March 23

Time To Take My Own Medicine

Marketing

15  comments

This is an open letter to my tribe, my friends in the marketing world.

You already know if you’re one of them, because you’re going to keep reading, because you care about making a real difference, you care about integrity, and you believe that marketing can be a force for good.

First, let me start with a confession. I know that, over the years, I have written too many posts about new business models, models which I have never implemented.

Although I’ve been in the online marketing business for over twenty years, I guess I’ve always felt like a bit of a lost soul, restlessly looking for something that I could never find.

It wasn’t visual design, it wasn’t conversion, it wasn’t niche marketing or application development or SEO or copywriting… or any of the other things I’ve turned my hand to.

Big Realizations

I’d like to share with you some very important insights that have led to the big change I’m about to announce.

1. Genius

My first big realization from the last year was discovering my Genius (what you might call my why, my path, missioncalling, dharma, or ikigai).

I have understood that I’m not really a web designer or a marketer. My own genius is…

To explore and share ideas for how we can collectively make a better world.

Maybe that’s why I have never been able to manifest a marketing business? Because that would not be a true reflection of my own calling. What really gets me bouncing out of bed on a Monday morning is idea exploration. I’m a person who needs to be at the edge of new ideas. And managing a business does not fit easily with that.

2. ONE Thing

The second big insight that has come my way this week is from this book: “The ONE Thing” by Gary Keller.

The book starts with a movie reference that I love. It’s the scene in City Slickers where Billy Crystal’s character asks Curly, the crusty old cowboy played by Jack Palance, what the meaning of life is. Curly raises one index finger, leaving Crystal’s character puzzled. For the wizened old cowboy, life is about “one thing” and we each need to find our one thing.

I’m only halfway through this book, but it is all making perfect sense to me, and it’s helping me to crystallize a bunch of thoughts, many of which I’ve been preaching for years — but have consistently failed to apply to my own business!

Stuff like…

  • The middle ground is not safe. It’s the path to poor results.
  • Risky is the new safe. Safe is the new risky.
  • Find your niche and immerse yourself in it.
  • Massive success does not come from a sequence of small improvements, but from tackling massive goals.
  • Figuring out what to say “no” to is a far more important factor in success than what you say “yes” to.
  • It all starts with being something remarkable. The rest flows from there.

All this points to my “one thing” — which right now is clearly marketing strategy. To be more specific, we could say it’s cracking the code of marketing strategy.

(So I know I need to stop things like developing web applications, designing websites, and writing extensive copy for clients. More on that below..)

3. Coaching

Realization #3 is that I have not been following my own advice!

I constantly find myself telling clients and prospects how hard it is consistently to apply what you know to your own life and business, which is why the strategy services I provide can be so valuable.

But yours truly has constantly tried to walk my road solo, without asking for help or guidance from others!

So I have arranged to get an experienced coach, who I’m hoping can help keep me pointed in my right direction.

I know that, if I’m going to make a real difference, I have to focus in a way that I have not done before. That will mean saying “no” to a lot of the stuff I have let distract me in the past, and to throw myself completely into cracking my BHAG (“big hairy-arsed goal”).

Change of Focus — “The Marketing Strategist”

So, from today, I have taken on a new role. I’ve changed the tagline on this website to “The Marketing Strategist.” I think adopting that title has the right mix of inspiration and fear. To step into our full powerful potential should feel like going out on a limb.

My big goal now, my ONE thing, is to pick up the original objective of Open Source Marketing, which is to try and crack the code of marketing strategy.

I think there is a desperate need for this in the world right now. We’re inundated with “how-to” marketing advice, but what’s missing is “WHAT-TO” do!

Who should use Facebook? Not everyone, certainly!

Who should use webinars / content marketing / PR / Instagram / squeeze pages / SEO / email follow-up sequences / pay-per-click / product launches / podcasts / YouTube videos / marketing automation..?

The answer is always the same: Not everyone. If we were to try every option, we would quickly exhaust our resources (time, money, energy)!

I think the biggest marketing challenge facing businesses today is simply being unable to see the forest for the trees.

The 80:20 rule applies in full force here. 20% of the things you could do will deliver 80% of the benefits. So it’s essential to know what those bottom-80% activities are, so that we can avoid them.

If we’re going to achieve our potential, we need guidance on WHAT to focus on, what to learn, what to practise, what to become an experts in.

And there is surely logic behind those decisions. That’s what marketing strategy is about. And that’s what I’m going to try to solve.

Here’s how it will work:

  1. Take a bunch of real-world case studies and figure out what the “right” marketing strategy is.
  2. Then figure out why that strategy is the right one. This step is about breaking down the factors that combine to make X the right way forward.
  3. Identify a set of questions that, when answered, would give us the raw material to identify possible positive strategies (or at least to identify approaches that are unlikely to be helpful). That working set of questions is The Circuit.
  4. Then find ways to make that logic more accessible. This could possibly even be an online wizard, which could take all your Circuit responses and give you practical guidance on what your strategy could be!

To my knowledge, nobody has done this before, or possibly even attempted it. It is certainly a mammoth task!

Case Study: Skin of Gold

I am working with one client right now who has two businesses. One of these is an artisan skin cream, which sounds amazing. (It has genuine skin-healing properties, combining pure gold and silver with a selection of carefully-selected essential oils. So it literally promotes the skin’s own healing powers, and has repeatedly caused unsightly marks and skin conditions to disappear.)

The client currently only sells a few dozen units per month, and realistically only has capacity to produce around a hundred bottles per month, as things stand.

When I worked through the strategy, it became clear to me that this product should have a significantly higher price tag than it is now, and that we should try a risk-free “Challenge” tactic, backed up with a 100% money-back guarantee.

The second step is to try to get customers onto a continuity program, where they get a new bottle of the cream every month, in return for a significantly discounted subscription.

Using lean thinking, if that initial small-scale campaign proves profitable, we would then expand production, possibly using a few hand-picked affiliates (beauty bloggers or magazines).

The question is, why? WHY is the “30-day Challenge” a viable strategy?

So my next step is to break down and sort through the factors, to determine which would apply in every similar case. For example, here are some I have identified already…

  • an unknown “challenger” brand
  • a market that already has incumbent products that people use regularly
  • proof of mobility, i.e. customers are open to trying better alternatives
  • decent profit margin (important for money-back guarantee, helped by raising the prices)
  • genuine, demonstrable benefits for the majority of users

Once I have figured out what rules seem to apply, I can then record that logic in some fashion, so that next time we get a client whose business environment matches these same factors, we can apply the same logic, and ideally learn and optimize the system.

A New Marketing Strategy “Agency”

Clearly, I need to devote my time to figuring out as many marketing strategies as I can.

That’s why from today I will now offer only one service: marketing strategy consulting.

The details are not yet finalized, but I anticipate that could start an hourly basis (i.e. the consulting offer I put out in December, which is working great!) but could also ideally grow into a profit-sharing partnership.

For now, my agency will just consist of me. I may build a consortium of other strategists over time. Clearly, the world needs many marketing strategists!

With that in mind, I’m open to running a weekly hangout for people who know that marketing strategy is the way for them too. If you’re interested in being part of this, please let me know.

Book?

It would also make sense to write a book on marketing strategy. I don’t yet know what this will look like, but I do know it needs to be based on real-world case studies, not just logic.

Some Business Opportunities

This refocusing of my business creates a range of opportunities:

1. Have Me Work on Your Strategy

First, if you know you need clarity in your marketing, work with me! I’m looking for a few businesses with great potential. The only catch is that you need to be willing for me to publish some details of your business in case studies!

2. Join My Marketing Strategists’ Working Group

If you know you were born to be a marketing strategist, if this idea inspires you, please email me and we’ll think about creating a working group.

3. Help Me Launch a Ground-breaking PHP App

I also need a PHP / MySQL developer to take on the development of a very exciting web-based application I’m building for one of my clients. I have developed a prototype myself, and now it’s time to take it to market. If you’re a serious PHP developer, based anywhere in the world, and you’re looking for a long-term project, let me know!

4. Manage “Web Design from Scratch Premium”

The plan with WDFS+ was always to bring on more trainers who could contribute to building the best, most current, most comprehensive guide to creating effective websites (in a post-Web-Design-is-Dead world). I have a revenue-sharing model in place, ready to bring on more great content.

If you have ideas for material you would like to share with a larger audience, please get in touch. Alternatively, if you would be willing to manage the growth of the platform, please let me know (I’m offering 25% of all revenues).

Watch this space as we try to crack the marketing strategy code!!!

About the author 

Ben Hunt

My job is to look at the world and wonder... "How can we make things better?"

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  1. Excellent, informative and inspiring words Ben. Good Luck. makes a lot of sense searching for the silver marketing bullet. I really think you are onto something here. Let me know if I can get involved in any way. I have been helping webmaster/graphic design for an upcoming Cannabis Summit. http://www.holisticcannabissummit.com I foresee us Brits, getting involved in something like this in the next 5 years. Nice to have been a part in this, learnt a lot. Kind regards Kristian

    1. Thanks Kristian. I know the post is somewhat navel-gazing, but I think it’s important to put it all out there, as Patrick says.

  2. Ben,

    It is refreshing to see someone “put it all out there” for the world to see as you have done in this post. It takes humility to write that you are “a lost soul” and “haven’t been following your own advice”. Bravo!

    While reading what you wrote, I noted down some things that stood out to me and summarized. I will put how I am doing for each as to also help others who can be helped by reading it. Here they are:

    1. Find what your “gift” or “genius” is. I’ve been doing work (website design, SEO, etc.) for clients for just about six years, and sadly, I have not honed in on that “gift” or “genius”. I believe this is why I’m not “jumping” out of bed each morning and not as successful as I should be. Certainly, there is enjoyment in what I do, but something is “missing”. Which leads me to…

    2. Finding that ONE thing. This gets down to hyper-focusing on that ONE thing, that you do it so well, your clients won’t go anywhere else to get it. I believe Dan Kennedy said something along those lines, but don’t quote me on that. 🙂

    I”ve been hearing this from a few people in circles I am part of and was on a webinar a couple of weeks ago with Glenn Allsopp of ViperChill.com. He recently changed his business strategy to only focus on that ONE thing and his growth has skyrocketed. Another example is Chris Winters of Kallzu.com, who has only been focusing on Pay Per Lead for the past five years and is doing really well.

    In this area, I too have not put enough effort in just focusing on that ONE thing and doing it with excellence. Unfortunately, I’ve been focusing on too many thing and not putting time into the ONE thing. I WILL change this!

    3. Not following your own advice. I also am guilty for doing this. When I speak with clients and prospective clients, I am giving them advice, and too many times I don’t implement that myself. We have to be willing to “swallow our own medicine” before we can expect others to do so. That also works in the reverse. Clients/customers/patients give advice to others but they have not implemented that themselves. Time for me to change this.

    4. Opportunities to work with and help others. Since you have re-focused what you will be putting your time into, you’ve created other opportunities for others to work with you, participate and grow as well. What a great idea! So, once I am re-focused, I need to put together opportunities that do this instead of doing everything myself.

    5. Get a “mentor” or “coach”. Many in my circles state that when they got a mentor or coach, their progress grew exponentially. I’ve never had a coach – per se – but as I go through this process and I get to a certain point, I will need to look more into this option.

    6. Know when to say “NO”. This is hard to do, especially, if you are at a place in your business where “any business will do” so you can pay your bills and live. I’m certainly at this point and I don’t want to be. So, I have changes to make here as well to get to a place where I can “pick and choose” those whom I wish to work with or what projects I wish to persue.

    Well, I certainly have some work ahead of me, but it will be well worth it. Thank you Ben for putting up a great post that motivated me to move in the right direction and to “think” about these things. I will reach out to you about a couple of your “opportunities” and see if there is a way to help one another.

    Wishing you great success in your new direction.

    1. Thank you Patrick, I really appreciate your taking the time to respond at length.

      Yes, Dan Kennedy is very big on “being paid for who you ARE, not for what you do” and being THE go-to person in your chosen area. Dan’s a very very smart guy.

      The really embarrassing part, I suddenly realise, is not having sought out coaching for so long. Sure, I’ve dabbled with some business coaching over the years, but I’m fond of teaching, “Even the best guitarists in the world get guitar lessons… Every pro sports person has a coach… etc.” It’s just, for some reason, I figured that *being* a coach somehow meant I could do what I do for others for myself.

      Not true!

      The key factor here, I think, is distance. None of us can see our own path (in life or in business) with clarity, all the time. We get glimpses, but frankly, a third party is in a far better position to see the big picture of what we’re doing than we can, when we’re in the trenches day-in, day-out.

      That’s why I do what I do! There’s a reason WHY the world needs marketing strategy, and it’s the same reason I need strategic guidance, even if only to hold the reins to keep me ploughing a straight furrow.

  3. Hi Ben

    With reflection… The Marketing Strategist isn’t going to work.

    It works here where the collective ‘we’ sympathise with your thinking

    But for the majority of businesses out there… the Nirvanna would be someone who cuts through the bullshit and shows them how to make money… so what’s the fcuk ‘a strategist’?

    The word ‘Strategist’ is sooo overdone that I think you should seek another

    Just thoughts

    1. OK, so I’m hearing it’s the word “strategist” that you have a problem with?

      It’s still extremely early days, and nothing is set in stone. Essentially we’re talking about a consultant role, I guess.

      1. Yes… just the word Ben… and strategist is the right word for what you are thinking.

        Unfortunately, the reason “strategist” has been thrown about so much is it’s difficult to find another word as good.

  4. Hey Ben,

    Your post resonated with me in so many ways.

    Having designed/coded many websites, recorded several training videos for a couple of plugin companies and showed people how to build websites, I have struggled to find my happy place for the past couple of years.

    As mentioned previously, I have quietly followed you and absorbed most of the stuff you’ve posted for a while now. I personally find your marketing knowledge and intellect to be very stimulating. The way you present and share your findings fascinates me, because even though your messages are always strong, you come across as a very humble guy.

    The wisdom and marketing ideas you share have started to help me see where I want to go. It annoys me that so many businesses get duped into pretty websites without any measurable results. These businesses are not being educated properly and end up throwing money down the drain. I want to start changing that. And, although I haven’t quite had the epiphany you have just had, I definitely seem to be heading in a similar direction.

    With all that said, if you do want to start a group for like-minded people, you can certainly count on me joining. Also, if you ever feel like reaching out for a rant or chat, you’ve got my contact info.

    Last but not least, many of us will be happy to see you succeed in your new adventure, so I want to wish you all the luck possible on your quest. You are going to knock the ball out of the park!

    Cheers for now,

    Colin

  5. “Maybe that’s why I have never been able to manifest a marketing business? Because that would not be a true reflection of my own calling.”

    Have you been knocking about in my head lately?

    This was so refreshing to read, especially since I am in the same place. I CAN do lots of things (web design, copywriting, etc)… but what do I WANT to do, and WHY? It’s so easy to fall into doing work because it’s work I can do and get paid for. But then there’s this niggling, this itch, and I just can’t quite get a handle on it. You summed it up nicely.

    If I think about it, I can hone in on a gift – I am a damn good copywriter. But that isn’t it, exactly. Looking back on things I’ve done and not only excelled at but loved (and likely excelled because I loved as well), storytelling in general is it – being able to dig in and uncover the ‘real’ story in something, assembling it, rearranging it, playing with it and then interpreting it for an audience. I’ve done that as a theatre director, as a journalist and as a copywriter – I’ve even done it as a web designer, to be honest, because I realize I can’t help myself. It’s how I’m wired. It’s how I talk to clients, to people.

    So what do I do with that? Not 100% sure – but strategy sounds pretty close. I feel I need to get more specific, but I’m on the right track.

    I appreciate you being so candid about yourself and your own process. As Colin said, I’ve quietly followed you and your work for some time, and you’ve helped me think differently about what I want to do for people and why. I’ll be saving your post to refer back to as I work through my own process. Keep sharing – we’re listening, and we’re cheering for you.

    1. Brilliant feedback, thank you so much Tracy.

      If your “genius” is uncovering the deeper human story in a situation, you’re right that you can apply that in so many ways, and strategy is very much one of them. In fact, I suspect that that exact talent may be the core skill to it all!

      So many marketing teachers talk about the power of story (Daniel Levis is very big on it). Story bypasses our normal BS filter, because it’s the way we’re hard-wired to understand the world. We’ve been doing it for millennia.

      The question you’re faced with, then, is: “In what model/format/space do I choose to practice and to develop my storytelling art?”

  6. Hi Ben,

    I fondly remember stumbling across Save The Pixel a number of years ago.

    2006? 2008? Who knows?

    All I know is that it made me a fan of yours because I had been a web design and marketer for years already, and I knew that the designers I had been hiring were creating beautiful websites that kept missing the mark. Your book taught me to focus on making a site “gettable”, and focused on form AND function.

    I too would like to create a marketing strategy company that helps business owners through the digital marketing minefield. I’ve got a number of ideas, so let’s talk soon.

    Best,
    Dan

  7. i guess im a more recent “fan” and ur revulsion for “guru BS” is fascinsting, i understand the dark side but I’ve never been comfortable using it. was just writing a little about this a little while ago (in my evernote).

    I would love to spend a lot of time on the idea exploration stuff but for me– I rephrased ur genius to what I see *mine* as
    “to build products/ services/ businesses that are a manifestation of exploring ideas that build a better future”
    there’s an anime quote that i like lol “lead with ur plays” (coach says it to a school baseball captain who is basically very good at what he does [batting])

    i.e. maybe I’m a bit hung up coz I love the exploration of the big stuff but there’s no way in hell i would do that for someone else– I’m willing to “risk it” on my own assetts tho i.e. building stuff (business) the business then becomes a testing ground for my own “strategizing”/ experimenting maybe that’s a mindset flaw though.

    fun stuff

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