This last week I flew to Boston to attend my first marketing conference, HYPERGROWTH. Needless to say, it was outstanding. Seriously, the speakers and people I met were far better than even expected.
Below I listed my real notes from each session as well as some thoughts on what I learned from each session.
If you’re looking for something a little more light weight and concise, my friend KP wrote a great recap on Hypergrowth as well with 25 golden nuggets from the day.
13 things mentally strong people don’t do
- 1. Waste time feeling sorry about yourself
- 2. Dwell in the past
- 3. Make the same mistakes over and over again
- 4. Give up after the first failure
- 5. Fear alone time
- 6. Give away their power
- 7. Waste energy on things they can’t control
- 8. Worry about pleasing everyone
- 9. Resent others’ success
- 10. Shy away from change
- 11. Fear taking calculating risks
- 12. Feel like the world owes you something
- 13. Expect immediate results
- You have to believe you have the power to change your world
What I Walked Away With
Amy told the story of how losing her husband, her mother, and her father-in-law in a short period of time taught her valuable lessons about life and mental health. What I love about her talk is that it could have easily been repositioned as “13 things mentally strong people do” but that would just generate a bunch of bland, cliche statements like “Live in the moment,” “Learn from failure,” or “Embrace change.”
She concluded with the statement that you have to believe you have the power to change your world. While this seems simple enough, do you practice that?
Framework for defining your brand
- Apple vs Dell, Marvel vs DC, Chik Fil A
- Companies can no longer differentiate on features. In a world of infinite supply, brand is the only true marketing advantage
- Your brand is what other people say about you when you’re not in the room
- But how do you do it?
- Guru-itis... Tony Robbins
- The opposite is also bad... trying to be too cool with an over the top bran
- Companies try to hire celebrities with brand to try to make up for their own lack of brand
For a brand to scale, they must scale past their founder, but faceless brands are boring and inhuman
- The key is that brands must be storytellers
- While humans love a good story, it’s actually characters that we crave
- The stories are all the same, the characters are just different
- A brand is not a logo - it’s not a style guide
- A brand is a fictional character
- But how are characters made?
Character diamond: how characters are created and sculpted
- Primary external character trait: North Star - the superpower, the defining trait, the most obvious differentiator
- Secondary external character trait: Counter Star - the weakness, the flaw, the Achilles heel
- Non negotiable: the hill you’re prepared to die on - a controversial opinion, a mission statement, a tick
- Quirk/mask/flaw: my not so secret sin - what makes you human, the insecurity, the thing you don’t like about them, the sin
Digital marketer is Forrest Gump
Who is your brand’s character?
- Scale with soul
- Stand out
Your customers won’t trust you, until they know who are... worts and all
What I Walked Away With
My biggest takeaway from Ryan was that a brand is more about it’s character than it is about it’s story. “Marketing is about storytelling” has been beaten into my head so many times, and while it’s true, it’s only half the truth. Most stories are largely the same, it’s the characters that are different. And while everyone loves a good story, in the end, it’s the characters that we remember, relate to, and talk about.
- Promo video
What I Walked Away With
Okay, SnackNation actually wasn’t a speaker — they were a sponsor — but MAN that promo video was good! Got me thinking about the story and illustration of Cordial, and how we can better illustrate the story and character of our ideal client.
- Get your message so tuned that A/B tests are irrelevant
- The 10x mindset forces you to think differently, to stop playing it safe, and start doing things that have exponential potential
- Add a human being to your digital
What I Walked Away With
I went back and listened to Seeking Wisdom episode #129 where DG and DC talk about cognitive biases. A cognitive bias is basically where you only want to learn from people you like or know, and you dismiss learning from people you don’t like or don’t know.
Grant Cardone ruffled a lot of feathers. He was gross. He was obnoxious. He was offensive. And while I don’t think the Drift team knew the extent that he would act that way, they knew nonetheless that he would ruffle some feathers.
To their credit, DC did warn that there was going to be speakers (obviously Grant) that we may not necessarily like, but asked us to have an open mind and go into it with an attitude of learning, despite whether we like him or not. Essentially, he asked us to remove our cognitive bias towards Grant.
Buried deep within, behind the showmanship and brash behavior, I believe that there were in fact some valuable lessons from what Grant said.
“Get your message so tuned that A/B tests are irrelevant”
As marketers, we can have a tendency to over test, over theorize, over measure. We’ve over corrected from a purely speculative, brand-heavy marketing practice to a purely scientific, performance-heavy marketing practice.
Sometimes, there’s no need to A/B test. Sometimes, you just need to craft a powerful message the first time.
“The 10x mindset forces you to think differently, to stop playing it safe, and start doing things that have exponential potential”
In a similar vein, why are we A/B testing in the first place? Is it really necessary?
Making small, incremental changes makes sense when you have truly massive amounts of website traffic, conversion points, or products to offer. But that’s not the usual.
Usually, you have a limited number of shots to take, chances to take, bets to wager. The incremental changes you make likely will not get you the exponential results you’re aiming for. Big results require big projects. Big results require big changes.
“Add a human being to your digital”
I remember Grant specifically making derogatory (and silly) remarks about marketers being nerds, sitting behind computers and typing away endlessly in fear of human contact.
It’s actually fascinating given what Drift is doing in the market now — making business more personal. The truth is, yes, marketing can be incredibly impersonal. To a certain degree, marketers have gotten use to looking at personas, looking at a fictitious person, indirectly communicating with a figment of their imagination. The truth is, yes, much of the human element in marketing has been lost.
I agree Grant, we could all use a little more human being in our digital.
I don’t have any notes from her because I was too engaged with the talk but what stood out to me about Aly was her conviction about the authority of her voice. When she spoke, people listened, and she didn’t take it lightly. She thought about every tweet. Every campaign. Every appearance. That’s noble.
Again, I didn’t take notes because I was too engaged. I was too busy studying the amazing storytelling of the Drift team. I know them to be students of Andy Raskin, and it was evident in their keynote.
What struck me the most was the emphasis on NOW. By illustrating advancements in technology with chat, social media, Amazon Go, and many other modern products and services, they painted a clear picture that the world we live in today is the world of now. And the problem was that the way businesses buy from businesses today is in the world of later. Man, that’s powerful.
Take notes fam, that’s how you sell.
Didn’t take notes here because Casey is much more of a storyteller than he is a teacher. I’ve been a huge fan of Casey’s for probably about 2 years now and have watched every video since then.
What’s always struck me about Casey is his ability to tell a story without actually traditionally telling a story. Casey didn’t go up there and talk about everything he’s done, achieved, or been through. He showed three videos to illustrate his points and the crowd loved it.
But what was his talk actually about?
If you weren’t paying close enough attention, you might say something like “Take a chance!” “His life story!” “How to make awesome videos!” But if you were paying close enough attention, you would realize that he was actually telling a story about thinking outside the box.
His whole life is about thinking unconventionally. Unconventional life. Unconventional film making career. Unconventional videos. Unconventional style. Unconventional everything.
When everyone else was doing A, B, and C, he was thinking about Z. Instead of using Nike’s marketing budget to create a super-slick, massively edited, sharp movie, he used it to buy plane tickets and film mediocre footage with very simple edits.
Why was it so successful, then? It was real. It was raw. It was unconventional.
Admittedly, I was meeting Casey Neistat and completely missed George's talk. I did see that it was well received and looks like he's doing great with his brand, Everybody Fights.
Going from CMO to CEO
Go to market expertise
- Don’t run out of money
- Make money
- Create a system to repeat this process
- Get good at not just implementing GTM, but figuring out what the GTM is for that particular business
- INTERNAL MARKETING
- Enable the department
- Get buy in from the right people
- Active listening
- Not just leading by example, but also hiring out other leaders
- Right people in the right places
- If it’s the most important thing, are you spending the right time
- There’s a lot of lip service to hiring
- Get the timing right
Managing outside your expertise
- How do you solve problems in teams you don’t have functional experience or expertise?
- Start figuring out how to take on responsibility in areas you’re not experienced in
- Find a small way you can manage a team that is not your expertise
Accounting and finance
- Accounting: speak the language
- Finance: communicate and be creative in the language
- Buy a few shares of a company in your space, then listen closely and follow everything - annual reports, quarterly reports
- Understand capital structures
Managing a board and investors
- It’s high school all over again
- Get a board seat somewhere else
- Think like a CEO in your current job
- Take a job outside marketing
- Follow Wall Street
- Read the hard thing about hard things
What I Walked Away With
It was most striking to me when he said to think like a CEO in your current job. While I’ve heard this before and there’s probably a thousand quotes on social media of this, Mike gave it new meaning for me. How often do I think about the budget? How involved am I in the finance of the marketing? How invested am I in finding the right people? How well am I marketing internally?
9 things I wish someone had told me about growing and scaling
Building and scaling companies is really effing hard
- Scaling often means giving away part or all of your job
- Percentage growth correlates with the amount of chaos
Your first reaction is usually wrong
- Don’t react.
- Give it two weeks
- It’s going to be okay, focus on the long term, and give away your legos
Your only job is to learn and grow as fast as you can
- What you know today matters less than what you can learn tomorrow
- The only constant is change. The only thing you know to be true is that things absolutely will change
You can learn anything if you’re willing to sound like a complete moron
“Sorry if this is a stupid question...”
- Be skeptical of words with more than one syllable
- Self awareness is invaluable
- Figure out what you LOVE
- Figure out what you’re the best at
- Figure out what you hate or are terrible at
The imposter syndrome is real. Don’t let it eat you alive
- This gets worse the more senior you get
- It’s worse for women
- Go back to work
- Practice empathy
Collect people who can teach you and ones who keep you sane
- Be helpful
- You never know who someone will become
- Don’t be a jerk
- There is no such thing as networking, there’s only staying in touch with the people you love working with
This is the opportunity of a life time
- Most of the time it feels and looks like chaos, but that doesn’t mean you’re failing
- Work piece by piece
- Be patient
What I Walked Away With
My main takeaway was to implement real humility in my job. The humility to give away your job because you’re not insecure about your responsibilities. The humility to fight reaction and respond rationally. The humility to push yourself to grow faster than the company, and to recognize when you’re not. The humility to ask stupid questions. The humility to recognize imposter syndrome and practice empathy. The humility to accept that you can learn from others.
- If you try to stand for everything, you end up standing for nothing
- The only exercise: your brand is the ONLY ____
Go from generalist to specialist
- Went from “athletic brand” to “tennis brand” to “heritage tennis brand”
- K-Swiss is the ONLY American Heritage Tennis Brand
They timed a focused message with a market shift in a trend towards white tennis shoes
- Understand where you’re from, and then solidify what you stand for
- If you can’t be first, be different
This then births a mission
- K-Swiss: to outfit and inspire the next generation of entrepreneurs
Principle of contrast
- Take your biggest competitor and mirror them in an opposite way
- David and Goliath
- Don’t fight your competitors with their weapons, use your own weapons
- What is your slingshot?
Pick a fight you can win
Admit when something isn’t working
- Act like a doctor, not a parent
- Act rationally, not emotionally
What I Walked Away With
Everyone in the crowd walked away as a K-SWISS fan. Barney is a master marketer, and has managed to make K-SWISS cool again.
Most notable was his “Only Exercise.” Essentially, get to the bottom of what your business is the “only” of. K-SWISS essentially went from competing with the likes of Nike and Adidas to competing with no one. They went from athletic shoe brand, to tennis shoe brand, to heritage tennis shoe brand, to the ONLY american heritage tennis shoe brand. They then used this to position themselves as the shoe for entrepreneurs - getting celebrity endorsements and sponsorships from Gary Vee and other instafamous entrepreneurs.
What’s your business the ONLY at?
Leadership is the most important thing on the battlefield
- Cover and move - communicate with your teammates and departments
- Simple - your team can’t execute if they don’t understand the mission
- Prioritize and execute - what’s the biggest problem?
- Decentralized command - everybody leads
Dichotomy of leadership
- Two forces are pulling you in opposite directions and both are correct
- Leader and a follower
- Calm but not robotic
- Courageous but cautious
Discipline and freedom
- Discipline equals freedom
- If you want freedom, you need discipline
Default mode: aggressive
- You have to be proactive
- Make things happen
- Take initiative
Humility: check your ego
- You can’t assess yourself if you’re obsessed with yourself
- No excuses. No one else to blame.
- Own problems and the solutions to those problems
- Up and down the chain
- It’s about YOU.
When no one takes ownership, no problems get solved.
- “If not you, who?”
- Take extreme ownership
What I Walked Away With
Thinking about bringing discipline equals freedom to the workplace was quite clear to me. The discipline equals freedom philosophy is that instead of thinking of discipline and freedom as opposing forces, treat them as cause and effect. Discipline results in freedom. Too much freedom equals no discipline. You need both.
The question is: What discipline are you giving to your team? Or rather, what freedom are you giving your team through the discipline you’ve put in place?
Jocko uses an analogy of telling one of his soldiers to do something on the fly while on the battlefield and that soldier will execute it perfectly without having to ask any questions. The soldier is given creative freedom to solve a problem because Jocko made it abundantly clear beforehand how he should go about solving problems. There are no questions about who he should take, how they move, which route they take, or which gear they use. The soldier already knows these things (discipline) and is therefore given the freedom to go execute without having to be micromanaged.
A special thanks to David, Dave, and Janna
After tweeting to DC and DG about a Seeking Wisdom episode, they were kind enough to give me free tickets and airfare to Hypergrowth. Janna, in the midst of all the chaos and logistics, took time to organize it all for me and even threw in tickets and airfare for my wife as well.
You guys are special. Thank you.