Do Yourself A Favor

I just got back from four days in Santa Cruz, about an hour south of San Francisco on the coast. Gorgeous unobstructed view from this hidden little hamlet where we rented a forties-era cottage. We were a hundred feet up on a cliff overlooking the Pacific. The first night, I saw dolphins jumping through the reflection of the moon on the waves.

I used to live in a small beach town, and getting back to the ocean is like visiting a long-lost friend. While the dog played and my Significant Other stuffed her pockets with perfect sea shells, I just stood and watched the surf. The sound of the ocean, to me, is like an ancient voice that’s been droning on about important stuff since the dawn of time.

Four days without a newspaper or television. Very quickly, you can get back your concentration, and start tasting and hearing and feeling things again that the culture has numbed down.
It clears the head.

When I got back to the office, nothing much had changed with the world. The media was hyperventilating over some new bullshit non-crisis, and politicos were spinning like dervishes over the same nonsense they’d been whining/yelling/insinuating about the week before. War and rumors of war were everywhere. And the economy was either back-sliding or going great guns… depending on who was talking.

The din is stunning, when you leave and come back to it.

Now, as a marketer, you gotta go deep into the world of your prospect. I’m amazed that so many rookie marketers try to game the system, by skipping over the inconvenient research details and rushing to send out ads that don’t have a chance of convincing anyone to buy. You gotta read what your audience reads, and think like they think — even if you disagree.

Every niche market has it’s own mini-culture, with its own lingo and it’s own history and it’s own code of honor. Ignore these important details at your peril. Connect your “insider” knowledge with broader knowledge of what’s going on, and you’ll be weighing your profits in buckets. You must become part sociologist, part psychologist, and all-around voodoo salesman to find — and then needle mercilessly — the passionate sweet spot of your prospect. That’s why the best marketers read newspapers and magazines and watch popluar culture television shows. They are hip to what’s happening, and can intelligently talk about it.

You can’t market in a vacuum.

But here’s the kicker: You also can’t market when your brain has been turned to mush by too much popular culture.

Thus: You gotta dis-engage, regularly, and get outa Dodge. Let your grey matter recharge and soften up a bit. Go somewhere you can’t get to a newspaper or magazine easily, and let the dog decide where you’re gonna hike this morning.

The day before I left on my little mini-vacation, I struggled to get through a normal hour’s worth of work in four hours. I was toast. The evening I got back — even after a six-hour marathon drive home — I did four hours worth of work in ninety minutes. And enjoyed it.

A notorious “lifestyle” coach revealed the secret to me long ago — every month, get out of town. Even if you only have two days, do it. You are not doing your bottom line — or your life — any favors by dulling your system with too much work, too little sleep, and a lack of adventure and fun.

And that’s my holiday advice to you. Come January, and you’re looking ahead with a refreshed sense of lust and topped-off tanks of piss and vinegar, you’ll thank me.

Side Note: As many people (a small mob, in fact) have taken the time to observe, I have not been allowing comments on this blog. It’s a time thing — I’m just attempting to lay down a little honest content and info here, and I’m not really looking to start any conversations. So I blocked the comment option.

However… as an experiment… I am allowing comments on this entry. We’ll see what happens. So have at it. I will look over everything that’s said, but I’m making no promises…

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  • Kevin Donlin says:

    John’s right re: getting the hell out of town.

    We Americans work *way* too hard. There’s even a newish term for it — “stress envy.” As in, you don’t really want your friends’ sympathy when you whine about working 80 hours a week to make all the money you do. You want their stress envy.

    Here’s another new word: karoshi. It’s Japanese for “death by overwork.”

    OK. Enough of that.

    Here’s a link to a cool article to augment Jon’s excellent piece today, “Nine Ways to Leave Work Overload Behind”

    More power to John and his blog!

  • John, I forget whether it was you, or Gary mentioning that you refused to work with a _client_ who didn’t follow the above “Get outta Dodge Advice”.

    Workaholic, perfectionist clients suck.

  • Manny C. Lourenco says:

    Hey been sitting here pondering something id love to hear some feedback with…I know we are not supposed to get in depth about how great our company is ~ Was listening to you John C. and Michel F. on the recent call you did.. and heard it brought up again, not to talk about the company ~ “now here is where ive been pondering”..I reivew Dan Kennedy, Jay Abraham, Gary H. and of course your’s as well John..and well in the beg. you guys make it very clear, who you are and masterfully make someone feel pretty damn silly as to not totally take advantage of your services or products based on the hardcore facts of who you really are…Ofcourse this is where im pondering ~ the angle of letting people know about yourself but staying away from talking about how great the company or product is ? ~ ~ So in reviewing my pondering madness haha, I suppose im just trying to capture more clarity on separating the reality of talking about the person as to the product and company ? To me it is fascinating to look at..would love to hear some thoughts on this..Thanks and great call with Michel..I seem to honestly take more notes listening to you John than any copywriter alive today…So very clear to anyone who is really lisnteing with their heart that this is truly a passion with ya…”amazing stuff to say the least” ~ ~ thanks, Manny C. Lourenco

  • Rubin Wald says:

    Problem: feeling guilty while lying fallow. I get wonderful inspirations while doing nothing: answers to questions, headlines for sales letters and ads, etc. But it takes a long time to allow myself to relax. Suggestions, recommendations, helpful advice, all welcomed.

  • Hmm… does that mean in order to become a great marketer I have to read newspapers & magazine and drown myself in noise?

    I have trouble with that idea. Now I’m so busy just getting the basics (just got my copy of Vic Schwabs How To Write A Good Advertisement, and there’s more coming soon).

    But even once I got the basics down – is it really necessary to clutter your mind with all that shit and gossip? (Even when taking a break regularly from it – why put it in in the first place?).

    It seems to me much more attractive to rather read a couple of popular books on current events – this way, not every little wave that makes it’s round in the newspaper will take up space in my mind. Most of these things are forgotten a year later anyway.

  • […] #25. John Carlton, The Rant: Do yourself A favour […]

  • Long road trips can be great for getting my thought processes stimulated.

  • Jesus Miguel says:

    Much better if you doing it as a fun research project:

    When I wrote tons of headlines from the National Enquirer…

    I had such a blast and so much fun. Because for the first time, I realized that this is what most people in America care about.

    Murder, Celebrities, Scandals…

    But I agree. Too much of it at once, can fry your brain.

    Thank you John.

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