I N T E R V I E W W I T H M I K E W A L S H
Interview by Michelle Sullivan
Photography Daniel Nadel
Mike Walsh is the CEO of global business consultancy, Tomorrow. His best-selling book FUTURETAINMENT won an award at the Art Director’s Club in New York. Based in Istanbul, he advises business leaders about thriving in the era of changing technology.
How does one become a Futurist?
Mike: When I was 23, I set up a technology company and I was studying what consumers were doing in digital. This was in the late 90s; it was the first internet boom so I think that really got me started. I’ve never had a normal job since. Then about five or six years later I met one of the Murdoch’s in a bar and I ended up working for News Corp and that was in the newspaper business so I worked for them for a while in newspapers and then worked with them in television in Asia. I think when I was up in Asia that was the beginning, when I realized what my real path was. Long before the iPhone, long before a lot of the stuff we use every day I saw kids in China, Japan, Korea, living these incredible mobile lives and when I saw that I realized that this was really the future. So I quit, set up my own company, wrote a book and that’s how I would up becoming a futurist.
What’s your next book about?
I’ve been thinking a lot about this question of what the future of the company should be. It’s actually more interesting than it sounds, in that we design lots of things. We design products, we design brands and we even come up with amazing ideas for how we think businesses should work. So we take all of that important information and then we shove it into a 17th century construct. You can have the most disruptive idea for a new type of platform but then all the mechanisms of the business and the scale are the same. The HR Department’s the same, you still have Lawyers, you still have Accountants, Finance department. So I want to write a book about how you design a company for the 21st century.
Have you ever worked with any music companies?, do you have any experience on that level?
Music to me is fascinating because in some ways it was the first real crucible of the digital age; all of the most difficult issues were faced first by the music industry, it became a real litmus test for what has now happened in other industries, for example television and movies. So if you think about what’s changed in the music industry, we’ve sort of gone from a huge war of traditional music against consumers.
Consumers were the ones who disrupted the industry. They were the ones who said we’re interested in songs not albums, we want to change the business model of how we consume music and we don’t want to be told on how we listen or how we engage with it, and to some extent they ran ahead of where the industry was prepared to follow.
If you think about it, in media traditionally technology has been about incremental improvements in fidelity – so we went from AM to FM. Each advance in the music industry was about making quality, but the internet was actually a step backwards because suddenly people were willing to trade off high quality CD sound for dramatically worse MP3 quality tracks. They could have gone the other way. Remember super audio CD was the technology at the time that the music industry was really starting to push, because they made so much money when people upgraded from tapes to CDs. They felt ‘what’s the next thing’, you know? Can we get everybody now to replace their CD collection for better CDs – that’s what they would have liked. People did the completely unexpected. They were like OK, I’m actually happy listening to really crap sound now because I can have more freedom with how I listen to music. I can download it the minute I hear it, I can maybe even not pay for it, and so this changed the whole dynamics in the industry. That was a behavioral thing – that wasn’t a technological thing, and what it forced the industry I think to do was after years of fighting it and denying it, they then embraced it and then realized that the economics in the industry changed. So for me the economics and the music industry are now about artists building direct connection with their fans and then commercializing that in new ways, whether it’s concerts or merchandise or other things. And that’s happened in the last 10 years.
So, one of the topics that we talk about incessantly in music is making money in music. What do you think is the next step in this process?
I mean in some ways this is what people have under-estimated. They thought these new tools would allow everyone to become a mega star. What they’ve actually done is made it harder, because now that everyone has access to the same technology that Madonna does, the same distribution models – the challenge is not actually producing an album or releasing an album, the challenge is getting anyone to pay attention to you. This has happened in every industry now from music to publishing, and in some ways it becomes a winner takes all game.
There’ll be fewer and fewer people who make mega star status because the chances of that happening are this – you either need lots of money behind you or you need to basically win the lottery. The good news is that there’ll be lots of people for whom music will become a cottage industry and they’ll be able to survive. It will be harder and harder for people to become mega famous.
I think it’s quite a complex question. To me it’s a question of survival. What is the new model for really commercializing your fans? This is the key question, and I think the starting point is you have to build yourself a direct relationship with the people who are interested with you; you have to own them, you have to actually be able to measure in concrete terms not just how many people follow you on Facebook or twitter or anything else, you’ve got to say ‘I literally have a data base of this many people, and there are X number of things I can do to commercialism that relationship’. It’s not just selling music or concert tickets or a release, it’s selling yourself as a brand and more.
What is your position in the discussion of free content; whether free music degrades the value of it?
The real threat to all of this is that the pattern of consumption of music has changed. I even saw this years ago as I noticed that teenagers were not only not listening to stuff on CDs, they were listening to music on YouTube. So if you asked a kid to play you a song they’d go and load up YouTube and then use YouTube as their juke box, and it’s not because they want to watch the video, it’s because they like the experience of streaming. That’s why Spotify was so successful in Europe. It actually makes logical sense to kids that they don’t need to actually own it, they just need access to it. So this makes it really hard – because then what are you actually selling as a musician? Whatever you can earn relative to your stream rights is actually tiny compared to sales. It’s actually almost pointless. I think the idea of ownership is fast coming to an end. Even the iTunes model, I think, is in big, big trouble, digital downloads model is in big trouble.
So if we’ve move through a download phase, to a streaming phase, what comes after that?
Well I think what you then pay for is this – Let’s say brand X eventually has to own their own platform; so you literally become a member of their club, that’s how they commercialism it. So you pay x number of dollars a year and it’s all things Billy Joel, for example. You’ll get personalized messages from him, you’ll get invitations to his concerts, you’ll get updates of when he’s writing new material and basically pay a certain amount of money to enter his world. It’s loosely like following someone. I mean there’ll be degrees of following – when you just kind of vaguely paying attention to stuff; you listen to free songs and then there’s the deeper commercial premium following where you move deeper into their world. I think what artists will start to do is to draw people deeper into the fold. They’ll release lots of stuff out to the world and hope people will engage with them and then they’ll try to pull those people into a deeper relationship. There’s broader degrees of engagement and this is what’s happening in other industries – that you try and engage people with your material and then you bring them closer. There’s a lot of science behind how you do that.
After leaving Harvard, Jennifer Hyman and Jennifer Fleiss had the insight that women might rather rent high fashion items than own them. Fashion is expensive and has a limited shelf life. The two founders decided to start a company based on a simple idea – a woman should never have to wear the same outfit twice, and shouldn’t have to buy it at all.
Rent the Runway was born. Many of their earliest customers were Millennials, who intuitively understood the value of access rather than ownership. After all, if you can use Spotify to listen to music rather than buying albums, and Uber to get to places rather than owning a car – how hard might it be to ‘stream’ a designer dress?
As it turns out—more difficult than it might seem. In their early years, Rent the Runway struggled to meet their targets. It took a radical mindset change in marketing to turn things around. The founders realized that to fix engagement, they needed to focus their efforts on data science, pricing models and their mobile platform.
Like Amazon, Rent the Runway had to become a logistics and data business, not merely a retail and fashion
one. Their new data driven approach paid off, and now the company ships more than 90,000 items a day to 5 million members, and not surprisingly, also operates the country’s largest dry-cleaning facility.
For CMOs, the story of Rent the Runway illustrates the central role that data plays in business today. No longer just a measure of past activity, it has become a pro- active metric capable of changing your entire approach to customer value creation. Data is not just for IT geeks, it belongs at the heart of your growth strategy.
“Data’s a big part of our business, encompassing everything from the whole fashion component to metrics around utilization of a given dress,” Jennifer Fleiss said in an interview with Forbes last year. “We have an analytics team of six people internally, who look at rental statistics, such as how many long dresses get rented, how many short, how many red, black, orange and so on. What trends worked last season, what fabrics last the longest, which dresses are being turned and utilized the most?”
Ultimately, for smart marketers, data changes the way you design your business. Rather than buying their dresses from retail, Hyman and Fleiss now partner with designers – providing them data on what styles are the most popular in return for discounts and better availability of sizes. In the same way that Netflix uses data from its customers to commission original programming, Rent the Runway has approached emerging designers to create collections exclusively for their platform.
To read the rest of Mike Walsh’s CMO Playbook Click Here
Guest post by keynote speaker Tim Sanders
You are only as strong as the voices around you. You think you can resist their message, but you are only human, and will succumb to their tone eventually. Everywhere you turn, there are voices broadcasting gloom, doom and misery. Your attention might be trapped by current events (Disease, Recession, War, etc.) and you can’t focus. You are unable to work-on-your-work.
As a leader, you are flailing at your job. Napoleon Bonaparte was often quoted as saying that, “the leader’s role is to define reality, then give hope.” And those voices go way beyond recognizing reality – the crush hope by conjuring up end-0f-your-world messages. Those voices are often internalized, becoming your voice…which is not moving the conversation at work forward.
You are only as hopeful as the people you listen to. Think about the voices around you: The cable newscaster, the radio announcer, the people at work, the stars/celbs you follow, your social media feed. Are these positive or negative voices in your head? Are you getting smarter and better at your job from ALL of them?
You should be as careful as to what you put into your head as what you put into your mouth. Voices of doom are toxic to your confidence and creative thinking capacity. So vanquish them. Shun them. Dismiss them. Ignore them.
Although all of that sounds simple enough, you’ll have a hard time managing these voices. So let me help you. First, turn off the TV. These days it is literally the boob tube. There is NOTHING there for your as a leader or a contributor. Next, scrutinize the radio shows and podcasts you listen to. Are they constructive, helpful or are they newsy (bad, mostly). Keep listening to just the ones that pass the “reality, then hope” sniff test.
Next, reduce your time grazing online. Whether it’s blogs, news websites of social media networks…there’s bad stuff out there waiting to infect your mind and drag you down. I’m only on facebook these days to post helpful content. Any time spent surfing leads to Ebola or stock market or ISIS hysteria and various link-baiting headlines on fear-aggregation sites. Be intentional about how you use the internet…make it a tool and not a mentally carciogenic habit.
Finally, clean house when it comes to the people you hang out with at work, home and in your community. Give them a warning, and if they persist beating the drum, cut them off. You can’t be any good to anyone when you let them bring you down.
Managers: Don’t reward Chicken Little for his or her declarations that the sky if falling. They aren’t adding value. Tell them, “You can’t be freaked out enough to improve our Customer experience 1%!.” In fact, it’s during times of turmoil that all the great innovative leaps happen (read Hanging Tough for the proof.) This is your time to shine, not shirk in horror.
If you feed your mind good stuff, even during these times, you will be part of the solution instead of a source of the problem. See the video for a clip of me talking about a potential solution for managers at embattled companies during tough times.
Exceptionalize It: Excite Your Customers
In order to get new customers, you need people to come away from an experience with your company wanting more. Also, it is important that the responsibility to excite your customers is felt by everyone on your team. In this week’s Getting Customers, Lior Arussy, Strativity Group founder and president & author of the book, “Exceptionalize It! Stop Boring. Start Exciting Your Customers, Your Employees, and Yourself,” joins us. He tells us what you need to focus on to keep people coming back.
Click here to pre-order your updated copy of Exceptionalize It!
How do you know when you’re truly committed to something? The fervor of deciding to unite as a team to reach goals can seem like the beginning of commitment. However, keynote speaker Robyn Benincasa says that commitment doesn’t start until later – when the fun stops.
Robyn not only talks about teamwork, but also lives it. She’s a full time San Diego Firefighter and a World Champion Eco-Challenge Adventure Racer. She’s competed in some of the most grueling territory in the world, and knows first-hand how powerful a team can be when they commit during difficulty. Watch her explain the definition of commitment.
Mike Walsh knows that being a Chief Marketing Officer is challenging, and you desperately need a new game plan to adapt and thrive in the ever-changing world of marketing. Mike’s free ebook The 21st Century CMO Playbook provides a “rough sketch of a new kind of marketer. One who, aside from their data fluency, combines a fervent customer obsession with a tactical ability to orchestrate the complexity at the heart of tomorrow’s enterprise.”
Mike’s outline of the new marketer is firmly rooted in real case studies from Mike’s research as a leading futurist. It will enable you to predict what the next marketing trends are and get ahead of your competitors. You’ll find practical advice on:
- Thinking like a media company
- Buying programmatically
- Communicating effectively with data
…and much more. Now is the time to re-invent your marketing. Don’t let technology or your competitors outpace you. The 21st Century CMO Playbook is a great tool to get you thinking about how you can transform your marketing strategy. Download the ebook for free here.
Lior Arussy’s article about “When & Why to Part Ways With a Customer” has been featured by both Harvard Business Review and Inc. The article gives some helpful tips on how to avoid being bullied by those negative customers that we all have. Lior also speaks to the importance of empowering your employees by giving them the tools to deal with customers who will not be pleased, and reminds readers that the customer is not always king.
To read the full link click here
To learn more about Lior or read more of his insightful articles visit his page here
As a leader, what do you want from your people? Ty Bennett asked that question to over 5,000 leaders in every level of organizations. Over 75% of the answers included the word “commitment.” Ty shatters the old adage that people follow title, position and authority and explains that relationships are key. His keynote “Partnership is the New Leadership” details how you can develop loyal relationships from your people. If commitment from your employees has seemed elusive, then you need to try a new approach.
Ty reveals that the value – not title – gives you the right to be heard. He explains that partnership-based leadership creates reciprocal accountability between the people and the leader. His keynote utilizes case studies and includes practical takeaways that are proven to increase the commitment of your people.
Check out excerpts from Ty’s keynote below.
Ever feel like you should win a gold medal for closing a really long and hard sale? Or receive an award for breaking the world record for the number of opportunities you created and closed?
Then you’re in the right place!
Cary Mullen is a Two-Time Olympian and the World Record holder for Downhill speed, he also is an accomplished business owner. Cary uses this background to help other business owners and “Sales Olympians” to reach new heights in today’s competitive market. He wants to share is Five Winning Secrets so that you can win in your extreme sport.
Or listen to what clients have to say about his message:
Yossi Ghinsberg is known for surviving 21 harrowing days in the jungle alone, but now he’s embarking on a different kind of adventure. The keynote speaker has applied his expertise on vision and entrepreneurship to the development of a new app called Blinq. It’s both simple and powerful tool designed so that you “don’t miss what matters.” The app shows you the latest updates on the people you communicate with. It integrates insights from facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn and Instagram to give you a more comprehensive view of what’s going on in your comtacts’ lives and to jump-start informed conversations. Blinq obviously has social benefits, but it’s also a great tool for business. Sometimes an interpersonal relationship can give you an edge over a competitor.
The app integrates with your mobile messenger apps as a small white dot. Click on the dot, and you’ll see pertinent updates from that contacts’ various social networks. Watch the video below.
Blinq is part of the newest batch of 500 Startups. Yossi’s context database has the opportunity make it big with the investors behind 500 Startups. We’re excited to see him apply his creative energy to this new startup.
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