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Ways We Work

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Scott Stratten

President of UnMarketing

Scott Stratten is the President of UnMarketing. He is an expert in Viral, Social, and Authentic Marketing which he calls UnMarketing. Formerly a music industry marketer, national sales training manager and a Professor at the Sheridan College School of Business, he ran his “UnAgency” for a nearly a decade before solely focusing on speaking at events for companies like PepsiCo, Adobe, Red Cross, Hard Rock Cafe, Cirque du Soleil, Saks Fifth Avenue, Deloitte and Fidelity Investments when they need help guiding their way through the viral/social media and relationship marketing landscape. He now has over 175,000 people follow his daily rantings on Twitter and was named one of the top 5 social media influencers in the world on He has written four best-selling business books, the newest being “UnSelling: The New Customer Experience” which was just named “Sales Book of the Year” by 1-800 CEOREAD.

What do you do?

I’m the President of UnMarketing Inc., chief ranter, author and podcast cohost. That’s about it.

What do you find most rewarding about your role? Most challenging?

The main thing that we do at UnMarketing in terms of revenue is that I give keynotes at conferences. When I was younger I always wanted to be either a game show host or the lead singer of a rock band and realizing my talents for singing were limited, being able to stand in front of an audience of 500 or 5000 to give a keynote is pretty darn exciting. It’s awesome.

The challenge is the same thing because to do that I have to be on the road. The majority of my talks are based in the US and I do about 50 gigs a year so that puts me on the road a lot. So that’s a challenge for work and life. If I have a gig in Vegas that’s a 5 hour flight, 3 hour time difference, it takes you away from what’s important - being at home. So there’s a balance there.

How do you stay up to date with trends in your industry/field?

Two things. The nicest part of my job is that I don’t have a job. I literally don’t have a job. My only job is to stay on top of things. We’re at a fascinating time in the world where our community is our content curators. So if my friends on Facebook or Twitter share something, an article they found interesting that’s relevant to them, I know it’s going to be relevant to me. That’s why I think it’s important to make sure you cull your friends, make sure they’re of like-minds. If Alison (my partner) shares something, one of the pickiest people I know about content, I know I need to read it. Combine that with some Google news alert on a few topics I’m passionate about and I can really stay on top of it.

The other part is that we’ve created a brand at UnMarketing where if something hits the fan in business, it’ll come to us. Every message I get, whether it’s Twitter or Facebook or private message or an email it’ll always start off with “Did you see this UnMarketing?”. Your whole goal if you’re a brand should be to stay out of that email from somebody - by the way. For example this morning I woke up to a tweet from somebody in the US that said “I can’t wait for UnMarketing to share the train wrecks of Memorial Day-leveraging from brands from today”. That’s the brand we’ve set up, so if it hits the fan it’s UnMarketing. We don’t have to lift a finger, it comes to us.

Can you talk about how you built that brand to this point?

I think it was once I started the blog. I only post when I get really riled up about something and that’s not a brand thing, that’s a me thing, that’s a Scott thing. So when I realized the most important brand voice was my own that allowed me to create that. I really believe that if you are your authentic self, you have no competition.

One of the reasons I wrote UnMarketing and started the blog was I’d go into the book store and every marketing and sales book was about what to do and we just wanted to look at what not to do. I think you can learn a lot, sometimes more from mistakes than from reading case studies of good things that happened.

What are your top five applications or tools?

My phone - My trusty iPhone 6+ that doubles as a cafeteria tray if I ever want a turkey sandwich. Seriously though, my phone is really what allows me to do what I do. Which is travel and still do whatever work I’ve got to get done. Whether it’s reading, or research or just watching a stupid video because it eases your mind when you’re in a hotel. That functionality of a phone now being the epicentre of work has been a real game changer. Not having to be tethered to a work station to do what I need to do has made a big difference.

My iPad - I went from not using anything Apple to being an Apple fanboy. I never leave home without my Bose noise cancelling headphones, my iPad, and a neck pillow for air travel. The iPad has changed flying for me. My phone is kind of for work and my iPad is enjoyment. I load on movies, I’ll play a tower defence game, I’ve got Spotify on there. I learned not relying on the in-flight entertainment systems is a smart thing.

Tweetbot - One of the nice things about using something like Tweetbot (since I’m a fairly big deal on a fairly irrelevant site like Twitter) is that it allows me to keep up on things, but it also allows me to mute stuff on Twitter, so I mute every automated tweet. Any platform that automates tweets, schedules them or cross links them from Facebook or Instagram, I don’t see those on Twitter. It made Twitter relevant for me again because it had become irrelevant. You're talking to a guy who has tweeted over 110,000 times manually since 2008 and it became irrelevant for me because there was just so much noise. I decided to turn the noise down. Sometimes it's not the tools that are important but more how we use them.

For example, I’ve turned off all the notifications on my phone. I don’t get a notification when I get a new Facebook post, tweet or new email even. It doesn’t ping, so I don’t have that Pavlov’s Dog response to my phone. I still check it 300 times a day but I check it on my terms. That’s important when you’re trying to focus or with the kids. As an entrepreneur our brains are going 24/7, it doesn’t mean our phones need to be distracting us 24/7 as well.

Receipt Bank - This is an app that takes a picture of my receipts when I’m on the road. I know Quickbooks has something like that as well but this one uses that OCR thing where the receipt goes into a system and then an actual person goes through and adds the information in. Then it goes into our Quickbooks. I don’t have to have that shoebox of receipts anymore. It also works on email, so if I get a domain name or another digital receipt via email I can forward that to a Receipt Bank email and delete the original. That’s really kind of changed my life on the road. No more wallet stuffed with receipts and you know accounting is kind of important if you feel like paying your taxes.

Notepad - When I see all of this content everyday, either from it being sent to us or because of my community sharing it, you have to have a place to put it. I tried Evernote for a bit and I never got into it, so I actually just use the Notes app that’s the default on my iPhone and keep a running list of links. Once a month we record the Unpodcast and we do four episodes at once and these can really build up. I used to email myself a link every time and I’d have 45 emails sitting in my inbox that I’d have to go through. So I just keep a running list of links that I think are good for talks or books or the show and then once a month I spend one evening printing them off for the show and Allison and I will talk about them.

Best way to stay on top of email?

I’m very lucky to have Karen who’s my Coordinator of Awesome. She’s been with me for 10 years now. I originally hired her for the sole function of being the gatekeeper to my email. It was just getting so overwhelming. When you’re an entrepreneur and you’re trying to grow your business, you get so bogged down with tasks that have nothing to do with the core business. However we also have this struggle that we don’t want to give up those parts of it. Whether it’s because we think we’re the best at it or overwhelmed by it or it’s a trust issue or it’s an affordability issue that we don’t think we can hire someone. I started out with using virtual assistants to help with email and then I realized that my time was worth X amount of dollars and if I wouldn’t pay somebody $200 an hour to filter my email I shouldn’t be doing it.

I still do get emails because I have my own direct email address, so my job is to reply to it on my phone so it doesn’t become a “wait till I get to my desktop” task. Also I had to take back control of my email, just like Twitter. I had a huge mass unsubscribe to a bunch of newsletters and brands and I became very protective of my inbox. So I’m a rabid unsubscriber to stuff because the stuff I do stay subscribed to, I want to read it. Every morning I have a cleanse of any junk emails I’m not interested in and get rid of those right away so I can go on to read the emails I really want to read.

What is your best time-saving trick?

Between Receipt Bank, having an assistant and answering emails in real-time, all of that has really helped with managing time. Travel-wise my life changed when I got the Nexus card for travel. I don’t know why I haven’t had it my whole life. Being somebody who is travelling to the US 90% of the time, having that Nexus card makes customs feel like nothing. Literally I go to Pearson Airport and it takes me 2 minutes to go through customs and right into the Nexus security line and then it automatically pre-checks me. Same thing on the way back, after a long trip the last thing you want to be dealing with is 500 people in customs, I walk right through and use the Nexus machine. I’m not exaggerating when I say that was life changing. I should have done it years ago. Like you have your own freaking Nexus bridge in Niagara Falls, how much more do you want than your own bridge?!

What does your workspace look like?

Structure of your typical day, how do you divide your time?

The nice thing for me again, is that I really don’t have a classical job. I do 50 keynotes a year and we record the show once a month, and other than that I don’t have any structure.

On the road my structure is hop on a plane, get to a hotel, wake up, do a keynote, go back to the airport and either do the next talk or go home. So I do have a structure on the road that keeps it kind of familiar for me. I always bring my plug that takes an outlet and makes it into 4 USB ports so I can charge all of my devices on the go.
Pet Peeve: If I have to move the bed to find the outlet in your hotel but you're rolling out your brand new app, you’ve upset me.

I always travel with ear plugs so I can sleep no matter the environment I’m staying in. Familiarity in travel is hard to achieve but there are ways. That’s one of the reasons oddly enough that I started drinking Starbucks. I know that’s sacrilegious for a Southern Ontario guy to be a Starbucks fan but I started drinking it because it exists in the majority of airports and their recipes are consistent everywhere. For me getting to the airport and being able to grab a Flat White while I’m doing all of that waiting and have that familiar taste is a small but significant detail. So keeping some consistency within a bubble while I’m on the road is an important part of structuring my days.

While I’m at home, I don’t have a plan. That’s the nice point about getting to this point in my career, and it took a long time to get here. After this interview Alison and I are literally going to Home Depot to look at washers and dryers. Having no plan other than when the kids get home from school, we can do what we want. It’s a very cool place to get and to be able to get there before the classical retirement age is nice.

Why do you do what you do? What makes everything worth it?

I do what I do to be able to be home. It seems contradictory that I’m on the road so that I can be home but I used to do keynotes and consulting at the same time. I’d come home from doing conferences and I’d have to do client work and that was really not working for me. I wasn’t building this business so that I’d never see the kids. So I had to remove consulting, a very profitable section of my business and decide what I actually wanted. I had to ask myself if I really wanted the endless pursuit of the dollar and more dollars or decide that I could live fairly well with the amount I had and trade off more money for more time.

14 years ago when my son Owen was born I quit my last job. I travelled a lot for that job and I told the President that I couldn’t travel over the weekends and be in the office 40 hours a week as well. I told him I’d like to work from home and still travel for the training I had to do and I said if I don’t I’m going to quit. He said “Ah we’re not ready for that telecommuting stuff, but come back Monday,” and I said “No” and I walked out. This was a week before Owen was born and I had 64 cents in the bank. So that was dumb, but I’ve never looked back.

I don’t take every speaking gig or every offer, I have to decide if it’s worth not being home for. So I started putting a price on it. If I took every gig I’d speak 365 days a year. The funny thing is once I started saying no and saying “you can’t hire me, this isn’t a pitch I’m just telling you the truth”, from the stage, it makes people want to hire you more.

It certainly wasn’t an easy choice to make back then but I’ve never once said “you know I really wish I had spent more time at the office, listening to BS politics and less time at home with my son.”

I don’t at all say that to diminish people who do need to go into work, or be on the road more to provide. I know I’m extremely blessed that I have a skill set that allows me stand on a stage and perform and make good money. The ability to do that is an honour.

What is the greatest piece of career advice/wisdom you’ve ever received?

  1. Be careful of the endless pursuit of more. Sometimes you have to stop so you can keep going. It applies to everything. We get a house and we want a bigger house, we get a client and we want a bigger client and we never stop to realize that we are where we always wanted to be. I know that I’m where I always wanted to be, and that’s pretty freaking cool. There’s a Fight Club quote “We work at a place we don’t like, to make money to buy stuff we don’t need, to impress people we don’t know…” and it’s exactly that. So decide what’s important to you.

  2. Learn on someone else's dime. Work for someone first. You can read about stuff and learn things in school but to learn the game and the world of business, it’s nice to do it while still getting a paycheque to start.

  3. No one owes you anything. No one owes you clients, nobody owes you anything. You need to go get it. You might obsess over your business 24/7 but nobody else does. That’s a good thing. Just realize you’re not the focus of anyone else’s attention, so you need to be your biggest ally and your biggest asset.

  4. Always be appreciative. When someone comes up to you and takes the time to say they loved your talk, or they love your book or your work, it took a lot for them to do that. People never forget the person who appreciates them and the person who doesn’t. I still remember the people who brushed me off when I wanted to show my appreciation.

Who would you like to see featured on Ways We Work?

Alison Kramer - My better half in every sense of the word. I love her view on life and I’ve moulded a lot of mine because of her influence.
Mitch Joel - He’d be great. He’s another Canadian author and speaker and fellow snarky person.
Ron Tite - Also a great speaker and runs the Tite group and agency, he’s a trained comedian and Second City alumni so he’s got a great perspective on things.
Jay Baer - Great marketing guy in the States.
Amanda Hite - She’s a great person to talk to on the business of doing good. For humanity, for people for brands and building that as a business.