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The Invaluable Secret Benefit of Having a Mentor

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The Invaluable Secret Benefit of Having a Mentor

When you are just starting a business, it might feel exciting to figure everything out independently. However, an entrepreneurial journey can be full of new learnings, from learning how to manage different functions like accounting and marketing to building a team together.

Although every entrepreneur has expertise in running a business, something sets a successful tycoon apart from an average one. For instance, think about the best business people out there. What do Jeff Bezos, Larry Page, and Steve Jobs have in common apart from being extremely successful?

Mentors have guided each of these individuals. Yes, that’s right. But, even the best companies today evolved with some help and support from external advisors.

Irrespective of your educational background and business experience, a good mentor can be the factor that sets you apart. Here’s why it’s an invaluable secret benefit to have a mentor.

Who Is A Mentor?

A mentor is someone who acts as a support or advisor. A mentor could be the right person to reach out to whenever you are stuck and do not know how to move ahead. After all, mentors have the experience and skills to act as a catalyst to help you improve.

Moreover, a mentor is an expert who can help you find a new perspective. More often than not, we tend to go to business partners or family when we face a problem. While this is a good perspective to have, it is not the same as the power of getting advice from a mentor.

Also, you do not have to pay someone to be your mentor. Mentors often choose to help someone because they know more about that subject and wish to pass it on. On the other hand, others are willing to learn more about challenges and help budding entrepreneurs and employees overcome them and achieve their goals.

How a Mentor Can Help You

Learn from their unique experience

You can’t learn everything from books. Sometimes you need to go through difficult situations to learn something from them. And most of the time, mentors have this kind of experience, which can be helpful for others.

Many businesses collaborate with vendors specializing in a business function. For example, a restaurant that partners with DoorDash for deliveries. This relationship is valuable for restaurant owners because they are experts in hosting, serving, and making delicious food, but not food delivery. So, it’s best to leave this department to a company with extensive knowledge.

Set achievable targets

We all set goals, but we’re not always successful when measuring them. And, without setting measurable goals, you are very likely to stay where you are or even go backward. A mentor can help you develop effective goals.

With the help of a mentor, you can set goals that can push you out of your comfort zone and help you achieve greater things. You will also learn to develop a strategy to convert your plans into achievable targets. For example, suppose you’ve decided to adopt email marketing as a strategy to attract new customers. In that case, a mentor can help you understand how to get more conversions instead of landing up in someone’s spam folder.

Also, it is one thing writing down a goal and working toward it, and another to setting a goal and sharing it with someone. Doing the latter makes you accountable and more likely to reach it.

Learn how to push through

Do you often feel satisfied with how far you’ve reached? Are you unbothered by what’s happening around you and how it can affect your business? If you answered yes, you are probably close to being complacent.

At first, being okay with where you are might not seem that bad. But, it is something that can affect or even stop your growth. By consulting a mentor, you can find out why you are where you are and how you can push through and move towards new heights.

During this process, you might even have a chance to discover something completely new about yourself. For instance, Kubera’s founder had little to zero experience in the fintech industry. But, after he faced a personal loss, he realized there were no tools in the market that did what he needed. This moment is when he was inspired to build a fintech product that can solve everyday problems in a completely different way.

Measure your productivity

Optimizing productivity is essential to business success. What does this mean? How do you measure and increase it? It is about the number of hours worked, the multiple tasks, and the issues addressed. Having a mentor with an impartial perspective can help you make better use of your time to get more done.

A mentor can help you understand how to measure productivity by defining the right metrics, recommending an external tool, or even tracking revenue. By measuring productivity, you will have the insights to make informed decisions about operational changes, hiring new talent, and implementing new processes and tools.

Enhance your standard practices

Since you are running a business, you might already have some processes. These processes are in place for different teams such as finance, marketing, operations, human resources, etc.

Now, to ensure you can make the most of your resources, it is essential to revisit these processes from time to time. This review cycle will help you uncover new ways to streamline your work, improve productivity, and increase profits.

A third-party perspective can help you improve how you are currently handling everyday activities. For instance, an advisor can help you learn if your accounts payable department uses software that can save time, cut costs, and build good relations with the team and suppliers.

Solve problems quickly

Saving the best for the last: the best part of having a mentor is that they can help you solve problems by offering a new perspective. When we are stuck, we think of the problem from only one or two angles. Unfortunately, this limited thought automatically restricts our ability to develop out-of-the-box solutions.

But, with a third-person perspective, you are more likely to get solutions. Studies suggest people are wiser when they have to solve someone else’s problem than their own.

Key Takeaway

From sharing their wisdom and helping you set targets to offering a third-person perspective, a mentor can be helpful in myriad ways. All you need to do is ask for guidance and be open to listening. After all, taking advice from someone more experienced will always help you achieve incredible business results.


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Why Even Crushing Content Failures Aren’t Mistakes

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Why Even Crushing Content Failures Aren’t Mistakes

Did you follow the Apple iPad Pro content debacle?

Here’s a quick recap. A recent online ad for the new iPad Pro showed a large hydraulic press slowly crushing various symbols of creativity. A metronome, a piano, a record player, a video game, paints, books, and other creative tools splinter and smash as the Sonny and Cher song All I Ever Need Is You plays.

The ad’s title? “Crush!”

The point of the commercial — I think — is to show that Apple managed to smush (that’s the technical term) all this heretofore analog creativity into its new, very thin iPad Pro.  

To say the ad received bad reviews is underselling the response. Judgment was swift and unrelenting. The creative world freaked out.

On X, actor Hugh Grant shared Tim Cook’s post featuring the ad and added this comment: “The destruction of the human experience. Courtesy of Silicon Valley.”

When fellow actor Justine Bateman shared the Tim Cook post, she simply wrote, “Truly, what is wrong with you?” Other critiques ranged from tone-challenged to wasteful to many worse things.

Actor Justine Bateman shared Tim Cook’s post on X, which featured the ad, and added this comment: "Truly, what is wrong with you?".

A couple of days later, Apple apologized and canceled plans to air the ad on television.

How not-so-great content ideas come to life

The level of anger surprises me. Look, the ad does show the eyeballs on an emoji-faced squishy ball popping under the plates’ pressure, but still. Calling the ad “actually psychotic” might be a skosh over the top.

Yes, the ad missed the mark. And the company’s subsequent decision to apologize makes sense.

But anyone who’s participated in creating a content misfire knows this truth: Mistakes look much more obvious in hindsight.

On paper, I bet this concept sounded great. The brainstorming meeting probably started with something like this: “We want to show how the iPad Pro metaphorically contains this huge mass of creative tools in a thin and cool package.”

Maybe someone suggested representing that exact thing with CGI (maybe a colorful tornado rising from the screen). Then someone else suggested showing the actual physical objects getting condensed would be more powerful.

Here’s my imagined version of the conversation that might have happened after someone pointed out the popular internet meme of things getting crushed in a hydraulic press.

“People love that!”

“If we add buckets of paint, it will be super colorful and cool.”

“It’ll be a cooler version of that LG ad that ran in 2008.”

“Exactly!”

“It’ll be just like that ad where a bus driver kidnaps and subsequently crushes all the cute little Pokémon characters in a bus!” (Believe it or not, that was actually a thing.)

The resulting commercial suffers from the perfect creative storm: A not-great (copycat) idea at the absolutely wrong time.

None of us know what constraints Apple’s creative team worked under. How much time did they have to come up with a concept? Did they have time to test it with audiences? Maybe crushing physical objects fit into the budget better than CGI. All these factors affect the creative process and options (even at a giant company like Apple).

That’s not an excuse — it’s just reality.

Content failure or content mistake?

Many ad campaigns provoke a “What the hell were they thinking?” response (think Pepsi’s Kendall Jenner ad or those cringy brand tributes that follow celebrity deaths).

Does that mean they’re failures? Or are they mistakes? And what’s the difference?

As I wrote after Peloton’s holiday ad debacle (remember that?), people learn to fear mistakes early on. Most of us hear cautionary messages almost from day one.

Some are necessary and helpful (“Don’t stick a knife in a live toaster” or “Look both ways before you cross the street.”) Some aren’t (“Make that essay perfect” or “Don’t miss that goal.”)

As a result, many people grow up afraid to take risks — and that hampers creativity. The problem arises from conflating failure and mistakes. It helps to know the difference.

I moved to Los Angeles in 1987 to become a rock ‘n’ roll musician. I failed. But it wasn’t a mistake. I wasn’t wrong to try. My attempt just didn’t work.

Labeling a failed attempt a “mistake” feeds the fears that keep people from attempting anything creative.

The conflation of failure and mistakes happens all too often in creative marketing. Sure, people create content pieces (and let’s not forget that there are always people behind those ideas) that genuinely count as mistakes.

They also create content that simply fails.

Don’t let extreme reactions make you fear failures

Here’s the thing about failed content. You can do all the work to research your audience and take the time to develop and polish your ideas — and the content still might fail. The story, the platform, or the format might not resonate, or the audience simply might not care for it. That doesn’t mean it’s a mistake.

Was the Apple ad a mistake? Maybe, but I don’t think so.

Was it a failure? The vitriolic response indicates yes.

Still, the commercial generated an impressive amount of awareness (53 million views of the Tim Cook post on X, per Variety.) And, despite the apology, the company hasn’t taken the ad down from its YouTube page where it’s earned more than 1 million views.

The fictional Captain Jean Luc Picard once said, “It is possible to commit no mistakes and still lose. That is not weakness. That is life.” The Apple ad turns that statement on its head — Apple made many mistakes and still won a tremendous amount of attention.

I’m not suggesting that people shouldn’t criticize creative work. Constructive critiques help us learn from our own and others’ failures. You can even have a good laugh about content fails.

Just acknowledge, as the Roman philosopher Cicero once wrote, “Not every mistake is a foolish one.” 

Creative teams take risks. They try things outside their comfort zone. Sometimes they fail (sometimes spectacularly).

But don’t let others’ expressions of anger over failures inhibit your willingness to try creative things.

Wouldn’t you love to get the whole world talking about the content you create? To get there, you have to risk that level of failure.

And taking that risk isn’t a mistake.

It’s your story. Tell it well.

Subscribe to workday or weekly CMI emails to get Rose-Colored Glasses in your inbox each week. 

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Cover image by Joseph Kalinowski/Content Marketing Institute 



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The Future of Content Success Is Social

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The Future of Content Success Is Social

Here’s a challenge: search “SEO RFP” on Google. Click on the results, and tell me how similar they are.

We did the same thing every other SEO does: We asked, “What words are thematically relevant?” Which themes have my competitors missed?” How can I put them in?” AND “How can I do everything just slightly better than they can?”

Then they do the same, and it becomes a cycle of beating mediocre content with slightly less mediocre content.

When I looked at our high-ranking content, I felt uncomfortable. Yes, it ranked, but it wasn’t overly helpful compared to everything else that ranked.

Ranking isn’t the job to be done; it is just a proxy.

Why would a high-ranking keyword make me feel uncomfortable? Isn’t that the whole freaking job to be done? Not for me. The job to be done is to help educate people, and ranking is a byproduct of doing that well.

I looked at our own content, and I put myself in the seat of a searcher, not an SEO; I looked at the top four rankings and decided that our content felt easy, almost ChatGPT-ish. It was predictable, it was repeatable, and it lacked hot takes and spicy punches.

So, I removed 80% of the content and replaced it with the 38 questions I would ask if I was hiring an SEO. I’m a 25-year SME, and I know what I would be looking for in these turbulent times. I wanted to write the questions that didn’t exist on anything ranking in the top ten. This was a risk, why? Because, semantically, I was going against what Google was likely expecting to see on this topic. This is when Mike King told me about information gain. Google will give you a boost in ranking signals if you bring it new info. Maybe breaking out of the sea of sameness + some social signals could be a key factor in improving rankings on top of doing the traditional SEO work.

What’s worth more?

Ten visits to my SEO RFP post from people to my content via a private procurement WhatsApp group or LinkedIn group?

One hundred people to the same content from search?

I had to make a call, and I was willing to lose rankings (that were getting low traffic but highly valued traffic) to write something that when people read it, they thought enough about it to share it in emails, groups, etc.

SME as the unlock to standout content?

I literally just asked myself, “Wil, what would you ask yourself if you were hiring an SEO company? Then I riffed for 6—8 hours and had tons of chats with ChatGPT. I was asking ChatGPT to get me thinking differently. Things like, “what would create the most value?” I never constrained myself to “what is the search volume,” I started with the riffs.

If I was going to lose my rankings, I had to socially promote it so people knew it existed. That was an unlock, too, if you go this route. It’s work, you are now going to rely on spikes from social, so having a reason to update it and put it back in social is very important.

Most of my “followers” aren’t looking for SEO services as they are digital marketers themselves. So I didn’t expect this post to take off HUGLEY, but given the content, I was shocked at how well it did and how much engagement it got from real actual people.

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7 Things Creators Should Know About Marketing Their Book

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7 Things Creators Should Know About Marketing Their Book

Writing a book is a gargantuan task, and reaching the finish line is a feat equal to summiting a mountain.

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