No one is coming to save you

Philip Morgan

Anyone surprised to see this distribution in the response to yesterday's "flash survey" asking how many paid email lists you're subscribed to?

No one is coming to save you. is much in the news lately, and we're all wondering where it fits in.

If you asked me whether you should consider Clubhouse as a marketing channel, in an effort to think through it systematically I would have some followup questions.

1: What context are you operating in? Do you sell simple commodities or complex consulting?

This is the most important dividing line I can identify when it comes to thinking about marketing. So many things that get results in the simple commodity world are inappropriate in the complex consulting world and vice versa. Of course, we're really talking here about a spectrum, not a binary either-or.

And for some of us, we have these hybrid businesses where we are superposed at multiple places along this spectrum. Product in the streets; consulting in the sheets. We might sell simple commodities (books or digital products) and complex consulting.

Anyway, if you're selling simple commodities, then of course you'll want to read Andrew Chen's essay "The Law of Shitty Clickthroughs": It's good thinking, writing, and it ends with this absolutely (for me, anyway) soul-crushing admonition:

The 10X solution to solving the Law of Shitty Clickthroughs, even momentarily, is to discover the next untapped marketing channel. In addition to doubling down on traditional forms of online advertising like banners, search, and email, it’s important to work hard to get to the next marketing channel while it’s uncontested.

A friend of mine from Chicago once joked that if you had to drive through Gary, Indiana, your soul would just float out of your body and wait for you to catch up once you got closer to Chicago, leaving you to make the drive through Gary on your own. That's how I feel when I read Andrew's essay. I think he's right about the world of selling simple commodities, and I hate it; it feels like playing a rigged shell game, or being unable to build the kind of asset I hope to build.

In the simple commodities world, however, "uncontested marketing channels" like Clubhouse do warrant closer inspection. Maybe the platform this startup is working hard to build, the rules they put in place to govern it, the design choices they're making, etc, etc will all combine to create something temporarily special, and maybe you'll figure out how to make good use of it to accomplish your goal of selling simple commodities.

You can temporarily float 6 inches above the ground. You do this by jumping 6" into the air, and for a micro-second, you're floating 6" above the ground. And then gravity asserts itself and before long, you've returned to your natural state of being stuck to the ground in some way.

If Clubhouse is special and effective for selling simple commodities, that specialness will almost certainly be temporary.

The gravity of the Internet is overabundance; an overabundance of information, potential connection, and everything else under the sun. When a new platform or marketing channel emerges, it's a respite from this fundamental reality. It's usually quite nice to inhabit this little temporary oasis!

Let's assume that you've answered the first question by telling me that you're selling complex consulting. Next question:

2: What fundamental form(s) of work are you eager to do?

Specialization is a beachhead; it gives you leverage in the face of the twin challenges of earning sufficient visibility and trust to have more opportunity than you need.

There are three basic ways of earning visibility for your services: attraction, presence, and outreach.

Each of these three categories of methods requires something more fundamental and personal from you. You can attract people into an audience using speaking, teaching, service (helping them in some way), and publishing. But for any of those methods to work well, something more fundamental is required: either a point of view, or a demonstration of ability.

If you're not eager to do the fundamental work of cultivating a point of view or figuring out good ways to demonstrate your ability, then your attraction-based efforts at earning visibility will suffer, along with those who encounter them. :)

You can use speaking, teaching, and service to be present with the audience you want to earn more visibility from. But if you're not eager to do the emotional labor that would make that speaking, teaching, or service valuable to that audience, then your efforts at earning visibility from this audience will suffer.

Same deal with outreach. What makes outreach effective is putting in sufficient emotional labor to make it relevant and valuable to the recipient.

Yes, you can get away with less than 100% investment in these fundamentals. Paid advertising is outreach that needs less emotional labor, for example.

But if you're trying to earn more visibility to help you sell complex consulting, you approach this Clubhouse question differently. You do it this way:

  1. Who am I hoping to earn more visibility from? (Your answer to the specialization question should largely answer this for you.)
  2. What fundamental labor am I eager to perform?
  3. Where is the overlap between the methods that #1 and #2 identify and the ways that my audience likes to learn about new stuff?
  4. Where is the overlap between the methods that #1 and #2 identify and situations where my audience is looking to bond with experts or authorities?

Here's one hypothetical consultant's answer to those questions:

  1. Who: Manufacturing companies in western Michigan.
  2. Fundamental labor: Demonstration of ability.
  3. Discovery Overlap: The local association has monthly meetings and a few vendor-speaker slots tend to be available.
  4. Trust Overlap: I'm not sure, but maybe #3 can help me discover what this is?

Now the Clubhouse question is trivial to answer. It's the third and final consideration in a set of three:

  1. Who do you want to earn new visibility from?
  2. What fundamental work are you eager to do?
  3. Does the marketing technique, platform, or channel help you get access to the overlap between #1 and #2?

If yes to #3, then go for it!

The caveats:

Caveat 1: If you just like messing around with new stuff and have the time for that, then of course mess around with Clubhouse! If you answered no to #3 above, then don't expect messing around with Clubhouse to lead to a strategic advantage, but it's fine to entertain yourself with it and... who knows! Sometimes strategic breakthroughs do come from unexpected places.

Caveat 2: No one is coming to save you. No platform is going to permanently exempt you from the fundamental reality of the Internet: an overabundance of everything.

What will save you: your eagerness to apply some fundamental form of labor in service of a small audience's desires to a few carefully-chosen venues over a long period of time with high consistency.

Any of you tried Clubhouse? What are your findings? Let me know and I'll share back with the list.


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