Bas’ Stories

The way Bas works is determined a lot by his past. He studied history and comes from an education background. Bas wrote down three stories that for a big part determine the way he works. You can visit his Linkedin page here  or read mhis extended bio here.

 oma-tuin  dunkirk-books  mandela-day
How my grandmother taught me about marketing How I use the Battle of Dunkirk in Digital Marketing What I learned from Nelson Mandela in teaching

How my grandmother taught me about marketing

My grandma was special. Unlike some old people she wanted to connect with her grand children in a way that was not about her but about the kids. She really wanted to connect, on the level of the children.

oma-tuinWhen you are growing up, getting through your puberty years and becoming a young adult, let’s say in between the age of 14 and 20, most youngsters don’t like to spend time with old people very much. After all, they remind you of your parents. And parents you need to get away from.

My grandmother had 11 grandchildren and she wanted to really have a connection with all of them. Instead of trying to get a connection by talking about what happened to her in her life, she started with research: she researched what her grandchildren liked.

In my case my grandma found that I liked football (wasn’t difficult to spot to be honest, but ok), and Ajax Amsterdam in specific. She understood that if she wanted to connect with me she should know something about the team. But she didn’t stop there.

You might expect someone like her to do a bit of research and talk about the results of the team, so whether they had won or lost. That is what people do who don’t have an empathy for the game, but want to talk about it: “So, how about that game from Ajax, they won, huh”. If someone starts talking to you like that most sports fans will know they are dealing with someone who is just trying to make some small talk, but who really doesn’t know that much about the game.

My grandma understood that she had to know more to really connect.

So instead of just knowing the scores she knew details: who was playing, who was injured, what the coach had said and actual match details.

When my grandma started talking about details I understood that she knew what she was talking about and I responded. I noticed that it was actually fun to talk to my grandma about football. For one simple reason: she talked to me about it, on my level, not hers.

My grandma taught me that it’s important to understand who you are talking to, to get their confidence and from there work on the connection. I use this every day in my day to day life, both private as in business. I help clients understand their audience based on this principle, I show audiences and students how to take those first important steps in audience understanding and I write about it a lot.

Listen to me tell the story to an audience in Iran:

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How I use the Battle of Dunkirk in Digital Marketing

A lesson learned from my study history

Like many digital marketers from the first hour I didn’t have a proper ‘digital marketing education’, I studied history. Sometimes people ask how this resonates with my current work. Digital and history don’t seem to go together after all. I tend to disagree. There is a lot from my history study I take with me in the work that I do now.

An example of that is my very first day as a student. I remember vividly sitting in the big room with about 100 other students I didn’t know, waiting to learn. When the professor walked into the room his first words after he welcomed us were a life lesson I still use, but didn’t get right away when he said it:

“Don’t believe a single word you are going to hear in the next four years.”

As a young student this was confusing: so I’m going to learn things, but I shouldn’t believe them? When you think of the history study as a study that is about facts this indeed seems wrong. But it’s not. The study is about gaining insights, connections and learning how to see things from a different perspective: there are always more truths to a story.

dunkirk-booksA good example of that was when I learned about the battle of Dunkirk. We got an assignment to read two books about the battle, a German and an English book. The assignment was simple: figure out what’s wrong.

When I got the assignment I started with the German book. At the end of the book it was clear: the Germans had won. When I then read the English book however at the end I was startled: the English had won!

Now you have to know that in this battle the Germans forced back the English, who got away with all sorts of different boats. With over 700 boats they ‘escaped’, making the evacuation a success, the battle was lost. You can read all about the battle here or on Wikipedia.

There were two sides to this story: The German side, who focused on the battle, and the English side, which focused on the evacuation. Both were right, so both won.

In my current work this is something I use a lot. Not just in presentations, but also in consulting and training: I get my clients or students or audience to think from a different perspective, let them look at the other side of things and with that open up new opportunities in marketing. It helps them look at their audience from a different perspective, not just their own, but their audience’ perspective.

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What I learned from Nelson Mandela in teaching

In 2004 I visited South Africa. And when a tourist goes to Cape Town, he visits Robben Island, so did I. The visit was, as I imagine it was for many, hugely interesting and impressive. You get to see Nelson’s Mandela’s cell, you learn about how they communicated and about the harsh times they had.

mandela-dayOne thing in particular drew my attention: the Robben Island University. This off course came to my attention because I come from a family of teachers (I’ve often said I could’ve filled a school with teachers who were all related), because I am a trained history teacher myself and because I do a lot of training sessions in my current work.

At Robben Island the prisoners were only allowed out a small amount of time each day and the prisoners were ‘held dumb’ by the authorities. The prisoners however had committed themselves to self-development. So they came up with a plan and everyone with a degree was given a subject to teach. This is how the Robben Island University was born.

This principle I used to set up State of Digital and in the State of Digital Academy. I use it in my everyday life when teaching, training or consulting. I let (young) experts write on State of Digital to have them teach others. I also use it in my training sessions and I try to help start-ups in my mentoring by letting them think and teach each other. I believe that there is always someone more knowledgeable, but also that there is nobody who knows it all. Together however, you can teach each other in such a way that knowledge is everywhere. So bringing together the knowledge is where the true power lies. That’s what I learned from Nelson Mandela.

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