Do you need to Ctrl Alt Delete Your Business?

sposbook_2_lowres_rgbAsk yourself: Is your marketing creating value? Is it telling a cohesive story? If not, it could be time to reboot your message – or your entire business. Mitch Joel’s excellent new book, Ctrl Alt Delete: Reboot Your Business. Reboot Your Life. Your Future Depends on It, helps us navigate the changing business landscape and identify whether all or part of our brand is in need of a reboot.

One of my many takeaways from the book has to do with how we market. Joel suggests that there are two primary types of marketing that most businesses rely on: blasting and touching. You probably think I’m going to say touching is the way to go, but I’m not. As Joel explains in the book, “Blasting works best in passive media. Touching works best in active media.”

If your audience is an active audience and wants to communicate with you, blasting will not work. At the same time, if you focus only on touching (i.e. getting comments on your Facebook Page or blog) vs. asking for the sale, you’ll most likely be disappointed with your results as well.

So, what’s the magic formula? It depends. A good starting point is to step back and reevaluate what you’re doing: Who are your prospective clients, where do they hang out, and what is the best way to reach them? If you relate to the blasting approach, put yourself in the shoes of the people you’re trying to reach. If you were them, would you open that email newsletter you sent? Would you find the marketing messages in it useful?

Joel suggests that “utilitarianism marketing” (providing real value and utility) could be the next great business disrupter. Businesses that find ways to incorporate real value into their marketing will get from what Joel refers to as purgatory – to heaven.

Here’s a quick example from the book involving being away from home and having to go. Bear with me. There is an app called SitOrSquat that, based on your location, allows you to find clean bathrooms (along with changing tables, handicapped access, etc.) based on ratings from the users. How exciting?!

Guess who created this app? Charmin! The toilet paper company! Instead of pumping extra money into TV and catalog ads, they created something useful and valuable for their customers (and prospective customers). I believe A LOT more people are talking about Charmin for doing this than they would if the company had stuck with its traditional approach. (I never thought I would talk about toilet paper on this blog!)

I’m not suggesting you go out and create an app tomorrow. The point is that the app is useful, and in Joel’s words, “If you give something to people that they actually want and need…they will love you forever.”

Netflix is another reboot example I thought of while reading the book. A few years ago, they jacked up their prices and lost 800,000 subscribers (additionally, their stock fell by more than 75%). They became a laughingstock. But then, just when it seemed they had dug their own grave, Netflix got into content creation and started focusing on original programming (acclaimed series like House of Cards, Hemlock Grove and Arrested Development, to name a few). They went beyond their bread and butter of licensing and streaming, and suddenly they had excellent content that you could only get if you were a subscriber. Brilliant! So far this year, they’ve picked up over 2 million new subscribers (more than HBO) and their stock is up over 130% since Jan. 1! Netflix found a way to provide a new service, and it saved their business.

You can learn much more about rebooting at our upcoming event on June 27 with Mitch Joel, CTRL ALT Delete: Reboot. In the meantime, which brands come to mind that used a reboot to take their business to another level? Could you be in need of a reboot? I’d love to hear your thoughts!




  1. by Ben on June 21, 2013 at 5:42 am

    Thanks for the article and review of the book, Derek. Definitely going to check this out now!

  2. by Derek Coburn on June 21, 2013 at 2:44 pm

    Thanks Ben! It’s extremely useful. Look forward to hearing your thoughts.


  1. Episode 24: Frank Eliason Is @ Your Service

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