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Bother Me! Please!

“I don’t want to bother you, but…” This is a phrase that many of us use when we’re in need of help and have exhausted our own means. I’m not talking about “I don’t want to bother you, but I want to sell you something.” I’m talking about when we need real help. We’re stuck. A problem has presented itself that requires more than one person or team. We’re not sure where else to go, and we admit that our own efforts, resources, talents or abilities have reached, if not an end, at least a roadblock, and we need help.

But none of us likes to ask for help. I’m there as well, but I’m learning to change that. To not see asking for help as a weakness or deficiency, but as a way to learn from others, and to offer others a chance to be part of something that utilizes who they are.

BotherMe.png

Be honest: are you a person who would gladly help someone else out, but are nearly paralyzed with the prospect of asking for help yourself? Next to learning how to take a compliment (smile, say thank you, and let someone give you props without you downplaying it), asking for help may be the toughest thing that many people ever do. But the thing is, I think most people are happy to lend their time, expertise, insight, passion and general goodwill when asked. In fact, I think most of us, in some deeper way, want to be asked. We want to be of help, to contribute, to serve, to make use of who we are, what we know and what we can do.

I’ve run across this recently when I felt backed into a corner and started by trusting a few close, long time friends with the problem I was having. I felt like they’d get it, despite my reticence and even embarrassment in asking. And of course, as I should have predicted (and as my wife did – another lesson for another post), not only did I receive help, I received insight, wisdom, encouragement and even thanks from someone who was in a similar position. I’ve seen people line up to help a family affected by medical issues and in need of round-the-clock care. I’m talking about people coming out of the woodwork not just to help and do a good deed, but to be a part of something, to bring their selves into a situation.

I’ve made a conscious effort to watch for times when I say or write the words, “I don’t want to bother you,” and ask if whether I really mean that or not. Would I be bothered by that sort of request? If not, then it’s time to hit delete. If so, why? I’d encourage you to go ahead and take the risk and discover just how much you’re not bothering someone, but inviting them.

Disruption: Tesla, It’s Not A Car, It’s A Computer

disruption1
disruption1

Thanks again Bob Lefsetz for the concise summary of what makes Tesla Motors’ approach to car-making so different from what we’ve seen before. “Elon Musk is selling technology, not an automobile. You know technology, you price it high for the early adopters, and when you’ve got all the kinks worked out, you lower the price and you’ve got a bona fide hit… In other words, Elon Musk is making a car for today. This ain’t the music industry, this ain’t Detroit, there’s no shrugging of shoulders and talk of legacy customers and insurmountable challenges…the Tesla is positively now, as my buddy says, it’s not a car, it’s a computer.”

Likewise, companies like Uber and Lyft are disrupting and smashing the mold of what traditional taxi companies have built, giving people a far better and easier experience, and by all accounts, doing a great job. Testimonials pour in from satisfied customers loving what seems to be uniformly friendly service that’s priced as comparably as most taxis, but with nicer rides and no hassle credit card transactions. I’ve yet to use Uber, but that’s bound to change in the next 30 days. And to not have the frustrating exchange with a driver asking, “you don’t have cash?” while the Visa/MC/Amex sticker lies in their line of vision is alone worth an alternative.

Several friends of mine work with large non-profit organizations, and with few exceptions they all seem to be asking why they can’t gain traction with younger people the way that groups like To Write Love On Her Arms or Invisible Children can. These are groups harnessing technology, media, grass roots outreach and pop culture in ways that most strait-laced orbs never do. They are supported from the ground up and create a wave of action.

And yes, you can focus on the sideshow of IC’s Kony 2012 film, and how one of IC’s leaders seemed to melt down in the attention storm created. But the broader story is that a small charity group captured the world’s imagination by telling a story a different way – using film making and the Internet to bring more attention to a global killer than had been brought in the previous few years.

What’s more – I saw it a few months ago, listed as a benchmark event in the history of YouTube, in a video produced BY YouTube. Kony 2012 was a phenomenon of modern advocacy, and no doubt scores of people have tried to emulate it.

Will the effort to locate and apprehend Kony via Invisible Children last? That’s the challenge of a young organization (and of Tesla, Uber and the like). But the shakeup was a clarion call for what’s possible with someone not beholden to how non-profits or other organizations operate.

Disruption has become a buzzword of sorts, but we all know it when we see it. Healthcare is ripe for this, as my friend Mark Montgomeryhas written about through his own experiences. My guess is that any enterprise that’s become too concerned with its institutional operating is ready to be turned upside down. So too – any place where people generally dread an experience (taxis, car dealerships, DMVs) are places just waiting to be messed up in the best way possible.

Just Tell The Truth!

keep-calm-and-tell-the-truth-6
keep-calm-and-tell-the-truth-6

Fascinating post from Seth Godin yesterday, with food marketers of all sorts caught in the cross hairs. This is no doubt fueled by the recent classification by the American Medical Association that obesity is now being classified and treated as a disease. I’m not going to tackle any of that debate here, though the AMA obviously feels that the increasing rise in obesity rates is a massive health and economic concern in the US, and there’s no doubt that it’s having massive impact on our health care costs. But what struck me was his call/challenge to marketers to employ ethical boundaries to our work, and to consider the public trust, well-being and effect on culture. Godin argues that marketing is often about efforts to change the cultural impact of products and services, and it’s not merely about marketers and advertisers being able to say what they want as a matter of free speech. Godin says,“If your organization uses terms like share of stomach or hires lobbyists, you’ve already made a decision to market in a way that changes the culture to benefit you and your shareholders.”

Our marketing technology and information has become so sophisticated that we often marvel more at what is possible to achieve rather than how we should employ these tools. And at some point these tactics will implode and create greater harm, as excess seems to do at every turn. Again I’ll turn to Godin: “We ban accounting that misleads, and we don’t let engineers build bridges that endanger travelers. We monitor effluent for chemicals that can kill us as well. There’s no reason in the world that market-share-fueled marketing ought to be celebrated merely because we enjoy the short-term effects it creates in the moment.”

For my own work, this goes back to the importance of a process that rigorously identifies and defines what it is we’re talking about and what we’re delivering. In plainer terms, are we telling our customers the truth? If not, then we are simply lying to them, and if you want to lie, then I’m not your man.

In most cases I’m referring to this as the brand promise, and asking clients what that is, and whether we are truly delivering that. I’d rather deliver more than what we say and delight people with that than promise something that isn’t going to be delivered. Telling the truth and doing even more builds trust, loyalty, and a sense of pride in the work from my clients that pushes us all to aspire to more, design things better and deliver things better.

Going back to the initial quote from his blog that I pulled, “just because marketing works doesn’t mean we have an obligation to do it. And if we’re too greedy to stop on our own, then yes, we should be stopped.”

“Greedy” can also be replaced with “desperate”, as often marketers at a loss for any effective course of action turn to whatever seems to work, even when they know that the tactics aren’t honest. And with the tables of power now turned toward customers and the ability to call companies out in real time (see: my U-Haul experience; Paula Deen; etc…), marketers should have an even keener sense of the importance to tell the truth, and advocate for this with their clients/employers. That’s as much a measure of caring for shareholder value as anything. And if you’re not willing to do so out of a sense of moral/ethical obligation, then here’s some self-interest for you to consider: if you’ve designed a dishonest campaign that gets called out, you’re also likely the first to go under the bus when the outcry begins.

Thanks Seth Godin for a great bit of thought to kick off the week.

Day 2 Recap: Ft. Worth – Lordsburg. Great food, dissing TX and the quest for more Trucker Nods

A rare, stopped moment
A rare, stopped moment

I wrote my day 1 recap cruising on a mixture of adrenaline and guilt, as Adam was staying up to edit video. So I figured I’d stay up as well and see what I could knock out. At 5 AM Saturday I think we both wondered what we were thinking. In fact, I know we were. But we were dedicated to getting another early start and making the most of the daylight. Also, we’d made plans to meet Kevin Libick, a youth worker who lives very close to the hotel we were at in Fort Worth. Adam met Kevin at a conference last year, and while I’d never met him, the temptation of free breakfast was tough to beat. We had a great time that made the minimal amount of sleep and early AM worth it – so thanks Kevin!

From there we began the drive through all that is west of Fort Worth, including actual cities of Abilene, Midland/Odessa and El Paso, as well as places like Pecos and Sierra Blanca, where I had stops or events against my will last year. But more on that later.

One thing we decided to do was to alter the number of stops we made in order to get farther along. So after a lot of stops on Friday, we decided to stop pretty much only for fuel and food, and to try and engage some folks where we could.

Truck driver Kelly teaching a rental driver
Truck driver Kelly teaching a rental driver

One of those happened at a gas station in Abilene, where I ran into Kelly, a big rig driver who delivers fuel to stations. I asked him if he had any advice for people driving big rental trucks like the one we had? I explained that while I consider myself a good and conscientious driver, I don’t drive vehicles that big all that often, and I figured there had to be some trucker wisdom to impart, as I don’t want to be “that guy” out on the roads. Kelly was happy to share some thoughts, and it was mostly the kind of thing you learn in driver’s ed, but it was fun to have someone willing to go on camera for a couple of total strangers.

One good night in Dallas
One good night in Dallas

Adam and I both have a distaste for Texas. Aside from Austin and San Antonio (and the world famous Schlitterbahn water park in New Braunfels (home to the core of the band Sixpence None The Richer, with whom I’ve had the pleasure to work and be friends), the rest of the state just doesn’t hold up. Too hot. Too humid. Too cocky for a place that hot and humid. I have, if I may say so, a really good sense of direction and navigational skills to match, but I have been lost in Dallas more than any other city in the nation, and I hold that against Dallas. And aside from a night there that spawned this picture of me with 3 of the bands I used to work with, very few fun times.

I can’t speak for Adam’s distaste of the state, but he once mentioned that it started with the JFK assassination and went downhill from there. Also, his percentage of obtaining Trucker Nods (as mentioned in the Day 1 post) went down significantly in Texas, and then rose up again in NM, so I think that’s being weighed into the equation.

But I digress. West Texas is generously populated with massive yards of things that appear to be on sale, and though there was no signage pointing to any branding, it seems that all of these places could unite to form a massive statewide network of stores called, “All Things Rusty”. I can’t even tell you what was for sale except that it was metal and the color of Carrot Top’s steroid-amped hair (I’m guessing that the ‘roids affect his hair as well as the rest of him).

Free range truck stop cows
Free range truck stop cows

We also ran across Truck Stop cows. Three cows just munching on some grass at a truck stop somewhere outside of Odessa, I think. I tried to get their faces but they only showed me the rear view.

Food

Pappy’s plate-o-delicious
Pappy’s plate-o-delicious

On a positive note, we had some great food today, with Pappy’s BBQ in Monahans, TX leading the lunch charge. We each had a mix of brisket and chicken, with jalapeno beans, corn and for bread. I don’t think either of us spoke a discernible word while the food was in front of us – it was mostly groans and quick breaths of air. Yowza! For dinner we checked out El Charro in Lordsburg, NM (Go Mavericks!) It’s a very humble spot right across the railroad tracks and by the only stop light in town. We were famished and El Charro did us right. Beef enchiladas that were tender and perfectly cooked, nice and spicy salsa and fresh chips washed down by a couple Negra Modelos and we were ready to call it a day.

My annual allotment of circus peanuts
My annual allotment of circus peanuts

Penske Cab Confessions for the day: circus peanuts and Moon Pies.

We spent the night in Lordsburg at the Hampton Inn where my dad and I stayed last year. And I had a chance to reconnect with Jim Arnold of Badlands Towing. Jim went a long way out of his way to help us out last year, and it was fantastic to reconnect under far better circumstances. That whole thing is another post that I’m prepping.

That’s a recap of Day 2. As always, please take a minute to like/follow/search 1 or all of these things:

– facebook.com/PenskeTruckRental

– twitter.com/PenskeMoving

– #PenskeRescue – follow it and tag it on everything

Day 1 Recap: Hoo Hoos, Trucker Nods and 700+ Miles of Fun

SunStudio: The birthplace of Rock & Roll
SunStudio: The birthplace of Rock & Roll

Wow. It’s 11:45 PM on Friday the 31st. Adam McLane is editing video from the day and I’m doing this recap before setting up a photo album of the day’s trek. We’re in Ft. Worth, TX. It’s a psychological victory to get past Dallas, though I’d hoped to get to Abilene, pipe dream as that was. We made too many stops to really make that feasible, so we’re changing up the plan for tomorrow; more on that soon. First of all, to everyone that’s “liked” a picture, post, video, etc. thanks! It’s wonderful to see support. And to build momentum through the weekend, please consider a few things:

Share: Yes – please share, re-post, retweet and generally pass along any any all posts that you see. We love sharing the stories and snapshots, not to mention the story of the folks at Penske helping us to make this a great experience.

Like/Follow/Subscribe: While Adam and I are putting together some short videos for our own Facebook and Twitter accounts, Penske’s YouTube channel will have the longer pieces. And following their various channels is one of the ways to thank Penske for supporting this effort.

facebook.com/PenskeTruckRental

twitter.com/PenskeMoving

– #PenskeRescue – follow it and tag it on everything

So today we left Nashville at 6:15 AM. It was early. E.A.R.L.Y. Especially after a long day of packing and prepping. But there was a certain anticipation to the day and we were in good spirits. We encountered a lot of rain between Nashville and Memphis, and it’s a good thing that Adam had the water proof casing for his GoPro camera. Speaking of the GoPro, we’ve been experimenting with various angles for the camera, mounting it on the sides of the truck, the roof and other places. Lots of fun stuff. Here are a few highlights:

In the fetal position I could fit inside these rims
In the fetal position I could fit inside these rims

Memphis: we stopped by Sun Studios (a favorite destination for me – Adam was very polite as I music-geeked out), as well as the Lorraine Hotel / National Civil Rights Museum, as well as passing by Beale Street, the Arcade Restaurant and other spots. I also got flipped off by a driver who I thought could spot the 26′ truck + trailer with turn signal in front of him; Adam got it on tape.

Arkansas: Then it was across the river into Arkansas, a state where we observed the following:

– very active highway patrols – very inactive (i.e. – dead) armadillos – poor highway conditions seemingly unaffected by the stimulus – The Clinton Presidential Library – an inordinately high number of cars with souped up rims, particularly in the small town of Gurdon. We ran into a really nice guy with 28″ rims on his car (see picture of me and how I might be able to fit inside the rims). Adam said, “I saw another car down the street with some too”. The guy replied, “green ones?” Adam: yeah.” “Guy: He’s got 30″ rims. He’s my cousin.”

The #PenskeRescue truck in front of the Hoo Hoo Museum
The #PenskeRescue truck in front of the Hoo Hoo Museum

Gurdon is the home of the museum and headquarters for the International Concatenated Order of Hoo Hoo, a fraternal organization for those in the lumber industry. It’s a mere 5 miles off of the freeway, down a road that we named Deliverance Parkway. Fortunately our truck ran great and we made the 10 mile roundtrip (from the freeway) without a problem, and got to see the Hoo Hoo Museum, as well as a crazy-cool, funky print shop (that was closed for the day) in downtown Gurdon.

A truck divided by 2 states
A truck divided by 2 states

We straddled Arkansas and Texas in Texarkana, AR/TX, where the state line splits the post office / federal building. It’s also where we realized that we had, quite possibly, the longest possible path across Texas to complete. From there it was a haul to get through / around Dallas and on to our hotel in Ft. Worth. Tomorrow (ie – today, as I write), we’ll get another early start, with breakfast coordinated via Facebook and a friend of Adam’s, and then get across the rest of the state. We’ll stop less, in order to make more time, but try to get some more stories from fellow travelers.

Sorry if we were boring: In the middle of the day my lovely wife Michele texted me to tell us that we were being boring and “too NPR”. I’ll confess that she may have been right – the stress and energy of prepping left me less upbeat, but we tried to remedy this with our immaturity and bad eating habits. To wit, we’ve done a couple of things to lighten ourselves up:

1) Penske Cab Confessions: We’re also filming something that we’re calling Penske Cab Confessions, a rip-off of HBO’s Taxi Cab Confessions in name only. We’ll be sharing some of our favorite road trip snacks – the things we rarely, if ever, eat outside the confines of a road trip. It’s not good food, but it is delicious. It’s not always pretty. Sometimes it’s even frightening, but we’re here to open the doors on the real life of a road trip.

2) Straddling state lines: After 10 hours in the truck, words like “straddle” just made us laugh, so expect more immature humor, which will, at the least, make us laugh.

Thanks again for joining us in this adventure. Hit us up on Twitter & Facebook and maybe we can meetup on the way.

Dave PS – Trucker Nods! Adam has been attempting to get the affirmation of big rig drivers every chance he gets, which entails said drivers reciprocating Adam’s nod of recognition and a quick wave. So far I’d say he’s batting .500, which is pretty good. I got one myself with an index finger wave, which was a great ego boost.

HooHooSignS
HooHooSignS
Eating fresh with Tonto
Eating fresh with Tonto

Where Should #PenskeRescue Stop? Arkansas Edition

A few of the highlights that Arkansas has to offer
A few of the highlights that Arkansas has to offer

I’d like to invite you to take part in this little adventure by voting on some places that we’ll stop and do some video pieces that range from the sublime to the ridiculous in terms of American Obscura. OK, truth be told, most of this is ridiculous. There will be sublime somewhere along the way, but that’s less fun to vote on.

So take 30 seconds (or less) and visit this Facebook Survey page and vote for where you’d like to see Adam McLane and I stop on our 2,000-mile trek from Nashville to San Diego. I’ll continue with some other background. Thanks for playing along!

Who Defines Success?

Or someone else will do it for you?
Or someone else will do it for you?

Several years ago I was approached by my then-boss, the President of a respected independent record label. He asked me what I’d thought of something that was said to him by a powerful artist manager who had been a co-owner of another label that Pres and I had worked for earlier in our careers. The manager had said something to the effect of, “you guys are doing fine, but you’ll never be taken seriously until you have a gold record.” This was the early 2000s, when, and in the mind of the manager, that was the bar by which record labels “arrived” – an award for sales of 500,000 copies of an album.

“What do you think about that?” I paused and thought a second, and replied, “well, that’s an interesting question. I guess my thought is whether you accept the definition of success that our friend is talking about. Almost all of our artists are recouped and are earning royalties; that’s not the case at most labels, and many of that manager’s clients. And our artists have almost full creative control. Also not the case at many other labels. We’re solidly profitable. Our staff likes each other, we all work hard, and we also have sane lives. My understanding about the origins of the label is that all of those things were goals of starting this venture: to be different from much of the grind that we saw in other places. So by that criteria, I’d reject the gold record marker and say that we’re absolutely successful in what we set out to do, and that we should be taken seriously.”

We had a couple of artists that could have played the industry game better, sacrificed some of the things that made their lives normal, and probably scored gold records. But the price of that would likely have been to burn them out to the point where they’d just stop. And they knew that. So we kept budgets and expectations in line with what we knew was going to happen, and in most cases, everyone was pleased.

Gold records and sales awards are fine markers and great symbols of the hard work, passion and dedication that many people put into the process of supporting an artist or an album. I’m proud of the gold and platinum awards I have for what they signify about the artists and my co-workers on those projects. But I’m just as satisfied by other projects where we met or exceeded our goals even if they didn’t hit those benchmarks, because frankly, they were never the goal.

If we spend our time chasing other peoples’ ideas or definitions of success, we can often lose sight of why we set out to do something. It’s a classic case of keeping up with the Joneses, and we all reject that mode of thinking. I’m not so sure that people are cognizant of that, or just used to having someone else set the agenda for them? but as we start on any project, it’s important to define what the goals are, and how we are going to measure the reaching of those goals. Because if we’re comparing ourselves to other projects, products or companies that have different goals, it will take you off your game. And that leads to being lost in the woods with no idea of how you got there.

So define your own success, and then make that happen. It doesn’t matter if others don’t understand. You do, and you have reasons for that.

Context > Opinion: Tim Quirk Crushes It

ContextBeatsOpinion
ContextBeatsOpinion

Last week I had the opportunity to attend the first ever Google For Creators day in Nashville, sponsored by Google (obviously) and the fine folks at Flo {Thinkery}(thanks @hellomarko). It was a great day of peeking under the hood of various Google properties, including Google+, YouTube and their RightsFlow team (way to go @michaeljoel). Search #nashvillecreates on Twitter for updates. While the day emphasized music, and ended with great performance from Ashley Monroe, Mat Kearney and Sheryl Crow (more on that later), so much of what was discussed hit home for those in the audience that ranged from musicians, music biz folks, technology companies, non-profits and marketing groups.

Stage setup for Google For Creators
Stage setup for Google For Creators

One person that captured the crowd’s attention was GooglePlay music head Tim Quirk(@tbquirk). The former frontman for pop-punk band Too Much Joy, and a Rhapsody exec, Quirk was obviously comfortable in front of a crowd. He threw out a series of to-the-point assertions that have guided his team’s work. And while targeting a music audience, Quirk’s points had resonance across myriad areas of life, communication, relationships and communities.

– It’s not about you – it’s about your audience/community/user/etc

– Don’t fetishize the past.

– Don’t automatically look for a digital equivalent to an analog experience.

– Metadata is key.

– Context is more important than opinion. No one cares what you think.

@tbquirk profile
@tbquirk profile

While each could support deeper exploration, it’s this last statement that has stuck with me. Context > Opinion. What does this mean? Well, in the context of Quirk’s talk, it was about how artists, record labels and the like communicate with their fans.

It’s something that guides the GooglePlay team in how they present music. It’s the idea that one person’s opinion of why something is good/bad/beautiful/ugly, etc. works to create dead ends. You agree or not, and you move on from there. If you disagree, you either like to argue, or you go away feeling like you have less in common with the person that posted.

But context provides an opportunity to extend a conversation and go deeper. It doesn’t draw a line in the sand that declares a false in/out dichotomy.

For example. I can tell you that Husker Du is one of the most amazing bands ever and that anyone serious about music needs to be familiar with them. While I may believe that, it communicates that I’m setting a boundary of those who are with me or against me (and on this account, my wife is against me; I’m the same with her and Steely Dan).

But if I tell you that some of the things I love about Husker Du are their blend of melody and noise, their confounding of the orthodoxy of punk rock in the early/mid ’80s; that Husker Du has been cited as a core inspiration for The Pixies and Nirvana, that Pete Townsend hand picked Husker Du leader Bob Mould for a tribute concert, and that Mould was part of Foo Fighters’ last tour as a DJ, and appeared on the Foos’ last record, then I’ve given you context for why I like them. There’s nothing for you to agree or disagree with, and plenty for you to explore. What’s more, even if you don’t love their music like I do, you understand why I love it, and you understand something about me. And the reverse can be true when my wife explains why she loves Steely Dan.

The Google event was closed out by performances by a series of artists, headlined by Sheryl Crow (also included Ashley Monroe & Mat Kearney). After Ashley Monroe finished, Crow came out to great applause, only to chastise the audience for not “getting it” and opining that we’d all “missed” an amazing singer. Twitter blew up immediately, calling it Sheryl Crow’s Music City Smackdown.

Now, despite where you were in the audience, Sheryl Crow drew a line. For those of us who weren’t talking during Monroe’s set, there was a mixed sense of “tell ’em Sheryl!” as well as, “don’t paint me with the idiot brush, Sheryl.” For those who were talking, well, there was no questioning how they were perceived by the upcoming headliner. Here’s where context may have helped.

Sheryl Crow winning friends & influencing people
Sheryl Crow winning friends & influencing people

Had Sheryl Crow come out and told us why she loves Ashley Monroe and how she wished we’d been able to enjoy it like she does, the room may have seen her as a champion of others (which she is), and felt a part of that. Instead, people wondered if the rant would continue during Crow’s set. It didn’t. In fact, she made a joke about how she’d never read “How To Win Friends & Influence People.” And she played a fantastic set of songs new and old (there’s my opinion. D’oh!).

After the Google event, both Crow and Monroe headed over to Jack White’s Third Man Records studio to participate in a taping of CMT’s Crossroads series as a night of Willie Nelson & Friends (which featured Willie, Jack White, Neil Young, Crow, Monroe and others). I know this because a friend of mine works for the show, and we were talking about this context > opinion the next night, as well as about the Music City Smackdown.

My friend said that Crossroads “is all context. It’s all about how diverse artists love things about each other and then we show why.” And while the audiences were likely worlds apart (industry networking/workshopping versus 100 dedicated friends and fans), I have no doubt that the context provided at Crossroads made the mood of the room far more inviting than the opinions thrown at the crowd at the Google event.

I’m reminded of a quote attributed to T-Bone Burnett as he expressed his songwriting process as it related to the spiritual themes in much of his work:

“You can sing about the light. Or you can sing about what you see because of the light. I prefer the latter.”

Context is story, emotion, passion and invitation. Opinion is boundary, ideology and finality. This maxim is also a wonderful way to help us all think about how we develop and foster relationships, communities and communication. Thanks Tim Quirk! You had a room full of people develop their own“Crush Story” last week:)

Frosty Westering Turned It All Upside Down

Turning everything upside down. That is what Frosty Westering, longtime football coach of Pacific Lutheran University did in his amazing run of 32 years as coach. Not a single losing season. Four Division IIIA national championships and four additional trips to title games. A former drill instructor in the Marines, Frost Westering denied that stereotype and many others in teaching his players a different view of sportsmanship, service and character. This recap of his life, written by SportsOnEarth writer Chuck Culpepper, which I first discovered via Sports Illustrated’s Peter King (@si_peterking), has been an inspiration all week as news of the catastrophe in Boston has dominated news, conversations and thoughts (and rightfully so). After reading this article I can only think that any PLU player that may have been in Boston would have been among the scores running directly into the melee to help and take care of people all around.

To read of a football coach that demanded that his players sing, that they admired the nature surrounding their Seattle location, that they helped opponents up after being hit, and who won over 300 games in a 32 year career was an experience in seeing the radical nature of denying conventional wisdom for something more important. Perhaps what is more apparent about the life of Frosty Westering is that he not only treated everyone how he’d liked to be treated, but that he would go out of his way to do so, and to instill that ethic in the players in his charge. By all accounts he did it with kindness, with humor, by surprise and with joy. Practical jokes, belly flops, put-ups (instead of put downs) and singing were just a few of the hallmarks of his program.

As for what this has to do with Dunk Tank Marketing, it’s the sort of thing that reminds us that whoever the end user, customer, etc. is the person we are trying to serve, and to help guide our clients to serve. Because this story shows that it’s not just about a feel good moment, but about a lifelong pursuit of service, of joy, of respect and of character, and that that produces something. For Frosty Westering and the PLU football team it meant a 32-year streak of winning seasons. Bit more than that, it meant 32 years of bearing witness to the joy of service and building character. It also looks like a lot of fun. Thanks Frosty. Thanks Chuck Culpepper for writing this inspiring testament. And thanks Peter King for sharing it with your considerable audience.

Is The Lecture Dead? How Millennials Are Working & Learning

There’s a lot of talk happening right now about the way that working and learning styles are changing. This article from the Washington Post outlined how colleges and universities are shifting from the traditional lecture hall approach to teaching, college classes are increasingly formed around collaboration, participation and working/learning groups that engage everyone. As a student quoted in the article says of one such class, “you can’t hang back,” he told the class, during a lull. “You’ve got to talk. You’ve got to argue. You’ve got to contribute.” Amidst the change in tradition, I have to think that educators find this sort of comment inspiring. Part of the reasoning is this: If information (really good, accessible and compellingly-delivered information) is everywhere, then perhaps an emphasis on experience really is the key. How many people have experienced (and continue to experience) the conundrum of, “you can’t get a job without experience, but you can’t get experience without a job?” And the fact that professors are choosing to assign online lectures as homework to allow for classroom time to be more engaging and participatory is certainly a harbinger of things to come. It’s a shift from teacher-focused to learner-focused.

Several of my friends are recording engineers, and studied that in college. Most had peers that seemed to be the star students in the program, and those people got the plum internships at world-class recording studios – the sort of lavish recording palaces that rarely exist today. The conventional wisdom was that an internship at Ocean Way would communicate, on a resume, that this person was at the top of their game and had experience in big time situations. The reality, as most everyone knew, was that those people, talented as they may have been, were glorified errand runners, learning to make coffee, use the copier to make tracking sheets, and sweep up after the sessions were done.

Meanwhile, others aligned themselves with some of the smaller, dingier studios in town. The places with no real staff but the owner/operator, where bands blew through albums in days or weeks instead of months, and resourcefulness of a McGyver level was often required to get the right sounds or effects, as the gear didn’t have the same level of sophistication as the big houses. But the people who interned at these places came out of their experiences with just that: experience. One friend had close to two dozen engineering credits on national releases in the same 9-month period that his classmate had done nothing except for coffee, copies and sweeping up. Word got out that he worked hard, got things right, and could make any type of gear work to get what was needed. The classroom taught what work was supposed to be like, while the internship showed what it often really was.

Experience and collaboration are a reality of new ways to function, work, learn and grow. Obviously, as the article points out, there are places where regimented instruction is needed over just digging in to something (surgery comes to mind). But learning and applying knowledge and skills are a more hands-on experience than ever. This applies to client work, working groups, employee training and volunteer engagement.

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Why Gizmodo Thinks You’ll Buy A Smart Watch

They think we’ll all want one.
They think we’ll all want one.

A couple of weeks ago Gizmodo ran this story laying out their argument for the value and desirability of smart watches. Part of their reasoning seems to lie in the momentum behind the concept, from existing products like the $10 million Kickstarter-funded Pebble and the seemingly Rodeo Drive ready Martian Watch, to the chatter of development by Samsung and of course Apple.

Their arguments (paraphrased) – Glancing at info saves time – You’ll live longer because it will track your calories, heart rate, etc. – They can extend your phone’s battery life – You’ll be able to do more with your voice – Smart watches are more discreet

Seems to me like a series of thin arguments. Aside from being able to do more with your voice, I’m not sure that the others are really going to drive the adoption of another device that syncs with a phone. Discretion? Really? As if we won’t get busted for the watch glance almost as easily as a phone glance?

I almost bought into the Pebble simply because it looked great and sounded fun and cool, but I realized that I hadn’t worn a watch (or missed doing so) in 10 years. Was it really going to make my life that much easier? On top of that there’s the fact that I don’t need to deal with the annoying task of finding a comfortable watch band that doesn’t rip out hairs on my arm (metal bands), give me a band of sweat (plastic) or produce an even whiter swatch of skin on my Scandinavian epidermis (all of them).

Who knows? If the price point is decent enough it may be worth the purchase to extend battery life in place of a Mophie or a similar device. I’m curious but skeptical. I’ll be fine with being wrong if that’s how things go, but for now I’ll keep glancing at the phone and waiting for Siri to really understand me.

Why IBM Cares About Character

IBM on Brand by VSA Partners
IBM on Brand by VSA Partners

I love this short (2:15) clip, the first in a new series called ______ on Brand, developed by VSA Partners*. It features IBM’s SVP of Marketing and Communications, Jon Iwata, discussing the way that the IBM brand is expressed. One statement that caught my attention right away was this:

“…we don’t try to manage the IBM brand, we try to manage our character as a business. And we’ve never defined IBM by what we’re selling.”

Iwata goes on to say that by defining a brand by what you’re selling, you calcify what that brand is in peoples’ minds. Then, when what you’re selling changes, as it eventually will, you’re left having to re-define what that brand means, and erase the old perception at the same time you’re instilling a new perception. He gives brief examples of things from IBM’s past and present that have, or one day will, no longer be the focus of the company – punch cards, the Selectric typewriter, mainframe computing, cloud computing, and analytics among them.

He insists that the character of the company is what defines the brand. I think the same could be said of Apple, which, while starting as a computer company, has morphed into the leading brand for technology and innovation. Apple is all about unleashing creativity and possibility, no matter the device or platform they are touting to do that.

Abe nailed this one. Image by VSA Partners
Abe nailed this one. Image by VSA Partners

I’ve had similar conversations with companies, non-profits and churches, trying to get to the heart of their organization. The heart, values, character and principles are the bedrock of meaning for any person or organization. How those are expressed will change over time, or the organization will wither away. The expression of the heart is not the heart.

Or put in the language that we employ as designers of marketing strategy, Strategy reflects the heart and soul of who you are and why you do what you do. Tactics are expressions that communicate that heart and soul in specific contexts. But tactics are never the heart and soul. This is why tactics can, and should change. Tactics change depending on how the heart and soul are best served and communicated.

This is why practically every client relationship we’ve had has started with a conversation about who a client is, why they are doing what they’re doing, and why that matters. From there, honest, compelling stories can be told that reflect the heart and soul of an organization. So thanks to VSA Partners and IBM for this look at the character of a brand, and for the succinct reminder to always keep in mind the most important aspects of ourselves, our organizations and our communities.

Three Foundational Elements for Strategic Partnerships

Do you serve your partners? Do they serve you?
Do you serve your partners? Do they serve you?

We’ve been a part of establishing dozens of strategic partnerships between people, organizations, companies, non-profits and interest groups. Some have worked extremely well, while others have been well-intentioned but ultimately unsatisfying. In looking back on the best and worst, there are a few key principles that have guided the design and execution of the best partnerships.

And as with much of what we talk about, strategic is the key word and guiding framework for these sorts of agreements. Having an overarching vision and purpose of what you want/need to accomplish will help to make decisions about the direction of a partnership, and oftentimes will help you to decipher whether the partnership can actually work. So here are three foundational elements to consider when pursuing any partnership.

transparancy
transparancy

1) Transparency: Everyone involved needs to be able to speak directly to their ultimate goals, and what they hope to accomplish through the partnership. This is a foundational issue, and one that establishes trust, open communication and efficiency in designing a partnership. For example, when working on behalf of film clients, I’ve set up dozens of alignments and/or partnerships with non-profits and faith-based groups. It does me no good to pretend that the base line goal of a film is anything other than getting people to theaters and buying a ticket. We may desire some further result of how a film motivates viewers to consider something that the film addresses, but if nobody sees the film, that will never happen. Pretending that there’s any other overarching goal makes me suspect to any potential partner.

Likewise, I need to hear clearly from a partner what they want/need to achieve, and how they can benefit from a working relationship. This is where listening to and understanding what is important to a potential partner is crucial. I may have an idea of something that I think is a great way for a partner to engage, but if that idea isn’t important to a partner, then I’m spinning my wheels and merely basking in my own cleverness, and that does nothing but waste time and show that I’m not listening.

We can (and should) have a grown-up conversation about what’s most important. If this phase shows that there’s really no sensible way to work together, then that saves everyone time and potential ill-will.

Look out for each other
Look out for each other

Look out for each other

2) Mutuality: This goes hand in hand with transparency. Because once you articulate what’s important to accomplish, you have to do an honest assessment of whether that can be done to each party’s satisfaction. You can work with, morph, rework and reshape a partnership to find ways to address your core goals, but if all parties aren’t benefitting in ways that are understood, agreed to and deemed fair, then the aforementioned wheels are back to spinning and not propelling you forward.

To be sure, there are some times when partnerships are done simply because people or organizations like one another and want to help out. But the most effective are ones where everyone is invested in and sees the things important to them advanced. I often say that if everyone isn’t benefitting, then it’s a one-way sales job and not really a partnership. How you achieve mutuality is a wide-open landscape where creativity, negotiation and imagination run free, but that you achieve it is crucial.

Measuring lets you do more
Measuring lets you do more

3) Measurability: When purpose and goals are agreed to, it’s time to make sure that each party knows what they’ve agreed to do, and can tell their new partner how they intend to do that. A calendar of deliverables, point people to take responsibility for delivery, and the ability for those point people to make things happen are some basic ways of following through on this. Be specific. Be upfront if there are roadblocks or delays. Nail things down ahead of schedule when possible to keep the energy and momentum of a campaign going.

As I said earlier, these are basics, and they may seem obvious. But the fact of the matter is that anxiety, fear, and misdirected desire can often take you off course and forget these things. We want so badly to see some things work, and we’re certain that if everyone can just see our own vision, then it will work perfectly. But that’s not the reality of things. Partnerships should be constructed strategically, so that the decisions along the way are measured against a guiding plan, and not merely as tactical steps that can threaten to neglect the overarching goals.

Why? And Simon Sinek’s “Golden Circle”

Simon Sinek TED Talk
Simon Sinek TED Talk

This TED Talk was brought up in conversations both yesterday and today, and the principles of it are those that we use so frequently that it’s worth sharing this talk. The crux is asking why? Why are you making or offering or doing something? Is it to solve a problem? To make someone’s life easier or more efficient? Are you doing it to free people to improve their communities? “Why” has passion, a story, a compelling reason. “What” something is/does is merely description of features, but it doesn’t move you. “How” is great for the tinkerers, and perhaps for hackers, mashup artists, etc. but it’s fundamentally not a category around purpose.

So when you’re looking at your work, your project, your non-profit, your school or church or home brewing group, ask why it is you’re doing it. That way, when someone asks you about it, you have a story with meaning, with heart and with soul.

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Intentionality & The Story of the Worst to Best Navy Submarine

Intentionality. Was that a spoiler? Nah – check this out.
Intentionality. Was that a spoiler? Nah – check this out.

Intentionality has been a thing that we’ve been grappling with a lot these days – more than usual. What are we doing? Why? What affect are we hoping to see from a decision, a process or a partnership? And of course, examining decisions to ensure that they aren’t made in a vacuum. And so when I received an email from my friend Michael Fagans, a photo editor for the Bakersfield Californian, a passionate advocate for food security and a fine film-maker, about a video on intentional leadership, I was intrigued. Truth be told, upon seeing that the video was just over 35 minutes long I was slightly annoyed, but I trust Michael, and the story grabbed my attention.

You see, it’s an interview with David Marquet, a Navy submarine captain who, in just one year, turned the worst performing submarine in the Navy into the best. What’s more, his approach to intentional, Leader-Leader based management has created a sea change (no pun intended) in the way those under his command have performed.

Marquet describes the difference between a traditional Leader-Follower style of management, and his Leader-Leader approach. In the process he also dismantles “empowerment” programs, which are generally taught in the Leader-Follower model, where empowerment is bestowed upon someone, which reinforces that it is granted from above and in a traditional, hierarchical power structure. Keep in mind that this is coming from a Navy submarine captain, one of the most hierarchical cultures around.

He also identifies the challenges of instituting this form of thought (which is more accurate than keeping it within the context of organizational leadership). Being able to identify and address issues of competence and clarity were the biggest challenges for him – making sure that his crew knew the technical and tactical aspects of their jobs (competence), as well as that he and his senior leadership team were clear about their mission(s) and objectives (clarity). Marquet asserts that those can be achieved through training and hard work.

What was inspiring was also that he sees this as a process that works throughout all of life, and I’m exploring all of the ways that that is true, from helping my kids learn, to setting a course for how our family lives, serves and targets the most important things in our lives.

Take some time to check out this video, and examine this approach to thought, leadership and life.

David Marquet & Steven Covey aboard the USS Santa Fe
David Marquet & Steven Covey aboard the USS Santa Fe

Corporate Brands via a 5-year old; Tuesday Music Thing

Via the fine people at Laughing Squid, I was directed to this video of graphic designer Adam Ladd, who has a good deal of brand and logo experience, showing a series of corporate brand logos to his 5-year old daughter, and getting her responses to each image. I particularly like the series where she thinks that 3 successive logos are all the same animal. Looks like bus companies, luxury car-makers and trendy Euro shoe makers have some differentiation to make with the under-7 crowd!

Still, it’s fascinating to hear the impressions of these images and what they represent. I think I’m going to leave the sound off and try this with my kids.

MUSIC! There’s some great new music these days, and I’ll do quick mentions of a few options:

LeonardCohenOldIdeas
LeonardCohenOldIdeas

Leonard Cohen –Old Ideas Amazing that in the latter part of his 70s, Leonard Cohen delivers such a vital and timeless record, Old Ideas. It just came out today, after a week of streaming at NPR to get ready for it. Amazing stuff, and his lyrical sharpness is as good as ever. Songs like “Amen”, “Show Me The Place” and “Come Healing” have each stopped me in my tracks today. Don’t let this one pass you by.

MarketaIrglova
MarketaIrglova

Marketa Irglova – Live From San Francisco Marketa Iglova is one half of The Swell Season, the band she has with Frames leader and former Once co-star and romantic partner Glen Hansard. This free live album showcases her solo work, and is as beautiful and affecting as you’d hope it to be. And as it seems that The Swell Season is on hold, both Hansard and Irglova are out on tour, so take some time to check out their live and in-person musical goodness.

Alathea - two better people would be hard to find
Alathea - two better people would be hard to find

Alathea – Free NoiseTrade SamplerThe two women in the band Alathea are among our favorite people in the entire world. We’ve had a chance to work with them, see their music and stage-craft grow, and generally be even more wonderful as people than they already were when we met over a decade ago. Their Americana roots music is a thing of beauty, and having seen the cabin in the foothills of the Appalachian mountains where they write their music and are inspired, it’s easy to say that this is a musical reflection of that. If you’re into Indigo Girls, Brandi Carlile, Emmylou Harris or Rosanne Cash, this is the record for you.

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Skillet Spaghetti & Volvos: stories of customer service

mmm...skillet spaghetti... When you hear about customer service it often goes to places like Zappos or Southwest Airlines (links are not to either company’s site), where large companies put trust in their employees and encourage them to create great experiences for customers. My friends Marko and Adam have had experience with each, and detail them in their blogs (linked to above). But how does this translate on a small business level? Well, here are two places that I’ve recently visited that take the time, in their own way, to take care of their customers and encourage loyalty and trust.

Clarence’s Drive-In is in the small town of Unicoi, TN. Unicoi sits in the Cherokee National Forrest along the Appalachian Trail. It’s the kind of place where a street named Jake Hopson Rd likely contains the home of Jake Hopson, because he’s the only one on the road. Same goes for Ricky Buchanan Lane. Clarence’s is a small diner that does amazing but unfussy things with biscuits and gravy, country ham, and my wife’s favorite, fried green tomatoes. And apparently anyone visiting there should be on the lookout for their skillet spaghetti, because the note at the register posts a reminder for the staff of Clarence’s to call one Clara Hawkins whenever it’s made. I’m sure that Ms. Hawkins is a fan of Clarence’s based on their standard menu (otherwise I’d question her palette), but she’s obviously a big fan of the skillet spaghetti, and everyone who comes to Clarence’s knows it too. This is more than just quaint, small-town Americana, it’s a community business that’s looking out for its customers and treating them well. It wouldn’t surprise me one bit if Clara Hawkins’ phone rings off the hook anytime that dish is on the menu.

Thanks! now go see a movie.

Closer to home is AutoTech, a auto repair shop in the San Diego suburb of El Cajon, CA. AutoTech was recommended to me as THE place to take a Volvo for repair and maintenance. In fact, it was someone at another foreign car shop, Dennis Sherman Automotive, that told me that this was the place to go. So not only do I feel good when one mechanic tells me to go to another, specific mechanic because they’ll do better, but I now have positive feelings for the original mechanic as a truth-teller.

Anyway, I went to AutoTech and had a great experience, Thorough, straight-forward explanations of the issues, with a list of other things that will eventually need to be fixed, with recommendations of when I should actually address them, because they’re fine for the time being. They left money on the table, and trusted that I’d be back because of that kind of straight talk. They were right. In fact, the week after I was there, they emailed me a coupon for $50 that was good for me as a new customer, as well as being good for other first-time customers.

So a year later when my friend Marko acquired a Volvo and needed something checked out on it, he called and asked where I took mine. I told him, forwarded the coupon, which had no expiration, and thought nothing of it. A couple of weeks later I came home to find a letter from AutoTech, which is not unusual, as they send them quarterly. But this one was different. Inside was a personalized letter thanking me for recommending them to my friend Marko, and explaining how much they appreciate my trust in them to recommend them to a friend. Also included were vouchers for two movie tickets, and the note mentioned that they hoped that I’d have a fun night out at the movies on them.

Both of these are low-tech, high touch, and make a huge impression. At Clarence’s I HAD to take a picture of the note, though I’ve edited out Clara’s phone #. I’m due a check up for my car pretty soon, and I’m probably more apt to go in sooner than later and thank them for the thoughtful note. These are lessons worth taking to heart. I’m not always great at this (in fact I often fall short), but these are reminders of what a simple note can do. Now if I can just find some good skillet spaghetti in San Diego…

Social Media Users Have More & Better Friendships

BetterFriends How’s that for a sensational headline? The nice part is that we have data to back it up. The good people at the Pew Research Center have delivered a giant lump of coal to the curmudgeonly masses who deride those of us who utilize and enjoy social media, positing that we do nothing but sit at home in pajamas and have inauthentic relationships with people online. It turns out that we are not the cyber-mole people that they would like to think. In fact, Pew’s research shows that our time online not only translates to more offline (ie – in-person) relationships, but that the enmeshment of our online and offline lives may well lead to not just more connections, but closer ones that benefit our lives.

As researcher Nathan Jurgenson points out on his Cyborgology blog, Pew asserts that, “controlling for other factors, we found that someone who uses Facebook several times per day averages 9% more close, core ties in their overall social network compared with other internet users.” Jurgenson calls this disconnect between perception and reality “digital dualism”, and argues, in the pieces I’ve read, that there is a more seamless relationship between our digital and physical worlds.

I’ve had several clients ask how social media can engage people not just online, but in taking action in “the real world.” I begin by suggesting that their definition of “real” may need review, and that when something holds value or meaning or offers a benefit to a person, or to their peers, they are often as likely to take action in physical space as well as digital space. Telling stories and delivering messages digitally can have a seamless transition to physical space if an authentic connection and benefit are attached. What’s more, as we can see from the Pew data, is that those who are actively engaged in social media may well hold more authoritative places in sharing messages, because they have developed a greater number of close, core relationships.

It is, of course, essential that we respect peoples’ relationships if we are to earn any trust from those with whom we wish to communicate. More on that in an upcoming post about how people just love being lied to. In the meantime, check out the Pew info, and spend some time with Cyborgology.

 

 

Tuesday Music Thing: Real Estate, Leigh Nash and Why Derek Webb Prefers Piracy to iTunes or Spotify

Please read the Derek Webb stuff below, or at least click through to his tumblr post from today that is linked. It’s good stuff beyond music. That said…

Real Estate - Days

Some great music is out there these days. Thanks to my friend Andy Peterson I’ve picked up the latest from Real Estate, their new album Days. It’s wonderful indie pop stuff, with traces (to me) of The Feelies or even Mojave 3. The guitar lines are crisp and clear, with just enough haziness to create some interesting moods. They are certainly a new buzz band, with the likes of Pitchfork, Stereogum and others singing their praises, deservedly so. There’s a wistfulness to the lyrics that fits the season well. And while many lyrics are extremely specific, “All those wasted miles/All those aimless drives/Through green aisles/Our careless lifestyle/It was not so unwise/No” (“Green Aisles”), they leave space for one’s own memories to populate the feeling beyond the specifics. I’m still getting deeper into the record but it’s been powering the post-Thanksgiving work week thus far.

Leigh Nash - Hymns And Sacred Songs

Switching gears is the latest from Sixpence None The Richer’s singer, Leigh Nash, Hymns & Sacred Songs. I am biased, having worked with Leigh and counted her as a friend, but this new record is a beautiful, sparse collection of hymns and spiritual songs that is perfect for an early morning dose of contemplation. And while it’s not a holiday record (Sixpence has their own wonderful collection of those songs), it does work well with a time of the year when the sun goes down early and there’s desire to build a fire and enjoy a beverage next to it. Songs like “Come Thou Fount Of Every Blessing” and “Come, Ye Thankful People, Come”, offer beautiful new settings for songs that are somehow familiar even if you’ve never heard them. The track “Isaiah 55″ made USA Today music critic Brian Mansfield’s eclectic recommended playlist this week, and is a standout track on the album. Oh, and Leigh can sing just about anything and make it sound beautiful and inviting.

Finally, I love this post from singer-songwriter-gadfly-entrepreneur Derek Webb:

Derek Webb: prefers piracy to Spotify

He teased me into reading it with the headline, “here’s why i prefer piracy to spotify”. He then outlines some of his own relationship to the changes in the music industry and how it has affected him and led him to co-found the wonderful music sharing site NoiseTrade, about which I post regularly. Derek’s emphasis is that while things like iTunes and Spotify are indeed great for music customers, they don’t necessarily serve musicians all that well, as they keep all of the information from sales. For a self-described “blue-collar musician”, Webb posits that he has found far more value in having an active relationship with his fans, and a means to reach them to stay in contact. In fact, a recent Tweet of his read, ” I make more money giving records away on @NoiseTrade (in exchange for info) than selling those same records on iTunes (let alone Spotify).”

Webb is more interested in getting to know you and know how to reach you via email, social media or other channels over which he has control, than to see Apple or Spotify or Amazon or Pandora or other services be the intermediary; he’d like to connect directly. Those services can be great for discovery, but they don’t help musicians and their supporters to stay in touch. Musicians can use that sort of information to plan tours, to float ideas for merchandise, to build networks of friends around the country and support themselves as musicians. In many ways, it’s a manifesto to eschew the seemingly sexy road of the ubiquitous media brands for a well-worn and widening path of knowing just where your supporters are and how they are receiving your work.

To many people this is a “no-duh” road. So many businesses invest great sums to know and relate to their customers. Southwest Airlines famously hasn’t joined services like Expedia because they want the relationship with the customer themselves. Morton’s The Steakhouse has a tremendous customer relationship system that allows them to give world-class service to their customers, and Ikea has created it’s own customer ecosystem. In contrast, many businesses leave that valuable information to retail conglomerates. Publishers don’t know how to reach their customers when they drive people to Amazon or Barnes & Noble. By relying on an intermediary we lose the ability to learn about and from our supporters.

I’ve had this conversation many times, and it really comes down to what your goals are and what you’re willing to give up to achieve those goals. Do you want to be seen by everyone (or think that you’re being seen by everyone) in exchange for making less and knowing almost nothing about those who see you? Or, would you rather build a core community that you can reach, converse with, enlist to help, and then start to work outward in concentric circles? It’s not as if Derek Webb’s music isn’t on iTunes or at Amazon or Spotify, or available in the few retail stores that still sell music. It’s that Derek knows who his core audience is and how to enlist them to tell others. He knows who buys t-shirts, who buys CDs or vinyl, and who just wants files. What’s more, he can meet them when he plays shows. That kind of base is arguably less sexy, but it’s going to allow him to make a living as an artist for far longer than those who want the mythical hit single to carry them along.

He knows what he wants to accomplish, and stays focused on what works, not merely on what’s shiny and new and ultimately empty.