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Recent studies show that a moderate level of ambient noise can boost productivity. Absolute silence makes it difficult to be creative. Too much noise can be distracting. The right mix of calm and productive cafe culture is just what the doctor ordered.

According to a recent study published in the Chicago Journal of Consumer Research, an ambient environment of 70 db is the sweet spot for creative noise levels. 85db is too loud and distracting and 50db and below is not conducive to the flow of creative juices. The research backs up what we’ve experienced first hand. We get a lot done and develop great ideas being around people who are busy doing other things.

If you’re ready to tap into your creative power of cafe  ambiance, there’s even more good news. Now you can take advantage of the ambiance of cafe culture anywhere you roam. We’ve put together a cafe culture audio power session to fuel your creative thoughts.

Over a half an hour of creative juice generating ambiance is yours for the taking.

To get the download link, simply fill out the form below.


Welcome to the No Bull Rodeo Tour. We’ll try to make this a recurring feature wherein we offer tips, tricks and truth bombs that are sure to shock, amaze, and hopefully save you some time, effort and energy. This one you’ll definitely want to read through to the end. And as always- we’ve bolded the good nuggets for your skimming pleasure. Feel free to ask questions and add feedback to the comments. On with the show.

Update: For those who’ve seen my talk- there’s plenty of bonus material in this post.

Before you pros send me hate mail here’s our key assumptions:

1) Most growth-minded people we meet and do business with, wear multiple hats and have multiple roles in their organization. They also work across disciplines and functions. As a result, they must pay attention to what’s absolutely essential, use what’s efficient, and unsubscribe from noise, clutter and distractions wherever and whenever possible. If you have the luxury of focusing on only a single bucket- these ideas might not apply to you, but we’ve found that this increasingly the exception rather than the rule.

2) We operate as Chief Executive Customers. By that I mean we advocate and practice providing experiences in businesses that we ourselves would engage, enjoy, buy into. This is a higher standard than most but in a very competitive, fast pace,  global information economy, it provides an adaptive lens to grow forward.

14  Truth Bombs No Marketer Wants You to Know

#1 -Digital marketing for most small ventures is not nearly as efficient or effective as a good, face to face relationship building.  Do yourself and your company a solid favor, refrain from using digital marketing as a way to procrastinate the developing great communications, relational and experience design skills. Ultimately any marketing effort will bring you face to face with your prospect or a prospective partner at some point. And you’ll need to stand and deliver. If you’re bad in-person, invest in learning how to position, pitch and serve your prospects before you ask a marketer to get involved. You may hide behind your products thinking something like “I don’t have to connect with people, I sell widgets” but ultimately at some point, you’re going to find yourself in a meeting room, lunch date or coffee table with another human being.

Many modern marketers thrive on the fear, disdain and procrastination of businesses and people towards face to face interaction and networking. How many products and services make some variation on the promise of “use (widget x) to effortlessly attract customers and focus more attention on the other important aspects of your work” -what  a notion. Removing yourself from learning a sound customer acquisition strategy is akin to shooting yourself in the foot. It’s required wisdom essential to your business. 

If you’re looking to get keep and grow customers on the web, the wonder years of easily doing this online are over. Every book you’ve read that’s enthusiastic about the prospect of easily marketing online is likely pulling data from the 90′s, or sentiments and studies from marketing firms trying to perpetuate hype and the dollars injected into the system. It’s not easy anymore. It’s all about the experience, details, subtlety, and fundamentals. Oh yeah and it involves work. 

#2- No marketer wants to reveal the real  performance numbers to its biggest spenders. It’s in no marketer’s best interest to show the sad and true returns (or negative returns) on various digital marketing efforts. I see my friends, clients and colleagues  in real estate paying the most per click and getting the most abysmal returns. Anyone find a graph on the performance of real estate ads on Facebook, Twitter and Google? Nope. Not a lot of people are collecting this data. If they are, they certainly aren’t sharing it. Why? It would chase away many of you back to other methods direct mail, perfecting your pitch, offering a better experience and so on.

#3 Marketers generally don’t measure or record their mistakes. They don’t track how many prospects they chase away with their efforts. When’s the last time you had a firm in your office pinpointing and owning their mistakes? In the world of TV of course they track ratings, or more accurately chases them, but this leads to other problems (among them; whoring your brand for any customers that’ll have you). For now, let’s focus on the web. Whether internal or external, many if not most marketers focus their attention, measurement, and reporting on the positives; who they’ve attracted with no eye to whom they’ve lost.

I’m not trying to villainize marketers here. There’s an underlying problem that haunts businesses – brand ignorance. For reasons too numerous to mention, many businesses have little to no documentation identifying who they are, who they want to be, what they care about, what they struggle with and explore, as well as who their customers are, their values, aspirations, obstacles, etc. This is essential information for your marketing team. If you don’t put in the time to doing this work, I promise you that it will continue to hinder your growth and keep your marketing costs high.

Smaller marketing firms (who 95% of business deals with) rarely have a keen understanding of their clients brand, values, audience, and so on. This requires due diligence on behalf of the firm (adds to cost) so many clients and firms elect to take the quick glance, shot in the dark approach to marketing and proceed to close their eyes, think happy thoughts, count only their wins, and never admit to nor learn from mistakes and mis-steps. No BULLSHIT MOMENT (so put on your big kid pants): It is first and foremost the responsibility of a business to know its brand, values, stories, audience, customers, partners, stakeholders, their values, obstacles and so on. Marketers/Consultants/Facilitators can be your Obiwan Kenobe on this journey but you should definitely know thy brand and thy market as best you can before a big marketing effort.

#4 When Victory and Returns are Nowhere to be Found, Marketers look for other positive success criteria. Ladies and gentleman I give you the invention of distractive metrics: the impression, like, poke, thumbs up, approve, and various other weak signals, faint and vague indicators of social media. In a previous post, I used the analogy of marketers as a fishing guide. They get paid based on how long you stare at the water, not how much you catch. So they tell you every ripple and bubble matters instead giving you a bobber a beer and witty banter. You should focus on the action your line more than the noise of the water. These things matter a little bit

#5 Click Through Rate (CTR) is Different than Return On Investment (ROI). A to 2% 3% click through rate means for every 100 impressions, someone clicked over to your site or landing page. This doesn’t equal a lead or return. I’ve seen many a marketing report emphasizing these details especially when the campaign failed to get a lead or convert a customer. There are many metrics and tools essential to marketing efforts but what every business asks of its marketing team is first and foremost to feed their village.

#6- A “Like” is not a lead- not even close. A like is often a mild, positive association with the content, sentiment, and or person. It’s not a consent to subscribe or a validation of your brand; especially if what you’re sharing isn’t your own.

#7 Facebook loves it when you believe that “likes” are worth more than kool-aid points. They are not nearly as valuable as Facebook and majority of marketers would have you believe. Some of you are probably frowning and are asking about “what about engagement and engaging the conversatiton?”

#8 Page Likes, Likes, Follows, and Retweets are increasingly weak connections and weak indicators. They extend your reach on these channels but the quality of the network continues to deteriorate as more noise is introduced. People build immunity and resilience to whatever tactics proliferate and become spam.

#9 Page Likes, Likes, Follows and Retweets are also fragile opportunities. In order to convert, you must be devoted to blowing away expectations. PERIOD. If you do what everyone else does (spam post kitten videos and affirmations) you may get some likes and follows but these aren’t really indicative of a following who supports your brand as much as they are people who like affirmations and kitten videos.

#10 Measuring Only in Likes and Tweets = Mission Drift. If you are only measuring your outreach and marketing efforts in terms of likes, pluses and twitter following, you are suffering from Mission Drift. You’ve lost your road map to how these contribute to getting, keeping and growing your customer base. Mission Focus- The whole purpose of these efforts is to share your message, values, and provide an experience that drives business to you.

“Online-only” relationships are really weak- what you’re really trying to score is that first date. True in life and true in business.  Getting face to face even in this day and age, is what it is all about.

#11 Design will not save you from the hard and necessary work of content creation. For most, Content and Context Lead Design- Design does not lead the content. If you think your business is the exception, challenge your own motives. Do you have a compelling case or are you trying to avoid hard work?

#12 Designers & Marketers live in a dog eat dog world. Most of them will knowingly agree to put lipstick on a pig every time if it means putting food on their table. They will gladly take your worst effort at content and frame within a beautiful website, flyer, postcard or what have you. This creates a market condition where a client, like a real estate agent or mortgage broker comes with a dog-chewed paper with half a page of notes and asks a designer to build a website around it. The design team will gladly do it (as they have a village of their own to feed). And these efforts will likely yield sad results. Who takes the heat? The designer of course.

What can you do to prevent this? The next time you try to market in a hurry ask yourself this question -is the spirit of your personal and professional brand captured in the half page, rapid fire note (probably written on your leg in the car on the way to the meeting)? The outcome may be pretty to look at but will it provide your prospects and partners with the experience consistent with the value you provide?

#13 Great visual design alone does not make a brand. Your intentions, strategies and your experience as well as the experience of your team, employees, partners and customers make up your brand. Period.

#14 The Small Stuff Matters - The web is a very competitive market. And even professionals from other industries are competing for the same attention from your prospects. Mom and Pop shops compete with Amazon or the Goliath equivalent in their industry. We all have to up our game. This means paying more attention to details that matter. Two Examples in your Videos and Headlines:

On Your Videos – Pay attention to how you watch videos. If it’s not a music video or epic movie trailer do you go full screen? Nope. I don’t. For business videos, I usually catch them embedded in a social feed or a blog and watch them in that “tiny” mode. I know I’m not alone. So, for your own videos, make sure that your information at the beginning and the end is readable in that original embedded mode. Also – Make sure you use your logo, picture, name and phone number (legible in the tiny viewing mode) on the cover of your videos and in the beginning and end of your videos. 

Unlock The Heroik Power of Your Headlines – One small thing that businesses of any size can do a better job of is creating better headlines for their content. In 2013, I wrote a book called “The Heroik Power of Headlines” based on this premise. In it there are 84 headline recipes for businesses to use in their content, direct mail marketing pieces and email subject lines (fans can get an early edition with a little prying if they email me nmcgill@getheroik.com).  Headlines make promises and set expectations and if you honor your promises and exceed expectations in your content, you’re well on your way to building an epic audience and boosting your customer base. 

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In June of 2013 REI reduced it’s lifetime return policy to just one year – equivalent or lower than the manufacturer’s warranty.  Citing the growth of abuse of the long time policy, REI decided to end it’s original 100% Lifetime Satisfaction Guaranteed Return Policy that attracted hundreds of thousands of high-end consumers who became loyal to the brand. What seemed like a small strategic change, tugs at the core of REI’s brand experience.

Now, aside from a positive to negative return line experience, the policy change has also made it easier for the once trusted high-end curator of fine recreational equipment to sell cheaper, lower quality goods for boosted profit margins. For fans trusting the store, it’s important to come to terms with this shift in strategy and to re-evaluate your relationship/loyalty to the store. Is this once consumer-champion brand eroding away into a corporate mediocrity? Will other high-end brands in adjacent retail markets follow REI’s lead?

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Imagine you are fishing on a river. That river is the social stream for every platform. You pay a guide (marketer) to help you increase your catch. He is paid based on how long he keeps your eyes on the water. So he tells you every ripple means something; that there’s an important story behind every bubble connecting in some way to your next catch. You might be so excited and focused on these things, watching the water dance with the elements, waiting for a tug at the line…but it rarely comes and your pockets are emptied quickly. And when you finally get fed up, the guide talks you into checking out a new spot. This is a majority of marketing, especially on social media.

The point I want to stress is not the general difficulty of reeling in a customer. Rather it is to draw your attention to the huge distraction and displacement of your time, effort and energy (TEE) away from your core work and the true signals that matter.  It’s true that there is an important story behind every wave and ripple, but it may only affect 1% of your outcome. Is that 1% worthy of 100%, 80% or even 40% of your attention? I’d argue that for most, that reeling in your next, big customer does not depend on or require such effort and attention. More importantly, I bet you have more important priorities than the distractions offered in the social stream. Many of the social signals marketers have you focused on are not worthy of even a part time effort.

In the murk of it all marketers are constantly trying to broaden the definition of “engagement” to mean something as basic as a quick glance and subsequent trip to the trash bin. The entire industry is based on false analytics that mean little. They sound really cool but they’re empty of substance and value; all carbs and no protein. How many people saw your post is less useful than a  measured click. As is a like (beyond the notion that it may spread the content). What I’ve seen for the past decade is well intentioned professionals paying too much attention to ripples in the water, not bites on the line. 

Think of the signals you’ve been told to focus on: likes, pokes, pluses, comments, shares, retweets, favorites, and on and on. I’m not saying these don’t have some value, I’m simply asking you to consider comparing the value with the resources required and outcomes experienced. By in large, these microscopic indicators of engagement aren’t worth your time, effort and energy.

Let’s face it. They’re low value indicators, and the call to look at them should be treated with the same level of scrutiny as those asking you to read spam. Many marketers are encouraging you to listen, read, and watch while you share. Essentially this is the marketer’s trap. They win, sucking up your attention consuming their other clients’ efforts. Your business suffers as a result in terms of operations and opportunity costs associated with your attention and effort applied to other avenues. It’s a man overboard sucked drowning in the social media abyss- swallowing water while desperate for air. The attention spent is disproportionate to the gains received. You thought you were there to sell, when instead, you were really being sold. This is the standard model that most are subscribed to.

So for the Heroik minded, in terms of being an effective, thriving team, what is the answer for the lean businesses?

In terms of using social media, for the executor; the person focused on getting shit done, it is perhaps best used or thought of as a broadcast medium with a passive listening strategy. That’s right, a place to push out a message on the whole. I know this will ruffle feathers. Did he just advocate for one-way communications? Pretty much. We all want to believe in the grand conversation, where every voice matters equally. It doesn’t.  I’m concerned with the opinions of my customers, prospects, stakeholders and closer community. However, even these groups have completely different priorities. My continuity of business is not one of them. Neither is yours. And across the board, most are not honestly in tune with the motivations behind their behavior. This is why Apple doesn’t use focus groups. So letting the grand conversation dictate your efforts is troublesome to say the least.

Remember when all the gurus and marketers were talking about the importance of conversations on Social Media? Now the best of them have come back to the power of storytelling and closer to a broadcast model. They’ve changed their tone as the airwaves and status updates have been barraged with cheesy, sleezy, faux engagement messages. All the clamor about conversations has long since fallen. There’s just too much noise for most teams to pay attention to and effectively get shit done in their other roles.

I’m not saying there’s no value out there and I’m not saying you need to reel in your line, give up and go home. I believe you need to refine your process, lean into an effective system that allows you to measure what matters, engage your targets at the right time, and preserve the freedom to do all the other important things. Many businesses have the tools but lack the process and discipline to do this effectively.

You need a passive system that allows you to focus your attention on other priorities; a bobber in the water, so you know when to tug and reel the line in. With the right alarm on the right line, in all the moments when nobody’s biting, you are free to juggle a book and a beer, or build something. Don’t worry. You have the technology- you just need a better process. This is where effective strategy  (marketing, messaging, content and brand narrative) comes in handy.

Here are 6 tips and 1 tool to help you be a more effective fisherman and marketer:

1) Switch to a Broadcast /Passive Listening  Model. 
That’s right. Stop pretending to “listen” and embrace the broadcast model. Share authentic, well thought content. Stop regurgitating the same motivational posters, business insider articles and works of everyone else. You have limited resources- and you need to share your work, your passion, your values. The message received from people pushing out only 3rd party content is that of a consumer, not a creator. There is no way to distinguish a professional curator from a passionate hobbyist on the web in terms of the content they share. The unspoken unconscious judgements cast on those who share only others’ works is is that your brand might lack faith, passion or confidence in the virtues, values, stories of your work. Curating is lower on the totem poll than creation.  For those who share mostly things they are doing or working on is that of an artist confident in their craft, a  leader clear in their direction, creator trying something new, executor getting shit done,  and refiner making things happen. Of course you want to provide service and have a mix going but if the majority of the discussion isn’t about what you are doing- what is your business strategy and is it effective? I see a lot of lost souls out there who want to believe that all they have to do is click their heals and share kitten photos to grow their business.

If you are searching to strengthen your engagements:

  • Broadcast your work, share the tools, tweaks and hacks that helped along the way. Come up to broadcast depth to share things related to your work and your customers. Stop looking for just any body you can get to follow or like you.
  • Share things that matter to  your brand and values (that must be documented and consistently demonstrated in your work and customer experience)

This requires a commitment to a great content strategy but has the added benefits of giving you back your time to work your craft or enjoy a beer and book, or banter with friends and loved ones. At Heroik we are all about creating a thrivalist, lifestyle and culture; arming you with the opportunities to decide to do with the regained time, effort and energy. This way you can listen at your leisure, not an addiction, and focus on your craft. In an age global commerce, businesses of any size need to hone their craft more than ever to compete and thrive. This means not wasting time over-listening to the noise.

2)  Get notified about the stuff that matters. Use important notifications as your trigger to evaluate engaging the social media. Some notifications are like bobbers in the water. You are probably already annoyed with all the notifications you’ve received in the past and if you’re like me, maybe you’ve turned them all off. Or you may be paying someone else to stare at the water for you. I won’t tell you to stop but I will ask that you get smarter about the signals you pay attention to. Notifications that matter: Comments, Messages, and Questions.  These are bites on the line and the rest tend to mean little. I don’t care about likes, these take fractions of a second and are not clear indicators of anything, but if someone gives you a comment, asks a question, or sends a message, that’s certainly a stronger signal.

3) Ignore the noise. Not every ripple matters. You’re looking for consistent signals and key indicators to support a commitment to act. Most marketers want to count impressions, visits, page views, and likes and they may number in the millions for your business, but of them, how many convert into customers? You may get hundreds of likes and retweets, but can you track where things go from there? If not, doing so for a superstitious belief that it’s a good practice w/o validation is ridiculous. How many prospective customers do you piss off and chase away with your current tactics? The gurus do not dare imagine this. I’d rather market to 100 with a high quality message and have 20 fall in love with my business, than to market to 10,000, alienating most of them in return for just a few customers. Yet this is what most marketing efforts consist of; social spam and content low on substance. Is this in alignment with the values of your brand? Don’t listen to the majority marketing noise either. They’re failing in droves- usually at the expense of other people’s money. Don’t let them fail with yours.

Don’t get me wrong. You need to take creative risks and try new things, but doing what everyone else is doing in the social media traffic jam with little measured gain is not a creative risk. If people are telling you to jump in and try something new, ignore this noise too. Look for more creative opportunities.

Start with better data. Here’s a metric that matters: Attention Time: how long and to what degree the prospective audience is observing and interacting with your material. The more time people spend engaging your material, the increased likelihood that they’ll do business with you or at the very least understand far more about your brand, business, products and services. Can you say that of a liked post or tweet? NOPE. The same budget of energy spent listening to noise can be put to work doing things that matter for your business.

4) Focus on the cost of acquisition and reconcile it with the lifetime transactional value of the customer. I was recently at a conference for nonprofits where a media firm was proposing that an organization ought to run a campaign that costs 10’s of thousands of dollars pursuing  a handful of potential donors who’s lifetime transactional value is mere 10’s of dollars. If you spend $349 to acquire a customer who’s average, lifetime, transactional value is  $30, you’ve got a serious problem. You’re bleeding money. I hate seeing it recommended. Ask your marketer if they know the average cost of acquiring a customer for your business and their average transactional value. Make sure you’re on a path to factoring these into your business strategies.

5) Do it for the right reasons. In your spare time, fish in your favorite places for the love of fishing, not because everyone else likes to do it. There is a energetic multiplier to doing things we enjoy. We tend to do them better. We tend to refine our efforts and get better results. If you like engaging on social media and you’re getting measurable and meaningful results, invest in refining your process. Make sure your efforts are warranted.  If you enjoy doing it and aren’t seeing tangible results, recognize that social media is a leisure time activity not a business activity.

On the flip side of things, we tend to sabotage our experiences in efforts we don’t enjoy. There is an energy divider for things we take on with a bad attitude (and I say that as a critical person who has done this many times).  If you can’t think of a fun way to actively engage on social media, find a fun way to passively engage. My point is to be creative with the way you frame the work and/or create a process that is engaging, captivating and even enjoyable for you first. I’ve seen many people hate their way into spending thousands of dollars driving things into the ground they never believed in. Find a way to believe, or enjoy, or don’t do it.

A personal example of this -I love interacting with intelligent people who want to get shit done. I despise wasting time with people who only want to talk/whine or dream about making things happen (e.g. 90% of the exchange of the masses). It doesn’t serve myself or others, and I lack the patience to hand hold for those uninterested in executing. So being the active social media junkie in a world that loves to talk and do little, isn’t high on my to do list… but I do love to write and venture out. So sharing original content, blogging and engaging in lively discussions is easy for me. I love sharing experiences, discussing topics, and solving problems.  Granted, the masses seem to favor the concise, short-form tweets and bumper stickers, but they’re not my market. And the obsession with quick and easy produces a flurry of energy and noise but few results. So I find ways to bake  more value into the long-form. The point of my example is for those who struggle to participate, find an adjacent pleasure, and use it as a bridge to guide your efforts. There is a medium out there for every kind of story-teller, and a market for those stories on that medium.

Offering something you enjoy that’s of value to others is the sweet spot of business.

6.) Make sure your bait has value. Whatever you do, say or share, make sure it offers value for your target audience (ideal customers). Take a look at the competition and strive to offer something better. Steal like an artist – which means steal a good idea but transform it through your process into something of your own. Offer music not noise. This requires a skill no marketer wants you to have: the ability to discern value and separate the shit from shinola. Keen sight is extremely valuable these days. If you can curate, cultivate and distill the best of anything, not only can help refine your practice and increase your impact, but also increase the value of what you offer your customers. It’s simply good for business to be discerning (leaning towards critical). If discernment isn’t your thing, look for someone with the gift and bring them onto your team.

1 Tool you may already be using. Why only 1? Because Process is more important!

Buffer – is a simple social broadcasting service that allows you to build a queue of status updates that are delivered at optimum times based on bulk traffic analysis. It’s a social drip system. Unlike other social suites, Buffer is about speaking only, not listening to the distractions and noise. For current users, I encourage you to revisit your social and content strategy and the previously mentioned tips to ensure you’re getting the most out of it. I love Buffer. It supports an effective sharing model for people who get shit done. Unlike Hootsuite, it’s not focused on helping me listen to the noise (a costly distraction), it’s about getting the word out about my work at the right time. So between the two, I prefer Buffer.