When I began my career in radio, I worked on the creative, rather than the business, side of the industry. I was in the programming department and would write and produce for different shows. I devoured the newspapers every day looking for potential topics and comedy bits. It was fun, and my mind was thinking very differently from my later focus on how to build relationships and generate revenue. Although, I was already practicing the relationship aspect when booking guests for the show.
I was fortunate to take to both the job and the industry, and I was promoted along the way within programming. However, at some point, I realized that I was working at the only sports radio station in Boston; I never wanted to leave Boston, but I thought that there had to be more for me for a career. At the time of this epiphany, the station manager, Bev Tilden, was also running marketing. Bev had a very creative radio mind and she understood how to get listeners to tune in and stay tuned. As always in radio, one GM left and another came in and Bev just didn’t click with the new GM. So, Bev was off to another challenge.
The new GM, John Maguire, came to me and said, “Lou, Bev is moving on. We love what you’re doing in programming, so you’re fine, but we will need to search for a new marketing director.” I had a moment of clarity. It was like something you’d see on a TV show where everything stops around you, but you are still moving at full speed. In an all-out, overachiever, knee-jerk response I said, “Let me do it.” John gave me a smirk and said, “Lou, you’re great at programming, but what do you know about marketing?” This was when I adopted my mantra that I still utter today when questioned or challenged: “How hard can it be?”
John chuckled and said that the station needed someone with marketing experience, because it had the potential to become #1 in the ratings. Again, with more balls than brains, I pushed on. I asked, “How long will it take you to find a new marketing director?” He pondered and stated that it would be three months or so, which led me to a life-changing moment. I said to him, “Let me do it while you are searching so we don’t lose any ground. You don’t have to pay me anything extra, and if I’m slacking in my primary function, you say the word and I will focus purely on programming.” I’m paraphrasing, of course, because that was almost 20 years ago – but that was the general conversation. I guess I made a valid pitch because he agreed. Once I got a hold of the opportunity I wasn’t letting go.
Three months turned into a couple of years, and this inexperienced, untrained marketing director was over-achieving and delivering beyond expectations. I’d never had a marketing job; I’d never taken a marketing class. Yet I was marketing this sports station onto the map. The funny thing was that at one point, after achieving some marketing success, I remember giving a programming concept to an on-air talent, and he said to me, “Lou, you’re great at marketing, but leave the programming to us.” Ha, I’d re-made myself so much that I was now viewed not as a programming person with six years experience but as a marketing guy.
And there was no looking back. Because I had no pre-conceived notion on how to market, it allowed me to be open to and create different ways to engage with our consumers – listeners. The key to all of this was that I understood the programming of the station better than most. Because I was creating programming to engage and entertain the listeners, I had to know who the listeners were and what they liked. I was in tune with our listeners and I knew how to interest them so they would check us out. I knew how reach our listeners because I talked with and listened to them.
It’s important to realize that the only true barrier in life is you. Sure, there can be obstacles that you face every day and people who are impediments to achieving your goals, but ultimately, you will be the reason that you achieve or fail. I quite often tell folks that they have to Go Do. Frequently, on social media, you will see that two-word charge from me because I hope it will click with folks in need of motivation. There are so many people out there with the “woe is me” attitude; what they must realize is that they are causing the woe and they are the only conduit for change.
Excuses are easy to develop and are, quite frankly, a crutch to lead you to failure. The thought behind failure is not that different from thinking about what your next steps to achieve success will be. You only need to adjust your approach and start believing anything is possible. I realize that seems like a statement you would read on a mug or a bumper sticker, but it’s truly the foundation to your ability to achieve. Ok, let me put it more bluntly: stop your whining and get off your ass and get it done. If you put it in your mind that something is unobtainable, then of course it will be; that thought is pure rubbish – anything is obtainable if you put your mind to it.
I grew up in East Boston, and my family did not have a lot of money and connections, so when it was time to go out and start a career, I had to start from scratch and build relationships and a network of folks. I am sure this is true for most people. I could have used it as an excuse for underachievement, but I was oblivious to the concept that I couldn’t do absolutely anything. I was blessed with a very supportive family that led me to believe that I was spectacular in every way. The reality was that I was an average kid with average grades. I was ok in sports, but nothing special. However, my family propelled me into believing that I was exceptional. The more they told me how tremendous I was, the more I tried to accomplish. They were actually right about me, but it wasn’t my talent or skills that were spectacular, it was my approach and optimism that were the key components that allowed me to believe I could achieve anything.
So, there I was, with zero prior experience and zero marketing training, running marketing for a very popular radio station in Boston. The same confidence that I could take over marketing for the radio station also led me to my next marketing job. Most people simply shook their heads and questioned, “Why him?” Becoming Chief Marketing Officer for the Patriots was an incredible quantum leap for this kid from East Boston with no formal marketing training. But, once again, “how hard can it be?” rang true, and when I got into the position, I just rolled up my sleeves and got stuff done. While most people were analyzing the benefits of why things could work and the negatives to why they wouldn’t, I was out doing and making things happen. Again, more balls than brains, but effective.
Ok, I believe you get the picture. But it’s only one piece of the puzzle. Because I wasn’t trained, I didn’t realize that I was doing research and analyzing the situation the way others with MBA’s might approach things. At the radio station, I was a producer, and part of that job was speaking with callers to see if they had valid points to contribute to the shows. What I didn’t fully realize at the time, but makes perfect sense to me now, is that through those conversations, I obtained a more complete understanding of our listeners, who were our consumers. I understood their opinions and views, which led me to know their likes and dislikes. Knowing in-depth details about your consumer puts you on a clear path to create products and services that they would actually purchase. It also allows you to understand how to communicate with them and, quite frankly, that’s all marketing really is – knowing who to talk to about a certain product or service.
I did the same thing when I took over marketing for the New England Patriots. I went out to the parking lots and chatted with people tailgating at every game; the conversations allowed me to understand the fans better. It also helped me know how to assist our corporate partners in better ways. So even though I wasn’t analyzing graphs and pie charts, I was getting a clear picture of what our fans wanted. I was collecting data, analyzing it and making key determinations. At the time, who knew? We also spent a lot of time talking with corporate clients and knowing what was important to them. We began forming great relationships with our customers, which allowed us to do more for them and grow our business. It really clicked for me when I realized that marketing was all about forming relationships with your customers at various levels. For our corporate clients, we sold them signs, promotions, and media to recognize revenue, but our true function was to help them do business. No one fully understood what a sign did for their business, but when you open doors and drive business for them, that tangible aspect is easy to grasp.
All of this helped me come to the conclusion that we couldn’t just be marketers or sales people; if we wanted to be wildly successful, we had to change our methods and fully become Relationship Architects. The relationships we had with our fans and customers were the key to success and revenue growth. So simple, yet most miss the point. We really began honing our skills in learning more about our customers. Even though it was research, it was done in a more “roll up your sleeves” approach to understanding our target demos and building unbreakable relationships with our consumers. But, it was all data related and the correct insights allowed us to make valid decisions and to soar.
The Go Do approach took an East Boston kid with zero marketing experience and allowed him to become a marketer. Not only did I become a Chief Marketing Officer for an NFL franchise, but with no marketing degree or PhD credentials, I was also asked to teach a marketing class at Boston College. I am pleased to say that my class always had a waiting list. It was not the typical class, and I’m sure many educators could critique my unconventional methods to convey knowledge, but what matters to me is that, every year, multiple students email and call me to say that what they learned in class helped them get a job or gave them an edge in a meeting. It’s not just about graphs and diagrams, it’s about results. That is why it’s so important to Go Do. I do not know a lot, but I know that most people reading this are smarter than I am. If I can break the barriers and become a marketer, then any one of you can do the same in any area you desire.
Go Do has led me to a fulfilling entrepreneurial career. I have started and built companies. I have assisted others in building their companies, written many blog posts and a book published by McGraw-Hill and I’m not even close to stopping, because I do not know where Go Do will continue to take me. I don’t think any direction will surprise me either, whether it be direct to consumer concept, such as Ocean’s Table or wearable devices to help identify COPD attacks like Sonasure, I am ready for the Go Do Journey!
We live in uncertain times and crisis can put you in a funk and sometimes a complete tailspin. But always remember, that crisis will pass and you want to make sure that you were not standing still while uncertainty was swirling around you. People inevitably will cast shade on you and what you believe in. People will doubt you. But don’t listen to them or agree with their negativity. Believe in you. Never let anyone tell you that something can’t be done or that you are not qualified – especially yourself. You can do anything if you truly want to. Always think “How hard can it be?” and Go Do!