[UPDATE: Of course, I can't do this alone. I'll be needing the help of the Texas Twitter and geek communities to help me. If you have any ideas to help make this act of futility a little less futile, please email me at email@example.com. Thanks!]
Somebody recently asked me what was the secret to "Marketing 2.0" i.e. using Web 2.0 tools like blogs, Twitter, Facebook etc to market one's product or service. My response was only nine words long:
Treat it like an adventure. An adventure worth sharing.My next adventure, my next "Evil Plan" is to take to the road, driving around Texas, marketing and selling Stormhoek. The idea is to actually live up to those aforementioned nine words.
Which might explain why my second book, which I intend to mostly write while on the road, has the working title, "Evil Plans".
It is my hope that EVIL PLANS will end up being to Marketing, what the first book, IGNORE EVERYBODY was to "Creativity".
Wish me luck. As of right now, I have no idea where these EVIL PLANS are taking me. I just know I have to go there.
[P.S. It's pronounced "Storm-hook", just so you know....]
[P.P.S. Pretty much everything you read below has appeared previously on this blog etc.]
The Hunger to do something creative.
The Hunger to do something amazing.
The Hunger to change the world.
The Hunger to make a difference.
The Hunger to enjoy one's work.
The Hunger to be able to look back and say, Yeah, cool, I did that.
The Hunger to make the most of this utterly brief blip of time Creation has given us.
The Hunger to dream the good dreams.
The Hunger to have amazing people in our lives.
The Hunger to have the synapses continually fired up on overdrive.
The Hunger to experience beauty.
The Hunger to tell the truth.
The Hunger to be part of something bigger than yourself.
The Hunger to have good stories to tell.
The Hunger to stay the course, despite of the odds.
The Hunger to feel passion.
The Hunger to know and express Love.
The Hunger to know and express Joy.
The Hunger to channel The Divine.
The Hunger to actually feel alive.
The Hunger will give you everything. And it will take from you, everything. It will cost you your life, and there's not a damn thing you can do about it.
But knowing this, of course, is what ultimately sets you free.
"THE MARKET FOR SOMETHING TO BELIEVE IN IS INFINITE" [First published on this blog, 2004].
We are here to find meaning. We are here to help other people do the same. Everything else is secondary.
We humans want to believe in our own species. And we want people, companies and products in our lives that make it easier to do so. That is human nature.
Product benefit doesn't excite us. Belief in humanity and human potential excites us.
Think less about what your product does, and think more about human potential.
What statement about humanity does your product make?
The bigger the statement, the bigger the idea, the bigger your brand will become.
It's no longer just enough for people to believe that your product does what it says on the label. They want to believe in you and what you do. And they'll go elsewhere if they don't.
It's not enough for the customer to love your product. They have to love your process as well.
People are not just getting more demanding as consumers, they are getting more demanding as spiritual entities. Branding becomes a spiritual exercise.
Either get with the program or hire a consultant in Extinction Management. No vision, no business. Your life from now on pivots squarely on your vision of human potential.
Benefit is secondary. Benefit is a product of conviction, not vice versa.
Whatever you manufacture, somebody can make it better, faster and cheaper than you.
You do not own the molecules. They are stardust. They belong to God. What you do own is your soul. Nobody can take that away from you. And it is your soul that informs the brand.
It is your soul, and the purpose and beliefs that embodies, that people will buy into.
Ergo, great branding is a spiritual exercise.
Why is your brand great? Why does your brand matter? Seriously. If you don't know, then nobody else can- no advertiser, no buyer, and certainly no customer.
It's not about merit. It's about faith. Belief. Conviction. Courage.
It's about why you're on this planet. To make a dent in the universe.
I don't want to know why your brand is good, or very good, or even great. I want to know why your brand is totally frickin' amazing.
Once you tell me, I can the world.
And then they will know.
There's a wonderful metaphor in the Bible [Revelation 2:17] about "a white pebble".
17 Let the one who has an ear hear what the spirit says to the congregations: To him that conquers I will give some of the hidden manna, and I will give him a white pebble, and upon the pebble a new name written which no one knows except the one receiving it.The metaphor was once explained to me by a Catholic monk. To paraphrase:
"You have three selves: The person that you think you are, the person that other people think you are, and the person that God thinks you are. The white pebble represents the latter. And of the three, it is by far the most important."
He then gave me some good advice, something I've always kept with me:
"When life gets really tough, just remember the white pebble. Just remember who you really are. Just remember the person that only God can see."
Whatever your thoughts on God or Religion may be, positive or negative, the white pebble is a very simple metaphor that audaciously asks the question: "Who are you, really?"
Yes, why are you here, exactly? Who are you here for? Yourself? Other people? God? Or maybe some other cause? You tell me...
It's one of those questions that never gets old. Unlike the poor body that houses us.
For the greater part of the last decade, I have been using the internet to build what I'm fond of calling, "The Global Microbrand".
A small, tiny brand, that "sells" all over the world.
The Global Microbrand is nothing new; they've existed for a while, long before the internet was invented. Imagine a well-known author or painter, selling his work all over the world. Or a small whisky distillery in Scotland. Or a small cheese maker in rural France, whose produce is exported to Paris, London, Tokyo etc. Ditto with a violin maker in Italy. A classical guitar maker in Spain. Or a small English firm making $50,000 shotguns.
Here are some thoughts:
i. I think in many ways, the artist is the ultimate global microbrand. She just does her thing from wherever; if she's any good and fortune favors her work, her stuff is suddenly being seen, read or heard all around the world, without her having to leave her studio too much. Nice work if you can get it.
ii. The good news is, so far it's gone extremely well for me. The bad news is, it has taken me forever to this point. Better late than never, I suppose.
iii. I've had the most success helping to build Global Microbrands for other people, most notably, English Cut and Stormhoek. The idea that I should start applying what I know about this world to my own, commercial products, didn't really kick in till earlier this year. Though business has been busy enough so far [and getting busier by the day], it's still a strange feeling for me. Seems like it's easier to promote other people's stuff than one's own stuff. You don't take it so personally, somehow.
iv. Being an artist has three main components- 1. Making the actual work 2. Running the business and 3. Promoting the business. It's REALLY hard to do all three at the same time. It's EQUALLY hard to find people who can take over some of the duties and responsibilities of 2 and 3. Good people who actually know what they're doing are rare and expensive.
v. I made my best work when I was relatively cold, hungry and desperate. This kind of experience tends to make one very unapologetic, years later, when the "success" eventually arrives.
vi. Having a global microbrand is not about being "famous". It's about having a serious, almost tribe-like connection with a number of people who want to buy into what you're doing. If you're selling $5000, hand-made suits like Thomas Mahon, that number only needs to be a hundred or so. If you're selling $20 books or music CDs, that number needs to be much larger. I'm somewhere in the middle, because my work has a lot of price points- from the $16.29 price tag of my upcoming book, to the x-hundred-dollar prints I'm working on, to the five-figures I plan to sell my large paintings for [Yes, I've already been offered that for "DesertManhattan", even though it's still far from completion]. Somewhere early on I decided 10,000 people for me was the magic number. I may be wrong on that, though...
vii. I don't believe in overnight success [mainly because it has yet to happen to me, or anyone I know]. I believe on building my "tribe", one person at a time. I also think that having a definite number in mind re. how large you want your tribe to be, is extremely helpful.
viii. Results may vary depending on who you are and what you're selling, but I have always found it easier to find one tribe member willing you give you $1000, than it is to find 1000 tribe members willing to give you one dollar. The downside to that is, the more expensive and exclusive your product, the harder it is to scale further. Somewhere in there lies the sweet spot. If you find it, let me know.
ix. You see this a lot, in the blogosphere particularly: People with great products but no tribe to speak of [Daniel Edlen of VinylArt fame springs immediately to mind], and people with large tribes, but no real compelling product to speak of. Again, it's all about finding the sweet spot.
x. I didn't really start building my tribe till I was well into my thirties, when blogs and Web 2.0 came along. It was a medium "I just got" right away. Man, how I wish the internet came along twenty years sooner; it would've made my life a lot easier in those early days.
xi. Though I didn't have the term for it back then, back in college I always knew a "Global Microbrand" was what I wanted eventually. I always knew I was never cut out to be the corporate, office-worker kinda guy. I gave the latter an honest try, and it was a complete disaster. Like I said, better late than never.
xii. If your Global Microbrand succeeds, it's not because of the brand's functionality per se, it's because what you're doing gives the end user something to believe in. To me, that's always been pretty obvious, some folk still find it a difficult idea to process.
If people like buying your product, it's because its story helps fill in the narrative gaps in their own lives.
Human beings need to tell stories. Historically, it's the quickest way we have for transmitting useful information to other members of our species. Stories are not just nice things to have, they are essential survival tools.
And yes, the stories we tell ourselves are just as important than the stories we tell other people.
Ergo, marketing is not about selling. Marketing is figuring out where your product stands in relation to personal narrative.
So where does your product fit into other people's narrative? How does telling your story become a survival tool for other people? If you don't know, you have a marketing problem.
Narrative gaps. It's all about the narrative gaps.
It's funny how you can have two guys sitting next to each other in an office, both doing the same job. Both using the same computers and phones. Both with the same academic qualifications. Both with a similar IQ. Both working the same amount of hours. But why does one guy take home five times more sales commission than the other guy? What's going on? Is it luck? Skill? Justice? Injustice?
The question of what separates success from failure, is something I've always liked to ponder on. Suddenly this week, out of nowhere, the following line hit me:
"Success is more complex than Failure."
Think about it. Being a failure is a no-brainer. All you have to do is sleep till noon, get out of bed, scratch your balls, have your morning visit to the bathroom, turn on the Star Trek re-runs, help yourself to some breakfast [Leftover pizza and a bottle of Jack Daniels, Hurrah!], light up your first joint of they day, download some porn, and already you're well on your way. Sure, a few inconvenient variables may enter the picture here and there, to complicate an otherwise perfect day of FAIL, e.g. what you're going have to say to your brother in order to convince him to lend you that $300, so you can pay off the telephone bill, that kinda thing. But for the most part, the day-to-day modus operandi of your "Average Total Failure" is quite straightforward.
Being successful, however, is a whole different ball game. Breakfast meetings at 7.00am. Conference calls at midnight. Visiting twelve cities in five days. Fielding question from a swarm of hostile journalists. Dealing successfully with an enraged, multi-million dollar customer who's screaming bloody murder over something rather trivial in the grand scheme of things. Dealing successfully with an enraged, multi-million dollar investor who's screaming bloody murder over something rather trivial in the grand scheme of things. Making sure there's enough money in the account to meet the payroll of all your legions of highly-paid, highly-effective, highly-talented employees. All these hundreds of unrelenting issues to deal with, all day, every day. You get the picture.
And as always, what's invariably true of people is also invariably true for businesses. So when I see a small but insanely-successful business suddenly implode overnight [it seems to happen quite a lot in Silicon Valley], I'm guessing chances are it wasn't inability to manage growth per se that destroyed the business [a favorite reason cited by those writing business obituaries], but the inability for the business to manage complexity. Complexity increases exponentially with growth, most small companies can culturally only handle incremental increases in complexity. As I'm fond of saying, "Human beings don't scale".
Which is why walking around the hallways of large, successful companies can often seem so oppressive to somebody new to it. All that cultural regimentation is there for one reason only: To fight "The Complexity War". Sure, it might feel a bit ghastly to the more idealist and free-spirited among us, but until somebody can come up with a better way to win this Complexity War at a Fortune-500 level, I don't see it ever going away.
Ever since then, for the most part, yeah, I've worked my ass off. With MASSIVELY varying levels of success.
Twenty-odd years later, I can totally see why most sane people opt out of the "creative" career option- I can totally see why they stick to something more conventional, even if it isn't really all that interesting to them. It's NOT because they're stupid, lazy or unimaginative.
It's because the alternative is really, really hard.
All throughout these past two decades- this long, painful, wonderful adventure- I kept on asking myself the same question: "When will this stuff start getting easier?"
And the closest thing I've ever gotten to an answer is, "Probably Never."
Of course, it wasn't until I got comfortable with "Probably Never" that, funnily enough, it started getting easier.
I really don't know what else to tell you...
[P.S. I utterly DESPISE the word, "Creativity". Every time I write it, a little piece of me DIES. That being said, I don't know of another word that works better in this context. Damed if you do etc...]
With their jobs, with their relationships, with their marketing, with their own passions and creativity...
And yes, with themselves. I'm as guilty as anyone. So are you.
So then the next question becomes, well, how do you become "unblocked"? How do you get your mojo back?
Wouldn't it be great if somebody could invent a product- a book, for example, or maybe some audiotapes, or a three-day seminar, whatever- and all people would have to do is pull out their credit card, pay the fee, use the product once et Volia! Problem solved! Blockage removed!
Yes, that would be great, in theory. But knowing what I know from past experience, I'd recommend that if you ever meet somebody trying to sell you something like this, run away in the opposite direction. That fellow is selling you a bunch of psychobabble snake oil. Nobody can unblock you, but you.
Instead, read the following one-word quote. Unlike the snake oil, you can have it free of charge and yes, this actually works, every time:
So now you know...
2. Everyone’s definition of “smarter” will be different. I’m OK with that. To me, it means continually engaging the customer at a higher level, continually raising the bar. identified four keywords that will govern the future of the advertising business. About as succinct a list as I've ever seen:The problem with most wine marketing, as I see it, most of it is product-driven, not principle driven.Blurry. Useful. Interesting. Always In Beta."Always In Beta” is a popular term in Silicon Valley. In an ideal world, it would be equally popular in the wine trade as well. It's unfortunate that this is not the case.
Most wine makers make what they make, as best they can, then try to find a buyer, somewhere. Anywhere!
Stormhoek wasn't conceived as an act of love for the Western South African Cape. Stormhoek was conceived as a very simple idea: That if you took New Zealand wine tech, and used it with South African grapes, you could make a wine JUST as good as the New Zealanders, for about two thirds the price.
Idea-driven. Not product-driven. Not geography-driven. That's what "Smarter Wine" is all about.
Once we had this "Principle" nailed down, it became a LOT easier to market it. Because not only did we get "Smarter" about how we made it, we got "smarter" about how we talked to people about it, how we related to the existing market and the customers about it. Which explains the cartoon below.
It's REALLY hard to market something, if there's no higher purpose-idea behind it. Products are not just about price and quality. As I'm fond of saying, every product is some sort of idea amplifier.
Every product, whether we're talking German cars, cans of beans, laptop computers or bottles of wine, is an expression of human potential.
At least, it is, if you want it to be successful.
I don't think any of this rocket science, but it sure got our competition scratching their heads. Plus ca change...
My long-term plan is to continue living out here in Alpine, Texas, writing books and making paintings. An ideal West Texas "creative" life and all that...
BUT BEFORE I settle into that role, I have one LAST marketing fandango to pull off.
Namely, making Stormhoek the best-selling South African wine in Texas.
How am I going to do that? Basically, get in my car and drive. Start visiting with people. Start spreading the word. Start finding allies who can help my little adventure along. Stay on the road until I reach my goal.
When David Brain asked me what was the appeal of writing books, I replied:
I certainly didn't expect to make any real money from it, and how much it would "help" other people is pretty debatable. But sometimes in your life you have these defining moments, where you draw a line in the sand and declare to the world, "This is who I am, this is what I believe, this is what's important to me." I think we all need these moments at some point, to make us better understand who we really are. Writing a book is a good way to force these moments to the surface. That was really the key driver, here.
I have found that marketing can be a pretty good key driver in this department, too.
Especially "Futile Marketing". Yes, this undertaking is insane and futile. It'll probably fail. I'm going to do it anyway.
[The Futile Marketing archive is here.]
I recently made the acquaintance of the proprietors of both The Starlight Theater and La Kiva, two prominent bars down in Terlingua. The meetings went well- I liked them both, they seemed to like me. So it looks like we might be selling down there, fingers crossed. Hurrah!
Terlingua, 100 miles South of Alpine, Texas, right on the Mexican border, is probably the strangest place I've ever visited in my life- it has an unreality to it quite unlike anything else I've ever seen. But there's a wonderful appeal to it, that's for sure. If you ever wanted to know what it was like to be living in the old Wild West, this is probably as close as you're going to get, first hand. The people, architecture and landscape seem right out of a Sam Peckinpah movie.
So why try selling South African wine in Terlingua? "Futile Marketing", of course...
"Who says you can't have it all?" were the lyrics of an annoyingly upbeat beer jingle from the mid-1980s.
This campaign for Michelob Lite tritely asked the question, "Who says you can't love your work, and leave it too?" as an allegory to the question, "Who says you can't get great, satisfying taste in a beer, that also happens to be kinda light and watery?"
I remember seeing the ad as a kid. Some yuppie who looked good in a suit, looked good in a corporate office, but also looked pretty good on the basketball court with his buddies, and who also looked good wielding an electric guitar surrounded by an admiring group of ladies. Loving his work, and leaving it too, as the jingle reaches its triumphant climax. "Oh YES you caaaaan... have it ALL!" How stirring for the soul etc. Tolstoy or Beethoven would be proud etc etc.
If you read the article from 1987 that I linked to above, you'll find the campaign wasn't that successful.
Of course it wasn't. Why? Because as we all know, life isn't like that.
How many PhD's have quit their stellar careers in academe, to go play for the NFL? How many NBA stars, after they retired from basketball, go off to run a division of IBM?
To be the best in the world at something- or even REALLY good at it- the sacrifices are utterly, utterly enormous. "Have it all?" Are you insane?
We ALL know this.
Except Michelob Lite back in 1987, it seems. Which is why, twenty-plus years later after declaring their ability to be all things to all people, their brand is still struggling away, trying hard to be something- ANYTHING- other than unexceptional. I wish them well.
Of course, this "Have It All", sacrifice-free attitude isn't just the domain of unexceptional beer brands. It's the domain of unexceptional individual careers, as well. We can only hope that ours is not one of them.
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I wrote the preceding paragraph to illustrate the intellectual bankruptcy of what I call "Dinosaurspeak". That rather sociopathic combination of being completely focused on customer benefit and yet completely selfish at the same time.
And yeah, if it doesn't work on gapingvoid, it ain't going to work on your product, either.
What is interesting to me is that this style of language was pretty universal only a few years ago. Sure, you had a few mavericks out there stirring things up, but most external business communication was pretty much stuck in firehose mode.
When markets become smarter and faster than the companies servicing said markets, language changes. Of course it does.
My question isn't "how is it changing" (I already kinda-sorta know the answer to that one), but "why isn't it changing faster?"
[The cartoon I gave to Ester Dyson back in 2008.]
"Random Acts of Traction".
This is a phrase I use a lot these days.
It seems to be the story of my life.
I put stuff out there- cartoons, prints, a book, a blog post, whatever. Some of it flies, some of it goes nowhere.
Eight years of pretty successful blogging later, and I STILL have no way of predicting what will work, and what will fail.
Who knew the book would be a bestseller? Who knew the phrase, "Social Object" would enter the lexicon of mainstream marketing, simply by me rabbiting on about it ad nauseam? Who knew "Wolf vs Sheep" would be my most popular-selling print? Who knew the Blue Monster would spread like wildfire through Microsoft? Who knew all these things would gain "Random Acts of Traction"?
Not I, that's for sure.
The great Doc Searls described this phenomenon much better than I ever could:
Tell ya what. I'm fifty-seven years old, and I've been pushing large rocks for short distances up a lot of hills, for a long time. Now, with blogging, I get to roll snowballs down hills. Some don't go very far. But some get pretty big once they start rolling.I think anyone who makes their living even partly via blogs and social media will understand the snowball metaphor, will understand "Random Acts of Traction".
See, each snowball grows as others link to the original idea, and add their own thoughts and ideas. By the time the snowball gets big enough to have some impact, it really isn't my idea any more.
Anyway, at this point in my life I'd rather roll snowballs than push rocks.
My friends, Dennis Howlett and James Governor, both technology consultants, certainly understand this. As they can only realistically execute on 10% of their ideas, they don't seem to mind giving away the remaining 90% for free, via their blogs. If one of their free ideas gets "Random Acts of Traction", it's great PR for their businesses. It leads to conversations eventually. Conversations that eventually lead to paid gigs.
This only works, of course, if you can make your "snowballs" quickly and inexpensively enough. If you spend too much time worrying about it, you lose. If you try to control where the snowballs go after you've released them down the hill, you lose.
"Fail cheap. Fail fast. Fail often. Always make new mistakes." -Esther Dyson. Words to live by. Exactly.
EUREKA! I had my EVIL PLANS road trip idea, but it was lacking the social object it needed to really work.
Sure, driving around Texas with a video camera and an idea about "Dream Big" was all very well, but it needed something to work as a totem for the Stormhoek wine.
IDEA: Hand-painted wine bottles.
I've drawn on Stormhoek wine bottles before, using painting sticks. They looked kinda cool. While I travel around Texas, I'll be making them to hand out to people who went to all the trouble to support this enterprise. See image above to get a rough idea what it might look like...
This is exciting. The road trip idea is suddenly A LOT More interesting, all of a sudden. Rock on.
In an August, 2009 blog post, an interview I did with Chris Anderson, Editor-in-Chief of Wired Magazine, Chris had a brilliant thought:
"If ever these was a time to be overextended, this is it."
I agree with him completely. I know what it means to be over-extended all too well. Recently I made a list of all the projects I'm currently working on. The next book. The road trip. The prints. Blogging. Consulting. Drawing cartoons. The list goes on...
All in all, it came down to ten items. Ten. Each one interesting and potentially lucrative enough to be taken on as a full-time job. Ten.
Ouch. Even for me, that seemed like WAY too much.
The other day, a friend of mine was kvetching about having to hold down three jobs. "Three?" I quipped. "Try holding down ten..."
My friend looked at me funny. He was probably right to do so.
Since about 1991, it's been like that for me. From the moment I woke up till the moment I went to bed, I was working on something. The day job or the cartoons or something else. Sure, I'd have girlfriends come and go, but the girlfriends never lasted too long, and I also ended up inventing, in 1997, an art form that would allow me to carry on working WHEN I was going out to the bars i.e. the "cartoons drawn on the back of business cards".
I've not had a proper vacation in ten years, either. Nor am I planning one.
Call Chris and myself, and probably over 50% of the people who read this blog, members of "The Overextended Class".
You know who you are. And you know what? In terms of percentage of the population, there were less of us twenty years ago. And there'll be more of us in two decades.
Our parents and grandparents spent their Cognitive Surplus watching television. That's a thing of the past... a historical accident of the old factory-worker age meeting the modern mass-media age. Of course it wouldn't last forever. We humans as a species were designed to compete, not to sit around on our asses.
Welcome to the Overextended Class, People. You may opt out of it if you want, but over time it's going to get harder and harder to make ends meet, let alone be successful, if you do.
1. Ten Thousand Hours.
Ten Thousand is a number that has been in vogue among the online intelligencia lately, thanks to “Outliers”, the bestselling book by The New Yorker writer, Malcolm Gladwell.
Gladwell didn’t invent the idea, but he popularized “The Ten Thousand Hours Rule” [I believe it first came out of a study from Florida State University yada yada…].
In short, evidence suggests that if you want to be really good at something, really successful at something, you need to put about ten thousand hours of work into it, before your efforts bear real fruit. This seems to be true whether we’re talking about computers (He cites Bill Gates being one of the first high school kids EVER to have put in ten thousand hours of computer time before going to college), or making art, fixing cars, laying tile, or getting a black belt in Karate.
Gladwell certainly made a good case for it, and from my own personal experience, ten thousand hours sounds about right. I actually came across the Ten Thousand Hour Rule before Gladwell’s book came out, via my buddy, Stowe Boyd, who wrote a great blog post about it [using me as a case study, *cough*] a few years ago. But I digress…
2. Ten Thousand People.
Ten Thousand is a number that has special meaning to me, as well:
The first few years of this century were tough ones for me. My career in advertising pretty much tanked around the same time as the dotcom crash, and I found myself unemployed, broke, living in the boonies, scraping a meagre living writing freelance brochure copy. Then 9-11 came along and made it even worse. Not fun or nice.
Up until that point, I had spent my entire working career “chasing gigs”. Whether we’re talking full-time salaried positions, or three-day freelance opportunities, I had spent well over a decade chasing that ever-elusive island of security in a swelling ocean of advertising-industry chaos. And these gigs would never last, they would always end eventually, for whatever reason. Recessions, layoffs, downsizing, incompetence on my part, incompetence on the boss’ part, whatever. And usually the timing was bad, of course it was.
Chase, chase, chase…. And I was sick of it. Really, REALLY sick of it. Over a decade of working my butt off, and those islands of security were no less elusive than before. And I wasn’t as young as I used to be. The hamster wheel was starting to do me in.
Then, in these darkest of days, I had a sudden flash of life-changing insight. Like I told my fellow burnout-advertising drinking buddy that evening, as we commiserated at the bar about our sad lot in life:
“I don’t want to be chasing gigs anymore.”The rest, as they say, is history…
“What do you want, then?” asked my buddy.
“I just want ten thousand people giving me money every year.”
“Where are you going to find these people?” he asked.
“The Internet,” I replied.
“What do you plan on doing there?”
“I think I’ll start by publishing my cartoons online… on a blog.”
“What’s a ‘blog’?”
There was nothing magical about the ten thousand number. I just reckoned that, as a cartoonist, if I was making t-shirts, books, whatever- and ten thousand people were buying product every year, with me making a few bucks profit off each unit, well, it wouldn’t make me a billionaire, but at least I’d be able to feed myself.
Also, ten thousand people supporting me seemed like a good way of spreading my bets economically. If one person drops out, and all you lose is a t-shirt sale, with 9,999 other people still on board you can easily recover. But in the world of chasing advertising gigs, if the one person you lose happens to be your jackass boss, you’re dead meat.
Then a wee while ago I came across the great “One Thousand True Fans” blog post. A similar idea to my own, except his magic number was one-tenth the size of mine. It doesn’t matter. It all depends on what you’re selling. The famous English tailor, Thomas Mahon, has his magic number set at one hundred, because that’s basically how many handmade suits he is physically capable of making in a twelve month period. Good thing his suits are very expensive- One hundred “True Fans” wouldn’t get him very far if all he was selling were ten-dollar tee shirts.
Whatever your own, personal magic number may be, I hope you find it one day; I hope you find THOSE PEOPLE one day.
Beats chasing gigs for a living….
We're ready to get back at it, as part of my EVIL PLANS etc.
This time, however, we're going to sponsor Tweetups. If you're one of the people following me on Twitter, are based in TEXAS and are planning on having a Tweetup in the next wee while, drop me an e-mail, and let's see if we can't get some wine sent there for the evening.
Even better, if you have one near to where I'm heading on my Evil Pans road trip, I'll try to attend. Rock on.
LESS IS MORE: One of the points I'm trying to make with this exercise in futility is that yes, you can do interesting stuff on a tiny, tiny scale and still make a big impact. So the smaller the event, the better. I'd rather attend a dozen tweetups with five to ten people, than one tweetup with a hundred people. I'd rather attend a tweetup in somebody's back yard, than a tweetup in a fancy, big-city restaurant.
Sure, a fancy, big event every now and then is fun, but that's not the main point of this...
[For those of you outside the loop, a "Tweetup" is a spontaneous, self-organizing social gathering of fellow Twitter users, usually organized on Twitter itself. Usually food and drink are part of the equation etc.]
Posted by hugh macleod at June 25, 2009 1:43 PM
[TO BE CONTINUED....]