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A brand, a business and a career. From a nametag.

Sunday, September 30, 2012

Meet Them Where They Are, Then Move Them Where You Want Them to Go

Customers aren’t going to take the time to tell you what they like.

At least, not directly.

The problem with focus groups, feedback forms, customer satisfaction surveys, digital suggestion boxes and online questionnaires – besides the fact that they’re tedious and inane and most people only participate out of guilt or bribery – is that the data isn’t organic.

People tend to act better when they know they’re being watched, so when answering questions about their experience, most will just give you fives across the board, take their free cookie and get on with their lives.

But if the goal is to deliver more personalized service, you have to reverse the interaction.

Instead of artificially squeezing customers into your marketing plan, you have to join them first, participate in their world and celebrate how you fit into their lives.

Not the other way around.

You meet them where they are, then move them where we want to go.

Pinterest is the ultimate example. Through the process of social sharing, sensational imagery, joyful discovery and indulgence curation, aka, pinning stuff they like, customers are telling companies everything they need to know.

And that’s the greatest advantage of social media. The ability to listen to your customers in their natural habitat.

Pinterest might be housewife porn, but it’s also the wish list of the web. And it’s certainly cheaper and more effective than asking customers to fill out some stupid online survey for the chance to win a free cruise.

Saturday, September 29, 2012

Measuring The Price of Freedom

If you read enough headlines, and it seems like every idiot with a hoodie and a half an idea is getting a million dollars to try it.

But the reality is, less than one percent of entrepreneurs secure funding. Most of them are scrappy as hell, building projects around not waiting for the miracle, spending time, not dimes, working their faces off until their idea gains traction.

Which is certainly a lot more work.

Then again, if you don’t take anybody’s money, nobody can tell you what to do.

Perhaps the price of freedom is measured in sweat.

Friday, September 28, 2012

Are You Making War on the Competition or Making Love to the Customer?

Anyone can make customers happy.

But if you really want to be a hero, if you want to wow people’s pants off and get their mouths moving about your brand, you need a way to make the people who aren’t your customers wish they were.

Here’s one that pays.

Every day, people complain. Publicly. They tweet, blog, review or digitally kvetch about crappy service, disrespectful treatment, failed technology, lack of support, poor product quality, underwhelming shopping experiences and outrageous prices.

And nobody listens to them. Their complaints disappear into the digital ether.

This is the best thing that ever happened to you. Especially if these people are complaining about one of your competitors.

First, actively seek out negativity. In less than ten seconds, you can have your finger on the pulse of millions of frustrated customers. Social media isn’t a sales tool, it’s a hearing aid. And most search functions will tell you everything you need to know.

Second, do some light stalking. Get to know these people. Find out who they are, what they love and where they hang. Follow them. Search for kernels that give insight into their whole world.

Third, respond to people’s emotions. Complainers just want to feel validated. Before launching into a solution, honor their humanity. Be fundamentally affirmative. Show some lighthearted personality to help the cause.

Fourth, apologize on behalf of your competitor. Tell customers they deserve better. Tell them that’s no way to be treated. And tell them they’re not in competition for the right to be treated decently.

Fifth, make it tangible. Take a picture. Send a card. Publish a video. Mail a delight item. Nothing fancy, nothing contrived. Just something that takes effort and care. Something completely unexpected that they’ll never forget.

The point is, you can still make things right, even though you weren’t the one who made it wrong.

You’re not making war with the competitor, you’re making love to the customer.

Thursday, September 27, 2012

Evolve into Something Bigger, Better and Different

Not every startup dies.

Many come back reincarnated as something else.

Flickr started out as as a multiplayer online game, but evolved into a photo management and sharing application. Amazon started out as a bookseller, but evolved into the planet’s biggest and best ecommerce retailer. MySpace started out as a social network, but evolved into an entertainment destination for performers. Nintendo started out as a playing card company, but evolved into the world’s largest video gaming company. And Twitter started out as way to make announcements, but evolved into a news and content sharing platform.

Just when we think we’re going to die, we evolve into something different, something bigger and something better than we ever could have imagined.

Wednesday, September 26, 2012

A Modern Approach to New Client Acquisition

A few weeks ago, my friend AJ Lawrence of The Jar Group said something that got my brain working.

"Instead of making a cold call to customers, we make a warm zone around them."

He's right. We desperately need a modern approach to new client acquisition. 

It’s about courting. Instead of trying to make a sale to someone, earn the right to start a relationship with someone.

It’s about anticipation. Instead of hanging your fortunes solely on chance, make friends before you make requests so you’re not speaking from a deficit position.

It’s about research. Instead of pretending to know everything, you study the ecosystem around their business and discover insight worth sharing.

It’s about permission. Instead of darkening customer doorsteps, work creatively and respectfully to earn the privilege of following up.

It’s about respecting. Instead of sending prospects an article of interest, publish content that turns their brand into the article of interest itself.

It’s about generosity. Instead of being selfish with knowledge, obtain information of high value and help at a high level first.

It’s about positioning. Instead of showing up as a service provider, come in as a strategist so you’re treated as an equal partner.

It’s about understanding. Instead of artificially squeezing your product into their overcrowded lives, help people become better at what’s important to them.

It’s about relaxing. Instead of being the hero who swoops in to solve the customer’s problem, be the friend who stands as a fixture in the customer’s life.  

It’s about prioritizing. Instead of trying to close everyone everywhere, place value on building the relationship over making the sale.

Sure beats cold calls, direct mail and print ads.

Tuesday, September 25, 2012

How Does Your Product Help People Meet Each Other?

Access to information is free, but access to each other is priceless.

In a connection economy, if companies want to win loyalty beyond reason, they ought to create apps that help people meet each other, not just make them a less bored on the subway. They ought to create products that help people become better at something they care about, not just help them bookmark something cool.

Humans are creatures who want to count. They are driven by the desire to create, connect and contribute. If organizations want to remain relevant and profitable, the secret is simple.

First, create a place, either online, offline or both, where humans get to talk with one another, in our their voices, about what matters to them. Second, market around people’s interests, not just around what they buy. And third, try actually caring about those people, all the time.

See what happens.

Monday, September 24, 2012

Sitting Around Waiting for the Miracle

You can’t be a bystander in your career.

Position yourself intelligently. Instead of showing up as a service provider, come in as a strategist so you’re treated as an equal partner, not a day laborer.

Beat them to the punch. Instead of asking people what they want, show them you’re already doing what they need more of.

Frame the context. Instead of selling an idea, sell people on the unique approach and philosophy behind the idea.

Stuff your sleeves with aces. Instead of talking, go do something, and then you’ll have something to do the talking for you when you arrive.

Sure beats sitting around waiting for the miracle.

Sunday, September 23, 2012

The Time of Trial is Always

The amplification of effort has never been greater.

The time of trial is always. Everything matters, everybody’s watching and everything’s a performance. And when we care, I mean really, really care, and do so with daily consistency, we will see greater residual value than ever before.

A single tweet sent out in a moment of caring can erase the memory of every bad review every written. A single response to an underappreciated user can earn hundreds of loyal fans in an instant. And a single interaction with an angry customer can turn a moment of empathy into a movement of millions.

Understand this wave, and you can ride it.

Saturday, September 22, 2012

Put Your Customers At The Center

Your job isn’t to be an entertainer, it’s to be an enabler.

Instead of forcing consumers to consume your content, why not provide more power outlets and invite them to bring their own content?

In so doing, you preserve customer control by creating tools that put them in the driver’s seat rather than in the back of the bus. In so doing, you stand out because the user experience of your brand is completely customized, enjoyable and memorable. In so doing, your customers find a place to hang their individuality at the center of their own digital lives.

That’s what I would do.

Friday, September 21, 2012

The Artist Coefficient

The problem with Radiohead’s model is, it only works if you’re Radiohead.

Without the coefficients of skill, smarts, fame, fans, time, money, history, resources, labor, luck, leverage and platform, their distribution equation doesn’t yield much for us lay folk.

Most artists are, for the most part, winking in the dark. Even if we do offer our work for free, that doesn’t guarantee a spike in sales, an avalanche of new fans or a flood of social media buzz.

As an artist, I’ve experimented with dozens of models over the years, with varying level of success. Sometimes it went like gangbusters. Sometimes it failed miserably. And sometimes it was marginally effective.

But I kept slogging, I stayed positive and I remained kind to myself when I fell short.

Thursday, September 20, 2012

Another Day in the Office

In temperate rain forests, mosses, lichen and ferns cover most of the ground.

This creates a highly dense forest floor, which makes it hard for seedlings to grow.

Until a tree falls. Then everything changes.

Known as nursery logs, these trees allow seedlings to germinate on their fallen, decaying trunks. They provide the foundation for the next generation. Thanks to their death, young plants can grow by sending their roots down the log to the ground.

To me, this is beautiful. It’s a biological example that everything is connected, everything has a role, everything has a balance, everything has a reason, everything has a season and everything has a story.

To nature, it’s just another day in the office.

Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Customers Already Sold Themselves

The biggest change in retail isn’t online shopping, it’s how online shopping has recalibrated the offline experience.

When your customers walk in the door, they have papers in their hands, pictures on their phones and prices in their minds.

They’ve already sold themselves. You're just the concierge.

When that’s the case, the interaction changes.

Instead of selling, your job is to serve. To move heaven and earth to please the customer, regardless of how peculiar their request is.

Instead of asking, your job is to anticipate. To suggest unexpected ideas they may not have discovered in their initial research.

Instead of encouraging, your job is to empathize. To deliver piece of mind that confirms the decision they’ve already made.

Otherwise, customers will happily and hastily move on to the next guy.

Tuesday, September 18, 2012

How to Run a Social Audit for Your Product

Access to information is free, but access to each other is priceless.

Whatever you make, whatever you sell, be sure to emphasize its social function.

Below is a comprehensive list of critical questions to ask yourself, your team and your organization. Each question is worthy of its own discussion, so I encourage you to use them individually as conversation starters, icebreakers and thought experiments for your team.

Think of it as a social audit for your product.

How does it help people meet each other? How does it connect the disconnected? How does it make people feel less alone in their misery? How does it create a platform for sharing emotions? How does it deliver meaningful interactions in addition to helpful information? How does it create a community where users can support each other?

How does it turn people into leaders, curators and impresarios? How does it help people build an online legacy that increases in value daily? How does it allow people to publish their evaluations and recommendations? How does it let people share moments with each other so they can experience things together?

How does it deliver a healthy dose of gamification? How does it give people bragging rights and increased status? How does it create more breathing the same air experiences for people? How does it foster collaborative learning and shared knowledge? How does it give people an excuse to get the hell out of the house for a few hours?

How does it make it easy for friends to stalk each other? How does it curate situations that bring discovery of cool new things? How does it make it easy for people to complain and say thank you? How does it reward people who are good at introducing art to others? How does it make it seamless for people to express themselves?

That’s your social audit.

Now your company can do more than just sell products.

Monday, September 17, 2012

What Happens When You Spot Growth Early

Amazon is the most profitable online retailer in the world.

Considering its massive catalog, absence of inventory, elegant user interface, speedy customer service, enticing product previews, free shipping, efficient logistics, recommendation algorithms, low prices, ongoing discounts, helpful reviews and simple return policy, it’s no surprise they’re the best.

But what most people don’t know about Amazon is the is context in which it was created.

Twenty years ago, Jeff Bezos discovered a statistic that changed everything.

He learned that the Internet was growing at over two thousand percent a year.

Two thousand percent. Nothing grows that fast. Not even bacteria.

But he recognized a good thing growing when he saw it. He built a business that made sense in the context of that growth. And he made a fortune off a phenomenon that nobody else noticed.

Not to mention, Amazon completely transformed the way humans bought things.

That what happens when you spot growth early.

The river of dividends runs deep.

Sunday, September 16, 2012

Humans Are Social Creatures Who Were Born to be Liked

Like buttons are nothing new.

Long before social media governed our relationships, long before the web changed our economy and long before digital technology shifted our culture, we all had like buttons.

They may not have been visible. Or clickable. Or even called like buttons.

But we all had them. Still do. In our nature is a built-in need for approval from others.

It doesn’t come from a well of insecurity. It doesn’t stem from a sense of unworthiness. It doesn’t grow from a lack of positive affirmation.

Humans are social creatures who were born to be liked.

And no matter how independent, confident and popular we think we are, no matter how often we remind the world that we’re not operating out of a need for their approval, it’s time we finally stop bullshitting ourselves and just admit it:

We want to be liked, by everybody, all the time.

And there’s absolutely nothing wrong with that.

As long as we don’t violate our own constitution. As long as we don’t let it become our controlling motivation. As long as we don’t change who we are for every person who doesn’t like us. As long as we don’t allow our need for approval to bring us to the brink of a nervous breakdown.

Let’s wear our like buttons for the all the world to press.

Besides, if we don’t need people's approval, why do we need to keep reminding them of that?

Saturday, September 15, 2012

The Core of Intention is Creation

On the neverending list of things to do, at the top will always be “more.”

Creating more real work, executing more actual product and shipping more lasting value, in the unique way that only we can deliver.

As my friend Chris says, we have to get our units up. Our work, our art, has to be living in as many different venues as possible, both online and offline, for as long as possible.

It’s a numbers game. It’s probability. If we want to be in the right place at the right time, we need to be in a lot of places.

And at the core of that intention is creation. Everything else is a close second. Even sales or networking, both of which are fighting for the top spot, they fall to the wayside when it comes to creation.

That’s our primary task. We don’t have to do it all day, but we do have to do it everyday.

Friday, September 14, 2012

The Beauty of Burnout

We should never feel bad about burning out.

It’s part of the life experience.

None of us is invulnerable to the emotional exhaustion that comes with the territory of being an entrepreneur. Or an artist. Or a leader. Or a parent. Or a whatever.

Burnout affects everybody, everywhere.

It’s human, it’s healthy, it’s helpful, and best of all, it’s humbling. It’s a reminder that, despite our best efforts, life is a carousel of sugar and shit, not a yellow brick road to happily ever after.

So where we triumph is when we stop trying to run from burnout – or, worse yet, trying to conquer it – and instead, try to recognize it, respect it and reinvest it.

If that means admitting that what once turned our gears feels a bit rusty, so be it.
If that means articulating that business isn’t going like gangbusters, so be it.
If that means accepting that surf’s up on the waves of anxiety, so be it.

Because no matter how strong, how successful, how creative, how driven, how committed and how supportive we may feel, we can’t outsmart getting tired.

All we can do is stop, breathe, replace guilt with gratefulness, overwhelm fear with faith, smother cynicism with trust, and surround ourselves with people who make us laugh until we pee.

Besides, being burned out is a lot better than having no fire in the fist place.

Thursday, September 13, 2012

How Sold Are You On Your Own Brand?

The first sale is the one I make to myself.

Before I make the call, meet the client, give the pitch, show my wares and ask for the order, my chief weapon is the convincing of myself. The internal monologue that inspires me, down to my bones, to believe in who I am and the value I deliver.

And it’s not just the first sale, it’s also the hardest and the most important one. But we can close that sale consistently if we keeping asking ourselves one question:

How sold am I on my own brand?

If we don’t think what we’re selling is the greatest thing that ever was, we’re finished. If we don’t think our work matters in a massive way, we’re toast. And if we don’t think our ideas are going to change people’s lives forever, we’re done.

I met a guy last week who had just changed sales jobs. When I asked what prompted the move, he said it’s because he no longer believed in the company he worked for. They weren’t bad people or anything, he just outgrew their mission and was ready to move on. And he didn’t want to stay any longer because it wouldn’t have been fair to the organization. 

So he got a new gig working for himself, a brand that Mark had no trouble believing in. And when I asked how the new job was going, it’s no surprise that his sales numbers were through the roof.

Because he was sold on his own brand. And he kept making that sale, every day.

Sell and resell yourself on you, and the customer will buy and rebuy from you.

Wednesday, September 12, 2012

Consistency is the Best Marketing

When we tell our story the same way, all the time, everywhere, people don’t just buy from us once, they join with us forever. 

Stay at any Ritz Carlton around the globe, and the employees offer the same warm welcome, deliver the same anticipatory service and embody the same attitude. 

Take a class at any Bikram studio around the world, and the instructors will use the same language, teach the same postures and practice the same philosophy. 

Fly Virgin Air to any city around the world, and the flight crew will have the same casual demeanor, the same friendly nuance and the same attractive design. 

Same, same, same

It’s the four letter word people expect from us in the future.

Monday, September 10, 2012

Scott Ginsberg's 2012 Inhale List

    Unlike a certain former president, I do inhale.

    Nothing drug related. 
   It's just part of my job.
   Here's a list of my favorites from this year so far.

1.     The Challenger Sale. If you help customers think differently and bring them new idea, then you earn the right to a relationship.

2.     Art+ Copy. It’s not a truth about the product, it’s about being part of the community that the product is a badge for.

3.     Charlie Kaufman's Speech. We try to be experts because we’re scared and don’t want to feel foolish or look stupid. We want power because power is a great disguise

4.     The Cluetrain Manifesto. We have better things to do than worry about whether you’ll change in time to get our business.

5.     Digital Vertigo. Our entire bodies and histories are being opened up and colonized and stored by the very people who want to sell us things.

6.     Helvetica. Most design is a dull blanket of sameness that says do not read me because I will bore the shit out of you.

7.     The Intention Economy. Advertising is something people tolerate at best and loathe at worst. Improving a pain in the ass does not make it a kiss.

8.     To Inform and Delight. The role of art is to give people the gift of common ground so they don’t kill each other.

9.     The Nerdist Way. You certainly can’t control everything, but you can at least put a structure in place that tips the odds heavily in your favor.

10.  Page One. If you write about the media long enough, eventually you’ll type your way to your own doorstep.

11.  Objectified. Design something that gets better with use, something that’s plugged into natural human behavior.

12.  One Click. We’re supposed to care deeply about customers, provided we can care deeply about them at an incredible rate of speed.

13.  Press Pause Play. When everything is left to the audience, you’re undermining the seriousness of the artistic endeavor.

14.  The Startup of You. Place yourself in a market niche where your existing assets shine brighter than the competition.

15.  Gary Vee’s Speech. You don’t love your customer, you love your data. You have millions of eyeballs that don’t give a shit.
16.  Steve Jobs: The Lost Interview. The way we’re going to ratchet up our species is to take the best and spread it around to everybody so everybody grows up with better things

17.  Smart Customers, Stupid Companies. Each touch point either brings customers closer to you, or helps to push them out the door.

18.  Turning Pro. Something that's boring goes nowhere. It travels in a circle. It never arrives at its destination.

19.  Users,Not Customers. Today’s business environment demands a frictionless interaction between company and customers.

Thanks to all the geniuses who exhaled to make this happen!

What Nobody Tells Us About Success

I got too successful, too fast, too early.

And because I lacked the mental, physical, spiritual and emotional foundation to support my new found success, a lot of my life suffered.

On the business side, media attention wasn’t leveraged, partnership opportunities weren’t developed, web traffic wasn’t converted and product sales weren’t generated.

No wonder my company didn’t make any money for three years.
No wonder the ratio of effort to reward was so low.

On the personal side, family relationships weren’t nurtured, personal health wasn’t monitored, social involvement wasn’t prioritized and romantic interests were a joke.

No wonder I ended up in the hospital for a week with a collapsed lung.
No wonder I experienced multiple anxiety attacks when I found myself alone.

That’s what nobody tells us about success. In its pursuit, we don’t just drive ourselves crazy, but we also drive away the people we love the most.

Because odds are, it’s probably not worth it.

Sunday, September 09, 2012

Crap, Now I Have to Sell This Thing

I’ll never forget smelling the first copy of my first book.

Greatest moment of all time. Especially for a guy who wanted nothing more than to be an author his whole life, when I opened that cardboard case and literally touched a copy of my dream, pride an accomplishment washed over me like a spring rain.

Immediately following that, I had a realization: Crap. Now I have to sell this thing.

And that’s the moment nobody prepares us for. When passion collides with practicality and completion becomes a bittersweet experience.

Because although we overcame the hurdle of starting, took action in spite of our own ignorance, overcame creative resistance, followed through with all of our might and executed our vision, all that means is, now the real work starts.

Now we actually have to do something with what we’ve created.

Here we go.

Saturday, September 08, 2012

Never Underestimate the Profitability of Can't

Most headphone companies tout their ridiculous bass quality, masterful sonic performance, superb tonal balance and revolutionary planar magnetic orthodynamic reference capacity. 

Whatever the hell that means.

Meanwhile, Bose is the only headphone company whose value proposition is based on what you can’t hear. And every year, they're always the best selling in their category.

Never underestimate the profitability of can’t.

Friday, September 07, 2012

No Such Thing As A Right Decision

Sometimes what starts as a dream finishes as a nightmare.

We take a job, buy a house, start a relationship or make an investment because it seems like a smart decision at the time. Based on the truth as we know it, we do what we think is best for us.

Until five years go by. The world changes, our world changes, and something we once pursued so passionately now feels like a monkey on our back.

So we curse and kick and berate ourselves for being so naive. What the hell were we thinking? How could we have been so incredibly blind?

And that’s when we have to learn to pause. To stop being so hard on ourselves and recognize that there’s no such thing as a wrong decision. In fact, there’s no such thing as a right decision either. Stupid, yes. Wrong or right, no.

It’s just a decision. We make millions of them in our lifetime. And all of them matter. 

They’re not wrong. They’re not right. They just are.

Every endeavor – dream, nightmare or otherwise – is a crucial part of the life experience. Just because something ends badly doesn’t mean we never should have started in the first place.

Nothing is ever wasted.

Even if it makes us bleed, it still makes us who we are.

Thursday, September 06, 2012

Blast Away the Barriers of Readiness

Ideas were never meant to stay that way.

Success isn’t about the seed, it’s about the tree it grows into, the forest it becomes a part of, the landscape it belongs to to and the new life that flourishes within in. Success is what the idea looks like when the world is done having its way with it.

But if the idea isn’t executed, we never had it.

Regardless of size, quality, passion, practicality, coolness or marketability, until we physically ship the idea out the door, it doesn’t exist. Until we blast away the barriers of readiness, fear, permission and procrastination, it doesn’t matter.

That’s why finished is the new perfect. Why version done is better than version none.

Without that brand of execution, ideas really will stay that way.