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We Are All Marketing Scum, OR: How to Sell in a Soft Long-term Way20:46 with Colin Harmon
Colin Harmon talks about how to become successful by specializing in niche subjects.
[MUSIC] 0:00 Okay, so my name is Colin, and I am the owner of 3fe. 0:04 I do coffee. 0:11 So, coffee is everything that I do. 0:11 I've pretty much devoted my life to coffee for the past six or seven years. 0:14 And we do all aspects of coffee in many different guises. 0:18 And I want to talk to you today about coffee and 0:21 then also about something else that is of interest to me. 0:24 I wanna give you a bit of a back story first. 0:27 So, 3fe is admittedly a stupid name for a coffee shop. 0:29 It confuses people. 0:34 When you find out that 3fe stands for 0:35 third floor espresso, it gets even more confusing. 0:37 So, third floor espresso started here. 0:40 This is my apartment on the third floor. 0:42 And originally I didn't work in coffee, I worked in professional investment funds. 0:45 So, I was a trustee officer and my job was to make sure 0:51 that investment funds, namely PIFs and QIFs, 0:56 stayed in line with both legislative and fund-specific regulations. 1:00 >> [LAUGH] >> Yeah. 1:07 So, they're really nice people. 1:09 It was a great job. 1:11 The problem was, thus, seeing my career mapped out in front of me, 1:13 with a raise every seven months, and this many holiday days. 1:16 And everything just being packaged away and just this is how it's gonna be, 1:21 terrified me. 1:24 And what I decided was I was gonna jack it all in and 1:25 I was going to back to what ironically I did in university while I was studying for 1:28 this job which was work in restaurants, cafes and bars. 1:32 Now, I decided that I was gonna do something of that ilk. 1:35 I wasn't really a 100% sure. 1:39 But, off I went. 1:40 I got some jobs, and I realized very quickly that to 1:43 run a successful restaurant you need one of two things. 1:47 Either lots and lots of money, or you need lots and lots of experience. 1:49 And unfortunately I had neither of those two things. 1:54 So, I went to see the friend of a friend. 1:57 He was a consultant for restaurants and he said Colin, listen, 1:59 the only people that succeed from a low capital base like yours with respect is 2:02 the sort of person who picks one thing and they specialize on that one thing. 2:07 And they become that guy who can do that thing. 2:13 And instead of leveraging your business of monetary capital, 2:17 you then leverages of knowledge capital. 2:22 That make sense? 2:25 So I chose coffee. 2:26 So, I got a job at Coffee Angel, who have little on the river. 2:28 They also have shops in Dublin you should visit, they're awesome. 2:30 And at the time I ended up worked in the cars, on the river, in the cold, 2:33 in the shadow of the old building where I use to work. 2:38 And my old coworkers would walk past, and I'd go, hey guys! 2:40 And they go. 2:43 Hey, Colin. 2:44 [SOUND] >> [LAUGH] 2:45 >> So it was a hard slog, 2:47 but it was a good place to learn. 2:48 My boss, Karl Purdy, 2:50 decided that he was gonna force me to enter the Irish Barista Championships. 2:52 Now, the Barista Championships for 2:56 those of you that don't know, it's kind of like the Rose of Tralee for coffee, okay. 2:58 That's the best way I can describe it. 3:02 If you don't know what the Rose of Tralee is, just look at Irish TV this week and 3:04 you'll be appalled and shocked. 3:07 But that's kind of what it is. 3:09 Okay. 3:11 So, I entered us accidentally won us. 3:12 I do mean accidentally. 3:15 It's really competitive these days. 3:17 The Irish competition is incredibly high standard. 3:18 Back then it wasn't. 3:21 I was organized. 3:22 I practiced hard. 3:24 I made awful coffee, but I seemed to enjoy myself, they let me win. 3:25 I went to the world championships and this is like, now picture this. 3:29 You're talking about 4,000 people looking at you making cappuccinos and 3:32 giving you a round of applause for your foam depth. 3:37 >> [LAUGH] >> You guys think you're nerds, 3:41 not a chance. 3:44 Okay, so, this is the World Barista Championships. 3:44 I managed to finish fourth in the world championships out of 60 countries. 3:48 And, my motivation at the time and why I worked so 3:52 hard was purely based on the fact that I didn't wanna make a fool of myself. 3:55 And for that reason I did this. 4:00 So, I sold my car, I built a training room in my apartment. 4:02 And the name 3fe, Third Floor Espresso, comes from this place. 4:05 Make sense? 4:10 Okay. 4:11 Now, after the world championships I came back on a high. 4:12 And I realized this, I needed to get going, I needed to start my own business, 4:15 I needed to do my own thing and I had 5000 euros. 4:19 Now anyone that's worked in the service industry will know that 5000 4:22 euros will get you a pretty decent dishwasher, and not very much else. 4:27 This is a problem, so nobody is willing to lend me money. 4:31 Right after I left the bank, the market just dropped away, I think I forgot to 4:35 carry the zero or something, and Ireland was in a very bad place. 4:39 And I met a guy who ran a nightclub, and he said that he could get people into 4:42 the place between 11:00 o'clock at night and 3:00 in the morning, but 4:45 [INAUDIBLE] the place is dead, and it's in the city center and nobody is using it. 4:49 So he says, why don't you take it? 4:53 You can have it for free. 4:54 If you start to make money, you can pay some rent. 4:55 If you don't, at least you tried. 4:57 I said, okay that's the best offer I have. 4:59 This is the lobby of the Twisted Pepper Nightclub on Abbey Street ladies and 5:02 gentlemen after six hours of cleaning. 5:05 This was not very nice, it had broken glass, it had underwear strangely, and it 5:07 smelt of cigarettes and other stuff that we're not allowed to talk about on stage. 5:11 And this is where we began life. 5:15 So we called in every favor I possibly could from friends and family and 5:17 even enemies and we turned it into this. 5:20 So nobody really at the time called us a pop-up shop, 5:23 that wasn't really a thing, but that's what it is. 5:27 So all of those tables just rolled away. 5:29 And then, at night it was the lobby of a nightclub again. 5:31 And people would come in and say, Colin, you are crazy, 5:34 you are never going to be able to sustain yourself here. 5:36 And in truth I would have made more money if I was on the dole. 5:39 It just wasn't a really good source of income. 5:41 But what it was was a start. 5:43 And what I did here is meet people like [INAUDIBLE] from 5:45 Intercom will remember this. 5:48 A lot of the guys that are sitting over here will remember this. 5:50 It gave people a chance to come and 5:53 meet me and I could say to them this is what I wanna do. 5:56 Okay, this is an introduction. 5:58 And something will come from that, okay. 6:00 I could build a strong brand, a strong identity, 6:02 essentially working on two clear principles: make good coffee, 6:05 be nice to people, there's a really good chance that they're going to come back. 6:09 There's a really good chance. 6:14 And they did, so we started to grow, and 6:15 today we have our own shop on Grand Canal Street, which is in Dublin too. 6:19 We have a roastery that roasts coffee for 6:23 over 60 businesses around the country, and we employ 22 people. 6:27 We're growing fast. 6:32 We're profitable. 6:33 We supply some of the best cafes in the country, and on Fridays, we make donuts. 6:36 So, lots of things are going very well. 6:41 So, when Zach asked me to talk here at the show, I didn't really know what. 6:44 Cuz I could talk about grinder burrs but you'd all be asleep right now. 6:48 And there's lots of different aspects to what we do. 6:51 So, I was trying to think of something that wasn't just applicable to what I do, 6:53 but maybe you could take some stuff away. 6:57 And then I got a really odd email. 6:59 An email was from a company that did PR and marketing, and they said hi Colin, 7:02 we really love your brand, we love your identity, 7:07 we love what you do, we love the tone of what you guys do. 7:10 We come to the shop. 7:13 The staff are great.. 7:14 Love the Twitter, this is great. 7:16 We would love to do your marketing, your PR for you. 7:17 And I was like, oh, that's really, that's genuinely really nice. 7:21 So I sent them back an email and I said, guys, thank you so much. 7:24 It's really nice to get an email like that. 7:27 That's really cool, it's made my day. 7:29 And as far as the marketing and things like that are concerned, 7:31 we actually do them ourselves. 7:34 And I know it's not perfect, but we really enjoy it. 7:35 And we're learning from it all the time, so we're gonna hang onto that, but 7:37 thank you very much for the offer. 7:41 I really appreciate it. 7:42 And she emailed me back, and she said, oh, sorry. 7:44 I think I should probably make it clearer. 7:47 We'll do all of that, but we'll do it professionally. 7:50 >> [LAUGH] >> I didn't laugh. 7:53 I was like, yeah I'm just fucking around. 7:59 >> [LAUGH] >> I decided since 8:05 I'm generally a positive person, I didn't want to get into an argument. 8:05 So, I just did that wonderful swipe. 8:08 Goodbye, you're gone. 8:10 And I said how can I turn this into a positive. 8:11 So, today that's inspired me to come here and talk to you about this. 8:13 We're all marketing scum. 8:17 Okay. 8:19 Now, of course, I don't believe this and I don't believe marketing is scum. 8:20 In fact, I love marketing. 8:24 Yeah. 8:27 And we say that you love marketing, it kind of evokes a response from people 8:28 that you'd expect if you said something like, I'm a dolphin hunter. 8:34 But people hate marketing. 8:39 Really [LAUGH], it's not something that people aspire to be. 8:42 When you say, oh yeah, I'm just thinking about some marketing, they go, ugh! 8:46 It's not really something that people want to hear you say. 8:49 But I love marketing, and we should be allowed to love marketing. 8:53 When people think of marketers, they think of this guy. 8:55 >> [LAUGH] >> If he's in the audience, 8:59 I'm really sorry. 9:03 And the irony of it all is that marketing is in need of a rebrand. 9:03 That is the ultimate irony. 9:11 Thank you. 9:13 >> [APPLAUSE] >> The people in marketing have lost sight 9:14 of what marketing is. 9:17 That lady who send me the email has lost sight of what marketing is. 9:18 And it's not a rigid process. 9:21 It's not something that can only be done by an outside source, 9:23 that is done is a very specific and accurate way. 9:27 Marketing is done in many different ways and 9:31 we should be very open-minded about it. 9:33 We all are marketers. 9:35 I don't care what you do. 9:37 I don't care if you're a fisherman, if you're a footballer, 9:38 if you're a data Internet guy. 9:42 We are all marketers. 9:48 You are in charge of what people think of you. 9:49 You're a marketer, no matter what you do. 9:52 So there was a woman that worked in our office one day and 9:55 I'd been asked to come talk to a group of students in marketing and 9:58 she said Collin, you seem to go and talk about marketing a lot of these things. 10:03 I said yeah, I really like marketing. 10:08 She says I've never heard you once speak about marketing, and 10:10 at this stage she'd been working at [INAUDIBLE] for about two years or so. 10:13 And that kind of summed up everything about how our approach to marketing goes, 10:17 so this is a spoon. 10:22 Okay, it's a very pretty spoon. 10:26 It's made by WMF. 10:29 And my accountant hates me because every month we spend 200 euro on these. 10:31 And people steal them, they get thrown into bins, 10:36 I don't know, people add them to their spoon collections. 10:39 And we continue to buy them, and the reason is because, when you get a coffee 10:42 at 3FE, I want the cup to be really good, I want the coffee to be really good. 10:46 I want the cup to be the right temperature, 10:49 the coffee to be the right extraction, I want you to have a nice spoon. 10:51 And when you pick it up, the spoon feels really nice. 10:53 And that's an aspect of our marketing. 10:56 When you come to the door they should say hello to you. 10:59 They should be polite to you. 11:01 They should treat you with respect. 11:01 That is an aspect of our marketing. 11:03 We have a little green thing on the under side of our coffee mugs, 11:05 that's an aspect of our marketing. 11:07 And just doing fun and interesting things and 11:08 doing things correct, reflects in a very long term way on your business. 11:11 And is all part of your marketing. 11:15 One of the core principles of marketing is that it's appropriate. 11:19 So, appropriate 11:23 is the word that pops into my head a lot of the time when I think about marketing. 11:26 One of the very cool things to say these days is that advertising is dead. 11:31 You hear people say this all the time. 11:35 Advertising is awful. 11:35 It's dead. 11:37 That's rubbish. 11:38 Advertising is incredible. 11:39 It just needs to be appropriate. 11:41 Has anybody seen this ad? 11:42 Okay, this ad is Jean-Claude Van Damme top of two mirrors of these Volvo trucks and 11:44 they split across using their wonderful autodrive system. 11:50 And the sun comes up to Enya music. 11:55 It's incredible. 11:58 This ad probably cost more than our turnover. 11:58 And it's awesome. 12:02 And It's appropriate to a company like Volvo, 12:02 because they can sell a truck worth half a million euro off the back of it. 12:05 It's a very appropriate use of it. 12:08 For us, not so much because when we started 3FE, we had no money. 12:10 And we were trying to influence very small group of people in Dublin, 12:15 that were a little bit obsessive with their coffee. 12:18 Those people tended to hang out in Internet forums. 12:20 They also tended to have something what was called Twitter, 12:22 which was in it's infancy in Ireland, in 2009. 12:25 And we use Twitter. 12:28 It suited our budget cuz it was free. 12:29 And we grew the business off the back of it. 12:31 A very appropriate use of it. 12:33 Now that's not to say that Twitter can't be used by big business. 12:34 It can be used by big business as long as it's appropriate. 12:38 Does everybody know who Tesla is? 12:41 So for those of you who don't know. 12:43 They make electric cars. 12:45 And not kind of like [SOUND], little electric cars. 12:47 I'm talking like naught to 60 in 3.2 second electric cars. 12:49 These things are beasts. 12:53 To my mind, Tesla are changing the world. 12:55 They're making electric cars that everybody wants to buy. 12:58 They are changing the world. 13:02 And this tweet says, 13:03 these kids hope to never drive a gas car, this is an epic tweet. 13:04 It tells me a few things. 13:09 It tells me that Tesla is a strong company, tells me that they're ethical, 13:11 and it tells me that they're changing the world. 13:17 This is very, very appropriate. 13:19 It's a big company acting big. 13:20 I didn't want to hammer some small company but a cafe opened in Dublin last month and 13:23 they tweeted this, Drop by today to try our new range of sandwiches. 13:28 Now, when you're a small business, 13:32 one of the strengths that you have is that you have character and personality. 13:34 And what they've done here is that they've just sterilized 13:37 every bit of interesting out of their business, and put something kind 13:41 of informative-normative on the screen, and it's no use to anybody. 13:45 They're not playing to their strengths. 13:50 It's a small company acting big. 13:52 This one, for the record, I like McDonald's, 13:55 my first job was at McDonald's. 13:57 They have many good tweets, but this is a bad tweet. 13:59 You're the emoji hamburger to my emoji fries #FriendshipWeek. 14:01 I don't even know what that is, so it's a big company trying to act small. 14:09 Be like, hey dude, I'm your buddy. 14:12 You're not my buddy. 14:14 >> [LAUGH] >> It just doesn't work okay, and 14:15 the hashtag is ridiculous. 14:19 Like the hashtag has to be appropriate, 14:21 you have hashtag hybrid [INAUDIBLE] okay, it has a functional use. 14:23 It's reflective of something that's happening over here. 14:26 Okay, so it's reflective of something else. 14:29 In this instance, #FriendshipWeek is the thing. 14:31 The hashtag is the campaign, doesn't make any sense. 14:35 It's not appropriate to what we wanna do. 14:38 The hashtag is the cool dad of the marketing world. 14:40 I've actually just realized that I'm dressed as Clark Griswold. 14:45 >> [LAUGH] >> I really 14:49 should have asked somebody to watch this before I did this. 14:54 >> [LAUGH] >> I'm gonna move on. 14:55 Okay, wow. 14:57 So you hear this all the time. 15:03 Great products are easy to market. 15:05 Okay, everybody agree? 15:07 And you get the guy who comes on the stage and says, think of Apple. 15:08 Think of Tesla. 15:11 And that's ridiculous. 15:12 It's true, great products are easy to market. 15:15 But how come nobody ever reverses that? 15:18 So have you ever thought of the fact that your marketing budget 15:20 should be spent on your product? 15:23 Or on your service? 15:26 Because then you have a great product and then it's easy to market. 15:27 Make sense? 15:32 So in our industry what tends to happen is that you have a struggling restaurant and 15:32 they're not going very well, and sales are dropping. 15:37 They've got an overdraft, things aren't going well. 15:41 And they say, okay, jazz brunch. 15:43 We're gonna do a jazz brunch. 15:46 It's ridiculous, why wouldn't you just take that money and invest it in 15:47 the training, or in better products, or just making what you do better? 15:51 Go for a long-term soft marketing approach, while investing what you do. 15:54 The jazz brunch is like the death gurgle of the restaurant industry. 15:59 You go up by a jazz brunch, you go oh god, I like that place, 16:02 I'm sorry to see them go. 16:04 >> [LAUGH] >> It's not about looking for 16:05 the hardline stuff. 16:08 It doesn't matter if you have an aeroplane dragging a message across the sky, or 16:09 if you get 8,000 likes on Instagram. 16:12 They're all reflective of what you do at the center, and that is who you are, and 16:14 that is part of your marketing. 16:18 Don't ever forget that and don't be ashamed of that either. 16:20 I like to think that I'm strong enough now to ignore people that tell me that I 16:23 need to do this, that, and the other way of marketing. 16:26 But there was a time when I would have buckled to that email and 16:28 thrown money at that woman who suggested that 16:32 I should give her the money to do my marketing for me. 16:34 A big principle that we have at [INAUDIBLE] is that we 16:37 should deal with the customers that we have, okay? 16:39 So restaurants are forever outside handing out samples, doing flyer runs, 16:42 and its customers inside that aren't enjoying themselves. 16:45 So no matter what you do, 16:48 the best piece of advise is always to deal with customers that you have, 16:50 because if you look after them, they'll go and get more customers for you. 16:54 Cuz ultimately marketing is about trusting people. 16:59 That's all it is. 17:03 It's about trusting people. 17:03 It's about people trusting you or you investing your trust in other people. 17:05 The buzz word that people use is word of mouth. 17:09 Okay, we're gonna have a word of mouth campaign for our new product. 17:12 That's just trust, it's essentially you going to someone who trusts you and 17:15 saying yeah, you can trust that guy. 17:20 That's how it works, it's just trust. 17:23 And building that trust is really important for 17:25 businesses, no matter what you do. 17:26 And if you break that trust, it's really, really hard to get back. 17:28 In coffee shops, 17:32 that manifests itself as making sure the coffee is good all the time. 17:33 We don't ever focus on what the best cup of coffee we can make is. 17:36 Our focus every single day is on the worst cup of coffee. 17:39 They're easier to improve, and that always dictates what people think about you. 17:44 The worst experience you have at a business, or with a software package, or 17:49 anything, will always dictate what you think about it. 17:52 So we always focus on the worst cup. 17:54 It's easier to improve. 17:56 It dictates what people think about you. 17:57 It's important as well to think about the people that are in the business. 18:01 Because that's the best way to earn trust, 18:05 is that people see that there are people behind it. 18:07 So if anyone here follows [INAUDIBLE] on Twitter, 18:10 you can see it's a little rough around the edges. 18:14 And to me that's a good thing. 18:16 Okay, so what we did is I couldn't give 22 people access to Instagram. 18:17 That would just get messy. 18:21 So what I did is I started a Whats App group. 18:22 And anyone in the business, whether they work in the roastery, at the shop, 18:24 at a wholesale event, or at one of our wholesale customers, 18:27 can upload a photograph and a message. 18:29 And one of the four or five people that have access to Twitter and 18:31 Instagram can put it up, okay? 18:34 And it gives everybody access to it. 18:37 And you get to see everyone that's behind it. 18:38 It builds trust with the people that we deal with. 18:40 Now in this place called Bray, that some of you may never have heard of, 18:43 it's just south of Dublin in the north of Wicklow. 18:47 We have three guys at 3FE and they're from there. 18:51 And the guys that live in Bray have an unusual tendency to use the word vibes 18:53 in the wrong context. 18:59 So if you go on to the 3FE Twitter or Instagram, you'll see 19:01 a picture of a filter coffee, and it'll say something like filter coffee vibes. 19:05 I don't even know what that means. 19:11 So I said to them guys, that doesn't mean anything. 19:12 You can't just say you feel the coffee vibes. 19:16 And their response was [LAUGH]. 19:18 >> [LAUGH] >> So vibes it is. 19:19 >> [LAUGH] >> Vibes is popping up everywhere. 19:23 The best thing is that we have these corporate groups are based in Dublin that 19:27 follow us on Twitter, and 19:31 they're starting to say things like, oh great shopping mall vibes. 19:32 And you're just like, oh. 19:35 >> [LAUGH] >> So we have lots of vibes at 3FE. 19:37 But this shows people that there's people behind it. 19:39 There's a guy that works for us called Juan, he's one of our most valued staff. 19:43 He's a great guy. 19:46 Used to be a barista, now he does our website. 19:47 Does lots of training and events. 19:48 And Juan is amazing and he's from Spain and English isn't his first language. 19:50 And sometimes he tweets and his syntax isn't perfect. 19:54 And that's fine, there's a person behind it and I'm okay with that. 19:58 What I want to leave you with is this, 20:01 so my approach to marketing always comes down to this. 20:04 And it's a thought that I want to leave you with. 20:08 If you still think that marketing is evil and that it's not for you, and 20:11 it's not something that's your job. 20:14 There's a product right now, right this very moment. 20:16 And you would spend money on that product. 20:20 You'd throw money at it. 20:23 It would solve a huge problem in your life and would make you very happy. 20:24 You would then go and tell all of your friends about this product. 20:29 That product exists right now and they are gonna go out of business 20:33 before you find out about them, and that's because of bad marketing. 20:38 Thank you for your time. 20:42 >> [APPLAUSE] 20:42
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