One of my favorite shows on TV of late is Shark Tank.
The show centers on aspiring, brave, and sometimes downright idiotic inventors and entrepreneurs who pitch their ideas in front of a group of merciless, seemingly heartless multimillionaires, begging for investment capital.
Some of the advice that come from these “sharks” are pretty obvious and commonsensical, especially to people who's been in business for as long as I have.
But a lot of it is brilliant. Brilliant, but also brazen, unabashed, and brutally honest. It's not for the faint of heart. If you don't like seeing people, along with their hopes, dreams, and business ideas being shred to pieces on TV, then this show is certainly not for you.
The more I watch that show, the more I learn. It's not just a fascinating program, it's a million-dollar education in just one hour a week. And for free to boot. If you ever get a chance to watch that show, do it. You're going to learn so much. It's an amazing show.
If an idea or business is dumb, dead, or downright dreadful, they will say it. Often, in no uncertain terms. They have to. After all, their money is on the line.
But then again, so should it be with you.
One line from the show, from shark Barbara Corcoran, was absolutely dead-on in one case. She said to one fledgling, near-bankrupt businessman with a poorly researched idea in which he invested almost all of his family's savings (and I'm paraphrasing, here):
“It takes a lot of courage to be as passionate and persistent about a business idea, but it takes a lot more courage to know when to quit, and to let it go and move on.”
And this got me thinking about how some people online are like that. I'm not just talking about businesspeople who needlessly cling to a losing idea or business, which are many. Too many to count, I'm afraid. The Internet is filled with them.
But I'm talking about sharks. Experts who really know their stuff, and who may say the most unflattering things that might kill your pride but may very well save your butt. That is, if you let go of your ego for a moment and truly listen to what they have to say.
Many a guru come and go, and the people I've followed over the years have changed. Change is a part of reality. I've changed. We all do. But some people I've stopped following because their philosophy no longer fits with mine or into what I find acceptable.
(And with all that's happening in our industry these days, with all the crackdowns, letdowns, and putdowns, I don't think I'm the only one who feels that way.)
But that's OK. That's how the world turns.
I guess that, as I've grown older, wiser, and more battle-worn, with a dash of cynicism and mistrust added to the mix, I've also become pickier and more prudent in who I follow and listen to. That's why there are just a handful of select people I follow today.
There are two fellows in particular from this group of people who I've followed for a long time, ever since they were members of my now defunct copywriters discussion forum. The thing is, they are not as well-known as what you normally call your typical “guru.”
I followed them on their blogs and newsletters. For years, I've digested their tips, insights, and sometimes incisive commentary like they were part of a endless buffet served as a starving death-row inmate's last meal. Licking the plates along with it.
So who are these guys?
Their brilliance shines. Their philosophy is flexible enough to adapt to changes, but solid enough to remain unwavering and unaffected — no matter how the economy swings, and no matter how many new marketing methods come and go.
Their occasional insights and sometimes slap-in-the-face advice on business, the Internet, and even life have always struck me as amazing. To some, they appear as oddball contrarians, and that's probably why they are not as well known as the usual suspects.
There are not a lot of people who are that real. I mean, really real. I mean, “I don't care if this hurts your ego but it's going to save your business (or make you money)” real. They are down to earth and personable, but seriously sharp and dangerously savvy.
These are two guys to watch out for.
Now, there are not the only ones, mind you. A few others I've known for a while personify these qualities already. Such as Paul Myers, Jim Edwards, Terry Dean, Lynn Terry, Larry Winget, just to name a few. (Including my brilliant wife, Sylvie Fortin.)
But Jason and Ricky are in that group I would categorize as real experts.
For example, Jason just blogged about the future of information marketing.
And he said something I've been saying for a long time.
And that's the idea that marketing, particularly Internet marketing, is no longer about communications but about conversations. It's no longer about content but about context. It's no longer about copy that sells but about the connection with the people who buy.
In short, the gold is not “in the list” but in the relationships.
Nevertheless, they are marketers who are not afraid to tell it like it is. But also, they are guys who understand relationships. People. Trust. Ethics. And above all, sales and business. They are sharks. And I think that's what the Internet needs right now.
I'm not talking about “those” sharks. The Internet has been filled with the wrong kind of predators for too long. No, I'm talking about the kind of sharks who are willing to take a bite out of bad ideas, bad businesses, and bad marketing practices.
Be a shark with your business. Your money. Your clients. And especially your integrity and your reputation. More important, be a shark with yourself, and the people you follow and whose advice you listen to. If not, any of these will be the ones eating you alive.