Be The Kid Rock of Tech Marketing

Eric Norlin, producer of the Defrag and Glue conferences, has a phenomenal rant up today titled An Open Letter to Technology Startup MarketersWe had an email exchange the other day about how self-limiting the phrase “I’m being cautious” is.  I put it in the category of “I don’t want to think so I’m just going to defer any decision and judgment, which I’ll rationalize as being cautious rather than passive.”

Eric took the idea and turned it into a nice rant.  I love a good rant and Eric’s is a doozy.  It starts off “There seems to be a refrain as of late amongst a great many of you, and that refrain is “caution.” You’re “cautious” about the economy. You’re taking a “wait and see” approach.  I say to those of you doing this: shame on you.”

Here are a few choice lines:

“You cannot afford to take a “wait and see” approach. I mean, wait and see WHAT exactly? How the Dow performs? Where the CPI numbers come in? What the President’s approval rating is? If you think that you (sitting in your little ole startup office) will actually *know* when the economy turns, you’re being foolish. You’re not gonna know until AFTER it has already turned. In the meantime, you’d better get your butt out there and land some business. If you “wait and see,” you’ll most likely just be waiting around to see exactly what date your termination notice is gonna come on.”


“Now, okay, your budget has been cut by your cautious CEO — I get that. That’s cool. But I guarantee your CEO didn’t say, “go in your office, cower in fear, pray that we get a ton of inbound sales leads, but above all else be cautious and wait and see.” Nope. Your CEO probably said something like, “monitor your spend as if every dollar was your own; and make sure we’re getting the maximum bang for our buck.” Of course, this freaked you out. And you got cautious. WRONG.”


“Here’s what you don’t wanna be: the Celine Dion of marketing. Here’s what you do want to be: the Kid Rock of marketing. People may hate Kid Rock and his music, but they damn sure know who he is. Why? Because he’s never been cautious a single day of his life. He left the office, got out, and made himself larger than life.”

Great rant Eric.  If you are in marketing in a tech startup, go read it!

  • I agree 100%, with the exception that I don't think I want to be the kid rock of anything. Other then that, great rant.

  • I agree with Adam- there has to be a better model than Kid Rock.

    One of my favorite lines came from a friend, who said "if you can see the bus, you're not on it". Wait-and-see means you won't be ready to get on when the bus comes your way.

  • I like this idea. However, I don't think Eric wants people throwing caution into the wind.

    It comes down to effective decision making and feeling a sense of urgency at all times.

    I have found quick decision making is better when there is a quick process attached. For example, having a set of questions (say three) that are geared around strategy/positioning, goals, and budget. If your decision meets the criteria of the questions…more often than not it will be the right decision.

    It is kinda like Malcom Gladwell's book "Blink" where he talks about instinctual decision making and how your gut is right more often than not. I have found the method I described in the previous paragraph a good balance between going with your gut feeling and quickly matching what each strategic question is asking as a way to further decrease the chances of being "wrong." Guts are sometimes biased :). On the other side you could say there is great value to being wrong because of the lessons one can accumulate. So, being wrong isn't always bad.

    Brad, I would venture a guess that you have your own method and I'd love to hear you talk about it.

  • Yeah – I agree.  Kid Rock is – well – tough to get your mind around.  But the “essence of Kid Rock” is more accessible.

  • Traci

    I agree with Josh that there should be a constant sense of urgency at all times (and in all market conditions). The "wait and see" excuse is just a proxy for fear, and that's no mindset for a tech startup marketer.

  • btw: the "kid rock" analogy was meant to elicit a strong reaction (kinda my point about "kid rock marketing") – obviously it worked. Just not the same if i say, "be the jack johnson of marketing" 😉

  • P.S. I'm certainly not advocating throwing caution to the wind. Your decision making can (and should be) measured and measurable. That's very different from taking a wait and see approach and "being cautious"….

  • If the word cautious comes out of your mouth or even enters your head and you are in a Marketing position(especially in a startup), then get the hell out and go work for the county! Seriously. Who even funds a CEO capable of saying the word and what CEO hires a marketing person…. you get the idea. You are in the wrong business, environment, etc.

  • If the word cautious comes out of your mouth or even enters your head and you are in a Marketing position(especially in a startup), then get the hell out and go work for the county! Seriously. Who even funds a CEO capable of saying the word? What CEO hires a marketing person….? You get the idea.

  • Jim

    Not afraid to admit I like Kid Rock's music and its in heavy rotation on my ipod for workouts.

  • I’ll try to weave how I make quick / structured decisions into a future blog post.

  • That is a great rant and just the firing power I need for that lead I have been pursing who says "the economy is bad". Thanks!

  • tom jacobs

    Wow Eric great article and Brad I am glad to have found it on your blog. I have to agree that a measured approach is still important. I know the game is different, but Eric's article rings true with many of my larger technology clients. There is way too much hesitation to move even after the data tells the story. Too many marketing people are scared silly to lose thier jobs so they keep there head down and wait.

    Very frustrating for our agency as we see the opportunity , researched the market, built the plan and are ready to move…only to sit and wait for the go button

    Glad I found you guys.

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