Getting sales enablement right to increase results

sales_enablement

Sales enablement is intended to help raise performance, but a lot of efforts have backfired due to departmental silos. And now there’s growing gap between what salespeople need and what they’re getting to improve performance.

For example, Corporate Visions recently surveyed 500 B2B marketers and sales professionals that 20% of organization content creators “just do what they think is best” with no overarching structure at all. And just 27% of organizations are content that focuses squarely on customers and rather than their own story.

And all the tools and technologies meant to help boost sales productivity are now are slowing things down.

What’s the bottom line?

Salespeople are getting overwhelmed and slowed down with increased complexity just like the customers they’re selling too.

That’s why I interviewed Dave Brock (@davidabrock), author of the Sales Manager Survival Guide, also CEO of Partners in EXCELLENCE. Dave’s brilliance is his focus on practical simplification. And I’m excited to bring his thinking on sales enablement and what can be done to raise sales team performance.

Can you tell us a little bit about your background?

Dave: Brian, thanks so much. I really appreciate the chance to continue the conversation we started in Washington, and appreciate you inviting me to this.

By background, I actually started out as a physicist in my career, and ended up going to the dark side of selling, and sold mainframe computers for IBM a number of years. Went up the food chain to more senior management roles, then left to become EVP of sales for a technology company as part of a turnaround, later held VP of Sales or CEO roles in several technology companies.

And now run the consulting company – we help our clients actually solve some of the most challenging problems in sales and marketing, and dealing with the new buyers that there are. We have a highly collaborative approach in helping really outstanding people, solve really, really difficult problems.

What is the biggest trend you see affecting your work and sellers today?

Well, clearly, it’s the convergence of some things that we see in the marketplace. It’s the new buyer. Everybody’s changing the way they buy, and learning how we engage these new buyers, both through marketing, sales, and customer experience is critical.

At the same time, we see tremendous transformations in business and business models, whether it’s the digital transformation that virtually every company is undertaking, or just older business models being displaced with new business models.

We have some of the classics of Airbnb, turning the hotel and lodging market upside down or Uber turning the taxi and limo business upside down. We see that the new business models occurring are driving real stress on customers.

And then the final thing is just overwhelming complexity, just between the rate of change, the amount of information we’re deluged with every day. Most of the people I’m meeting are really struggling with at least one of those three things. I see it impacting virtually everybody.

Brian: I can relate to those challenges. I think just in talking about complexity for sellers and marketers, I was having a conversation with someone earlier and it’s just an overwhelming number of tools an average salesperson uses, or a marketer uses. It also creates challenges around collaboration, that internal collaboration.

How do you get internal collaboration to improve sales performance?

Dave: The easy answer is to break down the silos and start talking to each other. It’s easier said than done. The thing that we see is a lot of the issues we face, regarding internal complexity and internal collaboration, is just people being well-intended doing their jobs, but somehow their jobs aren’t aligned with each other, or there are things about their jobs that cause them to conflict with other people. Simple things like aligning roles and responsibilities, aligning metrics, some classic value stream types of analysis.

I just had a conversation earlier today with a marketing executive and his top management team. We were talking about what’s the value proposition they create for sales, and sales is the downstream customer of theirs.

I think, again, we have to rethink our working relationship, rethink the classic business process re-engineering of our workflows, our roles, and responsibilities. And really get some alignment in metrics, so that we realize we’re all on the same team, with the same end goal.

Brian: That’s helpful. And something that’s really come to age recently is sales enablement.

What’s the role of sales enablement to help achieve this?

sales_enablement-silosI think I’m on the wrong side of some debates on this. I look at sales enablement as more a set of processes in a set of activities than a separate function within the organization.

If you look at what sales enablement processes are supposed to do, they’re meant to be able to help maximize the salesperson’s ability to perform. And so, you look at that and say they are a whole collection of things that we can do to do that.

The first is the frontline sales manager and their role in coaching and developing everybody on their team to perform at maximum capability. But then these frontline sales managers need a lot of support in a lot of areas, whether it’s tools and technology, whether it’s new programs, whether it’s people selection and performance management, whether it’s training, whether it’s content and so on.

So, you start looking at seeing all these things contribute to enabling the salesperson to perform at the highest level as possible.

Now, who does that stuff? It could be all over the place. It could be marketing that’s doing some of this stuff. It could be HR that’s working on a lot of the talent management types of things. It could be sales operations, or it could be people in the sales function.

So, I think the discussion around sales enablement is more powerful when we look at: what are the things that we need to do, and then, look at who in the organization can do those most effectively and most efficiently.

Brian: I like how you talk about it because I often think when I speak of enablement, I often am looking at marketing and sales. But, as you’re talking, it’s bringing in the finance team, the human resources team, so it’s a collective effort, not just one single group or department. That’s the whole point you were saying earlier, about bringing down the silos. Do I understand that correctly?

Bringing down the silos that get in the way sales enablement

Exactly. I got engaged in debate not long ago about how sales enablement earns a spot at the CEO’s table. To me, that was one of the most ridiculous discussions I’ve ever seen.

We now have sales enablement executives that not only want to have a spot at the Chief Sales Officer’s table but now they believe they should have a place at the CEO’s table. The CEO’s table’s getting pretty crowded.

I think it goes away from the point of what we’re trying to do. And, I believe that it actually starts building more barriers to collaboration and working. We’re building to the degree that we are creating another silo and another set of functions competing for attention and corporate resources.

Again, I tend to like to look at these as more processes and workflows, and what are the things that need to be done. And then we look at who can do those most effectively. And if it a sales enablement organization, well that’s really powerful, but we shouldn’t overlook the other parts of the organization.

Brian: We spent time talking about sales enablement. Marketing does have a significant role in helping raise the level of performance for the sales team. As you and I were in D.C., we talked about how often marketing is looked to as the “leads people.” We need to think beyond that, regarding how they can impact efficiency and effectiveness of each individual sales rep.

How do you think marketing can help raise the level of performance of sales?

I believe that we must change our mindset from marketing being the “awareness people,” the “create interest people,” the “leads people,” the “demand gen people,” and so on and so forth, and look at the entire customer buying journey. Look at what that is and who can contribute to that.

We have the traditional feeling that marketing does demand gen, and lead gen, and tosses those over the wall to sales. And sales immediately reject all of them as being bad and tosses them back. But we separate these processes.

I think modern sales and modern marketing is very different. I like to look at modern marketing and sales as kind of like a basketball team. On a basketball team, every person has their defined roles. You have a couple of guards, you have a couple of forwards, you have a center, and you practice plays, and everybody tries and plays those roles. You get really expert at that. But then in the game, you’re very agile and nimble and adapt to what’s happening with competition and what’s going on with the game.

I think we need to look at marketing and sales more like a basketball team. What are our roles? What are our responsibilities? What are the plays that we execute? Who executes those?

Working as an agile team

But I think we have to be very agile in working with each other in saying, “Who’s the person that should be taking the shot right now? Who should be bringing the ball down the court?”

I look at marketing and sales, not as the sequential process where marketing gets the leads and gives them to sales, and sales takes care of everything throughout, but we work together in the demand gen process, and we cooperate in the buying process.

There’s a huge amount that marketing can bring to the party with qualified opportunities. Whether it’s case studies, whether it’s tools, whether it’s content relevant to where the person is towards the end of the buying journey, and those kinds of things. We really need to look at it as an interrelated, and integrated set of processes.

Brian: It makes a lot of sense, what you’re talking about. I think the challenge is that marketing and sales often are doing the same things. They might have different words for it.

For example, marketing may call it lead gen, lead generation, or inbound sales might call it prospecting, social selling, etc. They’re doing the same things. As I’ve talked to salespeople, they often are feeling they’re succeeding despite marketing, not because of it. I was talking to someone trying to build his own pipeline. He was getting leads from marketing, they weren’t helping. He was prospecting, trying to figure out how to cold-call, etc.

Do you think salespeople are getting it wrong with how they prospect? 

I do think we’re getting a lot wrong about prospecting. One is I don’t think enough salespeople are prospecting.

Most everybody I talk to is opportunity-starved, but we have a lot of these kinds of mindsets and mentalities that say, “Well, it’s marketing’s job to get those leads. And if they aren’t getting the leads, then you know, there’s nothing I can do. Or it’s the SDR’s role to take those leads and qualify them or do something with them. And then my job is just to take those great leads that the SDR gives to me.”

I think the first thing we do is we must change salespeople’s mentality and say, you know, marketing is going to do everything they can to get you the right kind of leads, and the right kinds of opportunities. SDR’s are going to do everything they can. But if the volume isn’t sufficient, you have to go out and start finding business yourself. You have to prospect. You have to generate new business.

You might go to marketing and ask them for help in doing that, maybe giving you a particular program that you can execute as well. The other thing too is I sometimes think we get our prospecting models, and particularly the SDR-driven type models a little bit backward.

What’s not working with the current sales development rep (SDR) model

I think we do a disservice to SDRs. Most organizations, the SDR is kind of an entry-level job to selling. They do something that most salespeople would refuse to do, which is to call people they’ve never spoken to before and prospect them. It’s a really tough job.

But one of the disconnects we have is these poor SDRs often calling on C-level people.

I get SDRs calling me every day. I feel really sorry for them because they’ll call me and say, “We believe we can help you improve your business.” And I say, “Cool. What am I doing wrong? How should I be developing my business?” and they’re floored. They don’t know how to carry on that conversation. They shouldn’t be expected to. If they’re brand new to selling, why are they calling me, a C-level executive, albeit of a small company, but a C-level executive? We’re matching the wrong people up with the target audience.

As a result, we’re creating terrible first impressions. If somebody calls me and they can’t have a powerful, engaging first conversation, I’m going to have a negative opinion both of that individual and of their company.

I think we’re missing huge amounts of opportunities by not having the right people. I wrote an article about a year ago saying, “Maybe we need to get some of our most talented senior-level salespeople being SDRs.” If they’re creating that first impression, and if our target persona is this C-level person, then those are the people that have the best capability of setting up a very, very positive first impression, and opening up far more opportunities than a brand new SDR without that experience base.

Brian: I love that suggestion. It reminds me before it was called an SDR, that’s what I started as at 23. I was on the phone. I was calling C-level people, 23 years old. There was very little training advice, coaching. It was on the job. Later, I started a company helping people do that. I worked for a company that, myself, I was CEO. I made calls with the team who was on the phone, and the whole point was to learn, to see what they were experiencing, to understand.

This is really a great transition into talking about this idea of empathy. That’s the hard part: how can somebody who doesn’t have experience connect with someone else and understand their perspective and feeling?

How can sellers be more empathy-based with their approach to customers?

Dave: I think there are some things. First of all, empathy is about caring. You’ve got to care about your customers, whoever those customers are. If you’re only in business to say, “How can I get an order?” then you’re never going to be successful at all.

You’ve got to care about your customers. You’ve got to care about their success in achieving their goals. If you’re driven by that, it changes your whole orientation and your process for engaging the customer in the conversations you have.

That shouldn’t be a do-good or Pollyanna-ish kind of mentality.  The only people I’m going to engage are people who I know have the problems that I can solve. I’m not wasting my time calling on people, and engaging them, and caring about them and their success if they don’t have the problems that I can help them solve. It is very focused on calling the right people that we can do some things with. And then it’s understanding who they are. It’s kind of sitting behind their desk or being able to walk in their shoes.

There are a whole number of ways you can do that. I used to sell to the large money center banks in New York City. To learn about banking, you hang out where the bankers hang out, and they hung out at Harry’s at Hanover Square. I’d learn a lot by just talking to them over a beer about what their businesses were, what their dreams were, where their problems were, which enabled me to connect much more effectively with those people in the business.

We’ve got to start hanging out where our customers hang out, whether it’s discussion groups, whether it’s trade shows. It’s really learning about where they live, and what they worry about every day. It’s asking questions, it’s getting engaged in those conversations. I think along with caring, is curiosity. If you have those two attributes, you’re going to figure out what the customer’s about. You’re going to know how to engage the customers. You’re going to understand how your products and solutions might serve the client and help them. Two fundamental attributes: caring and curiosity.

Our empathy is our marketing/selling intuition

Brian: That is terrific. I really liked how you brought it together, regarding meeting those elements, then immersing yourself in the world of your customer, going where they are.

It’s interesting, as I

was listening to you, I don’t know that the marketers who are reaching out, or making that initial impression, have actually been able to get in the world of the people they’re hoping to influence and help to drive change, to work with them through their journey. I would say that what you shared, what you did, as a salesperson, we need to do that in marketing too: get in the world of the customer and observe. From that, we’re going to have the empathy, or to put it another way, we’ll have the intuition.

Our empathy is our marketing and sales intuition; to know how to best move forward in what some of those opportunities are.

Dave: It’s really funny how some of these cycles go, but I remember maybe 10, 15 years ago, when there were a lot of initiatives around understanding the voice of the customer. When you looked at the way a lot of those initiatives were implemented, some of them literally would live for several weeks with the customers and sit and observe them in their jobs, etc.

Getting marketers out and treating the customers less as an intellectual exercise, or an analytic exercise, but actually visiting the customers. Spending a few days of watching them work, talking to them not about what we sell and whether they like these things that we sell, but talking to them about what they do, and what they feel, and how they think.  And then bringing that back in and say, “Now we know the customer, and we’ve seen where they live. How do we take that information and best leverage it to engage them where they’re at?”

Brian: Fantastic.

What other actionable advice do you have for those who want to help improve sales enablement? 

Dave: I think it’s a little bit counterintuitive. It may sound simplistic, but we don’t do it. So many of our initiatives, so much of our thinking is driven inward-out, rather than outward-in.

We have our products, and we have our services. We think about what we want to do, and how we want to bring those to market, and so we develop all our launch programs, all our marketing programs, all our sales programs, from an internally-based orientation, about what’s most effective and what’s most efficient for us.

Usually, when we execute those, we find we’ve missed one thing: we’ve forgotten about the customer. What we do that may be most effective and efficient for us, but may not be effective or efficient for the customer.

So generally, I find the fastest way to the best and most effective solution is always to work your way back in from the customer.

Who are they?
Where are they?
How do they work?
What drives them?
What do they care about?
What are their dreams?
How do they buy?
How do they self-educate?
How do they learn about things?

Trace those things back into the design the process that meets them where they’re at, rather than trying to force them to find us and meet us where we’re at.

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Why customer advocacy should be at the heart of your marketing

Are you connecting with and empowering your customer advocates? If not, you should. Here’s why.

Customer advocacy marketing programs help you increase revenue by improving customer acquisition and retention (and they’re your bes source of leads).

How? Because you’re helping to encourage and motivate happy customers to speak about you positively to others. And delighted customers are your most powerful hidden sales force.

For example, in 2016, IDC research found that only 10% B2B companies surveyed had a customer advocacy program in place. This year, “The Role of Marketing in Customer Advocacy” report found that has increased to 67% which is a 570% increase.

That’s why I interviewed Mark Organ (@markorgan). Mark is the Founder and CEO of Influitive and he’s been a thought leader in the space of sales and marketing technology; a real innovator. I’m excited to bring his thinking to you on customer advocacy.

Tell us a little bit about your background and what inspired you to start Influitive?

Mark: Yeah, thanks. I’m really excited to be here, Brian. I think this is an amazing podcast and I’m excited to share my story. I’ve lived a number of lives already. One of them, before I started Eloqua in 2000, was as a research scientist. I was actually a Ph.D. candidate in neuroscience at Northwestern University in Chicago. I was really fascinated by how the brain works and what were the biological bases of behavior. It was fascinating for me. Although research, while fascinating, has some challenges concerning it, especially getting paid well. I also wanted to spend more time with my wife, so I left the research world to get in the business world and joined a Bain & Company as a management consultant; from there I started Eloqua.

The other big thread in my life other than being a scientist was being an entrepreneur. I started companies even as a teenager, as far back as age 13. I’ve always been really fascinated with working for myself and satisfying customers. Really, I think now I’m bringing both of those together in my company where I still feel like I’m a scientist. I still feel like I’m trying to discover what makes human beings really work and tick, but also being an entrepreneur, building software for marketers and leveraging the understanding of people and what drives them.

Regarding what motivated me to start Influitive – we’re an advocate marketing software company. So we believe that the future belongs to companies who, as opposed to marketing directly, they do a better job of discovering and nurturing and mobilizing their customers to do the marketing for them. We think the future is for companies to get their customers to do the sales and marketing for them. We built some software for discovering, nurturing and mobilizing advocates.

I got the idea while I was at Eloqua. It was 2005, and great VC convinced me to spend a couple of weeks out in the field to understand how and why people bought my software. What I learned was when we sold software efficiently it was because there was tons of this advocacy involved. There were multiple referrals on the way in. There were lots of case studies that were relevant on the website, the best references and those prospects went very quickly.

At the time, Eloqua was a bootstrap startup, so selling our software quickly was super important. I got really excited about this idea of advocacy, but it turns it was way harder than I thought to generate consistent advocacy. That’s because we didn’t actually understand what motivated the advocates.

I really wanted to understand better what motivated the advocates. Through some interviews and lots of other things like that, I began to figure out what drove advocacy and unfortunately, I couldn’t work on that at the time I was at Eloqua, but when I had a chance to transition out I had an opportunity to work on it at Influitive.

What are some of the lesson’s you’ve learned about building a company with the customer at the heart of your business?

Brian: That’s really cool just hearing how you brought together the two worlds as the scientist to understand what motivates people and then putting in a way that you’re able to help people. I’d love to hear some of the lessons you’ve learned about building a company where from the beginning the customer is at the heart of your business model.

Mark: I’ve learned a lot just of how to build a company. Regarding putting customers at the heart of your business model, one of the things I learned the hard way, coming from Eloqua, was how important the employee experience is. I think one of the big differences between the two companies is that while I was at Eloqua I was very obsessed with what we called our True North, which was measurable value to the customer, and that’s a pretty good thing to obsess about. If you are making your customer money every day, you’re likely to have some success, but one big change that I made at Influitive was really treating my employees as my primary customer, making sure that I was providing the best possible experience for them.

There is so much money that’s available for companies if you can generate the growth and if you can generate an efficient business model. The people who create that efficient business model and that growth are our people. Talent is a scarce resource today. That’s a big fundamental shift for me, and honestly, I think it mirrors a significant shift even in the marketplace. I think that if companies today don’t treat their employees as their primary customer, the future is not going to look too bright for them. That’s one key thing that I learned regarding building a company.

The way we built our software came from the knowledge that I gained from interviewing hundreds of super advocates. Literally, understanding people who might generate several referrals a quarter and be available for references on demand and love to speak on stage for you…all those active advocates that all of us really depend on. None of us can build a successful business without having our customers who are doing that sales and marketing for us. Our lifetime value of the customer and the cost of customer acquisition would be entirely out of whack if we didn’t have that working in our favor. There were some things that I’ve learned about that.

Three important things about customer advocacy

customer conversationOn the macro level, there are three things that I’ve learned that are really important.

The first was that people advocate more when they feel like their part of an exclusive tribe, like when they belong to something that’s bigger than themselves then that’s when you see a lot more advocacy. For example, you can see that at a sporting event. When you go to your local stadium, you’ll find people whose faces are painted in the colors of the team. Why do they do that? Well, they do that because they want to belong to something that’s bigger. They want to be part of an exclusive tribe. That’s what we found. When companies do advocacy programs, if they can give it the right name and the right feel and the right brand and really make people feel like they are special and exclusive you get a lot more advocacy. That’s the first thing.

Second, we learned is that people want to be able to experience the impact that they made on a company. I learned this firsthand. As part of foundational learning for starting my company, one of the things that I was excited to do was learn Mandarin Chinese. I thought it would be a cool thing to do. I learned to speak enough Chinese with this amazing product that, after six months, I was able to have a meeting in China without an interpreter. It was a pretty amazing experience. I used this product called ChinesePod.com and what I found was that (you can see now, I’m still advocating for it) my advocacy really waned over time and it was because I wasn’t really feeling the impact I was making on the company. I didn’t know what the results were of the referrals that I made as an example.

We’ve learned that if you give advocates feedback, they respond better. If you let people know the impact of those referrals that they’ve made if you let people know if they’ve written a guest blog post or they’ve been on a podcast, just like this, how many hits did that podcast get? Did they get a thumbs up? Those sorts of things generate a lot more advocacy because people are getting that feedback.

The third is social capital. If people are experiencing benefits in their life, their career, as a result of the advocacy they are making, they are going to do a lot more of that.

Those are three sorts of social/psychological things that I learned were really important in generating a lot of advocacy. Then, there are the micro-levelists – making it easy, making it fun, making it more rewarding. For example, a lot of games do that. They build things to make it more addictive, all work. We’ve bottled all that and we’ve put that into our product so that you’ve got that exclusive tribe, the people are getting feedback, they’re getting social capital and they make it “game-ified” and fun, so that people want to come back in again and again. It really works. We’ve now come to the point where I think that we’re building something that is going to become a new standard for how companies go to market by putting their customers at the heart of the way they go to market.

Brian: That’s really cool.

How important are customer advocates and why should we create or be involved in their community?

Mark: Here’s one of the things that I’ve seen, especially lately, maybe it’s because I’m running a company that’s all about advocacy, but the industry leaders in almost every sector are also the advocacy leaders. Like for example, Tesla in cars. Tesla’s market cap is equivalent to, I think, nearly all the other car companies combined at this point or very close to it. I’m thinking, why is that? They are also an advocacy leader. They don’t have any commissioned salespeople. They don’t do traditional marketing. All their marketing is done really through their own customers. The impact of that is just incredible because you’ve got this massive unpaid sales force that’s way more efficient than any sales force that you hired could be.

Brian: Right.

Mark: The other thing that we’ve learned is that advocacy is kind of like a beneficial virus. For example, a company that’s built with advocacy, that has a lot of advocacy, those customers that become a new customer because an advocate recommended them, they, themselves, are much more likely to advocate. Essentially, there is a culture of advocacy around these companies. These companies rocket up to being industry leaders. They are so much more efficient regarding their sales and marketing, and they’ve got the culture that keeps this sort of positive feedback group happening, which I think is really exciting. We see that with a lot of our customers, they’re industry leaders. So many of our startup customers have gone public (i.e., MuleSoft) or there’s so many of them that have gone public, or they’re industry leaders like Oracle or SalesForce, IBM. I think why they do well is because of this financial power of having a large unpaid army of advocates.

It feels amazing to work for companies that have a lot of customer advocacy. It gives you that sense of purpose, like, I know why I’m here. We’re adding real value. Look at all these customers we’re delighting, but they are helping us grow. It’s such an empowering, exciting thing to be a part of. I think the most important thing entrepreneurs can do is to build advocates and mobilize them. Now, also having a fantastic product and terrific service but we don’t actually get involved in that area. We actually only work with companies that have a great product, and that’s because we’ve learned the hard way that our product works really well for companies that are already delighting customers.

Early in our history, we had a couple of customers who, frankly, were not doing a great job, but they might have had a handful of happy customers. And they wanted us to help give them a megaphone to mostly make it look like they had that kind of advocacy even if they didn’t. Honestly, we’ve learned that’s not a good business skill. We tend to work with companies that already do an excellent job delighting customers and we make sure they win. It feels like we are really doing good for the world because we’re helping the good guys win.

Brian: I appreciate you saying that. This is going to segue us into talking a little bit about empathy. Often in marketing and sales, it had been outside-in, and what I’m hearing from you is, no, it’s from the inside out. It needs to be authentic. You connect with your employees.

As you know, I’ve been doing some work in empathy-based marketing and selling and how it can help us connect with our customers and create better results.

How can empathy and advocacy based-marketing connect and help empower companies?

Mark: I love this work you are doing on empathy. As an entrepreneur, with every year that goes by I realize more that it’s the number one skill, I think, that business leaders need to develop to win. Often it’s thought of in an employee context for sure. For example, I’ve worked with a coach for the last three or four years namely working on developing my skills as a leader, which includes being more empathetic. Meaning truly and deeply understanding my employees and in particular, feeling what they are feeling, but it extends way beyond employees.

That is why I love the work you are doing about being empathetic for companies and understanding their experience. In fact, this whole business that I’m doing came from a place of empathy in the beginning, because it was all about understanding what the most desirable buying process for someone to go through.

Brian: Yes.

Mark: If you think about the last amazing buying experience you’ve had for something that wasn’t just a commodity, but something you had to think about really. The chances are that process you went through had some trusted people whether those were other customers you trusted or that salesperson you worked with did such a good job that you truly and deeply trusted that person. You trusted this individual had your best interest in their heart. The chances are that trust and that transparency was just completely interwoven in that buying process you had.

That’s what I learned when I was at Eloqua and trying to figure what was going on that some of these prospects who bought in four days instead of four months?

That experience had tons of advocacy all over it. People talk about customer experience all the time, right? I’m not sure some people even know what it means. To me, customer experience is all about feelings. It’s all about the way people feel at different parts of their journey with you and so if we want to make people feel great, if we want to make people feel like there’s trust then you’ve got to infuse that buying process with the power of authenticity, authentic other customers. There’s an intersection right there.

If you care about your buyer, if you care about their experience, and you want them to feel great when they are working with you then, you should probably talk less as a salesperson and as a marketer. And have more of their trusted, relevant peers do the talking for you, not because it’s more effective, but because they like it. That’s the experience that they really want more than anything. I think there is a massive overlap between the ideas of empathy and advocacy.

Brian: I love that and I agree with this as I’ve done research in understanding this perspective and thinking of customers and how are they feeling. They want to know, how you’ve helped people like me? What has worked for others in my field and how can I get better doing what I’m doing? Because there is that authentic someone who’s been in my space or experience.

I just wanted to talk about some actual tips you might have for our listeners today who feel inspired. They realize they have advocates right now, they may not have even used that term. I love the word advocate and what it means.

How can marketers start identifying and better supporting their customer advocates?  

Mark: That’s a great question. We’ve produced an interesting piece of software to help mobilize advocates at scale, but it doesn’t mean you have to do that. Really, every company in the world should be doing advocate marketing and it may be as simple as just having a meal a couple of times a year with some of your best customers. There’s really no agenda there other than to get people together and to ask how to improve and maybe share a little bit about where you’re going as a company. That alone can cost very little.

We have these dinners all the time, and they cost $1,000 to get eight people together at nice restaurant and have a small boutique meal and wow, it just makes a big impact. Because those people are your best customers, they want to affect your company, right? They want to help shape your company. In some cases, they may already feel like they are more a part of your business than their company because they believe so passionately in your idea. By giving them an exclusive tribe and saying hey, this dinner is not just for any one of our customers. It’s for our most special customers. Not because you buy a lot from us either, by the way. It’s not about purchasing. It’s because you get it. It’s because you believe and we think that your ideas are leading edge and are going to be ones that everyone else is going to subscribe to, so we want to spend more time listening to you. We want to take care of you. That message will always be well received. It’s very inexpensive, and it’s got a very high ROI. Just beginning there is a great place to start.

I know a lot of companies are already doing that before we start talking to them and they have people believe in advocacy and it appeals to them. The next step is to centralize your advocacy with a single person doing the talking. A lot of the companies that we work with before we started working with them, had four or five different people in their organization who are all doing little bits and pieces of advocacy in their own way. You might have one person in charge of referrals, another person in charge of talking to customers. The problem there is you’re really missing out on a lot of potential advocacy. That same person that can be a reference for you is also willing to speak on stage. If you have a point person who is in charge of advocacy for your company, you’ll get a lot more, three or four times as much, without spending any more money. In fact, you could actually end up saving a lot of time, money and frustration because you centralize that process.

Again, that’s actually a very empathetic thing, right? Because what you’re saying is: you know what I care about more than the types of things that advocates do? We care about the advocates themselves. We actually care about people. We care about their experience. We want their experience to be great.

By having a single person in your company in charge of that, I think that is showing a lot of respect and appreciation for these very important people. If you just do those two things alone without buying any fancy software, you’ll get a lot more of this very valuable advocacy for your company and it could be quite transformational. Then, maybe you’ll be ready to have a really scaled up advocacy program, and that’s what we do at Influitive.

We create communities where there are some virtual places on the internet and on mobile where you can invite your advocates in, make them feel like a million bucks, let them know how they can help you and get them to interact with each other. We have about 300 great companies that are doing that. They are enjoying the experience, but there again, you don’t have to do anything fancy. Just get people together and show some appreciation. You’ll get a lot of value out of it.

Brian: That’s terrific Mark and thank you for the action points. I was going to ask you one last question before we close. What’s the question you wished I asked but haven’t yet?

Mark: Maybe something about the future? Often a good one is to bring out the crystal ball and see what we see in the future of marketing and that sort of thing.

Brian: That would be great.

What do you see in the future for B2B marketing or selling macro trends?

Mark: Something which I’ve sort of alluded to in this conversation was around the “whys” of customer experience and the role that marketing is going to have play in customer experience. One of the things that you’ll notice, some of the best companies that we have, particularly in the west, are ones that are obsessed with customer experience.

I think as you have more buyers that are inundated with emails and websites and all sorts of stuff like that. Marketers are going to need to have some control over the customer experience in the future because that is going to be the main source of where their best leads are going to come from and their ability to convert those leads.

We see with our customers, which tend to be on the leading edge of the curve, where marketing and customer success are starting to merge a little bit. It’s very analogous to how sales and marketing began to come together in my Eloqua days, under the idea of the standard definition of a lead.

Brian: Yes.

Mark: I have done sales and marketing stuff together, and you’ve done a lot of writing on that. I’ve learned much from you over the years on that. There is a similar thing that is happening now. The customer success and marketing and product are coming together to define what the optimal customer experience is and that is a big, big move. Marketers who can get on that and understand this new language of customer experience and be able to drive it are going to do very well over the next few years. I think that’s one big trend.

I do think that this idea of marketing by proxy is tremendous. It’s a huge thing and these are skills that most marketers do not have today. Marketers now are good at running these cross-functional, multimodal, nurturing-style campaigns to drive leads and this sort of thing. The ability to do that has been really dominant over the last 10 years.

That’s changing as buyers are becoming kind of inundated with that stuff, yet, the ability to get others to do the marketing for you and learning those skills are going to be pretty significant. Because there is such little knowledge in this area, we actually have quite an education effort out there.

You can go to Influitive.com and check out our resources page, and there are lots of educational materials, as we are trying to train this next generation of marketers in how to think this way. Instead of thinking about, how do I bombard people to get my way? It’s how to find the right individuals who are relevant and trusted and how do I get them to carry our message for me? I think that’s going to be a big deal.

https://youtu.be/sK_FWihgnKk

And thirdly, everyone is talking about machine learning and all that these days and I think it’s probably going to create just as big an impact. I think AI machine learning is probably at the very top of the high curve right now.

Brian: Right.

Mark: Three years from now everyone is going to say well, I don’t know what that was all about, I guess that was all hyped up, but then in ten years from now people go wow, that really was a huge change.

So I think it’s definitely worth tracking what’s going on in that technology and we’re certainly spending quite a bit of time playing around with it here. Some of the things I see for marketers, (and actually, there are a lot of sales professionals who listen to your podcast) I think empathy is just as important if not more so for sellers and so is advocacy, so is mobilizing your proxies if you are in the sales profession as well. I think there are a lot of parallels.

You May Also Like:

Advocate marketing blog: What the heck is advocacy marketing?

Lead Nurturing: 4 Steps to walking the buying path with your customers

How Empathy Will Grow Your Sales and Marketing Pipeline

How customer-hero stories help you connect better

The post Why customer advocacy should be at the heart of your marketing appeared first on the B2B Lead Blog.

How customer-hero stories help you connect better

customer-hero storiesDespite all the time, money, resources spent on improving sales productivity, just 13% of sales people produce 87% of revenue in a typical organization according to the Sales Benchmark Index.

So, what do the 13% high achievers have that others don’t? They connect emotionally with their buyers.

That’s why interviewed Mike Bosworth. If you don’t know Mike Bosworth already, he is a thought leader in the sales space. And he’s had a profound influence on how we sell and market, especially those who are in B2B.

In this interview, we’re going to focus on the power of customer-hero stories to connect emotionally with buyers to facilitate their buying journey.

Author’s Note: The transcript was edited for publication.

Can you tell us a little bit more about your background?

Mike: Well, it’s interesting because, I think today, it’s incredible how cloud technology is forcing companies to be more empathic in their sales and marketing. It’s forcing them to. Because with the cloud, the conversation has to shift from the old “our-solution” marketing: our solution will do this, and our solution will do that.

So, making that shift from that to how-the-customer-uses-our-stuff marketing: customer usage marketing or what we in Story Seekers call customer hero marketing. I want marketing to think about what are we really doing marketing for– I’m hoping we’re trying to create customers and sales is also trying to create customers.

If we’re going to sell empathically then, ideally, we won’t even be “selling”. We’ll be facilitating the buying journey of our customer and facilitating their customer experience because human beings love to buy, and they hate to feel sold.

What inspired you to talk about integrating with marketing and sales?

Well, for my whole career as a sales productivity consultant and sales trainer, my stated mission was to help my client lift the bottom 80% of their sales force. The top 20%, the ones who bring in 80% of the revenue, they’ve been doing well for years and continue to. I figured I want to help my customers bump up at least the next 50% because if you could get a 10% increase in productivity from that next 50%. Do the math on that for most companies: it’s a lot of money.

Brian:      It is. As you’ve been working with companies and clients, there’s something that’s existed longer than probably both of us have been doing our work.

Tell us the things most important for marketing and sales to agree on?

In most companies I deal with, they’re really two different silos and they’re pointing fingers at each other.  Marketing thinks they’re sending these great leads to sales, and sales, they go into a black hole and then there’s no follow-up. Sales thinks that the leads from marketing are coming from the janitorial staff of the company that they’re selling to.

Quite a while ago, it occurred to me that if we can find the touch point in integrating sales and marketing, we could really help things out and so Tim Riester and I, we dove into it, and we’ve made the touchpoint, the definition of a lead.

If both the chief sales officer and the chief marketing officer can specifically agree on the definition of a qualified lead then the “integration” really starts getting a lot easier.

That word integration is messing people up in this day and age, and, if you think about it, it gets most people thinking about IT issues. APIs, and what plugs into this and what feeds into that, and that’s disabling true integration. A couple of weeks ago, I just swapped out the word integration for agreement. Golly, does it seem to simplify things.

If sales and marketing can agree on a finite number of things, great things can happen.

Brian:  I really love the word agreement and I think that’s the challenge. Without an agreement, we don’t have common ground. I’d love to hear from you and I think a lot of people have lead definitions. I wrote about the universal lead definition in my book.

What’s the definition of a qualified lead that sales and marketing should agree upon?

Well, there’s a prerequisite to that, and the prerequisite for even defining the qualified lead is sales and marketing first must agree on:

What buyer personas are we selling to?
Who do we envision our best customers to be?
Where we can help them be a hero?
Where we can help them achieve a goal or solve a problem?

Back in my Xerox days, we were selling manufacturing productivity improvement software so we were selling to buyer personas. One buyer persona would be a VP manufacturing who’s missing his shipment schedule. Another one would be a materials manager had shortages and another one would be a CSO who’s missing his sales forecast.

Once you have those buyer personas targeted, now, we go in and think what psychological buying process would they go through in their organization, and when would they start bringing in other people and how would they share information and all that stuff. Ideally, if we can help our customer buy, they never feel any pressure from us.

Facilitating the buying journey

My philosophy has always been: we’re trying to facilitate the buying.  A study by Sales Benchmark Index of 1,100 of B2B sales forces came back in 2008 and they found in their case study base that 13% of the salespeople brought in 87% of that revenue.

I felt like I’ve been kicked in the stomach because my whole mission was to help the bottom 80% get better and it had gotten worse and that caused me to go into a breakdown of a bit.

Building emotional connection and trust

I started studying the problem, and in most cases, 80% of the people in sales aren’t very good at building an emotional connection and building trust with a stranger in a short amount of time. They’re just not very good at it.

They end up diving into their solution or their technology or their knowledge or their discovery questions before the buyer trusts them enough to allow themselves to be questioned.

Over the years, the number one complaint I have from solution selling and customer centric selling clients of mine would be the VP of sales would say, hey said “Mike, the top 20% love solution selling, but the bottom 80% quit using it within two weeks of the workshop.”

If you think about why they quit using it (and my intellectual arrogance caused me to not really study it as well as I should have) it’s that inability to intuitively connect and know when you’ve built enough trust and connection that you can get out your listed discovery questions, and with solution selling, the bottom 80% lack the intuition.

They went to their discovery questions too soon, prematurely, and the buyer said, “You don’t know me well enough to ask me all these questions” and pushed them away, and so if you’re pushed away for two weeks, you quit using it.

Brian: As we’re talking about the definition, I wanted to go back.

Recap the best definition of a lead for sales/marketing to agree upon

Mike: I went off on a tangent because it was the prerequisite of a qualified lead.

Brian: We have to know it. I agree.

Mike: A named targeted buyer persona  (John Doe at the ABC company) is curious how we helped a peer job title, another whatever, chief accounting manager at another company, achieve a goal or solve a problem. We have somebody curious how we’ve helped their peer.

Brian: In and of itself, for those that are listening that are in marketing, I was just talking with a salesperson today, who was struggling trying to build his own pipeline and he talked about his experience of a lead. Mike, I tested your definition with him and he said, “Yes. I would love that.”

He reiterated his experience of getting a “lead” of someone who didn’t actually want to talk with them. They weren’t curious. They were someone who had agreed to a meeting, but they didn’t know why.

Mike: Agreeing to a meeting. They might have been curious that we didn’t capture that curiosity.

Brian: Earlier you talked a bit about the problem with product marketing and you brought up customer hero marketing. Why should we in marketing start focusing on making our customer the hero, instead of what we’re doing right now which is focusing on the product or what we do or what we sell?

What are customer-hero stories and why should we focus on them now?

Mike: First of all, it is going to be the mission of the company to do customer hero selling and customer hero marketing? It really has to come from the top. It’s really a paradigm. Years ago, Gerhard Gschwandtner, the publisher of Selling Power magazine, said that the CEO’s definition of selling is the DNA of the customer’s experience.

If you really believe in your heart that people love to buy and hate to be sold, then why wouldn’t we make it our mission as a company to facilitate, to architect, our customer’s experience? To really think about how they would go through a natural buying process and feel comfortable and then let us facilitate that buying, using storytelling and story tending.

Thus, making story the foundation because stories allow people with problems to visualize seeing themselves solve that problem.  What happens is we create a little story in their brain. And the story involves seeing themselves responding to that once a month problem they have differently, if they just had somebody’s help or technology or capability.

The customer is a hero by using the product and so let’s not market the product as the hero. Let’s market our past customers as the hero and we’re looking to help new prospects become heroes via customer hero selling. If we really agreed on the definition of a qualified lead, now customer hero marketing feeds right into the customer hero selling.

Brian: I love the definition and distinction because, I know from the customer’s side, they’re curious about someone like me who’s had a problem like me and I think that is the challenge that we have, bridging that gap of trust.

What can marketers and sellers do to apply empathy and better connect with customers?

Mike: It’s such a paradigm shift.  What we’re trying to do is teach salespeople to create a big juicy buying vision, a customer hero vision where this guy sees himself as a hero in his own company. Saving money, making money, solving a problem, achieving a goal, that he hasn’t been able to do before.

We teach people how to do connective-listening. Once the buyer starts talking freely. We teach the salespeople how to tend the buyer story and then send that buyer a written version of his customer hero story.

Brian: As I’m listening to you, it sounds like you’re building a relationship by helping someone else relate to the story, see themselves in it, and then also starting to bridge the trust gap because you’re connecting with something that they can identify with and how they’re likely feeling.

Mike: It’s the product usage. That’s why the customer hero stories bridge the cloud gap now too, or the cloud is forcing all these technology companies that have all this high-powered product marketing talent and most of the product collateral ends up being “it” based or “our solution” based. It will do this, it will do that, or our solution will do this or our solution will do that.

That’s making the product the hero. It’s disabling the buying process because now the buyer is going to feel the pressure of somebody wanting to sell them some piece of technology.

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The post How customer-hero stories help you connect better appeared first on the B2B Lead Blog.

Stuck on words: how can marketing connect with customers better?

customer connectionHow can marketers better connect with people we hope will become our customers?

Over the past year, I’ve been researching why there’s such a disconnect between marketing and customers so I can understand how to bridge that gap.

Why? Because right now, the trust gap between marketers and customers has never been wider.

For example, this recent Gallup Poll shows that confidence in the honesty and ethics of marketers and sellers isn’t much higher than Members of Congress.

And this survey by Hubspot showed that only 3 percent of people surveyed consider marketers and salespeople trustworthy.

The self-inflicted problem we all face in sales and marketing

So, I’ve been stewing on this for a while, and I could use your help. I’m trying to pull two things together and could use your input on this because I keep pulling on this thread and it doesn’t end.

You see, I’ve worked in the world of complex sales, B2B marketing, and lead generation for two decades. And lately, I’ve been doing self-reflection as I’m working on a new company which you’ll hear more about soon.

First, let me start by saying, I initially started feeling cynical but now a bit hopeful.

Let me explain:

I think we marketers can be cynical and even snarky at times. We know good marketing. We know when something is legit. And we have well-tuned B.S. meters. It’s harder for me is to detect my own B.S., so I depend on others to give me feedback. And at times, I’m told I’m full of it.

It’s about the words we use

So, I’ve been stuck using certain words to describe what I do. By that, I mean the words we use in sales and marketing.

Back when I wrote the book Lead Generation for the Complex Sale which succeeded beyond my hopes. Back then, I felt marketing and sales are about relationships. And I still do.

Yet I think we have a major problem in marketing and sales. And I’d venture to say a big part of the problem is self-inflicted.

To help, I’ve written about things like: remember that leads are people. Be human. Be authentic. Use empathy. But, I need your help discussing something more foundational: the words we choose in marketing and sales to describe what we do and the people we’re doing it for.

Why? Because our words affect how we think. It’s something that linguists call the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis which shows that the words and the language we choose influences our thinking.

Our words can actually change our brains (and others)

In my experience, words reflect our intention and values. And our customers feel it. This is why customer empathy is essential. But surprisingly, our words actually influence our brain function i.e. how we think.

Andrew Newberg, M.D., and Mark Robert Waldman the authors of Words Can Change Your Brain confirm this through their extensive research.

According to Newberg and Waldman, “We communicate in so many different ways and in so many situations, but if we don’t bring self-reflective consciousness into the equation by reflecting on what we say before we say it, we’ll fail to reach the depths of intimacy and cooperation that we are capable of.“

You can read more of their Newberg and Waldman’s research about how words influence our brain here.

For example, the minute I call someone a “lead” or “prospect,” I turn them into an object in my mind. And when I see someone as an object, I treat my marketing as something I DO to people rather than something I do FOR them.

Nobody wants to be treated an object.

Instead, we need to address others as thinking and feeling people with individual needs and relate to their humanity.

Also, I think marketing is a spiritual thing. It’s the intention behind what we say and what we do. And I believe marketing and sales can and should be a force for good by being genuinely helpful. We have this incredible capacity to influence people positively or negatively.

Help influence and change the words we use 

This starts with us (you and me) and the words we use which ultimately affects how we think and act towards others.

There’s so much else that I’d like to say, but I want to ask you two questions.

  1. How can we change the way we talk about people (customers and future customers) we want to help and positively influence? 
  2. How can we do to change the way we talk about what we do inside (an outside) our companies?

The language we use to objectify customers includes leads, prospects, suspects, conversions, opportunities, pipeline, MQLs, SQLs and more.  We also use phrases like, “crush your quota,” “lead magnets, “wins,” ”closes,” “deals,” and more.

We need to find congruency in the words we use and what I believe the ultimate purpose of marketing which is to help attract, build and grow customer relationships.

When I put myself in my customers’ shoes and use empathy, I can start to see how we talk in a way that dehumanizes. And I know what it feels like when I’m treated I’m an object to convert not a person who needs help.

It’s no wonder the perception of marketers and sellers is negative, and we have a trust gap. And we’re due for a change.

You may also like:

4 Ways You Can Humanize Marketing and Build Relationships
Lead Nurturing: 4 Steps to walking the buying path with your customers
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How Empathy Will Grow Your Sales and Marketing Pipeline
Why purpose matters to marketing: growth, revenue, and profit

The post Stuck on words: how can marketing connect with customers better? appeared first on the B2B Lead Blog.

Why purpose matters to marketing: growth, revenue, and profit

why purpose matters to marketingDoes your purpose currently impact your marketing, revenue growth, and profit? If not, it should.

Here’s why:

According to research, curated by Mack Fogelson, consider the following:

  • 73% of people care about the company, not just the product when making a purchase. (BBMG)
  • 50% of purchases are made because of word-of-mouth (Brains on Fire)
  • 85% of purpose-led companies showed positive growth (Harvard Business Review/EY)

In sum, purpose matter because it impacts your growth, revenue, and profit.

That’s why I interviewed Mack Fogelson (@mackfogelson), the CEO of Genuinely, a consulting and training company. I met Mack through a mutual friend and we’ve developed a friendship too. I’ve learned a lot about marketing with purpose and why it’s important to revenue growth and profit and I’m excited to share her thinking with you. You’ll also learn four steps to articulate your purpose.

Author’s Note: The transcript was edited for publication.

Mack, can you tell us a little bit more about your background?

Way long ago, I was a teacher and did that for a while. Then over the last fourteen years, I’ve been in the marketing space, so everything from building and coding websites to optimizing with search engine optimization and SEM to building community and brands and the full, integrated approach to marketing a company.

All of those layers have brought us to where we are now which is primarily teaching companies how to use these concepts, frameworks, and the processes that we’ve tested and know really work to grow their companies. We do this to ultimately help businesses in the digital age compete, contend, and build really great, meaningful and sustainable businesses.

What inspired you to focus on purpose and humanize marketing?

Around the time I started having my family, I just realized that if I was taking that time away from my kids that I really needed to make it count. I’ve built a business around something that has been very meaningful to me and for my employees. We started by helping companies be better. I started getting in the conversation about community many years back. When many marketers were talking about how to rank #1 in Google, I was talking a lot about the benefit of community and of businesses building a community to help their companies. What I didn’t realize at the time, but unfolded many years later, was that purpose was really at the heart of all of that: helping companies to understand how you bring people together through purpose and drive the organization’s growth.

You said that it’s not about what you spend on marketing; it’s purpose that helps you get focused. Why is that?

Because there is so much that has changed. The world isn’t the same. Businesses aren’t the same, and the way the business community works. Customers are not the same. So, we cannot expect marketing to be the same. Mainly we’re looking at consumers now. We expect authentic and very real and human experiences. And not only that but employees are looking for more meaning in their work just like I was many years ago.

It really comes down to the fact that it’s not about what your company sells or solves anymore, and certainly, you need to be incredibly stellar at what you sell and what you make, but it’s about who your business is. And really, it’s about the three components of purpose, people, and promise, and having those pieces work together for any given company so that they can reap all the benefits that purpose brings, like, customer acquisition and retention, customer connection, and employee satisfaction.

How can we overcome this disconnect and better connect with our customers?

Most companies are pushing their product and their services rather than really leading from what their business is here to do and bridging that gap between the purpose of the company and the people that are in line with that. So, when the conversation is about the product, there isn’t much of a conversation to be had.

Let’s say we’re just talking about Dove. They sell soap. But ultimately their aim is to help women feel good about their bodies. So, it’s the intersection of those things (selling soap and helping women feel good about their bodies); the cultural relevancy of attacking an issue like women’s self-image and body image and wanting actually to help solve that problem in our world is what has given Dove such incredible growth in their organization.

When the conversation shifts from being about the product to being about purpose it becomes something else entirely that drives growth because it’s the word of mouth that companies are looking for. And that doesn’t come through talking about a product; it originates from the connection that they have with the shared values and wanting to do something bigger. Not to say that they don’t generate significant profits from this path; it’s just a different way to it.

You’ve talked about why building an authentic and human company is necessary. So why should those in B2B marketing care about this?

Purpose is becoming more of a trendy topic; you see it everywhere and I think that’s the biggest disconnect. Companies think that, on the outside, if they market with purpose, they’re good; they’re safe. And maybe many companies are doing that. But if then the experience with your business is not real all the way to the core, then that’s where you’re going to have significant problems (think about recent events with companies like Uber, United, and Pepsi’s commercial fail).

Ultimately, in the day-to-day, companies want to know how do we achieve growth and how do we continue to acquire customers? How do we keep our customers? When your business is not looking at how to build a deeper connection with that customer (which comes from purpose and empathy as we’ve talked about) there is no connection. When you have no connection, you have no customers.

It’s really in applying the purpose to the day-to-day of the organization and understanding that it’s not just some visionary thing, but it’s about identifying your purpose and then making it relevant to your customers. It’s helping your teams understand what purpose is or isn’t. Many companies think it’s a PR approach or it’s a tag line, or it’s a mission or value statement. And that’s all great, but when it comes down to it, the purpose is really what does that mean to your customer who needs your product and wants to connect more deeply with your company?

Think about Patagonia: they’re selling a stellar product, but they’re also going deeper to say, “We are going to pioneer technology to make better clothing. And we’re going to reduce the impact of that on the environment. Then we’re going to give this technology to our competitors because if they have it, then we’re making a larger impact altogether.”

Companies need a purpose. Because they need to keep their employees; they need purpose to keep their customers, and ultimately there’s something bigger that their businesses are here to do, and it’s not an altruistic path. It’s a road to profit, it’s just, again, a different way of getting there.

Does empathy play a role in understanding your purpose and connecting with customers?

Definitely. One of the biggest things that we see is that companies lack the customer connection and, apparently, the connection to their purpose and any type of authentic or personal or empathetic connection to their customer.  Because they’re using data to make decisions (which they have a copious amount of) some companies just don’t know what to do with it anymore. Success is not in just analyzing your customer data or your audience data or the psychographic data that you get

Success is not in just analyzing your customer data or your audience data or the psychographic data that you get on your customers. It’s participating in one-to-one interviews with them to understand their behavior truly and, more accurately; knowing what they’re thinking and feeling. Because when you just get that digital data about your customer, it gives you some very quantitative benchmarks about the profile of these people, but it doesn’t tell you what they’re afraid of; it doesn’t say what they’re struggling with right now at this point in their lives.

Connecting with your customers on that one-to-one basis obviously opens up a huge conversation for understanding and empathizing with where they’re coming from. But then, by understanding that thinking and feeling, you can then shape your entire content strategy based on removing those roadblocks. And that is something I think ties into many things, in addition to purpose and empathy.

Brian: That’s where we were going to go next. I often talk to marketers who really don’t get to spend face time with the customers they’re looking to influence or reach outside their companies. I think the takeaway here is that marketers need to spend more time connecting with clients, not just through their channel of their sales team, but actually having these conversations and spending time practicing and using their empathy to do just that.

Technology is getting in the way of customer connection

Mack: You and I talk about this a lot with technology, and how everybody thinks that technology is a magic pill; they believe that there must be a tool or piece of technology or software that is going to help them build their customer base faster. The fact of the matter is that technology is part of the root of the problem in which companies need a purpose; they need empathy because they’re trying to solve these much deeper connection issues with their customers by using technology instead of speaking with their clients. Tools and technology can’t help you do that.

So, I think the companies that understand how to use technology wisely need to be able to use these tools at a certain level, even just to do a bunch of the heavy lifting and dirty work that we couldn’t take part in many years ago. But success is in taking that data and pairing it with the one-to-one participation in the flesh with these people to understand who they are, what they need really, and to help them get their roadblocks removed.

Brian: I agree with you.  The very thing that’s supposed to help us (this technology) connect with our customers more efficiently and effectively, is getting in the way of doing that. And so, to counteract that, or the counterpoint, is humanizing and putting more energy into that human connection so that when we do apply the technology, we’re using it well, and in a way that can help facilitate conversations and connections that we’ve already established.

Can you share any other tips or examples that our listeners can use to articulate their purpose? 

Mack:  There are four steps that would really help them understand “how do we even approach this conversation?” There are so many things that must be in line: strategy, leadership, and obviously, your product or service. But purpose greatly enhances the opportunity for success, especially in the digital age, especially regarding competitive advantages.

So just know, if you’re going to go down this road, that you don’t have to start all over, you don’t have to overhaul your entire organization. In fact, many companies that we work with, they just need an outside perspective to help them understand their systems and processes that they use to market and sell; they just need a little tweaking here and there and a reminder of “Hey, at this place is when you integrate purpose. At this place is when you really bring it back to the goals of the organization, wrapped with purpose.” Or, “You need to get to the customer in this place a little bit earlier.”

Four Steps to Articulate Your purpose

stepsStep 1: Clarify the purpose of the organization

We talked a little bit about Dove.  Their purpose is not to sell soap: their purpose is to help women feel better about their bodies. So that’s a big difference there.

Same with Chipotle. Their purpose is not to sell burritos: their purpose is to make food with integrity, and ultimately to pioneer food safety systems and help other fast food organizations to know that they can make great food and still make it healthy and good for our earth.

It’s kind of like understanding the difference between just a mission and the product that you’re selling and actually making the conversation about purpose. So, start there. If you’re at a loss as to how to do that, there are lots of resources online. And that is how you find your purpose. It’s not easy to do, but it’s certainly a place that will make you extremely relevant in your customer’s lives.

For more on this read: Ogilvy What’s the big ideaL and Evolve or Die: How Authenticity and Purpose are the Future of Brands.

Step 2: Deconstruct your customer’s journey

So, now I’m getting specific to sales, marketing, customer experience and those teams in your organization and understanding how to do this by talking to your customers. Just as I mentioned earlier, you definitely want to be looking at the customer data that you can collect digitally. Understand the audience data, the demographic data, psychographic data that you get. But that is typically where companies stop.

They build these personas and then they don’t go any deeper into actually spending face time with the customer. And that’s where all the good stuff is. That’s where you’re going to find connections, and that’s where you’re going to understand what your customers are thinking and feeling at every stage in your funnel so that you can generate resources, content, experiences that help to remove those roadblocks. So, that’s the second part, deconstructing that customer journey so that you can make that bridge between your purpose and your people.

Step 3: Connecting your team’s purpose to your organization’s purpose

The third step in getting purpose really well integrated into your organization is connecting your team’s purpose to your organization’s purpose. Ultimately, you have to know the purpose of your organization in its entirety to really understand why your organization, as a whole, exists beyond making money?

With your team: understand what role they play in achieving that purpose so that they can apply that more specifically to their day-to-day. That can go a really long way toward efficiency, output and morale, especially when your team is pushing hard and days are getting long. The meaning side of that really matters to them.

Step 4: Adjust the communication of your purpose externally

This very much directly applies to your sales and marketing and customer experiences team. They’re the most outwardly-facing, and they have the biggest responsibility in making sure that what is happening inside of your organization is also being effectively communicated outside, so customers know you’re not a façade; that purpose is not a veneer and that it’s truly how you operate inside and out.

You want to teach your sales and marketing team to understand the difference between having a product conversation and having a purpose discussion. When you make that shift to not just pushing your product, but to helping those teams understand the bigger purpose of your organization and how that connects to your customers, you’re opening an opportunity to connect with exponentially more people, more organizations, more influencers, more people in the media, more communities, who are either already your ideal customers, or they know somebody who could be.

For more on these steps, read: Why Your Organization is Getting Sales and Marketing Wrong

Brian:  Mack, that was fantastic. Thank you. You did a good job breaking down to four points, and I feel like this will be tangible for our listeners. We’ll also supply some resources and links for people to dig into these areas as well.

I wanted to ask what advice you would give to those who want to apply what you’ve just talked about and bring this idea to other leaders inside their company.

What if someone, is inspired by this idea – how can they get the conversation started inside their company?

Mack:  That’s a great question. I think it’s starting small. I believe that purpose as a concept seems very intimidating, especially to leaders, because they feel like “Oh my gosh, you’re talking about an entire organization overhaul, and we can’t even keep up with what we’re doing every day.”

It’s not really starting over, it’s just optimizing what you have, and better connecting it and communicating it so that your employees and your customers can understand it. So, I think it’s just starting small.

We typically start with a small purpose workshop. We’re talking maybe 45-60 minutes of helping companies understand what purpose is and what purpose isn’t.  Once they start the conversation I think it’s also to understand that purpose seems kind of fluffy, maybe, when you’re trying to hit your ROI and your metrics and the goals that you have financially for your team and for the organization. But it’s not fluffy. This is about growth. And in this day and age, this is the approach to growth.

But when you’re selling it to your leadership, it’s “We’re going to teach our sales, marketing, and customer experience teams how to remove roadblocks for our customers by connecting that purpose. And that, ultimately, is going to drive sales, it’s going to drive retention, it’s going to drive connections, and ultimately it’s going to drive our growth.”

Brian:  Terrific. What’s the best way for readers and listeners to get in touch with you?

Mack:  They can come to our website genuinely.co. or just come find me online. I’m on twitter at @mackfogelson most every day, happy to chat there.

Additional resources on purpose:

Why Your Organization is Getting Sales and Marketing Wrong

How Purpose and Authenticity are the Future of Brands

Winning with Purpose – EY

Purpose at Work – LinkedIn/Imperative

The Business Case for Purpose – Harvard Business Review [PDF]

You might also like:

How Empathy Will Grow Your Sales and Marketing Pipeline

4 Ways You Can Humanize Marketing and Build Relationships

The post Why purpose matters to marketing: growth, revenue, and profit appeared first on B2B Lead Blog.

Why purpose matters to marketing: growth, revenue, and profit

why purpose matters to marketingDoes your purpose currently impact your marketing, revenue growth, and profit? If not, it should.

Here’s why:

According to research, curated by Mack Fogelson, consider the following:

  • 73% of people care about the company, not just the product when making a purchase. (BBMG)
  • 50% of purchases are made because of word-of-mouth (Brains on Fire)
  • 85% of purpose-led companies showed positive growth (Harvard Business Review/EY)

In sum, purpose matter because it impacts your growth, revenue, and profit.

That’s why I interviewed Mack Fogelson (@mackfogelson), the CEO of Genuinely, a consulting and training company. I met Mack through a mutual friend and we’ve developed a friendship too. I’ve learned a lot about marketing with purpose and why it’s important to revenue growth and profit and I’m excited to share her thinking with you. You’ll also learn four steps to articulate your purpose.

Author’s Note: The transcript was edited for publication.

Mack, can you tell us a little bit more about your background?

Way long ago, I was a teacher and did that for a while. Then over the last fourteen years, I’ve been in the marketing space, so everything from building and coding websites to optimizing with search engine optimization and SEM to building community and brands and the full, integrated approach to marketing a company.

All of those layers have brought us to where we are now which is primarily teaching companies how to use these concepts, frameworks, and the processes that we’ve tested and know really work to grow their companies. We do this to ultimately help businesses in the digital age compete, contend, and build really great, meaningful and sustainable businesses.

What inspired you to focus on purpose and humanize marketing?

Around the time I started having my family, I just realized that if I was taking that time away from my kids that I really needed to make it count. I’ve built a business around something that has been very meaningful to me and for my employees. We started by helping companies be better. I started getting in the conversation about community many years back. When many marketers were talking about how to rank #1 in Google, I was talking a lot about the benefit of community and of businesses building a community to help their companies. What I didn’t realize at the time, but unfolded many years later, was that purpose was really at the heart of all of that: helping companies to understand how you bring people together through purpose and drive the organization’s growth.

You said that it’s not about what you spend on marketing; it’s purpose that helps you get focused. Why is that?

Because there is so much that has changed. The world isn’t the same. Businesses aren’t the same, and the way the business community works. Customers are not the same. So, we cannot expect marketing to be the same. Mainly we’re looking at consumers now. We expect authentic and very real and human experiences. And not only that but employees are looking for more meaning in their work just like I was many years ago.

It really comes down to the fact that it’s not about what your company sells or solves anymore, and certainly, you need to be incredibly stellar at what you sell and what you make, but it’s about who your business is. And really, it’s about the three components of purpose, people, and promise, and having those pieces work together for any given company so that they can reap all the benefits that purpose brings, like, customer acquisition and retention, customer connection, and employee satisfaction.

How can we overcome this disconnect and better connect with our customers?

Most companies are pushing their product and their services rather than really leading from what their business is here to do and bridging that gap between the purpose of the company and the people that are in line with that. So, when the conversation is about the product, there isn’t much of a conversation to be had.

Let’s say we’re just talking about Dove. They sell soap. But ultimately their aim is to help women feel good about their bodies. So, it’s the intersection of those things (selling soap and helping women feel good about their bodies); the cultural relevancy of attacking an issue like women’s self-image and body image and wanting actually to help solve that problem in our world is what has given Dove such incredible growth in their organization.

When the conversation shifts from being about the product to being about purpose it becomes something else entirely that drives growth because it’s the word of mouth that companies are looking for. And that doesn’t come through talking about a product; it originates from the connection that they have with the shared values and wanting to do something bigger. Not to say that they don’t generate significant profits from this path; it’s just a different way to it.

You’ve talked about why building an authentic and human company is necessary. So why should those in B2B marketing care about this?

Purpose is becoming more of a trendy topic; you see it everywhere and I think that’s the biggest disconnect. Companies think that, on the outside, if they market with purpose, they’re good; they’re safe. And maybe many companies are doing that. But if then the experience with your business is not real all the way to the core, then that’s where you’re going to have significant problems (think about recent events with companies like Uber, United, and Pepsi’s commercial fail).

Ultimately, in the day-to-day, companies want to know how do we achieve growth and how do we continue to acquire customers? How do we keep our customers? When your business is not looking at how to build a deeper connection with that customer (which comes from purpose and empathy as we’ve talked about) there is no connection. When you have no connection, you have no customers.

It’s really in applying the purpose to the day-to-day of the organization and understanding that it’s not just some visionary thing, but it’s about identifying your purpose and then making it relevant to your customers. It’s helping your teams understand what purpose is or isn’t. Many companies think it’s a PR approach or it’s a tag line, or it’s a mission or value statement. And that’s all great, but when it comes down to it, the purpose is really what does that mean to your customer who needs your product and wants to connect more deeply with your company?

Think about Patagonia: they’re selling a stellar product, but they’re also going deeper to say, “We are going to pioneer technology to make better clothing. And we’re going to reduce the impact of that on the environment. Then we’re going to give this technology to our competitors because if they have it, then we’re making a larger impact altogether.”

Companies need a purpose. Because they need to keep their employees; they need purpose to keep their customers, and ultimately there’s something bigger that their businesses are here to do, and it’s not an altruistic path. It’s a road to profit, it’s just, again, a different way of getting there.

Does empathy play a role in understanding your purpose and connecting with customers?

Definitely. One of the biggest things that we see is that companies lack the customer connection and, apparently, the connection to their purpose and any type of authentic or personal or empathetic connection to their customer.  Because they’re using data to make decisions (which they have a copious amount of) some companies just don’t know what to do with it anymore. Success is not in just analyzing your customer data or your audience data or the psychographic data that you get

Success is not in just analyzing your customer data or your audience data or the psychographic data that you get on your customers. It’s participating in one-to-one interviews with them to understand their behavior truly and, more accurately; knowing what they’re thinking and feeling. Because when you just get that digital data about your customer, it gives you some very quantitative benchmarks about the profile of these people, but it doesn’t tell you what they’re afraid of; it doesn’t say what they’re struggling with right now at this point in their lives.

Connecting with your customers on that one-to-one basis obviously opens up a huge conversation for understanding and empathizing with where they’re coming from. But then, by understanding that thinking and feeling, you can then shape your entire content strategy based on removing those roadblocks. And that is something I think ties into many things, in addition to purpose and empathy.

Brian: That’s where we were going to go next. I often talk to marketers who really don’t get to spend face time with the customers they’re looking to influence or reach outside their companies. I think the takeaway here is that marketers need to spend more time connecting with clients, not just through their channel of their sales team, but actually having these conversations and spending time practicing and using their empathy to do just that.

Technology is getting in the way of customer connection

Mack: You and I talk about this a lot with technology, and how everybody thinks that technology is a magic pill; they believe that there must be a tool or piece of technology or software that is going to help them build their customer base faster. The fact of the matter is that technology is part of the root of the problem in which companies need a purpose; they need empathy because they’re trying to solve these much deeper connection issues with their customers by using technology instead of speaking with their clients. Tools and technology can’t help you do that.

So, I think the companies that understand how to use technology wisely need to be able to use these tools at a certain level, even just to do a bunch of the heavy lifting and dirty work that we couldn’t take part in many years ago. But success is in taking that data and pairing it with the one-to-one participation in the flesh with these people to understand who they are, what they need really, and to help them get their roadblocks removed.

Brian: I agree with you.  The very thing that’s supposed to help us (this technology) connect with our customers more efficiently and effectively, is getting in the way of doing that. And so, to counteract that, or the counterpoint, is humanizing and putting more energy into that human connection so that when we do apply the technology, we’re using it well, and in a way that can help facilitate conversations and connections that we’ve already established.

Can you share any other tips or examples that our listeners can use to articulate their purpose? 

Mack:  There are four steps that would really help them understand “how do we even approach this conversation?” There are so many things that must be in line: strategy, leadership, and obviously, your product or service. But purpose greatly enhances the opportunity for success, especially in the digital age, especially regarding competitive advantages.

So just know, if you’re going to go down this road, that you don’t have to start all over, you don’t have to overhaul your entire organization. In fact, many companies that we work with, they just need an outside perspective to help them understand their systems and processes that they use to market and sell; they just need a little tweaking here and there and a reminder of “Hey, at this place is when you integrate purpose. At this place is when you really bring it back to the goals of the organization, wrapped with purpose.” Or, “You need to get to the customer in this place a little bit earlier.”

Four Steps to Articulate Your purpose

stepsStep 1: Clarify the purpose of the organization

We talked a little bit about Dove.  Their purpose is not to sell soap: their purpose is to help women feel better about their bodies. So that’s a big difference there.

Same with Chipotle. Their purpose is not to sell burritos: their purpose is to make food with integrity, and ultimately to pioneer food safety systems and help other fast food organizations to know that they can make great food and still make it healthy and good for our earth.

It’s kind of like understanding the difference between just a mission and the product that you’re selling and actually making the conversation about purpose. So, start there. If you’re at a loss as to how to do that, there are lots of resources online. And that is how you find your purpose. It’s not easy to do, but it’s certainly a place that will make you extremely relevant in your customer’s lives.

For more on this read: Ogilvy What’s the big ideaL and Evolve or Die: How Authenticity and Purpose are the Future of Brands.

Step 2: Deconstruct your customer’s journey

So, now I’m getting specific to sales, marketing, customer experience and those teams in your organization and understanding how to do this by talking to your customers. Just as I mentioned earlier, you definitely want to be looking at the customer data that you can collect digitally. Understand the audience data, the demographic data, psychographic data that you get. But that is typically where companies stop.

They build these personas and then they don’t go any deeper into actually spending face time with the customer. And that’s where all the good stuff is. That’s where you’re going to find connections, and that’s where you’re going to understand what your customers are thinking and feeling at every stage in your funnel so that you can generate resources, content, experiences that help to remove those roadblocks. So, that’s the second part, deconstructing that customer journey so that you can make that bridge between your purpose and your people.

Step 3: Connecting your team’s purpose to your organization’s purpose

The third step in getting purpose really well integrated into your organization is connecting your team’s purpose to your organization’s purpose. Ultimately, you have to know the purpose of your organization in its entirety to really understand why your organization, as a whole, exists beyond making money?

With your team: understand what role they play in achieving that purpose so that they can apply that more specifically to their day-to-day. That can go a really long way toward efficiency, output and morale, especially when your team is pushing hard and days are getting long. The meaning side of that really matters to them.

Step 4: Adjust the communication of your purpose externally

This very much directly applies to your sales and marketing and customer experiences team. They’re the most outwardly-facing, and they have the biggest responsibility in making sure that what is happening inside of your organization is also being effectively communicated outside, so customers know you’re not a façade; that purpose is not a veneer and that it’s truly how you operate inside and out.

You want to teach your sales and marketing team to understand the difference between having a product conversation and having a purpose discussion. When you make that shift to not just pushing your product, but to helping those teams understand the bigger purpose of your organization and how that connects to your customers, you’re opening an opportunity to connect with exponentially more people, more organizations, more influencers, more people in the media, more communities, who are either already your ideal customers, or they know somebody who could be.

For more on these steps, read: Why Your Organization is Getting Sales and Marketing Wrong

Brian:  Mack, that was fantastic. Thank you. You did a good job breaking down to four points, and I feel like this will be tangible for our listeners. We’ll also supply some resources and links for people to dig into these areas as well.

I wanted to ask what advice you would give to those who want to apply what you’ve just talked about and bring this idea to other leaders inside their company.

What if someone, is inspired by this idea – how can they get the conversation started inside their company?

Mack:  That’s a great question. I think it’s starting small. I believe that purpose as a concept seems very intimidating, especially to leaders, because they feel like “Oh my gosh, you’re talking about an entire organization overhaul, and we can’t even keep up with what we’re doing every day.”

It’s not really starting over, it’s just optimizing what you have, and better connecting it and communicating it so that your employees and your customers can understand it. So, I think it’s just starting small.

We typically start with a small purpose workshop. We’re talking maybe 45-60 minutes of helping companies understand what purpose is and what purpose isn’t.  Once they start the conversation I think it’s also to understand that purpose seems kind of fluffy, maybe, when you’re trying to hit your ROI and your metrics and the goals that you have financially for your team and for the organization. But it’s not fluffy. This is about growth. And in this day and age, this is the approach to growth.

But when you’re selling it to your leadership, it’s “We’re going to teach our sales, marketing, and customer experience teams how to remove roadblocks for our customers by connecting that purpose. And that, ultimately, is going to drive sales, it’s going to drive retention, it’s going to drive connections, and ultimately it’s going to drive our growth.”

Brian:  Terrific. What’s the best way for readers and listeners to get in touch with you?

Mack:  They can come to our website genuinely.co. or just come find me online. I’m on twitter at @mackfogelson most every day, happy to chat there.

Additional resources on purpose:

Why Your Organization is Getting Sales and Marketing Wrong

How Purpose and Authenticity are the Future of Brands

Winning with Purpose – EY

Purpose at Work – LinkedIn/Imperative

The Business Case for Purpose – Harvard Business Review [PDF]

You might also like:

How Empathy Will Grow Your Sales and Marketing Pipeline

4 Ways You Can Humanize Marketing and Build Relationships

The post Why purpose matters to marketing: growth, revenue, and profit appeared first on B2B Lead Blog.

Empathetic Marketing: How To Connect With Your Customers

Have you made empathetic marketing part of your strategy in 2017?

If not, you should.

I interviewed Michael Brenner (@BrennerMichael) the CEO of MarketingInsiderGroup.com. Michael has received recognition across the Internet for his knowledge and role in shaping content marketing as we know it today. He’s a sought-after keynote speaker and co-author of The Content Formula. I’m excited to bring his thoughts on empathy to you.

Author’s Note: The transcript was edited for publication.

Can you tell us a little bit more about yourself and your background?

Michael: Yeah, sure. Thanks, Brian. It’s a pleasure to be with you today and looking forward to talking about empathy, which I think is so important in today’s landscape. As we get older,  I’ve needed to summarize my career much more quickly than I used to. But a 20 plus year career in sales and marketing, and leadership roles in various kinds of companies, large and small. Most recently, about ten years ago, was hired by SAP as their first head of digital marketing.  I became their first VP of Global Content Marketing, and mainly helped them modernize the digital marketing approaches that they were taking. Very much taking an empathetic approach like we’re going to discuss.

There’s such a need, I think, for brands to understand.  They want to do it I think but struggle with how to get it done and how to change the culture inside their organizations. That’s where I’m focused now. I built Marketing Insider Group, primarily, as kind of a one-man agency for now, but with the point that I’ve been there, I’ve done that, I’ve been inside corporate marketing departments. I understand the politics and the culture challenge that marketers face today, and now I’m dedicating my life to trying to help as many companies, as many brands, as many marketers as I can, to understand how to put themselves in a leadership position by helping their customers.

Brian: That’s fantastic. I came across your article on LinkedIn, and several people forwarded it to me and said, “Brian you should check this out for your book.”

What inspired you to start writing and talking about empathy recently?

What I’ve found is as I talk to senior executives – I have a good story I think we could maybe get to it a little bit later on – but a typical conversation for me might involve, “Hey. This digital world and content marketing, and creating content for customers – we think we get it. Now we need to figure out how to do it.”

Often, I find someone in a position of power (with their arms folded) asking challenging questions like, “Well, how’s this going to help us sell more stuff?” I co-authored a book called The Content Formula, to specifically address this sort of results-based question, which was, how do you show ROI from this approach? In the book, I talk about how you can show a better return on investment with marketing that focuses on delivering content people want.

Even after all those sorts of financial objections are removed, I still found that there was resistance inside a lot of companies. I think we can talk about this in a little bit more depth as well, but there’s a natural instinct inside a business to want to promote itself. That’s counter-intuitive. That’s why I came to this kind of realization that the missing element, and you’ve been talking about this for a long time, is empathy. It’s missing inside corporate cultures and structures.

Empathy is the most counter-intuitive secret to success.  Why is that?

For instance, the posts that I put up on Facebook.  I don’t do a lot of business content on there. It’s mostly pictures of my kids and the trips we take, and it’s essentially me putting my best face forward to the world. That’s what I think we all tend to do in the social world; that we express to the connections we have. It’s our natural instinct.

I think there’s nothing wrong with wanting people to see that you’re happy and you’re healthy, and you’re doing fun things. That’s the natural instinct we carry with us when we walk into the company, with the companies that we work. The natural instinct of the business person is to want to promote itself and put its best face forward.  It’s counter-intuitive to think that you can sell more stuff by not talking about the stuff you sell. That’s why I think empathy is so counter-intuitive.


The most counter-intuitive secret to success in business and life is empathy.
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Brian:  I know it’s something that I struggle with, and I think everyone does when we’re focusing on getting our needs met, whether that’s hitting a number, as you talked about achieving ROI. It’s a challenge, and I think you spoke of this collective amnesia we have. It seems that we change how we think about our customers as we walk into the building and put on our marketing and sales hat.

How can we overcome our collective amnesia and relate to customers?

I love the term coined by Noah Fenn, who is head of video sales and strategy at AOL. He talked about how this instinct to self-promote: it’s like a collective amnesia.

And what he means by that is kind of like I said: that although we’re real people when we walk into our places of work and then forget that we are real people. We forget how to market to people just like us. That’s essentially the collective amnesia. We walk in; we want to present and promote the companies and the products that we sell. That’s precisely the kind of thing that we as consumers don’t want, right?

Someone heading marketing, who makes an ad buy, is doing that with the knowledge that he might, or she might, hate ads. That’s the collective amnesia, right?

When you’re watching a TV show, you don’t need to see an ad for Chevy 15 times over the course of the 45-minute show, right? But the ad buyer for Chevy is making that decision. There’s a group of individuals generally behind those kinds of decisions, and that’s the collective amnesia that we talk about in the article. We make judgments in the business, as people, that often forget that we’re marketing to real people just like us.

Brian: It’s funny, and I think it’s interesting. As I talk to marketers, we realize just how cynical we can be too. And I believe that it’s just getting out of our heads. We need to put ourselves in the shoes of our customers and remember we are ones (customers) too.

What do you wish marketers and sellers would do more? 

I think the counter-intuitive nature of it is that when you help your customers, and I use this line in the article “when you help your customers, that’s the best way to help your business.” I think we often defend our self-promotional actions by saying, “Well that’s the game we’re playing.”

Like you said, we’re skeptical, and we live in a noisy world. The loudest shouter gets the most attention. That’s precisely the thing that I think the data that we now have in the digital marketing landscape is proving isn’t working. As people, we know it’s not what we want. We have to resist that sort of notion and put our customers first. It starts by helping, not selling. What that doesn’t mean is that it doesn’t mean we have to let go of the need to drive results. That’s why I love the line that when you help your customers, it’s the best way to help your business.

What are some suggestions you have on how we could get better at this?

The secret to being effective and efficient with the marketing that we do starts with this understanding that we are real people, we’re trying to market to real people, and the best way to do that is actually to be helpful. It’s to want to help them. Not just with the products and services you sell, but to help them as people and help society as a whole solve its problems. I think it’s a nobler cause and it’s a much more challenging thing to do inside corporate cultures.

Brian:  I’m so glad you’re bringing this up. When I talk to marketers and sellers, I find that they don’t want just to feel like they’re making an impact on the top line and bottom line. They want to feel like what they’re doing is making a real difference beyond the numbers.

Michael: There are enough people out there talking about this desire to work for companies that have a real purpose or even a kind of social mission. Even at the individual level like you said, we all want to do work that matters. One of the insights that I’ve found is that being productive in my job was never enough to make me happy. I was only ever happy when I was effective and making an impact with something that I believed in. It’s the combination of both meaning and impact.

We all make an impact. It’s just about whether we make a bearing in the right direction for the right cause, for the right purpose. It can be a corporate purpose. It can be a financial purpose, but there has to be a customer at the end of that financial decision where you’re solving a problem. Again, I think it just comes back to being empathetic allows us, as employees, as people, to feel like we’re making an impact in a way that matters to somebody.

Brian: I liked when you said, “We all make an impact, whether it’s for good or bad. We’re making an impact right now.”

Can you share any stories or examples of applying empathy to marketing/sales?

Well, I have a positive and a negative story.

It’s not negative. It’s a lesson that’s public, and I got a glimpse of it in private. I’m a customer and a huge fan, and I have to say as a caveat to this. Big fan of Wells Fargo. Still a happy, satisfied customer with them. I had an opportunity to present to their marketing team about six months ago before the scandal broke. Maybe it was nine months ago, before them trying to sort of force accounts on people.

The conversation we were having was very much like this one. It was about how content marketing requires a focus on actually solving customer problems, and there’s one way to know if you’re doing that. That’s with engagement. You can measure engagement in the form of time on site and in the form of social shares, and in the form of whether people subscribe to your content. Those are all deep measures of not just are you reaching people, but are they voting? Are they giving you a vote of confidence in the content you’re creating?

A senior marketer on the team spoke up and was very resistant to this idea. This person said that “Here at Wells Fargo, we are just buying reach and frequency, the kind of classic TV ad buying model. We measure reach and frequency.”

I said to the person that, “You have a choice in the world, the noisy world that we live in because everybody can buy reach and frequency. Anybody can do that. The brands that set themselves apart are the ones that are looking to engage the right people.”

The example I used was, “You can shout into the wind, or you can speak one on one to the people that you can help.” That’s the choice you have as a brand. I don’t think that analogy went over very well. It was only a few weeks later that the story broke and I believe that we’ve all seen what’s happened there.


You can shout into the wind, or you can speak one on one to the people that you can help.
Click To Tweet


I’m optimistic that they’ve learned a lesson. I think that Wells Fargo has such an incredible corporate history and culture, and I believe that there were just a few of the wrong people in leadership positions who were forcing a value in pushing the business over the needs of the customer. It’s exactly, I think, the wrong way to approach this whole idea of help your customers and you help your business. It’s the opposite.

That’s my negative story.

Brian: When we focus on the wrong thing, we can almost become sociopathic trying to get our needs met at the expense of others. In this case, clearly, Wells Fargo customers didn’t get the benefit as Wells Fargo was getting its needs met of revenue.

Michael: I think the main lesson for Wells Fargo, and it’s kind of like it’s in their mission statement, is that they want to help customers. The problem was culture. People talk that we need to change the culture. Well, culture is just a codification of what’s valued by the organization. Leadership is just a personal expression of values.

I think what Wells Fargo learned was that they had the values in place. They had named them. They had documented them. They just weren’t putting value behind them. They weren’t promoting people. They weren’t making a good example of the people that were promoting the right values for their business.

Let’s switch to a positive story that you could share.

I’m going to go back to my former company, SAP. I read an article in Harvard Business Review a couple of months ago, Top 10 Empathetic Companies. SAP is number 10 on the list, and I’m proud to see them make that kind of recognition.

Their CEO is a guy named Bill McDermott, who was instrumental in my career and mostly he mentored me and created an opportunity for me to do what I was able to do at SAP. He had a life changing experience. He had an accident about a year, maybe a year and a half ago. He came back transformed from that experience and decided that it wasn’t just about making the numbers. He was a hard-charging sales guy. A super successful individual. One of the most charismatic leaders I’ve ever met. He was superb at motivating SAP to hit the number, hit the number.

He came back, I think, really transformed as the first American CEO of this German company. There’s an article I think out on Forbes or Fast Company about this journey.

How SAP’s CEO Bill McDermott Is Using Empathy To Build More Powerful Teams

He’s making empathy a valued, rewarded, recognized value inside the organization. They’ve turned the ship. They’ve changed their culture, not because they tried to change their culture. They’ve changed their culture because they focused on putting a value on this very touchy feely kind of dippy hippy sort of emotion called empathy. I think it’s a great example.

You can see it in their advertising. They don’t speak about their latest products. They show how they’re helping their customers run better. Their whole tag line is a customer focus, so even when they do advertising, it’s at least customer-focused messaging. You can see it was the reason I was able to implement the content marketing program I did, and the reason why I think they’re a leader in the technology marketing space for sure.

Brian: I think what you brought up as the example is that it’s hard for us to be empathetic outside unless we first have that transformation inside, in how we relate to others, how we relate to our teams. It does take leadership to do this. Even self-leadership.

What advice do you have for those who want to sell the idea of empathy?

Yeah, it’s a big issue, and it’s precisely the topic that I’m looking to address in a lot of my outreach and content, and keynote speeches this year. It’s essentially this notion of what I call champion leadership. It’s easy if you’re Bill McDermott: you’re the CEO. You can decree that empathy is now necessary, but what do you do if you’re like most of us? You’re down the pole a little bit, and you’re looking up, and maybe you don’t feel that it’s valued across your organization.

I think the best way to do this is you need to be empathetic by putting that recognition on others inside your organization who push these ideas.

What do I mean by that?

If you see someone who is fighting to create a customer-focused piece of content versus a self-promotional ad, support that person. We all have great ideas, but ideas are worthless unless someone supports them. If you’re not getting support from the top, the concept I’d like to encourage people to think about really is we’re all leaders, but do we champion other people’s great ideas?

It starts with, I think, just being almost self-sacrificing, to begin with, which can be just as hard in a hard-charging corporate culture as empathy can be. I think just starting with that concept of who can you help in your organization to promote the excellent customer-focused ideas, the empathetic ideas that they have.

Brian: That’s great advice. It is also challenging too because I find in my experience, that it’s easy for a split second to switch from thinking of others to thinking of myself. That’s just a regular thing. As you’re talking about it, it is setting that intention to value others, to value their ideas.

Well, this has been a great interview. I’ve come away with some great insights from you, Michael. Thank you so much.

What’s the best way for readers/listeners to get in touch with you?

I appreciate that. Its MarketingInsiderGroup.com is my website, which I’ve modeled after this whole empathetic approach instead of pushing products and services. It’s essentially more of a blog where I’m sharing content that I think is helpful, with a little bit of an explanation of what we do. MarketingInsiderGroup.com. You can also follow me on Twitter @BrennerMichael or connect with me on LinkedIn and Facebook.  I’m happy to connect with the audience there as well.

You might also like:

How Empathy Will Grow Your Sales and Marketing Pipeline

3 Good Questions to Align B2B Marketing, Sales, and Strategy

The post Empathetic Marketing: How To Connect With Your Customers appeared first on B2B Lead Blog.

Empathetic Marketing: How To Connect With Your Customers

Have you made empathetic marketing part of your strategy in 2017?

If not, you should. Let me explain.

I interviewed Michael Brenner (@BrennerMichael) the CEO of MarketingInsiderGroup.com. Michael has received recognition across the Internet for his knowledge and role in shaping content marketing as we know it today. He’s a sought-after keynote speaker and co-author of The Content Formula. I’m excited to bring his thoughts on empathy to you.

Author’s Note: The transcript was edited for publication.

Can you tell us a little bit more about yourself and your background?

Michael: Yeah, sure. Thanks, Brian. It’s a pleasure to be with you today and looking forward to talking about empathy, which I think is so important in today’s landscape. As we get older,  I’ve needed to summarize my career much more quickly than I used to. But a 20 plus year career in sales and marketing, and leadership roles in various kinds of companies, large and small. Most recently, about ten years ago, was hired by SAP as their first head of digital marketing.  I became their first VP of Global Content Marketing, and mainly helped them modernize the digital marketing approaches that they were taking. Very much taking an empathetic approach like we’re going to discuss.

There’s such a need, I think, for brands to understand.  They want to do it I think but struggle with how to get it done and how to change the culture inside their organizations. That’s where I’m focused now. I built Marketing Insider Group, primarily, as kind of a one-man agency for now, but with the point that I’ve been there, I’ve done that, I’ve been inside corporate marketing departments. I understand the politics and the culture challenge that marketers face today, and now I’m dedicating my life to trying to help as many companies, as many brands, as many marketers as I can, to understand how to put themselves in a leadership position by helping their customers.

Brian: That’s fantastic. I came across your article on LinkedIn, and several people forwarded it to me and said, “Brian you should check this out for your book.”

What inspired you to start writing and talking about empathy recently?

What I’ve found is as I talk to senior executives – I have a good story I think we could maybe get to it a little bit later on – but a typical conversation for me might involve, “Hey. This digital world and content marketing, and creating content for customers – we think we get it. Now we need to figure out how to do it.”

Often, I find someone in a position of power (with their arms folded) asking challenging questions like, “Well, how’s this going to help us sell more stuff?” I co-authored a book called The Content Formula, to specifically address this sort of results-based question, which was, how do you show ROI from this approach? In the book, I talk about how you can show a better return on investment with marketing that focuses on delivering content people want.

Even after all those sorts of financial objections are removed, I still found that there was resistance inside a lot of companies. I think we can talk about this in a little bit more depth as well, but there’s a natural instinct inside a business to want to promote itself. That’s counter-intuitive. That’s why I came to this kind of realization that the missing element, and you’ve been talking about this for a long time, is empathy. It’s missing inside corporate cultures and structures.

Empathy is the most counter-intuitive secret to success.  Why is that?

For instance, the posts that I put up on Facebook.  I don’t do a lot of business content on there. It’s mostly pictures of my kids and the trips we take, and it’s essentially me putting my best face forward to the world. That’s what I think we all tend to do in the social world; that we express to the connections we have. It’s our natural instinct.

I think there’s nothing wrong with wanting people to see that you’re happy and you’re healthy, and you’re doing fun things. That’s the natural instinct we carry with us when we walk into the company, with the companies that we work. The natural instinct of the business person is to want to promote itself and put its best face forward.  It’s counter-intuitive to think that you can sell more stuff by not talking about the stuff you sell. That’s why I think empathy is so counter-intuitive.


The most counter-intuitive secret to success in business and life is empathy.
Click To Tweet


Brian:  I know it’s something that I struggle with, and I think everyone does when we’re focusing on getting our needs met, whether that’s hitting a number, as you talked about achieving ROI. It’s a challenge, and I think you spoke of this collective amnesia we have. It seems that we change how we think about our customers as we walk into the building and put on our marketing and sales hat.

How can we overcome our collective amnesia and relate to customers?

I love the term coined by Noah Fenn, who is head of video sales and strategy at AOL. He talked about how this instinct to self-promote: it’s like a collective amnesia.

And what he means by that is kind of like I said: that although we’re real people when we walk into our places of work and then forget that we are real people. We forget how to market to people just like us. That’s essentially the collective amnesia. We walk in; we want to present and promote the companies and the products that we sell. That’s precisely the kind of thing that we as consumers don’t want, right?

Someone heading marketing, who makes an ad buy, is doing that with the knowledge that he might, or she might, hate ads. That’s the collective amnesia, right?

When you’re watching a TV show, you don’t need to see an ad for Chevy 15 times over the course of the 45-minute show, right? But the ad buyer for Chevy is making that decision. There’s a group of individuals generally behind those kinds of decisions, and that’s the collective amnesia that we talk about in the article. We make judgments in the business, as people, that often forget that we’re marketing to real people just like us.

Brian: It’s funny, and I think it’s interesting. As I talk to marketers, we realize just how cynical we can be too. And I believe that it’s just getting out of our heads. We need to put ourselves in the shoes of our customers and remember we are ones (customers) too.

What do you wish marketers and sellers would do more? 

I think the counter-intuitive nature of it is that when you help your customers, and I use this line in the article “when you help your customers, that’s the best way to help your business.” I think we often defend our self-promotional actions by saying, “Well that’s the game we’re playing.”

Like you said, we’re skeptical, and we live in a noisy world. The loudest shouter gets the most attention. That’s precisely the thing that I think the data that we now have in the digital marketing landscape is proving isn’t working. As people, we know it’s not what we want. We have to resist that sort of notion and put our customers first. It starts by helping, not selling. What that doesn’t mean is that it doesn’t mean we have to let go of the need to drive results. That’s why I love the line that when you help your customers, it’s the best way to help your business.

What are some suggestions you have on how we could get better at this?

The secret to being effective and efficient with the marketing that we do starts with this understanding that we are real people, we’re trying to market to real people, and the best way to do that is actually to be helpful. It’s to want to help them. Not just with the products and services you sell, but to help them as people and help society as a whole solve its problems. I think it’s a nobler cause and it’s a much more challenging thing to do inside corporate cultures.

Brian:  I’m so glad you’re bringing this up. When I talk to marketers and sellers, I find that they don’t want just to feel like they’re making an impact on the top line and bottom line. They want to feel like what they’re doing is making a real difference beyond the numbers.

Michael: There are enough people out there talking about this desire to work for companies that have a real purpose or even a kind of social mission. Even at the individual level like you said, we all want to do work that matters. One of the insights that I’ve found is that being productive in my job was never enough to make me happy. I was only ever happy when I was effective and making an impact with something that I believed in. It’s the combination of both meaning and impact.

We all make an impact. It’s just about whether we make a bearing in the right direction for the right cause, for the right purpose. It can be a corporate purpose. It can be a financial purpose, but there has to be a customer at the end of that financial decision where you’re solving a problem. Again, I think it just comes back to being empathetic allows us, as employees, as people, to feel like we’re making an impact in a way that matters to somebody.

Brian: I liked when you said, “We all make an impact, whether it’s for good or bad. We’re making an impact right now.”

Can you share any stories or examples of applying empathy to marketing/sales?

Well, I have a positive and a negative story.

It’s not negative. It’s a lesson that’s public, and I got a glimpse of it in private. I’m a customer and a huge fan, and I have to say as a caveat to this. Big fan of Wells Fargo. Still a happy, satisfied customer with them. I had an opportunity to present to their marketing team about six months ago before the scandal broke. Maybe it was nine months ago, before them trying to sort of force accounts on people.

The conversation we were having was very much like this one. It was about how content marketing requires a focus on actually solving customer problems, and there’s one way to know if you’re doing that. That’s with engagement. You can measure engagement in the form of time on site and in the form of social shares, and in the form of whether people subscribe to your content. Those are all deep measures of not just are you reaching people, but are they voting? Are they giving you a vote of confidence in the content you’re creating?

A senior marketer on the team spoke up and was very resistant to this idea. This person said that “Here at Wells Fargo, we are just buying reach and frequency, the kind of classic TV ad buying model. We measure reach and frequency.”

I said to the person that, “You have a choice in the world, the noisy world that we live in because everybody can buy reach and frequency. Anybody can do that. The brands that set themselves apart are the ones that are looking to engage the right people.”

The example I used was, “You can shout into the wind, or you can speak one on one to the people that you can help.” That’s the choice you have as a brand. I don’t think that analogy went over very well. It was only a few weeks later that the story broke and I believe that we’ve all seen what’s happened there.


You can shout into the wind, or you can speak one on one to the people that you can help.
Click To Tweet


I’m optimistic that they’ve learned a lesson. I think that Wells Fargo has such an incredible corporate history and culture, and I believe that there were just a few of the wrong people in leadership positions who were forcing a value in pushing the business over the needs of the customer. It’s exactly, I think, the wrong way to approach this whole idea of help your customers and you help your business. It’s the opposite.

That’s my negative story.

Brian: When we focus on the wrong thing, we can almost become sociopathic trying to get our needs met at the expense of others. In this case, clearly, Wells Fargo customers didn’t get the benefit as Wells Fargo was getting its needs met of revenue.

Michael: I think the main lesson for Wells Fargo, and it’s kind of like it’s in their mission statement, is that they want to help customers. The problem was culture. People talk that we need to change the culture. Well, culture is just a codification of what’s valued by the organization. Leadership is just a personal expression of values.

I think what Wells Fargo learned was that they had the values in place. They had named them. They had documented them. They just weren’t putting value behind them. They weren’t promoting people. They weren’t making a good example of the people that were promoting the right values for their business.

Let’s switch to a positive story that you could share.

I’m going to go back to my former company, SAP. I read an article in Harvard Business Review a couple of months ago, Top 10 Empathetic Companies. SAP is number 10 on the list, and I’m proud to see them make that kind of recognition.

Their CEO is a guy named Bill McDermott, who was instrumental in my career and mostly he mentored me and created an opportunity for me to do what I was able to do at SAP. He had a life changing experience. He had an accident about a year, maybe a year and a half ago. He came back transformed from that experience and decided that it wasn’t just about making the numbers. He was a hard-charging sales guy. A super successful individual. One of the most charismatic leaders I’ve ever met. He was superb at motivating SAP to hit the number, hit the number.

He came back, I think, really transformed as the first American CEO of this German company. There’s an article I think out on Forbes or Fast Company about this journey.

How SAP’s CEO Bill McDermott Is Using Empathy To Build More Powerful Teams

He’s making empathy a valued, rewarded, recognized value inside the organization. They’ve turned the ship. They’ve changed their culture, not because they tried to change their culture. They’ve changed their culture because they focused on putting a value on this very touchy feely kind of dippy hippy sort of emotion called empathy. I think it’s a great example.

You can see it in their advertising. They don’t speak about their latest products. They show how they’re helping their customers run better. Their whole tag line is a customer focus, so even when they do advertising, it’s at least customer-focused messaging. You can see it was the reason I was able to implement the content marketing program I did, and the reason why I think they’re a leader in the technology marketing space for sure.

Brian: I think what you brought up as the example is that it’s hard for us to be empathetic outside unless we first have that transformation inside, in how we relate to others, how we relate to our teams. It does take leadership to do this. Even self-leadership.

What advice do you have for those who want to sell the idea of empathy?

Yeah, it’s a big issue, and it’s precisely the topic that I’m looking to address in a lot of my outreach and content, and keynote speeches this year. It’s essentially this notion of what I call champion leadership. It’s easy if you’re Bill McDermott: you’re the CEO. You can decree that empathy is now necessary, but what do you do if you’re like most of us? You’re down the pole a little bit, and you’re looking up, and maybe you don’t feel that it’s valued across your organization.

I think the best way to do this is you need to be empathetic by putting that recognition on others inside your organization who push these ideas.

What do I mean by that?

If you see someone who is fighting to create a customer-focused piece of content versus a self-promotional ad, support that person. We all have great ideas, but ideas are worthless unless someone supports them. If you’re not getting support from the top, the concept I’d like to encourage people to think about really is we’re all leaders, but do we champion other people’s great ideas?

It starts with, I think, just being almost self-sacrificing, to begin with, which can be just as hard in a hard-charging corporate culture as empathy can be. I think just starting with that concept of who can you help in your organization to promote the excellent customer-focused ideas, the empathetic ideas that they have.

Brian: That’s great advice. It is also challenging too because I find in my experience, that it’s easy for a split second to switch from thinking of others to thinking of myself. That’s just a regular thing. As you’re talking about it, it is setting that intention to value others, to value their ideas.

Well, this has been a great interview. I’ve come away with some great insights from you, Michael. Thank you so much.

What’s the best way for readers/listeners to get in touch with you?

I appreciate that. Its MarketingInsiderGroup.com is my website, which I’ve modeled after this whole empathetic approach instead of pushing products and services. It’s essentially more of a blog where I’m sharing content that I think is helpful, with a little bit of an explanation of what we do. MarketingInsiderGroup.com. You can also follow me on Twitter @BrennerMichael or connect with me on LinkedIn and Facebook.  I’m happy to connect with the audience there as well.

You might also like:

How Empathy Will Grow Your Sales and Marketing Pipeline

3 Good Questions to Align B2B Marketing, Sales, and Strategy

4 Ways You Can Humanize Marketing and Build Relationships

 

The post Empathetic Marketing: How To Connect With Your Customers appeared first on B2B Lead Blog.

What can B2B Marketers Adopt from Growth Hacking?

GrowthHackingB2BWhat can you learn from growth hacking and how can it help you develop a mindset to better your B2B marketing?

To help answer this question, I interviewed Neil Patel (@neilpatel), co-founder of Crazy ENeilPatelgg, Hello Bar, and KISSmetrics. He also helps companies like Amazon, NBC, GM, HP and Viacom grow their revenue.

As marketers, we can reject having a growth mindset without realizing it.

What does this mean?

First, marketers generally follow this approach: We plan, then, we execute. Do you see what’s missing?

We’re missing a test stage in the middle.

Second, we expect peak performance from ourselves (and others) while attempting new things and having little time to practice. I don’t know about you, but when I try something new, I don’t do as well the first time.

Consider professional athletes for a moment. They have time to train and practice before the season starts. They practice during the season, and they even get an offseason.

As a marketing pro, do you get an offseason? Heck no.

Finally, I find marketers struggle with perfectionism or fear of failure. This challenge can get in the way of your growth too. Personally, I struggle with perfectionism more than I’d like to admit. As I talk with other marketers, I know I’m not alone.

So, what can you do?

Growth hacking = Growth Mindset

According to Chip Heath and Dan Heath in their best-selling book, Switch, “The answer may sound strange: You need to create the expectation of failure- not the failure of the mission itself, but failure en route.”

“Think like a software developer – build, test then iterate,” said Martin Jones, Senior Marketing Manager at Cox Communications. You need to create the expectation that failure is part of the marketing process. And you need to test.

Instead of building campaigns where everything relies on a single successful launch. You need to adopt a more agile approach.

Traditional Marketing vs. Growth Hacking?

There’s still some confusion on this. The following infographic is helpful. The phrase below, “Make people wants the product vs. Make a product people want” sums it up pretty well.

traditional marketing vs growth hacking (infographic)
Source: Traditional marketing vs. Growth Hacking – Infographic

I interviewed Neil Patel because I wanted to get his input on growth hacking specifically because he’s rapidly grown several multimillion dollar companies and he’s written the definitive guide on the subject.

 Author’s Note: This transcript was edited for publication.

Brian: What do marketers need to know about growth hacking and what makes it different? 

Neil: The big difference in growth hacking, to some extent, is an evolution of marketing. And marketing used just to be, “Hey, I’m a person who’s going to acquire traffic, and maybe I can make it convert.” Right? Now I’m converting whether it’s AdWords, or Facebook ads or even SEO.

With growth hacking, it’s not just about, ‘Hey, can I get traffic from SEO or paid advertising?’ A lot of it is that can you leverage your existing community members (customers), and your product itself.


#GrowthHacking uses the product itself as a distribution channel
Click To Tweet


Dropbox is one of those cornerstone examples of growth hacking, right? Refer friends and get more space. Tweet about it, get more space. Connect a device to multiple devices and get more space.

And the funny thing is, most people don’t see connecting the device to multiple devices and giving free space a technique to grow the business, but it is because if something gets linked to multiple devices, it makes the product stickier for Dropbox. The unit increases, the storage use increases, and that increases the likelihood of that customer willing to pay for the service later down the road.

Brian: So, it’s about looking creatively at ways of seeing your customer relationships and how you can leverage the relationships you already have in a way that benefits the customer and helps growth.

How can someone get started in thinking like this and develop a growth mindset?

Neil: You’ve got to start thinking outside the box. Don’t just stick to conventional channels. Try to tap into your creativity. What could you do creatively with the product, the design, your sales, etc.? Right? You can grow a business in many ways. It’s not just driving traffic.

Who are some examples of companies that use growth hacking? 

Uber’s doing well. Sidekick from Hubspot has done well. Those are all creative companies that are marketing growth hacking.


What are the obstacles that get in the way of growth hacking?

Neil: You need a lot of people, team members, a company behind it. Growth hacking doesn’t happen just with one person. You need people from different teams involved to do it.

Brian: Okay. I’m a customer of Buffer, and they seem like they’ve been growth hacking.

Neil: I would say Buffer’s using a lot of growth stuff, right? Just look at their homepage. They use lots of education. It actually helps create sign-ups.

What advice would you give those utilizing traditional marketing who want to start?

Yeah. I would say with growth hacking, what ends up happening is when you get a few people doing it within an organization, it just starts happening right? You don’t have to really get everyone in the group involved. You want a team that could feed off a pizza. If it takes more than one pie, you have too many people. When Facebook does a lot of changes, it’s not a big team. It’s usually like a team that eats off one pizza.

Can you share some resources for marketers to learn more about growth hacking?

You can check out growthhackers.com I don’t contribute much to it, but I know that’s a great resource.

Is there anything else you wanted to share with readers? 

Neil: The big thing that I would focus on is creativity. The opportunity lies in what people aren’t tapping into already. I don’t believe that channels like Google, Facebook, or SEO, video, etc. are going to be the end all be all. And I always believe there are new opportunities and channels out there and creative ways to grow a business. You’ve just got to continually think of them.

Brian: In some cases, I’m hearing that could be alternative channels, or it could be putting a twist on or looking at existing channels in a different way that others might not be seeing.

Neil: Yes. Like looking at new channels that people aren’t seeing. I’m just saying try to think outside the box.

 

Conclusion

As you can see, growth hacking isn’t a fixed strategy. It requires a growth mindset. Thinking this way, and adopting lessons from growth hacking, you’ll achieve more and dwell less on failure.

“People with a growth mindset- those who stretch themselves, take risks, accept feedback, and take the long-term view- can’t help but progress in their lives and careers” – Chip Heath and Dan Heath

How will using a growth hacking mindset benefit you and your company?

You May Also Like:

Neil Patel: What is growth hacking?
Quick Sprout: The Definitive Guide to Growth Hacking

The post What can B2B Marketers Adopt from Growth Hacking? appeared first on B2B Lead Blog.

What Can B2B Marketers Gain from Growth Hacking?

growthhackingb2bWhat can you gain from growth hacking and how can you develop a mindset to be better at B2B marketing?

To help answer this question, I interviewed Neil Patel (@neilpatel), co-founder of Crazy Egg, Hello Bar, and KISSmetrics. He also helps companies like Amazon, NBC, GM, HP and Viacom grow their revenue.

As marketers, we can reject having a growth mindset without realizing it. Here’s why.

First, marketers generally follow this approach: We plan, then, we execute.

Do you see what’s missing?

We’re missing a test stage in the middle.

Second, we expect peak performance from ourselves (and others) while attempting new things and having little time to practice. I don’t know about you, but when I try something new, I don’t do as well the first time.

Consider professional athletes for a moment. They have time to train and practice before the season starts. They practice during the season, and they even get an offseason.

As a marketing pro, do you get an offseason? Heck no.

Finally, I find marketers struggle with perfectionism or fear of failure. This challenge can get in the way of your growth too. Personally, I struggle with perfectionism more than I’d like to admit. As I talk with other marketers, I know I’m not alone.

So, what can you do?

Start with a Growth Mindset

According to Chip Heath and Dan Heath in their best-selling book, Switch, “The answer may sound strange: You need to create the expectation of failure- not the failure of the mission itself, but failure en route.”

“Think like a software developer – build, test then iterate,” said Martin Jones, Senior Marketing Manager at Cox Communications.

You need to create the expectation that failure is part of the marketing process. And you need to test. Instead of building campaigns where everything relies on a single successful launch. You need to adopt a more agile approach.

Traditional Marketing vs. Growth Hacking?

There’s still some confusion about the difference between marketing and growth hacking. I think following infographic is helpful.
Growth_Hacking_vs.B2B_Marketing

Source: Traditional marketing vs. Growth Hacking – Infographic

The phrase, “Make people want the product vs. Make a product people want,” sums it up well.

It all starts with how we think and that’s why having growth mindset is important.

Interview with Neil Patel on Growth Hacking

I interviewed Neil Patel a while back to get his insights on growth hacking because he’s rapidly grown several multimillion dollar companies and he’s written the definitive guide on the subject.

Author’s Note: This transcript was edited for publication.

Brian: What do marketers need to know about growth hacking and what makes it different? 

Neil: The big difference in growth hacking, to some extent, is an evolution of marketing. And marketing used just to be, “Hey, I’m a person who’s going to acquire traffic, and maybe I can make it convert.” Right? Now I’m converting whether it’s AdWords, or Facebook ads or even SEO.

With growth hacking, it’s not just about, ‘Hey, can I get traffic from SEO or paid advertising?’ A lot of it is that can you leverage your existing community members (customers), and your product itself.


#GrowthHacking uses the product itself as a distribution channel
Click To Tweet


Dropbox is one of those cornerstone examples of growth hacking, right? Refer friends and get more space. Tweet about it, get more space. Connect a device to multiple devices and get more space.

And the funny thing is, most people don’t see connecting the device to multiple devices and giving free space a technique to grow the business, but it is because if something gets linked to multiple devices, it makes the product stickier for Dropbox. The unit increases, the storage use increases, and that increases the likelihood of that customer willing to pay for the service later down the road.

Brian: So, it’s about looking creatively at ways of seeing your customer relationships and how you can leverage the relationships you already have in a way that benefits the customer and helps growth?

Neil: Yep.

How can someone get started in thinking like this and develop a growth mindset?

Neil: You’ve got to start thinking outside the box. Don’t just stick to conventional channels. Try to tap into your creativity. What could you do creatively with the product, the design, your sales, etc.? Right? You can grow a business in many ways. It’s not just driving traffic.

Who are some examples of companies that use growth hacking? 

Uber’s doing well. Sidekick from Hubspot has done well. Those are all creative companies that are marketing growth hacking.

Authors note: check out HubSpot – How to Grow a Billion Dollar B2B Growth Engine

What are the obstacles that get in the way of growth hacking?

Neil: You need a lot of people, team members, a company behind it. Growth hacking doesn’t happen just with one person. You need people from different teams involved to do it.

Brian: Okay. I’m a customer of Buffer, and they seem like they’ve been growth hacking.

Neil: I would say Buffer’s using a lot of growth stuff, right? Just look at their homepage. They use lots of education. It actually helps create sign-ups.

What advice would you give those utilizing traditional marketing who want to start?

Yeah. I would say with growth hacking, what ends up happening is when you get a few people doing it within an organization, it just starts happening right? You don’t have to really get everyone in the group involved. You want a team that could feed off a pizza. If it takes more than one pie, you have too many people. When Facebook does a lot of changes, it’s not a big team. It’s usually like a team that eats off one pizza.

Can you share some resources for marketers to learn more about growth hacking?

You can check out growthhackers.com I don’t contribute much to it, but I know that’s a great resource.

Is there anything else you wanted to share with readers? 

Neil: The big thing that I would focus on is creativity. The opportunity lies in what people aren’t tapping into already. I don’t believe that channels like Google, Facebook, or SEO, video, etc. are going to be the end all be all. And I always believe there are new opportunities and channels out there and creative ways to grow a business. You’ve just got to continually think of them.

Brian: In some cases, I’m hearing that could be alternative channels, or it could be putting a twist on or looking at existing channels in a different way that others might not be seeing.

Neil: Yes. Like looking at new channels that people aren’t seeing. I’m just saying try to think outside the box.

Conclusion

As you can see, growth hacking isn’t a fixed strategy. It’s a mindset. Thinking this way, and adopting lessons from growth hacking, you’ll achieve more and dwell less on failure. Also, you’ll focus more on your customer’s motivation (with empathy) running tests, and iterate quickly.

People with a growth mindset- those who stretch themselves, take risks, accept feedback, and take the long-term view- can’t help but progress in their lives and careers  – Chip Heath and Dan Heath

How will a growth hacking as a mindset benefit you and your company?

The post What Can B2B Marketers Gain from Growth Hacking? appeared first on B2B Lead Blog.