The Parables of Business: Interview with Danny Brown
- Danny Iny
This interview kicks off our Jodi’s Voice support campaign. Please take the time to read about how you can support Jodi’s Voice, and save $682 on our training program.
Do you want to get inside the head of a social media celebrity?
I do, and I did – and so can you.
I caught up with the irrepressible Danny Brown, CEO of Bonsai Interactive, and had a great conversation about social media, business, communities, and his Parables of Business.
We also got to talking about Jodi’s Voice, a cause that you need to know more about. I won’t spill all the beans up here in the intro, but you need to learn more about them, and I’ve got a special offer for you if you do – you could save $682 on the Mirasee by making a donation to them.
So listen to the audio, or read the transcript for the details – you’ll learn something, enjoy yourself, support an important cause, and save $682 – how’s that for a well-spent 30 minutes? 😀
Here it is, 27 minutes for you to enjoy:
Here’s the full transcript:
Danny I: Hi Danny, it’s a pleasure to speak with you and I want to thank you for taking the time for this interview.
Danny B: Hey Danny, it’s going to be a bit confusing we’ve got two Dannys on the same chat. So thanks for having me on, I appreciate it.
Danny I: For sure, yeah, it will be a bit confusing, but conveniently we have different accents.
Danny B: Well, I could show you my Canadian one, but I don’t think it would work too well.
Danny I: I’d be interested in hearing that.
Danny B: No you wouldn’t, my wife gives me grief for even trying it.
Danny I: Okay, so for the benefit of our listeners, Danny Brown is the CEO of Bonsai Interactive Media and he blogs at DannyBrown.me. He’s rated number 35 in AdAge’s Power 150 Ranking of the top marketing blogs in the world, and he’s a Canadian just like me. So Danny, you didn’t always live in Canada, though, did you? Or, or did you pick up the accent in South Central Toronto?
Danny B: No, I moved to Canada in Christmas 2006, I used to live in Edinburgh in Scotland, and grew up there and lived there, until I was about 20, then moved and worked in England and lived and worked there for about 15 years prior to moving to Canada.
Danny I: Cool. So, what brought you here?
Danny B: It was my wife, actually. We met, she flew over to the U.K. to visit, we kept in touch, I came over to Canada and I’ve been here ever since.
Danny I: Oh wonderful!
Danny B: My wife’s Canadian, she was, you now, she has got Scottish heritage, I think, like all Canadians, but her grandfather was from the west coast of Scotland, so she’s like, born and bred Canadian, but she’s got a Scottish side.
Danny I: Very Cool. So, from these beginnings, in Edinburgh Scotland, you’ve skyrocketed to Social Media Celebrity on the level with Seth Godin and Gary Vaynerchuck. I know that a lot of people have aspirations to do the same kind of thing, but few people actually get there. So what’s your secret? How did you do it?
Danny B: Oh, I have no idea, mate, in all honesty, I have no idea. It’s kind of weird that you mention these guys, because, I am also, I look up to these guys anyway. It’s really cheesy, and really lame, and everyone says it, but, you know, I just do my stuff, much like anybody else does their stuff, and some of them seem to like it.
Danny I: So, do you have any specific advice for people who are trying to be the next Danny Brown?
Danny B: Yeah, don’t be. Because it’s not, it’s not what it’s cracked up to be. No, just be yourself. Everybody says “you need to do this,” or “you need to do that.” And that’s great, but what you tend to find, and I know it’s true for you, you’ve got the same philosophy over at Mirasee; it’s what works for you. So what I write about, or what I speak about may have no relevance to 90% of the web audience – it probably doesn’t. But what you might write about, or what Joe Blow from Montreal or Boston or whatever, what they might write about might have relevance to, you know, 20% of the web audience. So really, do what’s right for yourself first. Whether that’s business or blogging or speaking, whatever, and if you’re happy with what you do, that’s going to relate to either your customers, your readers, your subscribers, your video watchers, or whatever.
Danny I: Right, and ultimately, it doesn’t have to reach the huge, global blog audience, as long as, you know, you’re hitting a subset with something that really relates to you. You know, even a small percentage of a giant market is still pretty good.
Danny B: Well, yeah, exactly, if you think, according to Technorati, in their last “state of the blogosphere” there were 200 million blogs, and that’s just the ones that were registered with Technorati. So you’ve got a whole bunch of blogs that aren’t, and you’ve also got the Asian market, which is a huge market which is just starting to get tapped now, because you know, they’re opening up their internet censorship laws, and that brings another bigger audience, then to you as well. So even if you just pick up, say, 5% of a 200 million audience, that’s what, like, a million audience right there or something?
Danny I: Yeah, that’s pretty phenomenal.
Danny B: Exactly, so even 1% or a half percent of that, if you can… and I think they – the people that are successful, it’s because they’re not trying to pander to the numbers, they’re just, you know, saying and speaking and writing what you believe, and that’s relating because people can see that that’s real, as opposed to saying: I’m going to write this blog post about how to gain ten thousand Twitter followers, because I know that’s going to get re-tweeted 500 times or whatever. Really, that’s great for quick hits, but if you want to build up a long term audience, or customer base or whatever, then the more in depth stuff is always going to relate more.
Danny I: So Danny, tell us a little bit about how DannyBrown.me – which is a fantastic blog – but… how does it relate to your business? I mean, it’s rewarding to blog and everything, but, you know there’s a profit motive as well.
Danny B: Yeah, I mean I think everybody, or certainly any business owners that blog, there’s always going to be that part where it’s seen or used as a form of lead generation. Now that can be kind of permission marketing, along the lines of what Seth Godin wrote about, many years back, it can be the soft sell approach where you’re offering free advice up to a certain level, and then if you want to take that to the next step or strategies, or implementation or anything like that, that’s when you need to move up to the premium or professional level, and whether that’s our company at Bonsai interactive, or your company over at Mirasee, or Gini Dietrich’s company over at Arment Dietrich. It doesn’t really matter because I think, it sort of comes back to the numbers we’re speaking of before, Danny, there are so many opportunities out there that there’s no real competition – you know, you’re not real competitors any more. We’re a community of peers, and we’ve got things that we can work on together, and I think from the broad angle, it allows you to pick spots out there that hopefully can get business owners and people in jobs, to think about what they can do as opposed to what they are doing.
Danny I: Yeah, I completely agree with that. I think, it’s not that competition is no longer relevant, but I think the scale of competition has changed. You know, whereas firms that were once kind of constrained by geography where very competitive witch each other by necessity, because the market was very limited… given the way the blog market has, just the whole internet has kind of flattened that playing field and made distance somewhat irrelevant. There’s still competition, right?
Danny B: Yeah, there’s still competition. I think the more competition, I mean competition – competition is healthy. I you look at the companies that have bulldozed their way through to own a niche, generally they fall down, they get complacent and then they get overtaken. If you look at the video games industry you got Nintendo who used to be the big guy, who got pulled out of the hardware market because they got a little complacent, and Sony came in with the Playstation, made it real cool, who, you know, made gaming cool, basically. But then Sony got complacent with the success of Playstation, Playstation 2, Microsoft jumped in with Xbox, then Nintendo came back with Wii – so yeah, competition is healthy, I think. If there’s only one or two people or companies owning a space, that’s not healthy. I think the point you made about the competition and the scale of competition is a great one. If you look at, there’s a guy called Srini… I can never remember his last name, but he’s SkoolOfLife on Twitter, he’s based out of Costa Rica along with another guy called Mark Harai who is also in Costa Rica, which is a small island, but they deal with international crime. Then you look at a girl called Ingrid Abboud who’s got a great blog, the NittyGriddy blog, she’s based up in Lebanon and working on the other side of the world, but she’s got U.S. clients, U.K. clients, so I think the great part of the web, is, you now, it keeps the competition healthy because it now allows so much opportunity to work with people you’ve never worked with, couldn’t have, ten years ago, basically.
Danny I: And there’s a certain amount of, you know, because competition is very different in a “winner take all” kind of market, or a market where you’re going to have two or three big players like the video game market, and market’s like ours where, you know, none of us has the scale to be, to, to play as a “winner take all” kind of player. So you kind of see this formation of groups of players that cooperate and compete against other groups because there’s a certain amount of personality fit that has to happen too, right? You know, you’re great at what you do, so is Gini, so am I, etc., but, personality wise, you’re going to fit with some clients, she’s going to fit with some clients, etc. So, everyone supports each other to grow and the clients find the best fit, and it’s that kind of agglomeration that is then competing against other, similar groups, or individuals who choose not to help anyone.
Danny B: You know what, that’s a great point, and I think that’s the, the best example, where, again, it’s where the web’s opened up so much opportunity, but you can now pick and choose, pretty much pick and choose which clients you work with and it makes sense picking clients that work for your company or your consultancy or whatever and vice versa that you’re going to be the right fit for them. And I think that’s why, a lot of companies that have… not so much failed in the past, but have not seen the success that they could have had because they had a great product, they just had a crappy marketing company or a crappy PR company, or a crappy ad company because the fit hasn’t been there. But if you get the fit it makes sense that it’s going to be relevant to your audience as well so immediately, that company or that client has an “in” to your audience, which could make, you know, it could mean a thousand extra sales over the course of twelve months. And if you’re selling a product that’s, say, ten, twenty thousand dollars and you’ve got an extra thousand coming in, just from your marketing company alone, then it makes sense to have that fit there.
Danny I: You know how they say “a thousand here a thousand there, pretty soon its real money”.
Danny B: Well, yeah, exactly. The earth’s got about, what, seven billion inhabitants now, we’re started with two people and now look at us.
Danny I: So Danny, the impetus for this interview was your new eBook called the Parables of Business.Can you talk a little bit about what that’s all about?
Danny B: Yeah, sure. It’s, as you mentioned, a business eBook, but I like to class it as not a business eBook. It definitely gives you advice and ideas as to how you can either treat customers better, build loyalty or build brand advocacy, or just, you know, improve your internal structure so your employees feel more respected and more valued, and once you get that happening, your company’s going to thrive, you know, and prosper anyway, but it’s told from a storytelling angle. So instead of, I mean, if you want to read a great business book, read the Welcome To The 5th Estate by Geoff Livingston, that’s just chock full of outstanding examples, and basic, well not basic, but solid business advice, but if you want a book that gives you that kind of advice but in a storytelling form, then that’s basically what Parables of Business is about.
Danny I: And where did that inspiration come from because this is a very different format than most business books, and I’ve seen a lot of good books, even some in kind of story format you know, like Patrick Lencioni writes, or maybe the Monk and the Riddle, but I haven’t seen a parables kind of format before – where did this idea come from?
Danny B: I think it comes from two, two angles Danny. I mean, when I was younger, if I go back many years, my granddad used to tell me, he used make up stories. I always thought they were true, but, I was little at the time, they were made up, but they seemed true at the time because of your age and the way that my granddad told the story, he was a really good storyteller. So he was always telling these stories, and you know, and to me there’s more dynamic in a story… that relates a business topic or a video topic or another item topic, as opposed to just a straight out marketing spiel. I think that stories are a really timeless, you know. If you write a book about Twitter, that could go out of date in twelve months time. If you write a book about marketing on Facebook, that could go out – I know a book that has come out, I know the authors – they’ve had to go back and make numerous edits, because Facebook is changing you know, the terms and condition, all the way through the writing process. And I think if you put a book out or anything out that’s relevant to that particular time, it’s going to go within days or within hours. And what I wanted to do was hopefully turn something out that you’d be able to read in a year’s time, five years time, ten years, whatever and hopefully some of that would still have relevance because there’s no date there, there’s no specific platforms or anything.
Danny I: And that’s something that I very much appreciate about your approach in general. I mean, when you’re blogging it’s generally about, social media and marketing on the internet, etc., but it’s always through the sense of business sense and business sense is about creating value for people and understanding how people think. And that’s what it comes down to, business is really applied psychology.
Danny B: Well yeah, for sure, I mean, I’ve worked in the customer service field, I know what it’s like to be on the end of a call, where someone called up and they’ve be triple-charged for their account, and it’s not nice, it’s not pleasant. I was lucky that I had a great boss, that made sure that we never felt it was us getting attacked, it was always the company. And it supported us through, when we had to, you know, push back a bit on the customer or whatever. And I think employees – you look at the more successful companies – I hate using the example now, because it’s been so overplayed, but you look for an example you look at Zappos, the shoe company and what Tony Hsieh did and the culture of that company, you look at all these most successful companies and it’s the ones where you talk to the management, that always have an open door policy, that employees can go in, share ideas, cause you never know if Stan the mailman might have the greatest idea ever, but he won’t get to tell anybody about that idea unless you’ve got a top tier management that appreciates the input that every single employee has. And if you think about it, if Stan the mailman never delivers the mail, then you wouldn’t get your invoices, you wouldn’t get paid, you’d have to let your employees go, there’s a whole knock on effect for every single employee of a company. So I think, that’s where I come from, and I do feel that businesses get the culture of what makes a successful business and that means everybody has a voice, no matter how junior or how senior they are, they’re going to be the ones that succeed. And the ones that where it’s just the top few guys making all the decision, that’s the ones that are going to fold, you look at Savings banks, you look at Enron you now, places like that. That’s really why I come from that approach.
Danny I: Yeah, and I mean, you can be successful while being kind of a selfish asshole, but, you’re successful in spite of being a selfish asshole, and it collapses eventually, it’s just a question of how long.
Danny B: Yeah, and that’s, I love the fact that you use “in spite of” cause yeah. It’s true, you can be selfish, like you’re saying, you could possible make a few million, who knows, but that’s short term, and if you sat back and watched, the millions will eventually run out, but if you continue to get a reputation as an asshole, no one, you know no one wants to work with you, either as an employee, a client, or whatever, so you’re going to be a pretty lonely asshole at the end of the day. I’d rather be, and I know a lot o companies we were fortunate to work with, they’d rather be friendly assholes if they’re going to be assholes at all.
Danny I: Yes, and that’s very much the message in, in my favourite parable in your book, The Boy with the Bread. That’s very much the message, which I really enjoyed.
Danny B: Yeah, thanks for that. I’ve been getting all this really kind feedback about that particular story. It can really be transposed to anywhere, it doesn’t have to be a boy and a baker, it can be, like you say, a mailman and a CEO, it could be the junior intern and the creative director, so there’s always things that, what goes around comes around. I believe in that mantra.
Danny I: Absolutely. Danny, I’m curious about who the intended reader is for the eBook. Because I know that Bonsai generally services much larger firms – is that who this is for, or is it a good fit for small businesses like the audience is here at Mirasee.
Danny B: It’s funny – I’m not sure why, maybe I, we have to look at how we represent ourselves online because we do work with larger clients, but we also work with solo-entrepreneurs and small and medium businesses and we do a lot of workshops, some free workshops with many of the smaller businesses. I guess you read and you look at our UI, well somehow that impression’s there. But the eBook is targeted at anybody, and I think that was, again, one of the reasons for making it a storytelling approach as opposed to a standard business book that generally either target towards the chief exec or the chief marketing officer or the C-level exec. I think, hopefully anyway people that read it they can either be solo entrepreneurs or they can be people that are in a job, thinking of starting their own business. I can just be people that have a job and are looking to, you know, go for promotions at work. So it’s not really… I didn’t set out to make it for a specific audience. I just wanted to offer it up there, and hopefully it will connect with, you know a different, a different crowd of people if you like.
Danny I: Cool. Danny, I’d like to, I mean since we’re on the call, we’ve got a whole bunch of listeners who are going to be listening to this, I want to give you a few minutes to chat about something else that’s not business, but I know that you’re very passionate about. Can you tell us about Jodi’s Voice?
Danny B: Yeah, for sure. Thanks for asking about that Danny. Jodi’s Voice is a non-profit organization in the U.S. that was set up after the murder of a teenage girl called Jodi Sanderholm. She was murdered by her stalker who’d been watching her since she was nine years old. And the laws in the U.S. are really crazy… it could be all over, I’m not sure what the laws are across the globe, there could be laws for stalking, but I know that they could certainly improved. The law is basically that you almost have to get attacked before the police will do anything. You know, you can’t say “people are calling me, on the phone,” or whatever. You almost have to be attacked before the police can do anything. So what Jodi’s Voice is trying to do is they’re trying to affect a legislation change across all U.S. states so that stalking is taken a whole lot more seriously than it currently is. And that you don’t have to be attacked, you know, before you can actually make a case that can be stopped, that you’re being abused or harassed or whatever. So we were, I know the girl that’s been organizing, and doing all this stuff for Jodi’s Voice, Angela Daffron, I know her from Twitter and Facebook, and we had spoken a couple of times on the phone. And she seems, she’s been doing this by herself for the last two, three years maybe. So we were more than happy to help Jodi’s Voice and try to raise awareness for the organization.
Danny I: And what are some of the ways in which you’re raising that awareness, if our listeners want to get involved and support the cause, what can they do?
Danny B: Well, there’s a few things they can do. You can either go to our website which is 12for12k.org and that’s got information about Jodi’s Voice on there and the ways you can support, whether it’s financially or by adopting a Twitter or Facebook avatar for Jodi’s Voice. You can go to Jodi’s Voice websit, and if you like that has all the background information to Jodi Sanderholm, what the organization is, what they’re trying to achieve, how you can help. There’s also a really big event on the 23rd [of June] which is, wow, a week today, actually, and that’s a charity event where some celebrities and UFC players are doing a combat thing where they’re jumping into lanes and combating each other to raise funds and awareness for Jodi’s Voice. Again, there’s more details about the event next week, and if people wish to donate, we’re going to have a Twittathon happening where, you know, you can buy raffle tickets for various prizes, and all the money goes to Jodi’s Voice.
Danny I: Okay, and, this interview is probably going to go live after that, but there are events, I understand, on an ongoing basis and things that people can do all the time to get involved right?
Danny B: Yeah, for sure. The best thing to do is, obviously, check out the Jodi’s Voice website, follow them on Twitter or the Facebook page, and just find out more about why it’s so important to, to change the law, why it sucks at the moment. And Angela’s awesome, she’ll always either email you or, or tweet you, respond to you on Facebook or whatever, and she’ll always answer any questions that you have, you know as to ways that you want help aren’t currently on there, she’s always willing to discuss that as well.
Danny I: And for the benefit of our listeners, the website will be linked to in the transcript. Jodi is spelled JODI, no E at the end. So Danny we’re coming up on the half hour, so we should wrap this up. Before I, before we end the call there’s… I have a kind of standard question that I ask everyone who I interview…
Danny B: Okay.
Danny I: You’re bringing a lot of expertise to the table, that’s why, you’re kind of the social media celebrity and you know, big and small companies are all eager to work with you. If our audience has listened to this call, to this interview, and they’ve been impressed with what you’ve said. They’re thinking “well, he’s said something important, I agree with the message, it makes sense, it resonates with me, and it’s important enough to me, it’s made enough of an impression that I’m going to do something about it. I’m clearing my afternoon, I’m booking three hours to take Danny’s advice (not me – you, the other Danny) and to take Danny’s advice and do something with my business.” So basically, it’s three hours. What should they do with those three hours?
Danny B: That’s a great question Danny. One of our biggest mantras, I guess, is research. Internal research. Understand what it is you want to do, why you’re not doing that at the moment, and the steps you need to take to do that or to make it happen. So take those three hours and look at your business or even if you’re an employee at a business. Just take stock of what you’ve been doing for the last twelve months and is that getting you to where you want to be for the next twelve months and then the next twenty-four months and the next thirty-six months, and s o on and so on. And break it down into really manageable steps. Make a bullet point of, “okay, these are the things that I wanted to do when I first either started my business or became an employee or started this job or whatever, or started blogging, it can relate it to anything, I guess. So look back at what you wanted to do when you first started dong where you currently are. Pick out the ones that have been successful, or look at the ones that you still need to achieve and see, well, are they realistic, are were they just a pipe dream, always a pipe dream? Should I be focusing on some of the stuff I can really do and stop wasting time on the stuff that it would be great to do, but realistically, it’s not going to happen? And really take stock, look at where you are and make a little map: this is what you need to be doing in six months time, this is what I need to do to get there, these are the kind of people, or companies, or bloggers, or whatever that I need to connect with to make these things happen, and then start, you know just building a map and say: “Okay, I’m going to contact so and so and just ask them for a bit of advice.” Because you’re going to find that a lot of people are happy to give advice, because they’ve been there and done that, and they know how tough it is to make a change in your life.
Danny I: Danny, that’s fantastic advice, thank you very much for sharing that. I can see a lot of people doing it, and it would be very useful for them, because, so often, you know, we make plans and then we’re just working on the plan and, you know, we don’t stop to think about: “Okay, I made this plan a year and a half ago, my situation’s changed, I’ve learned new things, you know, is this still the plan I should be sticking with?”
Danny B: And that’s you know, that’s… we tend to find that a lot with companies that have made their marketing plan or a business plan, but haven’t made it fluid enough to change and adapt. Because, you know yourself Danny, the business world, especially online, it changes every single day, and if you’re stuck in something that you wrote, never mind six months ago, you’re stuck in something that you wrote six weeks ago and you’re not willing or flexible enough to change that because you need to change it, then you’re going to be pretty much screwed. So, yeah, always look at where you are, and where you can be.
Danny I: Absolutely. So let’s wrap this up. Before we just close the call, I want to do… we at Mirasee want to do our part to support Jodi’s Voice… This interview is going to go live; I believe towards the end of July, I’ll tell you exactly when… on July 28th. Anyone who’s listening to this who, I mean you should all know we have the Mirasee Training Program, it’s $150 a month for six months, and it’s a very thorough marketing training for your business, online, offline, whatever. It takes non-marketers and turns them into expert marketers who are making a lot more money with their business. Anyone who goes to Jodi’s Voice, makes a $200 dollar donation will be given the course for free.
Danny B: Wow.
Danny I: Anytime between now and August 15th. So take action, tell people, Tweet. Tell your friends and go do it, and send us the proof of donation.
Danny B: Wow, that’s outstanding Danny, thanks so much. I’m sure Angela will be over the moon by that.
Danny I: Well, you know, we’ve all got to do our part. I mean I’m, I didn’t share this, but I was a martial arts instructor in a previous life, so I was very involved in self-defense education, So I’m, it’s a subject that I’m unfortunately a little bit familiar with.
Danny B: For sure, and that’s the scary thing… people think of stalking as something they see in the movies where you know, where someone watches you through a closed window or whatever, but you can be stalked at work, you know? You can be stalked in your job, you can be stalked online, just to show you how easy and dangerous it is.
Danny I: Absolutely. So Danny, I want to thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview, I’ve enjoyed it, I know it’s going to be very valuable for our listeners. Listeners, if you’ve been thinking about getting Mirasee and thinking “You know, I don’t know if it’s the right time, I don’t know if I can afford it…” This is a great opportunity, go to Jodi’s Voice, make the donation, send us the proof, you’ll have access. And Danny, thank you very much, I wish you tons of success with all of your activities.
Danny B: Thanks Danny, and right back at you there.
Stalking is serious. It affects 3.4 million people each year.
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