Jason and Jeff continue the discussion on the people who have influenced them in their careers and in their thinking on marketing and business.
About the Episode
In this episode, Jason and Jeff continue the discussion of who has been the most influential to them in the world of marketing and business. See who was discussed in the first episode of Marketing Heros.
Resources mentioned in this episode:
Traction by Gino Wickman
Managing the Professional Services Firm by David Maister
The Trusted Advisor by David Maister
The Trusted Advisor Field Bookby David Maister
David Maister Resources
Charlie Green Trust Quotient
Nudge by Richard Thaler
Thinking Fast and Slow by David Kahneman
Jason Mlicki: So Jeff, I have to take a mea culpa on this one. I hated this topic when we did it last time. I told you I hated this topic, I told you I didn’t want to do this topic, but the listeners have spoken and we have to do it again. Apparently people enjoyed the podcast on marketing heroes, so we’re going to do marketing heroes part two today.
Jeff McKay: Hmm. Well put another check in Jeff’s column for being right and-
Jason Mlicki: Another? When was the first? You find that list for me. I want to see that list. I don’t think that list really exists.
Jeff McKay: Okay. All right. Maybe we should post that in the podcast notes and so people can see, although they may not have time to read my side of the list.
Jason Mlicki: You want them to read everything that you put in the list?
Jeff McKay: Because it would be long.
Jason Mlicki: We don’t want to bore them either though. All right, so I’m not exactly sure where to start on this. I mean obviously, I think when we first did this, we both created lists of the people that have influenced us and we just sort of jumped in and I don’t actually remember exactly where we left off. The one thing I do remember when we rounded out that episode, we talked a little bit about, sort of, at least from my standpoint, how in the early stages of my career I leaned heavily on big, broad thinkers on big broad topics and I realized as I’ve gotten a little bit older, I’ve kind of narrowed in on very niche things and studied people that kind of go in depth on very specific things and that’s where we left off. We can pick up anywhere you really want to pick up.
Jeff McKay: Well, on our last call I definitely dominated.
Jason Mlicki: What were you, the Shaquille O’Neal of marketing heroes?
Jeff McKay: Yes. I had more heroes than you, so I’m going to let you catch up.
Jason Mlicki: Well, it’s tough. I looked through my list and I’m not even sure really where I want to start. I guess the first person I’m going to put out there as being impactful and not necessarily a marketing thinker, is a guy by the name of Gino Wickman who wrote a couple of different books, one called Traction, and they’re all about this thing that he calls the entrepreneurial operating system. And I won’t spend a whole lot of time, you know, wasting everyone’s energy understanding that, but to me what he taught me and that I’ve applied in our agency, is historically when we looked at planning or building a strategic plan for a small business like ours, it was always very daunting and very challenging and we really struggled to figure out how to do it. We tried to apply the Rockefeller Habits and some of the work that Verne Harnish had done in Gazelles, and it always just seemed to stumble. We worked our tail off to build the plan and then it was like the plan got dust on the shelf for years and you couldn’t execute against it.
And so when I first got introduced to Wickman’s work around traction, it just felt like it was the same thinking that I’d seen before in these types of venues. And I was, I don’t know if I want to go here, but I talked to other agency owners who had had applied some of his thinking and figured out their successes and failures. And what I really took away from Gino’s work and the work we’ve done to apply his frameworks in our business, is the invert the model. The idea of, well, rather than focusing on the plan, focus on the progress first, focus on getting better communications between the leadership inside of your business, focus on building effective meeting cadence, effective communication strategies, and effective progress in any direction, and then use your motion to drive into leading the planning. And so the planning cycle essentially follows the activity and the motion.
And so for me anyway, what his work has really done, his writings and then a lot of the training programs that he’s wrapped around those writings, is just helped us get a lot more purposeful as a business in terms of identifying where our best opportunities are, identifying where our biggest challenges are, and then really having a process by which we go after those opportunities or break down those challenges. And like I said, it’s inverted the planning model at least as I had traditionally seen it, and we’ve even applied a lot of that framework and thinking, or we are in the process of applying it, to our client engagements as well. This notion of breaking big goals down into smaller tasks, monthly based tasks, weekly routines. He’s been a big influence on me. I’ll put it that way.
Jeff McKay: All right. I’ve just added him to my list of books to read. I’ve seen that book on lots of desks and shelves. I have multiple clients that use that methodology and I’ve been exposed to it in chunks, but you’ve convinced me it’s time to now go deep on it.
Jason Mlicki: Well, the interesting thing I think you’ll find about reading it is that you’ll read it and you won’t see anything new in there. There’s nothing in there that’s all that radically new. In fact, I would even argue it’s almost the same frameworks, just using different words, as the Mastering the Rockefeller Habits book. But it’s almost like the analogy you gave in our last time we talked, oh, how did you put it?
Jeff McKay: Standing on the shoulders of giants.
Jason Mlicki: Yeah, you kind of made the reference that Jim Collins is sort of the modern day version of Peter Drucker. To me, it’s the same thing. He’s sort of the modern day version of Verne Harnish, although not saying Verne Harnish is not still relevant, I’m not saying that at all, I just think he’s sort of taken some of that thinking and made it a little bit modernized for maybe the entrepreneurs of today. And so it was more relevant to me.
Jeff McKay: And that’s important. You know, sometimes you need different language, different context to get universal and evergreen concepts. So I think that’s a good one. I’m going to read it.
Jason Mlicki: All right. Give me one.
Jeff McKay: Oh my gosh. On our last call, did we talk about David Maister?
Jason Mlicki: I don’t think we actually did.
Jeff McKay: We’ve talked about him on multiple calls, that’s how influential he’s been, but he is the guru. He’s the Peter Drucker of professional services management. He wrote a book called Managing the Professional Services Firm and subsequent books. And if you’re in professional services, you need to buy that book. And I’ve said this before, you need to read it, you need to highlight it, you need to annotate in it, you need to share it with other people. It’s just a timeless great book about professional services.
Jason Mlicki: I think, well to piggyback on that for a second, I’ve been rereading that recently and what he really leans into is some of the things you lean into, is that just the dysfunctional nature of these firms and all of the challenges that poses. And then sort of gives advice on how to overcome them. And it is interesting to read it because then you can definitely see that it’s dated. I mean there’s certain references in there that have certainly changed, because I think it was first published in maybe ’84 I’m guessing, can’t remember, but like you said, all of the concepts and frameworks that he presents are all entirely valid and will always be valid no matter how much these firms bend and flex and change.
Jeff McKay: Yeah. And there’s two chapters in there in particular, they’re all good, but there’s two in particular that really resonated with me. The first one was How Practice Leaders Add Value, and I’ve shared that chapter with a lot of practice leaders and just blown them out of the water because they never have an understanding of what it means to actually lead a practice. And the second one, and I really liked this one from a marketing perspective, is How Clients Buy, and it really opens up the human dimension of buyers. And that really influenced my marketing and a much softer and human approach to marketing. And some of that is becoming more mainstream today. But those two chapters, quick read, really good, and as a matter of fact you can get them online. We’ll put a link in the podcast notes so you can get those as well at rattleandpedal.com.
So I’m going to add one more to Maister because he wrote a book with another hero of mine called The Trusted Advisor and everybody knows that term but nobody knows what it means in my mind. But he wrote that book with two other authors and one of them was Charles H. Green and I just love Charlie Green. His content is just impeccable. His thinking, his approach, his humanity is just so pragmatic and straight forward. Read any of his, but if you’re only going to read one, probably the most pragmatic book is The Trusted Advisor Field Book. It’s a how-to and it’s really, really good. I actually got my copy from Charlie because I answered some question he had online and he gave my choice of books and that was the only one I hadn’t read and people should read it and they should subscribe to his blog. Charlie Green.
Jason Mlicki: Let’s lean into that for a second before we move on. When you say most people don’t know what that means, let’s talk about that. Well, what does it mean to be a trusted advisor?
Jeff McKay: Oh gosh.
Jason Mlicki: I’ll give you one anecdote real quick and that will give you some time to think it through. You know, I was talking with one of our client service people this week and we were just talking about all of our client relationships and where they are and then she was describing how a client was saying a bunch of stuff to her and she felt like she was just venting and she didn’t really know how to respond. She’s like, “I don’t really know what my role is here.” And I said, “Well,” I said, “I always felt when I was in client service that the moment the client asks me for career advice is the moment that I’ve finally got where I wanted to get as their agency partner because that means I’ve got really their full personal trust, that they have so much trust in me as their client services executive that they’re willing to open the kimono and say, ‘Hey, I’m concerned about my job or I’m not happy here. What do you think I should do?'”
And so I don’t know that necessarily answers the question of what does it mean to be a trusted advisor, but it answers the question of how you know when you are one. If the client doesn’t feel comfortable asking you that, you are most definitely not a trusted advisor. So that’s the simple framework I’ve used here in the business over the last 20 years. I don’t know if there’s anything you want to add to that, but-
Jeff McKay: I love that story. I think that’s a really good one. I think the trusted advisor is the selfless advisor. And maybe that’s not the best word because there’s a confidence that goes with a trusted advisor. They’re givers and they’re takers. They balance those two, but they achieve a relationship that is like what you described. And I think trusted advisors are those people that think long term. They think about the wellbeing of their clients. They’re willing to walk away from business if their firm is not the best provider of said service, that they hold that client relationship in such confidentiality that a client can trust on them.
There’s actually an equation in the book of the four or five components of it that have to do with expertise and consistency and some other elements, and too much of this one and not enough of that one is going to net you a quote unquote lower trust score. But to me the trusted advisor is the one that does what you just said. There’s more to it than just that because you could be a great therapist and your buyer may be kind of weak and just dumps like that, but that’s the general feeling. If you go to trustadvisor.com you can see the equation.
Jason Mlicki: Yeah. Let’s not get too bogged down. I just thought it was worth exploring the topic a little bit before we just jump on to, hey, here’s someone else who’s influenced us.
Jason Mlicki: All right, well the next one that I’ll share is obviously someone who’s been really influential on the trajectory of our agency and our business. Someone that I’ve both learned from his writing and his thinking and then actually hired him directly as a consultant. He’s been an advisor to us directly and that’s Blair Enns who’s just a really well known business development consultant historically. He was a business development consultant to the small agency community, not necessarily large agencies, but independent agencies, he’s really well known. I think his work, I would group into three buckets. He’s done a lot of writing around positioning, so how to position an independent agency. He’s done a ton of training work around navigating the complex B2B sale. And I would argue his greatest value kind of across the board is his ability to sort of take in all these really big complex concepts, like navigating complex sales, positioning, value based pricing, things that have been deeply trodden waters by other larger, broader, well known names and making them extremely relevant and extremely applicable to his very clearly defined marketplace that he serves.
And so we’ve talked about this a little bit last time, that I believe some of the greatest thought leaders right now, maybe thought leader’s the wrong word, but the greatest thought leaders right now are those folks that are doing that, that are saying, “Well, I have this very clearly defined audience that I serve and I’m going to take really big, complex concepts and make them extremely accessible and understandable to the people that I serve exceptionally well.” And to some extent, I think we both do that.
If I were to wrap Blair up in a nutshell, that’s what I would say. I would say the interesting thing about Blair is if you’re the leader of a professional services firm, a consulting firm, an A/E firm or whatever, an accounting firm, any one of these types of firms, and you read his stuff, you would probably not be as influenced by it as you would as if you were the owner of a small independent agency because his stuff is written so narrowly for that audience. You’ll find value in it, absolutely, but some of it you won’t be able to directly apply the way that the folks he’s writing for can. And I think that’s a really important aspect of what he’s done that all firms need to take to heart in producing thought leadership.
Jeff McKay: He’s a great one. And you introduced me to him. I had never heard of him before. I became a podcast listener of his and I had an emotional connection to him. I’m like, this guy is drinking the same Kool-Aid as I am. I mean, he felt like a soulmate in some respects. I’ve never met him personally. I’d actually like to, maybe you should introduce me to him, but I’ve read his books. He does have some great thinking. And your point about focusing on a very specific niche is illustrated so incredibly well with what he’s doing.
You know, the other thing I think he does really well is he came up through the sales side, so he has a business development perspective, but he also is no-holds-bar communicator to the partners about what’s really happening and what they need to do and what they need to stop doing. And there’s some really good stuff in there that, as you said, would apply to all firms even though they aren’t part of his narrow niche.
Jason Mlicki: Yeah, it’s funny, one of the things I love about Blair, and I can’t call him a friend, we actually haven’t spent that much time together, but we’ve certainly worked a lot together through the years, is he’s got this relentless focus on the problem and we’ve talked about as being kind of the backbone of great thought leadership. He’s talked to me about the notion of the convergence and we’re at a point in history of where he could preserve his brain forever with computers and forever he would go on about how to improve, how creative agencies position and sell their services. So he’s kind of got this incredible long game to him about just a relentless focus on, “I am on a mission to change the way creative services are sold the world over.” That’s his mission. It’s unwavering. It’s unchanging. And he’s going to take it all the way to the grave. That’s a pretty cool thing-
Jeff McKay: Yeah.
Jason Mlicki: … to work with people that have that kind of strong, deeply held conviction about why they’re in this world and what they’re here to do. It’s really cool.
Jeff McKay: Falling in love with the problem.
Jason Mlicki: Yeah, exactly. Ah we got time for one more. We don’t have time, so we have time for one, maybe two more. So what do you got?
Jeff McKay: I’ll throw out a big one and it’s the boys over at Freakonomics.
Jason Mlicki: Okay. Yeah, of course.
Jeff McKay: They are and have had an incredible impact on me. They were kind of my foray into behavioral economics and modern marketing really is behavioral economics in my mind. If I were to go back to school, I probably wouldn’t study marketing, I would study behavioral economics. I’ve read every one of their books and I’ve consumed, I’d say, at least half if not more of their podcasts. They have just changed the way I think about problems and data and they’ve just switched a switch I guess in my mind around conventional thinking and challenging it and how data, sometimes it’s just hard to argue with and sometimes you can’t even argue with it. But the thing that they’ve done the most is just made me challenge every assumption that I’ve had about marketing and business and politics and government and sociology. It’s just phenomenal stuff.
Jason Mlicki: Yeah. I’ll piggyback a few on those because I think they all go together. You know, obviously I’ve spent more time with Kahneman and Thaler’s work, Nudge, and their books that have, yeah, I think they won Nobel Prizes for or whatever, Pulitzer Prizes. And I think they all got lumped together into this world of decision dynamics and behavioral economics as it’s become known. You know, why we do what we do and, and how we actually behave.
I mentioned them in the last call, but I also think a guy that kind of was the early stages of that was Paco Underhill because he wrote that book on Why We Buy, which was really about retail, but what I always liked about his book was exactly like you just said, he was sort of exposing the fact that people will tell you that they’re going to do one thing, but what they actually do in a retail setting is vastly different than what they say they’re going to do or even believe they’re going to do. And we’ve, for years, kind of said that that’s really what automation opened the world to and in my mind was the idea that you could observe buying behavior in a B2B sale to some extent with automation the same way you could do it with literally people with clipboards in retail settings 30 years ago, which is how Underhill did it in the first place, which was something you really couldn’t do in the B2B world until now.
The whole world of behavioral economics is a really fascinating world. It’s getting a little bit too much, a little bit talked about too much, getting a little too much air time, a little bit too much play, but in general, I agree. If I was rewinding my career and starting over, I’d be much more interested in studying that type of thinking than I would be studying traditional marketing curriculum the way it was taught. Because I do think that to your point, they’ve basically torn down a lot of the central philosophies of marketing. So, you know, sort of a new way of looking at it.
Jeff McKay: So if listeners have an interest in jumping into behavioral economics, and I know a lot of our listeners probably have already done that, but if you just want to dip your toe in the water, start with the Freakonomics book or books or podcast and then maybe move to Nudge with Thaler or Thinking Fast and Slow, which is Kahneman’s book. Those are kind of mainstream bestsellers.
Jason Mlicki: The interesting thing is how they all weave on top of each other. At this point I can’t really differentiate one from the other. They all kind of just are lumped together for me because they all tear down all of the same similar assumptions around how we interpret information and how we make decisions. I mean, I would lump in there, there’s a guy named Christophe Morin who wrote a book on neuromarketing, which just trips onto some of those same concepts around just how so much of our decision making does not occur in our cognitive brain. And then what’s inside of that is this dichotomy inside of our humanness that governs the things we do and how we behave and how so much of what we do is highly irrational, even in situations where it should be extremely rational. So yeah, it’s really interesting stuff.
Jeff McKay: You know, maybe we should do a podcast on being human.
Jason Mlicki: I don’t know that we’re capable of that. We’re more like robots.
Jeff McKay: Oh my gosh, that would be enjoyable. I’ve always been fascinated by that kind of intersection of purchase behavior, human psychology, human spirituality, economics. That would be fun. That would be fun. And maybe we can get some of those Freakonomic guys on the podcast. With your clout, I suspect it would be no trouble having Steve Levitt or Kahneman come on.
Jason Mlicki: One quick phone call. All right, so on that note I am going to take us to close. How many you have left on your list?
Jeff McKay: 79.
Jason Mlicki: 79. I know I have at least four or five really good ones that are worth doing again, so I think I will say it again. I did not want to do this podcast any more than I want to do the last one, but we will definitely do part three of the marketing heroes at some point. Although the one thing that we have committed to do, which I think is going to be a lot of fun, is doing a marketing villains podcast, which I believe is up next on the agenda, which will be sort of the flip side of this one. So I’m looking forward to that.
Jeff McKay: Ooh, you know what’s going to be really fun, if there’s people on both lists.
Jason Mlicki: Well, there certainly are some that could make it on to both lists that’s for sure. I tried to avoid that, but I think it’s definitely possible.
Jeff McKay: That’s my ominous laugh.
Jason Mlicki: I’ll drop a hint real quick. McKay is first on my villain’s list. I’m teasing.
Jeff McKay: You know it’s going to be a good podcast then.
Jason Mlicki: All right man. Well thanks for joining me for another half an hour or 20 minutes and I’ll talk to you next week.
Jeff McKay: See ya, buddy.