Casey Stanton is the Founder of CMOx, a company that provides part-time CMOs to give the strategy and lead teams of implementors to get work done. He is a marketing coach, speaker, and former professor at Tulane University. Stanton, through his company, has created the Functional Marketing® process to help businesses break free from short-sighted tactics and assist them to build businesses that are more profitable than ever, despite more competition.
Where did you grow up and what was your childhood like? Did you have any particular experiences/stories that shaped your adult life?
Growing up, I had a pretty normal American suburban childhood. My dad worked full-time for IBM. And my mom worked a little bit here and there. But mostly was a full-time mom.
The experiences that I had as a child that helped shape me in entrepreneurship were in was when I was 15 years old, I picked up a hobby in sleight of hand in magic. There was a magic shop in the town that I’m from Traverse City, Michigan. I went there and I got fooled one day and I fell in love with it and I bought the effect and just kind of fell deep into the art of magic.
I studied books, bought VHS tapes, and just learned as much as I could, it really became a hobby for me. Then I was given the opportunity, I was invited to do a magic show at a friend’s sister’s birthday party, which I agreed to. And they paid me $20 for my time.
The next Magic Show I performed, at the end of it, they asked me what I owe them. I said, $30 because I thought I needed a little bit more money for the work. And they laughed at me and gave me $150. And that was a big turning point in my life. This really gracious person saw the value that I was able to provide at that time.
Instead of saying, oh, for all this time, it’s worth $20 or $10 an hour, they said that it was worth, you know, $100 an hour. And that really changed the way I saw the world. As I got into high school, I had friends who had full-time jobs working 40 hours a week, all summer in the kitchen, cooking, or doing dishes.
And I got a gig doing magic. I was paid the same rate they were per week, but I only worked two evenings a week, and I did so on beautiful Lake Michigan during the sunset in the summer, it was an unbeatable experience.
It codified in my mind, the possibility of being rewarded in a way that is disproportionate to time, I saw that if I could provide unique value in time, I could be rewarded at a rate that was exponentially higher than friends of mine who were in much more commoditize roles or jobs.
What is something you wish you would’ve realized earlier in your life?
One thing that I wish I would have learned earlier in life was that adults are just making it up as they go.
No one really knows what they’re doing. I remember feeling so frustrated and rejected by my university after I graduated, and my guidance counselor having resigned.
Six months before I graduated, I felt dropped. I felt like no one was looking out for me. I felt like I had to go get into the blue-chip world and be a successful business person. But I had no one there to help me no matter what anyone said, no one was really there to help pick me up when I was losing all of these job opportunities.
I wish I would have been given the encouragement to go figure it out on my own, and not have to wait for other people. It took me too many years and too much frustration before I realized that I shouldn’t depend on other people to help me with my life, I should depend on myself. If other people along the way can help me, then that’s great, but it certainly isn’t the requirement.
What are bad recommendations you hear in your profession or area of expertise?
There are plenty of bad recommendations that I hear, specifically in growing a business with marketing and sales.
The biggest piece of bad advice that I hear is to kind of do everything. So many businesses are doing every marketing campaign possible.
They’re doing every lead gen strategy. They’re trying to do a little bit of everything. A little Google ads, a little Facebook ads, a little LinkedIn ad, maybe some Twitter, some social, right, they’re blogging, they’re sending a newsletter, they’re doing all of this stuff. None of it actually drives to the result that they want. Not not the complete result.
Each of them has an opportunity and in their own right are probably very worthwhile things to do. But I believe that you earn the right to do additional marketing campaigns after you have a successful one that’s running.
I like to see businesses identify a problem and solve it with one campaign with one traffic source. And really push that until it’s successful.
Once it’s successful, then get the second traffic source or get the second campaign or get the second strategy or the second product offering. But you can’t do 5% of 20 different products, right?
If you take all of your efforts and put them into 20 different campaigns you only put 5% of your effort into any campaign.
It is much better to put all of your efforts into one campaign and get a result and then duplicate it where possible and produce different winning campaigns and start adding those routines but do not do everything at once.
Tell me about one of the darker periods you’ve experienced in life. How you came out of it and what you learned from it?
So the question of a dark period that I’ve experienced in my life, I absolutely have one.
My wife and I traveled full time in an RV for three years across America, trying to find our ideal city, our ideal place to live.
We landed in Philadelphia and rented a short-term rental for about six weeks while we looked for a place to rent long-term.
When we got there, we were financially committed to all of our clients to have a successful year. Our clients had committed for the whole year in January, that they were going to work with us, I felt confident, and I felt like I could relax a little bit on the sales process side, then, not 10 days into the new year, that I receive notifications from our two biggest clients that they were pulling the plug on our relationship.
Never in my life had I been so over-committed, and cash strapped without any prospects in the sales pipeline. It was an incredibly trying and difficult time for me, as we were effectively broke.
To add to that, we had plenty of credit card debt. And it was scary to think of how I was going to make money for my small family.
What I ended up doing was opening my laptop and every single day working ardently to fill the sales pipeline, close sales, and service the businesses.
It wasn’t easy, and there were long, stressful scary times. There were plenty of times where we would walk across the city, instead of pay for an Uber because we simply couldn’t afford it. We were living on the edge but committed to the vision for the business.
As a result, over the coming months, the business started to grow. Cash started to come in, clients were excited to work with us, and we were getting referrals.
But I’ll tell you, it was the scariest time it was the scariest 90 days financially of my life. We were without option outside of potentially me finding a job at a traditional business working full time. But it’s something I didn’t want to do.
So while I had that opportunity, it wasn’t what I wanted in my heart, though I was willing to do it. And there’s certainly nothing wrong with having a regular nine-to-five job.
It was my wife’s commitment to me and her belief in me. It gave me the strength to be able to slog through long days of prospecting and sales calls and making offers and putting together proposals. And ultimately, it was absolutely worth it.
What is one thing that you do that you feel has been the biggest contributor to your success so far?
One of the biggest things or the biggest contributors to my success has been this idea that I picked up from Farnam Street.
Farnam Street is a website that has mental models detailed and it helps you become a better thinker. One thing that Shane teaches at Farnam Street is to master the things in life that are slow to change. And I’ve adopted that. I’ve adopted mastering things that are slow to change.
What are the things that are slow to change? In diet and exercise, the things that are slow to change are eating whole foods. The things that are quick to change are things like what’s the latest supplement to take? With exercise, it’s this workout or going to that studio, etc.
The things that are slow to change in exercise are squatting, bench pressing, deadlifting, overhead press. Creating lifelong routines around slow-to-change principles allows for success despite the world being wicked and changing frequently.
I’ve applied that directly in marketing where I believe that we should have our focus on slow-to-change marketing principles. There will always be new and different marketing techniques that we can learn and deploy. There will always be new places to run ads. But what is fundamentally true will forever be true.
For example, people have desires. Perennially, women want to feel younger, and men want to feel more powerful.
Generally speaking, across all races, across all continents, men and women have these general desires. As that is true, we can position products or services to help women feel younger, or men feel more powerful, or women feel more powerful, or men feel younger, right? It’s not mutually exclusive. But the general idea here is that there are desires that exist. If we can identify those desires, we can position products or services to support those people in getting their desires met.
There’s also the basic understanding of who is the customer who’s the ideal customer? What do they want?
They don’t want a widget they want the solution the widget provides.
How do you get emotional? How do you speak to them about that? Right, learning the art of copywriting is really helpful.
So again, the slow-to-change components of marketing, if mastered, will lead to a lifetime of success. Becoming a master at SEO or paid advertising can certainly make a lot of money, and it can be parlayed into future efforts. But everything can change at the drop of a hat.
If you’re willing to stay on the bleeding edge of those platforms, the world needs you. But I would much prefer to master the slow-to-change components of business and life.
What is your morning routine?
My morning routine is laughable these days. It’s laughable because I have a six-month-old. And it’s COVID.
Our son is still waking up in the middle of the night. So my morning routine is really to wake up when my son wakes up as he sleeps in his crib in our bedroom. Then I take him downstairs and we play and he has a bottle of milk.
I’ll make some tea for myself, and then usually breakfast for my wife. I’ll clean the kitchen, get my head on right for the day by looking over my priorities. And then once my wife is available to take over childcare, I’ll get into the office and knock out my hardest or most difficult task first.
Three days a week, I lift weights, and I’m lucky to be able to do so in my basement. Outside of that, when the weather’s warmer, I take my son and my dog out for long morning walks so that we can get some fresh air.
What habit or behavior that you have pursued for a few years has most improved your life?
I believe in being radically curious. I think curiosity keeps me sharp. I think it keeps me relevant. I love the idea of being able to take something that’s known in one field and applying it to another field and having it be novel.
For example, people say, “Oh, you work with b2b and b2c?” Like that’s bad.
Actually, I think it’s great! It’s great because when you work with b2b, you see a traditional sales process. And he worked with b2c and you don’t see a traditional sales process you see more of an e-commerce driven process?
Well, what if you take the e-commerce model and go over to the b2b side? What happens if you take the direct sales approach and go to the b2c side, it can be very novel and these things can be very successful.
Currently, I’m falling deep into photography and just purchased a four-by-five Field Camera.
I really enjoy going out and creating and coming up with a picture in my mind and going and making it happen.
Now, I’m not a great photographer. But the act of creating I think is really helpful. I’ve got friends that cook, they’re great chefs, pastry chefs, whatever they’re creating, right? I love that idea.
Just the habit of creating allows me to move past any kind of like, blocks that I experience in my life. I can just create my way through it.
The Dave Ramsey approach to finance is saving your way to wealth, which I think has merit right But on the flip side, the Garrett Gunderson approach is to make more money. I mean, I think that that’s really interesting, right? Produce more value and get rewarded for it.
I like to create, to get to the next level, instead of saving or, you know, kind of trim the fat here and there, I’d rather do something bigger. And I think curiosity allows me to do that
What are your strategies for being productive and using your time most efficiently?
I have a couple of approaches. One is that years ago, over three years ago, I hired an assistant and he works with me full time, I find him to be indispensable. He’s the best hire I’ve ever had and he helps me stay focused.
The number one thing he does is ensures that I have time blocked to do the things I said I would do. This ensures that nothing falls through the cracks. The second thing is I have a routine of working. I typically start work between 9 am and 11 am until four or five.
Very rarely do I work until six and I never work past six. Just that commitment of getting in and doing work. I can’t do everything in a day but over the course of two weeks I can get a lot done if I’m working, you know sitting at my desk and have a reasonably efficient computer and internet without fail.
What book(s) have influenced your life the most? Why?
Do you have any quotes you live by or think of often?
“If you want something and don’t get it, there are only two reasons. You either really didn’t want it, or you tried to bargain over the price.”
— Rudyard Kipling
“You created the Game. Don’t create rules that allow you to lose.”
— Dan Sullivan
“Don’t follow leaders and watch your parking meters”
— Bob Dylan