Everything isn’t a Facebook Like or Share. Everything isn’t a retweet. Everything isn’t how many times you’ve checked in on Gowalla or Foursquare or bought a Groupon or Dugg something. These ideas aren’t revolutionary.1
But it’s easy, isn’t it? It really easy. You don’t have to leave your computer. You have an infinite number of shots. You can throw as many notecards at the wallâ€”when you have an unlimited number of notecards, you just know eventually something will stick.
To use a military metaphor, there is no substitute for on the ground intelligence. To not use a metaphor at all: There is no substitute for face-to-face meetings. For phone calls over e-mails. There is no substitute for getting out of your chair and attending a conference, or speaking at a luncheon, or for taking a client out for lunch.
This is what I call Analog Marketing. It’s you being youâ€”all your awkward mannerisms, all your beautiful eyes, all your suits that fit slightly off your shoulder, all your quirks and the cadence of the way you speak. It’s getting on the ground and doing the tangible work that will support your digital marketing. And for that, there is no substitute.
Like and Share everything you can. Go viral. Ask for retweets. Do the best you can.2 But in reality, companies don’t have an infinite number of notecards to throw. Companies have to be selective in what they do. They have to make profitable decisions. And the most profitable, sustainable decision a company can make is to put their people on the ground.
Part I: DrupalCon and the birth of the #drupalmonster
I recently had the pleasure of giving a guest lecture at a Public Relations class with co-worker Albert Hughes at his alma mater Prairie View A&M. It was the impetus for writing this piece.
Our company Schipul solves problems. Painting with a broad brush, we solve client problems related to the Internet. For example, a potential client will come to us with one concept: They need a website and they have no idea how to do it. They trust us to not only:
- Be honest with them and give them an honest quote3,
- but also provide them with the best technology to solve their problem.
One of the solutions our company employs is the content management system Drupal4. We believe in its infinite flexibility, its community, and it is often times the perfect solution to a potential client’s website that needs to be extremely custom.
We realized three things about Drupal as a company:
- The community is fiercely loyal;
- a lot of people talk about Drupal as a solution, but there aren’t a lot of people “doing it”;
- the Drupal community is definitely doing it.
Albert effectively “brought” Drupal to our company as a solution. He had been messing around with it in his personal time, and when a client approached us about a website, he immediately knew Drupal could solve the client’s problem. It did.
At that point, Schipul went full force with Drupal. We learned it and memorized it and taught it and began to take part in the community. We even loved it so much, that at one point, Albert (a rapper by night) produced a quick music video based on a flow of his. Watch this:
Rapping about Drupal is a pretty absurd concept, but it worked. Founder and creator of Drupal, Dries Buytaert, saw it and put it on his blog. The plays on the video sky-rocketed. Albert and I went to DrupalCon that year, and because of the video, people recognized him. He began to cultivate relationships based off his non-Web-based talent. It established him as part of the Drupal community, albeit in a weird way. It showed a love for the product, and the people responded.
Fast forward to a year later, and Albert and myself were attending DrupalCon again. We knew the power of last year’s rap video, and we wanted to do it again. We had just hired a video specialist on our staff, and with his help, Al and I created a remix to Kanye West’s Monster, effectively creating the #drupalmonster. Watch:
Since we had met Dries, we e-mailed him again and asked him to watch the video figuring he would enjoy it. To our intense thanks, he loved it so much he posted it on his blog again. This was two days before DrupalCon.
Here’s where Analog Marketing comes in. We didn’t want the initial push and hype of a mere blog post to stop people from watching the video. We wanted to be a part of the Drupal Community, and we wanted to give backâ€”as I said earlierâ€”albeit in a weird way.
Our idea was this: Print a bunch of moocards (half-sized business cards, halved hot dog not hamburger) with a bit.ly link that pointed to the video. That was it. The only thing on it was this: bit.ly/drupalmonster. When we got to DrupalCon, we had 1,500 printed out at a local Kinko’s, and old-school guerilla-style, handed them out to everything and everyone. We put them on tables. We gave them to Drupal fanatics, we gave them to concierges at our hotel, we gave them to people we’d meet eating lunch at a local pub.
But as we gave them out, we talked to them about Drupal. What they loved, what they didn’t. Some had more to say than others, but we tried to connect with them on some level. Given a captive Drupal audience, this was somewhat easy. (“Hey, we wrote and produced a Drupal rap music video” said to someone who uses Drupal raises an eyebrowâ€”it doesn’t make a lot of sense.) It was a little harder when trying to convince a hostess at the hotel it was worth her time.
But I saw that same hostess the next day and she called me over and said that not only did she watch it, but she pulled her co-workers aside and they watched it. Eventually, her boss saw it too. And as she was telling me this, her boss came over and complimented us on the video, and I got to compliment the hostess for being a good sport and actually taking the moocard back and watching the video.
Warning: Nerdy Business ROI Stuff Coming: A lot of people ask me how to quantify ROI on social media… blah blah blah. This is exactly how: That boss then said to me: “I’m not in control of who does our website, but if I were, I would go with you.” It’s the best compliment you could give not only myself and Albert, but our company. Asking our company to do your website is an honor to us; it’s like asking us to babysit or be invited to your wedding. And because of the work we did on the ground, in the trenches, talking to the people and going to where they were, we would get their business. We would get that honor.5
Part II: SXSW
If there was ever any epic display of Analog Marketing, it exists on the corner of Trinity and 4th St. during the Interactive portion of SXSW. I had the pleasure of attending for the third year in a row, and each year, it seems this spot between the Austin Convention Center and Champions Bar gets busier and busier.
If you’ve never had the pleasure of attending, at this spot and immediately entering the convention center, there are literally hundreds of people handing out any number of things: party invites, QR codes, half-clad women giving you a card with a free trial code on it. It’s Analog Marketing, for sure, but it’s the “Facebook” equivalent of the concept. You have an infinite targeted audience and, most likely, and infinite number of notecards to throw at a wall. So you start throwing.
Companies know SXSWi is an important cornerstone in networking. The sessions are always hit-and-miss, but there’s always one thing you can rely on: People. People are the cornerstone of any business. If you have no buyers, there is no company. The only thing this version of Analog Marketing lacks is the connection. Most of the time, the people are in a hurry. They’re trying to get from Point A to Point B in as quick a time as possibleâ€”the marketer barely has time to hand them a card (one of many they’ve gotten in the past 30 seconds), let alone have a conversation with them about their needs and how the marketer’s product could possibly solve their problems.
We tried the Analog Marketing moocard approach to our video at SXSWi as well, and it was significantly less successful, for two reasons:
- We did not have the captive audience. (When you’re at DrupalCon and you’re handing out a video about Drupal, it’s like going to a comic book convention and asking someone to watch an interview with Stan Lee.)
- We did not have time to cultivate a relationship with the person receiving the card. (See next.)
Part III: Cultivating the relationship
Our Business Development Director Aaron Long once told our company in a full company meeting:
It’s a lot harder to get mad and permanently leave your best friend.
His intent is this: When we talk to clients, we try to be their friends. They literally pay our paychecks. Being honest, ethical, and doing good are cornerstones of our company’s foundation, so when a new client comes in, we get the blessing of helping their business not only survive, but thrive. That’s our job; it’s why people hire us. In return, they pay our paycheck which allows us to do all the things we love to do when we’re not working. It’s a win/win6.
When you have a good rapport with a client, they’re less likely to leave you. You can be absolutely honest with them, speak with candorâ€”and with those two combinedâ€”have real conversations about what they need their website to do and how we need to accomplish it.
Along the way, you become their friend. You begin to respect each other. You begin to bring in the client’s business as your own; when they succeed, we succeeded. And as they grow and trust you more, they’re less likely to leave. You’ve established a level of trust that has absolutely nothing to do with Digital Marketing. Something you could never buy and something you could never “Like” or “Share” on Facebook. Those things are all part of it, but at the end of the day, you need Analog Marketers to cultivate your relationship with your consumers.
Part IV: What you should be doing now
Laozi (known by any number of variations of his name, such as Lao Tzu) was a record-keeper for the Zhou Dynasty court. He is credited with the following, translated into any number of languages, written 3,000 years ago in one of the most famous texts of all-time, Tao Te Ching7:
Go to the people. Live with them. Learn from them. Love them. Start with what they know. Build with what they have. But with the best leaders, when the work is done, the task accomplished, the people will say, “We have done this ourselves.”
This is the definition of Analog Marketing.
I spoke in Houston once about The Next Generation Website at the Social Media Breakfast Houston. A man was there whom I had never met, nor had the chance to meet after my talk, but called our office later that same day. Our top sales-person, Courtney Pemberton, fielded the call and fell in love with them; it wasn’t even about “selling” to them in the conventional sense. They were Girouard’s General Store, who have the claim of the oldest general store in Texas. Due to my public speaking and Courtney’s expertise, they signed on as a client in an incredibly short amount of time. At the time of writing, their site is still in development, but Courtney has gone out of her way, having fun with the client, because she likes them. Both the project manager and Courtney went to their store and took pictures of everything they could find because it’s such a cool place. She brought the pictures back and in design meetings, the designers fell in love with the place as well, experiencing it through the pictures they took, but also the excitement in the employees’ voices.
And when their designs are approved, and their content is added, and their site goes live, our tasks accomplished, I know they’ll look back and say, “We did this together.” And at that point, Digital Marketing can take over and run its course. I’ll be sure to Like it and Share it on Facebook, but I have confidence knowing it all started with Analog Marketing.
1 Although I am still amazed at how many “public relations” companies just try to convince their clients to get on Facebook or Twitter because it’s like some sort of mandate. News flash: You don’t have to be on Twitter. A better question to ask: Is that where your people are?
2 Recognize that these are still good things and that this statement is not tongue-in-cheek. Just don’t start here. Don’t put your cart in front of your horse.
3 If someone’s quoted you over $100,000 for a website, pleaseâ€”call us. You’re most likely being lied to.
4 For the curious, we use three content management systems at our company: WordPress, Tendenci, and Drupal. The first and last are open-source CMSs that have created and cultivated wildly successful communities. We rely heavily on said communities and are infinitely grateful for the hard work these people do. The second in that list is a currently proprietary CMS our CEO wrote in the early 2000s to keep the company afloat after September 11. It’s currently in its fifth iteration and is still bread and butter to our business model.
5 Even more “ROI”-y stuff: The video had an initial push of around 1,500 plays. As we handed out the cards throughout the conference, the plays continually went up each day: 123, 141, 148, 154, culminating the last day of the conference, topping 200 plays at 202.
To this day, we continually get double-digit plays from the video as it takes on a life of its own. We also continually get sales calls solely because they saw the video, liked it, and thought to themselves, “If they love Drupal this much to make a video, they must have a passion for it.” And passion breeds greatness.
At the time of this writing, the video has over 4,600 plays and 33,400 loads.
6 Also a cornerstone of the business. A card is handed out to every new employee (and to a number of clients/potential clients) that not only lists the cornerstones of the business, but also our Mission and Vision and Schipul Honor Code.
7 I don’t intend to cheapen any form of Taoism or religion by comparing the concepts of Analog Marketing to a sacred text. I take the quote literally at its face-value: Go to where the people are first. It will literally support everything you do after that.