Six Pixels of Separation - The Blog
July 30, 201411:37 PM

Pushing Through The Pain

I have no idea what I did to my back... but it's bad. Really bad.

When I used to do a whole bunch of close quarters combative training and coaching with Tony Blauer, I would often think about the notion of pain and what it means. Have you ever stubbed your toe? Your initial reaction is to scream out in pain, but is it really all that painful? Here's an exercise I used to do: I would take moments like stubbing my toe, getting a paper cut and other instances of personal abuse and, before yelping out in pain, I would ask myself, "does this really hurt?" I mean really, really hurt? More often than not, I found that my attitude would change. I'd no longer scream out in pain, but rather acknowledge that I had done some kind of minor/stupid physical damage to myself, try to rate the pain and then realize that my flinch response would have been to scream or react, but the reality was that the pain wasn't all that bad. In the end, I wound up not screaming or being upset over every little ache, pain, bump or scratch.

That was not the case last Friday night. 

I had been experiencing some back pain and I thought that it was just me sleeping the wrong way. Then, while lifting something heavy out of my car on Friday night, I must have tweaked it even more. It was blinding pain. The kind of pain that gives you both the sweats and nausea at the time. I didn't know what to do with myself or where to put myself. I have no idea how I made it into the house, but I could not move for days. Literally... stuck in the same place and every little movement hurt. Thanks to the wonders of modern medicine, an amazing doctor and more, I'm on the road to recovery.

Did you notice my pain on social media?

I kept to my usual schedule of blogging (six days a week) and podcasting (every Sunday). I'm not looking for a cookie or a pat on the head for sticking to my editorial calendar. Those moments made me realize something: whether your pain is physical, mental or both, only you can choose what you will do during that time. Sometimes pushing through the pain is the worst thing that you can do (I probably would not have made it through a session at the gym in that condition), but sometimes pushing through the pain is the smartest thing that you can do. Seth Godin wrote an amazing book on figuring out when to stop (it's called The Dip, and everyone should read it). Like most things he publishes, Seth is spot on. You have to know when to keep going, mostly because the best of what we have to offer mostly comes in the moments when we are pushing through the pain.

How often does a brand push through the pain?

This analogy works magically well, when I think about brands and their digital marketing. The truth, as we have often discussed here on this blog, is that digital marketing looks and feels nothing like traditional advertising. To this day, I often hear brands complaining that Facebook advertising doesn't work or that Google's AdWords aren't converting as efficiently as they once did. More often than not, it's the brand that is failing on the platform, and not the other way around. I've seen brands test something new (like Pinterest) and drop it quickly because they didn't see any kind of bump right away. It's regretful, because the brand attitude is that whatever else they had been working on (and refined over time) is better than this new thing right out of the gate.

Doing something new is painful... but push through the pain.

There are too many instances when the power of digital marketing is marginalized because one test... one pinkie toe into the ocean... didn't satiate the entire body. Changes are painful. Brands need to not only embody this newly realized culture of change that we're living in, but how to push through it and get to a point where the decision to keep going (or to stop) is happening because the initial pain was pushed through. Look, I'm just like you. I don't like change... I don't like pain. It's a lot harder to stare at a blank screen with pain ripping through your back, than it is to stare at the same screen while sitting in a Starbucks sipping on a cafe latte. Still, we push on. I wonder what online marketing would look like, if every brand was accepting of the pain and enabling their teams to push through it, and then figure out what the true value and merit was of the exercise?

I'm going to push through this pain to keep on creating work. Brands shouldn't give up, just because they stubbed their toe on something new.

By Mitch Joel


July 29, 201411:32 PM

The Only Consumer That Matters

Who is really a customer of yours?

I often get to hang out backstage at conferences and events. When you have that kind of access to other speakers, business leaders and authors, it would be silly not to take advantage of it. So, I do. I ask them questions. I prod them. I engage them. I do my best to not be a pest, while at the same time, I see these as moments that should never be wasted. If I'm lucky enough to be one of a handful of people to have direct contact with a former President or current New York Times bestselling author, it feels like a moment that should not be wasted. That being said, I don't consider myself a professional speaker. Not like these people do. A lot of these speakers have one form of income: speaking. It always made me chuckle to hear professional speakers tell me that some group, company or organization that brought them in to speak is a "client." I've been speaking for close to a decade, and I never considered any of the organizers my client. It's a term that never sat well with me. Just because I spoke at an event (even after being paid for it), it didn't feel right proclaiming that the company was my client. It would be like me calling you a client simply because you bought one of my books.

So, who is really  customer of yours?

When I was spending time in Silicon Valley two weeks ago, Avinash Kaushik (Digital Marketing Evangelist at Google and bestselling author of Web Analytics - An Hour A Day and Web Analytics 2.0) told me that a major brand once remarked to him that they don't consider anyone a customer of theirs unless they have bought from them twice. Two is a big number in this day and age. Most retailers struggle to retain customers because of digital technology. It's easy for a potential customer to walk through a physical retail environment, and then use their smartphone to either find a better price, become more informed about their purchase or ask their social network their thoughts on the pending purchase. It's called, showrooming, and it's something that I've written about countless time over the years. Initial thinking on showrooming was that it would cause mass disruption to the retail space. In fact, it's become so pervasive that retailers have created other terms around it to put it into perspective. Reverse showrooming, is one such term. This happens when consumers go online to research a product and then head to a physical store to buy it. Silly, right? Did we call it reverse showrooming when we would ask friends about a product and then go to a store to buy it? Retailers now waking up to the fact that consumers do research online first (really, this is something new that retailers are just waking up to?) are now initiating in-store tactics like offering in-store pick-up of products bought online, free wi-fi and training a more knowledgeable sales staff to build a more congruous experience.     

Reacting to reality.

There have been many reports that dismiss the power of social media in relation to driving sales. What these reports often don't take into account is how powerful of a referral source for both bricks and mortar chains and e-commerce sites social media is. What this really means is that consumers have a tremendous amount of firepower prior to making a purchase. They have power through the information available to them online via their smartphones, and they can also leverage the wisdom of their own crowds if generic searches and consumer reviews don't pass the sniff test. So, while some retailers might argue that consumers are much smarter than they ever were, I would argue that they're simply more informed and have more options than ever before.

How does this change retail?

In short, this ends the traditional retail cycle of "too bad." It's the end of: we don't have what you're looking for... too bad. It's the end of: we're sorry you didn't have a great customer service experience... too bad. It's the end of: we're sorry you had to drive all the way over here and we don't have your size... too bad. It's the end of: yes, it's more expensive than somewhere else, but you're already here... too bad. When consumers have information and options, it pushes traditional retailers back on their heels, and it forces them to provide a higher level of service (which, ultimately, is a mix of the physical and digital world). Ultimately, I'm hopeful that it also pushes brands to figure out who a customer is. A real customer. Like the one who buys from you twice. At least.

Call it showrooming, call it reverse showrooming... consumers just call it a pleasant shopping experience.

By Mitch Joel


July 28, 2014 8:38 AM

Social Media, Politics And A Myopic World View

Every Monday morning at 7:10 am, I am a guest contributor on CHOM 97.7 FM radio broadcasting out of Montreal (home base). It's not a long segment - about 5 to 10 minutes every week - about everything that is happening in the world of technology and digital media. The good folks at CHOM 97.7 FM are posting these segments weekly to SoundCloud, if you're interested in hearing more of me blathering away. I'm really excited about this opportunity, because this is the radio station that I grew up on listening to, and it really is a fun treat to be invited to the Mornings Rock with Terry and Heather B. morning show. The segment is called, CTRL ALT Delete with Mitch Joel.

This week we discussed:

  • Rob Kemp sits in for Terry DiMonte.
  • Facebook, politics and the new world view.
  • The news has become more opinion-based, instead of facts.
  • We need to be more media savvy.
  • Technology can analyze sentiment as well.
  • ComicCom San Diego and the revenge of the nerds.
  • The rise of Geek Culture.
  • Those who were beaten up on the playground are the new heroes.
  • Google dominates search... and there may not be other competitors.
  • Quartz: Google has run away with the web search market and almost no one is chasing.
  • The power of targeted advertising.
  • Facebook is getting increasingly powerful because of their newsfeed and mobile.
  • Will anybody catch Google?
  • App of the week: IFTTT.
  • Heather gets all freaked out about Evernote.

Listen here...

By Mitch Joel


July 27, 2014 8:16 AM

How Does The World See You?

Episode #420 of Six Pixels of Separation - The Twist Image Podcast is now live and ready for you to listen to.

Have you ever taken one of those personality tests? Some employers force people to take them (employees or recruits), while some of us come across them as we continue our journeys in life. Many of us take tests like this just to see if we're doing the work that we're supposed to be doing. Regardless, it's hard to argue that these test don't often pull out a thing or two about us that we may not have realized or paid enough attention to. Sally Hogshead is working on something similar... but different. In her latest business book, How The World Sees You, Sally proclaims that it's not about what you want to become, but how the people you interact with perceive you. Here's the thing: I'm typically skeptical about these sorts of efforts. I was blown away by the simplicity and accuracy that Sally has brought to this notion. In fact, since reading the book and doing the exercises, I've noticed a marked difference in my communication with people because I'm now filtering it by the outputs of How The World Sees You. Sally continues to be one of the most fascinating women in marketing today. He last book, Fascinate, dominated the scene for months, but Sally is much more than a best-selling business book author and speaker. In her second year of advertising, Sally won more awards than any other copywriter in the U.S., and was described as "the most successful junior copywriter of all time." After working at Wieden + Kennedy and Fallon McElligott, by age 27 she'd opened her first ad agency, with clients such as Target and Remy Martin. Three years later, she opened the West Coast office of Crispin Porter + Bogusky as Creative Director/Managing Director. Enjoy the conversation...

You can grab the latest episode of Six Pixels of Separation here (or feel free to subscribe via iTunes): Six Pixels of Separation - The Twist Image Podcast #420.

By Mitch Joel


July 26, 2014 8:10 AM

Six Links Worthy Of Your Attention #214

Is there one link, story, picture or thought that you saw online this week that you think somebody you know must see?

My friends: Alistair Croll (BitCurrent, Year One Labs, GigaOM, Human 2.0, Solve For Interesting, the author of Complete Web Monitoring, Managing Bandwidth: Deploying QOS in Enterprise Networks and Lean Analytics), Hugh McGuire (PressBooks, LibriVox, iambik and co-author of Book: A Futurist's Manifesto) and I decided that every week the three of us are going to share one link for one another (for a total of six links) that each individual feels the other person "must see".

Check out these six links that we're recommending to one another:

  • What We Can Learn From Past Anxiety Over Automation - The Wilson Quarterly. "I'm a big believer that, as a society, we aren't ready to deal with abundance; worse, that capital concentration will ensure that the boon of automation and software will be increasingly poorly shared among humanity. I get into a lot of arguments with people, particularly stubborn everyone-for-themselves Libertarians, about such things. But I've also had great discussions, and several memorable ones have come from my friend Kamal Jain. He posted this riposte to one of my recent Luddite polemics. Since those who can't remember the past are doomed to repeat it, it's worth a read." (Alistair for Hugh).
  • How I made $40k within Shopify's trial period - That Shirt Was Cash. "Saying, 'the rate of change is increasing' is a business platitude. It's always increasing. But one of the things that digital channels has allowed is massive, rapid experimentation. This fairly tongue-in-cheek post details how Shirtwascash (a shoestring version of Spreadshirt) made $40K --before the trial period on its shopping cart software had even ended. Retailers of the world, take note: this is how your empires crumble." (Alistair for Mitch).
  • The Sci-Fi Writers' War - Slate. "Life imitating art? The power of writing? Russian-financed propaganda? In a strange revelation about the conflict in the Ukraine, it turns out that for the past few years writers in the East of the country have been producing a small stream of dystopian sci-fi novels about armed conflicts between Russian-speaking Ukranians in the East and the Western-grazing government in Kiev." (Hugh for Alistair).
  • The Secret of Minecraft - Medium. "Robin Sloan takes on the amazing world of the videogame, Minecraft, and muses about its implication for everyone creating art of any kind." (Hugh for Mitch).
  • Jon Stewart - The Sound Of Virginity - Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee. "Without a doubt, Jerry Seinfeld's Comedians In Cars Getting Coffee is one of the most interesting video series on the Internet today. The concept is simple: Seinfeld calls up one of his comedian buddies, they go for a drive, have some coffee and talk about life, the life of being a comedian and the awkward ways that comedians live. It's awesome. Each and every episode. HIs latest is with The Daily Show's Jon Stewart. It does not disappoint." (Mitch for Alistair).
  • I'm Ira Glass, Host of This American Life, and This Is How I Work - Lifehacker. "Is there anything better than listening to what Ira Glass and his team pull together for This American Life? I think not. As someone who creates content, we often talk about the power of great storytelling for brands. We can teach it. We can encourage it. But, the truth is, that it's hard... very very hard... to be a great storyteller. Ira Glass is a great storyteller. How does he work? Wow, this Lifehacker piece delivers in spades. I'm a huge geek for pieces of content like this. So, when my buddy, Nilofer Merchant, linked to it on Facebook, I could not resist but to devour it... and share it with you as well." (Mitch for Hugh).  

Feel free to share these links and add your picks on Twitter, Facebook, in the comments below or wherever you play.

By Mitch Joel


July 25, 2014 5:40 PM

How To Do The Nearly Impossible

We live in very different times. It's hard to imagine that we live in a day and age when individuals - from a very young age - can start a business, build something formidable and - literally - change the... Read more

By Mitch Joel


July 24, 201410:52 PM

Brands Can Have Real Conversations

Are there any real conversations happening out there? It's been a long day. I hopped an early flight to Boston to speak at the Marketo customer summit. Direct flights are a funny thing. On one had, you want the ease... Read more

By Mitch Joel


July 23, 201411:11 PM

Facebook Proves Us All Wrong (And It's Not Just Facebook)

All too often, we fall victim to a the market of one syndrome. I was on Facebook when somebody I know (and respect) said something akin to: "Nobody I know has ever click on a mobile banner ad." That's the... Read more

By Mitch Joel


July 22, 2014 8:16 AM

Are Your Customers Frozen? Let It Go!

The competition is fierce out there. The battle for the consumer continues to intensify. Brands used to battle with their competitors for the direct relationship, but something new is happening. While I discuss it in much more detail in my... Read more

By Mitch Joel


July 21, 2014 9:27 PM

Adventures In Visiting Google, Facebook And Apple In Silicon Valley

Every Monday morning at 7:10 am, I am a guest contributor on CHOM 97.7 FM radio broadcasting out of Montreal (home base). It's not a long segment - about 5 to 10 minutes every week - about everything that is... Read more

By Mitch Joel