Category Archives: Business

Posts about business, marketing, communication, and organizational development.

Long live the gatekeepers

Gatekeeping is a Unique Value Proposition ✎ By Wayne K. Spear

Content marketers have a big problem.

Over 95% of website visitors aren’t paying attention. They don’t “engage,” they don’t “convert.”

They land on a web page, and they move on.

Ask any marketing pro. You have, at best, five seconds.

1 … 2 … 3 … 4 …

… and they’re gone.

Forever.

It was a case of cosmic improbability that they were ever on your website in the first place. There are hundreds of millions of websites in the world. Every day there are many thousands more.

Every Google keyword search is the spinning of a giant roulette wheel. And keyword searches are what’s driving most traffic to most websites.

This is why we have Internet content marketing.

And it’s getting tougher every day for the marketers, as more online content generates more market fragmentation.

But not really. The Internet is, in fact, tiny.

Tiny?

Yes, tiny—because most of the Internet doesn’t matter. The marketing people have confirmed this, over and again.

We skim and then skip over 99% of it. How much of the Internet do you really use?

Maybe one one-hundredth of one percent?

In reality there are a few major “channels” on the Web, just as there were a few major players in the days of Old Media.

We’re not yet finished sorting out who the big players are going to be, but there will be big players.

And so, our topic today is: the common wisdom is all wrong.

There are still gatekeepers. There are going to be gatekeepers. And gatekeepers matter—maybe, in fact, more than ever. Because the gatekeepers simplify, and make sense out of, the tangled information jungle.

This is the textbook definition of marketing—having a unique value proposition.

Gatekeeping is a Unique Value Proposition.

Google is a gatekeeper. It’s not the only one, but it’s one of them. And we love it because it is a gatekeeper.

How do you cut through the noise? How do you identify and connect with an audience? How do establish your brand in a crowded marketplace?

These are marketing questions, and the answer is: become a gatekeeper.

Plus ça change, plus c’est la même.

Becoming a Question Machine

Questions matter more than answers. If you have the right answers to the wrong questions, you have wrong answers. We’ve all had this kind of wrong answer.

I know I have.

According to James Altucher, action is a subset of an idea. Ideas matter. Maybe that’s why Altucher recommends we become Idea Machines.

I recommend that we become Question Machines, by asking ourselves:

What are my right questions?

My right questions are not your right questions. We are all at the unique intersection of a time and a place.

There are, however, universal questions. A universal question is a question you can ask anyone—a question that is relevant everywhere and at all times:

– What are your regrets?
– What gets you out of bed in the morning?
– What do you think about death?
– You have a time machine. Where are you going?

Today I am giving you my right questions. They also happen to be Bernadette Jiwa’s questions.  I used them to build my business, and it transformed how I thought about my work, and my life.

I was so impressed with the power of these questions that I now use them with my clients, to help them achieve focus in their business.

The results are always powerful.

Bernadette calls this the Difference Map. If you like this, please show her some love.

What I’ve learned by looking at trees

Tree

HAVE YOU EVER WONDERED, as I did recently, what determines the seemingly random pattern of tree branches?

A case of “every which way,” it appears. One branch projects confidently toward the sky—another launches tentatively in one direction, suddenly adopting a new trajectory.

A life is the same.

I know this, because I can see my own life in these branches. That little ragged outgrowth that goes nowhere? That’s a girl I dated in high school. The long, straight branch which stops suddenly? An office job I once had. The fat branch with many small off-shoots? My writing career. The trunk? That represents my upbringing: the formative experiences which established my values, outlook, and dreams.

To this day, my trunk is nourishing the new branches which sprout in my life.

I noticed that there are a lot of dead-ends on a tree: but look at those branches, and you’ll see many outgrowths. Again, I think of the times I’ve come to the end of a path. Maybe it was a goal I didn’t reach, or a job I didn’t get.

When you’re standing at the end of a path you thought and hoped would go farther, you only see  losses and failures—the job you didn’t get, the money you won’t make, and the things you won’t be able to do and have because you won’t get that paycheque.

Looking back, you can see that those endings are in fact launching points, like new shoots from a branch. My first business, which I created in high school, was the result of having the doors to gainful employment shut in my face. Within a month, I had more business than I could manage. I made more money and was far happier than I would have been in a job, but I felt depressed and defeated all the same when my plan to be hired by someone else didn’t work out.

What I learned by looking at trees is that you can reverse engineer the process, applying it to your future. You can look forward as well as back. Today I see “dead-ends” and “failures” as intrinsic to the organic process of creating a path of your own.

A tree is the sum total of its experiments in reaching the light, and rarely (if ever) is this effort a straight line from vision to reality. We humans, however, seem to be addicted to the idea that life works (or at least should work) as follows:

Aspirations ———> A Well-Laid Plan ———> Goal Achieved!

I know this kind of thinking has often been applied by me. Many times, I’ve been disappointed and discouraged because I haven’t been able to draw, and then pursue, a straight line from Point A to Point B. Even when I’ve “known” life is more complicated than that, I’ve acted as if it weren’t.

The prime directive of a tree is to reach the life-giving light. All that apparently crazy, here-there-and-everywhere is in service of the tree’s need for sun. And that’s why I’ve changed my thinking, as well as my way of creating a path.

You see, the tree is on to something—and I think I know what it is.

I’m not talking about creating 10 new businesses or launching 50 new projects. I’m not suggesting you should run, willy-nilly, in every direction. That’s certainly not what I do. Instead, I focus on activating as many potential trajectories in my life as I can, by nourishing relationships in my life and business. Just as the prime directive of a tree is to reach the life-giving light, my prime directive is to nurture my community, every day.

The second thing I do is to introduce as much variety into my life as I can. I take long showers. I go for walks in the woods. I meet with, and talk to, as many interesting people as I can. When I really need to be productive, I get away from my desk.

Because here is the worst way I’ve found to be productive:

Sit at Computer ———> Work Eight Hours ———> Get Results

And yet that’s still how we see work, as a linear process.

The fact is that we are addicted to straight lines and old ways of doing things. I know how hard it is to let go. I’ve made painful adjustments. I used to believe in things like:

Go to School ———> Get An Education ———> Work Hard ———> Succeed

or

Get an Agent ———> Find a Publisher ———> Write Books ———> Make Money

or

Get Hired by a Newspaper ———> File Stories ———> Get Paid ———> Retire

None of these things have worked out as advertised. I’ve only been miserable and unfulfilled pursuing them. It took a painful adjustment, and months of study and effort, to let go of the old ways of thinking. And that was after years of emotional work, gradually getting to the place where I could admit that what I was doing wasn’t working—and would never work.

Going in a new direction is hard. You may have a decade invested in that branch of yours. It may be the favourite branch on your tree. Maybe it’s the only branch. You probably imagined it soaring one day above the canopy, into the full and glorious life-affirming sun of a new day. But what if it doesn’t?

If you build your life on the principle of abundance, each day nurturing a wide network of relationships, being open to many possibilities—sending out many branches—you’ll never have this problem. You’ll soon realize that your life is, like a tree, the sum total of its trajectories, explorations, and so-called “dead-ends.”

A tree, like a life, is nothing less than the sum of its experiments.

Business writing on LinkedIn, The Pulse, by me!

linkedin

WHEN I AM not mesmerizing the masses with my work here at waynekspear.com, I’m being all S-M-R-T and business-like over at The Pulse, LinkedIn’s blog for professionals. Writing about your topic of expertise for high-powered business people is the most grown-up thing you can do, except for wiping another human being’s bum. And yes, I have done that, and without question I like writing for The Pulse more.