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Ctrl Alt Delete – Get Rid of TSR Marketing [Book Review]

Ctrl Alt Delete review by Jon DiPietro of Domesticating IT.jpgI’ve written and spoken about the Social Media Doppler Effect on several occasions. My premise is that even though most businesses have stopped dragging their feet with regard to social media and inbound marketing, they’re not moving nearly fast enough. The rate of change and innovation in the online space is accelerating faster than the marketing strategies. Mostly, my intent was to deliver a wakeup call to these companies and spur them to move a little faster.

But I think that may have been sending the wrong message.

I just finished reading an advance copy of Mitch Joel‘s latest book, Ctrl Alt Delete: Reboot Your Business. Reboot Your Life. Your Future Depends on It. (affiliate link) And Mitch nails what I now realize I wanted to say and should have said. It’s not that these businesses need to speed up – they need a complete reboot.

Think about that for a minute. Why did Ctl-Alt-Del enter our lexicon in the first place? Because it’s something we had to do on a daily basis (or more) when those crappy Windows operating systems became corrupted and bogged down with TSRs (terminate and stay resident programs) and memory leaks. When it finally became unbearable, the magical keyboard combination would provide us with the opportunity to wipe the board clean and start over.

Did you hear that? Wipe the board clean and start over. So please disregard my previous advice. I was wrong, Mitch is right. Don’t speed up. Reboot.

TSR Marketing

Time for a quick and (hopefully) painless computer lesson. In the early days of MS-DOS, software engineers had to figure out how to make it possible for PCs to do more than one thing at a time. They weren’t really designed to do that, so they used a sort of operating system hack that allowed programs to terminate but remain resident in memory. Thus, the description “terminate and stay resident.” The problem is that basing such important functionality on an operating system hack was a recipe for lots of future headaches. Although Microsoft Windows became progressively better at managing memory and removing the need for TSRs, it is always difficult to put the toothpaste back into the tube and they caused stability problems for years to come.

The usual windows crash... by byte on Flickr

The usual windows crash… courtesy of byte on Flickr

Right now, marketing is weighed down by relics and artifacts from bygone versions. They are slowing down and corrupting the pursuits of these companies’ marketing objectives. Simply speeding up your implementation of inbound marketing and social media is like adding another program to a corrupt operating system. It may help solve some problems, but it will also slow down the whole system and cause your machine to crash and burn from time to time.

Now back to Ctrl Alt Delete. In the introduction, Mitch begins:

Businesses and the people who work for them no longer have a choice. They must reboot. They must Ctrl Alt Delete. What we’re currently seeing in the marketing place is the struggle that businesses and employees are going through as we live through this state of purgatory. We are stuck in the middle of this transition and digitization of industry, and we’ve had enough of the analysis paralysis that is grabbing businesses by the throat. What we need – more than anything else – are the insights and guidance that will be crucial to our success. These insights and guidance are what Ctrl Alt Delete is all about. It’s a road map for business and professional success moving forward.

The book is divided into two sections; business and career. The same forces that are transforming businesses are disrupting career paths. As Mitch puts it, there are no more straight career paths and no more gold watches.

Reboot: Business

wiped cleanCtrl Alt Delete begins with a discussion of the shift toward direct relationships with consumers. Many readers of this blog are in the so-called business-to-business space. For the record, I hate that term. There is no such thing as business-to-business. I doubt a pen has ever levitated itself to sign a purchase order. It’s people who make decisions. And so if people make decisions, then “Relationships are at the very core of every business, and those with the strongest (and, yes, most direct) relationships win.”

Mitch coins a number of phrases that I predict (hope?) will become commonplace in discussions. The first of these is utilitarianism marketing, which he says will be the next great business disrupter. It means moving the marketing goal posts away from brand impressions and conversions and toward creating value and utility. He provides several great examples and seven lessons to learn how to accomplish it. But you’ll have to buy the book to find out what they are.

One of the most interesting chapters for me was the challenge to think about media (think content) in two forms; passive and active. I love the way Mitch boils it down:

  • Blasting works best in passive media.
  • Touching works best in active media.

It’s not a matter of right or wrong, good versus bad. It’s a matter of using the right tool for the job. If you need to blast, that’s fine. It can be necessary and effective. Go with passive media. When you want to customers to interact with your brand, go with active media.

My nomination for best chapter title of the year goes to “Sex with Data.” This chapter begins as follows: “In four words: We are not prepared.” He lays out a case that it will be neither easy nor straightforward to – ahem – score. It’s going to require transparency, commitment and innovation. Most companies suck at two of those and I’ll let you figure out which two they are.

The business discussion winds down by previewing the future shift from four screens down to one. To illustrate this, here’s a Facebook update I wrote last Thursday:

I’m on a plane headed to a conference where I’m talking about how not to suck at social media. For almost the entire flight, I’ve been using their wifi to email and chat with customers, check in with social media, read up on my RSS feeds and even jot down some notes for my talk in Evernote.

Here’s the interesting thing. I did it all on my smartphone. Never once broke out the laptop.

Lesson: The world is going mobile in a hurry folks. Is your marketing ready for that? For about 95% of you the answer is “no.”

That’s the easy part; making an observation and telling people they’re doing it wrong. Thankfully, Mitch does the heavy lifting by providing 5 lessons we can learn in order to prepare ourselves for the one-screen world.

Reboot: You

I’m going to save my thoughts about rebooting your career for another blog post. Not because it isn’t important (because I’d probably argue it’s far more important to the individual reader than rebooting business). That was my reason for writing Social Media for Engineers and Scientists. Rather, this blog post is already well over 1,000 words and so it’s time to wind it down. Also, I think the audience over at #CareerGravity would really benefit from it.


This is not just a good read. This is not just an instructional business book. At the risk of sounding melodramatic, it’s a prophecy. So when the future arrives and your customers are gone and your job no longer exists, you can’t say you haven’t been warned. My advice is to get rid of those TSRs in your marketing and your career. My advice is to reboot.

Your future depends on it.


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