What I Learned In Nantucket

Opening Thoughts

As I write this, it’s two days after Labor Day. Always a strange feeling not to be at an event. For pretty much 10 years, Content Marketing World (the event we launched in 2011 and then sold in 2016) happened on Labor Day week. So, having this week “off” is odd at best.

But September does mark the beginning of speaking season for me. This year, I’ll be speaking at Content Marketing World (in DC this year) September 26-28 and MarketingProfs B2B, which is October 4-6 in Boston. If you are going please let me know.

Outside of taking some notes, I haven’t seriously started on my next novel. But don’t worry, it WILL happen. Getting started is the hardest part for me.

I’m also having fun working with The Tilt team on our new publishing product. We are developing a publishing service specifically for content creators to help them get there books published more efficiently, while driving more revenue and profits at the same time.

And finally, our foundation, the Orange Effect, is hosting a “Night at the Races” November 3rd in Cleveland. It’s our first real “non-golf” fundraising event and we are hoping for 300+ to show up. If you are local, please join us. Lots of fun for a truly amazing cause.

August, 2023 in Nantucket, MA.

My Trip to Nantucket

We just returned from our bucket-list trip from Nantucket, MA. I posted much of this to my Facebook page, but for those of you who don’t follow me on FB…here’s the overview.

Short back story: Pam has been reading Elin Hilderbrand books since forever. Most of her stories are set in Nantucket (hence the trip). It’s funny, while on the trip I read Winter in Paradise by Elin. Amazing book, except that it’s the one series that doesn’t take place in Nantucket (it takes place in the British Virgin Islands). Still, I recommend it. I’m getting started on book two of the series next week.

We decided to take a plane from CLE to BOS, then took a bus from Logan Airport to Hyannis, then the high-speed ferry from Hyannis to Nantucket. We’d definitely do it again, although I’d look into flights from BOS to ACK. I didn’t know how big the ACK airport was before we made this trip.

We stayed at an Airbnb in the middle of the island. Pricing is much more reasonable mid-island and we were able to get to anywhere pretty easily.

So many things that surprised me:

  • The kids and families were everywhere. I had it in my head that Nantucket was more of a couples/romantic getaway, but the children were out in force. Oh, and all the kids were wearing these shoes called “Natives” that look like a newer version of Crocs.
  • All the houses and commercial buildings look the same. Nantucket has zoning laws in place so that you have to build a certain way with the same type of weathered gray siding. I loved this aspect of Nantucket. It actually felt like you were going back in time. The smallest of shacks to the largest of mega-houses are built with the same materials.
  • I had no idea how big the island was (14 miles by 3.5 miles). I expected something like Kelley’s Island or Put-in-Bay (both islands near where I grew up in Sandusky, Ohio), but this place was considerable. Initially we thought we could bike the entire island but we switched plans and rented a jeep after a few days.
  • SO MANY BEACHES. Many days we found a sand road and took it to a deserted beach. Nantucket is all sand everywhere since it was formed by a glacier, so the sand is without rocks and easy to walk on. If you want to see people, you’d go to Jetties Beach or Cisco Beach. If you want to be alone, there are another 10 beaches to choose from. Both Pam and I were surprised that we could find a beach pretty much anywhere with no one on it.
  • Local transportation is amazing. Shuttle stops are all over the island. As a tourist you could get around without a bike or jeep if you wanted to. It’s $2 one way or $8 for unlimited day stops.
  • Nantucket does a wonderful job protecting much of the land. On the drive from midland to Sconset we passed through miles of untouched, protected land. It was wonderful to see.
  • Pam’s favorite was the bluff walk in Sconset. This is on the eastern-most side of the Island…about a mile’s walk through the backyards of multi-million dollar homes overlooking the Atlantic Ocean. There were people in their back yard eating or playing with their kids while we just walked through their yards. It was odd and amazing at the same time. Sconset was probably the prettiest area of Nantucket, a wonderful mix of nature and old-style architecture.

I did expect Nantucket to be expensive, and it most definitely was. In talking with the islanders, they brought up this as the most downside to living on the island. Also curious is they mentioned rentals were down about 30 percent this summer over last summer. We heard that 2022 was busting at the seams with tourists. 2023 came back to reality a bit.

Most islanders that work in Nantucket for the summer work multiple jobs. One bartender we talked to at the Nantucket Hotel had five jobs. Basically, he said, the summer is when you make the money, and everyone is looking for help.

The only thing we didn’t get to do was get out to Great Point on the Northeast side of the island. You can only get there with an approved four-wheel drive vehicle. Unfortunately on the days were were planning to go, there was a “super moon” and the tides were too high (beach was closed).

Here’s a list of “must see” sites if you can ever go:

  • Bluff walk in Sconset
  • Eat a Crabby Patty at Surfside Beach Bar.
  • Watch a band and grab a beer at Cisco Brewers.
  • After the bluff walk, go to Sankaty Lighthouse.
  • Take a sailboat around Nantucket Sound.
  • Drinks/eat at the sandbar at Jetties beach.
  • Eat a Big M-ACK at the Tap Room.
  • A drink at the bar inside the Nantucket Hotel.
  • Pizza at the Muse (midland)
  • Find a sand road at get a little lost (we did this many times).
  • Grab a Latte at the Handlebar (downtown)

In summary, we had a fantastic time that may be a “one-time trip.” We did most of the things so I’m not sure we would go back. That said, I would say five days is the perfect amount of time. If you are looking to decompress and go on island time for a few days, this is the spot.

Building an Audience Takes So Long

On the last episode of This Old Marketing, Robert Rose and I did an office hours segment and answered questions from my LinkedIn community. There were a few questions I didn’t get to, and this one from subscriber Mary Rose McGuire, who I had the wonderful chance to meet at Creator Economy Expo in May, had this question to ask.

How did you keep motivated when you were creating content yet few people were consuming it? Was there a point where suddenly things shifted and more people were engaging with your content? What was that point?

Building an audience takes a long time. Since I grew up in the publishing industry and knew how long it took to develop an audience that you could monetize, it made it much easier for me going forward. So just knowing that it takes two to three years for a media company (or any content creator) to break even gives you to the right context to move forward. Knowing that means you aren’t going to go a year out and give up because you knew what you were getting into.

Second, don’t compare. You’ll go crazy if you do. There will always be someone out there doing it better, with more revenue and more audience. You do you.

Third, you need some higher mission in my opinion. If it’s just about you making a living, that’s totally fine. I know a lot of content creators that went out there, exploited an expertise area, and made millions of dollars. Good for them. For me, I needed to know that I was making real difference. When I chose to go into the content marketing expertise area, I truly believed that if more companies around the world started to communicate more valuable, more relevant and more consistent information to their customer bases, the world would be a better place. Actually, I still believe that. So from 2007 to 2009 when my audience grew very very slowly, I still could look at the small audience I did have and say that I was making a difference.

To answer the last part of the question, was there a point where things suddenly shifted? The answer to that was yes. You might already know this, but in September of 2009 I almost gave up. I just didn’t know when we were going to break through and build enough audience to be successful. I stuck with it and in mid-2010 we came out of the financial recession and content marketing was hot. By 2012 it was scorching. To give you an idea, we planned Content Marketing World in 2011 to have 100-150 attendees. We ended up with 660. By 2015 we had 4,000 people paying a thousand each to attend. We put in three-plus years of educating our audience about content marketing. That built the base. When more people wanted to know what content marketing was, we had thousands of educational blog posts to help them.

So Mary, I’m sure you have some insight into what makes your industry go…but maybe people haven’t found that…yet. No one ever knows whether the market will turn in their direction, but you can set yourself up to succeed if and when it does.

The last thing I’ll say is this, whatever you do, diversify revenues. To survive, I did a ton of consulting, speaking, sold books, research projects, mini sponsorships, etc just to keep the power on. Better yet, work on forming close relationships with companies that have budgets and will succeed if you succeed.

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