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The #1 Lesson from Gary V’s 2013 Inc. 500 Keynote
When Gary Vaynerchuk asked the 2013 Inc. 500|5000 conference, held in Washington, DC this past week, “by a show of hands, how many of you know who I am?” I’d estimate that 30 to 40 percent of the audience raised their hands. That’s a bit surprising when you consider that Gary has amassed more than a million followers on Twitter and 140,000+ likes on Facebook.
Then again, maybe it’s to be expected given that the audience was comprised primarily of CEOs and small business owners—an audience far more likely to shart while playing golf than tweet at a coffee shop! Perhaps this disparity confirms your (mistaken) belief that social media is a waste of time for businesses and business owners. If you fall into this camp, Gary V would say, “you’re making a big mistake.” Actually, Gary would say, “you’re making a big f*cking mistake!”
Watch this short video and you’ll quickly learn more about Gary V (and why he has become famous for his use of the f-bomb):
Gary V’s 2011 Inc. 500 Conference Keynote Speech
Now that you have some idea who Gary Vaynerchuk is, let’s flash forward to the 2013 Inc. 500|5000 conference. On Friday morning, Gary hosted a VIP lunch presented by Dell and then he joined Eric Schurenberg, Inc. magazine’s editor, that afternoon for a Q&A session (which Gary turned into his own version of a keynote speech).
I was fortunate enough to attend both and, in this post, I’m going to give you what I consider to be in either of his Inc. speeches.
Vaynerchuk made a slew of great points in his Inc. speeches:
- Content is the only form of marketing left, so you’d better become a great storyteller
- A lot of businesses are boring and unremarkable—work to change that
- Create content that is genuinely interesting to your prospects and customers
- Don’t treat social media simply as a distribution system for your content
- When it comes to social, jab, jab, jab, right hook (give, give, give, then ask)
But the single most POWERFUL point Vaynerchuk made, something that was an undercurrent of both speeches:
Vaynerchuk grew his parent’s business from $3 million to $45 million and beyond in roughly five years. He credits a large part of his success to understanding where consumers were in 1996 and, more importantly, where they’d be in 1998.
In 1996, he paid $15,000 to build winelibrary.com. In the first year, it generated a piddly $812 in sales. Three years later, sales from winelibrary.com topped $4 million—creating the foundation for his success as a social media entrepreneur.
Since launching his wine website, Vaynerchuk has experimented with lots of different online advertising channels—from banner ads and email marketing to pay per click advertising and SEO. The return from all these channels is going down, claims Vaynerchuck. What he likes about social media, and the reason he has gravitated there in recent years, is that it’s one of the few advertising channels that hasn’t been ruined by marketers… at least not yet.
(Gary, if you’re reading this… your site scores a 57.1 out of 100 in terms of how well it has been optimized. Maybe it’s time you gave us a call?)
Vaynerchuk concedes that social media is going to get ruined, which is why you have to get in the game now.
Speaking of ruining social media marketing…
At one point during Vaynerchuk’s 2013 Inc. 500 keynote, Eric Shurenberg asked for Gary’s thoughts on using current events and tragedies to generate social media likes and traffic (side comment – Eric, you need a better website too!). Vaynerchuk didn’t mince words with his reply, “if you’re using tragedies like Hurricane Sandy to get likes on Facebook, you’re a complete piece of sh*t.”
Conclusion & Takeaways
Whether you believe social media marketing is appropriate for your business or not, Vaynerchuk’s overall message of getting in (and out) of marketing strategies early is spot on. In my experience with Blue Corona, the reason business owners hang on to outdated and underperforming marketing campaigns is because they base their decisions on instinct instead of data.
Even with all the marketing analytics tools available today, most businesses are not accurately tracking each of their marketing strategies. As a result, they continue to invest in campaigns that are a total waste of money for fear that making a change will cause an unexpected drop in business.
When you’ve got the right tracking tools in place, you never have to worry about a play out like this.
To this day, I can see the look on the Yellow Page sales rep’s face when Bob Perini, president of DrinkMore Water (and co-founder of Blue Corona), and I told him that DrinkMore Water was canceling all of its print yellow page ads.
The YP sales rep stood up, slammed his hands down on the conference room table and said, “gentlemen, this isn’t going to work for me. Your competitors are increasing their ad sizes and adding color. If you do this, you’re going to go out of business.”
I remember Bob and I just looking at each other and almost breaking into laughter. We had the data. We knew that the YP print ads were not producing anything close to a positive return. So, we canceled all those print ads and shifted some of the money saved into testing various online marketing campaigns such as pay per click ads on Google.
At the time, hardly anyone in the bottled water industry knew what Google AdWords was. We were paying pennies for highly searched keywords and generating leads and sales at a fraction of what we were getting through our other marketing channels. No one else was in the game, and this is Gary V’s point about social media. It doesn’t cost much to test it when most of your competitors don’t even know what it is.
Marketing success, just like everything else in business, is a process.
At Blue Corona, we believe that the only silver bullet in the marketing world is to TRACK > TEST > TWEAK > REPEAT.
Not every test ends up as a homerun. Most of the time, you end up with something equivalent to a single or double. And, of course, sometimes you’ll strike out. Even strikeouts are valuable because they give you information you can use to do better next time (but only if you accurately track and document your effort).
Eventually marketers really do ruin everything, so BIG rewards are only available to business owners willing to try new things early and often. Vaynerchuk is a social media fanboy. Most of his speeches hit all the broad points perfectly. When people criticize him, it’s over the details. Make no mistake, it’s tougher to market a plumbing company via Facebook and Twitter than a wine website. Vaynerchuk doesn’t have any clear step-by-step method for situations like these, BUT that shouldn’t stop you from testing these new media channels.
Just make sure you have a great partner to help you set realistic goals, put the right tracking tools in place, and execute. In the end it really is all about the execution. In Gary’s words, “ideas don’t mean sh*t. It’s all about execution.”
If you’d help creating an intelligent, data-driven online marketing and/or social media strategy, let’s talk!
About The Author: Ben Landers is the President and CEO of Blue Corona, a data-driven, inbound internet marketing company. Submit an inquiry to book Ben to speak at your next conference or event.
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