Mitch Joel is an entrepreneur, a frequent keynote speaker, and has written books such as Six Pixels of Separation. He speaks frequently to groups like Google, Walmart, Starbucks, Microsoft, Procter & Gamble and Twitter. In today’s episode, we’re going to discuss how to adapt to disruptions in a changing marketplace.
Mitch’s Entrepreneurial Journey
Mitch’s entrepreneurial journey took him down many different paths. He started as a rock journalist as a teenager and wrote for a few different publications, before publishing his own work. During this time, he developed an interest in new technology, so when he was exposed to people building a metasearch engine while he worked at a newspaper magazine, he jumped onboard the project.
One of the greatest home runs Mitch had in his career was getting involved in a search engine before Google even existed. When Google came into play, he felt validated in the work he was doing after seeing how much the new technology changed the world. As he watched this shift, he knew he was on the right track.
In addition to working on a search engine, Mitch also had a record label and owned a few different businesses. Mitch was the president of Twist Image, a digital marketing agency that was purchased by WPP in 2014, and he was president and a founding partner of Distort Entertainment. Mitch eventually started his blog and podcast about 15 years ago, and he continues it to this day.
“There’s work to live, there’s live to work, and then there’s people who just choose their own path and get a lot of luck, and a lot of fortune, and a lot of privilege,” Mitch said. “I happen to fall into the last one where I never really pursued things because I thought there would be some massive monetary gain. But in pursuing my interests, and then taking them seriously and trying to understand the business model of them, I found the opportunity to lead a very interesting life that is devoid of the financial burdens.”
Mitch didn’t seek projects, careers, and businesses where he knew he would make a lot of money. He pursued his interests and took them seriously enough that he was able to monetize doing what he loved.
The Great Compression
When Mitch refers to the Great Compression, he is referring to the impact of the recent global pandemic. The Great Compression recognizes the compression of time COVID-19 caused. While many people were already living in a digital world, the pandemic compressed the timeframe of adjustment and forced people to adopt new technologies and implement new strategies faster. Instead of slowly adapting to new technologies over the span of years, businesses had to adapt in months.
“When COVID-19 hit in March/April of last year, everybody digitized,” Mitch said. “That’s the great compression, this moment in time where not only our habits fundamentally change, but how we shop and how we engage with business has changed. None of it is news to people like me . . . but to see it happen at [such a] great pace because of the pandemic is very telling.”
When COVID-19 hit, business owners and people throughout the world were forced to change the way they lived. They all have to embark on their own path of recovery. For some businesses, they didn’t recover. For others, their businesses excelled and tripled their revenue because they understood what type of change was happening. While we couldn’t have prepared for COVID-19, we could have prepared for a new digital world and saw that coming.
The smaller local retailers weren’t really thinking digital, but when they were forced to close, they had to start taking orders by email or phone. Many places that hadn’t already adapted to tap and pay, got rid of their cash registers and did so.
“We saw that compression, that transformation of all these technologies we saw and acknowledged as being viable,” Mitch said. “The bigger part for me is the foundational change in our consumer behavior because of it.”
At Monetization Nation, we call a huge shift in the marketplace like COVID-19, a tectonic shift. In geology, when two tectonic plates move against each other, you can have massive destruction like earthquakes and volcanic eruptions or you can have massive growth like mountain formations. We use that analogy for “tectonic shifts” in the business “landscape”.
Tectonic shifts are constantly transforming the business landscape. We had the shift from Yellow Pages to search engines. We had the shift from brick and mortar to the internet and the shift from desktop to smartphones. Shifts like these are what Mitch calls disrupting disruptions; however, he said it is more like a “zoom in and zoom out” strategy. We want to “zoom out” to look at the greater picture and then “zoom in” and look at how our own business can play a part.
“I think the opportunity is to look at things that have already become more massively adopted and wonder where your business fits in the mold,” Mitch said.
For example, we can look at streaming services like Netflix, Spotify, and Hulu. They have done extremely well, especially during the pandemic. We can recognize the opportunity in streaming services, but then take a closer look at it. It isn’t just streaming services. They provide month-to-month payment plans. People are more willing to pay for a subscription for a library of data. This could be applied in many different ways. We could also see that people don’t want a physical copy of a product. They don’t want DVDs or CDs. They want to have access to streamed services. There is an entirely new business model there we want to look at.
When we notice new technologies or models being adopted, we can ask ourselves, “Where do I fit into this? How does this apply to me? What is really happening here?” We should try to find something that is working really well in other industries and ask ourselves how we can apply it to our own businesses.
If we can pay attention to how consumer behaviour has changed on scale, then we are much more likely to have success. We don’t necessarily have to leverage tectonic shifts the moment they happen. We can wait to see how other businesses use them and wait until the methods are proven successful. If we focus on the shifts that have already achieved adoption, that have already proven successful, that have already achieved good consumer behavior trends, then when we roll it out, more people are going to be willing to accept it.
“If you can pay attention to how consumer behavior has really changed at scale, I think [you’ll find] the bigger ideas of how you truly will disrupt disruption within your industry,” Mitch said.
Thank you so much Mitch for sharing your stories and insights with us today. Here are some of my key takeaways from this episode:
- We can monetize our own passions by researching business models and finding an opportunity within our area of interest.
- COVID-19 acted like a great compression. Many businesses were forced to adopt new technologies faster because of the disruption.
- During disruptions in the marketplace, consumer behavior often changes as well.
- We can find opportunity by looking at things that have already become massively adopted and wonder where our business fits in the mold.
- If we pay attention to consumer behaviour at scale, we will find more ideas for how our own business can disrupt the disruption.
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