I was recently browsing Vox when I came upon this article:
Here’s the TL;DR version – over the last few years, there’s been an ‘unleashing’ across the political landscape as websites like Breitbart rise to prominence through the championing of opinions that, not so long ago, were deemed unacceptable for civil discussion.
They’ve unleashed the ability for people to speak openly, and inspired a sense of community that has manifested in such malicious forms as the Charlottesville neo-Nazi rally.
Unleashing isn’t limited to politics, of course. We see it in business too.
In the B2B space there are some easily identified “unpopular” opinions being unleashed in the name of community-building. The most obvious of these is the cult of entrepreneurial supremacy, which came to prominence over the last decade.
The idea is, basically, that you’re superior for taking the risks associated with running a business. That the courage it takes, and the intelligence that comes with starting a business makes you somehow superior to all of those *snort* employees.
It’s a short-sighted viewpoint typically held by people who are still in their first few years of business. It’s not unusual to get through the first three to five years of business without a really major disaster, and so as their income steadily grows, those who carry this sense of superiority become arrogant, and start to believe they’re a genius whose touch turns everything into gold. Until the day it doesn’t.
While unleashing can obviously be used for nefarious purposes, so too can it be a force for good. I know that, because unleashing has been my secret marketing superpower since I first went into business.
What Does Positive Unleashing Look Like in Business?
For Gulliver and I, sales was what we unleashed.
I’ll never forget a certain event for startups we attended in 2010. The host asked from stage,
“What are some options for funding your business?”
People started to respond
“Get a loan!”
“Find a VC!”
Then Gulliver yelled out
and the entire room of 200 attendees turned around, looked at us, and started laughing.
Later, a mentor tried to tell us “you can’t sell sales. No one wants to get on the phone. You need to change your approach”.
But we didn’t. We stuck with it, refusing to change our message that sales is a vehicle of love and self-respect.
Because of this, we’ve been a part of shifting the way the marketplace views and talks about sales. In 2017, no one laughs when we say it’s a way to fund your business. Instead, they buy our products and events.
How do I Unleash?
So, how do you figure out what, where, and how to unleash in your business?
Easy; I built you a four-step formula! It’s proven, and a system! Just ask yourself:
Who Are You?
None of this ever works if you’re expressing an opinion you don’t believe just to build your audience and make money. It has to be a true reflection of you and what you believe.
Who is Your Market?
At the same time, you need to take into account who you’re trying to attract. If your opinion is going to be that Trump is the best thing that ever happened to the US, you’re not going to rally a market of liberals. You need to be clear on who you’re talking to.
What Values do You Share?
You need to authentically find the places in which your values match your audience’s. This is not to say you have to have the same values on everything, simply that you need to share some opinions that you can speak to.
And here’s the key: if your values don’t match your audience, ask yourself why the hell you’re trying to work with people who you don’t share any values with? Choosing a market based on where you think the money can be made is always a mistake. As human beings, we are inherently narcissistic. That means we struggle to fully articulate the experiences of others, and the ability to do this is crucial to your marketing, especially when it comes to unleashing.
What is Your Market Afraid to Say? What Unpopular Opinions do They Hold That You Share?
What unpopular opinions do you share with your market? They don’t have to be huge, explosive things. They can be quiet, less obvious things. This doesn’t need to turn into an all-out internet troll flame war. Rather, you can quietly plant the flag for what you believe, expressing it with firm respect, and you’ll find that this will bring your people to you.
The Value in Unleashing
I like that Kevin Kelly theory about “1,000 true fans”, because I’ve found it to be very accurate in my life and in the lives of my clients.
You don’t need huge marketplaces to make good money. You don’t need everyone to love you. In fact, you’re much better off creating a small, rabid band of cult-like followers – people who buy everything you put out because their identity is hooked up in being a part of your community.
The best way to create this is to unleash; to say the things the members of your community feel, but are afraid to say. To give them permission to be who they want to be. To lead by demonstrating that there’s nothing wrong with them and that, in fact, those things that are ‘wrong’ with them are actually the keys to their success.
Below is my perfect example of unleashing. I created this video in 2011. I wrote the lyrics, Gulliver recorded them, a friend put together the sound, and then I built the video.
To this day, I people tell me they watch it daily. It’s a rallying cry that speaks directly to our people and to our marketplace.
It’s also an example of how unleashing can be a positive thing – this isn’t a negative dehumanisation of other people, but an uplifting call to arms for those it resonates with.
For those of you who know Frank Kern, when I showed it to him he said that it was the single best marketing video of its type he’d ever seen, and that it almost made him want to stop making videos.
I Know You