We have enough in this world to drive us apart, what I would love to see is something that brings us together.
As a part of my Marketing Strategy Series, I’m talking with my fellow marketing pros at the top of their game to give entrepreneurs and marketers an inside look at proven strategies you might also be able to leverage to grow your business or career. Today I had the pleasure of talking with Noel Carroll.
As Chief Executive Officer of Biofriendly Corporation, Noel Carroll focuses on modernizing the company and pushing it toward a leadership role in the environmental space. Carroll has been involved with Biofriendly, in various capacities, since 2002 and took the helm of the business in March of 2018. Passionate about the environment, Carroll is widening the focus of the company from its flagship product (Green Plus® fuel enhancer) to a broader organization that educates, invests in, and promotes a greener planet.
Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting and what lesson you learned from that?
Early in our entertainment days, we were approached by a company to create custom socks with the faces of the characters in a show we made called Good Cops. We agreed to have this done and were quite excited by the prospect of seeing our mustachioed faces on the socks of millions, when we learned that we did not have the licensing rights to our characters because of a deal we made (and misunderstood) with a major studio. With utmost humility and a fair amount of shame, we explained the problem and the deal was no more. I did not learn the lesson that I should read every page of anything I sign, because I knew that. What I learned was that I cannot be lazy about reading every page of anything that I sign.
Consumers have become more jaded and resistant to anything “salesy”. Where do you see the future of marketing headed?
Green Plus is a business to business product. We make fuel cleaner and the need for cleaner fuel is directly related to public interest and pressure. Thankfully, the pressure exists regardless of our marketing efforts, so the trick for us is putting the concept of an energy transition fuel in front of businesses that have a longer path to renewable options. For this reason, the future of marketing for us lies with the leaders in green energy and green fuels. It is those thought leaders who help to steer fuel producing and consuming businesses toward better options for going green. This is why you see our business attached to the United Nations, the EPA, TCEQ and other organizations responsible for the environment.
What advice would you give to other marketers to thrive and avoid burnout?
It is hard to be positive if you are not doing something that in itself is positive. If your product or service is something that you feel negative about, then thriving is hard and burnout is easy. This does not mean that you need to quit your job or try to sell something else, but it does mean that you may need to rethink your strategy.
Most products and services were created to fill a need or provide help. Often when you feel negatively about what you are marketing it is because you are presenting it in the wrong way. Find out what it is about your product that is positive, that really helps. Then find the people who need that help and create a message that shows them why this is not just a product to make you money, it is a valuable ‘something’ that can improve their life or business in some way. This will not only bring success, it will make the day go faster.
Can you please tell us the 5 things you wish someone told you before you started?
- Business is about people, not transactions. My first business was an online soccer goal post-manufacturing and sales company. When I got into that business, I approached sales and marketing in an organized, almost mathematical way. My thought was that I needed to raise the number of sales opportunities in order to land enough sales to be viable. While this was true, what I learned was that each potential customer had their own set of problems to solve. They had their own struggles and their own specific hopes. As I became focused on helping my prospects solve their problems and getting to know what they were truly dealing with, I could close more deals with less leads, and I kept the customers for future sales. The same is true in regard to staffing. When you build a team with great people who have great ideas and big goals, everything is easier, everything just goes better. The important trick there is to make sure that the people you work with are acknowledged, incentivized and given the things they need to succeed, otherwise, you will find your best people working for someone else. Great people are gold, treat them like it.
- Failure is a gift. You have to try things to succeed and you have to take risks if you want to do something that no or few others have done before. The problem with taking risks or trying something new though is that you will absolutely, no doubt about it, 100% guaranteed, FAIL sometimes. Before making the show that built our entertainment company, I had already made a dozen other projects that flopped. Before figuring out the marketing strategy that launched my soccer goal business, I wasted thousands on a blown first attempt. But with each failure, something was learned. I improved. Don’t ever let a good screw-up go to waste! The mistakes that caused it and the resultant disaster will teach you more (if you let it) than a hundred victories could ever do.
- Perseverance might be the only skill you need to be successful. The one common denominator from my business life in soccer, entertainment, and today in the environmental business is that you have to keep going. There is no clock on life but death, so if you never give up, you will never lose. In all three of these businesses, there came a point that I was ready to give up. Had I done so, I would not be writing this article or doing my part to save the environment right now. With each project, I made the decision to continue and so all of them ended up as successes.
- Great leaders confront adversity. I have a very unscientific observation: 9,997 out of 10,000 people don’t want to be the one who has to give bad news, risk potential harm to another, or face mental or physical harm to themselves. This is because these things are the worst; pain sucks. Unfortunately, life can be painful, and business actually is a dog eat dog activity. Those people who can face adversity, solve problems effectively and keep their head when things are at their worst end up gaining respect, completing projects, and finding ultimate success. Every major success in my business and marketing life came from facing something that felt insurmountable at the time.
- Help others and you will be helped. With marketing, in particular, you cannot hope to succeed on your own. In this age of social media, there is a common mistake that talking to others about your product or service is the secret to getting the word out, but this is a lie. Have you ever been around someone who can’t stop talking about themselves? Have you ever noticed how off-putting that can be? With another digital media project, our goal was to get seen and covered by film reviewers in the digital media market. Instead of blatantly telling them about our project, we established a program where we would talk to them about what they were already reviewing and become superfans of the reviewers and the content that they were already reviewing. After sharing their channels and getting as many of the people in our own social networks as possible to see and share their content, we attracted notice. We became allies because we helped them. Once we were allies, they were willing to give us a chance and the next thing we knew, we received the digital reviews necessary to really grow that digital project.
What books, podcasts, documentaries or other resources do you use to sharpen your marketing skills?
I’m a big reader, so I’ll probably stick to that for this answer. It is my opinion that you need to understand as much about a topic as possible if you want to be able to market to its audience. That includes unpopular opinions and research on the subject. The problem with information in the digital age is that the best-funded source wins the information war, regardless of accuracy. So, the power of very large, powerful corporations to flood a field with data that helps them to sell a product is greater than you might think. The problem with this, is that true facts are more useful to you in your marketing strategy than popular facts that ignore crucial unpopular data. This does not mean that controversial data is good data, often it is controversial for a reason, I’m just recommending that you get as much data as you can, so that the useful truth can reveal itself.
As an example, when it comes to the environment, I read An Inconvenient Truth: The Planetary Emergency of Global Warming and What we Can Do About It, by Al Gore. This book and its accompanying documentary film were the landmark call to action that launched the modern fight against climate change. The opposite book is Apocalypse Never: Why Environmental Alarmism Hurts Us All, by Michael Shellenberger. Both were useful reads and between them, a clear consistent truth emerged that was very useful to our marketing efforts with Biofriendly. In understanding two opposing points of view and digging into facts that seem to conflict, I learned that it is very true that the earth is warming and climate change is already affecting our planet, but the technology to solve it needs far more innovation to completely solve the problem than we have been told. With this data, Biofriendly’s positive place in the world becomes clear. We need to save the planet and zero-emission technology is the only way to do it. Unfortunately, this technology is not yet ready to power our ever-increasing demand for energy. So, we need to buy time by reducing the environmental impact of the technologies that exist right now. That is what we do and that is how we market our own technology.
One more question: If you could inspire a movement that would bring the most amount of good to the most amount of people, what would that be?
How about an International Holiday called Agree-o-ween or something? On that day, everyone has to find a person who is their polar opposite in some regard, whether it be political, religious, sports team, or whatever. Someone you might even say that you hate. You and that person have the day to find something you agree about. It could be anything, booze, shoe brands, the need for well-sewn pants, it doesn’t matter, so long as you agree. Once you’ve found it, you spend the rest of that day obsessing over that topic together. That’s it. That’s all I want. We have enough in this world to drive us apart, what I would love to see is something that brings us together.
We definitely need a day like that! Thank you so much for sharing these fantastic insights.