I opened Mitch Joel’s latest book Ctrl Alt Del to the following warning:

“The next time you attend a conference, I want you to look to your left and then to your right. In the next five years, odds are that one out of three of you won’t be around.”

It’s rather difficult to put down a book with that premise, especially a book written by one of the greatest contemporary minds in digital marketing.
I am, however, predisposed to taking the TwistImage president’s word as gospel – along with his Canadian Marketing Association Annual Summit co-presenters Rohit Bhargava, Charlene Li and Leonard BrodyMitch Joel inspired me to pursue a career in digital marketing back in 2009 while I was in still in my undergrad. Four years later, I had grown jaded; marketing conferences and marketing books all sounded the same to me. But hearing Mitch speak again at Social Media Marketing World in 2013 not only re-loaded my nostalgia and passion for this profession, it also gave me a newfound sense of urgency to act on ideas I had begun to lose sight of in my weariness. Being a fellow Canadian and recent digital marketing agency owner, I felt as though Mitch was a 42 year-old version of me from the future, warning my 25 year-old self that if I didn’t reboot the way I was thinking about marketing, I would be doomed to irrelevance.
Here’s what I took away from Ctrl Alt Del:

Stop Assuming. Become The User.

Sounds obvious, but usually isn’t – always start from the user’s perspective. Stop assuming what the user wants. Put yourself on the same side of the fence as the end user, rather than looking over that fence from the business side and being analytical about what you think they want (or should want). Step outside of the office, talk to people, align your problems with theirs. Mitch behooves marketers to “assume a digital-first posture.” What’s the first place that your users go when making decision? Their computers, smartphones, and/or tablets! This should be our default posture as well.

Just Tell Good Stories, Damn It!

Pumping content for the sake of getting something through the pipeline is inauthentic and counterintuitive. “Tinned” content is obnoxiously obvious. We respond instead, to stories – stories are the fundamental units of human understanding. Mitch writes, “Instead of looking at your content calendar or barking at someone in your organization to tweet more frequently, take a fifteen-minute siesta and ask yourself this one question: What great stories can we tell? Stop thinking about content as the endgame and consider that the true value is the stories you tell.” Quality over quantity, my friends.

Marketing Should Be Horizontal.

Peter Drucker famously said, “Business has only two functions – marketing and innovation.” Yet all too often, marketing is relegated to a vertical within an organization. Marketing has to stop being simply a vertical and must become the horizontal across all business lines. Marketing can no longer be the function of just one department. It doesn’t matter if you work in legal, accounting or human resources anymore. All employees technically work for marketing, whether they like it or not. Tony Hsieh breaks it down as such:

“If you happen to meet an employee of Company X at a bar, even if the employee isn’t working, how you perceive your interaction with that employee will affect how you perceive company X, and therefore company X’s brand.” – Delivering Happiness

We are in business to serve the end user. Nothing more. Nothing less. I strongly recommend that you follow Mitch Joel, listen to his podcast and pick up a copy of his book (happy to let you borrow mine). Ctrl Alt Del is all about adaptation. Ignore it at your own peril.