Why Marketing Is All About the Clouds and the Dirt

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Recently I watched this excellent video by Gary Vaynerchuk.

In it he explains that he spends all his time in two places - the clouds and the dirt.

The clouds meaning the vision. The high level. The strategy.

The dirt meaning the execution – the how the vision comes to life.

He wastes no time in between. For us as marketers, or anyone trying to form relationships and aggregate attention, this is where we need to be as well.

Because there’s essentially two things that your market wants to know from you:

  • The Clouds. What’s the big picture. The high level strategy. The next thing. What’s your take on this.
  • The Dirt. What is the best way to make the vision real. The template. The plan. The hacks. The tweaks. The dirt – the medium in which the strategy can take root.

This works at every level – whether you sell high dollar software or macaroni and cheese.

Be your markets source for these two things – learn how to put your unique spin on them – and you’ll no longer need to chase. Your market will come to you. 

Do You Know The 2 Most Valuable Assets in Marketing Today?

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It’s not brand equity, or your logo, or any high performance piece of content that matters most.

The two most valuable assets in marketing are attention and trust. Without those two things, you’ll have a hard time accomplishing anything.

It’s why cold emails rarely work. Because even if you do manage to get some quick boost in page views or whatever, it will be short lived and unsustainable. And will likely fail to produce any actual sales in the end (this is why inbound leads always outperform outbound).

In all likelihood, you’ll just waste time and money and drift back into the ether.

In marketing as in life, you cannot buy trust. You cannot force people to agree with you or adopt your priorities. Attention and trust must be earned.

Think of it like someone standing on a corner with a megaphone yelling about religion, or politics, or whatever it is. The louder they yell, the more you tune them out (or run the other way).

This is what we’re doing when we spam, or relentlessly “check in” or write B.S. blogs or whitepapers that are really just masked brochures. We’re standing on our proverbial corner with a megaphone, yelling for people to listen. In fact, we have the opposite effect.

So what’s the solution? Focus on creating a place where you consistently and reliably provide value. Real value. Not half assed, veiled sales pitches.

Better still, find a way to do this in a way no one else can (no matter what you sell, you can do this, the trick is just to figure out how). Then, just let the right people know about it. The rest of the “sales process” then begins to take care of itself.

It really doesn’t need to be more complicated than that. 

48 Searches

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Consider this: On average, we conduct 48 unique searches before we buy an airplane ticket.


This, straight from a lead researcher of one of the largest marketing research firms in the world. Amazing right?

Anyhow, as soon as he said this, I started wondering... Why?

When you think about it, it’s all about uncertainty. For most, it’s one key question. “Am I getting the best price?”

Now, think back to whatever you sell.

If it’s a considered purchase of any size or substance, it’s far more than price that your buyers are weighing. Its internal reputation, integration, resistance to change (one of the most powerful forces), and on and on.

More than anything else, people are trying to decide how the purchase will impact their professional status. It’s their reputation at stake.

So if it takes us 48 searches to feel satisfied that we’re getting the best deal on a flight – how long do you think it takes your prospects to overcome concerns about their professional reputation?

While I don’t have a precise answer, I can say definitively: It’s much longer than we all think.

Certainly much longer than a 5-step email nurture program, or a 30-minute Webinar, or a single sales call.  

This is why it’s so important that your marketing strategies are focused first and foremost on providing long-term value, based on a clear and unifying theme. Because that’s what it takes to win trust. To become remembered by key people as the only organization that is right for them.

And this trust is what it takes to turn 48 searches into 35 or 15.

In truth, this focus on the long-term will be the fastest short cut that you ever take.

The Biggest Mistake Made in Marketing Today

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A Quick Though Experiment

So if you're up for it, let's take a couple seconds a do a little thought experiment.

Take just a second and think back to the last ad you saw today. Not the last memorable ad – the absolute last one that was put in front of you. Email, billboard, TV, whatever.

Quick, what was it?

If you’re like me, you have absolutely no idea. Like 90% of ads, it wasn't for you - it was for them (an important distinction). So you never paid attention.

Here’s another question. What’s your biggest point of stress at work?

I bet that took you all of two seconds to think up. I bet you even feel a little spike of stress now that I've brought it up (sorry about that).

The conclusion is clear. And yes, this is an obvious conclusion, but it's one we all too frequently overlook.

People don’t care about what you want to tell them, they care about what they’re trying to achieve and the pains they're trying to resolve.

Which brings us too...

The Biggest Mistake Made In Marketing Today

The biggest mistake made in marketing today is that we focus on what we want people to do, not how we can help them achieve what they want.

How many campaign planning sessions begin with questions like: “What is it we want people to know about us? What are our strengths? How can we stand out? How can we drive the results we want today?"

But these are the wrong questions.

Better questions might be, "What are our prospects biggest problems today? How can we help in a way no one else can?"

This simple shift in focus means we're now working to help, rather than persuade, and this small change in intention makes all the difference.

It's the trouble with prioritizing short term gains (which rarely come from self-centered marketing) with long term relationships. In marketing as in life, the biggest gains come by playing the long game.

Question: Do you believe great marketing comes from providing value, or is it actually just about persuasion?

The Fallacy of Marketing Optimization

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Here are some of the questions I'm asked frequently:

  • What are the best times and days to send emails?
  • What are the best days and times to publish blogs? To host a webinar?
  • How can we persuade people put in the right email address? (Instead of mickey@mouse.com)
  • How can we optimize our website to get more traffic?
  • What’s the optimal number of emails to send each month to avoid list fatigue.

We’re all looking for tricks and tips to make people pay attention. To make them care.

But here’s the simple truth.

Rather than worry about the incremental lift you’ll get from hosting a webinar at a certain day or time. Or plugging in keywords in some certain density. There’s one optimization strategy that trumps all others.

Focus on creating remarkable things that deliver massive value.

Do this, and all the rest of the questions become far less important. They almost become irrelevant.

Because while you’re your competitors focus on the trivial many –  the optimization of tactics –  you’ll be focused on the critical few  –  the aggregating of attention, building of trust, and development of relationships. That’s where the real lift lies.

But here’s the thing. You can’t just half ass this. You can’t pretend your way to remarkable. You have to put the real time and effort into delivering the value.

Put in the work. Be valuable. Do this continuously. Overtime, you'll earn attention and then trust. The rest will take care of itself.

Are you Asking the Wrong Questions?

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How can we tell people about our new features? About our new storylines? Why we’re better/faster/cheaper than our competitors? How can we show results today?

None of these questions (all of which are asked daily in marketing departments) are about why the people you’re trying to reach might care. And it’s one of the main reasons marketing fails.

A better question to ask is, where is our Tribe struggling today and how can we help in a way no one else can?  

Deliver value this way, and the right people will come to you, ready to buy. No persuasion or bargaining needed.

Presidential Messaging Secrets

In 1992, a young Governor from Arkansas decided to run for President of the United States. Competing against a formidable incumbent, the young governor was fighting an uphill battle.

In order to break through the noise and be remembered, his now fabled campaigned strategist James Carville created three key campaign Lynchpins – ideas that the campaign would own and that people would remember:

  1. Change vs. more of the same
  2. The economy, stupid
  3. Don’t forget health care

The candidate was Bill Clinton.

Since the end of World War II, only three incumbent presidents have been unseated. And it was these three simple ideas that are widely credited with the campaign’s success.

Running the United States is a profoundly complicated endeavor, yet it was these three simple ideas that stuck.

In a world full of noise and complexity, it is the simplest ideas that shine through.

When people think about your organization – what are the three things that they remember?

What are the three things you stand for, and do better than every one else? Whatever they are, these Lynchpins – the sum total of the unique DNA of your organization – should be at the heart of all your marketing.

Don't try to explain everything. Don't try to be everything to everyone. Own a few simple (yet profound) ideas, embody them, consistently deliver value around then, and soon the market will begin to remember.

Do this over time, and you  will leave the pack and become a Market of One.

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