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(Excerpts from the interview. Watch video for the whole conversation)
Jay: Hey everybody, it’s Jay Baer at Convince & Convert. I’m joined today by a very special guest, brand new author, gadfly, man-about-town, consistent wearer of black, John Morgan who is the author of Brand Against the Machine and also the proprietor of the consultancy by the same name. John, how are you, my friend?
John: I’m doing great. How are you doing?
Jay: I am excellent. Tell me about the book. What’s it been out, two weeks now, something like that?
John: Yeah, just a few weeks, and it’s been going great. I’m certainly excited to have it out there.
Jay: It is a book that is literally chock full of stuff. It’s 60 chapters or something like that. It reminds me, I know you’re friends with Scott Stratten and his book on marketing (Unmarketing). It’s structured a little bit like Scott’s book where it’s lots of shorter passages that don’t necessarily tie together in a narrative sweep or have a beginning, middle and end. You can literally take up this book and turn to any page and start reading, and you would get stuff out of it. I think that’s a really interesting approach to writing a book.
John: I wrote it that way for two reasons: one, because I wanted to get as much strategy in there as I could because I wanted it to be better than other books, because I wanted to make sure it was overwhelming with things you could do. But also because of the way we digest content today. We’re used to reading blog posts, right?
John: We’re not used to reading one chapter that’s 20 pages all about the same idea, and if there’s a third reason it’s that I’m not that great of a story teller where I can give someone one idea and then explain it nine different ways. I’m just: here it is, either take it or leave it. That’s it. I had to write the book in my own style, otherwise I didn’t think it was going to turn out right.
Jay: It’s super helpful in that way. One of the other things I really like is, and I haven’t really seen it done this exact way, I’ll hold this up. In the actual book itself you’ve got key little sentences that you have highlighted and outlined. It’s almost like a written down tweet, which I think is really, really smart and sort of those takeaways that jump off the page. How did you come up with that plan?
John: Well, you’ve got the scoop because this is the first time I’ve shared this with anybody. The secret to that is actually I went back and found all of the things I’ve ever written on Twitter that were retweeted the most and put those in the book.
Jay: No way, seriously?
John: Absolutely, because then I knew, okay, people are going to like it. If 82 people retweeted this and it’s in the book, then maybe the book won’t suck. So, I went back. Probably 90% of the things in those boxes were tweets previously. I knew it resonated with people. I knew that was a message that made sense, and people got what I was saying.
Jay: Fantastic. Tell me about the audience for the book. Who do you think is the ideal reader for Brand Against the Machine?
John: I’ll tell you who’s not the ideal reader, and that’s the person who’s “I want to be a business owner. I want to be an entrepreneur. I don’t know what I want to do.” This isn’t the “help you find your passion” kind of book. I’m not good at helping those people.
Jay: It’s not Crush It!, for example.
John: Right. This is definitely for somebody who knows what they want to do and, maybe they’re even doing it well but they need to do it bigger. Or it’s kind of going along this line; they’re not really happy, and they need to really crank things up and actually make it a big success. It’s more for that person. That can be a small business. It can also be a large business. It can even be the solo entrepreneur.
I’ve tried to write it where it would adapt each of these strategies to everybody because I’ve consulted, like you have. A lot of times we consult these big companies, and the solo entrepreneurs sometimes forget that they can easily implement what the big guys are doing. That was the thing. I kind of wanted to take what I talk about in closed door meetings with the big guys and bring it down to a way that the solo entrepreneur, the blogger, whatever could implement it in their own business.
Jay: Absolutely. That’s the way I took it as well, that that group of people that are self-directed and can determine just on their own how to handle their business, if you will, and get a whole lot out of this. The corporate marketer, who’s director of marketing at some big company who is told what to do, I think, might have more of a challenge putting some of these principles into place.
Let me shift to a blog post you did recently I was reading, and some people were leaving some comments and things, and you come in and you were commenting. Not only is there that engagement, so a relationship kind of building but you had mentioned to one of these people that their trust in you, that’s your business. That’s all you’ve got, right?
You’re someone that gets it, but a lot of these other companies when they think of branding, let me blast my crap out at everybody and hope it sticks in a few places. The problem, again, is just because we know who you are doesn’t mean that we’re doing business with you. We’ve got to know and trust you. People forget about that element.
Jay: It’s a really good point, too, that on a related topic that not everybody is a good customer. It doesn’t matter what company you are or what you sell, not everybody is an appropriate customer, and we fall into that trap sometimes. We get so desperate as business people or as companies that, okay, we need to make sure that everybody knows about us because everybody might want to buy from us. You know what? There are a lot of people out there who just aren’t right for you, and that’s actually a good thing, not a bad thing
John: That’s right. When we have a bad client, someone that’s not that ideal fit, then we’re not doing them a good service because we don’t like working with them and we’re miserable. And then, that affects the clients that we do like working with.
I had that because I used to own a real estate business. Certainly, I had a client that legitimately had to be Satan himself. This guy was horrible. He blackmailed me. He threatened to hit me. You name it, and this guy did it. At the time, I was financially broke. I had no choice but to work with him, and that lesson stuck with me because all I told myself is from now on I’ve got to work with better people, better quality people and not have myself be in a position where I’m forced to work with whoever, just because they’ve got money.
Jay: You said earlier that you’re not a great story teller, and I absolutely disagree. You are selling yourself far too short. My favorite story in the book is not a business story at all, or I guess it is tangentially, but it’s the story about your dad who started Morgan Electric there in Nashville. I actually liked the story so much that I told my kids this story. That’s how much it affected me, that your father – when he went on the first date with your mother – did not know what pizza was. That’s how small the town was that he grew up in.
John: That is correct. In fact, he grew up on a farm in a place called Gainesboro, Tennessee, that even today I’m not even sure if it’s on the map at all. In fact, They were so poor because he’s got six or seven brothers and sisters, so there’s a lot of them that one year for Christmas their presents were empty cans because they made noise. You could bang them. That was it.
I’m glad that story resonated with you because honestly that was one that I hadn’t shared with anyone because my dad worked so much at his business and still does today, our relationship suffered a little bit. My parents are still together. I see my dad weekly, but it’s not like we’re close. My dad was just always gone working, but to see what he’s built entirely on personality, because he didn’t have the education. He didn’t have the tools. My dad just started using a cell phone last year.
He had to find a way to fit into a world that wasn’t just going to make room for him, especially in business, right? But my dad has the personality where “I’m not going to meet a stranger. I will make them laugh. I will make them like me. I will allow them to get to know me, and then they’re going to trust me.” That’s what he did, and he built this very successful business based on those principles.
I think sometimes, especially now in the Internet age, we forget the whole “do business with people you know and can trust” is never going away, ever. We’re not going to wake up one day and say, “I’m going to do business with the people I hate”. That’s never happening, but we let the Internet and even social media think that that’s real relationships. It is, but sometimes you’ve still got to get on the phone or meet in person, you know what I mean?
Jay: My co-author, Amber Naslund, said this to me one time, actually when I interviewed her live on Twitter. This is years ago, long before we wrote The NOW Revolution, and she said something that stuck with me to this day. What she loves about social networking and social media is that her relationships are no longer dictated by geography or circumstance.
John: Absolutely. You mentioned Scott Stratten earlier. Here’s a great example of this. I knew Scott through Twitter for a long time.
Jay: Everybody knows Scott through Twitter.
John: Well, yeah, absolutely. I knew him old school back when no one was listening. We had exchanged e-mails. We had interviewed each other. We kind of felt like we knew each other; had never met face-to-face. Last year he comes to Nashville in support of his book because I was hosting this whole book event for him, and the guy stayed at my house.
We had not met face-to-face, and my wife is like, “who’s coming over, what is this?” It was this whole weird thing, but yet the moment we met it was like we had been friends for 20 years. It just fit, and man, what a phenomenal time we live in that me in Nashville can meet someone in Canada and even build that kind of friendship or relationship where it’s not just about business, it’s actually a real friendship, those kind of things.
It’s phenomenal, and so that’s why I really wanted to share this story about my dad in the book was because I realized almost in writing it, not to sound like this writer who has this moving moment, but all of a sudden I’m writing that story and didn’t realize actually how proud of my dad I was until I sat down to write it, if that makes sense.
Jay: Absolutely. It comes through very much so. One of the things that I thought was curious that you mentioned in the book is the notion that some people sort of ruin their personal brand, if you will, in social media by complaining all the time, by being like Debbie Downer and that nobody wants to be around the negative guy.
You are fairly clear in the book about asking people to stay positive wherever possible in their social media interactions, but yet a few pages later you talk about people making sure that they are authentic and truthful in social media. And so, I’m not sure that those two things work together because sometimes we are authentically pissed off or authentically upset.
John: That’s true. I think there’s a balance though. If you’re always that person that’s complaining and crying and whining about everything, just like any real life social situation, you’re not the person people want to hang around. You’re not the person in the party that everyone wants to go and hang out with. That’s the thing is we just have to remember that when we’re online we are always on. Every single tweet or Facebook post or whatever affects our brand. Positively or negatively, it does have this effect.
And so, that’s the thing. Sometimes, we forget that. We think that because social media gives us a voice that we have something to say, maybe not. Maybe, it’s partly where I’ve worked for so many businesses I know that yes, customers are going to complain, but there’s two sides to every story.
A lot of times someone will say, “I’ve got this horrible service at this restaurant” and they’re blasting the restaurant on Twitter. I’ll ask them, “Well, what did the restaurant say when you told them you were upset?” They’re like, “Well, we didn’t tell them”. It’s like, that’s really not fair. You know what I mean?
I guess the flip side of that is if you come out being authentic, if it’s actually you always complaining and lying about stuff, you’ve got other issues besides your brand in social media and those things.
Jay: We say authentic and we throw that word out there, but we don’t really mean it, and we don’t really want it. The same thing is true with transparency. We talk about being transparent, and we can’t nor do we actually want it. Beth Harte at one point said that what we really want is translucency, that we want some level of being able to see through. But we don’t want the full deal because it’s ridiculous and it’s scary and it’s not what we’re looking for.
John: Here’s a great example. I know a guy who wrote on Facebook just a week or two ago. His exact post was: “I just lost a client. Do you want to take their spot?”
Jay: Social media is just heaven for the passive aggressive.
John: Exactly. It’s great that you’re being authentic and transparent, but no one wants to work with a person who’s clearly not successful or making things happen.
Jay: Fantastic. It is an excellent book. I recommend you pick it up. You will learn a lot. It’s a quick read because you can dive in and out, as I mentioned. It’s John Morgan‘s Brand Against the Machine. Pick it up at Amazon, book stores, skywriting, Renaissance Fairs, whatever. It’ll be out there. Congratulations on the book. I’m really proud of you.
John: Hey, thanks so much.