Gary Vaynerchuk is excited. When you speak to him, sometimes it’s all you hear: raw excitement. He’s excited about where we are, and about where we’re going. He’s also excited because he predicts we’re moving to a world that is going to play even more to his core strengths (relationships), and he tends to be right about these things. Whether it was using YouTube to produce a daily Wine show that helped morph his father’s liquor store into a $70M wine business, writing multiple best-selling books about building online brands in a new age, or running one of the fastest growing online brand consultancies, Gary’s got a history of being right and getting things done. Gary took the time to chat with us to talk about his past, what advice he has for young people looking to win in their craft, and what’s just over the horizon in tech.
Let’s go back to the beginning — when did you find your passion and decide that Marketing was where you wanted to spend your time?
Actually, it wasn’t so much about marketing at first, but more so salesmanship. From a very early age, even when I 5 or 6 years old, I would do lemonade stands, car washes, christmas caroling, you know, selling stuff out of my parents house that I found and going door to door selling it.
I’ve always naturally had a DNA for selling. It was kind of a hobby for me. When I was 12 – 14 years old, I started my baseball card business, and was actually making money – hundreds of dollars. The formative moment was when I did a card show in the 8th grade. I paid two hundred dollars for the table, which was ludicrous at the time, but I was able to make a thousand dollars. It was a big moment.
When I got into my dad’s liquor store business, I was the lead sales guy. I was selling more wine than anyone else by the time I was 16. By 23 – 24, I was becoming the guy who ran the business instead of just the guy from the sales floor.
So I was innovating, emailing, searching, doing banners, doing all the “new age” stuff. YouTube came out in 2005, and thats when I really started getting focused on creating video content. It was just an intuition but I thought Youtube would be big, and it was something that I thought I could talk about, which was Wine, which morphed into WineLibraryTV.
It was clear to me that this was a way to communicate to many people at a low cost, and it seemed like there was a huge value in doing it, so that’s what I did, and it was very successful. I started the show in February 20606, but by early 2007, I realized there was a lot of opportunity, so thats when I said — I’m going to be a a communicator to the world, not just a salesman or an operator.
WineLibraryTV had tens of thousands of viewers at its peak – extraordinary for any business – but especially a local business. Why do you think you had the skills to make WineLibraryTV such a success?
One thing I know how to do is build things. It’s something I just understand. It was understanding who would bring value to the show, what subject matter would ring true to people, it was just very obvious to me what would work.
To anyone reading this — so much more than you realize is in you — meaning, everyone is born with certain skill sets and different things. What I’ve been lucky about, what I’ve hit on, is being able to tap into that and become aware of what I was good at a very early age — being a salesman, being a business person, and I’ve always put all my eggs in that basket. So I tell people to bet all-in on what comes natural to them, and not to fight it, because they don’t think it’s practical, but embrace it because it’s what you are meant to be.
There are a lot of young people out there who have identified passions, but have trouble turning that passion into a career track. What would you say to those starting off their careers — how can they go about getting started and becoming hugely successful?
I’m actually very excited that you asked this question, because I’m blown away by how people have not realized that the best way to win is to go to the people that are winning in your craft, and working for them for free for six months to a year. I just cannot believe that people don’t realize how valuable non-corporate internships are. Meaning — more people need to be emailing myself, Mark Cuban, Seth Godin, Ben Lerer, Mike Lazerow, Josh Kushner, Kevin Colleran, Dave Morin, and Kevin Rose, and thats just in the business world. There’s a thousand people in the art world, the music world, and the NGO world. Don’t go to work at some program at Goldman Sachs or even Vayner Media.
Go work for individuals and just be a rug rat. You know, my assistants are the smartest people in my organization. I think too many 19 or 20 year olds don’t realize that they are so young, and should just shoot for the moon. They need to email the 50 most important people in their world, and see if they can get an internship with them. Even if they already have two assistants. Go be the third assistant. Because when you are that close to the magic, you learn so much more.
How can someone prove they are worth your time?
The funny thing is that the people I just mentioned – we don’t care about the proving it, because we are smart enough to know that there is nothing on your resume that is going to prove it to us. We are just going to love that you have the bravado and hustle to reach out to us, and have that urgent want and need, and that alone and itself will get you through our first layer.
If someone emails me, and says I want to be your assistant and I’ll work for you for free for a year, I just want to get close to you, that already gets them half the way home. It’s SO obvious to me, and I’m just stunned that its not more obvious to people outside in the world.
I’ll give you a great example. VaynerMedia — when I started it — I was already a very successful businessman, and I let the Jets be our first client at a ridiculously low rate, mainly because one day I want to buy the NY Jets and I wanted to learn, and having them as a client would let me learn.
And don’t forget — the fact of the matter is — I was not a 19-year old. I had already been a full fledged business success story. I already had a NY Times bestselling book. I already had a $70M wine business that I built. I had already been “Internet Famous”. This didn’t happen when I was a kid. I did it – basically for free – for the Jets when I was already a massive success. So I’m eating my own dog food.
For those currently working in the marketing space — be it social media, or advertising, or brand development – tell us about what their world will look like in 3 years. What are the skills that are going to be important to marketers in that world?
I think we are moving to more and more native, intuitive, shareable, mobile content, so that to me is a really big deal. How do you story tell in a world where people’s attention spans have gone to zero? People look at their phone more than they look at TV or newspapers or magazine. They are spending more time on Facebook, Twitter and Tumblr than they are on all other sites combined. So how do you tell stories in the reality of this world?
On top of it, if you are asking about 3 years from now, the other thing that is really sticking in my mind is: Google Glasses. I think Google Glasses is a big deal and I think we are going to be wearing wearable computers very shortly, and I am extremely bullish on that whole movement. I think wearable technology is going to be a much bigger deal than what everyone thinks.
I would tell you that just like every single person now has a mobile phone, I would not be shocked that in 5 years if every single person is wearing glasses. Every single person. So the wearable technology is something that is very much on my mind.
What are some of the implications of wearable computing on social media?
First of all, I think we’ll get a new term that is not social media because of it. Number two, I think the biggest thing, is that it will continue the process that I think people are not realizing, which is: information has never been more of a commodity, and less valuable. What I mean by that is at this point, because of our phones, you can basically ask anybody any question in the world, and they have an answer for you because in 3 seconds, they’ll find it on Wikipedia or Google. So I think the continuation of that, in a wearable manner, is going to be really powerful.
But its also going to make information more powerful than ever. Let me explain. When you are wearing your Google Glasses or whatever else is competing with it in the future, when you go into a store and you are looking at pack of peanuts. One second of recognition, and it can give me all information about the product. How many calories this has, where was it produced. I think that’s going to be massive.
Think about it now: a fruit company gets caught for not using the right kind of chemicals, and it can lead to health issues. Now, the news says it, and it gets out there, and it gets out there a little bit — people are aware of it. Maybe 5% of the population is aware. What if every person that is looking at a bag of “XYZ company” carrots, and it says “Alert: there could be contamination issues” in your eyes in the top-left corner of your glasses. Now you are going to have real life issues impact businesses.
Information is going to be floating in the air before your eyes. That’s a big deal. All of a sudden, recall of products could be putting companies out of business. The secret is, [today], if it’s not fully recalled by the FDA, only 2-3-4% of the buying public actually knows you have a product. Imagine a world where everyone knows?
What’s one thing you want someone who reads this interview to remember?
For the audience that’s reading, the number one thing is: realize that information has no value. Being smart about stuff and retaining that kind of information has no value. The IQ (intelligence quotient) stuff is going down in value, and the EQ (emotional quotient) stuff is going up in value. So it’s the supply and demand of IQ and EQ. As information is becoming more ubiquitous and available, by the same token, we are becoming busier than ever, so the time and effort we put into people is becoming more and more rare, which is why its becoming more and more valued.
There is a massive supply demand shift going on right now. That is going to really play out over the 5 years, that is going to make the people that actually care about other people, and give them time to be listeners instead of talkers, and they are going to become dramatically more valuable.
We have been predicated on people being talkers as successful, right? The people that give information: talk, communicate, things of that nature – I think its going to be shifting very heavily for the listeners. And that’s why social is so important to me. That’s why Twitter became so important to me. You can listen and engage. I think that’s going to become a much bigger, much more valuable asset.
That’s why you are talking about story telling vs. publishing.
Correct. All of a sudden, the color commentator is more important than the announcer. These are the kind of dynamics I’m seeing and I’m very passionate about. Let me leave you with this: I’m excited about the kind of people that are going to read this.
There has never been more obvious of a time to invest in relationships with people. That is 100% where all the action is. I highly recommend that if you are 19 or 20 try to find a way to figure out what you naturally want to do. And the second you realize what that actually is — whether its to make music, paint, this that or the other thing. Go for broke. Go live on somebody’s floor, Move to LA, email every top music producer, music maker, music personality. Whatever it takes. It’s never been easier to get to somebody now.
The world is much more open. You can actually reach every single person. Match the 25 people that you think can change your life, and basically, respectfully, stalk them. In a good way. Reach out 2 or 3 times. Cold emails. Cold tweets. If you don’t get through after 3, you can probably move on. You don’t want to spook anyone. But please recognize how opportunistic these times are.
I have to warn you that you may get a couple hundred emails from motivated 19-year olds when this goes up.
Listen — I made my bed. I’m going to have lay in it.
The best way to win is to find people that are winning in your craft, and work for them for free. You are half way there if you show the guts and bravado to try. The future in the online space is all about relationships. Your Emotional Quotient (EQ) is going to be more important than your IQ, so learn to be a good listener and invest in relationships. Also, wearable tech is for real.