He’s probably known to some of you as “That loud guy who says I should hustle more.”
The guy who took over his family wine business and increased its value twenty fold, before starting his own digital marketing company.
The CEO of a hundred million dollar business, who still takes a moment to shake hands with fans on the street and offer some free advice whenever he can, and vlogs about it on Youtube.
That guy. He wrote a book.
Several, actually, but we’re here today to talk about the most recent one to hit shelves: “Crushing It!: How Great Entrepreneurs Build Business And Influence – And How You Can, Too”. (Book link on Amazon)
Crushing It! Overall Impression
What is “it”, and why does it need crushing?
The book defines “crushing it” as being able to live life on your own terms, reaching a place where you get by comfortably, and happily, while enjoying your life and your work.
Crushing It argues that the best way to achieve this is through building a personal brand.
It offers motivation, a simple guideline for people not sure where to start, and explores several social media platforms while offering advice on how to best utilise them.
It also provides a well earned,“I told you so” toward critics of Gary Vaynerchuk’s methods – serving as a sequel to 2009’s Crush It! Why NOW Is the Time to Cash In on Your Passion.
Every chapter of Crushing It includes an interview with someone who’s achieved exactly this definition of success, never failing to mention how reading Crush It helped them get there (to be fair, it often notes Crush It clarified or affirmed what they were already thinking, without taking credit for their hard work, but the book always gets a mention).
The examples include people in every age bracket, financial background, and level of experience.
Whatever doubts you have, Crushing It shows you the way.
“It’s not hard to see why so many who attempt to [build a successful brand] fail… They care, but not enough about what really matters, and what really matters is a pretty short list”.
Crushing It is built around personal branding.
The goal isn’t to push a product, or convert sales.
The goal is to build a reputation for being valuable to others.
“If you’re at least 51% altruistic, and only 49% selfish, you have a real chance”.
Do you have free time to listen to the full book? Go ahead!
Crushing It gives eight foundational principles you need to develop to accomplish this:
1 – Intent
Crushing It declares that if you’re only in it to get rich, you’re already in trouble. Knowing why you’re doing the thing you do is more important here than how. If your business has purpose, the money will take care of itself, eventually.
2 – Authenticity
Whatever your intention is, showcase it by being authentic. Forget about putting on a face for the public, or pretending to be perfect. Be honest. Let people see what excites you about your work, and be true to what matters to you.
3 – Passion
The closest thing to an “easy mode” is finding passion in your work – though as Crushing It points out, you don’t have to be passionate about exactly what you’re selling, as long as you’re passionate about giving.
Passion is it’s own reward, giving you a sense of satisfaction and a the drive to keep going even when there’s no immediate return on your work.
It’ll keep you going when things get rough, and generally, make you happier while you produce better results.
4 – Patience
As mentioned, there may be no immediate return on your work, save what you get from the work itself. Crushing It warns that it might be years before the brand you’re building turns into something that lets you quit your day job. It’s a long game, and taking shortcuts to reach short term goals faster often means sacrificing that long term success.
5 – Speed
“Patience is for the long term. Speed is for the short term. The pressure that builds between the two produces the diamond.” In other words, efficiency. Without being impatient, there are still ways to move faster and get more done.
Finding better tools, or building better habits.
You can still make every step as fast as possible while keeping your eyes on the horizon.
6 – Work
There’s no time for leisure. The book makes a note here of self-awareness.
Self-care is vital, and if working 12 hour days seems insane, pay attention to that.
If you aren’t enjoying life, you aren’t “crushing it”.
That said, if you’re building your brand around something you love, it won’t feel like such a big sacrifice to put your “leisure” time into it.
Plus a lot of the brand building work can be time consuming, but not difficult.
The basic principle here is “Input equals output” – if you aren’t prepared to work those 12 hour days, accept that you won’t become a billionaire.
7 – Attention
Knowing how to spot under-priced and under-appreciated attention is a key influencer skill.
People’s attention is always shifting, and the value of your personal brand is build on being where they’re looking.
As well as being aware of where the attention of others is pointed, pay attention yourself.
Look for where things are going, and don’t get stuck watching old trends while ignoring new ones.
The Eighth Principle: Content
There’s an old saying that gets echoed strongly in Crushing It: “Content is king”.
The platforms might be different now, with on demand media and independent creators stealing the throne from TV and Hollywood, but the basic principle remains true.
Crushing It reminds readers that no matter how well they market themselves, or how well they position themselves, they won’t get anywhere if their content sucks.
This is probably the most essential element of building a personal brand, at least as I’ve understood the books lessons.
You create content, and release it into the world as far and wide as you can get it.
If it’s good, returns come your way.
Other people see that content, and give you their attention and…
…if it’s good enough, their continued attention and respect.
If not, they go follow someone else instead.
It won’t come as a shock that Crushing It has a lot to say on the topic of content.
The entire second half of the book is a list of several major platforms (and a few you’ve probably never heard of, such as Musical.ly), and how they should play into your content strategy.
Unfortunately, the devil is in the detail here – detail there isn’t room for in a summary article.
Bringing each of the platforms down to a couple hundred words results in several nearly identical paragraphs that fail to show the specific strengths and weaknesses of each platform.
Instead, I’ll give the broad strokes strategy here, and highly recommend you pick up a copy of the book itself (ideally on audio, since Gary goes “off script” at several points to give additional thoughts).
The Crushing It strategy
If you’re thinking you can just make one or two pieces of content and release them across all platforms, such as using a management app to post the same comment or photo to Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram all at once, Crushing It offers this advice: No.
Each platform is built around different expectations, so even the same person going to three different platforms will be looking for three different things on each one.
Plus, you don’t want that person to just see the same thing copied and pasted three times, do you?
The suggested method, used at VaynerMedia, is to create pillars of content, which can then support smaller micro-content, customised for each platform.
- If you create a video for youtube, you can pick out some appealing quotes,
- and post still images with those quotes to instagram,
- meanwhile tweeting on Twitter your in the moment thoughts while filming,
- and creating a Facebook poll asking fans to answer a question asked in the video.
This method keeps all your different platforms integrated
and gets the most results from your initial work,
while also keeping each platforms individual content properly suited.
As suggested above with the facebook poll, audience engagement is also important, and a big part of the value social media platforms provide.
If you give the audience a way to interact with your pillar of content, you turn them from a passive audience into an active community, who will be far more eager to follow what you release next.
So Crushing It! doesn’t just tell you to release content. It tells you to take the time, hours if necessary, to engage with that community.
Respond to questions, consider feedback.
If someone’s taken the time to give well thought criticism, respond and keep the conversation going (though, avoid feeding the trolls if you can).
If you’re finding yourself absolutely at a loss for what content to make, Crushing It! has a suggestion.
Record your journey, the ups and downs, the failures and successes.
As your popularity grows, it will be interesting for people to go back and watch where you started out.
It could help with figuring out what unique thing you have to share in the first place.
The learning process is often far more interesting than the finished product anyway.
Crushing It offers the example of a beauty channel, filming themselves learning how to use a makeup technique rather than learning it off screen then presenting themselves as an expert on camera.
Reach out and offer value to get noticed
Once you’ve got the principles Crushing It! wants you to learn on point, and you’re putting out good content, you’ll probably realise it’s meaningless unless someone’s seeing it.
You want your content getting into the hands of as many people as possible.
Crushing It says the best way to get noticed, across all platforms, is by reaching out to others through direct messaging and offering value to other people.
He offers the example of a wine store gifting six months of free wine to another company, or suggesting an interesting collaboration project with another, more visible, creator.
The key detail here is to be offering, not asking.
If you’re just asking for something, you’ll most likely be ignored.
What’s in it for them?
When you haven’t got the influence or the money behind you, you’ve nothing to offer but your skills and knowledge.
Just like putting out free content offers value to viewers and builds a relationship with them, give other influencers value so they’ll take notice of you, and hopefully share you with their own communities.
If you’re like me, you may have a knee-jerk reaction to anything that sounds like “Work for exposure”.
Too many stories like this one from Wil Wheaton.
But hear this out,
If you’re direct messaging creators you want to work with to make these offers, then it’s happening on your terms.
Think of it as bartering your skills for advertising you couldn’t otherwise afford.
It’s not someone else persuading you to work for nothing, it’s you offering free samples so people know the cake is worth buying, and tastes so good they recommend it to others as well.
Give yourself permission and get started.
There is easily more I could touch on here.
Crushing It talks about common reasons people give for not going all in, how to tackle the fears behind them, specifics of different platforms, and makes a case for why (and how) voice first technology is where you should be looking next.
(In particular, the audiobook version makes an off-script suggestion to put a voice assistant like Alexa or Google Home in the bathroom).
If you have any aspirations of working for yourself, or making your existing business stronger, but have no idea where to start: consider grabbing a copy of Crushing It as an investment in success.
[Chris is an Australian writer, editor, and general word-wrangler for hire, currently making his own moves towards crushing it at deserak.com]