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About Clay

Clay's recruiting and strategic consulting efforts over the past 20 years have provided firms in the printing and communications industries the talent and perspective that has enabled them to navigate the constant change they’ve faced.

His current company, the bleedingEDGE, provides digital printing firms with 1:1 marketing solutions that enable their small- and medium-sized clients to compete with larger competitors using a cooperative strategy and production model. In addition to the normal 1:1 marketing techniques of personalization and customization, the bleedingEDGE incorporates timing strategies, generational analysis and sociological factors in producing results well above the norm.

 

Maybe They Know More Than You Think

 
Ego is a double-edged sword.

On the positive side, if you don’t have an ego, don’t have faith in yourself, then you’re probably not going to have a lot of success in life. But on the other hand, very often our egos make us feel that we’re infallible...incapable of making anything but the correct decision, regardless of what advice we get.

And it’s easy to micro-manage. After all, if you’re the boss, then you must know what you are doing.

Back in college, 30 some years ago, I promoted rock bands. One show I did took place at the White Eagle Ballroom in Ortonville, MN—the middle of nowhere. Even though Ortonville only had some 2,000 people living there, White Eagle was a great venue to have small concerts in. Since there was nothing else to do, kids within a hundred mile radius would flock to an event.

This was my first show in Ortonville. In fact, I’d never even been there before.

My modus operandi was to find a local contact to put up our posters and hopefully start the “idea virus.” I found Gordy—17, still in high school, and a police dispatcher. How bad of an idea can this be? Right out of the gate, I got a discount on security. Since I had set everything else up, all that needed to be done was to put up the posters and get the word out.

Three weeks later, I traveled back to Ortonville to do the show with Dave Theige, my roommate. We got in late the day before and checked into a motel. The next morning, I got up before Dave and went out to get breakfast and survey the town for our show’s exposure.

I went everywhere I could to find at least one poster. I found none! What happened to Gordy? It looked like my police dispatcher dropped the ball.

After several hours, I finally tracked down Gordy. “Where are all the posters?” I demanded.

Gordy’s response was to hand me back 40 of the 50 posters I gave him. “I only needed 10,” he replied.

“Great!” I said sarcastically. I only needed six hundred people to break even. That’s only 60 per poster. Unlikely.

Well, the show came and went and I made about $2,000 and, since Gordy manned the door, all Dave and I had to do was hang out with the bands and enjoy the music.

After the show, I sat down with Gordy. “Where did all these people come from and how the hell did they hear about it?” I asked. Gordy came back with this:

“I put the posters in the places where the kids would see them when they were with their friends so they could talk about the show.” That meant putting posters on telephone poles on the way to keg parties mainly.

In addition, Gordy enlisted members of his “tribe” (in Seth Godin jargon) to spread the word, and make sure that there were no parties or anything else to compete with our show.

I wouldn’t have put up the posters in places like that. Where I would have, the kids wouldn’t have seen them or, if they did, they wouldn’t have talked about it. And there’s no way I could have squashed any potential competition.

So much for knowing everything.

Ouch, I just got cut.
 
You can read more of my ramblings at the bleedingEDGE or on twitter at @variable_edge. And if that's not enough check out my personal blog, “On the Road to Your Perfect World.”

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