Last month, I kissed my wife and kids goodbye in the middle of a workweek, hopped on a plane, and flew across the country to go to — wait for it — the circus! The three-ring-themed spectacular, better known as the 12th Annual IT Sales and Marketing Bootcamp Event, was led by none other than the ringmaster herself, Robin Robins.
I arrived in Nashville and opened my welcome binder, which read, “Oh What A Spectacle / Oh What A Sight! We’ll Open Our Journey / This Incredible Night! / I’ll Hoist Up the Curtains / The Crowds Will Rush In / And My Marketing Circus / Will Promptly Begin!” The razzle dazzle contained in the first page set the tone for the rest of the week. Robin’s larger-than-life circus theme made the bootcamp more than just a killer marketing training conference — it became part of a bigger narrative centered around what I considered the main takeaway: “The Allure of a Story.”
Regardless of the business you’re in, you’ve likely heard the phrase “Content Is King,” coined by Bill Gates in 1996. His point was that the internet should function as a marketplace for content. But now, with the exponentially growing focus on content market strategies, the phrase is certainly used often. Too often.
Occasionally, I hear my kids use a new slang term and, much to their chagrin, adopt it myself. But after a couple weeks, my kids tell me my new token expression has been already been dubbed outdated and “so last week.” The same has happened with “Content Is King.” Don’t get me wrong. I’ve used it myself, and while content is still king, the sheer amount of content available means that a new approach has to be taken in order for it to be read and heard.
To avoid getting lost in the sea of content that now exists, entrepreneurs have to ensure that their stuff isn’t just interesting — it must demand to be consumed. That’s where “The Allure of the Story” comes in. Customers, clients, consumers, and patients no longer welcome just any kind of content. They need to be sold on a narrative. They want to hear a story.
Robin invited a stellar lineup of speakers to provide the content the audience needed to remain engaged. The three-day event featured coveted professionals like Doug Lipp, author of “Disney U: How Disney University Develops the World’s Most Engaged, Loyal, and Customer-Centric Employees”; Dave Dee, author and former mind reader known for teaching you “How to Sell More of Your Products or Services in 75 Minutes Than You Now Do All Year”; and Nido Qubein, a successful business leader whose incredible life story of arriving to the U.S. with only $50 has been featured on both the Biography Channel and CNBC.
While hearing these men’s stories and chatting with them behind the scenes was awesome, there were two presentations that really crushed it. The first was “The ‘9 Pillar’ Formula to Quickly Remove All Business Obstacles for Fast, Profitable Growth” by CEO Warrior Mike Agugliaro. Having Mike at this bootcamp certainly provided a “wow” factor for the attendees; his famed formula grew out of his experience owning a small electrical company with Rob, his business partner. After spending years buried under the mountains of frustration associated with starting a small business (we all know what that feels like, right?), they were inching nearer to closing their doors completely.
Fast-forward several years into the future, and that small electrical company skyrocketed with multimillion-dollar year-over-year growth! I knew Mike in these early days, and my team and I even fulfilled some of his print marketing campaigns. This made me even happier for him when I heard that he and Rob had sold their company to start CEO Warrior, which has now been featured by MSNBC, MoneyShow, Financial Times, and Inc. Magazine.
Mike’s presentation struck a chord with me because he spent a lot of time touching on the differences between leadership and management and how they need to mutually inform one another to keep employees driving forward. Mike demands that we ask our employees to pinpoint the “why” behind their “what.”
For example, why does your lead salesperson work so hard to reach her goals? I can assure you that it’s not solely about the cash. She might have a dream of taking her kids to the Bahamas. You can then ask her, “Are you on track for your vacation?” Knowing what drives her will help you determine the best way to encourage her to reach her goals. This is what happens when you have a strong mix of leadership and management — businesses, especially smaller businesses, often lose sight of this necessity.
Peyton Manning corroborated Mike’s points about leadership. I’ll say it again for those of you who may have dozed off. Yes, the former quarterback for the Denver Broncos (and Indianapolis Colts, but we won’t talk about that) spoke at the bootcamp! As the NFL’s only five-time MVP and 14-time Pro Bowl selection, Peyton has certainly earned his place among the greatest quarterbacks in the league’s history. I nearly lost my voice screaming in my living room during Super Bowl 50 when he clinched the 24–10 win over the Panthers.
When Peyton took the stage at the bootcamp, his topic was “What It Takes to Be a Champion.” While he always took the field and made the process look easy, we all know it takes a strong work ethic, constant personal development, considerable sacrifice, and incredible talent to reach Peyton Manning-champion-status. He touched on the influence football has had on his overall life story, starting with his high school team in New Orleans, his college years at the University of Texas, and then his 18 years in the NFL. After spending so much of his life in the limelight, Peyton credited his athletic success primarily to mastering the mentality associated with high-pressure performance and the importance of having a great coach and group of teammates.
His position as quarterback on the team — acting as a liaison between the coaching staff and the team, calling all the plays, maintaining momentum, etc. — is very similar to a CEO’s. In the same ways he continuously strove to raise the bar for his team, we as business owners have to make sure we constantly grow alongside our companies. I tell my team all the time that, while I might be the CEO our company needs right now, if I don’t continue working hard to stay on top of my game, my business can easily outgrow me. If that day ever comes, I will make the necessary changes, but until then, I’ll strive to be the Peyton Manning my company needs.
While both Mike’s and Peyton’s presentations featured vastly different material, both were subliminally centered on “The Allure of the Story,” the heart of the event. These guys had encouraging messages and phenomenal tactics to share, and they were able to do so by telling their listeners the story of their pursuit, starting with the early years, when the frustration was high and the success was stagnant. Their presentations were the narrative that I and everyone else in the room wanted to hear, and we devoured it.
Our eyes and ears were focused on Robin and these speakers, but the people working behind the scenes were the ones who were truly responsible for all the magic that occurred during those three days. There were several moments when I was hanging out backstage and was seriously impressed with how fluidly the day’s itinerary flowed and how organized Robin’s team was. From color-coded T-shirts to awesome signage to strategic traffic funneling, the behind-the-scenes people helped attendees focus their attention and energy on the material being presented rather than on the struggle associated with navigating a new space.
If you’ve been to a lot of bootcamps like I have, then you know that some flow better than others. For example, I’ve been to a few where the people operating it try to fit too much into a small time frame, which essentially runs their attendees into the ground. By the time their day is over, the attendees can’t even think about networking; they just drag themselves back to their hotel and crawl into bed. But this bootcamp was far cry from that. There was a tight schedule that was adhered to, but there were also designated times for relaxing. Heck, there was even a pub crawl!
Additionally, there was an app called “Attendee Hub,” which contained the daily itinerary, list of speakers with descriptions, a list of sponsors, and a constant feed you could check during breakout sessions and comment. The inclusion of this app demonstrated that Robin and her team knew their tech-savvy demographic and tried to make our lives as easy as possible.
While I give serious kudos to Robin, her lineup of speakers, and her team, I can’t help but talk about the result of my own breakout session — not because I want to steal the spotlight (which I’ll admit that I often do), but because it exemplifies how much this bootcamp and its message shifted my perspective.
Here’s a little backstory first. Every week, I send out a Weekend Reading email to my clients and my employees. While writing the one I was meant to send out the week prior to this bootcamp, I was mulling over the phrase “Content Is King” and the fact that the brilliant foresight espoused in Gates’ intention when he originally wrote these words is lost now that it has become a blasé commodity. As I started my own article, I felt like a hypocrite. How can I tell my clients that they need to share personal and honest stories in order to create riveting content when I’m not doing the same? So I dropped all pretenses and wrote my no-bullshit reality.
I wrote about how I feel heartbreakingly guilty for missing out on time with my wife and kids when I’m away on business and the feelings of failure associated with that. I wrote about the times I’ve returned home from the office in tears after hearing complaint after complaint from employees that I bend over backward to please. I wrote about feeling like a terrible husband, father, boss, and friend more than a handful of times. You see, I knew that this Weekend Reading would either the best email I’d ever written or the worst, but I was willing to take that chance in order to relate with even just one person out there who might be feeling the same way.
So when I stood up to speak to that crowd of listeners at the bootcamp, I spoke from the heart and told my own story. I didn’t even make a sales pitch at the end, but I still had more people come up and talk to me after the presentation ended than I’d ever had before. In keeping with Robin’s message, “The Allure of the Story” might have made me more nervous about my speech, but it ultimately resonated better with the attendees. I’m telling you guys, people want you to be real. They want you to be honest.
If you want an even better example of honesty and realness, then you should look to the ringmaster herself. I’ve had the good fortune of knowing Robin for nearly a decade now, and it’s been a pleasure watching her grow into the marketing powerhouse that she is.
She jampacks her membership with the best bang for your buck, and she never fails to put her money where her mouth is. I’d even go as far as to say that she has reinvented sales and marketing in her specific niche by being a straight-shooter, demanding that the members she helps know their numbers and employing people on her team to help them win — and win right. The foresight required to put on a bootcamp of this magnitude — one as informative, organized, effective, honest, and downright fun as it was — can only stem from a brain as fast-working and efficient as Robin’s. While the old adage “Go join the circus” is typically used as an insult, after attending the 12th Annual Sales and Marketing Bootcamp, I found a circus and a story that I definitely want to be a part of in years to come.