On Wednesday, August 7th 1974, shortly after 7:15 a.m., Philippe Petit, the French high-wire artist, walked, ran, and danced back and forth across a cable he’d rigged between the Twin Towers of the World Trade Center. After 45 minutes of high-wire antics, Petit was arrested – and instantly became a folk hero. This artist did something outrageous, public, and dangerous.
On May 16th I attended a conference in NYC called Pick Yourself (more on that in a future post), conducted by Seth Godin – that smart, bald marketing guy. Three ideas (among 40 or so waiting for me to blog them) have been sticking to me since the conference ended.
Early on in Seth Godin’s presentation to an auditorium of entrepreneurs, corporate leaders, non-profit leaders, technologists, marketers, writers, educators, artists, and other assorted “Linchpins“, he invoked the story about Philippe Petit and then asked us this:
(1) Would you want to do something so much – believe in it so much – that you’d be willing to get arrested for it?
Hmm, good question. Dance on the edge… don’t conform – take a risk! Of course I should say Hell yeah! But… nobody really wants to get arrested – or die. It’s hard work to stick your neck out to express your passion to do something new, radical, and dangerous – if not downright fatal, like Petit did in 1974. When he was asked why he did the dangerous (and illegal) high-wire stunt, he said, “When I see three oranges, I juggle; when I see two towers, I walk.”
Here’s my takeaway from this story in 2012: in the face of relentless change and stress, move into the unknown, but keep focused and execute with precision – without taking everything too seriously – even when it is. It will help you stay alive.
At the same time, you have to be willing to take personal responsibility for whatever disruption you cause, because if you’re really taking a risk, it will cause disruption at some point to someone.
Real change can feel dangerous. And, if you’re a traditional marketer who’s been doing marketing a certain way for the last 20-30 years, digital and social media are forcing you to quickly re-think how you connect with your target audience and build your brand online. It may be daunting, but the best opportunities usually are.
Welcome to the Information Revolution and the Connection Economy!
The key thing about the shift from the Industrial to the Information Age is this: we have to shift our worldview from marketing-to-the-masses to marketing-to-each-other – because thanks to the Internet, everyone who has a receiver now also has a transmitter. And the goal is to get your ideas in front of as many people as possible. Attention is the precious commodity of the future.
(2) Ideas that are shared widely have more value; the enemy of your idea is obscurity, not piracy.
Here’s the business model: give away the product and sell the stuff around it. You’re selling the soft tissue around the center (your product) which is now like the doughnut hole.
For example, Google Analytics is free, because anyone who uses it will eventually want to buy what it measures: web traffic. Google is teaching future customers about their product by measuring the performance of exactly what they’re selling.
Chris (Bryant) and I were talking about our approach to tracking the performance of brands online. Channeling Seth Godin, I asked him, “What if we give away the approach and sell the consulting services that help people apply it most effectively to grow their business?” Chris winced and hesitated, because in addition to the awkwardness of my question, we still share an Industrial Age worldview: intellectual property should not be shared widely without compensation to the author.
However, the Information Age worldview says the more people see and share your ideas, the more valuable they become. A manuscript that ten thousand people have already read will be more valuable to a publisher than one that nobody’s read, because there’s already a market for it.
(3) Hire customers that share your worldview.
It makes the sales and customer retention process infinitely easier. If I’m spending too much time and energy trying to convince you why you need my product or service, then I either change my product, or you’re not my potential customer after all. Instead of finding listeners for your music, find music for your listeners. It’s easier to sell to people who are thirsty than it is to make people thirsty.
At the close of the conference someone asked Seth what he wishes he could have known earlier in his career that he now knows. He paused thoughtfully. “I wish I had known everything will be okay.”
But I’m not here to promote Seth Godin. I’m here to thank him.