The Drift

The Drift

Working the Core.

Freaking out a little? You’re not alone. Lots of macro-economic uncertainty – Will there be a full-blown recession? How long will it last? – combined with news of calculated layoffs and cost-cutting right here in our digital marketing and ad-tech world. And all this when we were just starting to figure out which days we’d all be in the office!

In my career I’ve seen about eight of these economic pullbacks, six of them in the digital era. No one can say exactly how long, precisely how deep, or specifically which companies come out better. But I’m confident in offering one blanket prediction and one bit of universal advice.

Blanket Prediction: The future is still up and to the right. This is not some kind of end, or permanent resizing of this thing of ours. People are still going to engage in more digital behavior, marketers are still going to want more of the precision and control we create, and there are still many years of growth ahead. Don’t mistake a financial correction for a crash.

Universal Advice: Work on your core. Whether you’re an individual, a manager or a CEO, it’s a moment to focus on what is central and defensible…on what marketers will care even more deeply about in the coming years. There are a million things that are interesting (hello Metaverse, NFTs, Blockchain et al) but not that many that are essential.

  • Data that’s real. Whether it’s first or second party, marketers have made it clear that they want signals that are accurate, meaningful and recent. If you’re wondering why retail media is such a thing, wonder no more.
  • Video that’s relevant, accessible and actionable. It was never about TV; it was always about sight/sound/motion. Have a point of view and a position here. And don’t overcomplicate it. There’s a huge immediate need here and it’s not going away.
  • Be a headcount and braincount provider. What was already a challenge – short staffing – just got worse. Instead of giving clients multiple options and choices and more and more complexity, help them to do more with fewer of their own people.
  • Don’t be in the ad business: be in their business. If you are “selling advertising” you are a cost to be managed and negotiated down. If you are aligned with the success of a sale or a key customer promotion or a product launch, you are essential infrastructure to be relied upon.

There's more, but for now let’s all get back to work. Every minute spent at the virtual water cooler talking about how worried we are (I’m talking to you Slack!) is a minute we’re not creating essential value for marketers. And that’s not a minute any of us can afford to waste.

More Posts

12 for 2023.

We here at Upstream appreciate the hard job you do. May a look at this list give you the extra lift you need in a moment of challenge.

The C in C-Suite.

Most of us show up for our hard-to-book C-Suite interactions with an agenda that’s far too junior and tactical, and we get swiftly delegated or – worse – ignored. It's because we don’t fully realize what the C in C-Suite stands for.

What Just Happened?

Too many of us plan meticulously for much of the meeting, but fail to do any planning for how it will end. Too much time is spent early on exposition and data, and too little is left for the disciplined closing process that could actually lead to a sale. Another mad, disorganized packing job ensues. And the probability and next actions we post in our CRM are little more than educated guesses. It doesn’t have to be this way.

The Season of Both.

As sellers and executives, we’re both sporadically connected to our colleagues and yet consistently alone in our work, accompanied by only our numbers, hopes and doubts. At Upstream Group, we are asking – humbly and curiously – what our role should be in this Season of Both. Why do our customers and community truly need us now? We are finding answers and developing strategies based on a handful of questions… questions I’d like to share with you today.


We spend an overwhelming share of our time building stories and presentations and proposals – our sandcastles – and almost no time on the closing and qualification strategies that would help them withstand the rising tide of the customer’s conflicting agendas and the waves of our competitors’ subsequent proposals and ideas.

How We Show Up.

We all get to decide how we show up. Leaning into these decisions won’t necessarily change the numbers or the circumstances, but they will change the narrative from one of anxiety and randomness to a story of perseverance, growth and personal victory. They may not change your Q3 number, but they will change YOU.


The world of work we shut down in March 2020 is gone. Thinking we can just go back to it by getting on the train and turning on the lights is unrealistic to the point of delusion. Attracting, hiring and retaining valuable employees has never been trickier. What you could solve in 2012 with more money and a bigger title requires much more thoughtful answers today. Your competitive future depends on them.

Self-Inflicted Wounds.

You are shooting yourself in the foot and it’s clouding your vision, mucking up your forecasts and making your sales cycle longer and more unstable. And it doesn’t have to be that way. Here are three self-inflicted wounds that can be fatal to your win-rate, but that are also easily corrected.


This afternoon in San Francisco a man named John Durham died after many years of serious health problems. Those are the facts, but not the story. To those of us who knew and loved him so much, he was THE DURHAM: a life force, a gentle soul, a fantastic dresser and a terrible speller. In short, he was THE DURHAM. To his friends, no explanation is necessary. To those who were never touched by him, no explanation is possible.

Attending, 2021

I wrote this post about the value of attention a few years ago, pre-pandemic and pre-Zoom. Lightly-edited, it seems even more relevant now. Making others feel fully-attended earns us their attention in return. Read on.

More Stuff to Write Down.

Last week I used this space to share several of the leading themes from Write this Down: Memes and Metaphors for a Better Life in Sales, a book that I've begun working on. This week, a few more, including some challenging advice for both managers, individual contributors and their fellow humans from many walks of life.

The Drift is Back.

I've been outlining a book that will be called Write this Down: Memes and Metaphors for a Better Life in Sales. Since fleshing out the book will take a while longer, I've decided to share many of the aforementioned Memes and Metaphors across the next few posts of The Drift. Read on, comment, share, push back and apply them to your own life in sales.