“Validation of your knowledge is important. Even if you feel like you know it all, you need somebody to validate it. I think it’s important for us to have those standard bearers out there and to have people that realize this is part of how you get ahead in the world.”
Welcome to ‘Take Ten’, OMCP’s blog where we spend 10 minutes, more or less, talking to online marketing thought leaders, educators, and career professionals about training and certification with hosts Jane Flint and David Temple.
OMCP: Okay, so this is Jane Flint and we’re talking to Aaron Kahlow who is, among other endeavors, founder and chair of Online Marketing Summit, founder and CEO of the Online Marketing Institute, CEO of PopExpert.com and most recently became founder and chairman of Mindful Leaders. Each project you’ve undertaken, Aaron, has an essential learning component. Tell us a little bit about why this is a passion and driver in your life.
Aaron Kahlow: Wonderful. If you don’t mind, I’m just going to give you a little correction on the title. All those that you referenced were past endeavors. I’m not currently CEO of all of those organizations other than what is now called The Mindful Living Institute. Yeah, so we’re happy to leave it at that. If you want, repeat the question because I want to give the proper consideration.
OMCP: Yeah. Just tell us a little bit about why learning is a passion, a driver in your life.
Aaron Kahlow: Because of the obvious. Without learning we stop growing, and when we stop growing we begin the path to dying. We need to keep creating these neural synapses. In a lot of the mindfulness space we talk about neural plasticity. If we don’t learn, we don’t get inspired. Learning is what drives all the inspiration, the new ideas, the new thinking, all the personal and professional growth. I just couldn’t imagine life without it, without reading a new book or listening to a new person’s ideas. Once we stop learning I feel we really start losing the passion for life, let alone the physicality of what happens when we start doing that.
OMCP: So when you started your online marketing career there weren’t a lot of places to learn about online marketing and I’m wondering how you solved for that. What what were the most useful learning topics you adopted or found?
Aaron Kahlow: Yeah. We’re talking like now in the late ’90s. Keep this in mind for all of you that don’t remember the world without the Internet. Learning became a little bit of a search type endeavor where you went out there and searched on back then Excite or Yahoo or AltaVista and of course Google. You just looked for people that were writing about these things. Blogs of course were starting to come on their own.
Finding books, having discussions, and a lot of it was also trial and error in online marketing. You try this. It didn’t work. I remember getting in the SEO business in 2001. Talk about trial and error, right? You figured it out. You built your own formula for SEO. It was a mixture of exploring and then finding a couple of good resources and then testing on your own.
A lot of that is where learning is. Today the resources are innumerable. It’s just a matter now of being a good curator versus an explorer and finding good places to continue to get good content in areas both that you’re interested in and I would even encourage areas that maybe are a little bit of a new spark. Keep reading the same types of business books or the same marketing books and you become this one-dimensional person that can’t get outside the box. Where all great growth comes from, which is why we’re here at the Growth Marketing Conference, is the ideas that are outside of the box. Expand your horizons would be one suggestion for common day curators.
OMCP: I like that differentiation, very helpful. What can you tell us about the development of the Online Marketing Summit and Online Marketing Institute and what path they are now on? Can you kind of point us…?
Aaron Kahlow: Yeah, sure. Having started both those organizations, they were built around the concept of learning and education and the need for it out there. The summit being an event that grew to quite a big event around the world. It was just nice. It was a natural trajectory of the interest in there for people to learn about online or digital marketing. We just became the fisherman’s net that we put out and we just helped people learn and we brought in the right speakers.
The Online Marketing Summit actually most interestingly was bought by a publicly traded company in London. Three years into it they actually shut it down, believe it or not. The one reason in my personal opinion now five years later I could talk about it is they just didn’t have somebody that was passionate about the topic. That was it. It wasn’t a matter of can they not execute on it or was it about me. It was they just needed somebody to coddle it, and they didn’t. It’s sad a little bit for me.
The Online Marketing Institute now is under the fold of PopExpert which bought it last year. That seems to be growing as fast as ever. Online learning, video based learning, on demand, little small chunks. It’s a wonderful place to go learn. I encourage everybody to go check it out. Even though I have no more really stake in that game, it’s been nice. It’s been nice to watch the adoption of learning online, this whole flipping the classroom model that Khan made very popular. It’s nice to see people there, but not to forget that learning is in both forms, both online and in person. They’re on a nice trajectory and continue to grow. There are a million learning experiences in building out those companies for sure.
OMCP: So what advice do you have for people who are just starting their careers in digital marketing, and what thoughts about competency-based certification and talent managment for online marketers do you have?
Aaron Kahlow: Yeah. I think the most important thing as a new marketer is to get a baseline on all things digital, because then you’re going to be able to make educated decisions throughout your career. What’s going to happen is typically if you’re a new digital marketer let’s say in your early 20s you might get pegged as a social media manager. Very typical solution there because you are more on social than everybody else. It doesn’t mean you know anything about social media marketing. Be careful not to get put into one category too early, even if you are for your job. Keep learning about all of the other things. That’s really the key out there.
The second I would say is getting certified is a good credential. You need to build your career. When you look at somebody’s online resume, LinkedIn, this person has content marketing experience. This person has content marketing experience. This person has a certification. This person does not. Who’s more likely to get the next job, promotion, whatever it may be? Validation of your knowledge is important. Even if you feel like you know it all, you need somebody to validate it. I think it’s important for us to have those standard bearers out there and to have people that realize this is part of how you get ahead in the world.
OMCP: That’s great. One of the cornerstones of online marketing professionals in addition to standards and certification in the profession is our code of ethics. I’m wondering what your thoughts are about how marketing and mindfulness are or can be balanced and supported [inaudible 00:06:36]?
Aaron Kahlow: Yeah. The core of obviously my mission now with The Mindful Living Institute is to help everybody find a better place in their own world, find themselves if you will. I think where that comes together in marketing or digital marketing is when you’re doing something out there, whether you’re sending out email campaign or you’re deciding whether to be aggressive about an advertising campaign, just think about the effect it has on you when you look at your own campaign and the emotions. A lot of our emotions sit in our body. Then, try to translate that back to the other person.
You can be really mindful about what you do, which basically translates to being thoughtful, versus just trying to go for the next buck. When you denigrate your brand, when you do things that are a little aggressive or a little over the top, you whittle down the organization instead of growing it and building it up. Just to be thoughtful or a.k.a. mindful about what you do and taking the time and the pause to really consider what the effect emotionally is of that campaign.
OMCP: Right. As I hear you say it, it sounds as if this is a tool or good business.
Aaron Kahlow: It totally is. When you talk about mindfulness, we’re starting to do a bit of work with leaders and how they can carry themselves with presence and for marketers, too, how you can have clarity and what’s most important, how to do this right, versus doing it. Especially when you’re in a leadership position, you need to make good decisions. Your perspective and clarity is utmost importance. It isn’t about the next email campaign you send out.
OMCP: Thank you, Aaron. Thank you for your time today. Appreciate.
Aaron Kahlow: You’re welcome. Thank you. Namaste.