This Episode Will Help You Be More Creative In 30 Minutes (From The Seeking Wisdom Vault)
DG: Hey, what's up, everybody? It's DG, and on this episode of Swipe File, we're digging in the crates to give you a classic interview with Allen Gannett. He is now the chief strategy officer at Skyward. He came to Drift when he published his book, The Creative Curve, which if you listen to this podcast at all you know how much we talk about the power of creativity, and why I think that creativity is the most underrated and important skill for the next generation of marketers. We live in a world that's so analytical, so technical, so data- driven that we've lost the secret sauce with creativity. And the cool part about this was Alan's book actually went and unpacked all of these lessons of some of the most creative and amazing creators, executives, authors, entrepreneurs. He's just a great guy. If you've seen any of his content on LinkedIn he is phenomenal. I would never tell him this to his face, but he's a guy that I saw posting on LinkedIn a lot early on, and I basically just started kind of trying to see what he was doing and trying to innovate on top of that. He did this awesome thing with videos, I went in on text posts and videos. We talked about that, and a bunch of other stuff on this podcast. If you are passionate about marketing and creativity, you're going to love this conversation with Alan Gannett. I want to introduce yourself first and we've got a lot to talk about today.
Alan Gannett: Awesome.
Alan Gannett: So, my name is Allen Gannett.
Alan Gannett: And I'm the CEO of a company called TrackMaven. Are we on right now?
DG: We're on, we're on. That's how that's how good.
Alan Gannett: It's just rolling right in.
DG: Yeah. Are you tired of doing this yet?
Alan Gannett: Doing podcasts?
DG: Book tours, explaining who you are, explaining yourself.
Alan Gannett: Every time my mom listens and she goes out and that wasn't the best intro, I'm like," Mom, I thought we were done being critical of me." And so TrackMaven's a marketing analytics company. So, we basically track data from a huge variety of big consumer brands, tell them what's working, what's not working, what sucks, what doesn't suck. And then I have my first book coming out June 12th.
Alan Gannett: And so it's all about-
DG: I mean, if you ask me the book is out.
Alan Gannett: It's right there. It's in front of you.
DG: I don't know what to tell you.
Alan Gannett: Yeah, the awkward thin print, print on demand version.
Alan Gannett: And basically for the book, I was talking to all these marketers and they're all like," Oh, I'm not creative enough, I can't do it."
Alan Gannett: And I was like," What are you talking about?" And it turns out that-
DG: Can you fix this?
Alan Gannett: Yeah, I can fix this. Hold on. For those of you listening, Dave does not know how to fold it.
DG: I'm not the designer in the room, so we're good.
Alan Gannett: And so basically for the book, I tackle this question of whether or not you can learn to have moments of creative genius. And so I'll hold the answer for later in the episode.
DG: Yeah. I want to unpack that a lot. Okay.
Alan Gannett: And so it's very applicable for marketers, creatives, entrepreneurs.
Alan Gannett: All of the above.
DG: When did you start the company?
Alan Gannett: Six years ago. Six years ago.
DG: Oh, my god. You're a young guy.
Alan Gannett: I know, I was 12 when I started.
DG: You were 12?
Alan Gannett: Yeah, I was really good.
DG: No, seriously, tell me this story because people want to know.
Alan Gannett: So, I started TrackMaven about a year out of school.
Alan Gannett: And I had during college, I had started a Facebook performance marketing company back when Facebook performance marketing was just getting started.
DG: Yeah, what year was, that was like 2010?
Alan Gannett: 2010. You nailed it.
DG: So I don't know, just because I'm just trying to unwind. We think a lot about, I love thinking about the first person to do email marketing, right? Probably was 90% open rate, 80% click rate.
Alan Gannett: Oh yeah.
DG: So, I was just trying to think, that's cool.
Alan Gannett: Back then it was so easy.
DG: So, you got on Facebook ads early.
Alan Gannett: So, back then you could get perfect clicks for any ad for 5 cents a click. Any ad. You could be advertising the dumbest thing.
DG: What were you after? But you're in college. Why are you playing around with Facebook ads?
Alan Gannett: So, I started a company that was doing lead gen, and so we were the lead gen company, which is not the most fun thing in the world, but basically figuring out how to get people to convert on lead forms. And so it was literally growing up in data- driven performance marketing.
Alan Gannett: And so we sold that company for a very small amount of money.
DG: Yep. Nice enough to get a nice jacket.
Alan Gannett: Yeah, this is the nice jacket that I bought inaudible, and so then I took a job as CMO of a venture backed startup in town, because people were like, " He's young, but he kind of gets it."
DG: He knows the internet.
Alan Gannett: He kind of knows the internet, he knows Facebook marketing.
Alan Gannett: And then from there I spent about a year doing that, and I realized one, I really don't like working for other people. I'm really bad at it. And then two, data in marketing is oil and water, but it shouldn't be. Most marketers are like, I'm a creative, but then most marketers are also like, shit, I need to use data. And there's this weird sort of tension there. And so I was like," I love data! I can talk about data all day." And so the whole idea for TrackMaven was, and our logo is a dog, so excuse the pun, but to be a marketer's best friend.
Alan Gannett: We're the ones, we suck in all your data, we give you reports, we give you visualizations, we give you answers about what you should do differently.
DG: So, did you bootstrap the company? Did you go and raise money? Because I'm assuming you're a marketing guy. I'm assuming you weren't building the tracking software behind the scenes?
Alan Gannett: Yeah. No. So, we raised money right from the start.
Alan Gannett: We had a PowerPoint.
Alan Gannett: And it was me and a PowerPoint.
Alan Gannett: Yeah. And we raised a seed round, then I hired a team, and then we built it, and our first customer was Martha Stewart Living.
DG: How did you get her?
Alan Gannett: It was a random intro through one of our investors. And there's a fun story.
DG: Hit me.
Alan Gannett: I saw Martha at a cafe. I don't know her, I'm just calling her Martha because everyone calls her Martha.
DG: What are you going to call her, Ms. Stewart? Of course it's Martha.
Alan Gannett: And so I see her at a cafe, this was three months ago. I go up to her and I think it's her, but it's not quite clear, but I go up to her. I'm like," Martha?" And she's like," Yes." And I'm like," Just so you know, you were my first customer, and I so appreciate that." And she goes," Oh! Josephine!" Who I guess is her assistant," Josephine, come here, come here. Give Josephine your card. What's the company's name?" I was like," TrackMaven." And she was like," Oh, I'm sure we love it. We love it."
DG: She's like," I've never heard of that in my life."
Alan Gannett: Never heard of it. And by the way, this was literally-
DG: I'm sure we love it.
Alan Gannett: This was two weeks after they canceled after four and a half years of using us.
DG: I'm sure we love it.
Alan Gannett: I'm like," Oh, great! Love Josephine." Anyway, she was very kind, and she's very loving in person.
DG: That's awesome. Sorry, I want to focus on marketing but I can't help and not ask this question. This is a huge question. What have you learned from six, what year is it now? 2018. Eight years. Eight years of this company. Are you still having fun doing it?
Alan Gannett: Yeah.
DG: Do you still get to do marketing?
Alan Gannett: Yeah. So, it's super interesting, as you build a company your role changes. So, the company now, so yes, it's six years old. So, I've been doing marketing as a thing for about eight years. And when you first start, you'd sort of do everything.
Alan Gannett: And then you learn really quickly that's annoying everybody as you get bigger, because all of a sudden you have 20 people and they're like," Can you please stop doing my job?" You're like," Okay, I can stop doing your job."
DG: You can't not care, though, especially if marketing is your thing, you're not going to care about how your website looks, the headline, the subject line. That feels hard.
Alan Gannett: A hundred percent.
Alan Gannett: And so, for me what's been fun is as we get bigger, I find pet projects to scratch my marketing itch, so some years its been our user conference I lean in a lot, right now it's a book. Sometimes its been our content marketing strategy.
DG: Yeah, that's cool.
Alan Gannett: And so I basically need to find something, otherwise I just go crazy and annoy everyone.
DG: "Yeah, that job sounds fun." You just get to pick the marketing thing inaudible. That's awesome. So, when did you know you wanted to write a book? Did you have that in your?
Alan Gannett: So, the book came from, I started giving this talk about three years ago.
DG: I feel like a book is one of those things where I'm sitting here, I've seen so many people I'm like," I could write a book."
Alan Gannett: Yeah. You could!
DG: I want to write a book.
Alan Gannett: You could!
DG: Yeah. But then it comes to actually writing the book.
Alan Gannett: Oh, my god, you would totally do it.
Alan Gannett: So, it's hard but not hard if that makes sense. So, basically three years ago I was giving this talk at marketing conferences about how marketers think creatives are just born with these magical skills.
Alan Gannett: But when you actually read the autobiography of great creatives, they're like," It was seven years of very hard work. It was very intentional."
Alan Gannett: They're all systems thinkers.
DG: Also, we could talk for so long about this, but the whole art of being creative, you can't see, that's a good sign. That was dramatic. The whole art of you can't plan it. You can't plan it, right? It was in one of Steven Pressfield's books where he's talking about being an ad guy back in the day, and people would come to his desk and be like,"What do you got for me?" And it doesn't work like that. I need to make 10 things in order to get one, that's going to be a game changer.
Alan Gannett: So, and here's where we go. And so I think people misinterpret that.
Alan Gannett: And so when people hear that they go," I don't have that random great idea."
DG: Right, right.
Alan Gannett: And the issue is that when you actually look at the stories of creativity, the stories are actually, well, sure it's difficult and it's confusing, but there is actually some method to the madness. And so, the talk led to this idea of hey, there could be a book here, and as I was working on the book I realized it's more broad than just marketers.
Alan Gannett: And so the whole idea for the book was, what would happen if you interview 25 living creative geniuses? So, billionaires, Oscar winners, Tony award winners, startup founders. Super eclectic mix, and if you just ask them about their creative process what would you find out? And it turns out there's actually a lot of interesting stuff there. So, one, there's patterns. You find over and over again, I talk about it in the book, there's these four things they all do. There's four things they all do that actually enhances their creativity. The second thing I did was I talked to all these academics who study creativity, and creativity is actually one of these things that is super well studied. There's tons and tons of research on what causes creativity? How do you get better at creativity? Is it nature? Is it nurture? These questions have all been answered.
DG: Can I tell you a personal story?
Alan Gannett: I would love a personal story.
DG: I have just in the last probably two or three years realized that I'm creative.
Alan Gannett: That's great.
DG: Can you guess what changed in my life for that to become the case?
Alan Gannett: Okay. Someone gave you positive feedback on something creative you did?
DG: No, no. Okay, I'll just tell you, because there's no way you'll ever guess. crosstalk I never read books. I hated reading. I hated reading. But then when I really started to get interested in marketing, DC started giving me all these books. Old school.
Alan Gannett: He's a reader.
DG: He's a huge reader.
Alan Gannett: David Ogilvy shit.
DG: What was amazing is I was so lucky to have him two years ago, two and a half years ago start sending me, he was my curator. He's like" Here, take this book." And I'd be like," Okay." And I would read it, and I'd be like," Oh, my god, this is awesome." I hated reading in school and in college, because it never applied to anything that I was doing.
Alan Gannett: Yeah.
DG: But for the first time I'm reading a book and I'm like," Oh, my god, this is exactly what we're trying to do with our website right now." And it was written 80 years ago. I'm like," What else do you got for me?" And he starts giving me more and more, and it was once I started reading all those books, then I would just catch myself like," Oh, I got an idea."
Alan Gannett: Yeah.
DG: I got another idea. I got another idea. And now it's like Popeye and spinach, the more stuff that I can consume, and Ogilvy says it in the book, you re- consume all this stuff and then you go away and you unlock your subconscious, and then you're like," Oh, shit."
Alan Gannett: So, Dave.
DG: Here's I want to talk about.
Alan Gannett: So, I think we have to have a little talk.
Alan Gannett: Because we're now going to talk about, so in the book I talked about the four laws of creativity and the creative curve, the first law; consumption.
Alan Gannett: So, let's talk about it.
DG: Love it.
Alan Gannett: So, one of the things I've found is exactly what you experienced.
Alan Gannett: All of these creators I interviewed over and over again had some story that went like this. Like Ted Sarandos, the chief content officer of Netflix, I interviewed him. He at 18 years old got a job as a video store clerk. And he watched every single movie in the store.
Alan Gannett: Beverly Jenkins, a famous novelist, she lived right by a library. She was poor, her escape? She went to the library, read every single book in the library. And so over and over again you see this trend of these creatives consume huge amounts of content.
DG: I love that.
Alan Gannett: Huge amount.
DG: And I love it because probably Ted Sarandos, I bet you he doesn't have a framework for creating new content, right? He doesn't have some method that he-
Alan Gannett: It's subconscious.
DG: Just give the guy a whiteboard and you're like," It's like this, it's like this, and this."
Alan Gannett: And so the reason why it's actually really interesting. So, basically, and it's kind of cliche when you talk about creativity, talk about right brain left brain, but we're going to do it.
Alan Gannett: Because it's important. So, your left brain-
DG: I still don't really know the difference between the both, so that's okay.
Alan Gannett: Logical step- by- step processing. So, you're solving a math problem, and it's all conscious.
DG: Or not solving a math problem.
Alan Gannett: Or not solving. Yeah. You're carrying the number, you're doing long division, you're doing this whole thing, and every step you're thinking about it, and then you finally get the answer. You're like," I got the answer. Good for me." You're right brain is where you store more distant metaphorical associations. So, think about when you're watching a standup comedian, you get the joke. That's your right brain just getting it. Unless it's Adam Sandler, then it's not funny. And so your right brain does all this subconscious processing, but what's interesting is that your right brain, how it does this processing, it's not actually special. It's just different, it's just quiet, it's just that this type of processing happens below your level of awareness, and only once it finds these ideas, once it connects these distant ideas together, only then does it sort of pop into consciousness. And so, the thing is that people mistake this for magic. It's actually not magic.
DG: And it's funny, because everyone says that, which is that idea that hits you in the shower, or at the gym, or on a run or something.
Alan Gannett: But why does that happen? Think about it.
Alan Gannett: It's because your left brain, when you're in the shower your left brain isn't firing away.
Alan Gannett: Trying to answer these very present questions.
DG: And it's really hard. I think a lot of people struggle with the creativity part, especially if you have a busy job, or something that you do is very taxing or stressful. There's a lot of stuff happening, right? It's so important to be able to step back and get away from it.
Alan Gannett: A hundred percent.
DG: That's when you're going to have the clarity.
Alan Gannett: So, there's two things that really drive to a- ha moments. So, a- ha moments are really well studied by researchers, and the first one is you have to have prior knowledge about what you want to have a- ha moments about. So, the same thing where you were reading all these books, the reason why consumption was such a big pattern was, if you're Ted Sarandos watch a lot of movies to have all those mental models in place to connect.
DG: And I realized that I actually don't like reading still. I don't. But when I do it for the focus, I say I will read books about business and marketing, right?
Alan Gannett: You need to go deep.
DG: And then I can go deep.
Alan Gannett: Yeah.
DG: And that's when I get the good stuff.
Alan Gannett: Totally. And that's the first step. The second step is you need to give yourself the space for your left hemisphere to calm down. And so this is why running commutes, drives, all these things are so important. And if you don't make time for that, and what's amazing is I interviewed all these super successful people, literally like David Rubinstein, he's a billionaire.
Alan Gannett: They make time to think, right? And so, we don't have time to think. We're not billionaires, right? We're just these people running around. These people who have way more responsibilities, they even know how important it is.
DG: Yeah. And the funny part is, I have this personality where I think that I have to write everything down, right? Because I want to have good notes, I don't want to forget anything, I never want to be the person that's like," Hey, Dave, you know that thing we talked about last Tuesday? And I'm like," What?" I always want to be on top of that. I should always be ahead.
Alan Gannett: Just nod your head and smile.
DG: Just managing ahead, right? But what I realized was the more that I read and the more that I consume and do stuff, I'm selling myself short on how much I'm remembering.
Alan Gannett: Totally.
DG: Right? And so then I'm trying to look. Hey, I remember this framework from Ogilvy, or this framework from DC, or this other thing, and then if you asked me randomly on a Saturday morning out for a run, I'm like," Oh, here's how it works."
Alan Gannett: Yeah.
DG: And you're like," Oh, shit."
Alan Gannett: Yeah!
Alan Gannett: Totally!
Alan Gannett: And so the thing is that when you look at all these things, we don't really understand where these ideas are coming from, and because of that we ascribe all this sort of divinity to it, but it doesn't actually mean it's divine or supernatural, it just means we don't understand it.
DG: I love that, because one of the things that DC, we talk about a lot on seeking wisdom, which is where this is obviously-
Alan Gannett: Can we call you DG? Is that a thing?
DG: Yeah, yeah, people call me DG. Yeah, yeah, yeah.
Alan Gannett: DG? DC? Oh, okay, okay.
DG: Actually funny stories, when I started at drift, he sent me an email and there was seven people at the company at the time, and so basically everyone that starts gets firstname @ drift. com.
Alan Gannett: Yeah. Except for you.
DG: Except for me. He's like," I couldn't get you dave @ drift. com." You don't call him Dave, it's David. I still couldn't get dave @ drift. com. He's like," But I set up dg @ drift. com." And so then just that became a thing.
Alan Gannett: Now everyone calls you that. One of the things I think in the book that I think is really applicable to marketers, and this is sort of a big concept, so I'll go sort of high- level, we can go as deep as you want.
Alan Gannett: Is one of the things I've found when you look at all the studies around creativity, is researchers actually have really got a good understanding of what makes people like something, which I think is so important for marketers. So, here it is. What they have found is that there's this specific blend of familiarity and novelty that drives a huge amount of preference in liking. So, if something's too familiar, right? It's kind of boring, we've seen it, we've done there, we've been that. But oftentimes when we think about creativity we think about novelty, originality, innovative- ness, but actually we don't like things like that.
DG: Well, if it's too far on the other spectrum.
Alan Gannett: Yeah!
DG: If nobody's proven it, if you go to that new restaurant on Yelp and there's no reviews, you're not going there.
Alan Gannett: Yeah. You're like,"What's going on?"
Alan Gannett: And so this is why Star Wars was so successful. It was literally a Western in space. It's the same story arc, there's good guys, bad guys, they're chasing into Death Star, you know, whatever. And so-
DG: No, this is really important. We talk about this a lot, which is pattern matching.
Alan Gannett: A hundred percent.
DG: Which is most people, most marketers just still forget to do that. They're like," Oh, I got an idea. I'm going to make it up." No.
Alan Gannett: No.
DG: Do you know what the great marketers do before they go and create the next video, or write the next article, or write the next book? They go and find other examples. It's not copying, it's going and finding what has been proven?
Alan Gannett: Updating.
DG: What already works?
Alan Gannett: Kanye West literally just tweeted about this.
DG: He just tweeted about it!
Alan Gannett: And I posted on my Instagram because I said," See? This is part of my book campaign." Yeah.
DG: Same thing. It's the same thing, right? And now it's so much so that we have this conversation so many times in the marketing team here at Drift. We're like now if you don't go and find it, I want to know, okay, hey Alan, this is great that you wrote this new article, who was your inspiration for this article? I would be going and looking at what headlines have already been popular? What format has been popular? What video? So, that's a huge piece.
Alan Gannett: So, there's actually a lot of interesting studies around this with music I think really make this point well. So, they basically played a song for someone that had never heard it before, and they played it over, and over, and over again. And what happened was the first time you hear the song, you're like," What is this?"
Alan Gannett: The second or third time you're like,"Okay, this is not that bad." The tenth time you're like," I love this song." And at 15 times you're like," Please stop playing Hotline Bling. We're over this." Right?
DG: Some people say that.
Alan Gannett: Yeah, it's a whole thing. And so basically what they found, this is why the book's called The Creative Curve, is there's this bell curve relationship between familiarity and preference.
DG: A hundred percent.
Alan Gannett: The more you see something the more you like it, but only up into a point, then you get bored and you want something new and more novel.
DG: I actually have this in a slide. I'm genuinely enjoying this conversation, which is great. I have this in a slide for a talk that I give. I stole it from Andrew Chen who was growth at Uber.
Alan Gannett: Damn.
DG: He calls it the law of shitty click- throughs.
Alan Gannett: Yes. I've seen this.
DG: Right? I love this chart. It's a law of shitty click- throughs, and it's the same reason why if you're any good at Facebook ads, that frequency is so important, right? The frequency is the amount of times you see an ad. Five or six is a sweet spot. One it's not very good.
Alan Gannett: You have no idea what you've got.
DG: 10, 15, you're showing it too much, right? It's the same thing.
Alan Gannett: And they've seen this. What's amazing is scientists have studied this, and they found this bell curve relationship when you look at paintings, advertising. But here's one of the things I think is really interesting. So, scientists have found this bell curve relationship, but only for complex things. When something's really simple like your logo color, like your logo or your brand colors, it's actually the more you see it the more you like it indefinitely.
Alan Gannett: And the reason why is that scientists called perceptual fluency, and it's basically the idea with things that are very simple, we basically just say,"Oh, we've seen it before, we know it." And the fact that it's so easy to process we mistake that for liking it. So, that's why in marketing and branding, colors are so important, logos are so important, it's because these subtle things.
DG: Is that all in the book?
Alan Gannett: It's all in the book.
DG: Those lessons that you were talking about?
Alan Gannett: Those lessons are all in the book.
DG: It's cool. I didn't have a copy, so I didn't do a deep dive, but I didn't expect you to have so much psychology related lessons, which to me is actually, that's the most exciting stuff. The creativity stuff is one thing.
Alan Gannett: Yeah.
DG: But we love learning about the things that are rooted in science.
Alan Gannett: Totally.
DG: We love Robert Cialdini's book, obviously the six principles there, baking all that stuff into your marketing.
Alan Gannett: The book, going onto the familiarity- novelty thing, we tried to do is I've read a lot of business books, and my biggest hangup with business books, I love narrative storytelling. There's usually not enough science in every chapter, just sort of as an anecdote supporting the original thesis. So, this book, the entire book, every chapter is like a new concept and it's all science supported. So, there's 5, 000 pages of notes at the end, all that kind of stuff, made it a pain in the ass to write, but is hopefully actually actionable.
DG: So, people can go get the book, right? Does it matter when we release this episode?
Alan Gannett: It doesn't matter. But if you do it the week before, the week of, it makes me really happy.
DG: When are you launching the book?
Alan Gannett: June 12th.
DG: Okay. All right. So, we'll do that. We'll do that. Because I think it'll be better story. So, we'll do it June 12th, ish week- ish. So, I don't want to give away all the book. Make people go and check it out. It'll be everywhere. Amazon, I already saw the links and everything, go check it out. I want to dive into the writing process.
Alan Gannett: Sure.
DG: Because I was going to ask you, I think I could go write a book right now.
Alan Gannett: You could do it.
DG: But it would be like Dave's thoughts, right? There would not be 500 pages of reference notes in the back. So, are you in the library doing research? Where did you get all this science?
Alan Gannett: So, a couple of things. So, the writing process took a while, because I have a job.
DG: I want to actually go all the way into this. So, tell me, you have the idea. I'm going to write the book. Officially I'm going to write it.
Alan Gannett: Here, I'll start from the very baby beginning.
Alan Gannett: So, I was giving this talk, someone was like,"This would make a good book." I was like, okay. And so then I talked to one of my friends who had sold a book that did really well, and he was like," Oh, you should talk to my agent." And I was like, okay. And so I talked to his agent, and the book world it turns out it's a lot like startups. There's a lot of gatekeepers, people who are like, everything's a warm intros. And so his agent turned out to be this guy who I later found out was the business book agent. He's 71, he did Marc Benioff's book, Satya from Microsoft, Eric Schmidt from Google. It was like, okay, I got the picture. And so I talked to him and he was like," Hey, I really like this idea, but it's not where it needs to be yet. Why don't we develop it for a few months?" So, I basically started writing the book, sort of getting sort of mentorship and advice from this guy who is literally 71. It's like one of the biggest business book agents in the world.
DG: And writing the book, you're just in a word doc banging out chapters?
Alan Gannett: So, basically my process was on the front end, I was doing two types of interviews and one type of reading. So, I was interviewing creatives. So, at this point I knew I wanted to write a book about how creativity can be unpacked. So, I figured, okay, I'm going to interview people who are really successful. And so I just started cold emailing people. And I had the sort of social proof of, I had this agent who is sort of a rock star agent. So I was like," Hey, the book's not picked up by a publisher yet, but my agent's Jim Levine. He's done the books for Eric Schmidt and Mark Benioff and all these people." And so I got a couple of interviews that way, which is really great. And then I started interviewing academics. So, my whole thing was, I'm going to interview all the leading academics in creativity, and creativity is studied in neuroscience, psychology, sociology, anthropology. There's a lot of different fields that touch on it. And so it turns out by the way, no offense to the academics listening, but academics really like to talk about their work. So, that part's really easy. And then I went and I basically pulled the papers, literally this was thousands of pages of peer- reviewed research on these different topics, and I started putting in this giant Worklowy document. So, Workflow, for those of you who've never checked out, is this awesome outlining tool that has infinite sub- levels. So, you can create outlines within your outline for indefinite times of periods. And so basically I started putting all my notes in there, and anything that I thought was interesting I could put more research in and actually put it in. And so, I was doing these interviews, I was transcribing them using rev. com, I was putting all the notes into Workflow.
Alan Gannett: And it started to come together. As I was consuming all this information, I started making connections.
DG: Did you edit the transcripts?
Alan Gannett: No. So, I had a VA who basically took the transcripts and went through and made sure they weren't crazy.
Alan Gannett: If that makes sense.
Alan Gannett: And so at that point basically, is this too much detail?
DG: No, I love it. This is the detail I wanted.
Alan Gannett: Okay.
Alan Gannett: So, at that point as the outline started coming together, only then did I start actually writing chapters. And so for the book proposal process, so one of the big secrets of writing a non- fiction book is you don't actually write the book first. Which is kind of great. It's kind of like a startup, you do sort of like a pitch deck. So, you write one or two sample chapters, and then you write this 15 page plan, the most important section of which is the marketing plan of why this book? Why now? Why you?
DG: Tell me about the marketing plan, though. You have to tell them," Hey, we're going to email it to this 100,000 people." What do you get out of that?
Alan Gannett: So, basically as a marketer that was the most fun part, because I was like," Oh, I can write a marketing plan all day."
Alan Gannett: So, basically my whole plan with the marketing plan was I'm going to put so much stuff in there that it's obvious that this guy's crazy.
DG: They're just going to be like," Yeah, this is going to work."
Alan Gannett: This guy's fine.
DG: Yeah. So, tell me what was in there? What did you put in there?
Alan Gannett: I put a list of I think 40 events I'd spoken on the last year.
DG: Yep. Where you said,"I'm going to try to go back to all of these."
Alan Gannett: Yeah.
Alan Gannett: Plus a list where I'm like," Here's 20 I know." I put a list of the top 10 editors of major publications who I was friends with, put a list of a hundred podcasts that I was like," I can probably get on."
DG: Yep. Shout out.
Alan Gannett: Shout out. And then I also put a whole bunch of stuff around sort of the audience I'd built with TrackMaven and showing that hey, this is something I know how to do.
Alan Gannett: I coach others on how to do, and so it was very, very actionable.
DG: Right. So, it wasn't necessarily like on June 12th we are going to do X, and then on the July 4th we're going to do Y.
Alan Gannett: It was just, I'm resourceful.
DG: Can I show you that this is a good investment?
Alan Gannett: Exactly. Exactly. And so basically how it works is you put together the proposal, and then it's a lot like VC. Your agent sends it to all these different publishers, and then you get back responses, and the ideals have multiple. And so we had, there's 15 publishers we sent it to, one was like," This is terrible." And I was like," Noted." And then 12 were like," We like it but think the market's too small." Which I don't understand, but it's okay, I'm over it.
DG: Anyone who does marketing. Okay.
Alan Gannett: And then two were like," We love this book and want it." And so that was all it took. And then, so we ended up signing it with Currency which is part of Penguin Random House, and so that's been a super cool experience because you have an editor, and there's copy editors, and they have audio departments, I've just recorded the audio book.
DG: Then they say yes.
Alan Gannett: Yes.
DG: And then you're sitting in your house somewhere and now you're like,"Oh, my god, I have to write this thing."
Alan Gannett: Yeah. And so it's basically more of the same. So, it was like just doing more interviews, more research, more outlining.
DG: Mentally. Did you map out the whole thing? Here's the outline, and then literally go chapter, by chapter, by chapter in order?
Alan Gannett: It was more of, I basically did as much research as possible, and then it sort of organically started to come together. So, in the book the first half is basically disproving this idea that creativity is this mysterious wondrous thing that has no rhyme or reason. And then the second half of the book is these four patterns I found among the creative geniuses that actually are things you can do that are actionable. So, as I was researching, I heard over and over again these things like," Hey, I consumed an entire libraries worth of books." And I was like," Oh, this is interesting." And so that formed into a chapter.
DG: And then are you thinking like," Oh, this would be a great section to have a graphic with." And then you'd start drawing, or as your editor being like," We need something that's going to show this."
Alan Gannett: Yeah. So, the art of a book is really interesting. So, basically as an author you're responsible for delivering the finished manuscript including all images. So, I went and found an illustrator who I liked, who happened to be my neighbor. And I wanted a zillion images, and they wanted 15. And so I think I sent 40, and they were like," Let's stuck with 15 and then edit out the ones you don't like."
DG: And you put them in where you want them?
Alan Gannett: I put them in where I want them.
DG: Also, every business book is 250 pages. That is a thing, so that's perfect. That's a thing.
Alan Gannett: All right. The cover is actually really fascinating.
DG: Tell me about the cover. Did your illustrator friend neighbor do that?
Alan Gannett: No, so this is a different one. So, the cover is one of these processes that you have as an author very little ability to veto, but you have some influence over, because you're like,"I'm going to sell the book for years of my life."
Alan Gannett: And so the cover was one of these processes where you're like," Do we make it very businessy? Do we make it very creative? What if we want to aspire to young people? Old people?" And so it turns out, guys, people judge books by their cover.
DG: Oh, sure they do.
Alan Gannett: It's really important.
Alan Gannett: So, basically I hired this guy, Rodrigo Corral who's a baller. He did Jay- Z's book, Diaz's books, all the Chuck Palahniuk books.
DG: How did you find him?
Alan Gannett: My agent. This was again, I'm kind of a little bit of an idiot sometimes. It was like," Oh, you should talk to this guy." And I talked to him, he's like," Oh, I'll work with you." And then I Google him, and there's this New York Times article about how he's the cover guy, and I was like," Oh, okay."
DG: And then you use all your advance money to pay for him to do the cover?
Alan Gannett: Yeah, exactly. Yeah. There's no money. And so basically it was cool though, seeing that process because it went from okay, do we go very, very formal? Do we go very, very artsy? And we ended up with something in the middle, because we realized that this is a book that aspires to help creatives achieve great things, but also has a lot of applicability to the CMO of a big Fortune 500.
Alan Gannett: So, you need to hit that crossover.
DG: All right. I love it. I wanted to talk about that, because I know you're going to do 100 other podcasts, and I think that they're not all going to ask you about the inaudible process.
Alan Gannett: They're not.
DG: But before we wrap up, I got to talk to you about something.
Alan Gannett: Okay.
DG: I want to know your LinkedIn video process.
Alan Gannett: Oh, my god.
DG: Because this is the guy that I got this from. We have been for the last two months, just LinkedIn video has blown up, but you were there even earlier, and you were the one that DC was sending me all these videos. All these comments, all these views and you have a crazy system. Can you tell me about how you got on? Actually, I want to know all the way back. When did you start doing LinkedIn video?
Alan Gannett: Okay, the LinkedIn video story is really silly.
DG: Tell me.
Alan Gannett: Okay.
DG: It's always silly! It's never calculated.
Alan Gannett: It's really silly! It's really silly. So, a big part of the book is about timing. And so as I was writing this book, LinkedIn video came out and I was like," Oh look, a big part of my book is about how anytime there's a new platform there's all this opportunity." And so I was like," Oh, well this is kind of meta."
Alan Gannett: And so it was in private beta and I was thinking way too much about this. I'm not dorky at all. And so I had a dream. This is a really embarrassing thing. So, I literally had a dream, and for some reason in this dream Jeff Bezos owned LinkedIn. Let's just go with it. My dream got confused with Jeff Weiner and Jeff Bezos. And so I was on a rooftop hotel bar.
Alan Gannett: This is a hundred percent true.
DG: Okay, I believe you!
Alan Gannett: That Jeff Bezos, I'm talking to him and I'm like," Jeff, you don't like Dan, I don't know why, and you really need to give me access to LinkedIn video. You really do." And he was like," Sure, man." And gave me access. And I woke up. crosstalk I woke up and I was like,"That was a bizarre dream." And then I was like," I should post that on LinkedIn. I bet you someone will find it funny on LinkedIn and give me access." And so I posted on LinkedIn, I changed Jeff Bezos to Jeff Wiener because that part was too nuanced for the internet.
DG: People would know what you meant.
Alan Gannett: People would have known.
DG: You just got a thousand comments," He's not the CEO of LinkedIn you idiot!"
Alan Gannett: Yeah. And so I post this and it was like," I just had a dream that Jeff Wiener gave me LinkedIn video beta access. I think as officially means I spend too much time on LinkedIn." And that was the post. And literally all these comments, and literally eight hours later Jeff Wiener posts," No, it just means you can see the future. Smiley face." And he gives me LinkedIn video access.
DG: He did that person personally?
Alan Gannett: He did that personally.
DG: And then what, you got an email?
Alan Gannett: No, it just turned on.
Alan Gannett: That post got a ridiculous amount of comments and likes. And so then I started posting-
DG: You were already primed to be the video guy.
Alan Gannett: I was, there you go. And so I basically, he was like," Okay, what can I do on video that I would enjoy and that other people would enjoy." And I spent a lot of time with my life, just because I'm like a customer facing market facing CO meeting people. I was like," I'll just harass my friends to do video."
DG: I loved that. What I liked about your videos a lot was-
Alan Gannett: We're going to do a video after this.
DG: We're going to do a video after this. They weren't scripted, and what I love is it always seemed to be like you were at a conference and you ran into Joe Chernov, and you're like," Joe, let's do a video together!" And he's like," Fuck, do I have to do this?" Right?
Alan Gannett: Yes, yes!
DG: And then you do a video. And then you started doing all those. But what I learned from behind the scenes, DC told me this, you have an awesome system behind the scenes that made this work, which is not surprising now that I know your book process, it seems similar.
Alan Gannett: Yeah. So, basically the process is, so do these videos, I record them on my iPhone. Super simple.
DG: Super simple.
Alan Gannett: Not fancy. I have a microphone, a Shure iPhone microphone.
DG: Yeah, I got one of those now, too.
Alan Gannett: It's good.
DG: I got all the apps. Oh, that's the baby shusher app for Annie, but I have Deshake, Typomatic, whatever the other one's$ 4. 99.
Alan Gannett: So, basically what happens is I shoot the video, we're going to do one after this, it literally takes three minutes to film. It's a 90 second max video. I upload it to Dropbox from my phone, I emailed to my intern.
DG: Which takes forever, by the way. That's the worst part. And then if you lose service.
Alan Gannett: Internet these days, kids these days.
DG: Yeah. Okay. I just wanted to say that, because I wanted to make sure you didn't have some special hack.
Alan Gannett: With Dropbox?
Alan Gannett: Oh no, I don't.
Alan Gannett: Okay. And so, and then my intern uses Deshake, which is this app that for$ 3 makes it look like you had a stabilizer, at least decently.
Alan Gannett: Then we send it to this other guy on Fiverr, who for$ 10, captions it, trims it, cleans it up, sends us back a Dropbox link. And basically there's a Dropbox folder of just an army of backlog of videos. Except right now I'm kind of low, which is why we're doing a video.
DG: Okay. So, I have two questions then we'll wrap up. Number one is, I totally get the captions thing.
Alan Gannett: Yeah.
DG: I don't know if I should test this or not. I probably should. I feel like when I see a video with captions though, so for a while, I believe that captions is what you needed, because everyone's scrolling with the sound off. But now I kind of believe more that when people see captions, they know that's some marketing video, where if it's like me walking down the street, I don't know. Maybe we'll figure it out.
Alan Gannett: Okay. So, Dave, I can promise you a hundred percent accuracy, captions, mind boggling.
DG: Okay. I'm in. I'm in. I'm going to copy your system, I'm going to copy your system.
Alan Gannett: One, that's the marketing aspect, and the second aspect is accessibility.
Alan Gannett: So, two for one.
DG: You're right. Yeah, so all my videos will start," Yeah. So." And man drinks coffee, stumbles, says inaudible. I like that system. Okay. So then, but my other problem is I want to post this video now.
Alan Gannett: Yeah.
DG: I don't want to wait.
Alan Gannett: You have to wait.
DG: I got to wait.
Alan Gannett: So, on LinkedIn I find that the morning's the best, because people are getting to work, they're rolling in.
DG: But tactically, do you have something on your calendar that's like today, post LinkedIn video.
Alan Gannett: Basically on Sunday afternoons.
Alan Gannett: I write all of my copy for the week, and then my intern posts in the morning, because otherwise-
DG: On Monday?
Alan Gannett: It's every weekday.
DG: Every weekday you post a video?
Alan Gannett: Every weekday. No, no. I post a video Tuesdays and Thursdays, but I post something on LinkedIn every day.
Alan Gannett: But otherwise if I have a breakfast meet, it's just like a little too much crosstalk.
DG: I like that. All right, we got to jump. We're going to go record a video. You'll check it out on LinkedIn. Hey, what's up. Everybody is DG and I hope that I'll see you at Hypergrowth in San Francisco. It's November 18th. The venue is amazing. We were there last year, and it's going to be even better this year, but I want to hook you up as a loyal listener of this podcast. So, if you use my code, swipefile99, you'll get a huge discount on a ticket. It's something like three, 400%. I don't know, not a math guy, but you'll get a huge discount and we'll see you there. I'm going to be there. I'm flying out to San Francisco. I think I'm going to MC that day. So, I'll be there. It's going to be an amazing day. Lots of learning. If you're in marketing, if you're listening to this podcast you've got to go, okay? Hypergrowth San Francisco, November 18th, use my promo code swipefile99, and you can go and get your ticket at hypergrowth. com. That's pretty simple. See ya.