the box that it questions whether there’s really a box. If that interest you, and you’re not scared or put off by the unconventional, contact me. You know how.