I’m not dead.
I haven’t gone out of business.
I’ve been thinking, creating, and retooling. Blogging wasn’t the highest, best use of my time so I did the unthinkable (at least for me). I stopped writing and took a blogging hiatus.
It’s the best thing I’ve done since starting Pushing Social. During my 6 months off, I took a hard look at the Why, What, Where, and who of my business. The result of all this thinking has taken me and Pushing Social in a new direction.
One the month’s I’ve jotted down several core ideas that form the foundation of my new approach. I’m sharing them with you so you can understand what I’m doing and improve your business as well.
We’ll start with a powerful quote from a virtual mentor (he doesn’t know he’s mentoring me but he is!)
Do Things That Don’t Scale – Paul Graham
Paul Graham founded Y Combinator this decade’s most prolific incubator of unicorn startups. Y Combinator’s successes include AirBnB, Stripe, Dropbox, and Reddit. His most often quoted advice has been “Do Things That Don’t Scale.” He means, in the beginning, founders and early employees need to do things that are hard but necessary. His favorite example is Stripe’s founders recruiting early users one at a time. AirBnB’s founders worked personally with early users to perfect their online listings. These activities were grotesquely inefficient but absolutely necessary to spark hockey stick growth.
In 2016, I did a lot of things that didn’t scale. I went back to the drawing board to totally reinvent my core approach to solving marketing problems. Pushing Social’s model wasn’t broken but it wasn’t “insanely great” either. This new approach is called Core7 and it’s the most exciting thing I’ve done in twenty years. We’ll take more about that in a moment.
I also learned how to code. Actually, I’m still learning. Why? I wanted better marketing tools. The current tools encourage marketers to use obsolete tactics. My clients couldn’t find or afford the tools that they needed so I decided to build them myself. Coding doesn’t scale but it does differentiate my team from powerpoint pundits.
Paul Graham’s dictum isn’t sexy but it works.
Let me ask a question. Are you frustrated by a perfectly scalable marketing strategy that doesn’t seem to work? Maybe you need to do stuff that doesn’t scale to ignite growth. Read Paul Graham’s seminal essay for ideas here.
Only Emotion Endures.
I can’t stand social media.
Specifically, I adore the technology and the companies that created them. I’m fascinated and at times disgusted by how people use social technology. But, I abhor how companies use social media. Early last year, I realized that I was becoming a retweet chasing acolyte focused on social transactions instead of relationships.
So I put my social media platform on autopilot and did some soul-searching. I guess you can say that I hit rock bottom.
Ezra Pound said “Only emotion endures”
Marketing and its content marketing, online marketing, social media siblings are disciplines for creating emotion. The best marketers understand that a commercial or a tweet needs to stick in the mind of the consumer and emotion is the best glue.
Most marketers are hip to the notion that they should tell stories. But, the current marketplace requires us to be expert at worst and prodigious at best. Social media wasn’t meant for “meh” masquerading as content. It was meant to give power and breadth to stories that connect and when appropriate sell.
From now on, I will only share what makes a dent emotionally. It IS the only way to create work that endures.
James Clear is a son-of-a-bitch. That’s my twisted way of saying that I’m awed by this man’s ability to explain what’s happening in our heads.
He wrote a little chestnut titled “5 Common Mental Errors That Sway You From Making Good Decisions”. Survivorship Bias is the first mental error. It describes our attraction to blog posts like “How Gwyneth Paltrow Turned My Blog into A Six-Figure Business And How You Can Too.” I guarantee that you have one or two of these types of articles tucked away in Evernote.
The problem is that we focus on the winners but ignore the thousands of others who have failed following the same strategy.
Survivorship bias straps your reason with emotional blinders causing you to throw money and time at every eBook that shares the latest hero blueprint.
I’ve seen Survivorship Bias without understanding why it happened. Now I know and I have a guilty conscience. I believe you, dear reader, might be reading this essay hoping to put me on a pedestal as someone to emulate.
Sorry. I’ve failed more often than I’ve succeeded. Almost none of the tactics that I’ve learned from others has worked for my business. I’ve had to create entirely new ways of creating and selling advice and products. The only thing that works is the willingness to identify a problem that needs solving and working your butt off to solve it using every ethical tool you have. The most powerful tool being your imagination.
So, for the most part (I’m a recovering survivor bias addict), I’ve stopped fast-following others. I’ve learned that those who fast-follow the coolest horse is also the one that steps in the majority of crap. Instead, I encourage my team and my clients to create their own success story. No hero worship required.
”Two is One and One is None”
This cryptic gem comes courtesy of our brothers and sisters in the armed services. It means that things break so having two is better than having one.
Hold that thought.
I started Pushing Social in 2012. For 4 years I’ve run it as a boutique agency with 2-3 employees at any given time. But, there has only been one leader. Since I’m an introvert and a pain in the ass, I haven’t had too much of a problem with this arrangement, until I burned out.
My burnout wasn’t catastrophic. Business didn’t crater. But, work wasn’t stimulating. My ideas stagnated. I spent most days grinding through the tasks at hand. Thankfully I realized what was happening and concluded that I needed a partner.
There’s a reason why many of the top companies were started by two co-founders. Building a business is the second hardest thing to do behind parenting. I could only do so much, dream so much, invest so much on my own.
So I partnered with Laura Click. We have been friends and marketing peas-in-the-pod since the early days of Pushing Social. She earned my respect by building a great business and brand of her own in Blue Kite Marketing. Over the last year, we’ve been laying the foundation for combining our two companies. We have some work to still do, but we are racing down what I know to be the right path.
Most of the changes at Pushing Social will happen out of sight and won’t impact day-to-day business for our clients and partners. The most noticeable change is that I will be publishing on Blue Kite’s blog with infrequent (but heftier) articles getting published here.
Thought Leadership Challenges
I believe that marketing thought leadership has stagnated. The war to legitimize social media and content marketing has been won. As a result, marketers have begun to intellectually coast leaning on commonly accepted principles and best practices.
Phoning in thought leadership is dangerous because it’s easy to get flanked by scrappier more intellectually nimble opponents. The danger is acute in online marketing as technology advances outpace marketers’ ability to explain and deploy it.
While the tools for distributing ideas are robust and affordable, we are still hampered by the snail’s pace of intellectual innovation. We saw this when a new client was relieved that our strategic approach didn’t start with the threadbare admonition to publish more blog content. He wanted and deserved fresh thinking and I suspect this client was the norm not the exception.
You will hear me talk less about tactics and more about a street-smart strategy that yields quick results. I will assume you know how to blog and can decide when and where to deploy traditional content marketing tactics. I, instead talk about the convergence of culture, storytelling, and cutting-edge capability – the essence of our Core7 approach.
The Rise of Executional Excellence
I partnered with Laura because she shares my need to GSD or Get (ahem)Stuff Done. The best strategies won’t work if they aren’t executed correctly. The best marketing teams can create and execute quickly, simply, and affordably. We call this ‘Executional Excellence” and it’s how rapidly dominate a market.
We still love ideas but we love ideas executed well even more. This focus on executional excellence will feel edgy and at times pushy. Accept it. Realistically assessing an idea based on your team’s ability to execute it is smart marketing – and great business. We’ll have more to say about this in the future.
First, unsubscribe from Pushing Social if you need basic social media and content marketing advice. Sites like Social Media Examiner and Copyblogger have everything you need. A simple Google Search will also give hundreds of decent sites offering similar advice.
On Pushing Social I will focus on the infrastructure required to deploy an effective marketing strategy. Earlier I mentioned that our Core7 approach aligns culture, your story/message, with your marketing capability. Pushing Social will focus on the “marketing capability” part.
On Blue Kite, we’ll discuss how to apply the overall Core7 approach to your business. We’ve already begun publishing some excellent articles on the subject. Click here to see what we have for you.
I am still taking clients. That hasn’t changed. In fact, my ability to provide needle-moving solutions has expanded by partnering with Blue Kite. So contact me here if you need a fresh, unorthodox, jolt to your marketing strategy.
Alright – time to get to work.