Mike Stelzner knows a little something about building a successful company from thin air. He’s the founder of Social Media Examiner, currently ranked the #8 marketing blog in the world on the AdAge Power 150 (we’re lagging at #19 here at Convince & Convert). In just one year – from a standing start – SME became a multi-million dollar business. In addition to the blog itself, Mike and the SME crew produce the excellent Social Media Success Summits and Facebook Success Summits (disclosure: I’ve been a part of nearly all of them as a paid presenter).
Every time I think I’m doing a good job building a community and a company at Convince & Convert, I look at what Mike has cooking and realize he’s doing it bigger, faster, and better than me. Bastard.
The good news is that Mike doesn’t believe in secrets, and his excellent new book Launch: How to Quickly Propel Your Business Beyond the Competition (affiliate) shows you exactly how he’s built SME and his other businesses, and how other companies like Hubspot have used the same playbook.
Mike and I discuss the book and its teachings at length in the video above, and I really do hope you’ll take a few minutes to check it out. Lots of very interesting ideas from Mike that run counter to the accepted wisdom about how you build businesses.
For example, the core premise of Launch is the Elevation Principle, which dictates that you can build the best business by fulfilling people’s needs at NO COST. This is in stark contrast to the conversion and immediate ROI focus that most companies have adopted, even within the social media world.
Planting Customer Crops
Mike really believes in farming. Planting content seeds that produce customer crops down the road. Not today, but eventually. He also talks a lot in the video and in the book about giving gifts. The notion of quid pro quo and reciprocity are ruining business, in his estimation. Giving gifts (material gifts, content gifts, attention gifts) without expecting a return will produce – somewhat ironically – a far greater return.
It’s a weird paradox. Mike’s entire philosophy is about delaying business gratification, and about doing right by your prospective customers today so more of them will become actual customers tomorrow. Yet by following that advice, he’s actually building companies FASTER than if you did it the old school way with a bunch of sales reps and high-pressure Webinars.
I know it works, because I’ve seen him do it, and I’ve used some of the same techniques for my own businesses, and for my clients. But the reality is that most companies – especially large ones – don’t have the guts to give away all of their content without so much as even an email collection gate. If nothing else, Launch will inspire you to give it a try.
Content Without People Is Just Words
But the wisest part of Mike’s book isn’t about content or gift-giving, it’s about people. His formula is content PLUS people equals success. And when the storm clouds of budget and tactics roll in, the people part is usually what gets left out in the rain.
The book talks about “fire starters” – people in your industry that can drive awareness and social proof and attention and advocacy. It’s similar to Gladwell’s “Mavens” segment from The Tipping Point, but in today’s hyper-shareable world of micro-content and invitation avalanches, these people aren’t just nice to have, they’re critical.
And that’s the problem. I don’t care who you are, what company you work for, or how good your content is, that content isn’t good enough to truly succeed without key people making it work. You have to find a small group of netizens who believe in you enough to put some of their own skin in the game and support your content efforts. Are those employees? Maybe. Are they customers? Perhaps. Business partners? Sure. But all of those audiences are biased. What you really want are customers or third parties who don’t have anything to personally gain via your success. Those are the fire-starters that make your content more than just words and Google Bait. They are what make your content into a movement.
Don’t fall for the trap of just making content and posting it in a vacuum. As you’ll learn in Launch, the same amount of effort you put into your content creation should also be put into relationship cultivation.
That’s the secret. And I’m glad Mike is willing to share it for the price of a book. Pick up Launch. It’s a quick, interesting read that will have you dog-earing a ton of pages.
(video production from my friends at Real Simple Video. If you need someone to take your raw footage and tidy it up, add titles, etc. they are the guys. Fast and reasonably priced. Check them out at http://realsimplevideo.com/jaybaer).