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A Lullaby for Business in Troubled Times (Thinks Out Loud Episode 305)

Mother reading to child (Lullaby for Business in Troubled Times)

Times may be tough for many of you right now. But, in the immortal words of singer Shawn Mullins, "Everything is gonna be alright." I don’t just mean that as a platitude. Mullins’ career itself shows one path for how you can get through this.

The latest episode of Thinks Out Loud looks at Shawn Mullins’ one big hit, the lessons we can learn from it, and other lesson we’ve all learned along the way.

Want to learn more? Here are the show notes for you.

Thinks Out Loud Episode 305: A Lullaby for Business in Troubled Times Headlines and Show Notes

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Show Notes and Links

As always, here are the "regular" show notes, detailing links and news related to this week’s episode.

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Recorded using a Heil PR-40 Dynamic Studio Recording Mic and a Focusrite Scarlett 4i4 (3rd Gen) USB Audio Interface into Logic Pro X for the Mac.

Running time: 19m 19s

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Transcript: A Lullaby for Business in Troubled Times (Thinks Out Loud Episode 305)

Show Opening

Hello again, everyone, and welcome back to Thinks Out Loud, your source for all the digital marketing expertise your business needs. My name is Tim Peter, this is episode 305 of the big show. Thank you so much for tuning in. I think we have a really cool show for you this week.

Who is Shawn Mullins?

I went down a bit of a Spotify spiral this weekend. You know that thing where you’re listening to music and Spotify’s algorithm starts sharing new songs with you or different songs with you that you hadn’t heard in a while? Spotify recommended a song that I haven’t heard in years. You probably remember it, it was a song called Lullaby by a guy named Shawn Mullins. If you don’t remember it, it’s a bit cheesy and it’s got sort of this alt bro, vaguely douchey vibe. But generally it’s a good, memorable catchy song. It’s poppy, but cynical, it’s very, very 90’s. It features spoken word verses, and it’s anchored by Mullins crooning in falsetto during the refrain, "Everything is going to be all right."

Don’t worry, by the way, I am going to link to the video in the show notes, because it is a moment. I mean, you really have to see it. It’s so, so 90’s. And then the song can be bouncing around in your brain for a few days, the way it has for mine.

You’re probably wondering why am I bringing this up? What is the reason that I’m talking about? The song was a massive hit. According to Wikipedia, it reached and this is a quote, "Number one on the US Billboard Adult Top 40, number seven on the Billboard Hot 100 and number nine on the Billboard Modern Rock Tracks. It also had success abroad reaching number nine on the UK singles chart, number five in Australia, and number two in Canada." The DJ on the radio where I lived at the time — I lived in Phoenix — and our local radio station said Mullins would be a major star. I remember specifically her referring to him as "The future." This guy was going to be huge.

So here’s my question for you. Do you remember any other song by Shawn Mullins? I’m not trying to pick on the guy here, but I suspect the answer is no.

So next question I want to ask you is, would it shock you if I told you that Soul’s Core, the album released in 1998 that features "Lullaby," was Mullin’s fourth album? Would it shock you more if I told you he’d released six studio albums since then, most recently in 2018? If you go back to his first record in 1992, Shawn Mullins has been grinding it out for 28 years and he’s got one hit to show for it. A major hit, mind you. I mean, I was a musician at one point in my life. He’s got one more major hit than I have. But he just has the one.

Doing the Work

I mean this in all sincerity, I am not knocking the guy. I’m actually impressed by him because year after year, he pumps out records. Night after night, at least before COVID, he plays shows. Seriously, he had 12 dates in March of this year alone before everything went kablooey. He’s played some streaming shows since then. The dude does the work, and I have tremendous respect for that because that’s the point I’m trying to make this week. That’s the thing I really want to talk about.

I started working in digital in 1995, as it happens just a few years before Lullaby came out. I didn’t move into my first real leadership role though until 2001-ish. So when the dotcom bubble burst, and I was there for all of it really, I wasn’t yet position of serious accountability. Certainly I had influence and I was doing things. I’m not trying to undersell it. I’m not trying to oversell it. But in the role I was in things were happening around me that were far outside my control and far outside what I was held accountable for.

The reason I bring this up is because through the aughts, I thought I was a damned fine digital marketer and strategist. After all, from 2002 to 2008, pretty much everything I did worked. Yes, there were setbacks. Yes, I screwed up occasionally, but generally my numbers were great month after month, year after year. I got terrific performance reviews. I collected my bonuses. I mean, all the evidence would suggest that I was great. Why wouldn’t I think that?

The Lessons of 2008

Then 2008 came and the floor collapsed beneath me, just like it did for lots of folks. Economy cratered, business plummeted, suddenly most of the things that used to work — that I thought I was so good at — didn’t. Most of my best laid plans turned out to be not the best.

My team and I were scrambling and hustling and doing everything we could to rebuild a foundation for our business, to repair the holes in our business, to develop something that was truly built to last. There were no guarantees and the consequences were very, very serious. People depended on us and on me to deliver business or risk going out of business. For the first time in my career really, failure didn’t mean, hey, I could get fired. It meant a lot of people would lose their jobs. Not just the people on my team, not just me, but also the clients that we worked with, in this case, hotels. These people depended on us and the people who worked for them depended on us.

I always tell people that’s when I really learned how to be a good digital marketer. That’s when I learned how to be a good digital strategist. It’s when I learned how to be a better leader. I often think that I learned as much during that 18 month period, 2008 into 2009 into 2010, as I’ve learned in my career up to that point. Different things obviously, and it doesn’t mean the things that I’ve learned before were wrong. It just meant that I learned a whole bunch of new things. I learned from everyone because it was uncharted territory. There were no experts. Yes, there was my own experience, and those of others I worked with during the downturn of 2000 and 2001. There were the shared experiences I got from people who’d lived through the recession in 1990 and 1982. My boss and board members of the company I worked for had firsthand experience that dated to the 1974 recession, and most had worked with people whose experienced went back even further.

But nobody was walking around saying I have all the answers. I know exactly what we need to do and how we need to get through this. There were certainly lessons we can draw on, but what we all knew for sure was, one, there were no bad ideas. Two, there was nothing we couldn’t test because the alternative was to fold up the tents and go home for good. That simply was not an acceptable alternative for any of us.

So we got good at what we did. I had got better at what I did. We acknowledged that it was a crappy situation. We acknowledged that there were no guarantees, but we did the work, and we all knew that eventually everything was going to be all right. The current situation feels pretty familiar. Yes, this is terrible what we’re going through, and there’s the added reality of the health situation. I don’t want to belittle that. I don’t want to demean it. I don’t want to disregard it. It’s a very real problem. It’s the primary reason we’re in what people are calling this weird K shaped recovery, where some folks are managing just fine and others are getting crushed.

Where the Economy is (Probably) Headed

What I do know is true is that we’re now seven months in and we’re probably, based on past data and what we’re seeing, at least another two to six months from seeing the hardest hit industries start to meaningfully recover. There are definitely industries that are already seeing meaningful recovery. There are some industries, I’m looking at health care, I’m looking at people in some technology fields, that really haven’t seen much of a hit at all. But if you look at hospitality, if you look at restaurants, if you look at retail, if you look at a number of other industries like that, it’s going to be a bit of time before they really start to see meaningful recovery.

We Will Get Through This

Yet what my experience says is they will meaningfully recover. You will meaningfully recover. If you’re one of the folks who’s on that bottom bar of the K, this will get better. You just have to put in the work.

And I want to be fair. It doesn’t guarantee that everything will get better right away. It doesn’t guarantee that there won’t be bumps and bruises and batterings that you may take at points during this, or have already taken. Again, I don’t want to seem flip to people’s situations. I will fully acknowledge I like to have a good time. I like to make jokes. I like to have fun. Even in tough times, I try to keep a smile on my face, one, because I’m pretty lucky. I’m pretty blessed. I don’t mean that in a braggy way. I just mean that I’ve been very fortunate in my career. Two, because I have lived through some tough times before. I’ve definitely had some periods where things were not going perfectly. Three, because you got to try to keep a positive attitude about it while also acknowledging the reality of, yeah, this kind of sucks. Maybe it doesn’t kind of suck. Maybe just flat out sucks.

What You Can Do

But there are things you can do, and it’s what we’ve been talking about here on the show for lots of episodes. Just pay attention to the trends. We have to listen to what’s going on with our customers.

Episode 293, I talked about the five drivers of e-commerce and digital transformation for your business. This is a great time to reinvent what your business is, not just for now, but for where business is going to be for the next five, 10, 15 years. I talked about in episode 292, that there is never a new normal in digital. Yeah. This. These kinds of ups and downs are going to occur. Hopefully not tied to a pandemic, hopefully not tied to lots of people getting sick and lots of people dying. But just the fact of that, there are going to be some down times. There are going to be some times that you will struggle.

So setting yourself up better to be in a good position for the long haul now is the thing that will help you out in the long haul. I mentioned in a couple of shows that I did, episode 295 and episode 194, all around key steps toward digital transformation and how you can listen to your customers, how you can gain the data and the insights you need to respond to what your customer’s needs are. In episode 297, I talked about four questions your business needs to answer right now. Then of course, Lastly, episode 302, how you can build a digital company. because that’s what you need to be thinking about right now. That’s the work you need to be doing.

Obviously, do what you got to do to keep your doors open and do what you got to do to survive. But while you’re doing that, you also want to set yourself up to thrive. It doesn’t mean that you’re going to thrive tomorrow, and there are lots of ways, as I talked about those past episodes, that you can do these things very cost-effectively, it doesn’t mean you have to go out tomorrow and drop a whole bunch of cash that you may not have to set yourself up for success. It’s that you can do some things that are low cost or in some cases free, they just require your time, to get a better understanding of what matters to your customers and start building the content that will help answer their questions. Start creating the customer experience that will help them recommend you to their friends and their family and their fans and their followers, help them help your business, help them become what I like to call your secret Salesforce.

Because are the things that will set you up for the long run. Those are the things that will help you get through both the current situation and be set up for success as you go forward. So I kind of want you to think about our buddy, Shawn. He had one hit, right? He had one massive hit 22 years ago and the guy is still plugging away. Why is he plugging away? Because he loves what he does. He’s trying to do a good job. He’s trying to make music. He’s trying to make people happy. He’s trying to help his audience enjoy their day a little better, and he’s doing the work to do it. I know that’s what a lot of you all are doing too. So I would just encourage you, keep the faith. You’re going to be fine. As Shawn says, everything is going to be all right.

Show Conclusion and Credits

Now, looking at the clock on the wall, we are out of time for this week. But as ever, I want to remind you that you can find the show notes for today’s episode, as well as an archive of all our past episodes, by going to Again, that’s Just look for episode 305. You can also subscribe in any of the episodes that you find on, to have Thinks Out Loud delivered to your favorite podcatcher every single week. You can also find Thinks Out Loud on Apple podcasts, Google podcasts, Spotify, Stitcher radio, Overcast, wherever fine podcasts are found. Just do a search for Thinks Out Loud, Tim Peter Thinks Out Loud, or Thinks Out Loud. We should show up for any of those.

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As I do every week, I’d like to thank Solo Segment, our sponsor. Solo Segment is a very cool product, a very cool service. I have a close association with them. They’re using machine learning and natural language processing and anonymous behavioral data to connect website visitors, the people on your website, with the content they seek to accomplish their goals, which helps you accomplish yours. They do this in a way that protects privacy for your site visitors. They understand that most of the people who come to your site, you don’t know who they are. You’re kind of stumbling around in the dark. Their view is embrace the dark, help people based on what they’re doing, not who they are. When you do this, it improves the effectiveness and the efficiency of your marketing team, it’s super simple to install on your site, and you can learn more about Solo Segment by going to Again, that’s

With that, I want to say again how much I appreciate you tuning in today, how much I appreciate you tuning in every single week. Especially with all the things going on in the world right now, I really hope that you enjoy this and it gives you something to do. It means a world to me that you do it. With that, I hope you stay well. I hope you stay healthy. I hope you stay prosperous. I hope you have a great rest of the week. I hope you have a wonderful weekend and I will look forward to talking with you here on Thinks Out Loud next time. Until then, please be well, be safe, and as ever, take care everybody.

Tim Peter is the founder and president of Tim Peter & Associates. You can learn more about our company's strategy and digital marketing consulting services here or about Tim here.

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