Ctrl Alt Delete: Book Review

September 19, 2013 Content Marketing 1 comment

Digital World Disruptive

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What will the future of your business be like? More importantly, what will your life be like then?

Armed with a digital crystal ball, renowned marketing podcaster and president of global digital marketing agency Mirum Mitch Joel shared his thoughts on this in his book Ctrl Alt Delete.

With the catchy subtitle “Reboot Your Business. Reboot Your Life. Your Future Depends On It.”, Mitch’s volume focused on how shifts in mobile and social technologies, data, content, marketing and jobs transforms how way we run our businesses and do our work.

Providing a “road map” for businesses which navigates them through this “time of purgatory” in a constantly transforming “post-disruption world” (Mitch sure knows how to wax lyrical!), Ctrl Alt Delete is divided into two sections.


Mitch Joel of Mirum Agency (image from Mirum Agency)

Rebooting Your Business

The first section of the book (Reboot: Business) covered five major trends in business. These are as follows:

#1 Grow your community relationships

The growth in direct and personal relationships, mediated by platforms such as Kickstarter, would influence how we trade in future.

In such a world, your business needs to deliver value, be open and transparent, and follow a clear and consistent path. You also need to create a mutually beneficial world, and focus your energies on growing true fans.

#2 Utility in marketing

You need to provide utility in your marketing, delivering value BEFORE your customers sign their cheques.

Similar in concept to Jay Baer’s Youtility, the notion here is to be useful to one’s customers by being customer focused, pain-free, simple to use, fast, and convenient without any expectations of a return.

Ultimately, this would lead to better customer goodwill and greater word-of-mouth recommendations.

#3 Appreciate nuances of traditional and social media

You need to also know how passive and active media works.

While “blasting” (christened “spray and pray” in the book) may work in passive channels (like TV and radio), you’re much better off directly engaging (aka “touching”) with your target audiences on social media networks.

To do so, you should define your media landscape – both broadcast and social – know what your brand is trying to achieve, and see things from your customers’ angle.

#4 Put your head in the “data cloud”

With the growth of big data parked in the “cloud”, companies like Amazon have leveraged on apps like Price Check to understand buyers and their buying habits in an unprecedented fashion. You can read this comprehensive piece by Cloudwards to understand the different things you can do in the cloud.

Your goal here is to have “sex with the data” (not literally!), ie to crunch both linear (e-commerce purchases) and circular (social chatter) data, put them on dashboards, and distill meaning.

#5 Customise for a one-screen world

You are now living in a one-screen world. The only screen that matters is the one in front of your consumer’s face.

Instead of merely optimising for different screen sizes, you should study your customer behaviours and provide simplicity and utility. Follow “social rules” to improve findability, make your content shareable, and engage proactively with your communities.

In short, consider the contexts of their world – not yours.

Rebooting You

With the above scenarios painted, the second chunkier section of the book (Reboot: You) highlighted seven triggers in this brave new world of entrepreneurship and work. I love how Mitch waxed lyrical about the future of the landscape and the importance of personal development here.

#1 Adopt digital-first posture

You can’t afford to bury your head in the sand any more. Digital isn’t going away. The sooner you adopt a “digital-first” posture, the better.

Consider how people behave in online spaces. Become a digital native yourself – regardless of your age. If need be, assess your personal influence through social metrics like Klout, be humble, and embrace simple elegant solutions.

#2 Prepare for a convoluted career path

You need to traverse the long and squiggly road in your career and your work.

This means that you need to “learn as you earn” and invest time and energy in short, powerful projects that may require you to embrace change, be artists, be revolutionary, and even be a misfit if necessary.

(I am a case in point.)

#3 Be a perpetual entrepreneur

In short, you need to work like a perpetual entrepreneur. With the power of digital and social networks, you can create collisions where work, play and everything else in between blends in a beautifully harmonious manner.

There is no such thing as a work-life balance. It’s all about seamless integration.

#4 Personal marketing rocks

You need to market yourself through powerful and consistent content.

Here, the idea isn’t just about starting a blog, Facebook page or Twitter account. Nor is it about spamming everybody in your network.

Rather, it is about understanding the intent of your social networks, pitching yourself to win, and building influence in an organic – rather than automated – fashion.

#5 Work isn’t where you go – it’s what you do

We now work in multiple spaces anywhere, anytime. To facilitate this, offices should be optimised for agile layouts, encourage collisions between colleagues, and be empowered by social media connections (for example, through corporate intranets with social elements).

#6 Embrace endless startups

Increasingly, you’ll no longer just work in jobs but endless start-up stints.

As a startup of one, you should look to the edges to discern ideas and philosophies, invest in your ideas, and find the right people to connect with.

Be prepared to lead a 24/7 lifestyle, work with a “head down” attitude, and embrace risks and mistakes.

6 Key Trends in the Future of Business

Finally, you need to consider 6 key trends in the future of business. These developments are unlikely to go away anytime soon, and are likely to rise even further.

The key trends are as follows:

  1. The growth of hacker culture – if you can shortcut your learning process, you must.
  2. The switch from vertical to horizontal social businesses. Serving customers well matter more than ever as they’ll readily share their experiences with you.
  3. The rise of independent brands.
  4. The importance of optimising for speed, simplicity and convenience. If you aren’t as fast or efficient as the double As (Amazon or Alibaba), you are dead in the water.
  5. The eminence of technology. Nuff’ said about this.
  6. The rise of virtual digital goods. This is especially so in a gamification obsessed world.

Ready for a “post-disruption” world?

Like other business books focusing on social businesses, Ctrl Alt Delete illustrated its points with the usual heroes of the “post-disruption world”.

These digital stalwarts include Apple, Google, Twitter, Facebook, Amazon, Zappos and their ilk. Fortunately, the citing of these familiar favourites was done sparingly and doesn’t overwhelm one with the “been there read that” feeling.

Written in Mitch Joel’s trademark conversational and intimate style, Ctrl Alt Delete gave readers a glimpse into how the future of marketing and business could be like. Reading it certainly reinforced my belief that business and work as usual aren’t going to cut it.

A long time follower of Mitch’s podcast Six Pixels of Separation, I have blogged about his first book with the same title a couple of years ago.

As the President of Mirum – one of North America’s biggest digital agency – Mitch certainly knew his stuff. This showed itself in the coverage of topics in his book.

While it may not provide clear-cut answers to business dilemmas in the new “social age”, Ctrl Alt Delete does provide much food for thought for anybody considering how he or she can ride the new wave of business.


By Walter
Founder of Cooler Insights, I am a geek marketer with almost 24 years of senior management experience in marketing, public relations and strategic planning. Since becoming an entrepreneur 5 years ago, my team and I have helped 58 companies and over 2,200 trainees in digital marketing, focusing on content, social media and brand storytelling.

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