How Being Real Will Always Trump Being Sexy: An Interview With Gary Vaynerchuk
This is part of our Entrepreneur Interview series.
In today’s world of marketing, the test you are either passing or failing is without a doubt, your ability to be authentic. You can hit all your targets as far as impressions, likes, followers and clicks in the short term and still lose the battle to the top if someone can out-real you. Yes, we just said out-real. And no one does real better than Gary Vaynerchuk, founder of VaynerMedia and author of Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook. Being true to himself is not just his personal brand, it’s his North Star. It’s no wonder his name is name synonymous with helping businesses grow and building engaged communities.
It’s also no wonder that when we asked Gary a few questions, we received nothing short of practical and personal insight, one sincere answer at a time.
The Right Course
Why did you start VaynerMedia?
My brother AJ was graduating college, and we wanted to do something together. That plus the combination of a lot of brands reaching out to me, my desire to break into consumer packaged goods, and my real want to build a “farming system” to groom people for other businesses made me feel like starting an agency was the right course for my career.
Show Me the Meaning of Being Lonely
What is the hardest part about being an entrepreneur?
I guess “the loneliness” would be the cliche answer for most people. To be honest, I’m so thankful for being an entrepreneur that I struggle to come up with a better answer for this question. But at the end of the day, the buck stops with me, and while I generally find it invigorating, it can also be lonely at times.
Started From The Bottom Now We’re Here
Who has been your greatest inspiration?
Again, not a very sexy answer, but my parents are very much my inspiration. They came to this country with nothing: no money, no language, but they built an incredible family, and an incredible base which lead to incredible success for all of us. As much as I love Jeff Bezos as an entrepreneur, and as much as I’ve been around the world and seen people do incredible things, nothing touches my heart like what my parents sacrificed to create a foundation for my continuing success.
Fearless Generosity - A Winning Combo
You explain in a Medium post: The Leverage of Being a Good Person, that “Lack of expectation and generosity are two lucky traits I have”. Can you explain how that mentality has helped you become so successful?
What those two things have done is:
1. I’m constantly happy to be taking on new opportunities and partnerships because I’m not crippled by the idea of someone letting me down. In essence, if the other person doesn’t reciprocate, I can simply move on. There are some people who are crippled by that, and it never allows them to even get started.
2. Much like the article says, generosity is leverage. By doing the right thing, You’re collecting points. At times I’ve cashed in on those points and they’ve come through, and at other times I continue to keep those points around in my bag in case I need them.
Commit to Actually Doing It
You really do put the ‘human’ back into marketing. In a recent Inc.com interview, you explain, with regards to Social Media, “The more you act human, the more you win”. This is true for all of Social Media, as people want to know who is behind the brand. How can big brands (Or small ones for that matter), act human? What does Vaynermedia do for its clients to act human?
The answer here is to actually do it. This is a question that is predicated on the same logic as “how do I get a six-pack stomach?” The answer is something that we all know: eat better, exercise, and do more sit-ups. The same way, the answer to this question is to “be an actual human!” It takes a huge commitment to community management (which is modern-day customer service). It’s being on and aware at all times so that you’re always available to respond to people and create context. And finally, it’s putting out content that is actually relevant to your audience. Being human is listening, and then saying something that brings value to the other person.
Avoid Dangerous Play
Your new book Jab, Jab, Jab, Right Hook, is out on the shelves now. In the book, you refer to jabbing as a way to patiently engage with customers in the Social Media arena. Who do you see doing great things today?
The truth is that I’m not spending enough time paying attention to other brands. The only work I’ve really done to look outside of my businesses and the brands we handle at VaynerMedia, is for the book. So Shakespeare Pizza is one that I can say with certainly because they’re in the book. But reading marketing and advertising magazines to say that “this brand is doing the best work” is a dangerous play that I really have no interest in doing.
The Hunting Play
In understanding what Onboardly does (PR and Content Marketing for Startups), how have you used either strategies (or both) to grow either WineLibrary or VaynerMedia?
The bottom line is that my relevance, and the relevance of my businesses in today’s society is completely predicated on content and PR. I use them as hunting plays for awareness, that ultimately lead back to the fact that I’ve built a great brand and a great company. That is what allows me to succeed.
An Open Book
Any tips, tricks, or things you have never shared before (that you will for us) that have helped you launch or grow your company?
Nope! My life is predicated on trying to articulate all the things I’ve done. It’s why I write books, and it’s why I’m always putting out content. Anything that I haven’t talked about is either something I just couldn’t recall, or it’s something that is too early-on for me to give a full endorsement.
About Gary Vaynerchuk
Gary Vaynerchuk is co-founder and CEO of a social media brand consulting agency, VaynerMedia, that has grown from a 6 people to an astounding 250-strong team. He is also a famed video blogger, co-owner and director of operations of an online wine retail store, Wine Library.
He is the author of popular marketing books including Crush It and The Thank You Economy. Gary is a sought after public speaker on the subjects of social media, brand building and e-commerce. Mostly, he's just an all-around good guy in love with the hustle.