How To Learn Entrepreneurial Marketing

So Distilled just got into the online education space (see: Announcing the DistilledU Public Beta). I’m pretty passionate about online education and learning.

DistilledU is a great step towards educational content, but learning is more than reading. Learning is best done by doing.

What Is Entrepreneurial Marketing?

We preach the mantra “content is king” all the time. But we’re leaving behind the days when 500 words of text qualified as “content”. Instead we’re in an age where video, images, code and custom 3d printed iphone cases are content. So what we’re really saying is STUFF is king. DOING is king. 

But the world is rapidly changing. Knowing WHAT to do is important. We’ve been floating around the idea of the “Agile CMO” here at Distilled for a little while. We like to work with clients who have agile CMOs and we like to think of each and every consultant as an agile CMO. What do we mean by this?

It’s in part the concept of the “growth hacker”:

Growth hackers are a hybrid of marketer and coder, one who looks at the traditional question of “How do I get customers for my product?” and answers with A/B tests, landing pages, viral factor, email deliverability, and Open Graph - from Growth Hacker Is The New VP Marketing

Combined with the idea of “agile creativity” which is best illustrated by this video from Google:

In essence - the most accomplished CMOs today are agile entrepreneurial thinkers, capable of creating things and hacking growth in innovative ways.

How Do You Learn to Create?

We’re faced with a very real issue here - how do you learn to create things? How do we learn to be growth hackers? A little while back I had breakfast with Gary Chou from Union Square Ventures and he basically gave me the answer.

Gary runs a course called Entrepreneurial Design which aims to teach people how to build things. It’s a very practical course designed to teach you how to build a company, site, product, vision etc. I highly recommend you browse through the course syllabus as it’s an goldmine of content - the lecture notes and video from classes are all available completely free online.

While the syllabus is excellent - what really struck me were the assignments. They start off very simple:

But gradually get harder:

Again - you should check out the whole list of assignments here. I love the fact that I’ve basically followed this syllabus over the last few years without realizing it.

20 Reblogs Is Easy!

Assignment four really hammers the point home - ship something that gets 20 actions. It doesn’t matter what the thing is, but ship it and get the results. It’ll teach you a lot - I don’t get 20 retweets on every tweet I’ve made, but I have done it. Likewise, I don’t always get 20 reblogs on tumblr but I’ve done it. 20 facebook shares? check. 20 Google+ shares? check.

Many of you will be reading this and thinking “oh, sure that’s pretty easy” - yes the point is that it’s not that hard, but have you actually done it? There’s a difference between those that create things and those that don’t. I’d urge you to diligently walk through the assignments above - it’s one of the best guides to becoming a better marketer that I’ve seen in a while.

What I’ve Learned From Gary

Every new hire at Distilled is encouraged to build their own site. It doesn’t matter what it is - just build something from the ground up and create things on it. This process is deeply satisfying and also educational but I think in future we’ll begin adopting something more akin to Gary’s entrepreneurial design course to give new hires a real taste of what it’s like to build something and we’ll also be looking to integrate this style of learning into DistilledU.

Of course, true to their word, the course has a tumblr where you can follow along. Check it out: I’ll leave you with this:

(image credits

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  1. This post has definitely hit home with me. In general, I'm a guy who loves the finer things in life (i.e. sitting on the couch, watching reality tv, and drinking chocolate milk) but in the past year I've made a serious effort to build more stuff and run with wacky ideas that I have. I'll tell you one's awesome! By building something you: learn a ton, meet new people, and (hopefully) help people. So, in short, I give this post a big thumbs up :).

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  2. Will Critchlow

    How did I not know about the entrepreneurial design course? I love that approach to things. Going to have to find some modules I haven't accidentally done and remedy the situation.

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  3. Just looked through the rest of the assignments and they really do look SUPER useful.

    Assignment Six - "Pitch a story or blog post you’ve written to 5 blogs, each of which reach a minimum of 50,000 uniques each month according to Compete."

    Very cool.

    Also - totally agree with the statement (and comment) about learning as you build. Most of what I have learned about marketing online has come from experience (failures and successes) with my own projects. There truly is no better way to learn than to take action.

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  4. Howdy Tom,

    I've been reading your stuff without having written any thanks for the solid and heavy hitting value you provide in each post.

    This post really resonated with me and I've very much been enamoured by the Distilled culture and influenced by the thought leadership as well.

    I'll have to tackle this stuff you covered.

    So.. thank you for doing what you do as I'm continually learning and improving myself as well.


    P.S. I've handed over my credit card to you guys for DistilledU the day you guys launched and freakin' pumped to learn what you guys have to teach!

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  5. Thank you Tom for putting this post together! It´s motivating and helps me start thinking about things i should have done but haven´t because of whatever reasons.

    I totally agree with Jason who said, that "building something" leads to "learning something".
    If you try - you can fail, but if you dont try to do something new, something that was always in your mind - the "big idea" you had - you will never know if it will fail.

    Especially the youtube video gave me that motivation to start something, to adapt things while doing something and just give your ideas a try.

    I´m really thankfull for that and gonna check out the assignments you pointed at :)
    And i as well agree with Phil who pointed out the awesomeness of doint something on your own and succeeding with it :)

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  6. Tom,
    Thanks for putting this together. I often hear a lot of people asking how they can 'learn entrepreneurship' and I think this is a great resource to get started. Now I have something that I can link back to when people ask :)

    To add to this, I'm sharing a Quora answer on fantastic startup/entrepreneurial resources.

    Hopefully that'll help whoever stumbles across this article!


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  7. Hey Tom,

    Thanks a lot for putting this awesome quotes here. :)
    You have wrote some really awesome points and it is really motivating for me.
    I think if the Marketing is done on the right direction then you can have quality results.

    Every one needs to learn as the life is name of learning and you can not learn every thing in your life. There is always a room for new things !



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  8. Hi Will Critchlow,
    Thanks for sharing this nice post!
    Though we always say that "content is king" but in this evolving era of web volume is also required.Quantity is also adding value in getting a high PR in the search engines.

    Thanks again

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  9. Hi Tom

    Great post, which will come in useful as a blueprint in the future to keep my mind on track, same as you I have been using many of these approaches already without thinking about it.

    How about a follow up post on real world case studies of how you answered the questions and the results?

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  10. Thanks Will Critchlow,

    As you rightly said, "Content is King" and it helps always in all the ways. Also social sites are helping alot in Brand Building and take Business to next level.

    Also your assignment has given me an idea of what to do next in my work list.

    Thanks a lot.

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  11. The exciting / cool part of this post is why were you meeting with a partner at Union Square Ventures :D?

    Also, I don't see where the videos are for Gary's course? I just see links to slides.

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