Hype Isn’t A Four Letter Word – Graham Brown, United State of Indiana

Graham Brown of United State of Indiana, talks to Smartups about how hype is not a four letter word and how you can use it to your advantage in marketing your business. Watch the video or read the transcript below.


Hello. Good evening. How’s it going? Really? Just to start off, I know a decent amount of people in the room, but the intersection of this meetup is startups and marketing. So how many people do marketing work for clients? How many of you are professional marketers? A few. So for those people I guess with everything that I talk about you can think about it in terms of your clients and the approach that you would take for your clients.

You can also think about it just in terms of your own business, which in a lot of ways I think is more fun because there’s no rules there. You’re not bound by anything. So I would always encourage people with the kind of stuff that I’m going to be talking about, which is different than what is talked about a lot at this meetup, I would encourage you to just think about it in terms of your personal business.

Even if you are a marketer, think about these on how to market yourselves, not how it can apply to your clients, even though I’m sure it does. So I guess we will just get started. Feel free to jump in at any point. This is a pretty intimate group. Most of us, I think, are familiar with this space here. So hopefully everyone feels comfortable, and you can definitely just speak at any point and it will not bother me at all. It will probably do the opposite of bother me, whatever that is.

So my name is Graham Brown. There’s my little Twitter thing if you want to tweet at all to me during the presentation. So let me give you a little background on me. I am an Anderson University graduate. I graduated with a degree in business management. In 2010, while I was a student there, I had a few little weird startups.

When I use the term startups it’s not what most people – on the meetup page I saw a lot of people saying I’m a startup addict, or I love startups, or interested in startups, which when I talk about startups I’m just kind of literally talking about starting something up, and that’s about it. So I started up a few bands, and I started up a pancake restaurant when I was a student. So I have a very base level kind of interpersonal approach to startups, not anything that would ever have a formal business plan, or require investment, or anything like that.

That’s kind of my approach to entrepreneurship is the very core idea of just starting it up a little bit. So right after I got out of school I decided that I wanted to start up my rap career which just sounded like a fun thing to do. So I was living in Anderson, Indiana, and decided that I would start a rap group called Anderson’s Most Wanted, and I knew that the music should never be recorded, which thank God it wasn’t.

So none of you can find it anywhere. None of you can really prove that this existed. So I knew that no one would ever hear the music except for at a live performance. So I decided all we have to do is make that one live performance so mind-blowingly strange and unexpected that the legend of this whole rap career can just live on from one performance.

So for six months I kind of hyped up this idea. I just told all my friends, “Hey, I’m doing this thing called Anderson’s Most Wanted. I’m going to be rapped, and we’re going to do only one show, and it will be in a basement, and you need to be there.”

So that was basically it. Honestly, I don’t even remember the music. It was fairly irrelevant. It was just kind of enough to get by and enough to make this seem like a real concert, but we opened up a friend’s basement and invited people over and it got just pretty packed and pretty crazy. It was exactly what you would imagine from 50 people in a tiny little basement. We took awesome pictures and that was really enough to make that show exist.

The music was not the focus of the night. The experience was the focus of the night, and people just wanting to say that they were at this one show where Graham rapped in someone’s basement, and people were standing on bathtubs in the basement, and that was it. It put in my mind that you can do some pretty incredible things just by hyping them up, and that was the word that came to my mind, just hyping them up, just getting people excited enough that their collective excitement carries the whole experience.

My involvement in that night was fairly minimal. I’m sure you couldn’t hear the music. I’m sure no one was really attached to the music they were hearing, but they were enthralled by that experience, and that kind of let it become something that people still ask me about. People still want to hear Anderson’s Most Wanted that weren’t at that show and have never heard it just because the whole idea was pretty exciting.

So that got me thinking about how else you could use that collective energy, and I just so happened – I ordered 250 stickers that said “Anderson’s Most Wanted” and then when I was checking out, when I’m sure you all know, they were like, “You can get another 250 for $9.99,” and I was like, “All right. I’ll do it.” So the dimensions of the sticker were 4.25 by 2.75.

So I looked at that and I said, “That’s flag dimensions.” So what would make sense to put in a flag when the group’s called Anderson’s Most Wanted? And it was that. And it quickly – once I printed it off I quickly saw that this was the best thing that was going to come out of that whole six month leadup about my rap career was really just getting to this.

So I decided to kind of continue that idea. Let’s not try to figure out what this is, what this logo means. Let’s just keep this hype going and tie it right in with that idea that only 60 people made it into the basement but now we kind of have another thing that more people can latch on to. So the name United State of Indiana just kind of came really naturally. I don’t know what else I would have called that.

There may have been a better name, but that was the first one that came to mind and it seemed to fit pretty applicably. So I printed ten shirts on my bedroom floor and those sold out real fast which is not difficult to do. So I found a screen printer and printed a real batch of shirts which was probably 50 or 60 and did the normal things that a business student would do and got the domain name and some social media accounts and just gave some very vague imagery to accompany this idea that to this point had nothing attached to it.

There was just no mission here. There was no story other than what you imply and what could kind of be associated with it based on people who knew me. At this point it was people who still knew me. So you knew the idea that would go behind it, that there’s this united state. So I just put up really simple pictures. I did a photo shoot outside my house in Anderson. I would just put up things like this and say, “Working hard.” Those are just mailers, and you certainly don’t need things to fill mailers to make mailers, but it definitely gives the idea of just we’re folding shirts. Starting to create this idea that there’s a flag and I still haven’t explained it, but don’t you kind of want to know what’s going on here? Don’t you kind of want to know why we did a photo shoot, and why it’s taking over my house, and why it’s starting to show up on people’s cars and things?

So we just did it that way. There was no marketing plan. There was certainly no paid advertising. There has been no paid advertising in my company up to this point. So it was just me posting it on my Facebook page, getting a few likes on Facebook, and letting it spread like that while I had another full-time job. This was not a part-time job or any type of job.

This was just a few batches of shirts and seeing what it did. So over the next few months I just started to kind of have those pictures that I had put out be reciprocated by other people, and this was the first picture – I can remember well – this was the first picture of someone I didn’t know wearing this shirt, which is a big moment. I think really for any business owner that first time when you realize that your idea is beyond you, the idea has now spread to people who aren’t in your circle.

So pictures started posting up. We still were only two products. You would go to the website and it was just one product and you could pick the color black or red. And it started popping up. So that’s Freddie Gibbs. That’s a rapper that I like a lot. That’s a DJ. This is someone on the top of Mount Fuji wearing this shirt. So now I was at the point where other people were doing that job of making it seem like there must be something interesting going on here, and there was something interesting going on, the fact that that in itself just existed.

So we did that, and I still – I can remember a conversation where I said I haven’t done anything with this company yet. It wasn’t anything except hype at that point, and I was still hanging on to that word that I had used with Anderson’s Most Wanted. This is just surviving on hype. People are getting excited about a simple design, and then they want to tell people that they’re excited, and that gets those people excited and that’s what carries it on.

So all of that is my back story in my leadup to the talk which is “Hype Is Not a Four-Letter Word” which just so there’s no confusion mean that it would be like a bad word or something you wouldn’t want to say because I think that – I just want to clarify that. I don’t want you to be like, “Dude, that guy cannot count letters.”

So I just wanted to kind of hype is definitely something that most people speak of in a negative sense. The thing that you hear most often is, “Don’t believe the hype.” That is the most common preface to the word hype. Don’t believe the hype. You see a billboard that says, “World’s best pie,” and then you try the pie and it’s not that good.

Someone asks you how the pie was and you say, “Don’t believe the hype.” But I would argue that what you actually mean in that situation is don’t believe the lies. That wasn’t really hyped up. Someone just told you that that was the world’s best pie or the people selling the pie told you that that was the world’s best pie which they would obviously do.

So I think there’s a distinction there that most of the time when we say, “Don’t believe the hype” we just mean don’t believe the lies. We mean that someone was telling us incorrect information. Someone was exaggerating. Someone was lying. And that you shouldn’t believe that because the product didn’t deliver.

So I thought maybe the official definition of hype is better and can more support why I think is a cool word and could describe a lot of my business activities. So I looked up the word hype in the dictionary. This was the first definition. “To intensify by ingenious or questionable claims, methods, or et cetera.” So that is a bad definition. I’m gonna mark that one as bad. It makes hype not a good thing.

“A swindled deception or trick.” That one is really bad. So I’m striking out here. The dictionary is not working for me. “To create interest by flamboyant or dramatic methods.” I kind of like that one. That sounds like the life of the party to me. So that one was all right. Next definition, “Exaggerated publicity,” which I will say I was split on that one, but I’m going to mark it as bad because I think most people would see that as bad.

And the final definition, number five, was “hoopla” which is an awesome word, and I think synonymous with hype, but hoopla is not a four-letter word. Just was not as an engaging of a presentation title. But I do like hoopla just the same. So the reason that I wanted to speak here at all, I’m not an expert on anything in business necessarily. I’m younger than most people here, and I have less professional experience probably than most people here.

The reason that I wanted to speak was because I think Indianapolis is at the center of a time where we know that we won’t ever be the tech city. We won’t ever be the blank city. We won’t ever be the whatever city, but I think that we are really at a point where we can establish ourselves as a city that does good business, not just business well, but that does good business where you can enter this business community and not feel like you’re going to be tricked, deceived, or swindled, where you can feel like you’re not going to be interacting with people who are exaggerating or lying.

So with all of that said, I just want to take back the word hype because I think it’s a good word, and if we’re not going to have any of those things be part of our business community we might as well just get rid of the definition. Keep the word and do something else with it. So I’m going to keep using the word hype, but I’m going to tell you about what it means to me.

To go back to the pie example, if they tell you it’s the world’s greatest pie and you try it and it’s decent then you say don’t believe the lies, but if your mom, and your brother, and the two people you work with, and the guy at Speakeasy, and the guy on the street tell you it’s the world’s greatest pie and you try the pie and it’s decent, that’s on you then. You still have to believe that hype.

Those are people that you trusted. Those are people who surround you, who have that opinion about it. It has earned that from your community. So that is legitimate hype. That is what I would call good hype, and then you kind of have to accept that. That hype worked. You didn’t like the finished product, but the hype did what it was supposed to do. It engaged your community, made you more informed about the product, and got you to try it. So that’s kind of the model of hype that I see. So I want to just outline a few quick ideas. I basically tried to retrofit my story of how United State of Indiana got here.

It’s my full-time job now, by the way. This is what I do. So I just kind of tried to retrofit it and see what are the things that I think were essential for my story and the hype that I survived off of, the good hype, and then share those with you. They are certainly not written in stone. There’s a flip side to everything I say. Everything I say probably the opposite is also true, and that’s all right. These are just talking points.

These are things to get you thinking. We’re all the type of people – and I know this for a fact – we’re all the type of people who are always searching for a new metric or a new analytic to unlock our business. I need a new market segmentation map to show me where the most profitable sector – and that’s awesome 9:00 to 5:00. But it’s 7:00 on a Tuesday. So I’m not going to do any hard facts at all because it’s 7:00 on a Tuesday and I’m telling you if at 7:00 on a Tuesday we’re talking about that stuff we will all have the stench of business on us and no one will believe us in the real world.

So let’s just have a fun conversation. Feel free to jump in whenever. Offer your advice because your advice is just as good as mine, for sure. So let’s just get going. Here are some things that I think you can use to hype up whatever you’re doing, whether you are a freelance creative, whether you are selling a tech product, whether you’re selling a physical product.

These are things that I think apply to everyone. So first one, good hype starts with a shipped product. And this is by far the most important. Tim sent out an email about overhyped tech companies. So they were all companies who got a bunch of buzz, got a bunch of investment, had a bunch of people talking to them, and then when the rubber hit the road they just didn’t deliver.

And as the counterpoint to that he used Apple as an example of someone who hypes their stuff up, and everyone buys it, and goes crazy, and that hype carries them right into the iPhone 9. So neither of those examples apply to anyone in this room, I don’t think, because both of those examples are a bunch of hype being built up when a product doesn’t yet exist in the market, when you’re building up to that launch.

And I don’t know why you would be here if you had that kind of clout to build up some huge hype before you had delivered any kind of product. And I don’t think you should do that even if you had the ability. It worked for me because shirts were already out there. People were already wearing the shirts and talking about the shirts and it worked.

People have to see that. You will be a victim of your own hype if you don’t – if it’s not based in the real product. So I think that’s just essential, and a lot of people do forget it. If you don’t have that figured out, don’t think about getting people excited. You don’t have the right to think about getting people excited about what you’re doing if you can’t give them a product or a service or whatever it is you’re delivering. That is your responsibility as a business owner to make sure there is a product already there to support the hype that you’re building up.

So this is the most important and it’s also the hardest. If we all knew how to sell products to get it started then starting things up would be a lot easier. So I have a few pointers on how to ship products so that you can start the whole hype cycle. So this is how I would say you can do it if you’re at that point where you’re like, “Man, I have a really good piece of software. I would like to get people excited about it, but I really haven’t found anybody to buy it yet. It looks great on my computer, but I don’t think it’s on anyone else’s computer yet.”

The first one, and this is a big picture. This is the biggest bullet point of the whole presentation. So if it seems overwhelming, it gets more practical from here. But expand your stated mission to align with your potential customers. You know who your potential customers are going to be. You can easily sit on Twitter, I’m sure, and find the people that you want to be your potential customers.

You know who those people are or at least where they would start out at. So I looked at my Twitter followers, which is kind of what got me thinking about this point, and you can see Amber – refers to herself in the third person too which is interesting – lives, works, and plays in the heart of Indianapolis. Midwest work ethic and Hoosier hospital. [Trill] Hoosier, which is a term the kids use, if you don’t know. Frequent traveler to Bloomington, Indiana.

I live, work, and write and play in the Midwest’s biggest little city. This guy’s name is Indiana Stud. These are my followers. No one talks about t-shirts. I guarantee I don’t have any followers who in their 140 characters to talk about themselves talked about t-shirts, but I am fortunate enough to have a company that is built on a mission that is very easy to align to other people’s mission.

My mission is Indiana and local and all of the things that that flag, logo implies. So not everyone can do that as easily or as graphically as I have done, but I would encourage you if you’re at the point where you say I don’t know how to push this box, I don’t know how to get those first five sales or the next five clients, I would encourage you to remember that you can be an amazing writer and none of your clients have anything about amazing writing in their mission.

None of your clients are concerned with amazing writing. They have a bigger mission, and when you can tie what you’re doing in with what they’re doing it’s a lot easier for them to pick it up. It’s a lot easier for them to adopt that because then they’re not hiring a writer. Then they’re bringing somebody into the mission who gets that. So I will tell you right now that being rooted in this place from Speakeasy to Sobro to Broad Ripple to Indianapolis to Central Indiana to Indiana, and stop there, all of those are really easy missions to align to and no one is going to fault you if you do that.

At this time, in 2014, if I was a freelance graphic designer I would be Indiana’s graphic designer. If I was a tech company that makes automation solutions for the medical industry I would be Hoosier Automation. It is something that is very tangible as the mission of the people in this space. That’s just something that I’ve been witness to. So if you’re wondering how do I expand my mission to meet that of my customers? Try a local approach if you’re into that.

Don’t fake it, but if that’s something that’s important to you that’s the idea. Those are the things that go beyond your business and beyond their business to share where the Venn diagram meets. So that’s that thought. That’s a big thing. You’re not going to do that tonight. You’re not going to figure that out how to expand your company’s mission, but if you can’t get products off the shelf this is what I would say.

If I was just selling t-shirts with just designs on them I would be lost in a sea of other t-shirts. Next. This stands for friends, family, family of friends, friends of family, family of family, and friends of friends. And this is the easiest way to start shipping products. Social media is your friend and your personal social media page as an entrepreneur or a startup is your friend. To think that that would not be your first sales channel, people who know you and are going to be excited about your product because it comes from you would be short-sighted.

That will be where the first people who are excited about your product starts. So I encourage you to explore that as a market segment, whatever, the ten F’s. That’s the first market segment to really dive into, and if you don’t know them and don’t have a one person connection to them it’s a different market segment. I’m talking about people you know directly, not like I heard Tina’s wife brother could get me a meeting with – no, you’re in a different world then.

I’m talking about find people who will use and get excited about your product because they’re excited about you and actually have them use it. So there’s two ways. The last way, give it away. I started selling shirts for $10.00 with free shipping. My cost on the shirts was $8.50. It cost $3.00 to ship a shirt. I lost $1.50 on every shirt I sold for the first few months because no one will not buy a $10.00 t-shirt. You will buy a $10.00 t-shirt that intrigues you.

So I just did, right? And I got the first whatever, the first batch out. That’s an expense. If you think about it like a money hole then it’s kind of depressing. That’s an expense. That first batch was an expense for me and it got shirts in the hands of people who (1) loved the design (2) knew that something had to be up for the shirts to be so cheap, knew there had to be something else going on, something more interesting than me trying to sell shirts going on.

So those are my three things. Do those three things. Get it so you feel like there is a base of people using your product out in the market before you think about hype and then you can move on. Once you’ve got that remember that good hype has a home base, and this is one of the biggest things that I did to make sure that that first chunk, that first batch of shirts, those are my core customers and then I wouldn’t ever lose those people because it’s just easy to see 60 people with shirts in the age of social media is everyone in Indiana.

If there’s 60 people in Indiana who have my product there is no one in Indiana that those people aren’t somehow connected to through social media. It’s just an easy network. So how do you actually do that? How do you figure out who those early adopters are, to use a tech term? And how do you take advantage of them? So who are your early adopters?

Here’s my easy thing to get that core group because I have an Excel spreadsheet on my computer that is just the names and emails of these people and I use it all the time. I send surveys to them. I send them discounts. I send them new products, ask them questions. So this is how I got that core group of the very first people who were ever interested in my company.

First, I just took the first sale. Maybe it’s 50. Maybe it’s five clients if you’re doing creative work and you have clients. Maybe it’s 500 people if you’re moving something a lot better than I have ever moved something, but whatever the first meaningful chunk is for you, follow up with them with an opportunity for easy interaction. What I do with this – send people an email that says how likely are you to recommend United State of Indiana to a friend?

And there’s just the numbers one through seven in the email. Each one of those numbers is a link to a different landing page. The ones say things that get me in contact with them quickly. What went wrong? Let us know. We would love to exchange or refund your order. The sevens, give them a discount code in a premade tweet or whatever. That’s it.

It’s a one question survey. That’s all it is, and the reason for that is that that weeds out people who aren’t going to interact with you at all. If they can’t answer one question for you they’re not going to be a raving customer of yours. So that’s a good way to weed people out, and then reward, spoil, and enlighten the core group that’s left over and is ready to engage with you.

So let me make a point. If you can’t afford to make everything right for this first group you need more money or you need to stop. If you don’t have the money built up to make it a 100 percent good experience for the first people that you know really matter then you’re on the wrong track. If the first 50 people would have had crooked prints, which they did – let me explain that. Hearing that come out of my mouth.

There were problems with our first shirts, and I refunded everything completely and sent them another one because it was an expense that I was prepared for. So if you don’t have the money to make it right for everyone you either need more money or you need to get on a different track. Find a core group at the beginning. This is where your hype starts, and make everything perfect for them.

So the practical part. How do you do that? Use the three-step process that I just outlined to get trusted early adopters. Reward. This refers to every time they order again make it a better experience for them. I’m a big believer in that, and I just had the awesome timing that my 19th customer of all time, which was March 25th 2011, ordered a shirt from me again today. And this is maybe her sixth or seventh order throughout, and I just know her name now.

So you can believe that her package is going to be insane. When you’ve ordered from me six or seven times in the past few years you’ve given a substantial amount of your 25-year-old income to t-shirts that I’ve made. So the package we send you is going to be insane. We’ll put every free thing that we have in our office, every matchbook, every sticker that we can because it’s still that core group that’s living on.

And I can only imagine how many times that person has posted on social media and how much of my base has come from that person who is number 19. Spoil them. I send that core group free things all the time. I just put a note in that said, “Hey, thanks for supporting USI over the years. Here is a free shirt.” I don’t know any business where you don’t have something that you could give away unless you’re selling some big enterprise software in which case I would still give away a mouse pad or something nice like that. Spoil people. It blows my mind that this is not a part of business. Give things away to your customer.

They have a million options every day of where to spend their money. If they can do it multiple times with you, you deserve to give them a little kickback. And then enlighten. Bring people into your conversation. So with that core group when I want to open, when I want to find a retailer in Bloomington I go to that Excel spreadsheet, find people in Bloomington. Tweet at them. “Hey, where would you want to buy USI stuff in Bloomington?”

Bring them into the conversation. Everyone loves that. Everyone feels a little empowered by that. So that’s how you build a core group, and I think this is where hype all starts. The good hype all starts with the core group. If you’re just shipping out products and losing track of them when you’re just starting up you’re going to lose track other the personality of your company. These people are your personality.

These people are the people that are seen using your products and telling their friends about your products. So you have to make sure you understand them and that they feel in contact with you. So, yes?

[Inaudible question]

So the question was, is Twitter a big deal? Is everybody on Twitter? Does it make a difference? And I have a lot of ideas on that. Personally, I’m not the biggest social media buff. I don’t have a personal Twitter account. I don’t have a personal Instagram account. So I’m not someone who really lets my personal spending habits or trending habits be fed through social media.

With that said, I would say without social media I would have sold the first shirt to my mom and I don’t know where else it would have come from. It’s the way people speak in my business. In B2C, business to consumer businesses, where it’s the kind of purchase that someone can pull their wallet out and make, you have to be in front of them on Twitter, Facebook, and Instagram. I really believe that that is at the moment, at the end of 2014, if you’re doing the kind of product that you have any kind of impulse buy on, that you have any kind of peer to peer sharing of product reviews or anything, I think that those are all pretty essential right now.

So that’s my thoughts. A lot of what I will say has a good element that doesn’t need social media, but at the moment it’s kind of how people talk. It’s kind of how people talk to a lot of the people they know, and those are the things that you need to take advantage of. At the end of 2014 that will probably be a different set of things, and it will keep evolving. At the moment I think that’s kind of where we’re at for B2C businesses.

Business-to-business businesses is a little bit different perspective. I think there’s a lot more face to face there. Any other input, comments? So you have a core base of customers. So now you’re really excited to tell people about how well it’s going and how much everybody loves your product, but wait. Good hype speaks for itself, and this is a big urge that you have to – I still do not like to talk about the success of USI or people embracing USI. That is what their job is, and they don’t see it as a job so they do it way better than I would.

The only real point that I wanted to make on this is that there’s zero legitimacy in you telling me how much people like me, like you. As a consumer, you don’t know what people like me are. You don’t need to tell me what my friends like, or people who shave the way I shave use certain razors, or people who dress the way I dress use certain clothes. The people around me will tell me about that.

The people around me will review those products for me, and this is kind of that idea of is social media entirely necessary? I think in this point there’s a lot that lives off the screen. A lot of our most meaningful reviews of products or most meaningful advice on how to spend our money comes from off the screen where we know that it’s not being influenced by did someone pay to bring that to the top of my attention?

So resist the urge to when you see the hype forming to start trying to tell the story yourself. You’re not telling you story. You’re joining in on other people’s stories and they’re already telling those. So how do you do that? Transform your testimonials.

This is just a little nitpicky thing. If you’re a B2B company you probably actually have a client testimonials page on your website and please let’s stop using those as reviews. Why could a client testimonial page be looked at as a review? You wouldn’t put it on your website if it was a bad review. It’s your website.

So I would encourage people to shift those to be more of a frequently asked question page. Prove that you understand the challenges of a business. Show in your testimonials that you know how to address those. Sell me the client organization. That’s a big thing. Prove to me that your clients are bigger than me so that I feel like I’m kind of in the right room if I’m working with you, and weave the testimonials into a larger narrative.

Here I searched Omaha web design so that hopefully no one would know these companies or anything. So these are companies from Omaha. This is the bad one. You can tell it’s bad because it has a red background. So these reviews are just wild. “I have received only good reviews of what you’ve done for us. The website looks awesome. Everyone involved gets a round of applause.” That’s from Ken. Ken could be anyone.

“Many people have told me they love the new website. I have also had several people stop to get more information after seeing the site. Even my friend who loves to find something wrong thinks it’s great. Thank you.” Just little things like this, “Using a PowerPoint presentation I provided they created a professional looking site in less than a day.” Anyone who’s looking for a website – you just did the shoddiest work. You turned a PowerPoint into a website in less than a day?

That is not something I would ever brag about. I would do that for the money, but I certainly would not tell people that I did that. “I just wanted to let you know that we booked our first miniature golf course rental.” I don’t even know what it means. I don’t even know what that means.

And they’re all first names. This is the wrong way to do it. They’re trying to sell reviews of their company using testimonials. No one is ever going to believe it. It’s like reviews of TV shows, like A to Z on NBC. On the commercial it said if you’re only going to watch three new shows this fall make A to Z one of the three.

That’s the most meaningless comment I’ve ever heard. Of course you would tell me that. I don’t know why you didn’t bump it up to the only one show I would be watching. Don’t review with testimonials. This for Omaha web design was a pretty good example I saw in just jumping around. You can see first of all they have a link right off the bat so you can actually see the work.

You can see what they’re doing. These are very specific examples of what they’re doing. “Sends me reports every month. Sends mass emails.” This is kind of like a personal testimonial. I have decided it’s all about word of mouth in website. It’s weaving it into a larger story. It’s letting the voice of the person who’s doing this testimonial come out and then hopefully that resonates with the person who’s reading it.

So that is a better way to do testimonials. Good hype speaks for itself. In the situations where you need to speak or you need to say what other people are saying, do it correctly. Don’t get wrapped up in the idea that people would believe that just because you say other people say good things that that has any reflection on your company. If you’re a B2C company create an unfiltered stream of real-world product interaction, which the way we do that these days is with hashtags. Anyone can download an app that makes a page on your website an instant stream of Twitter posts or pictures with a hashtag and it has to be unfiltered.

You have to let everything come through there because, one, that lets people know that they’re going to get on there and, two, it eliminates that idea that you’re just picking the best reviews and making that what you show them. Recognition is the free way to incentivize engagement. If you want people to engage with you just say we’ll feature you on our Instagram. If I have more followers than you, half the vain people in the world are going to engage however they want just so that they can be seen.

And don’t try to force hashtags. My favorite thing is to see commercials like JCPenney that end with #whenitfitsitfits and then just look at it, and it’s like no one has ever used that. That’s JCPenney. That’s a huge company. Someone got paid a lot of money to sit there and come up with the hashtag that no one use. Use a hashtag either to be included in a stream like this.

I was at CreativeMornings this morning, which is a global event, and it was taking place here. I would use a hashtag to be in that stream, to have what I say be in that stream or you use the hashtag to be snarky. Those are really what you’re doing. There are other motives, but you don’t need to worry about them.

And if it’s not that, if it’s your slogan with a hashtag at the beginning of it, it’s not going to work. So don’t force those, please. It’s an abuse of technology. There’s a lot of abuse of social media and one of them is hashtag abuse. So that’s the whole idea of letting hype speak for itself. Any thoughts? Any questions? Concerns?

One concern is now that you kind of have this hype based going, there are people talking about your product, how does that fit into your competitive landscape, which brings me to my next point which is good hype isn’t concerned with your competitive landscape. When you are in business meeting, talk about your competition. Talk about the way that you will get a leg up on them.

Do not ever talk about that publicly which is something that you could debate, but I will stand firm in it. I would never acknowledge that my company has competition because that competition, that pairing of my company with someone else because we happen to be in the same market segment or at the same price point is so irrelevant to my customers. They’re not at a grocery store comparison shopping, and even if they are I think it lowers yourself to admit that you’re engaging in that comparison shopping.

That’s not hype. That’s some practical sales tool, but it’s not hype. No one ever talks to their friends about how one company was a little bit better than the other, and this is what always comes to mind. Does anyone work in utilities, telecom, cell phone provider? Because that is a hype-proof business. Nobody enjoys those companies.

Nobody ever talks to their friends about those companies. So this is Comcast. “Internet that hits 50 Megs. Game over AT&T.” That’s a joke. This is a real billboard, but that is a joke way to spend your marketing dollars. Nobody, none of your valued customers who are choosing to give you money cares about AT&T. Why did you bother to make your statement about 50 Megs be a little shot at your competitor?

I think that is a gross way to do business and it insults all of us that you would throw a little competitive jab at it. This should be 50 Megs. Now, why don’t you actually explain what that means to the 90 percent of the world who doesn’t know what download speed means? Tell me how many albums that is in a minute.

Tell me how many shows I can watch with that. This is a bad way. This is what I’m most passionate about in the sense of bad hype, and bad business, and wanting to keep this out of Indianapolis because I think this is disgusting. Consumers are not in a competitive business world. Consumers are choosing to give a few people their money.

If you want them to give you their money talk about their story, not this story that you talk about in your room about how you need to beat AT&T and how you just got them. Game over AT&T. I’m just not a fan of it, and I don’t know anyone who would ever really get excited about Comcast being 10 Megs faster than AT&T.

[Question: Aren’t some of the world’s most beloved commercials in the past ten years Apple comparison ads, though? Generally the rule has always been, at least in general traditional advertisin, it’s like if you’re number one you never talk about your competition. If you’re number two, go ahead. So that’s a normal heuristic.]

So he brought up the I’m a Mac I’m a PC ads which everybody did love, and those were great ads, and I think Apple can be the exception to the rule, and a lot of times I’m still not into it. I use a PC and it’s like which already everyone is like now we don’t need to listen to that guy. I use a PC and honestly I’m not into it. Those commercials were engaging because they were executed so well, but the idea that you still built that whole campaign around putting something else down, no one that I know talks about PCs.

No one that I know needs sold on the fact that an Apple is cooler than a PC. So I think it’s a lot of wasted effort. Those types of comparisons between products don’t need to be brought out into your message. Speak a story that really means something to me. The fact that you’re cooler than another computer it doesn’t really strike me as that interesting. So I’m sure that there’s a sales motive there, but there’s not a hype motive. And that’s what I’m talking about.

So along the lines of the competitive landscape, here is what I would recommend. Crash the party. So use some smart link analysis and link monitoring to get in their spotlight without ever mentioning them. So here are some actual practical tools, just when you thought there would be nothing very practical. Is anyone familiar with Open Site Explorer, that site? No one. One person. Thank you.

So here’s the idea, and this is an extremely valuable tool for considering your competition but doing it on the back end and not having people see really the competitive environment that you’re in. Matt, what is one of your competitors or who is someone who’s in a similar – and what’s their URL?

So the idea here is that this site is just a database of all the inbound links to any URL. So you can just go here, type in the URL of one of your competitors – you can certainly do it for your own URL too. Babyrabies is the first one which I can’t really speak to. So the idea is that these are all the sites that are linking to Matt’s competitor.

So we see onlinefashionmarketing.com is linking to his competitor. You look at this list and go through it and find out why those people aren’t also linking to you. Maybe Passionfruit Ads has sponsored a blog post on this site. Maybe they were included on a list of 15 cool startups. Maybe they were whatever. Find that and then jump in there.

So find who’s talking about your competition and just jump yourself right in. I do this for t-shirt companies, and I find 25 coolest typographic tees of 2014. Boom. Get me in there. I’ll make a typographic tee if I have to to get in where you’re talking about the other people who are doing well, but I will never tell you that that’s what I’m doing. I will never say this tee is better than that one. No. I just want to be where you’re talking about it because I think I can contribute to that story.

So that’s Open Site Explorer. It’s a really useful tool. Sorry, Matt. It doesn’t really seem like your competition is really hitting any homers. And the second one is Talkwalker Alerts which is basically the same thing as Google Alerts, if you’ve ever used that. This is what I do. These are the other t-shirt companies in Indianapolis – Hayes & Taylor, Sunday Afternoon Housewife, The Brick Shirt House.

Any time that those URls appear on the Internet I get an email so that if you’re talking about a t-shirt company in Indianapolis I know about it and I will contact you shortly after to make sure you know about my company. It’s a quick way to just stay on top of what’s happening with the buzz about your competition and make sure that you’re included in the conversation.

So that’s really all I worry about with the competition, and then I collaborate with the rest of them. That’s my strategy, and it works pretty well. If you’re in Indianapolis and you consider another design shop in Indianapolis your competition, I bet you could do a really awesome project together, both make money and both take advantage of each other’s audiences. That’s kind of the idea of doing good business that I’m into, being just way more about collaboration than competition.

Final thing, in a transparent world good hype is opaque. Everyone is in serious danger of killing any sort of rock star status you have left with social media. I heard an interview with the singer Nick Cave a few weeks ago, and he said that he didn’t understand why celebrities would tweet and try to seem like normal people because celebrities are not anything like normal people. I think that you run the risk if you share so much, if you get involved in this kind of whirlwind of social media. Going back to that question, is it necessary, I think it seems overly necessary and that you can kill a lot of the interesting things about your company.

I do not want people to know what my day-to-day running of USI looks like. I don’t want people to know the inner workings of a company. I want you to think that it is some otherworldly force creating the coolest t-shirts, shipping them out all over the world. No one understands how one guy could be doing it, and that’s all I want you to know. I want you to see the rock star status of that.

It’s like Led Zeppelin versus Kanye West, who are both huge stars of their time but it was a very different time. So when people would see Led Zeppelin coming out of a hotel that might be the only pictures you saw of Led Zeppelin for a month, them walking from the hotel to their limo. And it kind of creates this – you don’t even know. Are they human? They’re the biggest thing in the world, but I know nothing about them.

And then contrast that with Kanye West who is in his own way the biggest thing in the world but has the opportunity to speak all the time, and has the opportunity to be heard all the time, and you slowly knock yourself back down to a dumb human like the rest of us. And I think there’s something to be said there. There’s obviously a balance.

I understand that everyone’s work is pretty wrapped up in social media at this point. We all understand the value of sharing things with an audience over the internet, but keep it in your mind that hype, the more people really understand something the less hyped up about it they are. They want to be talking about something that they feel like maybe they understand just a little bit better than the people around them.

And if you make it all clear, if you spell it all out, there’s not much left. If you give away the milk, who’s going to buy the cow, or whatever that expression is. Leave them thinking that there is something bigger going on because there is and it’s your daily life and you don’t need to meanialize that into little bits where they think they know everything that’s going on. So practical application, identify your rock star qualities. One of mine right now is really weird, drawings.

I post really strange – I’ll trace a page in Indianapolis Monthly but flip all the words around so it just says gibberish and then I’ll post it, and it doesn’t make any sense why the t-shirt company is doing that. But it’s Indianapolis Monthly, it’s visually engaging, and it’s weird, and no one else is doing it. So that’s the kind of stuff I’m trying to hold onto.

It creates a bigger image. Why is he doing this? Why did he upload this at 2:00 AM? Is he just sitting around with copies of Indianapolis Monthly trying to make art out of them? It ties in with my mission, but it’s strange, and it doesn’t fit into what people think the normal process of a t-shirt company would be. So it’s one of my rock star qualities is trying to be weirder than most t-shirt companies.

If you’re a software company that’s probably not your approach, but there are certain things you can do that you can shed a little light on that will give you that rock star element. Earlier this year Beyoncé released an album with no marketing, no buildup, had spoken no words that a new album was going to come out, and it showed up on the shelves. It’s a great hype strategy. It’s a wonderful strategy to make your new killer app, your new awesome design, your new client that you just landed just say nothing about it until it’s completely done and then show it to people.

And the only part of the process they saw was the finished product and it can blow their minds because you didn’t reveal the mistakes along the way. You let that one go until the very end. And then outsource your transparency. If you want people to talk about the inner workings of your business, make it your suppliers or your customers.

Let them shed light on your business so that you don’t have to do it yourself, and I think that’s a good way to give a well-rounded image of your company without spelling it out too much. So that’s all my thoughts on hype, and they were pretty all over the place, but those are ideas that I have. So start shipping products, build a core group of early adopters, let those people speak for themselves, don’t worry about the competition – at least in the public – and then don’t get too transparent.

Don’t tell your whole story because that’s not really anyone’s business but your own. You have a story and then you have a story you tell and know the difference. So that’s where I’m at. I don’t know what time it is. 7:25. Does anyone have any questions, input?