Embarking on a Journey
In this episode of Wayfinding Growth, we have a conversation with award-winning podcast host, global keynote speaker, and writer Jay Acunzo. Jay is the founder of Marketing Showrunners, author of the book Break the Wheel, and a decorated show host and executive producer.
Give Jay's show Unthinkable a listen. You won't be sorry.
He's a former Google digital media strategist, head of content at HubSpot, and Vice President of Content and Community at the VC firm NextView.
Jay has produced more than a dozen original series in audio and video about creativity at work, including his narrative-style podcast, Unthinkable, and his work with innovative brand clients like Wistia, Drift, Help Scout, Flipboard, the Content Marketing Institute, and more. In a world where “storyteller” has become a buzzword, Jay earns a living by crafting genuinely enjoyable tales about people who do great work.
Jay dives right into the conversation explaining his view of what he does, as a storyteller of all things business. He says so many of us draw inspiration from the meaning of our work, but the stories of our work don't match that. So he makes "nutritious and delicious content about the business world."
Charting The Course
As Jay explored the course that got him to where he is today, he dove into a moment when he was working at Google, right out of college, and realized that selling ads wasn't for him. Someone had sent Jay a YouTube video he loved, and wanted to share with his three roommates.
As Jay hyped this video as one of the "greatest things you'll ever see" (or something like that) and hit the play button, a 30 second ad came up and took all the air out of the room. In that moment, Jay thought "Dammit, Eric."
Eric was Jay's colleague who'd probably sold that ad space to the advertiser.
His second thought was, "I have that same job. I'm ruining the video experience for users. Because of my work, millions of people just had their day made worse."
Jay says that far too many marketers are willing to make this poor user experience 'the cost of doing business.' He's not willing to do that.
So now Jay helps others make smart business decisions. Through his research for Breaking the Wheel, Jay uncovered The Pike Syndrome. Essentially, we develop learned helplessness.
"We've always done it this way."
"Someone told me this is the right/best way."
"This is just how it is."
Instead, businesses need to operate with the idea that for every question or problem that arises, the answer to it is "it depends." It depends on your team, your situation, your world... it depends. If we just start with our context, we'll find the better way.
Don't rely on "best practices." Find your way and make better decisions.
Another psychological reason we make decisions in poor ways that Jay covers is called Cultural Fluency. It's your behavior that unfolds when reality proceeds as you would expect. You essentially go on autopilot because everything moves along "normally." When things become mindless, you fall into stale patterns and you're not as mindful.
This leads to decay and hinders your evolving when it comes to business decisions and mindfulness. If one detail comes out of nowhere and isn't commonplace, it jars us out of the monotonous path.
In marketing, this means asking open-ended questions to help us realize we may not have the answer. It leads to deep thinking and testing.
Want to think differently and break from conventional thinking? Ask 2 questions of the 3 pieces of your context.
Start with a trigger question. Jay uses "What's our aspiration as a team?" in the marketing department context. You can't search for a thought leader or guru who has that answer. Only your team can answer that upon reflection. The trigger question jumpstarts your curiosity.
Then you have a confirmation question. This brings confirmation that you can chase this "thing" even if it bucks trends. You can discover the thing that makes you unique so you can pursue this path in the way only you or your team can.
This path, trusting intuition and asking open-ended questions, can be difficult. It's much easier to follow "best practices" and other paths with visible results. But that's not always the best business decision journey. Jay breaks down intuition, dispelling the idea that it's some ethereal experience or lightning strike moment. Instead, taking it from it's Latin root, it means to consider. Consider your environment and make decisions.
Jay shares a story about Merriam-Webster's Chief Digital Officer Lisa Schneider and her team, and how they bucked the trend to brought about a great marketing presence - for a dictionary.
Other navigational tools Jay shared include simply documenting your context. This covers your team, your customer, and your situation. Documenting tools could include Google Drive, Tettra (Jay's favorite), Trello, Asana and others.
The Bermuda Triangle
So many businesses get lost in the Bermuda Triangle, according to Jay, is failing to realize that you and your team are your unfair advantage. That team, that chemistry, doesn't exist anywhere else. Only you can do what you do the way you do it. Realize that, document it, discover what it means, develop that intuition, and you'll sail right through the Bermuda Triangle that traps most businesses.
And avoid the Dreaded Pirate But.
- But my boss
- But our client
- But the market
- But... that external factor I don't control
Don't give the Dreaded Pirate But any more thought than absolutely necessary.
Pro Tip: Read Jay's The Green Smoothie Problem
Captain Killing It
Jay's favorite story of who's killing it with making great business decisions is Death Wish Coffee.
Mike Brown, the founder, talked to customers about why they wanted stronger, darker coffee. Interestingly, darker coffee is usually weaker. Longer roasting means less caffeine. So if you want dark and caffeinated, you have to use a bean most coffee aficionados frown upon called robusta.
Mike realized it's not about the "snobby experience" of coffee houses for his customers. It's about the transaction of more caffeine. So he was able to buck the trend and give his customers what they wanted.
Death Wish Coffee went from a failing one-shop cafe in upstate New York to a thriving ecommerce brand.
"They're not just rebels," Jay says. "They're constant investigators into their own specific situation. Then they use that information to guide them forward. It looks crazy from the outside."
But it works. They're even sending Death Wish Coffee into space so it's not just the world's strongest coffee. It's the galaxy's strongest coffee.
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UNTIL NEXT TIME, MAKE SURE YOU ARE DOING ALL YOU CAN DO TO LEAVE THE DOCK OF MEDIOCRITY AND SET SAIL FOR SUCCESS.
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