Marketing vs Advertising

What is marketing?

  • Marketing is earning people’s attention, time, and trust
  • Marketing is done with people. It’s multi-directional
  • Marketing is relational
  • Marketing is storytelling
  • Marketing is dependent on community

How marketing scales: you build something worth talking about.

What is advertising?

  • Advertising is paying for people’s attention by interrupting them
  • Advertising is done to people. It’s one-directional
  • Advertising is transactional
  • Advertising is telling people to do something
  • Advertising is dependent on algorithms and optimization

How advertising scales: you spend more money.

You can always opt-out of advertising. You can never opt-out of marketing.


Bandwidth Management

We often look at our days as a series of time blocks. We think time is the variable to optimize for when, in reality, it’s only one piece of the puzzle.

Planning is about managing your bandwidth. It’s about managing your time, money, and energy. How much or how little of those three things do you have to put towards your life? How do those things impact each other?

Money can be used to buy yourself time and/or energy. Low energy means it will take you more time to get things done. Certain activities will give you energy while others will drain it. Some will affect your mental energy while others will affect your physical energy.

You get the picture…

None of these variables exist in a vacuum. That’s why it’s silly to play Tetris with the time blocks in our calendars and wonder why we can’t do everything. It doesn’t work like that.

If you want to create a life that honours you and where you want to go, it’s useful to get honest with yourself about the resources available to you in this season. Pay attention to how those resources affect each other and how they might change over time.

Make a list of activities that drain your energy and ones that contribute to it. Experiment with putting activities at different times in the day to see if you feel more efficient one way or another. Look at ways you can trade time for money and vice versa.

Learn how to tune into yourself. It’s dangerous to plan your life according to someone else’s bandwidth, but that’s where most productivity advice leads us.

Pay attention. Get curious. And through it all, give yourself grace.

On Tolerating Discomfort

How would your life be different if you could tolerate being uncomfortable?

I heard this question on a podcast, How to Stop Overthinking, and I keep circling back to it. Because really, how would your life be different if you took discomfort as a signal to lean in rather than turn away?

I’m anxious AND I’m going to do it.

It makes me uncomfortable AND I’ll survive.

It scares me AND that’s OK.

Yes AND, you know?

It’s easy to find ourselves trying to systematically optimize discomfort/fear/Resistance/whatever-you-call-it out of our lives, when in reality it’s an incredibly valuable cue. It’s one of the best indicators we have that we’re moving in the right direction.

Because, as I’m sure you know from experience, growth doesn’t happen in our comfort zone. Growth comes from doing things differently than we’ve done them before, and that by definition isn’t going to feel warm and fuzzy.

If you’re seeking growth, you’re seeking discomfort.

That’s an obvious truth, but one I conveniently forget on a, ohhhh, daily basis?

Here’s another one:

It’s only by having the courage to be bad at something that we ever have the chance of being great at it.

All the good stuff—the change we can make in this world—lives on the other side of discomfort. We live the life we’re willing to tolerate. So building up the capacity to be uncomfortable, the courage to do things that might not work, and the resilience to keep going when they don’t is super valuable.

In my own life, I’m increasingly aware of how the desire to keep myself (and others) comfortable is holding me back. And honestly, I’m wondering if my inability to manage that discomfort is why I procrastinate.

Yes AND. That’s the posture I want to move forward with.

Banking On Virality Isn’t A Plan

Yesterday I watched a great interview between Scott Galloway and Derek Thompson on how Netflix, Disney, and Amazon are vying for content and distribution.

A couple things Derek said stuck with me, and this marketing wisdom applies to any industry:

“To sell something familiar you want to make it surprising. To sell something surprising you want to make it familiar.”

and…

Banking on virality is not a plan. 

When you believe content can go viral, when you rely on something going viral in order to achieve the (business) outcome you want… that gives you an excuse to not work on a marketing plan.

When you bank on outcomes, it’s easy to overlook the process.

If you say to yourself, “Hey I made something great who WOULDN’T love this and/or me” and you believe in the virality myth, then you think success will just happen. You find yourself believing that your job is making The Thing and that the rest (people finding and using The Thing) will take care of itself.

But we know that some of the best books, songs, and movies failed until they found the right distribution channel. Same goes for businesses. Same goes for ideas. Often something has to come from the “right” person/place in order for us to pay attention.

Content people downplay distribution. Yes, you need to build something great, but you also need to get it in front of the people who are going to care (or, who you can make care). To do that you need to understand the attention platforms (aka distribution channels) that already exist. The people you want to reach… who already has their attention?

If you care about the change you’re trying to make, offloading the responsibility of people finding out about you/your product/your business isn’t a good plan. In fact, as Derek says, banking on virality isn’t a plan to begin with.

To me, this is the interesting thing about growth hacker marketing. People pull stunts to get eyeballs but then don’t necessarily put a plan behind what they’ll do with those eyeballs once they have them (conversion, retention). Growth hacking optimizes for the short-term without thinking about (or worse, at the expense of) longevity.

You can’t control outcomes, but you can control the process.

Don’t outsource your process. Don’t absolve yourself of the responsibility of the change you seek to make. Have a plan, always.

Why Diversity And Inclusion In Tech Matters

This post is taken from the following Twitter thread.

Woahhhkayyyy tech makers, founders, workers, and investors. We need to have a chat about diversity.

Diversity in tech matters because companies need to be representative of the people they’re trying to serve. It’s scary when rooms of people that look/think/believe/act similarly build the tech that everyone relies on.

Narrow perspectives build narrow solutions. Exposure to diversity in teams changes our perspective, challenges our convictions and biases, and increases our tolerance. It makes empathy and emotional labour job requirements, not nice-to-haves.

When you listen to someone’s experience that’s different than yours, like really, truly listen, it’s hard *not* to empathize with them. Diverse teams force us to listen and strengthen that old empathy muscle that so many of us are deficient in.

If you’re a founder, you need to prove that different types of people thrive in your culture. I may not be a white man, but do I have to act like one to fit in? If so, you still have a diversity problem.

Because although I may be welcome even though I look different my style of working, learning, and communicating isn’t valued.

That’s also (one of the reasons) meritocracy is a bullshit excuse for not having more diversity. If I have to act like a white man to be hired, listened to, respected, and promoted…. you don’t actually care about diversity. So guess what, I’m going to leave or not apply.

If you think you’ve created a welcoming environment because you don’t explicitly say racist/sexist things or make overtly inappropriate advances or comments… No. Fixing this isn’t just about the absence of certain behaviours, it’s also about action.

We all need to step up and do the emotional labour required to address biases and imbalances, including systemic racism and sexism, in tech culture.

“She knows she’s welcome” to contribute/join us for drinks/grab a donut from the box. Does she?? Did you ask her? Did you ask her what she thought/wanted/preferred or did you assume she’d agree with the default?

(Sidebar: defaults aren’t neutral. Not in assuming how people work, not in assuming how people experience the world, and not when designing your product—what’s the default option in your dropdown menus? etc.)

“I don’t do [insert commonly know to be bad behaviour here] so I’m fine” isn’t enough. Do better.

In order to have diverse teams, tech companies need to get better at accommodating neurodiversity and people with disabilities, and we need to examine and dismantle systemic racism and sexism so that more BIPOC and women enter and stay in tech. Again, this takes empathy and emotional labour—which GUESS WHAT!!—minorities and BIPOC (the people we don’t see enough of on team pages) have in spades because *they have to to survive in this world*.

Imagine if more founders/managers took the time to ask “How do you work best?” Instead of holding meetings where you tell staff “Alright we’re in a growth phase we’re all going to need to pitch in a little extra for a bit here, nights and weekends…”

Imagine if you started that meeting with “Alright we’re in a growth phase, how can I help you make the most of your time? What do you need? What’s getting in the way? Where can I help?”

You know what that tells employees. Oh shit! You see me. You want to help me, even if my needs are different than yours and different than the person sitting beside me. You’re willing to put my needs before company objectives because you know that this company is only as strong as the people behind it.

(Sidebar: A “season” is a couple of weeks or months. If you’re asking people to work overtime for longer than that it’s not a season, it’s a lifestyle. That’s your company culture. You can’t show up every 3 months and say “keep pushing we’re almost there!!” because it becomes a) meaningless and b) I lose trust in your ability to quantify scope of work.)

Startups are often built by “engineering brains”, and anyone joining often has to take on those qualities to be able to keep up and be heard.

This is part of why I think we see a lot of turnover in marketing and customer experience roles at startups, especially first hires in these roles.

These people (more likely than engineering roles to be women or minorities or “creatives” in these “soft skills” roles) are often undervalued from a salary/equity perspective, and their way of working or thinking isn’t respected.

If that’s the case, of course we don’t want to stick around (or can’t because we burnout…). If I have to deny core parts of who I am to fit in? Thank u, next.

In 2019 I hope more founders think critically about the type of company they want to build, who they want to serve, and who can help them build the best possible version of the thing it is they want to make.

And we ALL need to look at our biases. Look at the diversity of your sources. Look at your bookshelf—what do those authors look like? Are you only reading white and/or male experiences? (This was a BIG reality check for me in 2018.) Look at your mentors, the people you follow online, the people you hang out with offline, the people you trust and the sources you cite…

The tech you make will mostly be used by people who don’t look/think/feel like you do, or experience the world the way you do.

What we build affects everyone.

We need to remember that and act accordingly.


Speaking of checking biases and as a follow up to this thread—here are some anti-racism resources I’ve found helpful specifically in examining/unpacking my white privilege, and the role I play in maintaining a system that oppresses BIPOC:

1. If you’re not clear on how your white privilege shows up in your life day-to-day, read through Peggy McIntosh’s list of 46 examples of White Privilege and Male Privilege as a starting point.

2. Layla F. Saad’s Me And White Supremacy Workbook provides 28 days worth of exercises on topics including white fragility, tone policing, white centering, tokenism, and optical allyship.

3. Rachel Elizabeth Cargle’s When Feminism Is White Supremacy in Heels article on what toxic white feminism looks like, and how dangerous our reactions can be. This is an important read for white men, too.

4. Rachel Elizabeth Cargle’s Dear White Woman article on her Patreon, which outlines white racism and systematic racism, and provides more resources for learning about those topics.

Please remember that when a BIPOC does or shares this kind of work, they’re doing an incredible amount of emotional labour. BIPOC themselves are not resources, they don’t owe you explanations and it’s not their job to keep you accountable and call you out. You can’t rely on your BIPOC friend or colleague to “enlighten you”. That’s your job.

That’s also why in a work setting you can’t turn to the one BIPOC, or visible minority, or person with a disbility to design/validate/champion your diversity and/or inclusion program.

The Difference Between a Hobby and a Business

A hobby is about you, a business is about your customers.

That’s it. That’s the whole post. Ya’ll can go home now.

Seriously! This is a simple (obvious?) truth, but one that’s hard to swallow. I only recently got hit in the face with it accepted it. The whole follow-your-bliss-make-your-passion-your-business narrative is dangerous.

Why?

Because it puts the focus on you. It’s about your passion, your wants, your identity.

That’s all well and good when we’re talking about hobbies. When it’s a hobby, it’s fine to have creative expression driving the bus. But when it’s a business, your customers better be driving and your ego best be, well, not in the vehicle.

It’s only a business if you have paying customers. Which means you need to a) know who your customers are b) understand their problems c) have a solution to said problems.

No one cares about you. They care about how you can help them.

So. I repeat.

The difference between a hobby and a business is that a business isn’t about you.


I enjoy taking photos. Like, really enjoy it. Walking around a new place with a camera around my neck is one of my greatest joys. On my most recent trip to Scandinavia I thought to myself—travel photographer! Wouldn’t it be so cool to get paid to travel around and take pictures!!

But here’s the thing. I only like taking photos when I like taking photos. When I see the thing and get ~*inSpirEd*~. If some hotel gave me an itemized list of “OK, here’s all the aspects of the hotel you need to feature, GO!” I’d hate it. It would suck the joy out. My photography is about me—my taste, my creative expression—and that’s why it’s a hobby and you don’t see me trying to sell prints or services or whatever else.

Why is it so Damn Hard to Find Canadian Tech Marketing Salaries?

You know what would be delightful.

Some transparency around marketing salaries in tech. Specifically in Canada. Specifically for women.

(Don’t even get me started on the black hole that is equity…)

Have you ever applied for a marketing role at a startup? Here’s what happens:

  • You wade through a pile of content/growth hacking positions. The content roles are clearly written for women. The growth hacking roles are clearly written for men. Neither offers specifics around responsibilities/performance expectations, but it’s enough to confirm your suspicion that they’re unrealistic.
  • There’s no salary or equity range listed.
  • You look at other postings from that company. Yup, all the engineering roles have salary ranges listed. Excellent.
  • You Google salaries at that company. Yup! You find a handful of front-end dev salaries, one back-end, maybe a customer success rep or two. No marketing salaries.
  • WHY?! Because there’s only one person in each marketing role. So you can be damn sure that Monica the Content Manager isn’t posting her salary on Glassdoor because that doesn’t tell the world/her co-workers what a Content Manager at Company X makes, it tells the world what Monica makes.
  • You Google comps and end up with marketing salary ranges for marketing roles at hundred-year-old telecommunications companies. OK, not helpful.
  • You Google comps and end up with ranges for the Valley, or somewhere else in the US that doesn’t particularly help you because you live in Toronto. Or Ottawa. Or Winnipeg and you work remotely.
  • You look at comps at the big, established Canadian tech companies like Shopify. But they’re way further down the line than the newish company you’re thinking of joining. So that doesn’t help you, either.
  • In frustration, you start DMing near-strangers on Twitter asking them to share ranges.
  • You find out you were wildly underpaid at a previous role. Or should have gotten equity but didn’t. Or could have negotiated compensation but didn’t. Or could have negotiated your entire role but didn’t. Or that a man applying for that role would come into a negotiation with a number 20K higher than yours.
  • OK. Now you’re real frustrated. Real frustrated and STILL LOST.

/rant.

Seriously though! This is a big problem. There’s not enough education and resources around it, and I believe that the lack of transparency is stopping talented women from applying to marketing roles (or making the switch to tech in the first place…).

And I’m not even touching the actual application, negotiation, or onboarding process. This is just one slice of the funnel. Lucky for you my battery is at 6% and I left my charger at work, so I’m going to have to put a pin in things here 😉

All this to say—it’s something I’ve been thinking about for a while now (studies like this get me mad) so I better not just stew and rant. I better do something about it.

Are there any good databases for Canadian tech marketing salaries? Please Tweet them to me.

If not, what if I made one? I could start by sending out a quick, anonymous survey that I compile the answers to in a webpage or something…

OKOK. We’re at 3% battery. Gotta go. But let me know what would be helpful KTHANKS 🙂

Finding Your Productivity Domino

This whole… being a better human thing is hard.

We’ve all got a laundry list of things we know make us feel like healthy, fulfilled, productive members of this dumpster fire of a society.

The problem, of course, is that the things that make us feel better in the long term are a pain in the ass to do in the short term.

Working out is hard. Eating well is hard. Remember to take your vitamins is hard. Making time to write, or read, or hike, or paint, or whatever-it-is that helps you grow into a better version of yourself is… holy heck it’s HARD.

Here’s a hack I’ve found.

Look at your self-betterment laundry list. What’s the one thing you do that makes all of the other stuff come a little easier?

For me, it’s working out. When I work out I naturally start eating better. I start sleeping better, my mind feels more clear, I’m sharper at work, I’m more present at home, I’m less anxious, and I’ve got the energy to pick up my knitting after dinner. I am, in short, pretty damn close to this mythical “best self”.

Now it’s not a magic bullet. And knocking over that first domino isn’t easy. In fact, it’s brutal. It doesn’t matter how great I know it is for me (I mean look at that list of benefits—infomercial worthy!) it’s still a battle.

Buuuuut it’s easier to fight one battle than ten.

So! Next time you’re feeling out of whack, don’t try to start 30 things at once. Don’t nominate this as the Monday you start sleeping 8 hours, eating clean, meditating 20 minutes a day, and growing your own lettuce.

Just find your domino. Knock it over. Repeat.

The rest will come.


Tell me this isn’t the most fitting photo for this post. The gears! I mean come on! Taken at the K.A. Almgren Silk Weaving Mill Stockholm aka my personal heaven on earth.

How to Get Unstuck

It’s not about you.

File that under: Things I Wish I Learned Sooner and Still Have to Remind Myself of Daily.*

Whenever I’ve been stuck—like really, truly, existential-level stuck—it’s because I was thinking about myself.

What am I?

What’s my passion?

What should I do with my life?

How do I get people to understand me?

These journaling prompts didn’t lead me to clarity. They didn’t help me “get unstuck and find my life’s work”. They just dug me deeper into self-doubt and inaction.

It’s only when I flipped it around—when I started thinking about others first—that I got traction.

How can I be helpful?

Where can I make a difference?

How can I help others feel understood?

That’s where the answers are, folks.

Focus less on being seen, and more on helping others feel seen.

Your work isn’t about you. It’s about who you’re helping.

Any that gets way easier when you take your ego out of it.


SOS! Taken in Malmo, Sweden.

*Anyone have a label maker I can fit that on?

When You Don’t Have an Audience

The best thing about posting when you don’t have an audience: nobody’s watching.

The worst thing about posting when you don’t have an audience: nobody’s watching.

It’s funny, eh? We’re always nervous to start something. Hitting Publish is hard.

What will they say? It’s not good enough. I’m good enough. Oh heck this is how everyone finds out I’m crazy and ~not~ in a cute way. This is how I get voted off the island that is the Internet. 

Then it’s live aaaaaaaaand

Crickets.

More often than not, no one cares because no one’s watching.

Then! Then we get mad.

I put in all this work and for what! Got like 3.5 impressions on Twitter and no clicks. What the heck dude? I was joking when I said I was terrible. This is good the people need to see it and tell me I’m brilliant! TELL ME I’M BRILLIANT, SUSAN.

……………..

Point is: when we start, the stakes are low.

A heck of a lot lower than your brain (*cough* Resistance *cough*) is leading you to believe.

And we should take advantage of that while we can.


Taken at the Leslieville street festival in Toronto summer.