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.
I’d like to share with you some very important insights that have led to the big change I’m about to announce.
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!
- 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..)
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:
- Take a bunch of real-world case studies and figure out what the “right” marketing strategy is.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
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!!!