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We Are Iron Man: An Introspective Pause, With Popcorn

Just go with it for a minute…

Everybody loves a process. And for good reason. Processes make things clean and simple. They ensure that things don’t get missed, that you can consistently deliver the same proven steps and, hopefully, get the same proven results.

And if you’ve paid attention at all, you know that here at Mack Web Solutions, we really love a good process. We research and test and put the steps together and shuffle them into the optimum arrangement. And then we share them with all you lovely people.

Because in addition to loving processes, we also love helping people.

(And ice cream. We love ice cream almost as much as being helpful and slightly more than processes).

But there is a very important piece to the business of web marketing that we try to keep sight of through all the processing and systematizing that we do.

We call it: The Human Element.

The Man in the Suit. (Which is entirely different from the Man in the Iron Mask).

I’m sure that sitting in a movie theater is hardly the strangest place to have an epiphany.   (We took a poll here in the office and decided that the actual strangest place to have an epiphany would be Disneyland or Six Flags. Because between the overstimulation and the sugar high, who has the concentration for soul searching?)

So, no, a theater isn’t that odd. All kinds of deep and meaningful can happen in a movie:  It’s A Wonderful Life and Shawshank Redemption and Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind and The Great Mouse Detective. (What do you mean a talking mouse who tracks down missing people and foils regicide attempts isn’t meaningful? It’s clearly symbology for the mysteries of the cosmos. Just ask Douglas Adams).

An epiphany in a movie theater in the middle of a summer blockbuster (and a sequel, at that) is a little odder.

Nevertheless, an epiphany is what I had, while thoroughly enjoying the charmingly irreverent Robert Downey, Jr. in Iron Man 3.

It was a very small epiphany but worthy of the name, nevertheless: We are Iron Man.

Without spoiling the movie for you, let me sum up the lesson learned in this third(ish) installment in the franchise:

The fancy (and it is hella fancy) suit isn’t what makes Tony Stark Iron Man. It is Tony Stark who gives the suit its name.

(Or something like that. The movie, entertaining though it was, didn’t do a particularly awesome job at closing all the emotional loops).

But the idea is there, all the same. He needs the suit to do all the high-flying, boat-exploding, damsel-rescuing stuff he does.

But is Robert Downey, Jr. himself…er, I mean, Tony Stark – with his ingenuity, his determination, his charm, and his charisma – who actually drives all of these accomplishments. And even when stripped of the armor, he manages to win the day.

(Uh…that might have been a little bit of a spoiler. Sorry. But it is fairly standard fare for the hero cycle, right?)

Processes are the suit.

So when I say that the Mack Web team is Iron Man, I don’t mean that we’re genius billionaires with alcohol dependencies and a ‘saving people’ thing. What I mean is that we’ve managed to find the balance between the magic suit of awesome and human anima that truly drives progress.

(And we did it without blowing anything up or spiraling into a self-destructive morass of booze and egotism. So take that, Tony Stark).

Yes, we love and use the processes that we’ve developed and we put them front and center in most of our public outings.

But inbound marketing (and Mack Web Solutions, in particular) is about more than the tools. What sits right at the heart of our company and our team is the understanding and knowledge of what we call ‘The Three Rs of the Human Element.’

(Well, sometimes we call them that. Sometimes we just call them, ‘that stuff. Y’know, the good stuff.’ An eloquent bunch here at Mack Web Solutions, I tell you what).

So, the three Rs: Roles, Relationships, and Reasons.

A quick note on the Three Rs.

As we talk about the three Rs, you’ll notice they’re all quite different in how they fit into the big picture. But the thing they have in common, the thing that ties them all together, is that they are all driven by people.

By being a person among people.

Which is the one thing we never want to forget to do. Be a real, live person with a soul who remembers that they live in a world driven by other such people, flawed and fantastic as they are.

So. There. That’s that. Note over. Back to our regularly scheduled programming.

Roles: Working with the right person.

AKA, If Your Archnemesis Has Developed Regenerative Technology, Make Sure the Guy At Your Back Doesn’t Have an Amputee Grandchild. (A bonus lesson, courtesy of Iron Man).

In most of the internal processes we’ve developed and shared, there is at least one portion that deals with assembling and training your team. Getting the necessary buy-in and priming them for success.

The Human Element (can you hear the appropriately dramatic echoes?) is an inescapable part of this. Because your team is made up of people, each with their own strengths, weaknesses, enthusiasms, and prejudices. And you have to be prepared to make allowances for that simple fact.

This doesn’t mean that you don’t train and educate and motivate and, when necessary, scold.

It does mean that you can’t just arbitrarily assign the roles to people on your team. Just because your 22-year old intern is the only one who knows how to use Facebook doesn’t mean that they should be running your social media.

It means that you need to be deliberate about how you assign the roles on your team. Web marketing has a lot of moving pieces and most of them you shouldn’t hand them out willy-nilly to whoever has a free moment. Instead, figure out who they’re best suited for and then find a way to make the balance work.

Some of that is obvious. You don’t ask the girl from whom crayons run away in terror to do your design. You don’t ask the introvert to run your social.

If that means hiring more people or different people, then that’s what you do.

That’s the dream anyway. To be able to maneuver the exact right people into the exact right positions.

But drastic personnel shifts aren’t the only, or even the first, solution.

Take the time to approach the team as if they were real people. Explain what you hope to accomplish with inbound marketing. Take the time to tie it to your real company goals. Don’t hesitate to offer training and time to get up to speed.

Be a person among people.

(See how that ties in? Nifty, right?)

Relationships: Much like Soylent Green, the Internet is people.

AKA, If Your Flying Suit-Robot Mistakenly Crashes You in the Middle of Nowhere, Tennessee, It’s Not a Good Idea to Alienate the Weirdly Tech-Savvy Kid With the Potato Gun.

This one is kind of a duh to anyone who’s been paying attention to the recent trends in search. Automated link building and mechanical SEO aren’t enough.

To really harness the power of the Internet, you need to capture the hearts and minds of the people who surf it.

This means reaching out both on and offline to the influencers in your industry. If they know you and like you and respect you as a person representing your brand, they’re a lot more likely to share and promote your stuff, wielding their influence on your behalf.

They’re also a lot more likely to share their wisdom and insight with you. Almost as if you were a friend or a mentee or something. Crazy, no?

It also means knowing what drives the people in your customer base audience. What do they really want from you? What resources are missing from the vast cacophony of the Internet? What is about you and your brand that calls a response from them?

You know how you find out honest answers to those questions? You develop relationships with the actual people who buy your product or use your service. And then you ask them.

And how do you develop these relationships? Be a person, of course. Be transparent, be enthusiastic, be humble, be generous. Take the time to listen as well as talk. Put yourself in their shoes and then act accordingly.

(But don’t forget to give the shoes back. Nobody wants to be friends with the guy who left them barefoot in the mud).

See how that works?

Reasons: Find the Why.

AKA, You May Have Built Suit Number One to Rescue Yourself from Afghanistan, But Once You Get to Suit Number Forty-Five, There’s Clearly Something Else At Work.

This is probably the single most important factor of The Human Element.

It’s not enough to go from day-to-day, following the processes, and reacting to everything that comes your way.

If you really want to do the inbound marketing (or, really, anything) right, you have to figure out why you care. What part of it is exciting to you? What do you want to do? What stirs your soul?

As many wise souls have pointed out, it can’t just be about the money.

It needs to be about more than building the tools you need in the moment.

You need to have some bigger vision, some overarching goal to drive you forward. Otherwise, you’ll always lag a step behind.

When the big names in, well, just about any industry talk about their journey to success, they rarely talk about the individual products they developed.

They don’t wax lyrical about the killer app they built (or discovered) and how it inspired them. They don’t talk about their fantastic breakthrough in spreadsheet usage.

They talk about their vision, about the world they wanted to help build, about the lessons learned, about the characteristics they developed in and of themselves.

These human lessons are what drove their successes.

But more importantly, if you don’t understand the why of what you’re doing, you’ll probably go nuts.

As someone who has been here at Mack Web Solutions for a while, through the internal testing of a lot of the processes and systems we use and share…let me tell you this, quite frankly: if I didn’t believe in where we were going, I probably would have quit in the middle.

Ironing out processes, shifting gears, backing up to see the bigger picture: this stuff can hurt. It’s hard, it’s frustrating, and you’ll spend some time feeling like a failure.

Without a clear destination in sight, the journey itself can be enough to make you turn around and go home.

So, figure out the why.

And then share that why with your team, with your customers, with your community. Your genuine passion and enthusiasm will be what draws them to you and sparks their interest.

You Are More Than an Arc Reactor.

So, that’s it, really. My rambling, ranting little reminder of why summer blockbusters about handsome, muscular, egotistic men with savant-like knowledge of robotics and an arsenal of quips are relevant to life.

Because they remind us that it’s not the tools that define us. It’s the spark of ingenuity and the ability to dream big for the future, the ability to connect with other living souls, that makes us great.

So, find your inner genuis, billionare, playboy philanthropist.

And then remind yourself: I. Am. Iron Man.


Author Courtney Brown

More posts by Courtney Brown

Join the discussion 4 Comments

  • Very well written article, Courtney!

  • This blog surely is a great read, congrats! Also, in this particular post, gotta love the Iron Man references. The 3R idea is interesting, the part that inspired me the most was the last one. Of course, without right people and contacts it’s hard to do anything. But it is the vision and determination that inspires people. Again, thanks for that text.

    • Courtney says:

      Thanks, Anna. (It was a fun movie…even if it was a Christmas movie released in May). And we agree, that contagious enthusiasm is often the only way to really get everyone onboard and moving in the right direction. (Including yourself).

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