A chance meeting with a generous mentor

In the last few months I was inspired to write a new book called Compound Marketing (not released yet). I don’t really actively plan to write books, I just think of things and then those things end up being books.

I can never really predict when this happens but on release, the new book will be my 6th in 6 years! So I guess on average it happens once a year.

Anyway, for this current book I started to think about the way I think about business and marketing now in 2020 and how I got to this point. And it took me back to a few key moments that happened in the 15 years so far as a business owner. One of the biggest was this encounter with a generous mentor. The story is below. I haven’t been in contact with him in years, and I’m sure he has no idea of the impact he has had on me and my time in business.

Here is the story, which I’ve taken from the book.

On March 3 at 11:25 a.m., 2010, I got my first taste of a different approach to marketing, one without promotional strategies and well outside the lessons I learned in University.

I had recently come across the Sitepoint Web Design Business Kit by Brendon Sinclair. It contained hundreds of pages with specific templates on how to build a web design agency. Given I’d spent the last five years successfully trying to do just that, this seemed like a goldmine. I read through some of the promotional pages for it, and it sounded like exactly what I needed. It was written, not by an academic or an expert trying to sell me something, but by an agency owner! It just had a different vibe to it. It didn’t feel like I was being sold on some kind of old school technical marketing technique. It seemed more…organic.

Sitepoint was a big, well-known international website and authority on web development and web marketing, but as I dug more into the manual and the author, Brendon, I realized he was a local entrepreneur who actually lived and worked in the next suburb to me! I was in Burleigh Heads at the time, and he was in Palm Beach. I emailed him, and to my surprise, he not only emailed me back, he offered for me to come visit and grab a signed copy of the manual from him along with a coffee.

This seemed super generous to me; this was a guy who I was competing with. I was actively looking for strategies to beat him, and he’s giving me advice on how to do that. Everything I thought about marketing up until that point was along the lines of “what strategies can I implement to beat people like Brendon?”

I nervously headed into the coffee shop. We sat down, and on my first sip, I spilt the coffee all over myself. Brendon enjoyed that more than I did, and the coffee meeting continued. I asked him lots of questions about how to build a website agency, and he happily answered them.

I was a bit confused by his generosity but I was also energized. When I got back to the office, I dug into the Web Design Business Kit, planning out all of the marketing ideas I was going to execute.

That afternoon, I was surprised by an email I received. It was from Brendon. He said, “Thanks for the catchup, it was fun, I wrote this blog post about it and I linked back to your site.” The post was funny; he was amused by me spilling coffee, and he made regular references to it. But it wasn’t the content of the post or even the content of the business kit that gave me my lesson. It was the generosity of Brendon to take the time to meet with me and then write about it and link back to my website.

Back in 2010, backlinks were gold, we were beginning to understand how Google ranked websites and learning that if lots of sites linked to yours, yours would rank higher in the results. Even to this day, I know people who don’t link to other people because they are so focused on their own incoming links and don’t want to share the love.

In 2010, we agencies sought links from other sites, and we never deliberately linked to our competitors. The idea that this guy, who I didn’t even know, would link to a competitor down the road, proactively, was something I hadn’t experienced before.

Brendon was successful. His agency had been around for many years and had stayed in business and done well. He was confident enough to help anyone, even competitors. He was prepared to put everything he knew about marketing agencies into his own blog posts and into a manual for potential competitors.

He knew something that I didn’t yet know. This approach of producing content, and building a brand, and being generous and not fearing competition, was in itself a marketing strategy. Certainly not the type you’d learn at university, but as it turned out, the only effective marketing strategy I’ve ever known.

From that day on, I fell in love with a new type of marketing.

Photo by Ohmky on Unsplash

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