Recovering From Pessimism
Sitting at the kitchen table in early 2019, things looked vastly different for Jack and Celia Butcher. Jack had recently launched his own marketing agency. Feeling as if he was getting into a bit of a rut, he turned to the sage wisdom of authors such as Seneca and Marcus Aurelius, and modern thinkers like Seth Godin and Naval.
As a designer, taking their words and turning them into something of his own came naturally. It seems as if these designs, the ones we're all now familiar with, struck a chord with many people than Jack expected. Using them as a lead generation tool for his agency afforded Jack the opportunity to continue creating them, without feeling as if he was getting nothing in return.
The popularity of the Visualize Value designs saw him turn toward the idea of printing and selling them. They were good enough to sell, but there remained a lingering feeling that this wasn't the best way to do things. It simply wasn't interesting enough.
Visualize Value was growing in popularity on Twitter and Instagram. By tagging the thinkers behind the idea, he was able to get some retweets and begin to grow an audience. This is where Jack began to focus on the audience, allowing them to determine how things move forward.
"The internet market is difficult to understand. It'll rise and it'll fall, and you have no idea when it'll plateau. Because of this, when you have a formula that's working, it's best to keep feeding that formula for as long as possible."
Feeding this formula is simple. High-quality and eye-catching content, containing pieces of wisdom that have stood the test of time. By following this formula an audience of like-minded people began to grow. At this time, Jack designed and began selling the Daily Manifest and made a few hundred sales.
"We were building an audience that contained the kind of people who are building the future, and if you're a recovering pessimist they're the kind of people you want to spend your days around."
As the audience and demand grew, a community for these like-minded people became necessary. Through a simple Slack channel and an email to everybody who had purchased the Daily Manifest, the Visualize Value community was born.
KS: What is meant by 'recovering pessimist?'
JB: "I grew up in a relatively small town in South West England. Being a pessimist or a skeptic is the average in my hometown. It's as if people are naturally programmed to be pessimistic. New York City is the opposite of this, people think very differently and it's been a big difference since moving here. There is an attitude amongst people here that things are possible, and I have to make a conscious effort to adopt that way of thinking, instead of remaining pessimistic."
KS: Has it been difficult to remain transparent about revenue at a time when others may be hurting or suffering a loss of income?
JB: "This is something I've debated a lot, and it comes down to two ideas. It can either be seen as insensitive or inspiring. Which one of those it comes across as depends on the view of the recipient. By being transparent, I'm making an attempt to help people get to a better place. To allow them to connect with high calibre people. The past few years have been a rampant bull market, flooded with cash and low barriers to entry. Anything that was tried tended to work. This led to an inflated asset and behavioural bubble, and it had to deflate at some point. I'm in opposition to this inflated bubble, and I'm aiming to provide people with the tools necessary to recognise their value as individuals."
KS: Is the team still you and Celia? Is it becoming more difficult to maintain this as it grows since customers don't just to hear your thoughts, they want to hear them directly from you?
JB: "It's just Celia and I. We still run the agency we started about a year ago, and have a few corporate clients. I'm hesitant to hire people too quickly. At a time like this, many people are losing their jobs, and by hiring freely, you end up risking people's livelihoods. Had we decided to hire 20-30 people when we started the agency, we would have been in a lot of trouble right now.
The time demands have been easier than I initially expected. We use the idea of being constantly being accessible as a marketing idea to catalyse growth. The community is a flywheel, and those actions keep it growing. The community has also been fantastic at answering questions, which makes it a lot easier."
KS: What's your process for validating ideas and getting feedback?
JB: "The first point of call is Celia. Other than that, Twitter is fantastic because you get a clear indication of what consumers want and what they don't. If a post is covered in likes and retweets, you know it's good and that's the cue to create more content with it. If not, you know that something was missing. The process for creating YouTube videos is going through the Twitter feed and seeing what people responded to most. There's a 50 Cent quote which says something about that I think."
The public is never wrong. When people don’t respond to what you do, they’re telling you something loud and clear. You’re just not listening” – 50 Cent.
KS: Your style remains very constant, how do you ensure that it doesn't get stale?
JB: "This is the power of creative constraint. It allows you to build a recognisable brand which allows consumers to identify you quickly. This is more difficult with something like writing, but visual assets make it easy. It's possible with writing, but visual is far easier.
When you're going to such lengths to advertise and create content, you don't want to be starting at the beginning each time, you want to build on the work you've already done.
You see the value of this association with your content when you consider how much content consumers scroll through each day. Your content makes up about 0.1% of what they see, so although you may think they'll grow tired of it, you'll be tired before them.
Consistency is different for you and for your consumer, and that's why it's important to create something you love. You're going to be working with this content all day, you can't grow tired of it. Make sure that you don't get on a path designing content which you can't sustain."
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