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Big Omaha – Gary Vaynerchuk: ‘For the first time ever, your ears matter more than your mouth’

Gary Vaynerchuk kicked off Day 2 of Big Omaha 2011 with his third talk at the conference in as many years. Photo by Malone & Company from Silicon Prairie News on Flickr.

The man is a Big Omaha institution — insomuch as a person can be considered an institution at an event that’s less than half a decade old. Making his third appearance at Big Omaha in three years, Gary Vaynerchuk said the conference is a special one for him.

“This event means a lot to me for a lot of reasons,” he said at the start of his talk on May 12. “To watch this event grow has been exciting for me, and I really appreciate coming out here.” He continued: “I just think it’s a great event and a great vibe, and I’m really excited to be here again.”

Judging by the standing ovation Vaynerchuk received at the conclusion of his talk and Q&A, the Big Omaha crowd was equally excited to have him there. A handful of highlights from Vaynerchuk’s appearance:

Company location

“And the things always the same which is like, it’s hard to build a company here, right? I heard that the first year I was here. … like do I have to move to the Valley, this that and the other thing. Being an entrepreneur, you can be an entrepreneur anywhere.”

Raising money

“There’s a dangerous thing going on and I want to kill it right here in Omaha; I am going to fundamentally go everywhere I can and kill this,” Vaynerchuk said. “When you raise money you haven’t won sh**.”

More important than raising money is delivering value through a business that brings in revenue.

“The amount of people that are cheering and thinking they’ve accomplished something because they’ve raised money in a financial bubble, because idiots like me are going around and investing in things, is ludicrous. It makes no sense.”

The end user

“I just cannot believe how many companies are straight full of sh** when they talk about caring about their end user,” Vaynerchuk said. “And I don’t know if you know this or have heard this, but the end user is the person that pays your bills. And there is a fundamental broken thought process in our space right now; the amount of time and effort spent on thinking about the end user is so low it’s almost laughable.”

Content vs. context

Vaynerchuk said he believes in the importance of content but that the new media landscape is so saturated with content that the rules have changed. Vaynerchuk cited a statistic from Google chairman Eric Schmidt: every 48 hours, people now produce as much content as mankind did from the dawn of time until 2003. He then asked for a show of hands that revealed a smattering of people in the room used as many as three electronic devices while watching TV. His point about content overload was clear.

“Context is a word that really matters to every person in this room,” he said, “because … there’s so much content that comes through that there’s only so much you can consume. There’s so much fatigue on our part.”

The time-trusted marketing method of push, push, push, Vaynerchuk said, is no longer effective.

“The skill set to be good at marketing used to be the presenter,” he said. “The skill set to be good at marketing going forward is going to be the person that knows how to work the room, because for the first time ever your ears matter more than your mouth. And that is a humongous shift.”

The thank you economy

Vaynerchuk prefaced his discussion of “the thank you economy,” the eponymous subject of his latest book, with a mention of Zappos, which he praised as an industry leader in customer service. “If Zappos is the standard for how we engage with our customers in five years,” he said, “I’m going to throw up all over myself. We need to continue to raise the bar.”

Vaynerchuk is raising the bar by focusing not on customer service, which he calls “playing defense” and “reacting,” but by reaching out to customers and showing appreciation on their terms, in their context. He cited the example of a customer of his Wine Library who the company wanted to thank for his purchase. Wine Library tracked the customer through social media analytics and, based on frequent mentions of Chicago Bears quarterback Jay Cutler in his tweets, sent a signed Cutler jersey — instead of sending him some sort of self-serving Wine Library product.

“What we were doing with this guy is something I believe in very much,” Vaynerchuk said, “which is we were hitting his emotional center.”

Ideas vs. execution

Before opening the floor for Q&A, Vaynerchuk punctuated the speech portion of his time on stage with a bit of motivational advice — elucidated in typically colorful fashion.

“Ideas are sh**,” he said. “Execution’s the game.” He continued: “The next time one of your friends rolls up on you and says ‘Oh, crap, they stole my idea,’ punch them in the fu***** mouth.”