Twitter and other social channels are littered with links to articles promoting Top Hacks to Gain Online Traffic, or Insider’s Hack for Super Fast SEO, or Quick Hacks to Get Influencer Attention. Normally I’m pretty methodical in my approach to marketing strategy, but I have to admit that I have been lured by more than one of these articles. The promise of a quick fix is so enticing. Are these marketing hacks and shortcuts worth it? After clicking through to many and testing a few, I have mostly soured on the #MarketingHack culture, and find I’m not alone.
Jay Acunzo, the founder of Unthinkable Media is very present on social media, and I started following him because I liked what he has to say about marketing hacks and shortcuts: following someone else’s path means you will never lead. In addition to podcasting, public speaking, and writing books, Jay is helping brands create entertaining shows that go beyond grabbing attention to the next level of marketing – holding attention.
Jay agreed to talk with me about marketing hacks and more in a wide-ranging interview. In his work at Google, HubSpot, and venture capital firm NextView he has developed insights on what creativity means, the motivation behind generating truly engaging content, selling ideas in environments that aren’t necessarily open to change, and why marketing hacks are a bad drug.
I’m making it available via audio because Jay is so enthusiastic and engaging when he talks. It runs about 45 minutes, which should power you through your workout or commute.
If you prefer to read instead, following is a lightly edited transcript. Warning – it’s super long, so if you want to skip through to different sections, follow these links:
- Finding the Balance Between Organization and Creativity
- Finding Motivation to Create Marketing Content
- How to Sell Your Marketing Ideas
- On the Value (Or Lack Thereof) of Marketing Hacks
- Consistency in Marketing vs. Falling Into a Rut
- Capturing vs. Holding Attention in Marketing
In looking through your website, reading your newsletters, and listening to a couple of your podcasts, I think of you as a storyteller. How would you define what it is that you do?
It’s the hardest question I have to answer these days. I tell people that I am an author, a public speaker, and I also make podcasts for a living. But increasingly that’s all shifting towards Unthinkable Media and being the founder of that business. Right now you find me in a transition between doing a lot of solo work. So those three projects I mentioned, and trying to build the educational resource for marketers who are making shows of any kind.
Right, right. I noticed that you plan to offer more resources for people who are helping to make shows. So that’s pretty interesting. In your brand, you talk a lot about breaking away from conventional thinking. I think your exact term is combating conventional thinking. But you know, one of the things that I run up against all the time is that in order to create a lot of content, you have to be organized. And I find that to be liberating, but some people find it very constricting. How do you find the balance for you between organization and planning and creativity?
I think they’re the same thing. I don’t think you can be creative without being organized. Now the thing is, being organized means something different to everybody. And that’s why I get so frustrated at and tried to speak out against just latching on to conventional wisdom because it’s somebody else’s wisdom. It’s what works in general or on average. But you don’t operate in a generality nor do you want to be average.
Right? So when we rely on something that’s from the past or external, all the sudden we’re stopping our thinking and we’re just copying someone else, which don’t get me wrong, can get you pretty far, but I think it only gets you halfway. I think it gets you right to average. So how do you get from average to exceptional? I think you have to answer more of who you are or the variables of your own situation.
So if you have a set audience that you serve or a set number of resources, all of those things need to factor in, too, when you make a decision. When you’re thinking about your organization, I’m someone, for example, who learns best through tinkering. I’ve kind of realized that about myself over the years. I can’t set up a week, for example, that allows for zero random experiments. I can’t plan out every moment of my week. And so I have very large blocks of time reserved for maybe a project or two that are earmarked for that block.
But inevitably I find myself doing things like this morning where I was reviewing the edit of a podcast episode, found myself with a few extra moments and I decided to hack together some graphics for Instagram to try and promote some blog posts in a new way I hadn’t tried before. For me, my organization allows for experimentation. Somebody else might learn through lots of readings. They need to bake that into how they organize whatever the case. It’s not about organize or don’t, or schedule or don’t. It’s just about being proactive about how you construct your time. Right? Like make it an investment and don’t just spend your time.
I like the concept of investing time. I think that is a really valuable thought. I also liked that you say that organization and creativity are the same thing. I wrote a blog post about how I get dinged a lot for being organized because people think it means being rigid. But for me, it’s freeing. So I’m really happy to hear that I have a soul mate here!
Every study on idea generation will show you the same exact thing: you get more ideas and more quality ideas, which to a lot of people is contradictory – quality and quantity, right? But when you have a set of constraints that you understand, whether it’s time or budget or a number of people or the project, it’s the same thing. If I tell you, Alison, to write a blog post about anything you want at all, immediately your brain starts to install constraints. You’re like, okay, so what am I going to write about? How long they want this to be? When would you like this piece? You start to install your own constraints subconsciously. It’s like your brain is trying to protect you and says, “if we’re going to succeed here, we actually need some constraints.”
I just think that the idea that creative freedom works is categorically false, both on the individual level and on the scientific study level. But I also think that creative freedom doesn’t actually exist because you’re unable to move forward. I want, you know, some constraints. So organization is just another word in my mind for setting up constraints, which is yet another word or another approach in my mind for being creative.
I’m 100% on board. So speaking of constraints, you generate a lot of content. You have a blog, you produce a podcast, you have an email newsletter, you’ve written a book, you speak, you are very active on social media, and you also have a new baby. How do you find time to do all this? And, I’m assuming, doing some paid work as well on top of it all.
I’d like to tell you I have some kind of clever hack. The truth is I need to be intrinsically motivated to do this work. Now sometimes on the micro level that’s not happening. I’m slogging through a day because I’m tired because, yeah, the baby was up late or up in the middle of the night, or I just don’t love this project, or whatever. We all encounter these moments where we’re not feeling it. So I revert to the macro level. Like, this is a career path that I am in control of and want to lead. I get to do this work. I don’t have to do this work. Most knowledge work, you know, unless you’re struggling to put food on the table, if you really truly hate your job and can’t find a way to fix it, then get a different job, right? You only get one life.
Why are you spending any time doing things that aren’t bringing you and others joy? I know that sounds really pithy, but the only way I can motivate, the only way I can produce all this content and do client work and give speeches and write the next book and all that stuff is at every turn I’m finding a way to find excitement and intrinsic joy in that work. And that gets me going.
If I were sitting idle trying to debate what to do next, I’m not getting to do something great. I’m laboring through a planning process that is just me tinkering and learning, or I’m trying to optimize a project to squeeze a little bit more incremental value out of it instead of learn a new craft by launching a podcast when I don’t have one. So the only way I get to do all this stuff is that every turn I’m like, I’m so excited to do it, or I’m finding little things about it that excite me, that it just builds momentum. It’s sort of like a compounding way to work. I just feel like the boulders rolling faster and faster and faster. The more I do this work, the more I want to do this work.
That’s an interesting perspective where you have to tell yourself that the fact that you’re getting to do this work is a gift. But once you force yourself to get into it, you start recognizing the fun of it. I feel that way too. I like to flip back and forth between projects. If I’m stuck or I’m not feeling it, then I move onto something else. And then usually the breakthrough for the other one comes through at some point.
I’ve found a way to look at how everything ties together so it makes logical sense. It’s not like I’m doing a podcast about basketball and then I’m writing a book about marketing and then I’m running a newsletter about cooking, right? Everything I do ties together. Sometimes it’s just emotionally like that, you know, it’s a lot of me, it’s my voice, it’s my byline or mission. Like, why am I doing all these projects tied together to some mission, or a lot of times they actually feed off each other.
You know, I treat my newsletter as a place to explore more concepts and frameworks and try to answer questions that are on my mind. And then I use my podcast as a place to tell stories or speak to interesting people who can teach me something. And both of those projects are right now for 2019 about trying to figure out how consistent creativity happens. And my thesis is it happens by mastering the art of reinvention. In other words, consistently great work consistently changes. So it’s like, okay, the newsletter has one purpose in that journey and the podcast has a different purpose in that journey. And by keeping those kind of theoretical stakes in the ground, I feel a lot more organized and I also can keep all these projects rolling together because they all have a discreet reason for existing.
I like that. I like the theme of reinvention, too. I think that’s really valuable and as being a marketer, a lot of things change over time, but when you look back at history you realize some things are just repurposed. So it’s an interesting way of looking at it. I’m excited to keep following you as you keep doing that. Speaking of the podcast, I was listening to the episode where you interviewed the founder of Grado headphones and I really liked where you made the connection that one of the company’s strongest marketing tactics was to do the right thing. I like that thought, and I always try to do that as well.
But I work with a lot of companies and a lot of marketers that don’t necessarily have that freedom. They have to work within some constraints. In particular, I’m thinking about marketers that want to be doing more content that educates as opposed to selling. And the company leadership says no. What is your advice for marketers who are looking for ways to level up their content to be more focused on the customer? How can they do that in an environment that maybe isn’t suited to it?
If you haven’t tried to show instead of tell, you can try little experiments. Something like 95 out of 100 people who were saying, “but my boss”, really it’s a reflection on that they haven’t tried stuff enough to show the boss what they mean. Let’s say you’re in the five out of a hundred people who are like, no, I’ve done everything I can to show them what I’m talking about. I’ve found case studies, I’ve tried stuff myself. Instead of turning my how-to blog posts into human interest pieces, I’ve tried writing little opening stories to try and show somebody, hey, it’s still a how-to piece boss, like you asked for, but isn’t that a better option? If you’ve done everything like that to try and be convincing and show instead of tell, let’s focus on how you’re communicating.
I think most people communicate their new ideas or changes they want other people to make backwards. They start with the idea, right? Because they’re already there and maybe they went through a rational approach in their head to get there, or maybe it instantly came to mind and it just feels intrinsic like, yes, of course we do it this way. Whichever the case, you have way more information on the change you want or the idea you’d like to sell than the other person, and so you’ve created an information divide and they’re now back on their heels. Even if they’re not acting that way and they have to piece together why what you want to do works in their head. That’s a terrible way to convince people. Actually, I call this the green smoothie problem. If you’ve never heard of or seen a green smoothie before, and I just presented one in a glass and I was like, hey, it’s a green smoothie, you should drink it.
That’s how we usually present our ideas, but the problem is you’re like an anchor to things I don’t control that I need to make sense of it. You’re going to anchor to social proof. Are there people drinking this smoothie? You’re going to anchor to conventional wisdom like, a green smoothie is going to taste gross because it’s like grass or vegetables, or it’s going to be too sweet because it’s like my kids fruity drink that I hate, right? So you’re going to start to piece together why the green smoothie.
So I think far better than selling our ideas is selling why our ideas should exist. That is where we should spend way more of our time convincing other people. Instead of plopping down this smoothie, what if I said, so Alison, last week you told me that you wanted to be healthy and you said that all of these drinks and snacks were so gross. You tried them all.
So here’s what I’m thinking. I took a little apple, I took some mango, some pineapple, some kale, a little bit of protein powder, and then I was on this tropical vacation last year where my bartender kept using coconut oil randomly in my drinks, but it was delicious. So I added some of that into this. Uh, and then we have a blender down the hall in our office. So I just threw it all in there. And in no time flat, a green smoothie. If you want to be healthy and you think all that other stuff is gross, why don’t you drink that? Right?
So now I’ve started by aligning around what you want. You want to be healthy and what you believe about that. You believe all the snacks and drinks are gross. Then I’ve laid out my rationale. I’ve closed the information divide. And lastly, only when it seems most logical have I then said this is my idea, and you’re almost right there with me. Most of us are trying to be convincing by jumping way too far ahead, instead of trying to position what it is that we want through the lens of what the other person is thinking or what they want, right?
The only way to do so is to start at the beginning. Here’s what you want. I’m acknowledging it. I know it. I’ve invested time in our relationship. Here’s what you believe. Here’s my rationale, here’s the idea. And oh, by the way, if they disagree with the idea, then at least they’re productive about it. They can point to something concrete and be like, I actually don’t like that kale. And you can say, no problem, I’ll go substitute something else or I’ll just take it out so you actually work towards the solution together.
Don’t sell your ideas. Sell why your ideas should exist.
You’re absolutely right. We tend to jump in trying to explain when we’re so far ahead that we’re leaving the person we want to convince behind. So I think that’s it. And that puts them on their back foot to where they feel they are in a position of having to defend the status quo.
Exactly. Make them a cofounder of your ideas. And that does take some humility because that means maybe you don’t get full credit or it means maybe you have to change it a little bit. The route to the solution is something you kind of sacrifice. You are not so rigid that it has to be all those ingredients, but if you want to start pushing people forward in the right direction, or what you assume is the right direction, you have to let them in on all that stuff first. It has to seem just as logical to them as it does to you, which means it can’t feel like a risk. It can’t feel like a giant change. It can’t feel like anything but what they want, right? You have to show them how. What you’re trying to do is actually in line with what they want and what they believe.
And by the way, this is the hardest thing for a lot of people. If what they want and what they believe is diametrically opposed to you. Now you have a hard truth. You have to face, am I going to succeed at this company? Sometimes the answer’s no and you look elsewhere. Sometimes it’s, well, they’re just misinformed. And if I can inform them, then maybe I have a shot and I have history to suggest that this boss or this peer, this team, this client is open to new ideas. Right? It’s so important not only to be convincing to others, but to also help us understand where we’re going to thrive and where we’re going to work.
That’s terrific advice and I think that it helps people set a framework, too, for themselves. It’s not enough for you to just present good ideas. You have to learn how to grow, learn how to grow with a company, and learn how to grow in terms of working with other people. That puts that aspect of marketing on a higher plane and makes people think more about the whole team, the whole concept of working with a team as opposed to just, here’s my idea, let’s run with it.
You mentioned a little bit ago that you wished you could hack something. I went through a phase last year where I felt like there were so many things popping up in the atmosphere, a hack to do this, a hack to do that. And I just got, I don’t know what it was, I was attracted to it. I felt like, oh man, I’m falling behind, I’m missing out by not following all these hacks. And really what I ended up doing was drive myself crazy because I veered away from things that I know worked. It seems like you’re really opposed to these quick fix concepts, too. But there are so many people promoting so many hacks, especially all over social media. How do you measure whether something’s worth checking out? How do you decide what to reject out of hand? What do you do about this whole hack phenomenon we’re facing right now?
You really need to hone your intuition so you can vet them, right? Because all these hacks, best practices, trends, precedents – they’re all masquerading as answers. But in reality, they’re just possibilities. And the more important thing is to vet those possibilities to understand whether or not they’ll work for you. And we’ve never really been taught that. You know, if you go back to school, it’s like right and wrong answer –that’s what we’re taught. And then we get out into the workplace and the smartest person, the person who has the biggest following or has the most history of success, or people who just have done it for awhile for no other reason than they’ve done it for a while, they get the benefit of the doubt in our minds. And they say, do it this way. And we just say, okay, that must be the correct answer.
But the only real correct answer is whatever’s correct for you. So the first thing you have to start with is the, the you part, right? You and your team. It’s your context, right?
You can break context into three pieces: It’s yourself and your team. In other words, the people doing the work. It’s the customer, the client, maybe a boss. It’s whoever the work is for. Then it’s your resources to make the work happen. And if you become a master at understanding those three things, first you set up a kind of filter to vet any advice. And you know, one of my favorite examples is the dictionary, of all things. Merriam Webster’s dictionary has a delightful Twitter presence and broadly a brand voice and tone. But it wasn’t always that way. They used to be so boring.
A few years ago, they were super predictable and very boring. Their leader, their chief digital officer – a woman by the name of Lisa Schneider – said something very simple that helped transform the team. Rather than say, let’s grow our followers, let’s drive this revenue growth, she said, let’s show the world how fun and relevant we are.
That forces you to ask a lot of open-ended questions about yourself and your team. Like, are we fun and relevant? Why should we care about being fun and relevant? Well, we’re the dictionary and unlike what most people think, the dictionary doesn’t set rules. The dictionary documents popular culture’s use of language. So they have to be part of the pop culture conversation. There’s a reason a lot of words like “irregardless” are actually now in the dictionary.
It’s because they get used and abused by so many people who, unlike me, don’t have an English degree and don’t hate those words. And then the dictionary has to add them because they’re documentarians. They are, in Lisa’s words, not prescriptive. They’re descriptive. So, okay, great. Let’s show the world how fun and relevant we are.
We have to focus on our context first. Who are we? We’re the dictionary, we’re this group of people, we’re serving this audience. We have these resources. So now some of the automation hacks and predictable results, all that junk didn’t make sense for them because it would remove their ability to move with the times to be more real-time or near-time in their responses and their content. Maybe it would remove their tone of voice or they would just automate away their personality.
But whatever the case, those hacks made no sense or maybe made sense, but only 50% or 25%. But the only way we can tell any of this stuff is to set up a decision-making filter, which I think is just a better awareness of our context.
The reason I’m so excited speaking about this is because this is what I wrote my book about last year. I spent two and a half years trying to figure out why we’re not doing this and then try to create a system to help us make better decisions faster when we’re surrounded by too much information. And honestly, the answer is intuition, but not in the squishy sense, in a real practical asking and answering your own kind of open-ended questions way.
That’s a great answer. And I really like you talking about intuition. A lot of times you can sniff something out pretty quickly. It’s really, really important to listen to yourself. I’m excited to check out your book.
Consistency is another theme that seems to come up a lot in your work: you have to continue working at something and work at it in a consistent fashion in order to start producing results. This plays into the hack theme as well. You don’t have success overnight. You have to be consistent. But that does mean you can sometimes fall into a rut. You talked about that in one of your newsletters, but how would you recommend people work on balancing consistency with ingenuity? How to make sure that they’re not just being consistent for the sake of being consistent, but that they’re continuing to move forward.
It’s worth defining or rethinking what consistency actually means. What we’re trying to do is deliver a consistent feeling in our audience. If we create content, we’re trying to deliver consistent results where the result is positive or growing. We’re not trying to create the same vehicle to do that over and over again. I think we conflate consistency with, put it on repeat untouched. That’s not consistency.
The way we make you feel should stay the same. You should always feel great. We should always exceed expectations. That’s consistency. The problem is the thing we’re creating that does that will always have to change because the world is always changing. Contexts are always changing.
I was in Boston at a hotel recently and there was a valet service that handed you a ticket that said, call this number with your unique ID below and we’ll have your car ready in 30 minutes.
So when I called them, they said, great, thank you. Your car will be ready in 10 minutes. And I was like, that’s amazing. They exceeded my expectations. Then I went down to get the car and I was a little bit early. I went down in two minutes and the car was already there. They wrote 30, that was policy. They exceeded expectations as a team. They told me 10, and then they exceeded it again.
Now, here’s the problem. The next time go to call them, I’m expecting not 30, even though that’s policy, not 10 even though they told me again 10, I’m expecting two. So now they have to make a decision. Are we going to continue to march closer to zero? Well, that’s maybe impossible. Or should we try to improve the experience of waiting?
Maybe instead of increasing or decreasing the time, we’ll hand you a cookie, or we’ll speak your name. Hey, Jay, thanks for waiting. You know your car will be up soon, or whatever. Can we create a consistently better – in my mind, that means consistently refreshed, reworked, reinvented – experience to focus on what should be consistent, which is they’ve exceeded my expectations. So if you want to do that, you have to by definition keep working at whatever the thing is.
And so, the thing I challenge people to do is, don’t find what works and then repeat it. Find what works, then keep changing it. Which is kind of a bonkers idea because it’s like we have to change what works while it’s still working. Because the alternative is we put what works on repeat, it starts to get diminishing returns, but we have other stuff going on.
Then the thing totally craps out on us and we panic because it’s the end of the quarter or because we have a million things going on, how are we going to invest time in that?
I think that when you want to be consistent, it’s about consistently great work consistently changing. Say you’re talking about consistency in considering ways to reach your customer to the best advantage on both sides. That’s really more consistency in your desire to connect with your customer in a better way as opposed to consistency of tactic or method or strategy.
Consistency of tactic or method or strategy is, by definition, fleeting. It works right now. We introduced it yesterday into the context of yesterday. Today is a different context and sometimes we notice why and sometimes we don’t, but we just have to filter this decision-making knowing that things will always change.
There is not one right answer that we can just repeat over and over again. If marketers took a Scantron test about marketing, everybody would want to just fill in C for every answer. That would be the ideal. Everyone’s like, oh, it’s C for answer number one, so clearly it’s C all the way down.
No, every new moment, every new attempt at whatever it is – writing a blog post, creating a podcast, coming up with a quarterly strategy – you should always be learning and updating your knowledge of the world.
We were sold this bill of goods in school and early in our careers that if you have expertise, you can stop that process. You can just automate and put on repeat what works. Because you know what works. But I think if you look under the hood at real innovators, they don’t have the answers, they just have a good system for finding them. And they’re always changing what the answers are because the world is always changing.
Well that brings us right back to the hack thing again, where people feel like they have to jump into the hacks if they can’t rely on what has been working before. So they launch into these hacks rather than doing the deeper work of exploring. And that brings us back to again, to ingenuity and the whole concept of creativity as well.
Yeah, it’s a bandaid right? I’ve cut my leg and what I really should do is understand the fact that I keep walking over glass and maybe shouldn’t do that. But what I’m trying to do is put a bandaid on the cut. It’s like, we gotta get a little more fundamental here. Why is this happening? Why is this working? What are we trying to accomplish? Which goes back to this idea of understanding yourself, your team, your customers, your resources, your context first. Then you can say, okay, well these new variables presented themselves. So we have to change our approach, the tactic.
But when you glom onto a hack, you’re relying on secondhand ideas, secondhand wisdom and results. And you’re also relying on the fact that like, if I just put this bandaid on here, if I just put in this magical solution, all my problems will be solved.
And that doesn’t exist. It’s funny because most people would agree that if you just take a pill, you’re not going to lose 50 pounds in the next two weeks. It’s really about diet and exercise. Most people would get on board with that intellectually. But we just keep looking for business and marketing pills and they don’t exist. Right? So we better get to the hard work of understanding the processes, the people, the creativity required to just keep learning and just keep trying stuff. Because that’s all this is. There’s no final answer. It’s just lifelong learning.
I think that’s why I like marketing so much. I love learning new things and I love engaging with people in different ways and trying to think. But it’s not for everybody. And again, it’s not for some companies.
There are tons of jobs. I would say mostly they’re at large companies. There are tons of jobs that they say, Alison, here’s our crank. This is one little part of a big machine. Your job is to turn that crank. And the only change you can make is, if you make any changes, you just have to turn it faster, right? You just have to turn it for less money or deliver more results quicker. And that’s the job.
Don’t get me wrong, that brings a ton of people joy, or it aligns with what brings them joy in life. Because they’re like, great, I can just go home right at five and not think about this while I’m home. And that’s awesome. If that’s who you are and that’s what brings you joy, great. You’ve figured out how to construct a life you love.
But most people, when they start complaining about their jobs, their teams, their results, their bosses, they look at the long arc of time across their careers. Most people who would listen to or read educational material like this here, that’s not good enough for them. And so now they have to put aside that idea that there is one crank they can turn and start stepping through this giant mass of parts and pieces and just start tinkering.
Amen. That can be fun. That also can be frustrating. But, yeah, I’m with you on that. So we’ve talked about everything that I had on my list. How about anything on your list? Is there anything you think we should have talked about and didn’t, or anything that you see coming up that you’re excited about, or anything new on your horizon that you want to share?
I mentioned at the top why I’m so bullish on marketers making shows and it has to do with the fundamental shift that I don’t think we’re talking about enough as business owners, as marketers, as anybody in the working world today. I think what we’re living through is a new mandate for what businesses and marketers have to do, which is instead of trying to grab attention, we have to be masters of holding it.
And that’s really hard because it used to be enough that you could jump out in front of people, or you could catch some traffic through search through a really high performing blog post, or you could run a bunch of ads. These tactic-based, campaign-based, time-boxed activities on a few channels that existed way back when were enough.
But today everyone has all the power of where they spend their time. They have infinite choice and if they don’t like what they’re getting from X, they can tap swipe or just gaze their eyes in a different direction and have an infinite choice to go consume something else.
It just so happens there’s an amazing vehicle to hold attention and it’s called a show. If you embrace it, we have to hold attention. I don’t know why we’re not talking more about, well how do you do that? Like it’s not going to be a bunch of disparate pieces. It’s not going to be, you know, DM’ing a million people because that’s what #HustleCulture is. No, it’s how do you hold attention? You have to create something that’s genuinely worth spending a lot of time with. And there’s a very creative and very malleable and exciting vehicle for that. And it’s a show.
Because it’s a lot easier to say this is a thing built to get you to come back. Then we do other things like this. “If you liked this, you might like those – subscribe?” It’s just not effective. And so I’m setting out this year to really teach people the craft and creativity of making great shows. Because there’s no gaming it, there’s no hacks, there’s no algorithm that you’re trying to play with and get ahead of. It’s just, can you deliver an experience people like enough to invest their time in because they think it’s a good time investment.
I love that there’s a purity and there’s a kind of leveling of the playing field. It’s very similar to my career as a speaker. It’s like once you open your mouth, it doesn’t matter who you are, the audience will decide if you’re good or not. And so there’s a meritocracy to that and there’s a meritocracy to holding attention there. There’s no gaming it. There’s something that I just love so much about that because I think it’s honestly marketing at its best and it’s marketing for the audience, not for some agenda that you have. And oh, by the way, if you have a result you’re measuring, it’s going to be better served because you’re doing something so genuinely worth their time.
So it‘s a level playing field for people who do the right thing.
One hundred percent. Now you still have to get in front of people. You still need to acquire attention, but once you start to do that, you only need a few people who truly like what you’re doing to turn that into a flywheel.
I came out of software and software as a service. Companies really embrace this. They can acquire a customer at X dollars. They get paid Y dollars a month on a subscription basis. So they will get profit from that customer acquisition moment at Z months. Okay.
Well, if you have a retained loyal group of users that again, you’re holding onto over time and serving them increasingly well, two things happen. The lifetime value (LTV) of each of those customers goes up. Also the cost of acquisition (CAC) goes down because these happy users refer more users. You’re both able to make more money on your existing user base because they’re continuing to pay you or you can upgrade them to new tiers, and you generate word of mouth because happy customers are your best marketing force, especially today.
That’s happening in software. It’s happening in more than software, but they are the masters of it. We can take a page from that if we create content because we want the lifetime value, the LTV of a single member of our audience – a subscriber – to be very high and we also want the CAC to go down. What does it take to acquire a subscriber? What does it take to get a new follower or a new reader or listener or viewer? We want that cost to go down. We want to make it easier and we can do that if we got out of this insane cycle of just constantly trying to grab people’s attention and we learned how to hold it instead.
That’s very inspirational and I think it’s a good model to aspire to. That’s all we can do, right? We can just try to keep doing our best every day. Jay, how do people reach you if they want to connect? If they want to learn more about your new tools on building a show, or if they want to speak with you about a speaking event, how would you like people to connect with you?
For all things speaking, you can just email me directly, email@example.com and for all my content, the monthly newsletter, the podcast, it’s unthinkablemedia.com.
Thank you for your time. I really appreciate it, Jay!
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