Halloween Week Countdown Spooktacular: #4 Vampires

In case you haven’t noticed, vampires seem to be all the rage these days. I’ve heard of people sporting “bite me” license plates on their cars and there is a whole assortment of bumper stickers, jewelry, clothing and other merchandise that displays an insanely desire to be one of them.

Undoubtedly, the recent string of Stephanie Meyer books (amazon affiliate link), including the Twilight saga, have ratcheted up attention about these evil fiends.

While stories about vampires have been around for centuries in some form or another, Meyer’s gave us a whole new spin. Instead of being evil, she romanticized these characters as cursed beings who had a choice between being good or evil. Talk about having a good PR agent. Meyers has taken one of the most evil of all monsters and cast the vampire as a teenaged hunk with a slight biting problem who is simply looking for the love of his life.

Think about the genius behind what Meyers has done. She is probably one of the best marketers around. It’s like taking Charles Manson and turning him into a teenage heart throb. Now consider the flip side of her vampire characters. Behind the perfectly chiseled looks there is something else going on all together. When you read about vampires almost anywhere else you learn that they are cursed. They are doomed to walk the Earth for an eternity and must prey on other men for their blood. They are constantly in fear of being hunted down and destroyed. There is simply nothing romantic about it.

Let’s face it, millions of teens worldwide seem to love Meyer’s version of the vampire. I, for one, don’t. They scare the crap out of me. But I do admire Meyer’s skills and there it a valuable lesson for all of us marketers and small business people to learn from – great marketing can sell even the most evil of products (but this doesn’t make it right).

Propagandizers, Evil PR Agents and Crooked Marketers

Let’s face it. Those of us in the marketing, advertising and public relations business often get a bad wrap. But often, it is a well deserved one. We live in a country where our trade has been used for all kinds of bad stuff:

  • Wars
  • Political campaigns
  • Bad agendas
  • Spinning bad companies out of messes
  • Hiding celebrity and political messes
  • Selling teens on warped image of beauty
  • Making America fatter
  • Diet fads
  • Countless bad products
  • Rampant consumerism

It isn’t a stretch to say that our industry has a reputation that is very similar to that of the traditional vampire. We’re evil. Our job is to sell stuff, sell ideas. And the most evil among us use their vampire-like abilities to prey on a public that doesn’t always need what we’re selling.

There’s a Choice

I will admit it, I read Meyer first book. I had to see what all the fuss was about and though I respect her abilities, I really hated the book. I’ve always preferred the other image of the vampire – an evil creature of the night that was meant to be hunted down and killed. The nice thing is that we in the communications industry have a choice.

Unlike fictional vampires, we are not cursed or doomed. We can make a decision to help good causes. We can use our skills to help raise awareness about great companies that actually care about the communities they do business in. We have the ability to help great products win when they really deserve to. We can take an active role in making this nation into the greatest it has ever been.

Sure, there will always be those annoying people out there that send me spam via every possible route they can. These folks will continue to ruin great things like email, Twitter and facebook. The nice this is that we as consumers can choose to ignore it. That’s the beauty of America. While we have the right to freedom of speech, we have the right to be educated and to ignore or block out the stuff we don’t want in our lives.

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What Makes Chris Brogan Great? (and what you can do to be just like him)

photo of chris brogan - black and whiteI can remember the first time I heard about Chris Brogan. He had made a comment on a blog post or in an interview where he revealed his consulting fee. I can remember chatting about it with a few buddies at work. I think everyone of us were thinking that finding a consulting gig might not be a bad idea. Shortly after, we decided to read Chris and Julien Smith’s book, “Trust Agents” (amazon affiliate link).

Chris and Julien’s book is great and they share a number of ideas that you can use to make a major impact in your life. Ever since then, I have been a big fan of Chris’ but there were parts to him that have remained a mystery until recently.

While on a long drive from Salt Lake City to St. George, I decided to listen to an audio book by Dave Logan and  called “Tribal Leadership” (amazon affiliate link). Several of us from work had read the book a couple years ago and it made a major impact on how we operated, but as listened to the book this time around, I picked up on a variety of insights that I had missed the first time around and this is where I finally figured out why Chris Brogan is such an amazing business leader.

If you are interested in evolving your career, “Tribal Leadership” (amazon affiliate link) is, by far, one of the most insightful books you will ever have the opportunity to read. Let’s face it, leadership is not a natural process for all of us and even if you have some leadership abilities, aren’t we all capable of getting better? This book breaks down leadership levels into five basic groups and then walks you through the characteristics of each and what you must do to progress and ultimately help others progress.

Without revealing too much about the book, Chris Brogan definitely falls between the 4th and 5th stages that are described in the book. What do these stages look like? Think about Chris for a minute. He is about bringing people together and helping businesses form thriving communities. He is genuinely interested in helping others succeed and find meaning in their lives.

If you want to learn to be more like Chris, you don’t need to:

  • Grow a big scruffy beard.
  • Buy a gorgeous Camero.
  • Make videos for your blog late into the night.

What you should do is:

  1. Stop reading this post.
  2. Head on over to Amazon and order a copy of “Tribal Leadership” (amazon affiliate link) and “Trust Agents.”
  3. Read “Tribal Leadership” first.
  4. Evaluate where you fall in the different stages listed in the book and start making the changes you need to in order to become a great leader.
  5. Read “Trust Agents” second and look for ways to accentuate the skills and ideas you learned in “Tribal Leadership.”
  6. Start building your tribe.

Good luck. God Speed. Go get ‘em.

Jason's Signature

Goals – shhhhh! Keep them a secret.

What advice have you been given on goal setting? Conventional wisdom would tell you to share your goals with friends and family – the thought being that you are more likely to see goals through because of the social pressure involved. But what if conventional wisdom isn’t correct?

Check out Derek Sivers recent TED Talk where he once again challenges our beliefs.

What works for you when it comes to setting goals? Have you told friends or family? Did it help? Or did you keep I a secret?

Find Your Core

hansons_lumber_millBack when I was in graduate school, I read a ton of case studies. For almost two years, a lot of my time was spend reading case studies and then writing and discussing those case studies. At the time it felt like torture, but those case studies helped form a knowledge base about key marketing issues that can easily be overlooked. Here’s a case in point:

Spotted Owls, A Lumber Company, And A Democratic State Legislator

Recently, a specific case study came to mind as I was working on a project. It was about a small Oregon lumber company that was faced with legislation that would ultimately put them out of business. It seemed that a Democratic state legislator was trying to enact new laws that would prevent the lumber company from certain types of logging practices. The logging company would have to shut down if the laws passed.

As any of us would do in similar circumstances, the management team quickly went to work trying to figure out what to do. Some of the team wanted to hire an expensive lobby firm out of D.C. Others were interested in hiring an expensive marketing agency. Luckily, someone spoke up and asked a very important question – what audience should they really be talking to?

This question caused them to step back and as a series of other important questions:

  • What was their strategy?
  • What goals did they have?
  • What audience would help them get the best results?
  • Which tactics would help them connect best with their intended audience?
  • How would they know when they had won?

Asking these questions caused their team to dig in deep and do the hard work that great marketing is all about. In stead of spending a ton of money or outsourcing their efforts, they focused and came up with an ingenious plan.

Instead of focusing on the senator or the public, they turned their efforts inward and decided to engage their team. But what tactic did they choose? This is the cool part. They knew they had limited resources and some brilliant person mentioned a potential tool they had been using for years, but never in a strategic manner. They had a company newsletter that had always been used to share the basics – birthdays, events, team member info, etc.

So they took the newsletter and transformed it into an amazing storytelling device. They educated their team about the issues they faced and explained what the consequences would be if the legislation passed. More importantly, they provided their team with specific calls to action.

Lessons Learned

There is a lot that can be learned from this story, but what is the most important take-aways for your small business?

  1. Have a process in place for marketing and stay true to it. When the pressure is on, it is tempting to jump straight to tactics. Don’t fall for this. Having a process in place forces you to think through all the elements of a marketing campaign or program and helps you keep strategy at the forefront. A good marketing process should cover the following (stick to this order as much as possible): strategy, business objectives, audience, tactics, metrics.
  2. Dig in deep when you get to audience. The thing this case study really helps you understand is that the obvious audience is not always the right audience to help you spread your story. In the case of the lumber company, they only had one person whose mind needed to be changed – the Democratic state senator. They could have tried talking directly to him; however, what they understood was that by engaging their team, who then engaged their friends and neighbors, they were unleashing a powerful force that the company could not have created by itself.
  3. Holding yourself accountable is a big deal. When times are tough, measuring your success is more important than ever. It is incredibly easy to skip over this last step in marketing, but if you truly want to create value and ensure that you get the most from your marketing dollars you have to hold yourself accountable.

There is another lesson here. Case studies are a great way to learn about business, but you do not need to go to school to find case studies. The truth is that there are real-world case studies around us every day. Watch what your fellow small business owners are up to, take notes and learn from what they are doing. Network with them and share your successes and failures. The key is to always continue learning and innovating.

Developing A Social Media Plan

The other day I set up a facebook fan page for a project I have been working on. It is a nice feeling when you step back and realize that you joined the ranks of tens of thousands of other businesses that are also on facebook. Have you ever looked closely at what some of your competitors are up to? If you have, you might have noticed something interesting.

Take a look around facebook, twitter, myspace, etc. and see what your competition is up to. You’ll probably discover some that I did as well – social media is full of businesses who have fallen into the “me too” trap. They are there simply because their competitor is there and because of this most business social efforts are completely lame.

There’s no doubt that most businesses can benefit from social media in some way. But you should think carefully about how it will benefit you and in what ways you are willing to truly engage your customers.

A Must Read Book – The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs by Carmine Gallo: Book Review

Innovation Secrets of Steve JobsWhat if you could be as smart as Steve Jobs? What would you do with all that talent?

For many of us, the thought of being “like Steve” might sound impossible. Right? Let’s be real. Steve built Apple. Then he built Pixar. Then he turned around and rebuilt Apple. The guy has defied conventional wisdom time and time again. He is so great at what he does that many of us fear the day he leaves Apple. How in the world can an average guy learn to be like Steve?

It is possible and as long as you are willing to be open-minded and willing to work your butt off, you can achieve greatness; you can be just as innovative as Steve Jobs. Carmine Gallo, author of “The Presentation Secrets of Steve Jobs” (amazon affiliate link) has a great book coming out this month that will show you how.

It is called “The Innovation Secrets of Steve Jobs” and you are going to love it. For those of you that read Carmine’s earlier book, this one will seem familiar to you. Carmine does a great job identifying the 7 key principles that Jobs brings to Apple and how it has allow the company to become one of the world’s leading innovation companies.

What is interesting about Gallo’s perspective is that it breaks with so many other books on the same subject. No where in the book does he talk about brainstorming or giving IQ tests for new hires. What he does discuss is building cultures that thrive on innovation and what steps you can take to mimic Steve’s success.

What is the single most important thing I took away from the book? The answer to this is simple. Apple is innovative because they have taken the time and committed to becoming innovative. They have made their own rules as they have gone along. They don’t allow themselves to be swayed from their vision.

If you are ready to transform your culture, pre-order Carmine’s book and start building a complete vision of what you want to be.