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Transcript of How Small Businesses Can Compete in the Online Marketplace

Transcript of How Small Businesses Can Compete in the Online Marketplace written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

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Klaviyo logoJohn Jantsch: This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Klaviyo. Klaviyo is a platform that helps growth focused e-commerce brands drive more sales with super targeted highly relevant email, Facebook, and Instagram marketing.

Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, this is John Jantsch, my guest today is Dan Breeden. He is a senior manager of strategic alliances for Yahoo Small Business, so Dan, thanks for joining us.

Dan Breeden: Yeah, thanks for having me.

John Jantsch: I think that Yahoo has been around forever, one of the early players certainly in online and in search, I think it probably would bear … I think there would be some value in just kind of talking about the state of Yahoo small business right now and actually what it offers, because I think a lot of people still probably don’t differentiate it from the search unit.

Dan Breeden: Sure, no, thanks for that. So Yahoo Small Business has been around for a while, we were started a little over 20 years ago when Yahoo bought one of the original e-commerce platforms and then since then we’ve added other products. Our web hosting product was once Geocities, which was a wildly popular platform. We do domain registration, we do direct relistings management, we have a product called local works, and then we also have some advertising products. We’ve got some merchants that have been with us the entire 20 years, very few that have been around longer than that, of course over those years e-commerce and local marketing has changed a lot, so we’ve seen that change, our customers have seen that change, and of course we’ve had a lot of small businesses come and go as they rise and fall with market changes.

So we’re not part of Verizon, we were once part of the broader Yahoo, but we’re in a team that works with alongside Verizon’s small business teams, which has been a great fit for us.

John Jantsch: So since you kind of alluded to this and you’ve been at Yahoo for a while so you’ve seen some of these changes, how would you describe … you know I always tell people that yeah, we’ve got all these new marketing platforms and all these things that come along, but I think what’s changed the most is how people buy. So how would you describe how customer behavior has evolved over the last decade?

Dan Breeden: Sure, if we’re talking about e-commerce, it’s been … it’s been a revolution, right. In fact I have been around for a while and I’ve met with a number of our merchants as well as people who sell on other platforms and the story is the same, we’ll meet with successful merchants and they will marvel at … they worked really hard but they’ll marvel at how they were able to launch a successful store 10, 15 years ago, that they wouldn’t be able to launch in the same way that they would have to do now. It’s a much more crowded marketplace, we have some massive marketplaces that are competing against individual stores, right. We’ve got Amazon, we’ve got eBay, you’ve got kind of the niche marketplaces like Etsy as well. So someone that wants to launch a successful e-commerce venture now has to really be smart.

They’ve got to do more than just come up with a set of products and descriptions, you know, and post it and hope that customers will find them because it’s not that easy and you won’t find success that way.

John Jantsch: Well and since you mentioned Amazon and you know, I buy a thing or two from them so I’m not going to pick on them, but they literally are the everything store it seems, including any innovation that seems to be out there in the market, they’re able to kind of … imitate. I just noticed the other day, maybe this has been around for a while, but this whole buy … you have a designer help you pick out clothes, they send it to you, if you like them great you keep them, if you don’t you send them back. Companies like Stitch Fix, you know, is one that I know is kicking up a lot of dust lately. Well Amazon just basically copied that, I mean so how do you fight or play in that environment where you’ve got an organization, a company with that kind of distribution and that kind of buying leverage?

Dan Breeden: Sure, so I totally agree, Amazon is the gorilla in the room and I buy from them as well for some items. You’re not going to beat them at their game though, so Amazon [inaudible] and this is no way disparaging, but Amazon’s game is they are super convenient, you log in, you have a single check out, you may be buying from multiple merchants, you … you often get incentives around shipping, et cetera. So if you’re playing in that marketplace and you’re trying to differentiate yourself, it’s going to be extremely difficult unless you’ve got a line on a product that you’re able to offer a lower price than anybody else. That can happen if you’re sourcing your products directly from the manufacturer, it typically is a fairly short window before somebody else starts finding your source and undercutting you by nickels and dimes. Instead, where we’re seeing merchants have success is by providing a different shopping experience.

A more customized, more personal shopping experience. When you go to Amazon, you may be buying from multiple merchants. Often you don’t care if those merchants don’t have the ability brand themselves, and so it’s not the same in depth high touch field, it’s really in the super convenient. On the other hand, if you’re looking for something very specific around something you love, a hobby, a pursuit, maybe a gift for someone, you’re more likely to be looking for something that is not one of thousands that’s offered on a marketplace, right. You might be looking for something very specific that’s not like everybody else’s or you may be looking for a store where you know that it’s not just kind of almost a nameless retailer. Instead it’s people that have touched the product, they have product knowledge, they may use the product themselves, and you’re more involved in that purchase, right. You’re more invested in that purchase and in the company.

John Jantsch: Well I know I personally like … I’m kind of almost a Cheers model, I like going to stores where they know my name. That to me and my wife laughs because it’s like okay, you’re going to be a customer there forever now because they just called you John, and she’s right. I get an emotional attachment there, but some would suggest that the Amazon’s of the world actually created personal experience in some ways … in the online world because they were the first ones to know what you bought before. They were the first ones to suggest oh if you like this, you’re going to like these, I mean isn’t that the basis of personalization?

Dan Breeden: It has a personalization feel, it also has an artificial intelligence field right, everybody that came before me that bought brown socks, 75 percent came back for blue socks, so the next thing I see is blue socks, right. So they’ll do that artificial intelligence kind of following the pack and that can work but I think when we’re talking about personalization, it’s more than just throwing more products into … in front of a consumer. It often is getting in front of that and knowing what the consumer is going to want even before they have seen the product, right. One of our merchants is … their site is called Pro Tuning Lab, and these guys sell import automobile parts for people that customize their cars. It’s a family run business, these guys are super in touch with the marketplace, they know what is gonna be hot on the street before it’s even on the street and they are very intuitive.

They’re very much in touch with the different clubs and their promoting products and they are putting products out there so when their followers, their customers see that, they know that it’s not only going to be one of the first time seen on the streets but you know, it’s cool. It’s trending or it will be trending, right. Amazon can’t do that because they’re going to have to wait until the buying trends show that this is a popular product, you know, but this merchant knows because they are themselves an aficionado, right. They are themselves a thought leader in that area and so they’re able to lead that buying purchase by getting the products ahead of time.

John Jantsch: Yeah and I think a lot of times … I know what makes me … connects me is maybe not even technology that’s involved but it’s the branding, it’s the story about the product, it’s the story about the company, those … so I think a lot of times personalization can come from knowing your audience so well that you’re able to tell a story that really connects with them.

Dan Breeden: Yeah, that’s exactly right, and actually that reminds me another merchant that we’ve had whose been around a long time, in fact it’s a family run business. One of the brothers that’s involved in the business wrote the original Yahoo Stores for Dummies book which was probably one of the first e-commerce guides that was ever written. These guys run a specialty store for pet supplies for people that have sporting dogs and it’s called Gun Dogs Supply and they started out as a small pet store. They were basically selling pet food out of a shed, they decided to get online when they first started hearing about people selling online, and they have a really interesting site because they have managed to outlast the Pets.com, the Pet Smarts that sprang up in their neighborhood, and they have such product depth of knowledge that when you go to their site they have product videos … they aren’t just putting up your generic product descriptions.

They do their own testing, they take things and literally field test it, right. They put the collars on the dogs, they try out the retrieving tools, they write about it, they blog about it. When you buy from them … and I don’t have a sporting dog but I have a … one of my dogs is deaf and so I bought a signal collar for her. When you call them and I ended up calling them to get what I needed, I mean they’re able to tell you exactly which product they’re recommending because they’ve used it before. You’re not going to get that in a marketplace, right, you’re not going to get anywhere near that, that level of high touch.

John Jantsch: I want to remind you that this episode is brought to you by Klaviyo, Klaviyo helps you build meaningful customer relationships by listening and understanding cue’s from your customers, and this allows you to easily turn that information into valuable marketing messages. There’s powerful segmentation, email auto responders that are ready to go, great reporting. You want to learn a little bit about the secret to building customer relationships, they’ve got a really fun series called Klaviyo’s Beyond Black Friday. It’s a docu series, a lot of fun, quick lessons, just head on over to Klaviyo.com, beyond BF, beyond Black Friday.

I think that’s the real message, we don’t have to out tech them, we have to out story tell them I think and I think that’s really … that can be a huge differentiator but however, now that consumers are getting really used to this nice technology that works a certain way and flows a certain way and removes friction and makes it easier for them to buy.

You know what tech needs to be involved in that personalization because we want high touch but we also want … we don’t want friction, right, does that make sense. So what does a small business do now to sort of adopt the technology that we as consumers have come to expect?

Dan Breeden: Sure, so a lot of the technology that you’re going to find in the marketplaces can also be added to stores. I mean we have some of the more sophisticated stores … have things like customer reg, they’re building email lists for news letters, et cetera. The … if they’re using customer registration they’re able to recognize the buying history of that customer and so they know that maybe they’re coming back and ordering something they’ve ordered before, or maybe they’re coming back and they’re ordering something similar, right. You can recognize that they’ve ordered Chevy Blazer parts for that type of car, it’s a very good possibility they’re going to be looking for more parts for that type of car, so you can display those types of products in front of them. So all of that segment … I mean one of the great things about the internet is that it democratizes a lot of that technology.

So a lot of that is available, it’s just a matter of implementing it. I think one of the things that’s even more interesting though and we see it on some of our top merchant sites is things as simple as product categorization that are based on the owners in depth knowledge of the product. So it’s putting things into categories that might not otherwise be apparent but because they know their customers, because they touch their customers so often, they know that people shop for certain things in certain ways. I mean I was just looking this morning on the Gun Dog site and they have product categorization around the type of dog you have because certain dogs I guess have certain things that work better with them.

Then they also have areas where if I’m just shopping for a collar and I know I want a yellow one or a pink one, I can just go there and find all of the products that fit that categorization.

John Jantsch: So staying with this story telling theme, how does small business … how do you feel the small businesses can take their story out off of the site? So a lot of the places where people get recommendations, ask for recommendations, write reviews or are on social media. How do you take that story out off of the actual e-commerce platform … obviously the intent is to get them back there to buy it, but how do you integrate those two ideas?

Dan Breeden: Yeah, that’s a great question, now we’re kind of talking about content marketing and story telling is huge, right. You know, it wasn’t long ago where people thought content marketing meant just talking about the products features and benefits but you’re right. People like to buy things that they’ve heard about that they’ve heard about the product being used, sometimes it has a backstory. You need to get into social channels, the ones that are working for you, the one where your users are active, and that’s really key, is don’t just think you’re going to go into three channels because they’re your favorite channels, right. You want to choose the channels that your customers or intended customers favorites, and then find ways to incent people to try things or find ways for people to incent people to blog about or post about a product they’ve used, a product that maybe they’ve used in a different way, you know.

A lot of it becomes a conversation, it’s fascinating to me how often marketers will run and small businesses will run small programs to try and get things like product reviews or somebody to post about shopping on their site or using a product but then they don’t continue the conversation, you know. The more you’re able to make that two way back and forth, the more likely that people are going to not only share it more broadly, but also understand that this is the conversation with a person, right. This isn’t just a campaign where you’re trying to drive new posts and clicks.

John Jantsch: So I think you even mentioned it and of course it’s almost a sin to have a marketing conversation today to go more than about 10 minutes without using the term AI. So how does artificial intelligence play into the mix, I mean every … you know, I talk to small business owners all the time and they’ve all heard the term and they can’t … it’s all over network TV talking about it as the wave of the future. What’s the implication of AI for a small business right now?

Dan Breeden: Yeah, for most small businesses the implication of AI is understanding what kind of data you’re getting and trying to figure out how you can use it to make intelligent choices. It’s … every site has Google analytics and Google analytics is an amazing tool, one of the problems is it’s so rich and the data is so deep that a lot of small businesses just … they get buried in it and they’re not sure exactly what it’s showing. But the key is figuring out number one, what am I actually seeing, what is this data telling me, what’s important because a lot of it … it may all be interesting but it’s not all necessarily important and you need to decide as a small business what you’re trying to drive, what it’s showing, and then really what you need to do is you need to figure out what you’re going to do about it, right.

Then measure against your future data, if all you’re doing is just tracking this monster of data, you’re not going to get anything out of it. The business that succeeds is the one that’s constantly improving, constantly trying things, unfortunately constantly failing, but pivoting into a successful position from that.

John Jantsch: So let’s end up topic that we’ve kind of led to this … one of the things that I think is really challenging for a lot of small businesses, particularly e-commerce folks is the segmenting of promotions. We’ve all experienced that oh I went to this new website and they offered me 10 percent off because I’m new or I’m a returning customer and I’m going to get a certain price or it’s a holiday and I’m going to get a certain promotion. How do you really balance because I tell you one of the things that happens is if you’re not really good at that, you actually run the risk of alienating your best customers by promoting and giving special offers to everybody except them. So how do you kind of balance that promotion and maybe the exclusive feel of it without alienating your best customers?

Dan Breeden: Yeah, you’re right, and it’s a balancing act. It’s something that each business is going to have to look at individually. You do have to be very careful about acclimating your shopper to expect a constant discount unless that’s your business model, right, and if it is your business model, then it’s a good idea to just not waste time, just put it right up front right on that front page that we offer free shipping or we’re running a promotion and there’s 15 percent off. One of the interesting things I’ve seen and it’s used on our site, it’s actually a third party developer that does it, is a very intelligent product that the merchant decides how many pages someone clicks. How long they maybe sit on a single page, and then at a certain point and in particular if they start to show signs of going to a back button or leaving the site, it will then bring up a discount.

It will bring up sometimes a shopping timer that says that if they check out within the next five minutes they’ll get a discount. Those are really interesting highly valuable tools but they are tools that you’ve got to use intelligently, right. You don’t want to cannibalize your sales, you want to be … and that’s where data comes in right. You’ve got to run some tests, you’ve got to see what’s working, what’s not working, certainly if you’re going to do something like that though there’s a lot of ways that you can incent repeat customers to come back to your site, loyal customers to come back to your site, then you can often do it through news letters, email, et cetera.

You know, one thing that you remind me of though is one of the traps that a lot of e-commerce customers or merchants fall into, is having a check out with a discount code that can be entered at the end. If you’re displaying an area, a field for a discount code, my recommendation is you’ve got to also provide that discount code somewhere on that page. The last thing you want to incent people to do once they are … here I am in the cart, I put the three items in, I’m ready to go, and then I see that some people have a discount code. Well that’s going to often prompt the shopper to go out on Google and do a search and unfortunately I may find some discount codes but I’ll probably find alternative sites to buy the materials and products I may be buying from you. That’s the last thing you want to happen, right.

So if you’ve got that kind of program, figure out how to keep those people there, right, those are your customers, you’ve worked so hard to get them into the cart and get them … on the cusp of claiming that purchase and you want to follow through with that. If you need to give them a discount, display it right there, that’s part of your incentive and part of your promotions than put it right there to keep them on the checkout page.

John Jantsch: So Dan, where would you like to send people and of course we’ll have any of this in the show notes too, to find out more about Yahoo Small Business?

Dan Breeden: Well check out our site at Yahoo Small Business, we’ve got a number of products that are available, we’ve also got an advisor site as well. Like I said we’ve been around 20 years, we provide not only the tools that we know merchants need as well as brick and mortar companies, but we also work really hard to provide advice and guidance. We know that running a small business can sometimes be a lonely job, it can be confusing, a lot of times the things that small businesses struggle with especially early on is figuring out what to do next. So we provide articles and conversations, we of course have social content as well and so we’re happy to engage with new merchants and figure out how we can help them succeed.

John Jantsch: Awesome, well thanks for joining us and I invite people to check out the offers at Yahoo Small Business. Thanks, Dan.

Dan Breeden: Hey thank you.

Transcript of Getting Smart About the Business of Education

Transcript of Getting Smart About the Business of Education written by John Jantsch read more at Duct Tape Marketing

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John Jantsch: Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch, and my guest today is Danny Iny. He is an educator, entrepreneur, founder and CEO of Mirasee, a business education company. He’s also the author of a book we’re going to talk about today, Leveraged Learning: How the Disruption of Education Helps Lifelong Learners and Experts with Something to … And my notes stop there. It must say, “Something to say,” right?

Danny Iny: Something to teach.

John Jantsch: Teach. Sorry, it got cut off there. So Danny, welcome back.

Danny Iny: John, thank you so much for having me. I’m excited to be here.

John Jantsch: So what led you here? I mean this is … We’re going to come back to why it’s so on topic, but it’s a little bit seemingly off topic for a entrepreneur and founder of a marketing related company.

Danny Iny: Yeah, so in one sense it’s very on topic. I’ve been working in the space of education for my entire adult career. I run an education company. We teach people how to build and sell courses. But this is a departure from the more tactical focus of how do experts build courses based on their expertise. And this was really prompted by two experiences I had in my life.

So the first was when I was 15 years old and I dropped out of high school. As a kid, I was the biggest goody two shoes, teacher’s pet, gets all his homework done before leaving class, like I was that kid. But then I go into the ninth grade, and it’s like a switch gets flipped in my head, and I’m just sitting in class thinking, “Oh my god, I am so bored. I can’t take it anymore.”

And so I started cutting classes. And I don’t do anything halfway, and so in that first semester I missed like 152 classes. I was barely there. And this went on for about a year and a half. And then I looked in the mirror, and I stopped. I paused. I said, “Danny, what are you doing? What’s the plan? Am I just going to keep cutting classes and going to the gym and watching MTV?” Like that’s not a plan.

And so I decided to quit and make it official and start my first business. And the prevailing narrative around me was, “Danny, you are making a terrible mistake. You are throwing your life away.” And that’s interesting, right? Because, you know, “Danny, you’re making a terrible mistake.” You know what? Maybe. I mean I was open to that possibility. Maybe this is the wrong move. I don’t think so, but it could be. But, “You throwing your life away,” right? This implication of it being an irreversible decision; this is the end. That just didn’t make sense to me.

I was always thinking like, you know, “In a worst case scenario, I can just go back to school.” So it didn’t really make sense to me. I dropped out of school, and it turned out to have been a great decision, one of the best moves I made for myself in my life. And then fast forward 10 years, and I’d been involved in a bunch of startups, and I had done a whole bunch of interesting things. I had just tried to build a software company. That fell apart when the markets crashed. And I walked away from that with a ton of debt. And when you have a setback like that, you kind of rethink your decisions, you question.

And I thought, “Maybe I need a little more structure. Maybe I need more stability. Maybe I need a safety net, so maybe I should go back to school and get an MBA.” And the prevailing narrative around me now was like, “Wow, Danny, that’s a great idea. You are setting yourself up for success in life. You’re going to open doors. It’s amazing.” And nobody gave any thought to reversibility because why would you want to reverse something so wonderful?

So I applied to business schools. I got into Queen’s School of Business, one of the top business schools in Canada, without a high school diploma or undergraduate degree. It turns out, even institutions of higher learning only value the signal of a degree in the absence of better signals. And I go through this program. I invest lots of time and lots of money. And it turns out, if I had to rank the five or 10 worst investments of my life, this would be high on that list. Right?

I met some great people, but I also met a lot of mediocre people. I had some great teachers, also a lot of mediocre teachers. The brochures promised the future leaders of tomorrow. The class was filled with the middle managers of today. So that was basically the experience. And I had a lot of debt.

And the contrast between these two experiences just got me thinking, “Wow, something’s really out of whack with the way people think education functions and how it actually does. And that set me on a path of just doing a lot of casual research to see what’s really going on. And that accelerated over the years. And in the last couple of years, it became a full blown research project, hundreds of books and articles and journals and interviews with experts. And I did all this just for my own personal curiosity because I would have all these discussions with people saying, “Look, I think education is broken. I think it costs too much. I think it’s not preparing us for the world.” And there would be all these, “Yeah, buts.” “Yeah, but it helps you be well rounded. Yeah, but you needed to get a job. Yeah, but it’s still a good investment.” And none of these things are true according to the data

John Jantsch: I met my wife at university. Don’t forget that one.

Danny Iny: I get that every once in a while and I’m like, “You know that’s not in the brochures, right?”

But so I did all this research kind of looking for the data to show once and for all definitively, you know, “Look, this thing that I’m saying is happening with education, this is really where it’s going.” And what I actually found is that it’s already here.

I really thought I was going to find data showing that in 10 or 20 years, the college degree is going to be more or less defunct. What I found is that we’re pretty much there right now, and it was just too important and too compelling message. I mean college debt in the US is over one and a half trillion dollars now. The average university graduate from an undergraduate degree comes out of that experience with over $30,000 of debt. The average interest rate on student loans is 6.8%. This is the only kind of debt that you cannot for yourself of by declaring bankruptcy. It’s also the kind of debt that you are most likely to incur before you’re even legally an adult. And this was just too … It wasn’t okay. It was too awful, and so that led me to write the book.

John Jantsch: Yeah. It’s interesting. Of course we could go a whole nother course and talk about the, sort of the whole lending industry’s role in this, of course. But that would be another book, wouldn’t it?

Danny Iny: It absolutely could be. But honestly, as much as the student debt is like this whole egregious, enormous number, I’m less concerned with the costs and I’m more concerned with what it’s buying, which is not much.

John Jantsch: Yeah. And what’s really interesting is when this person goes through, acquires all this debt, and then realizes that what I really want to do is start a business, which they could have done six years ago, especially today. I started my business almost 30 years ago, and it’s amazing how the sort of culture has changed around that.

When I started it, my friend said, “Oh, something will come up.” I mean It was like, “You lost; you started a business.” And now it’s just the opposite. I think you see a lot of these kids in college, you know, while they’re in that experience, and certainly right after that are saying, “Oh wait, that’s the way to go.” And I don’t know if that … Is that because this degree is so worthless, and they thought they were gonna make all this money, but now they’re seeing the only people making money are controlling their own thing? Or is it just culturally shifted in your mind that that’s now cool?

Danny Iny: I think part of it is a cultural shift. I think part of it is that the biggest celebrities of our modern age are not pop stars or movie stars, they’re entrepreneurs. It’s the Jeff Bezos and Elon Musk and Steve jobs. I think that’s part of it, but I also think it’s just that the economy is a lot less stable than it used to be because the pace of change has grown so quickly. It used to be 30 years ago you could graduate, get a job and have more or less the same job a decade or several decades later. The world is just changing too fast now. That doesn’t exist.

John Jantsch: Yeah. And the industry you were in might not exist. So, we probably ought to define what leverage learning is.

Danny Iny: Yeah. So the way I think about it, most of life involves trade-offs, right? The way people tend to think about education involves trade-offs. Either we can create a thorough, intensive, transformative educational experience for a very small number of people at very large cost. Or we can create a very mediocre, watered down educational experience that reaches a lot of people and is affordable. The first half of the book is about here’s everything that’s wrong with education today. The second half of the book is here’s what we can do instead. And I think we are really at the beginning of a golden age of education where we can leverage the best of what we know to create an empowered, transformative experience for everyone in a way that is accessible and cost effective.

John Jantsch: It’s interesting. Part of it starts with this definition, and we always think of education as a place that has buildings, and you go to classes, and that kind of thing. And of course that’s changed because people do it online now at those institutions. But really, you and I’ve been educators for a long time. I’m calling myself a marketing consultant, but ironically in our beginning of the year, actually fourth quarter planning, we had this really silly insight that we’re really a training company more than anything else.

Danny Iny: Yeah, no kidding.

John Jantsch: But we don’t … I don’t know that everybody accepts that that’s kind of what all the businesses that are really succeeding have some element of that, don’t they?

Danny Iny: Well, it’s incredibly, incredibly common, and it makes sense because when you empower someone to do something that they couldn’t do before and you can do it in a way that is scalable to some degree and leverageable to some degree, it’s like it’s a great business model. It’s a great outcome. It’s a great value proposition, so what’s not to like?

John Jantsch: So, and I’m going backwards a little bit here, but I remember a jotting down the the one … I think it was a sub topic, not a title chapter, but that really struck me is that you … You, kind of after talking about what’s wrong with education, you also then say it’s really a life problem. So, break that open.

Danny Iny: Well, the fundamental challenge is not that people are going to college and spending too much and getting too little. The real issue is that people … Because what is the role of education in society? It’s to give us a way of becoming valued by and valuable to society. And when that pathway breaks down, you’ve got a lot of people who are basically sitting there thinking, “Well, now what? What am I going to do? How am I going to contribute? How am I going to be able to do something valuable and meaningful?” And that’s a life problem for everyone, right? Just like when the economy’s down, people don’t have money to spend, there’s less money going into the economy, and there’s a vicious cycle. The same thing happens with education.

John Jantsch: Yeah. And in a lot of ways, you can’t really knock education. It’s really more the approach to education. Because I mean, I couldn’t be a teacher or trainer if I didn’t know something, if I didn’t learn or experience something. So what’s the way that we need to educate ourselves now? If you’re that person thinking, “Okay, Danny, I won’t go to college,” what do I do?

Danny Iny: Well, the key thing is to think … And I’m not anti-college. I’m just anti-college as a magical golden ticket. I think, and this applies to if people have kids and they’re thinking about college. This also applies to adults. Fundamentally, education is meant to bridge a gap from where you are now to where you want to be. It’s meant to be a shortcut. If education doesn’t let you get to where you want to go in less time, or at less cost, or with less risk, then what’s the point, right? It’s supposed to do one of those things.

And so rather than … You know 30 years ago, you could go to college and spend a very small amount of money, and it was affordable, and it would open a lot of doors because not a lot of people have a degree, and it was a differentiator, and all that stuff. That’s not the case today.

So just like we do in every other area of life, if you have a goal, think about carefully, diligently, what is the goal and what is the best way for me to achieve that goal, right? If I’m looking to advance in my career, don’t go to get that continuing education certificate and hope that somehow magically puts you over the top and impresses people. Think about, what are the real gaps? What do I need to know that I don’t know? Who do I need to know that I don’t know? And be intentional about that. It always comes down to allocation of time and resources. What is the best way for you to get the outcomes that you’re looking for?

John Jantsch: So you work with a lot of … I mean it kind of started … Well, I shouldn’t put words in your mouth. Did it kind of start with this course building work that you saw as a way for people to build legitimate businesses and train others exchange value that then turned into this kind of journey on what education means in general and how … I mean obviously you start with the very practical: I have a course. I want to teach somebody something. How do I make sure that they get value out of it? How do I make sure they actually learned something? How do I make sure they come back? I mean, kind of practical things. I get the sense in the book that you’re now kind of almost making part of the wiring of the human existence in some ways.

Danny Iny: Very much so. All these transitions in education, they also create a lot of opportunities. So one of the big transitions that we’re seeing is a shift from just-in-case education to just-in-times. It used to be we would do a lot of just-in-case education at the start of our career, you know, four years just in case I need it. And that’s always been challenging pedagogically because we know that what you learned 10 years ago, we don’t retain a lot of it. But the world is changing so quickly that even if we did retain it, it wouldn’t be relevant anymore. And so we’re shifting to actually a lot more education over our lifetime, but just in time. So instead of it being months or years early on, it’s weeks or months as you go when you need it.

Now when you have that granularization, “I don’t need one giant education. I need a lot of small units of education. I need it to be relevant. I need it to be cutting edge,” the people who you need to teach it change. It becomes different people. And this is a subtle distinction, but it’s a really important one.

In a static world, in a world where the curriculum stays more or less the same, what you want is a great teacher who also knows the subject matter because teaching is hard. It’s a skill, right? So if it’s a great teacher who also knows the subject matter, you’re in good hands. But when the curriculum is changing all the time, when when the stuff that you’re teaching now is not going to be good anymore in three years or five years, it needs to be updated because the world has changed, well, a good teacher who also knows the subject matter can’t keep up fast enough. So what you need as a subject matter expert who is also a good teacher.

And it’s a subtle distinction, but it’s a very important one because what this means is that it’s not career educators anymore who are the go-to people to deliver it. Really it’s got to come from people who are experts and professionals on the cutting edge of their field, boots on the ground. They’re the ones who know the stuff that every other person wants to learn and they’re the ones who are very well positioned to take that knowledge and expertise and package it up in a way that is impactful and transformative.

John Jantsch: Yeah. In a way the typical, and I knew it sounds like we’re bashing the education institutions, but in a lot of ways they’re almost incentivized not to change.

Danny Iny: Well, they don’t really have a choice. People sometimes ask me, how can colleges change? And I really don’t think they can. Clayton Christensen has said publicly that he expects that 50% of colleges will be bankrupt in the next five or 10 years. I don’t know if I’m quite that aggressive in my expectations. The statistic on average is that for every dollar taken in by a college from a student, only 21 cents goes to instruction, right? Everything else is the administration, the amenities, the grounds, the buildings, all that stuff.

And the thing is, looking at it as a business, a lot of that stuff, these are fixed costs. These are things that they can’t get rid of. They can’t just decide, “Oh, we want to cut costs, so we’re not going to have these buildings anymore.” Right? They’re stuck with it. There’s a ton of inertia, and so it’s not very likely that colleges are going to be able to pivot quickly enough to make that happen. And that sucks for colleges, but for independent experts and professionals who have really valuable things to teach, it’s a great opportunity.

John Jantsch: Yeah. So if I’m this person that is a subject matter expert, how do I flip that around then and say, “Okay. Based on the way that people need to learn, how do I need to teach?”

Danny Iny: Well, it’s not an if; you are at that subject matter expert, and you do actually do it, right? But a good way of thinking about it is this, and this is … again, it’s going to point to the big opportunity. When we want to go and learn something, when we want to really develop a competence, internalize a skill, there are three steps in that process. The first step is the consumption, right? So that’s when you read the book, or watch the video, or listen to the audio, or hear the lecture, right? We consume the new ideas. That’s basic exposure. And you need that to start because without that, you’re nowhere, but it’s not enough. You don’t get a lot of deep learning there.

The second step is application. And that’s where you take what you learned and you do something with it. And that can be theoretical, essays, or homework, or worksheets, or whatever. Or it could be practical. I’m going to do something in the real world, in my business, in my life.

And then the third step is feedback and iteration. That’s where someone who is qualified, a coach, a teacher, an instructor looks at what you did in the real world or in your exercises and tells you, “Here’s where you need to improve. Here’s what we need to do differently.” They give you feedback. And most of the deep learning happens on the part of feedback and happens on the part of application.

Now again, this presents a really interesting opportunity for experts and professionals because there are a lot of platforms out there: There’s the Courseras, there’s the Lyndas, there’s the MasterClass sites, right? There’s all these sites that you can go and you can spend a hundred, $200 for a video course. You can go take a screenwriting course with Aaron Sorkin on MasterClass for a couple hundred bucks. But that’s just the first bucket, right? That’s just the exposure to the ideas, and we get that.

Nobody takes a course with Aaron Sorkin on screenwriting, on MasterClass with the expectation they’re actually going to be a dramatically better screenwriter at the end of it, right? They’re taking it because they’re interested. It’s edutainment, and that’s great for the people who have that reach and that reputation and that brand.

But then after people have gone through Aaron Sorkin’s MasterClass and they’re like, “Okay, this is cool, but I really actually want to become a better screenwriter,” then they’re going to go and look for, “Where is the expert or professional who can deliver all three of those buckets? Not just the exposure to the ideas, but also the work that I can do to apply and then the feedback to improve.” And whereas for just the exposure to the content, that’s not something that can command a ton of money, right? A couple of hundred bucks at the high end is as far as it’s going to go, and that takes an Aaron Sorkin level of brand reputation.

But if I’m going to get all three of those buckets, and that can actually create a transformation, the value of that is dramatically higher. And now we’re looking at thousands of dollars rather than hundreds. And what we as experts have to do is build experiences that give all three of those buckets, and that’s what justifies the investment and really drives the business model.

John Jantsch: Yeah. Think about all the people that bought courses and courses and courses. I mean, they’re just kind of skipping that stuff now because they realize they’ve not gotten much out of it. And they are looking more for, as you said, that more transformative experience.

Danny Iny: It’s the maturation of the market. Online courses, and this is one of these things that’s a little tricky for us because we’ve been in this space for so long so it’s like, “Online courses, that’s old news.” But go out into the world and talk to a quote-unquote ‘real, regular person’ and say, “Where can I take a course?” It’s only very recently that the idea of online is starting to enter the public awareness, right? We’re, we’re crossing the chasm from innovators and early adopters to mainstream buyers, and mainstream buyers have very different expectations, right?

Early adopters, when they got cell phones that came out on the market, it was a giant brick. It had maybe four apps. They didn’t work half the time, and early adopters are fine paying a fortune for that. Mainstream buyers expect a great form factor, and a thousand apps, and a great battery life, and it works all the time, even if you drop it in the pool. And so the expectation of how much you’re going to get as part of the experience is changing because of the market is maturing.

John Jantsch: And LinkedIn fairly recently paid $1.6 billion to acquire Lynda.com because … I think that’s an indication as big as anything that it’s gone mainstream, isn’t it?

Danny Iny: Absolutely. It’s one of the … There’s a lot that went into that tipping point, but the eLearning market is projected to grow to just shy of $400 billion in 2026, which sounds like a huge number, but education globally depending on the numbers you look at is between 4.4 and $6.9 trillion. So as big as eLearning and online education is getting, it’s still a relatively small piece of that, which is why we’re early in that phase, and it’s just going to grow.

John Jantsch: One of the things that I thought was very fun is at LeverageLearningBook.com somebody can actually read the whole book there, if they want to sit there on your website all day, can’t they?

Danny Iny: Absolutely. So the bet I’m making is … First of all, I don’t make money selling books. I run a business, so that’s how I get paid. Second, I think this is a very important message to get out there. A trillion and a half dollars, that’s just … That’s insane. So I want people to read it. I wanted to be able to share. And I’m also banking on the fact that if somebody really likes what they’re reading, they’re not going to want to read 300 pages on a website. So, no strings, no limits, anyone who wants to check out the book can go to LeverageLearningBook.com, and hopefully they’ll like it enough to then go to Amazon and order dozens of copies.

John Jantsch: Well, Danny, and important topic and one that that I think hits on a couple fronts. I mean culturally I think it hits on a really, really big important topic. But certainly far from an entrepreneur’s standpoint, I think it addresses an opportunity that’s really pretty much open to anybody.

Danny Iny: I think so. I mean anyone who’s got expertise and depth of knowledge in something that’s valuable to others, which is most people.

John Jantsch: Well, Danny, it was great catching up with you. LeverageLearningBook.com is where you can find the book. Do you want to tell people where they can find more about you and your work as well?

Danny Iny: Well, LeverageLearningBook.com is a great place to go. People can go to Amazon and order dozens and dozens of copies, or leave a review. That’s good too. And you can find more about me and my work at my company’s website, which is Mirasee, M-I-R-A-S-E-E dot com.

John Jantsch: Awesome. Thanks, Danny. Hopefully we’ll run into you some day out there on the road.

Danny Iny: I will look forward to it. Thank you for having me.

Transcript of Marrying Content with the Customer Journey

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Klaviyo logoJohn Jantsch: This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast is brought to you by Klaviyo. Klaviyo is a platform that helps growth-focused eCommerce brands drive more sales with super-targeted, highly relevant email, Facebook and Instagram marketing.

Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch and my guest today is Arnie Kuenn. He is the founder and CEO of Vertical Measures. He’s also the author, or I guess I should say co-author because he’s got a group that he wrote this book with, called Customer Journey: Your Audience Will Take This Journey With or Without You, Are You Prepared?

Arnie, thanks for joining me.

Arnie Kuenn: Thanks for having me John, appreciate it.

John Jantsch: As a fellow author I’m always curious how these team books go. How did you find writing a book with others in terms of … The obvious benefit is you didn’t have to write as much, but then you also had to organize people’s thoughts, didn’t you?

Arnie Kuenn: Yeah. The journey for me has been … I wrote my first book solo back in 2011 around content marketing, it was called Accelerate, and found that to be … Just so everybody who has ever written a book totally understands, it was ten times harder and took three times longer than anyone even tried to warm ne it would take.

John Jantsch: And then you had to sell the dang thing.

Arnie Kuenn: Well yeah. Actually we don’t do it so much to become best-sellers. In the business we’re in it’s more thought leaders and help maybe bring some clients in. We do hope it sells, but you’re right, absolutely, then you’ve got to go market it. The second book I wrote was called content marketing works and it was based on all the lessons learned in the years between Accelerate and Content Marketing Works and I actually co-authored that with my son who is in charge of marketing for our agency and that was a lot easier, even though we had to do some coordinating. He lived in Nashville at the time, I lived in Phoenix. It was fun to do with him but, of course, it was half the work, that was kind of nice.

About two years ago we came up with this idea for the book around the customer journey. We have 60 employees altogether but we have multiple subject matter experts and we were just having a team meeting and talking about it and said, well if each of you takes a section we could probably knock this out. That’s how the idea came about. It takes more coordination that way, a little bit less effort but a lot more project management, so to speak to get it done. That’s a long answer but that’s how that all formed and how we decided to do it this way.

John Jantsch: I know in the course of writing a book, some of my books have taken … By the time the editor was really getting to to it I may have written that chapter six months ago and they’re coming back and saying, “Well, you said it this way this time.” I can’t imagine doing that with six or eight people.

Arnie Kuenn: Right. Yeah. We did have one editor so that person interacted with the person who wrote that chapter or those chapters, but you’re right, there’s actually people who finished their work, actually just about what you said, six, seven, eighth months ago and really haven’t looked at it since and the book just got released this week and they’re almost having to refresh, “What did I write again?” And read it over again.

John Jantsch: Well congrats.

Arnie Kuenn: Well thank you.

John Jantsch: You chose the format of, I don’t know, are you calling it a fable? That’s kind of what they call this, right?

Arnie Kuenn: A fable, you said?

John Jantsch: Where you have a fictitious character who is actually going on this journey.

Arnie Kuenn: Yes.

John Jantsch: I think they call those books fables.

Arnie Kuenn: You’re probably right. Actually I never thought about it in a business reference, but yes.

John Jantsch: I think so.

Arnie Kuenn: Yeah.

John Jantsch: What was the decision about trying to present the information in that voice?

Arnie Kuenn: The first two, if you looked at them, they were really … I mean, they felt and really were how-to books, very step-by-step and I’m pretty pragmatic and so it just followed a system and a process and all that. This time we just set off saying we’re going to really try to make it a story. Even though it has lots of good information on how-to and all of that, we just really wanted to make it more readable and, like you say, pitch it more of a story.

We created a character, you’re right, who is in business but wants to go back to school to get an advanced degree. We tell the whole story of how she’s searching for a school to take some online classes and how she starts to go through part of her journey in the beginning but the school she’s doing research around hasn’t quite finished all of their content to map to all of the phases of her journey. She ends up finding another school who has more comprehensive content that takes her all the way through decision and advocacy and so she jumps over and ends up enrolling and taking classes there and then eventually has a better position in life. We just thought that story worked and we’re proud of it, but I guess we’ll find out over the next few months if everybody else likes it.

John Jantsch: That’s the whole story, I guess we’re done.

Arnie Kuenn: Yeah, that’s pretty much it.

John Jantsch: Let’s unpack this idea of a journey because, in fact, you graciously asked me to give a blurb for the book, which I did, because it’s a great book.

Arnie Kuenn: Yeah, I did. Thank you very much.

John Jantsch: I’ve been saying for a long time that everybody talks about this change in marketing and that change in marketing. I’ve been saying for a long time, I think the things that change most is the way people buy and that’s what we’re subject to, the whole buyer journey has changed so much that we have to … Our marketing now has to respond to that massive change. How would you describe the customer journey? It’s a hot topic right now but it’s also one of those that I see a lot of sort of mixed signals around what it means.

Arnie Kuenn: Yeah. We describe it in four steps. I know everybody has different views and funnels and you had described one that you had talked about for years, but ours pretty much follows awareness as a first step, then consideration, decision and advocacy. Our view is that awareness can happen very, very quickly. It could be you are scrolling through your Facebook feed and you see a drone that looks like maybe you will never break, but you weren’t planning on buying drone but you became aware that there’s one that looks good for you and so you click on the ad or whatever.

It could be you’re watching television at night and how we all sit with our iPads or our laptops in our lap and something just strikes you, maybe it’s a pair of shoes or a new car or whatever it might be. You awareness could happen, like I say, in moments and then you turn online generally and you start the consideration phase. You start doing your research and, like you said, that’s what’s really changed is the way we buy now. You and I are old enough to … I’m sure you used to go to car dealers, you decided you want a new car but you showed up at a dealer with a yellow pad of paper and a pen so you could go and ask questions and take notes and go to the next one.

Now when we go to the dealer we walk in with a printout that we researched online and we say, here’s what I’d like to order or buy. In fact, I even know your inventory, I want this car. You’re right, that’s just what’s changed, the way people buy. Anyway, you make that decision but now there’s this whole advocacy piece, which again referring to our age, we used to tell our neighbors or our coworkers about this good or bad experience we have, well now we turn online and we do a Yelp review or an auto dealer review or a Google review and so on. It’s just digital now.

John Jantsch: I think that’s where I see so many people kind of miss the boat on this. The old funnel kind of ended when that person squirted out of the bottom of the funnel and that was like, oh you’re done now.

Arnie Kuenn: Yeah.

John Jantsch: I think that today a much more significant part of marketing is what happens after somebody says yes and I think the companies that are really killing it are taking advantage of that.

Arnie Kuenn: I agree. Yeah. In fact, more and more of our clients, although this is kind of a while ago, Andy Beale, a friend of mine, he’s kind of specialized in the whole protecting your brand online and reputation management. Lately it seems some of our clients are coming back to us saying, “We do need a little bit of help here. We’re not getting … We need better reviews or we need …” Oh I can’t think of that, what’s the website where your employees go?

John Jantsch: Glassdoor.

Arnie Kuenn: Yeah, Glassdoor. “We need better Glassdoor, we need Yelp …”, whatever it might be. We’re seeing a lot and it’s true. All of us, not all of us, but a lot of times before we go to buy something that car or the shoes I was referencing earlier, one of the things we do in our research is to go look at their reviews, what are people saying about that brand and that product. Again, 20 years ago that just did not happen.

John Jantsch: Yeah. I think there were certain industries that that became important five, ten years ago but I think it’s everybody now because that data’s out there and the behavior of looking at reviews has become so commonplace. I have kids that are in their 30s and late 20s and that’s one of the first pieces of data they want to look at before they visit a …

Arnie Kuenn:  Yeah, sure.

John Jantsch: I think that behavior has kind of made that more significant.

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One of the things that you had mentioned, you and I were talking offline before, I use this marketing hourglass approach and that was kind of the idea behind The Hourglass was that once the funnel kind of came to the point where somebody bought, then it expanded again. I have seven stages in mine, but I think the thing that trips people up a lot of times, even people that are buying into this idea of awareness, consideration, decision, is that these aren’t necessarily nice, tidy little boxes. Dependent upon a person’s problem, their relationship to the problem, how much they know coming into the deal, they can really … How people go through those boxes can change dramatically, can’t it?

Arnie Kuenn: Oh, absolutely. Yeah. Actually, one of the things that we’ve worked on here at Vertical Measures the last couple of years is we’ve created something that if you see it, it looks almost too simple if I told you it took us hundreds of hours to do it. We call it The Growth Matrix. Down one side we list awareness, consideration, decision, advocacy, but across the top there’s things to come into play. We look at, do you have content in each of these areas and what kinds of content will people be searching for.

Like you just said, are they trying to solve a problem, is it a how-to, it it … Whatever might be there. Does it need to be optimized? Does it need to be promoted? How are we going to actually measure whether or not the awareness stage is working, the consideration state, decision, so on and so forth. You’re right, even in the simple little funnel, I guess this is, of those four buckets, it gets more complex when you look at it like I’m describing from left to right and figuring out what needs to all be in each of these phases for this all to work well.

John Jantsch: And then, let’s start with another matrix factor, you’ve got these dimensions of your matrix because if I’m a homeowner and my furnace breaks down, my decision process for hiring an HVAC contractor to come fix is quite different than if I just bought a new home and I want to see if there’s something I need to upgrade, isn’t it?

Arnie Kuenn: Oh, gosh yeah. We have timeframe, for example.

John Jantsch: Well and just what information I need, how I’m going to go about getting that information. But I think the HVAC contractor in question here has to kind of plan for both, right?

Arnie Kuenn: Probably, yeah. Because … You’re right, you might be looking to upgrade or maybe even look at solar or whatever as opposed to …

John Jantsch: Yeah, so now I need information whereas before I just needed to know who will get here the fastest.

Arnie Kuenn: Yeah, who could get here. I’m in Chicago and it’s ten degrees and my furnace just broke, right?

John Jantsch: One of the things that I think is great about the book is you, given your background, particularly you make a very direct connection to content in each of these stages. I think that’s another thing that’s missing. A lot of people just look at content of like, “Okay, we have to have good content that’s out there and we blog and there we go, we checked that of the box.” Most of that content, between you and me, is written for that person who has already figured out what their problem is and they’re just looking for somebody to solve it. It really misses many of the other stages, doesn’t it?

Arnie Kuenn: It does, but I will say that … What you just described to me would be someone who might be actually successful with their content marketing. If they’re actually creating content around solving people’s problems, they’re already a step ahead of what I would say most organizations are. Because to me, still my biggest frustration that’s been the same frustration for five or six years is I still see people guessing at the kinds of content they should create or they’re still trying to create clever, journalistic headlines as opposed to really understanding the pain points that their prospect is going through and understanding the journey that we’re talking about and really trying to match up content there.

But you’re right, most people tend, if they’re into it, tend to focus on consideration or getting very close to a decision, so maybe they’ll do versus content, John versus Arnie, to see which one’s better or whatever, but there can be really good awareness content created as well and most people are missing that totally.

John Jantsch: For example, I sell marketing consulting services, would you say that’s what your firm does, is that how you would describe what [crosstalk]

Arnie Kuenn: More or less. Yeah. We’re a digital marketing agency so we probably are a little bit different than you, but you’re probably I think more on the consulting side, we actually …

John Jantsch: We have a network of consultants so we do a ton of training and stuff too.

Arnie Kuenn: Yeah.

John Jantsch: But I always advocate, nobody ever, in America at least, has woken up and said, “I think I’m going to go get me some marketing consulting.”

Arnie Kuenn: Right.

John Jantsch: They’re really complaining about problems that … They’re not even saying, “I’m going to go get some strategy.” But most of their complaints or they’re, how do I fix the fact that everybody … All they want is a lower price? Why do my competitors always show up ahead of me in the three pack? Those are the things they’re going and looking for answers to and I think that if we’re not addressing that in the early stages we’re never going to get to the part where what you need is a marketing strategy.

Arnie Kuenn: Correct. I absolutely agree. Yep.

John Jantsch: How do you go about helping somebody understand just that? I think that’s … As you mentioned, I’ve been talking about this for a lot of years. How do you get … We work with a lot of small businesses and most of them are still focused on that, here’s what we sell. But the clients out there looking for a solution, they don’t even know what their problem is yet, so how do you get people focused on creating content, particularly for those early stages when … I really a lot of times think people just … The only thing they can articulate is that it hurts.

Arnie Kuenn: Right. We’ll go about it a couple of ways. One might be more of a story form. We’ll go in and if we can talk to the CEO or whoever might be the top of the food chain as possible, and if they aren’t quite getting it we’ll just ask them … Let’s just say you’re into golf and you wanted a new set of golf clubs. Tell us what kind of things you would search for on Google. We’ll literally walk them through so that the light bulb can go on in their head where they realize that their customers are doing exactly what they do, it’s just a different product line. It could be B2B, it could be whatever.

We just show them, if you had a concern, if your customers have a concern, what is the problem that your products or services solve and how do you imagine they would go about this when they’re doing the research on Google and blah, blah, blah. Then we’ll bring … The next level is data. We’ll try to anticipate it, we’ll show them search volumes, we’ll go in and show their competitors and say, your competitor owns this piece here because they’ve just got all sorts of content helping them solve their problem, whatever it might be. Go get a new marketing automation system. The boss told you to go get a new marketing automation system, finally gave you a budget, but you don’t know any so you turn to Google and you start researching. What does that research path look like? Usually, if we can get an audience and tell that story, the light bulbs start to go on and they start to get it.

John Jantsch: The thing that I love about where you started with that too is I so often see people that are saying, “Okay, how do we create awareness? How do we create consideration? How do we create discovery?” It’s all about how do we do this to get this done and I think what you just described is really the place that a lot of people miss and that’s this, how does the buyer actually go about finding a company like this?

Arnie Kuenn: Right.

John Jantsch: I just moved to town, I need a new car wash. How does that buyer actually go about finding a car wash? I think if we can learn that, then it becomes a matter of then filling in the blanks of what content you need, what tactics you need, what campaigns you need, where you need to be, right?

Arnie Kuenn: Yeah, absolutely. I think another beauty part of this is that you’re also having someone find you at the time that they have the need as opposed to other marketing is really counting on the masses and hoping that someone happens to become aware or see their ad or their product or a service at the time of their need. Where if they turn to Google and they start to search, you’ve already eliminated all the people who have no interest in your products if you followed that logic.

That’s the other beauty of counting on digital and having that content ready for them is if they’re doing that search and they’re clicking on your stuff, odds are they’re in a buying mode.

John Jantsch: As a practitioner, do you find that having that conversation of how would somebody become aware, what are the other ways they become aware? Do you find that actually makes the sales process of, well then we need to do SEO or then we need to do long-form content. Do you find that they sort of self-admit that’s what somebody would do so we better have that. Does that make it easier for you to make a case for some of the tactics that you recommend?

Arnie Kuenn: In a word, yes. We’ve tried to refine it over the years and generally it takes that kind of a story for those who haven’t quite adopted it yet for them to really understand how this works. Yep.

John Jantsch: But I do think that that helps them get … Everything just seems like all these tactics that everybody’s selling and I think that that focus on the journey kind of brings it down to … Even to the point where you start identifying, we better have a better onboarding process and we better have some way that we check in with them in two weeks. It really kind of brings the whole business together, I find.

Arnie Kuenn:  Yeah, absolutely. Even a little piece we haven’t talked about is lead nurture. You might have actually got them to show up to your site and they were a hot prospect at that moment, they downloaded your piece of content or whatever it might be, but what have you done now to stay in touch with them? That’s also part of the buying process is you think that through and you make sure each followup, whether it’s a series of seven or eight or whatever it might be, but each one makes sense to the next thing they might be concerned about. Just keep eliminating objections along the way with your lead nurture.

John Jantsch: Arnie, thanks for joining us. Great book. Customer Journey: Your Audience Your Audience Will Take This Journey With You or Without You, so true. Where can people find out more about you and certainly where can they acquire the book, Customer Journey?

Arnie Kuenn: They can learn more about us at a simple URL, verticalmeasures.com. Actually if they go to the website, I don’t know the URL, but if they just look at resources, our book is listed there. Next week, I don’t know when this will be broadcasted, but let’s say by March this will be live on Amazon and they can find it there as well.

John Jantsch: Awesome. Thanks for stopping in and hopefully we will run into you out there on the road in Cincinnati or somewhere like that.

Arnie Kuenn: Sounds good. Thanks for having me, John.

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John Jantsch: Everybody loves best practices. Give me an example. Give me a template to follow. Well, I think that that practice leads to mediocrity. In this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I speak with Jay Acunzo. We’re going to talk about breaking the wheel, questioning best practices so that you can do your best work. You’re going to want to check this out because this might be the ticket to innovation for your business.

Klaviyo logoThis episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Klaviyo. Klaviyo is a platform that helps growth-focused eCommerce brands drive more sales with super targeted, highly relevant email, Facebook and Instagram marketing. Hello and welcome to another episode of The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast.

This is your host John Jantsch. My guest today is Jay Acunzo. He is the founder of Unthinkable Media and the author of Break the Wheel: Question Best Practices, Hone Your Intuition, and Do Your Best Work. Jay, thanks for joining me.

Jay Acunzo: Thanks for the invite, John. It’s good to be here.

John Jantsch: Now, you also spent a little time at Google I think, didn’t you?

Jay Acunzo: Yeah. That was actually my first foray out of where I started, which was sports media and into tech and marketing.

John Jantsch: I’m doing a couple episodes today and my last guest was a head of engineering at Moz. I’m not going to lie to you, we did a little bit of Google bashing.

Jay Acunzo: Look, there’s a reason I’m not working for any of the large companies I worked for before.

John Jantsch: Actually it was more dang it, we have to play. You know? It was more of that. You know?

Jay Acunzo: Sure.

John Jantsch: Let’s get into the book. One of the lines that jumped out at me really from the very beginning, stop obsessing over other’s right answers and start asking yourself better questions. That’s really in some ways the premise to the entire book, isn’t it?

Jay Acunzo: Yeah. You know, work has this tendency through a number of reasons that I explore in the book to regress to the mean. We look at content marketing as a really easy example because it’s so public. You look at a lot of blogs. I came out of the marketing tech world. Every marketing tech vendor, marketing trade publication, if you see a list article of tactics on a given channel, six ways to drive leads from LinkedIn for your business, I’ve seen that article in 17 other places and it looks identical. There’s this glut of average or commodity work out there, which is becoming a real problem for marketers.

In writing the book, I wanted to explore in a world where that’s table stakes where knowing just the basics of how to do anything is instantly available, how do you go not from zero to average, but from average to exceptional?

John Jantsch: What are some examples of ways that people because … I mean I think most people get that, “Okay. Yeah, I’ll ask better questions,” and then the next thing is like, “What does that look like? How?”

Jay Acunzo: Yeah. Well, in the book, I propose a two by three decision-making model, which is basically a fancy term for like I think there are six great questions to ask, but it’s about what you ask those questions of that truly matters. I think if you look at commodity work, especially from marketing teams, what tends to be missing is the variables found within your own specific context. Because what we’re so obsessed with doing is finding some existing playbook and repeating it or guru or expert or best practice or new trend to glom onto. We’re looking for these generalities or what works on average and I’m using air quotes because I know this is a podcast here, but we look for what works on average or in general.

Really that’s a dangerous way to make decisions because it doesn’t take into account your context. If you just break down your context into three different things, I think investigating those things becomes paramount to making really good decisions. The decision here isn’t what works on average. It’s what would work for us. Your context is basically you, the person or people doing the work, your audience, especially key for marketers, but the people receiving the work, and then your resources, which is your means to make that work happen.

If you ask really good questions and I propose two apiece of those three things for a total of six, ask good questions of those three things, your context. All of a sudden you have a lot more clarity than just trying to grab at all those general bits of wisdom swirling around our industry and there’s more than ever before.

John Jantsch: Here’s the problem though, of course, it worked for them and I won’t get fired if I do that. People are scared to make a decision that maybe breaks the wheel. I mean would you agree that that’s part of what holds people back?

Jay Acunzo: 100%. I always say two things. One is I wanted to take thinking for yourself out of this realm of the rebel and hand the ability to do that to the practical individual working in business where it’s not like I’m bucking the trend for its own sake. I’m not different for different sake. I’m not running in an opposite direction or counter cultural direction because it’s cool or because I have an idea and I disagree with my boss or client. No. I think it’s very practical to do these things. It’s just that we’ve never really been taught how to do this. Finding best practices isn’t actually the goal. Finding the best approach for you is.

We’d all agree with that, but we don’t really have a practical system in place for how to make those decisions and more importantly, John, how to vet any best practice or precedent to ensure it’s working for you in the here and now. Our main skill as marketers need to be not finding someone’s answer, but vetting on all those possibilities to work for us or to throw out the ones that don’t. The main answer I would give you is I wanted to take that scariness and make it practical, but part of me honestly wants to say what’s deep in my bones here is there is a certain type of person that this book is not for.

This book is not for somebody who just wants to follow a blueprint and clock out sharply at 5:00 and doesn’t care about the results and doesn’t care about serving their audience. That is not who this book is for. This book is for somebody who really truly is bothered by shipping it when it’s terrible or mailing it in because whatever, I don’t really care about my work. That’s not who I’m speaking to.

John Jantsch: I was with you completely on the practical side until you threw the word intuition in there. Now, I’m picturing the crystal ball approach to making decisions, but that’s not what you talk about, is it?

Jay Acunzo: No. I hate that idea. I’m a creative person. I run a business, Unthinkable Media, that makes original series for brands. I think about big ideas and big picture creativity all the time. I can get lost in the fluffiness of all that stuff very easily and be fine with it. But I know when we enter the real world, A, that’s not everybody, and then B, we have work to do, results to get, clients or customers to serve. If you look at the history of that word intuition, it’s really been twisted. It’s embedded in this idea of like the mystical muse. But all intuition means, if you look at the root of the word, is to consider. It’s from the Latin intueri. That’s all that means, to consider.

I like to think that these visionaries that we laud in business, the ones who seem to react to their intuition effortlessly, the Elon Musk’s of the world down to the creative individual on your marketing team, these people that we call visionaries they don’t see the future. They don’t have the gift. They’re not like visited by the mystical muse. They just see the world for what it actually is. They just have this incredible ability to consider their environment and make decisions based on that, based on reflection and testing and learning instead of somebody else’s general idea. That to me is what intuition is about.

It’s about understanding how to ask good questions, how to contemplate and consider the world in a critical way, which might be slow at first. What I’m trying to do in the book is propose a system to make it faster for you. So that if you leave the book, if you go and implement what I researched for a couple of years here, the product of that is you can start making better decisions faster, and your first impetus is to investigate your environment instead of to glom on to what some expert said you should do.

John Jantsch: I’m going to pile on your intuition idea because I think one of the missing ingredients quite often is you actually have to care about the people that you’re trying to serve. I think that that’s a part that’s often really missed. I think when you really care about the people you serve, then you start looking at … That’s part of what to me drives this looking at the world in a different way. I’m looking at the view through the lens of my customer or who I’m trying to serve and I think that allows me and I think allows most people who have done anything innovative to say, “Hey, there’s no new ideas. But if we combine them this way, it’ll serve this group better.” Would you agree that that’s a missing ingredient?

Jay Acunzo: Totally. One of my favorite examples of someone who did that in the book, and it seems radical or innovative what he did, but when you hear this story it’s like, “Oh, it’s really logical what he did because he just focused more of his time on the people he served,” is a guy by the name of Paul Butler who if you’re an environmental conservationist is like a rockstar and has a nickname, which I love, The Parrot Man of the Caribbean. Best nickname ever, The Parrot Man of the Caribbean. Here was a guy in the ’70s who went to the island of St. Lucia to try and save a species of parrot. He did all the usual things you’re supposed to do as an environmental conservationist.

He wrote a big essay to the government and demanded all the people locally stopped killing the bird or capturing it for pets or for food. Very little result, just handing out facts and demands, as you can imagine, but it was all based on this convention in conservation called homo economicus. Actually it’s a term from economics which means the rational man. The idea here is people are rational, so target them using rational argument. Any marketer worth their weight in clicks here knows that people are emotional. They’re not solely rational. In fact, we mostly don’t make decisions rationally.

By talking to the local people he served, these native people who killed these birds not because they were just being terrible people, but because they were poor and had mouths to feed, or they were growing crops and they were ruining those crops, or they ran a tourism business and these giant noisy creatures were disrupting that, whatever the case was. The commonality was these people had pride in their home and pride in their profession. Paul created this icon, which turned in to a mascot that he actually dressed up as called Jacko the Parrot. He associated this parrot not with a problem or a nuisance or a thing to discard, but it became a symbol of national pride and all of a sudden they stopped killing them.

They agreed, “Okay. This region is for the bird.” They made all these decisions that he was demanding of them as a population before that they didn’t respond to. But just by understanding their world and seeing that this was an emotional group of people that cared about national pride, he flipped his approach and it worked. If all you see is the mascot and the songs and the t-shirt and the content and the videos, you’re like, “This guy’s creative. He has the gift,” but to hear his story is just to see him actually investigate in his own environment first and put aside the precedent in his industry for a moment to see how much if any of that actually applied in his shoes.

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You’ve been podcasting for a while now and a great deal of … I won’t put words in your mouth, but a great deal of the book and these stories come from your interviews and your storytelling that you’ve done on your show.

Jay Acunzo: Oh, yeah. 100%. It was kind of my sneaky advantage of the last couple of years for my show and my speaking is actually I just aerate these ideas and these stories with a real community. I get to hone my craft and the ideas before I actually put it into a book.

John Jantsch: The book Break The Wheel you self-published, right?

Jay Acunzo: Yeah. I did what’s called a hybrid publisher where I actually owned all the creative and then the production parts or the backend and the distribution came from a publishing service that offers that.

John Jantsch: But the point that you just made about … I think where a lot of people who look at and they go, “I want to write a book or, I want to have a podcast, or I want to do videos and have a YouTube channel,” and I think the folks that have really built something that is a true asset, I mean obviously they’re people that do something like that and it blows up and goes crazy, but regular practical people that built something like that as an asset, you really kind of look at how all of these things can work together, don’t you?

Jay Acunzo: Yeah. I mean I look at your work with Duct Tape. I look at people that came before me in the marketing world like your Jay Baer’s and a dear friend of mine Andrew Davis who helped mentor me throughout my career. I look at some of these people I admire, Ann Handley’s another good example, and I think there’s only really two ways to ensure you’re, A, building an asset with compounding value, and B, serving the audience in deeper and deeper ways, A.K.A., ensuring the thing works. You can do an idea tour or an idea journey.

I don’t know if these words exist and maybe you’ve experienced this too, Job, as someone who speaks a lot, but an idea tour is I have proven in, in my example, a podcast episode that this story is really resonant with my audience. I’m going to take it out of the episode and put it in more places. I’m going to bring it with me into a speech on a stage for example. I’m touring around with this idea. I’m doing that right now. Arguably, the book tour is a type of idea tour, but then the idea journey is I’m going to see how deep this well goes and ask a lot of questions, and I’m inviting the audience to join me, which is what I’ve done for years on my podcast Unthinkable.

I’m like I’m exploring this big idea with lots of questions underneath it, and I’m going to necessarily tell stories and pull out insights from them over time. I don’t have the answers. Come with me as I explore. For a while, it was what’s the difference between average and exceptional? How do we avoid creating commodity work? Now that we’ve broken the wheel, now that we’re questioning conventional thinking, it’s like, “Okay. Well, how do you create consistently creative work?” That’s my 2019 on the show is how do you do that. You can do an idea tour or an idea journey.

I think what that that does is it unhooks you from this idea of like a newsletter versus a podcast versus a blog versus Twitter. It’s like I’m using all of these things in a coherent connected way.

John Jantsch: I guess the next book is fix the wheel, right?

Jay Acunzo: I have this thesis I’m working on which is like if you’ve broken the wheel, the attempt might be to like keep just swinging at something that’s no longer there. It’s like okay, cool. I’m not following the best practice. I’m doing things on my own. Well, now you’re at risk of like manufacturing stunts essentially or what I call random acts of creativity. Just make the numbers go up right now faster. I don’t want people to do that. Next book maybe it’s … I don’t know if it’s like rebuild the wheel. It might be like refresh the work. It’s sort of like break the wheel, refresh the work.

John Jantsch: Yeah, I like it. You’ve already shared on story of the Parrot Man. You want to give us another one of your favorites from the book because essentially the book’s about a lot of stories.

Jay Acunzo: Yeah. I mean I know nothing if not story. That’s what I want to build a career on. Another great example, one of my favorites is … Well, let’s actually go to something timely here, which is Howard Schultz from Starbucks, whether or not you agree with his stance on politics or the fact that he’s going to run for president apparently. There’s this tactic or this moment rather under his reign at Starbucks when he was their CEO and chairman where looking at the audience and pulling out a better more human insight than at first glance the data revealed or any best practice showed them turned around the company in China.

Not a lot of people know this story. As he leading the company, they were doing what you would expect when you move from region to region like wildfire. They were taking the playbook that was proven and trying to apply it with incremental changes to fit each new market and that had worked except in China. They encountered a really odd problem. Their employees, unlike a lot of coffee shops, the employees of Starbucks, historically anyway, were very educated, decently paid and they had a lot of great benefits offered to them.

They were able to provide exceptional service at Starbucks because they hired exceptional people who weren’t just like there for a paycheck and they were either burned out or looking to do their next thing. They weren’t like the proverbial L.A. barista who wanted to be an actress.

John Jantsch: Except for the ones at the airport. I’m just going to throw that in.

Jay Acunzo: Oh my goodness.

John Jantsch: Go ahead. Go ahead.

Jay Acunzo: You and I could share more stories about coffee shops in airports. Oh my gosh. Don’t get me started. But for the most part, in general let’s say, most of these employees were taught to provide exceptional service because they were treated exceptionally well. In China, they kept losing these employees and they couldn’t figure out why. Then when Schultz talked to Jack Ma, creator of Alibaba and another billionaire who probably has political influence, that’s a different podcast though, he told him, “Well, look, in China, if you actually talk to these people and investigated this context instead of America’s context, you’d realize that the parents have more of a say in these individual’s careers.

They spend good money especially because they can only have one child because of that rule in China, that law in China, they invest very heavily in that child’s life. They spend good money to bring them to college and university and they don’t want to see them working for Starbucks. They want to see them working for Alibaba or Google or all these other notable tech companies or what have you.” What Starbucks did seems radical, but it made a logical sense in this situation, in this context. They started giving not just the employees great benefits, but the parents of those employees.

They had an annual summit, almost like a shareholder meeting, with all their employee’s parents where they could attend, see the great work that Starbucks was doing, help them understand that this is a great corporation to work for and have a say in the direction however little it might have been in that room. This is a radical thing. It’s a very expensive thing. It seems crazy in Seattle, but it doesn’t seem crazy in China at all. The difference is that Starbucks was willing to investigate and ask good questions of a different context instead of just rerun an old playbook that was proven elsewhere.

John Jantsch: Jay, where can people find out more about your work and obviously acquire a copy of Break The Wheel?

Jay Acunzo: The website jayacunzo.com/book has way more information than you’ll need, including some behind the scenes stuff about making the book because I make stuff for marketers who love to make stuff. Jayacunzo.com/book, and then my podcast is Unthinkable.

John Jantsch: Jay, I should have asked you this at the beginning of the show, where are you located?

Jay Acunzo: I’m just outside New York City.

John Jantsch: New York City. All right. Well, Jay, thanks dropping by. We’ll have links to all the things we talked about today in the show notes and we love those reviews and tell us who else you want me to interview. Jay, hopefully we run into you next time in the just outside of New York City area.

Jay Acunzo: Thanks, John. I appreciate it. To every listening, thank you for getting this far.

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John Jantsch: If you’ve been in marketing any time at all, you’ve lived through some seismic shifts or rebellions in the things that have come along. The internet, search, social media, all these things have changed how we go to market. And there’s a new marketing rebellion; quite frankly, the thing that has changed the most is the way people buy. In this episode of The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, a visit with Mark Schaefer. He’s the author of Marketing Rebellion: The Most Human Company Wins.

Hello and welcome to another episode of The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is your host, John Jantsch, and my guest today is Mark Schaefer. He is a columnist, teacher, speaker, author, podcaster, and we’re going to talk about his latest book, Marketing Rebellion: The Most Human Company Wins. So, Mark, thanks for joining us.

Mark Schaefer: Oh, it’s always a delight to catch up with you, John.

John Jantsch: Well, I think you and Tom Webster have a show. Is it still called The Marketing Companion? Forgive me if that’s not right.

Mark Schaefer: Yes.

John Jantsch: Yes.

Mark Schaefer: Yeah, Marketing Companion, sure.

John Jantsch: And I was … I got to be on your show, which was a lot of fun, and I said off-air and I’ll say it now on the air, you guys are a lot funnier than me. I really enjoy some of the pranks and the gags that you guys come up with. You give that a lot of thought and make it a lot of fun.

Mark Schaefer: Well, we try to be entertaining, that’s sort of our thing. And I’d like to take credit for it, but Tom is just hilarious, so we kind of go with that.

John Jantsch: He has a unique point of view, doesn’t he?

Mark Schaefer: So funny, so funny.

John Jantsch: So, you and I have been … I’ll just tell people this, my listeners know this, but you and I have been doing this for like 30 years or so in some capacity in marketing. And I’d like to be the first to say that this is not the first rebellion that I’ve participated in in marketing.

Mark Schaefer: Right.

John Jantsch: I mean, if you think about it, I mean, there’s a whole bunch of mini-rebellions, right? I mean, the internet certainly changed marketing, search dependency changed it, the fact that we can now collaborate and do business all over the globe changed it, social media came and changed it again. And now, what’s the marketing rebellion that we’re facing today?

Mark Schaefer: Well, I think you set it up very good, John, is that there’s almost been like a continuous rebellion. But the thing about it, you can either be fearful about it or you can say, “This is a lot of fun.” And I remember all those rebellions, especially the internet, and I kind of point that out as the second rebellion. So the first rebellion was sort of in the 1920s, 1930s, when advertising and marketing just started, and advertising at the beginning basically was lies. And so there was a rebellion against lies, and it became eventually a crime to lie in your advertising.

Then the second rebellion, I was in the middle of that because the internet came. Back before the internet, you made money on the secrets. That’s how you sold a car, that’s how you sold insurance, and then … I can remember those days, and I don’t know if any of your listeners will remember, there was this thing called a reverse auction, and some of these commodity buyers used the internet to get all their suppliers online, and then bid against each other in real time on the internet. It was terrifying, it was crazy, because basically, negotiations were over, because secrets were over.

And so that was … I lump the whole internet thing, social media, into this idea of … It was the end of secrets. And today, the rebellion that we’re in is the end of control. For me, this is really hard to accept, it’s hard to get my head around it. And I’ll remember there was this piece of research that I read from McKinsey that basically was saying, “The sales funnel is gone, loyalty is over. It’s a waste of money to spend money on loyalty programs anymore.” And I’m reading this, I’m thinking, “I’ve been in marketing more than 30 years. This is what I do.” But there’s a … And it’s not just McKinsey, it’s all over.

The research is compelling, and many of your listeners are probably right in the middle of it, that we’re in a shop-around society. People own the customer journey. The customers are the marketers now, because when you and I were growing up in business, we controlled the message, because an ad or some sort of marketing program, that’s the only way customers could learn about us. Today, they learn from each other, they share with each other, and that’s what they believe, that’s what they trust, and that’s what works.

And so this suggests that for marketers today, we have to think about, how do we become invited to those conversations? The messaging, the control, the sales funnel isn’t working like it used to. Certainly, ads don’t work like they used to. How do you thrive and survive in this environment when the customer is the marketer, the customer is in control? And that’s the challenge I present with the book.

John Jantsch: Before we get to how, I mean, let’s put this out there. Everyone except a cynical marketer is probably going to suggest this is better for the customer.

Mark Schaefer: Oh, absolutely. One of the points I make in the book is that the customers have always won these rebellions. When the customers said, “No more lies,” then there were laws that were made, and when they said, “No more secrets,” I mean, there are no more secrets. And the customers are basically saying, “Respect us. We don’t … Stop the spam, stop the robocalling, stop the email blasts, stop the lead nurturing and all this stuff that we hate. Just stop it.”

And look, you know, the thing about technology and a lot of these things that have caused these problems is it’s so intoxicating. That’s not because technology is bad, it’s because technology is good. It’s so easy, it’s so cheap, and it’s so easy to think, “Oh, just for $9.99, we can get a list of a million emails and blast all these people, and if we just get one sales, it’s going to pay it off.” And that’s sort of the way marketing churns today, and every time we do that, we’re isolating ourselves, we’re disenfranchising ourselves from customers, and the customers don’t want it, and they’re going to win. Eventually, they’re going to win, so we need to be proactive about this and think about, how do we change our mindset, change our culture to adopt and really serve customers in the way they want to be served?

John Jantsch: I’ve heard you say this comment, and this has got to just … In fact, I know it does. It’s so counterintuitive, it runs so counter to how people think about marketing their businesses that they’re having trouble wrapping their heads around it. And the statement is that two-thirds of our marketing is not our marketing.

Mark Schaefer: Well, it’s undeniable. And I know that this is a controversial opinion, but I back everything up in the book with research, and this was a study, believe it or not, that first came out in 2009. And when it came out, it really sort of shook the rafters of the business world, and then it kind of went away. And then, as you see how the world plays out, you sort of see this happening. And then I saw research from Deloitte and from Accenture and from Pew about how this sales funnel is going away, and how it’s changing.

And then McKinsey came out with sort of an updated study, and they identified, oh, I think it … I can’t remember the exact number. I want to say it was 135,000 customer journeys they analyzed, and they basically said that, look, the marketing and advertising is having very little impact, that the customer owns the journey, and no two are alike. And recent research from Google, Google has put out a few white papers in the last 6 to 12 months that have basically said the same thing. Even on search, even when people are looking for the same thing, it’s a tangled mess. There is no lockstep customer journey. There is no sales funnel anymore.

And of course, one of the things I emphasize in the book is, look, there are always exceptions. Some businesses and some industries are different from others. But this was across … McKinsey said they looked at 80 different industries, and they said in 90% of the cases, there is no loyalty, there is no … There’s basically no sales funnel to speak of, and there’s no loyalty. And I’m in the same place you are. I’m in the same place your listeners were. This is, like, shaking me to the core. There was literally a point, John, when I was researching this book, where I almost kind of lost my breath and just sat there and thought, “I don’t know what it means to be a marketer anymore.”

This requires … If you look at what’s going on, if you look at this research, it requires a radically different mindset, a radically different approach. It redefines what it means to be a marketer today, and it took me a while to accept that.

John Jantsch: One of the things about research studies that … You know, I don’t care who’s doing it, McKinsey or whoever’s doing it. I think there’s a bias that’s hard to measure, and here’s what I mean by that, that they talk about, you know, “Across industries, 17% of customers are loyal, and investing in sales funnels and loyalty programs is a waste of time.” Now, is that because of the way we’re doing them, that we’re wasting our time? And I guess what my contention is, is there a way to do what we might … I mean, is there a way to create customer loyalty that’s so radically different than what we’re doing today and calling customer loyalty, that would actually drive those numbers up? We all know companies, I’m sure you have companies that you’re extremely loyal to, and I am as well, because they do things so differently. And I wonder if a lot of these surveys just measure the fact that there’s a lot of crap marketing.

Mark Schaefer: Well, that’s exactly what it’s measuring. That’s precisely what it’s saying. And there was a clue in that McKinsey study, and they said the reason this is happening is because there’s no longer any emotional attachment to these brands, and people are forming … You know, trust, this is a well-known study by Edelman, the Trust Barometer that they come out with every year, and trust in businesses, brands, and advertising has declined 10 years in a row.

But who do people trust? They trust each other, they trust their neighbors, they trust industry experts. Trust in entrepreneurs, by the way, is very high. And a lot of people roll their eyes when you talk about influencers, but influencers are simply people on the web who are trusted and beloved, and people look at them as if they’re friends. I’m sure you experience this. You may not consider yourself a, you know, air quote, unquote, “influencer,” but people who you don’t even know probably leave you comments and say, “John, I really trust your advice, I love your books. You influenced my business and my life.”

It’s this idea that we have to become part of these conversations, but you can’t really buy your way in like you used to. You know, 20 or 25 years ago, you could buy your way in, because advertising was the only way people had to really discover your product, or have discussions about your product. But today, people have all the power in the palm of their hand. It used to be a brand was something we told you, a company told you, and today a brand is what people tell each other. And so we’ve got to find a way to embed ourselves in those conversations, and there’s lots of ideas in the book on how to do that.

John Jantsch: So, the subtitle of the book, The Most Human Company Wins.

Mark Schaefer: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

John Jantsch: You know, there was a point in time in one of these past rebellions where social media was actually supposed to make that happen. What happened?

Mark Schaefer: Well, you and I were there at the beginning, and what happened was, I think at first, companies did get it, and they really embraced it, and it was like this amazing thing that happened, that customers were talking back. And companies thought, “Well, okay, we’ll try that, we’ll talk back, we’ll join these conversations,” and there were real people having real conversations. And then companies kind of did what they always do, they’re like, “Oh, well, we can make this simpler because we can automate things, and we can create these algorithms.” And the human voice was replaced with personas, and the heart and the compassion of our human voices were replaced by these soulless messages, and social media today has sort of been a way to just become another form of advertising and weaponizing influencers, and that’s about it.

The only companies that are having some sort of substantial, meaningful impact on social media are the ones that are sort of reclaiming a human voice, and not an advertising agency providing legally approved snarky quips. I think people are getting tired of that. I think that hopefully that phase is going to be over soon. It just looks like a company trying too hard. People can sense that, they can sniff out a fake in 280 characters. Basically, companies just try to automate everything. They try to cut costs, try to cut the humans out of it, in search of the marketing easy button, “Let’s use technology.” And those days are over, they just are. It’s not a message that’s easy to hear, but that’s not what’s going to work anymore.

John Jantsch: A mutual friend of ours, Jay Baer, has a new book called … Or, fairly new book called Talk Triggers. I know you’re aware of it, and I had Jay on the show, and he mentioned me on the YouTube broadcast today, so I have to throw him a bone, so that’s why I’m working him into today’s show. No, but, you know, one of the things about that book is that he’s saying we have to create these moments to get people to talk about us.

Mark Schaefer: Yeah.

John Jantsch: And if you read through the book, the moments are all human-centered.

Mark Schaefer: Yeah.

John Jantsch: You know, it’s not because somebody had, like, red in their logo that people are talking about it, it’s they did something that was exceptional and surprising.

Mark Schaefer: Something that’s conversational, something that will spark, something that delights people and surprises them. And I think Jay and I sort of do this dance together, from really the beginning. We’re sort of thinking about the same things, we’re sort of thinking of … We both enjoy thinking about what’s next, and how all these pieces come together, and in many ways, our two books are companion pieces. I spend quite a bit of time in my book talking about word-of-mouth marketing, without getting into the tactical piece that Jay covers in his book. So I think they’re 100% compatible. I talk about the larger trend of what the heck is going on, and why we need to do this, and then you can pick up Jay’s book and say, “Oh, yeah, okay, now I see what Mark’s talking about.”

John Jantsch: One of my favorite lines in your book, or it’s actually, I think it’s a subhead, is that “the greatest companies make fans of their fans.” How do we do that?

Mark Schaefer: Yeah, you know, John, I was so, so fortunate in this book to interview some of the greatest marketers, and that quote came from a marketing hero of mine, Fabio Tambosi. He was with Nike, he’s now with Adidas in Germany. And this part of the book talks about how marketing has to become artisanal. It’s not the perfect word, but marketing almost has to be, appear like it’s local, like it’s craftsmanlike, like it’s part of the local community, it has personality, and that you have to be fans of your fans on a local level. People don’t believe companies anymore. You know, people that say, “Oh, look at us, we’ve stopped polluting. Oh, look at us, we’ve hired more women.” This is basically saying, “Look at us, we’re normal.”

John Jantsch: Or “We’re not as screwed up as we used to be.”

Mark Schaefer: Yeah. “Look, we’ve stopped being bad.” That’s not marketing, all right? What people what to see is that they want to see what you’re doing that impacts me and my community. And another great quote in the book from Fabio is that today, you can’t be in a community. You have to be of a community. You have to be down in the streets, in the neighborhoods. You have to relate to people on a local level. You have to be a fan of your fans, you have to be where the work and the action is actually happening. Marketing takes place in meetings and at the tip of a shovel.

And I’ll tell you, it’s extraordinarily hard for a big company to do that, and you can see these cataclysmic shifts going on right now, with companies like Procter & Gamble, that they know they’ve got to be doing this. And some are going to win, and some are going to lose, but everybody has to pay attention. Everybody has to know about these trends and make up their own minds about what it means for your own business.

John Jantsch: You tell some good stories and good examples of brands that you think are doing it right. I’m going to go out on a limb here, this is not very manly what I’m getting ready to say, but I don’t get YETI.

Mark Schaefer: I don’t get YETI either. I don’t.

John Jantsch: But yet you can go into a gift store and they’ve got them, the hardware store’s got them, the fishing tackle store’s got them. I mean, people are nuts about them.

Mark Schaefer: Well, and for your listeners, especially your listeners who are outside of America, I mean, YETI is this … It started out as a premium cooler. So, you could buy a cooler for your ice, probably for $29; they’re selling these things for $400, and they’ve just introduced a $1,300 cooler. And they’ve now extended into other products like coffee mugs, and … So, I live in an area of America that enjoys hunting and fishing, you know, there’s a lot of outdoorsmen here, and I started noticing people wearing hats and putting even stickers on their car that say YETI. And I thought, “Isn’t that a cooler?” It’s a cooler, it’s a freaking ice cooler. Why are people supporting this brand?

So, the story in the book is absolutely fascinating, and I love it, because it shows how you can even take a commodity product like an ice cooler and truly, sincerely build a community of emotional support and love for a cooler. But the same lesson applies, John. They are not in a community; they are not participating in some community. They are of the community. They are outdoorsmen. Everything they do lives and breathes outdoors, you know, people who love the outdoors. So it’s a great, great inspirational case study. I still could never bring myself to wear a hat that promotes a cooler. That is not part of my personal value set. But thousands and thousands of people are doing it, the brand has become a sensation, and it’s a great example, a perfect example of how to win in the marketing rebellion.

John Jantsch: Well, and I think you could safely say they’re no longer selling coolers.

Mark Schaefer: They’re selling a lifestyle, really. I mean, that’s … Marketing is emotion, it’s always been emotion. But here’s the difference: In the old days, we used to build an emotion to a product, because it worked really well, or because our parents used it, or because maybe we like the smell. And of course, it still works that way to some extent. But today, we build these emotional attachments to people, more than products or attributions of a product.

And I think one of the main points of the book is that in the old days, our businesses and brands were built through an accumulation of human impressions, and going forward, it’s going to be built through an accumulation of human impressions. We’re going to listen to people, we’re going to trust people, we’re going to love people, and the products that they represent, and that’s … If you look at YETI, it’s the owners. If you look at Glossier, by the way, I think Glossier is the single best case study today in a company that was built from the ground up to win in this world where the customer is the marketer. It’s a skincare and makeup company, probably beyond startup at this point. But this is built through a person. She started out as a blogger, and just built this love, and built this engagement and this emotion and this community through her blog, and now it’s a multimillion-dollar business. It’s the hottest skincare business out there right now, built from social media up.

Now, how does L’Oréal recreate that? I don’t know. I really don’t know, and experts I talk to in the field who are sort of in this marketing rebellion era with me, this human era of human-centered marketing. L’Oréal is not built on human-centered marketing, it’s built on a huge relationship with an ad agency, and Glossier is built on this human-centered marketing. That’s what’s going to win in the future.

We see Procter & Gamble trying to make moves into this human-centered marketing. I just saw that they just bought a company, a small company that has built their consumer products on this human-centered idea. So Procter & Gamble is basically saying, “If you can’t beat them, join them.” So anyway, it’s going to be an interesting … You know, we’re in for another cataclysm.

John Jantsch: Well, and I think one of the things that we sometimes forget, too, is that a new generation of companies will come along, and they’ll do the new generation, and then they’ll be the next thing, and they’ll be the next L’Oréals of some fashion.

Mark Schaefer: And I think this new generation, it’s just second nature to them, because if you look at the way we’ve sort of automated marketing, and commoditized marketing, and made it soulless, they’re looking at it like, “Who would do that? Who would do that? That’s not what I like.” And from their perspective, it makes so much sense. So we’ve got to get out of our bubble and look at the real world and real life, and we do not have a choice. We have got to make the change.

John Jantsch: Visiting with Mark Schaefer, the author of Marketing Rebellion. Mark, it was awesome to catch up with you again. Where can people find more about you, your work, and pick up a copy of Marketing Rebellion?

Mark Schaefer: Well, you can find everything about me at businessesgrow.com. You can find my blog, my podcast, and my books. And the new book, Marketing Rebellion, is out in paper, it is out on Kindle, and it is out on audio, narrated by me, and I’d love for your listeners to pick it up and stay in touch with me on social media.

John Jantsch: Awesome. Thanks, Mark. Hopefully we’ll run into you soon out there on the road.

Mark Schaefer: Thank you, John.

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John Jantsch: Perhaps one of the hottest things in marketing today is local SEO. In this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, we’re going to visit with Neil Crist. He’s the Head of Product and Engineering at Moz, probably knows more about local SEO and the industry insights around SEO than most people.

Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch. My guest today is Neil Crist. He is the Head of Product and Engineering at Moz. We’re going to talk about their annual State of Local SEO, industry insights for a successful 2019. We’re going to be all over the place with local SEO and you guys know how I love to talk about that. Neil, thanks for joining me.

Neil Crist: Thanks John for having me.

John Jantsch: I said this was an annual survey and I think it is, isn’t it? Is this something you do or have done for a number of years?

Neil Crist: You know, we’ve done a number of studies on annual basis. We’ve done local ranking factors, local SEO predictions, et cetera. This is somewhat of a new one in that we decided we wanted to look at the local landscape from a marketing perspective and get points of view on how the local landscape is changing from both search and then more broadly marketing as well.

John Jantsch: Who did you survey then? Just to get a baseline on some of the results we’re going to talk about.

Neil Crist: We surveyed I think roughly around 1,800 marketers, local marketers. These are SMB marketers. There’s some embedded within enterprises but mostly skewed toward SMB.

John Jantsch: Yeah. I know it’s about a third were called themselves small business focused agencies, which is really in our sweet spot for a lot of listeners. These were really the insights from them and being one of them, I’m going to say, that doesn’t mean they’re right.

Neil Crist: That’s good point.

John Jantsch: For context, let’s just start with, because you mentioned the ranking factors. Right now today, and I have to emphasize that today because it might change tomorrow, what are the most important ranking factors for small business as far as Moz has discovered?

Neil Crist: Well, in terms of local specifically. There are number of things that I would touch on about that. I think if I were to take one step back from it, I think to connect it to why we did this study, it really was about this notion that local continues to change in a pretty dramatic way in terms of local search. Part of our work that we’ve been doing at Moz is really diving into an understanding the increasing role that local is playing not just in local search but in every type of search. Right? Local is becoming a core ranking factor regardless of if it’s a local business or not. In our minds, part of this study was really to get inside the heads of marketers to understand do they understand the change in landscape? Do they understand the complexity? By and large, what we found is they understand the complexity, but in terms of double clicking down into the details, they have trouble prioritizing across the 15 plus tactics they could employ to impact local search.

John Jantsch: Let me clarify something. Are you suggesting then that if I’m a national business and I don’t, maybe I don’t even have an office necessarily like I’m a consultant or something, it doesn’t really matter where I work? Are you suggesting that good solid local ranking factors that happen to be with where I am are going to help me rank nationally?

Neil Crist: No, actually I think I’m saying the inverse, the point I was trying to make which is, what we’re seeing is this case where because local is a personalization aspect of any search regardless of device that you’re on, we’re seeing that personalization aspect taking part in determining what shows up in the search engine result pages, regardless if it’s a local search or not. What I mean by that is we have cases today where we have clients, large national brands that have local locations and they’re competing with non local results for their products and their services. Even though we have brands that aren’t local or online market places that aren’t local, they are actively competing in that local search use case. The lines are blurred. Then you enter in a local marketer who now is trying to compete in local but then also has national brands and then also has even non local brands competing for space. It becomes a very active landscape.

John Jantsch: Well, and let’s not forget to throw in the aggregators that are out there doing the 10 best blah, blah, blah in their city. I mean, they’re essentially national lead aggregators and they’re messing up the local results. It seems like Google right now likes them.

Neil Crist: That’s right. I think local data has been a very messy landscape for quite some time. I do think that Google is making good moves towards trying to find sources of truth that it can rely on, which is I think in the longterm going to help in local search. Today that’s not the case, but we’re at least seeing movements in that direction.

John Jantsch: Well, I think ironically they were part of the problem.

Neil Crist: Yes.

John Jantsch: Going from Places to Google Plus to whatever it is, but I think they finally landed, it seems like that. Doesn’t it? With Google My Business, they seem serious this time.

Neil Crist: Yeah, I agree with you. Google My Business I think is a confluence of a couple things. One is with local searches being so close to the intent to purchase, I think Google has really gotten a handle on the monetization opportunities that exist in that local search use case. Right. Also, I think there’s a secondary effort for Google to maintain a really positive experience for searchers that are searching in the local context. Some of it’s having effects that local marketers might not like. Right? One example of that would be you search for a particular good or service and you actually find a business but you never do visit their website, but you actually may end up clicking the call. You may actually end up clicking to navigate and become a customer of that local business, but there won’t be any attribution to the website, right? Those traditional metrics get thrown sideways but when you look at the experience that Google is trying to promote, they’re trying to create a consistent ability for a person searching to find what they’re looking for and take action because it’s so close to that transaction.

John Jantsch: That seems awfully generous. I think what they’re trying to do is control the transaction itself. You look at local search ads and somebody can actually be all the way to a truck coming to their house and not even know who … I mean, they’ll know who they’re working with, but that the entire transaction has gone through Google.

Neil Crist: Without question. I think I was taking the customer experience first point of view, which is an argument, but you’re right. The disintermediation potential there in what’s happening today in certain verticals is absolutely a byproduct. I think for local marketers, I think one important thing to do is understand depending on the vertical that they play in and the geography, right? Because those have a factor as well. Understanding the dynamics of local search, even to the point where I would say, become a customer and search for your goods and services on different devices. Ask questions on Google, look for topics surrounding the area that you work in and that you serve and really start to understand what is showing up in search engine results, and what should I understand, what kind of contents popping up? Are there featured snippets that show up that I should be aware of as a local marketer? Those sort of things.

John Jantsch: Then do repeat the entire process in incognito mode.

Neil Crist: Exactly, incognito mode, even employ friends because we see personalization creating lots of variability in what that search result looks like.

John Jantsch: Let’s talk about-

Neil Crist: Yeah. Go ahead.

John Jantsch: I was going to say, I want to jump to proximity. In today’s world, especially so many people on a mobile device searching for stuff and the maps listing basically takes over the entire screen, for certain types of home service businesses that maps listing has become live or die, I think in some cases. Yet it still seems that it doesn’t matter how many reviews you have or how good you are, all the social signals in the back links, proximity is still such a big factor that you might not have much range.

Neil Crist: Right. Definitely for certain types of searches, proximity wins when it’s tight, when it’s clearly a local search signal. I would say though, the types of content you’re referring to like reviews that there’s some new content types on Google My Business like question and answers and that type of content is playing a factor. There have been some test done within the local search community that’s starting to prove out that. I think one of the studies that we recently conducted probably in 2018 sort of mid 2018 was understanding the relevant or the inclusion of ads within local. We did a broad study across 11 different verticals and across I think a hundred different cities in the United States, the largest cities in the U.S. and we found broad variability in terms of where those monetization efforts were going on with Google.

It really created this situation where marketers may be playing in a space where they think they have some room to gain organic opportunity. Then that space changes the characteristics of that space, changes from week to week and changes the opportunity. That’s why I think for us, we’re spending a lot of time thinking about how do we bring forward the insights and also the changes, the variability I talked about for local marketers so they can start to adapt as those changes occur.

John Jantsch: Let’s talk a moment about, we already mentioned Google My Business, but I mean, would it be your advice that because Google, they added text messaging and posts and question and answer and descriptions now in service listings, I mean, they seem to keep adding things to it and encouraging you to put videos on it. I mean, would it be simple advice to just say if Google seems to be all in on that, we as marketers have to be all in on every opportunity they give us to optimize that?

Neil Crist: I would say I hesitate against saying yes as a blanket answer only because I think part of the calculus here is it depends on the competitiveness of your particular local business and your particular local search landscape. Right? I would always say with any local business, both as part of Moz and as a colleague of folks that own local businesses, I would say without question that you should make sure that your details, your profile is well appointed on Google My Business. Right? It feels like a table stake, particularly given that with the experience of search, keeping you on that Google My Business property for a number of clicks, right? It used to be the website click, the website link was within the search result of the local pack. At some point last year I got relegated down one step and now it’s down another step. If you really want users to interact with the Google My Business profile and a customer end up on your website, ultimately, it’s important that that profile stand out.

John Jantsch: Let’s do a little bit of an offshoot of that. The knowledge panels had been with us for a couple of years. If somebody does, as you said, they know the business they’re looking for in the city, they’re going to pull up that knowledge panel. I’m starting to see knowledge panels show up for local businesses for organic searches. It might be something closely related to their business and maybe because their name has that search term in it or something, the knowledge panel shows up on the right side. I mean that would suggest to somebody, wow, that’s an important thing. How important is it that we’re not just optimizing, but we’re paying attention to what the knowledge panel means to local business?

Neil Crist: That’s a great question. The way that we’ve talked about the knowledge panel and local is if you think about it from just a percentage of the page, just real estate, pure real estate, the idea that you could take actions and earn that space makes it incredibly valuable because it stands out even more so than the traditional 10 blue links that you’d see as well as featured snippets. Right? Dr. Pete Meyers from Moz talks about featured snippets being position zero. I would say also that the knowledge panel is probably just as valuable real estate. I think users that are marketers rather that are trying to gain that space, you know, your Google My Business profile is going to be your first step in making sure you secure that. Then I think it is important to understand if you’re not showing up in that knowledge panel, why? Who is showing up for related searches?

John Jantsch: It’s interesting though, because back to an earlier point, a lot of times that knowledge panel will say people also look for your five competitors listed right here.

Neil Crist: That’s right. That’s right.

John Jantsch: Again, another good thing, bad thing, right?

Neil Crist: That’s right. The one thing that I would say it’s pretty interesting that we’ve seen of late is that does matter particularly in the local spaces, not only other people searched for but this other area around people also asked, right? Just below a featured snippet, the people also ask is becoming a really important signal for local marketers to understand in the clusters of topics that searchers are looking for, like what are they looking for? How are they thinking about the topics that they’re looking for? Then you cross reference that with how close that is to intent to purchase or intent to take action. You can start to build out somewhat of a mapping of the types of content you should be publishing to capture those eyeballs.

John Jantsch: Yeah, it’s amazing. If you really look at what Google is suggesting quite often, they’re suggesting your path in many cases.

Neil Crist: That’s right. That’s right.

John Jantsch: Let’s jump to another really big and contentious topic, reviews. I’ve been saying for a long time, I don’t know if it’s true or not, but that reviews are a ranking factor for a local business. Now, they certainly add social proof. We’re not going to buy from certain kinds of businesses that don’t have nice reviews and a nice aggregate number, but are they truly a factor that gets you in the three pack or whatever we’re calling it these days?

Neil Crist: Well, a couple of things about reviews. We were just taking a look at some data around this. I think some of the latest data we’ve seen is that within a local context that up to a third of decision making by searchers is impacted by whether or not their review is present. I think that’s important to understand. The other piece that we’ve looked at is if you take a broad swath of just the local search experience, whether you’re on mobile or another device, in almost every case, whether it’s a list view, the local pack itself, whether it’s within the traditional blue link structure that we’re used to seeing, reviews are a key component of those results. If you also just eyeball those, you’ll notice that what you see are those businesses that have strong reviews, either strong in volume or strong in terms of number of stars and ratings. While, well, I don’t have a direct signal that I can quote and say, yes, it definitely is. All of these tea leaves come together and seem to illustrate that it’s an important factor.

John Jantsch: Yeah. I think where a lot of folks we work with gets thrown off sometimes, and I don’t have an answer for is that there are plenty of examples. I think it goes back to your point of maybe not such competitive industries, but there are plenty of examples where somebody can type in a search term with a clearly local intent and there’ll be a couple companies you never heard of that have no reviews. You’re like, why did they get in there and I didn’t?

Neil Crist: That’s right.

John Jantsch: That’s a tough one to explain away.

Neil Crist: It is. One of the investments that we’re making at Moz is really trying to provide more intelligence around local search to the point where with certain topic, keyword and question research, we can actually show you and show the marketer and show the SEO expert, here are the results and here are your competitors for eyeballs within a search within a certain geographical context. That type of intelligence I think will help inform what a local marketer needs to take into account. That’s very on really cutting edge stuff that we’re working on but it’s really taking it to that … It’s really representative of this idea that we understand how important local is to the broad search ecosystem and so we’re making investments in that area.

John Jantsch: It used to be so easy. You’d see who’s ranking, you’d go figure out what they’re doing and just do it two links better and you would rank above them but it’s gotten so complex now, hasn’t it?

Neil Crist: Those were the good old days.

John Jantsch: All right, let’s talk about link building as a matter of fact, another big topic. Probably the hardest thing for a small business marketer to do or wrap their head around especially since there was so much garbage for years about how to get links. What’s the best way to get links and are they still as important?

Neil Crist: Within local, we know that link building is important, right? Some of the things that we found in the study was generally a lack of understanding about how to go about building links. Right? I would relate a lot of what link building is in a local context is around community building, right? Within a local context, being able to reach out to local and adjacent and proximal organizations and even adjacent businesses that are non competitive or maybe coop-petitive you might say in really promoting this idea that there’s a better together sort of reason that users or people that are searching on the web should be able to sort of move between sites. I think that’s a really interesting approach.

Link building is also I think on a local basis, I think it’s a confusing conversation to have around creating links between pages and organizations. What I sort of think about is some of the really common use cases which are things like, if your business is sponsoring a local baseball team for Little League, if you’re donating to the local YMCA chapter and taking part in the community, part of taking part in the community is that attribution back to your business. Those are real tactical things that I think local marketers can wrap their head around.

John Jantsch: Well, I think it’s the low hanging fruit and I’m right with you on that. Go get the alumni directory listing. Go get the Chamber of Commerce listing. I mean, these are gimmes and they’re strong local signals. In some cases they’re .govs and .edu and they’re local. Yeah, I’m totally on board with that.

Neil Crist: That’s right. The other thing I would say about that too is there’s not a lot of competition for local link building. If you’re a small business and you’re reaching out to build that connective link between you and another organization, it’s not like some other areas of the web where people are getting thousands of inquiries about links and about building links. Right? It’s a very grassroots activity.

John Jantsch: It’s networking, it is all it is, right?

Neil Crist: Absolutely. Absolutely.

John Jantsch: Okay. I saved the best for last. You ready?

Neil Crist: Okay.

John Jantsch: At what point does this all become pay to play?

Neil Crist: That is a great question. I don’t know if I could prognosticate that. I will say certainly we’ll see and we have been seeing, and I don’t know if I quoted the exact number, but when we did that study on local monetization by Google, we were expecting to see low single digit prevalence of ads across 11 of the top verticals across a hundred top cities in the U.S. What we saw was 35% prevalence. In those verticals whereas we’re prevalent, they were always there. It’s not like they showed up, disappeared, and they were testing. They were becoming a permanent part of the search result. I think without question, monetization is going to spread to all the verticals where monetization or intend to purchase is clear. Do I ever think it will be a pure pay to play scenario? I don’t think so. I just don’t see it going that direction because at the same time I think there still is a function of search which is to be a source of information and if it’s only a source of paid information, I think that becomes a very different place than where we are today.

John Jantsch: Yeah, it is as you comment at the high commercial intent, stuff is pretty darn easy because they’re so good at relevance. That’s probably what makes, I mean, that is the key to Google, isn’t it?

Neil Crist: That’s right.

John Jantsch: Neil, where can people find out more? I know everybody that listens to my show knows about Moz, but the state of local SEO report is available and maybe you can point people to where they can find it.

Neil Crist: It is. If you go to moz.com/blog, you’ll see a link to the report. I believe also there are a couple articles that had been written by folks at Moz referring to and deep diving into certain aspects of the report. It’s a pretty informative report. It’s about 40 pages so a lot to it. I’d encourage folks to check it out.

John Jantsch: From a practical stand point, if you’re a consultant or an SEO pro of any kind, there’s some great sales data in there. What I mean by that is just sales talking points about how you need to be talking about describing SEO, local SEO I think to some of your customers. That was one of my big takeaways anyway.

Neil Crist: Yeah, I would agree. I would even go a little bit further and say, as a local SEO shop consultant, it’s also great data to determine, “Hey, which verticals should I focus on within my geographies that I work in?” Because there’s definitely some low hanging fruit in terms of business opportunity where we know local businesses need more help than others given monetization, given other aspects of search.

John Jantsch: Well, Neil, thanks for taking the time. I’m a big fan of Moz and I appreciate you stopping by the show. Hopefully we’ll see you out there on the road somewhere.

Neil Crist: Happy to do it, John. Thank you.

Transcript of What Sport Can Teach Us About Business

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Asana logoJohn Jantsch: This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to by Asana, a work management software tool that we use to run pretty much everything in our business. All of our meetings, all of our product launches, all of our tasks, and I’m going to show you how you can try it for free a little later.

Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch, and my guest today is Alan Stein, Jr. He’s a corporate performance coach, speaker, author of a book we’re going to talk about today called Raise Your Game: High Performance Secrets for the Best of the Best. So Al, thanks for joining me.

Alan Stein, Jr.: Oh, my pleasure.

John Jantsch: So in the introduction of the book, you tell a story about your days as a basketball performance coach, where you taught some pretty high profile athletes how to raise their athleticism and mind/body connection. I wonder if we could start there and tell me what that looked like.

Alan Stein, Jr.: Absolutely. For me, basketball was my first identifiable passion. I fell in love with the game at probably five or six years old, and I’m turning 43 in a couple of days, and basketball has been a major pillar of my life since that time, so almost four decades. I had a pretty interesting career where I was able to see some really great players at younger ages before they made it big, kind of the before picture, and I was able to observe some really high level players in the unseen hours after they had made it big, kind of the after picture, and I’ve really tried to curate from both sides of that spectrum and come up with a list of principles, and habits, and routines, and mindsets that anyone in any walk of life, but most certainly business, can apply to their performance.

John Jantsch: So let’s start with a baseline. Are there just a few things or maybe a lot of things that successful people do differently?

Alan Stein, Jr.: You know, I think it’s a small handful. And you could probably expand the list, but they’d probably all connect back to the foundational pillars, and one of the main principles of the book, and I use as a guiding principle in my life and everything I do is to never get bored with the basics. That what it takes to be successful in any endeavor is usually very basic in premise, but it’s never easy to do, and I always make sure to differentiate between the two. Just because something is basic, it doesn’t mean that it’s easy. And a lot of people treat those as synonyms, and they’re most certainly not.

John Jantsch: Yeah, I know it’s almost cliché to say, but it’s like, shoot your free throws, right?

Alan Stein, Jr.: Yeah. Oh, absolutely. Perfect example. In the game of basketball, one of the most basic components is simply footwork. Your movement efficiency on the court. And when a player puts in the hours to master their footwork, it makes all of the other skills in the game go up. They’re shooting, they’re passing, they’re rebounding, they’re defense because all of that stuff starts at their feet. And lots of times when I’m working with leaders and working in business, I make the analogy that listening is the footwork of business, or of leadership, or of sales because the only way you can truly lead others, or the only way you can sell anything or solve a problem is if you’re listening. You need to listen to your clients, or customers, or patients, or members, or whatever your terminology is, but you have to really listen to make sure that you’re able to solve their problem, and listening is a skill that all of us should and continue to practice on a regular basis the same way elite NBA players practice their footwork, every single day.

John Jantsch: Yeah, and that’s probably a little counterintuitive for a lot of leaders, isn’t it? Because they sometimes, and I’m guilty of this, I feel like people are there to have me tell them what to do rather than listen, and I think you’re suggesting that just the opposite is the skill you need to develop.

Alan Stein, Jr.: Well, it’s both. I mean, you are clearly a subject matter expert and you’re a professional speaker, so people pay you to come in and actually teach and to talk, but my guess would be that in order for you to make sure that you’re delivering the right content on time to the right people, there was some listening going along the way. It may be in the form of a pre-event call or some pre-event questionnaire, or when you’re really getting a feel for who you’re going to deliver to in any capacity, you have to make sure you’re doing the listening.

Same thing in sales. When it comes to sales, and I know we share a lot of mutual friends that are really high on the sales professional list, and they all say that telling is not selling, that in order to really find that good fit, you have to ask insightful questions first to really get the intel to make sure that your product or service is the right fit for them. And if it is the right fit and you ask them the right questions, you won’t have to convince them to buy anyway. They’re going to convince themselves because you’re asking the right questions. And same thing with leaders. When you ask people questions and you listen to their answers, unconsciously you’re telling them that you care about them, and that they’re important, and that you value them. And that’s one of the most important traits of a leader is making sure that the people on their team know that the leader cares about them on and off the court or in and out of the board room.

John Jantsch: And I think it also goes to empowerment too because if they know that you’re going to give them the answer any time they ask a question, why should they try to figure it out themselves? And I think that that’s a habit that we can really get into too.

Alan Stein, Jr.: Oh, absolutely. You nailed that perfectly, and that’s so insightful. And I know in my own journey, when I was a younger coach, I didn’t listen very well because I was too busy trying to show everyone how smart I thought I was, and I wanted to puff up my chest and give the answer to everything. And then as I started to get older and hopefully wiser and more mature, I started to realize that I had that backwards, that you should go through life with your eyes and ears as open as possible and keep your mouth closed until it’s time to really share something of value.

John Jantsch: And I think this actually goes to the heart of what we’ve been discussing. You said one of the first steps, and again, I think it’s early on in the book, you say one of the first steps is you have to first learn how to live in the present.

Alan Stein, Jr.: Yes. And that is one of the most important skills for any human being, but it’s vital for performance in sport or in business. And really the short definition of living present is to be where your feet are. And wherever your feet are, that’s where your head and heart should be as well, and I know that may sound obvious, but in today’s day and age where we have so many digital distractions, that’s not always the case.

You can picture you and I going out to a friendly lunch and I’m staring at my phone the entire time we’re at lunch. Clearly, there’s going to be a disconnect between us, and what I’m telling you unconsciously is that whatever’s on my phone is more important than you are, and that unconscious message, if don’t consistently, is going to erode any type of connection that you and I have. And it’s so important for people to realize, we are always communicating a message, even when you don’t think you’re communicating, you are communicating, and in that instance, I would be communicating to you that my phone is more important than you are. And that, from a leadership standpoint, from a friendship standpoint, from a teammate standpoint is going in the wrong direction.

John Jantsch: Yeah, how am I supposed to feel when I discover I’m two rungs below a cat video, right?

Alan Stein, Jr.: Exactly.

John Jantsch: So it’s almost not even that much work to make analogies in business and sports, is it?

Alan Stein, Jr.: Right.

John Jantsch: You take that full circle, no pun intended, if you were looking at the book. You have a graphic that talks about this circle of player/coach/team, employee/manager/organization. So I want to dive into a couple of the ways or the things that you talk about having to develop. Kind of set the stage for that employee/manager/organization, player/coach/team analogy.

Alan Stein, Jr.: Yeah. I found there is just tremendous crossover. And I’ve lived both because even in my 20 years as a basketball performance coach, I was always working in the private sector, I always had my own training business. So I’ve been an entrepreneur since day one. I’ve never had a corporate job or a “real job” as an adult, so I’ve been able to see firsthand the symmetry, and the alignment, and the harmony between what’s required to excel in sport and what’s required to excel in business. And it just goes back to those foundational principles and pillars.

Clearly, the X’s and O’s and the tactical sides are going to be different, but the principles don’t really change. So really, what it would take to have an elite culture, a winning culture for a basketball team is the same as it is for business, and the only major difference is many businesses just have to do it at a higher scale. A basketball team is going to have a head coach, a couple of assistants, 14, 15 players, maybe a couple managers, whereas these principles could still be applied to a business that has a thousand employees, but the principles stay the same.

John Jantsch: And I think it’s become very common today to talk about ‘my team’ and ‘my department’ and to even talk about a manager as a mentor or a coach as part of their responsibility, so I think it’s certainly not a stretch at all.

Alan Stein, Jr.: No, it’s not. Oh, and I was going to say, what I’ve been really encouraging basketball coaches to do is to make sure they’re learning from entrepreneurs and executives and people in the business world. I mean, what you said, and you nailed it perfectly, this has been going on for decades where businesses will bring in athletes or more times coaches or general managers to talk to their teams, and everyone is always trying to pull from sport to business, but the inverse is very much the same. A smart coach would find a local business owner that’s created a championship level culture, is thriving, and has had longterm, sustainable results and pick that person’s brain for what they’re doing because, again, it’s the same stuff.

John Jantsch: As I said in the intro, this is brought to you by Asana. It’s a work management software tool that we’ve been using for a long time, our entire team. It just allows us to be so much more productive, to unify our communication, to keep track of tasks, to assign and delegate, pretty much run everything from meetings all the way up through our client work, and you can get it and try it free for 30 days because you are a listener. So get started at Asana.com/DuctTape. That’s Asana, A-S-A-N-A.com/DuctTape.

So you break the book then from that point on into this employee/manager/business, or maybe it’s organization, and you talk about things that you need to develop, and what’s interesting is, when you talk about the employee, I think the employee has to develop those, but the manager has to maybe see that as their responsibility to help them, to help some of those, and one of the ones … you have each of those broken into four, five, six different chunks, but I want to maybe kind of riff on three of them.

Alan Stein, Jr.: Sure.

John Jantsch: Because the first one, I think it’s the first one, for the employee, I think is actually the hardest for individuals period, and that’s this idea of developing or helping them develop self-awareness. How the heck do you do that?

Alan Stein, Jr.: Yes. That is a tough one, and it’s also important to note that it’s a continual journey. You never arrive. No one should be able to stick their stake in the ground and say, “I’m 100% self-aware.” There’s going to be varying degrees of it. And funny enough-

John Jantsch: And that would actually indicate you were not, right?

Alan Stein, Jr.: Exactly. Yes. Once you think you’ve arrived, you haven’t. But funny enough, and I know this may sound counterintuitive, many times, the way we need to acquire self-awareness or at least heighten and strengthen it is by asking others, and I don’t mean random people off the street. Ask the people that know us the best. Close family, and friends, and colleagues, and coworkers that really know us because all of us, we can’t see our own blind spots. We can have the humility and the foresight to know that we have blind spots, but that’s why they’re called blind spots because we don’t know what they are and we don’t know what we don’t know. So the key is, once you believe that you have some self-awareness and you’re aware of what’s good and what’s bad and what your dreams are as well as what your fears and insecurities are, then you need to ask other people and see if there’s an accuracy there.

Perfect example. I’ll just use listening because I brought it up earlier. If I believe that I’m a great listener, but you ask the five people closest to me and they all say that I’m not, well then I’m probably not. It really doesn’t matter what I think. What’s most important is the result of what’s going on in real life, and that’s where, if you have the humility to ask those, you can decrease that gap between what you believe is true and what others are seeing as true. And it always reminds me of a funny quote I heard from a comedian. He said, “If the audience doesn’t laugh, it’s not funny.” That’s the definition of a joke. If they don’t laugh, it’s not funny. They’re the judge and the jury. And he said, “It doesn’t matter if I think it’s funny, it doesn’t matter if my comedian friends think it’s funny. The people in the audience, if they don’t laugh, then it’s not funny.” And it’s the same thing with self-awareness. No matter how good of a listener you think you are, if those around you don’t think you are, then there’s a major disconnect.

John Jantsch: In the manager category, the one that popped out to me is servant because I’m not sure managers always view their role as servant.

Alan Stein, Jr.: Well, the concept of servant leadership has been around forever, but it’s really the mindset that, everything I do is to add value to others, is to fill other’s buckets. It’s not in degradation of yourself, you still need to fill your own bucket first in order to fill other’s, but everything you’re doing is trying to raise others up, and that should be a true leader’s mentality. It shouldn’t be for any other reason other than the fact that you’re trying to elevate somebody else’s game, and then collectively elevate your entire organization. But the servanthood mindset, at least all of the elite leaders I’ve been around, that’s one they’ve adopted right from the get go.

John Jantsch: And I’ll tell you in my own experience how that role is both a positive and a negative is when it comes to taking credit for stuff. I think some of the best leaders when good things happen give the team credit, and sometimes not so evolved leaders need the credit.

Alan Stein, Jr.: Very well said. Yes, and you are correct. And I think that usually comes from an insecurity. That they’re not confident enough in who they are as a leader that they feel like they need that credit to puff up their chest, if you will.

John Jantsch: So let’s go to the organization. Again, you had five or six characteristics there, and one that I’d love to hear you expand is role clarity being essential.

Alan Stein, Jr.: Yeah. That one is absolutely vital, and as I work with a variety of different organizations, it’s usually one that trips people up. One, they simply make the assumption that everybody on the team knows with tremendous clarity what their specific role is, and many times, that’s not the case. So it’s so important for every person in the organization to know exactly how they fit into the grand scheme of things, and I’ve always felt that a team or an organization is simply a jigsaw puzzle, and every single person is a different piece with different knobs and different holes that are going to fit together different, and it’s vital that everybody knows what their role is so that they can then embrace that role and star in that role whatever it may be.

And of course, organizations, there are going to be varying levels of roles and responsibilities, and you may play a much bigger role in our organization than I do, but mine is still important because even without my little puzzle piece, we can’t finish the picture or the collage, so every piece matters. And lots of times, people don’t even know what their role is, and then if they do know it, they don’t take pride in fulfilling it because they want a different role, and that’s where we start to see dysfunction.

John Jantsch: You know, I love what you said earlier about the idea that you’re always communicating something, and I think that’s one of the challenges with role clarity is a lot of times, we are communicating role dysfunction, if you will, and that’s where it gets really tough. So it’s something that you not only have to define, but redefine, and redefine, and re-support, and I don’t think it ever goes away, does it?

Alan Stein, Jr.: No, it doesn’t. And you brought up a great point there because this happens all the time. When we talk about communicating when you don’t think you’re communicating. Let’s take delegating for example. So you and I are teammates on our organization and I delegate an important task to you. Not menial work, an important task. A big proposal or what have you. Unconsciously, I’m communicating to you that I trust you, John. I know that you’re competent. I believe in you. I know that you’re going to do this as well as I could do it or maybe even better. You’re the right person to do it. And clearly, that’s going to deepen our connection between each other. That’s going to build trust.

Whereas, what a lot of people do would be micromanage. I hand you an important task and I stand over your shoulder the entire time, which again, communicates now a different message, that I don’t trust you, I don’t believe in you. In fact, I think you’re too big of a moron to get this right unless I’m standing right over your shoulder. So now I’m eroding our connection, and I’m creating more friction and more dysfunction. And I know more times than not, that’s done with great intention. Lots of times when we micromanage, it’s because we’re so particular about the way we want things done, and we have such a high standard of excellence, we want it done the right way and we want it done our way, but we forget that we are communicating that different message, and that’s, again, where our roles will start to get some ambiguity and some fog, and we don’t want that.

And one more thing I’ll say on roles. It’s one thing to have the right people on your team, but you also have to make sure they’re in the right seats on the bus, and for it to be a great fit is, I’m going to put things, your role with our organization are going to be things that you enjoy doing and you’re really good at doing, and the more of your role that are those two things, then the higher you’ll perform. If I give you a whole bunch of things that you enjoy doing, but you’re not very good at, well then we’re all going to suffer because the work is going to be poor. And if I give you things that you’re good at, but you really don’t enjoy doing them, then it’s going to be tough to keep you motivated longterm. So this is where we can shift things around. Especially in a diverse organization.

There might be some things that are in your current job description that you don’t really enjoy, but someone else on the team would love to do those things, and that’s where we can shift around. I’m not really a spreadsheet kind of guy. I’m not a high IQ guy, I’m a high EQ guy. So if a good portion of my job description was to do paperwork and fill out Excel spreadsheets, I’m not going to enjoy my work. But you know as well as I do, there’s probably someone else that loves that. They would much rather do that than interface with other human beings. They would love to just hop on a podcast like yours and work on spreadsheets all day. So why don’t we take that off of my plate, put that on their plate, and everybody wins? I’m happier, they’re happier, and the quality of work goes up. So that would be an example of how we can shift job descriptions and roles around to make sure that the team wins.

John Jantsch: I’m visiting with Alan Stein, Jr. author of Raise Your Game. Alan, tell us where people can find out more about you, your work, and Raise Your Game.

Alan Stein, Jr.: Well, if they’re interested in the book, they can go to RaiseYourGameBook.com or if they want to find out more about the stuff I’ve got going on, you can just go to AlanSteinJr.com, and I’m at Alan Stein, Jr on Instagram, LinkedIn, all the social channels, and love engaging with folks on there.

John Jantsch: Awesome. We’ll have links of course in the show notes. Alan, thanks for taking a few moments to visit with us on The Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, and hopefully we’ll run into you someday out there on the road.

Alan Stein, Jr.: Sounds great, my pleasure. I appreciate you.

Transcript of How to Prepare for a Brand Crisis

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Asana logoJohn Jantsch: This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast is brought to you by Asana, a work management software tool that we use to run pretty much everything in our business. All of our meetings, all of our product launches, all of our tasks. I’m going to show you how you can try it for free a little later.

John Jantsch: Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast. This is John Jantsch and my guest today is Melissa Agnes. She is a leading authority on crisis preparedness, reputation management, and brand protection. She’s also the author of a book we’re going to talk about today, Crisis Ready: Building an Invisible Brand in an Uncertain World. Melissa, thanks for joining me.

Melissa Agnes: Thanks for having me, John.

John Jantsch: What does a brand crisis look like?

Melissa Agnes: Brand crisis is any type of negative event that threatens longterm material impact on one to all of the following five things. Here we’re looking at people, so stakeholders and the relationships you share with those people for your business. Business operations. The environment. The organization’s reputation and/or the organization’s bottom line. Any type of negative event that threatens longterm material impact on any to all of those five things.

John Jantsch: Yeah. We can probably all conjure up an example of where a company really got in trouble. A lot of times it probably has to do with negative press, or certainly stock price falling. Can you give me a couple examples that would help us kind of frame a brand crisis for an organization?

Melissa Agnes: A brand crisis, yeah. One thing that’s worth noting is there’s a difference between an issue and a crisis and businesses suffer through issues … I mean, that’s a part of business is suffering through issues. The difference though is that they’re both negative events. One of the doesn’t threaten that longterm material impact, versus another one that does. An example that I love to give is, because it’s just so random and so out of anything that anybody could’ve ever imagined, is do you remember what happened to Crock-Pot last year and [inaudible 00:02:25]?

John Jantsch: I must admit, I do not.

Melissa Agnes: No, that’s okay. Last year around … Actually, around this time last year, this is us. One of the leading primetime television shows that airs today. The show has over 15 million viewers every single week that tune in as a family primarily to watch this show. Over the course of two years or so they had been leading up to revealing the story of how one of the most beloved characters on the show, so Jack Pearson, the patriarch of the family, how he dies. The story of how he dies. Finally, on this … Whatever day it airs, they revealed that story. The story was that Jack is cleaning the kitchen one evening and it’s this beautiful scene, very creatively crafted and you see moments of the family, and flashbacks, and all of these wonderful moments, and at the end of it, he turns on a … Not a Crock-Pot. He turns on a slow cooker, a very ancient slow cooker that came with a story, along with a segment, and he goes to bed.

Melissa Agnes: That slow cooker short circuits and sets fire to the house and Jack dies of smoke inhalation. The completely random part to this is the next day … Again, this is a slow cooker, a generic slow cooker. It was not a Crock-Pot machine. Yet, the next day Crock-Pot woke up to thousands upon thousands of longstanding generational customers taking to social media and saying, “Oh my goodness, we’re going to throw out our Crock-Pot machine and we’re never buying from this brand again.” It wasn’t just on social. It made it to … Morning talk shows we’re talking about it. It made … It was across the continent news. Stephen Colbert talked about it in his monologue that evening. The reason being was that the show was so beautifully crafted that everybody who watched it sat there and felt emotionally compelled by the storyline. Then, they went to their brains and they went, “Oh my goodness, we have a Crock-Pot machine. I don’t want my family to die.”

Melissa Agnes: It started this very real, very social, right? Relatable so therefore shareable story, narrative online that people started banning together and fearful together and their solution was Crock-Pot is bad, we will never use the brand again. If we look at this, any organization … When I said there’s difference between issue and crisis, organizations could easily have looked at this scenario and been like, “Yo, this is so irrational. This has never happened in the history … This is a fictitious television show. It just makes no sense.” Yet, Crock-Pot was smart enough to say, “Okay, but what is real here? What’s real here is that people are profoundly fearful for the lives and safety of their families, the most important thing to them. If we don’t do something about it, we risk losing them. And at the very least, we risk having this negative emotional sentiment attached to our brand, whether it’s conscious or subconscious to people moving forward.”

Melissa Agnes: That is a potential material impact. What I help organizations do and what every single business, whether you’re a solopreneur, or a brand that has tens of thousands of employees around the world, is every single business is at risk or vulnerable to a series of high-risk, high-impact, or most likely high-impact issues and most likely high-impact crises. Once you become crisis ready, you go through the motions of putting your team in a position where you don’t just have a plan that’s sitting on a shelf that’s says, “In a crisis we’re going to grab this plan.” But you actually have a team that is able to do what Crock-Pot did and assess, think like the material … Or the emotional relatability of the situation to assess its material impact and ultimately you want to be in a position where whether it’s an issue or a crisis, your team instinctively is able and empowered to respond in a way that actually fosters increased trust and credibility in the brand.

John Jantsch: I think it would be safe to say that there’s a lot more exposure with … I mean, people leapt to Crock-Pot because that was the well known brand of that type of appliance. What about an organization that they don’t really have a brand that’s going to find itself in that kind of situation? I mean, how do they strategically look at this idea of being prepared?

Melissa Agnes: You look at what are your risks. What is it that matters to your business and what are the negative events that you are prone to? That can be something like a supply chain disaster, catastrophe. It could be a natural disaster that wipes your operations out for a significant period of time that’s going to have a massive impact on your bottom line and potentially your reputation, your relationship with your stakeholders, because they may need to go elsewhere, right? You might lose them. You might lose those clients. It can be anything from having one of your key … People are a risk, because that’s human nature.

Melissa Agnes: A prominent member of your team being arrested on some kind of allegation, right? That’s a risk. At what point in that scenario would … Where’s the risk there and at what point would you support that person and stand behind that person? At what point would you need to disassociate your brand from that person and why and what’s the best way to do that? Risk is all around us and it’s … Becoming crisis ready is just being very in tuned with what that means to your business and what’s expected of you by those who matter most to your business when something does go wrong and being in a position to meet, if not exceed those expectations.

John Jantsch: I know that in the title, subtitle, you have “Uncertain World,” and I agree. We are in an uncertain world. But this sort of feels like a downer to be sitting around thinking about all the things that could go wrong.

Melissa Agnes: Well, yeah. Sure. I didn’t say that it was going to be jolly, but it’s very necessary. Here’s the thing, when you become … I really believe … Throughout my book I have these crisis ready rules and I strongly, strongly believe … The work that I do with my clients is very comprehensive. It’s not just about having this very high level plan that doesn’t serve us that’s on the shelf, which is unfortunately status quo today. But we dive deep into understanding the relationships with key stakeholders, the business operations. We find gaps in vulnerability so we’re able to strengthen that impact of day-to-day of business and the regular relationship that you … Every business is built on relationships and crisis management is about those relationships. It’s about sustaining and maintaining those relationships even in tough times. The way that my brain works is I see risk everywhere. I see mitigation strategies for those risks, just kind of intrinsically.

Melissa Agnes: Then I see opportunity through the mitigation. Yes, it’s not the most joyous of activities to sit down and talk about all of the ways that your business can sink. It is necessary. It’s smart. It’s smart business to do that. It’s strategic. But, if you look at … The world crisis of Ebola, for example, was managed because the CDC was smart enough to identify WhatsApp as a very significant communication tool to communicate with West Africans on how to protect themselves in a way that they were not receiving. Everybody else was trying to do the same thing, but nobody was strategic enough to look at the opportunity of technology. There’s so much opportunity that comes from when you get past the downer of the negative. Then you are able to find some really fastening and opportunistic strategic ways to augment your business every day by being crisis ready. Because after you mitigate the risks is the opportunity for the mitigation.

John Jantsch: Hey, as I said in the intro, this is brought to you by Asana. It’s a work management software tool that we’ve been using for a long time, our entire team. It just allows us to be so much more productive. To unify our communication, to keep track of task, to assign and delegate, pretty much run everything from meetings all the way up through our client work. You can get it and try it free for 30 days because you are a listener. Get started at asana.com/ducttape. That’s Asana. A-S-A-N-A.com/ducttape.

John Jantsch: I think it probably comes with a point of view and maybe even we’d go as far as saying a culture that is … I don’t even know how to say this. Prepared, I suppose. One of the things I see … Where I see people really get in trouble is when they ignore, or deny, or no comment a crisis and it seems like they almost make it worse. I think that that’s … That’s sort of a … Isn’t that sort of a culture of … You’ve also seen the flip side of that, organizations that said, “We screwed up. Here’s how we screwed up. Here’s how we’re fixing it.” It seems like they always come out a little better in the end.

Melissa Agnes:  100%. Your spot on with culture, because … I always say that … I don’t use that language, crisis management plan, because a plan is typically very siloed, it’s very linear, it’s very stagnant. It sits on a shelf. It doesn’t serve to the caliber that it needs to in my opinion. Whereas, what I do with my clients and what the book does is it helps you design a crisis ready program that you then embed into the culture of your organization. That’s the only way to be able to understand, to use your example, that why no comment doesn’t work.

Melissa Agnes: No comment doesn’t work because people expect information today and the more you communicate, the more proactive you communicate, the more effectively you communicate, and the sooner you communicate effectively, the less what I call crisis response penalty you’re going to suffer because there is an expectation and a demand of that communication today, and as well as taking the right actions. No comment does exactly the opposite. It makes us not trust you, right? Why no comment? There’s no such thing or no excuse for no comment today. There never actually was, but with social media we now … Every consumer has a voice and we can actually stand up and say, “Hey, we don’t accept your no comment.”

John Jantsch: I use the word culture, but to some degree it probably has as much to do with at least being very clear on what your brand stands for. I think that that in many cases probably is sort of the filter for, “Here’s how to handle any situation.” Isn’t it?

Melissa Agnes: What your brand stands for, absolutely, especially when you’re … If you get caught in a controversy of some kind. Controversy segregates instinctively, just in … That’s what it does. Understanding what your brand stands for and the values that connect you to your key stakeholders is essential and making decisions, visible decisions in alignment with those values as a beacon, a guiding beacon is really important. But what it really comes down to is understanding … And I’m going to simplify it here and it’s this simple. It just requires work. Is understanding who your stakeholders are, so literally … Yeah. One of a frustrating points that I have is that oftentimes leadership doesn’t have, most often, doesn’t have a list of … A consolidated list of who their stakeholders are, who the brand’s stakeholders are for those groups.

Melissa Agnes: Anything from, depending on the organization, but it could be anything from your board, to your employees, to volunteers, to investors, to your customers and clients, to your vendors, to the authorities and government relations, regulators, depending on the industry, right? Depending on [inaudible 00:14:57]. But having a consolidated list of exactly who those stakeholder groups are and going through your high rank scenarios, so your most likely most high impact issues and crises and saying, “In crisis scenario number one, which we’ve identified as being the most likely type of negative event to strike us that would have material longterm impact. What will our … Or what would our employees expect of us? Are we in a position to meet those expectations? What are the key concerns and questions that we can anticipate now and put ourselves in a position to be able to answer seamlessly in the heat of the moment?”

Melissa Agnes: Same questions apply to the same scenario with your customers, with your vendors, with your investors, with your board of directors, with etc., etc. If you do that exercise, it’s a simple exercise that requires thought, and deliberation, and time, but it’s still simple and yet it’s so profoundly powerful in negative times, but as well as in those positive times because it brings you closer to those people by understanding them. You can find then opportunities within your day-to-day business to connect with them and to strengthen those relationships regularly.

John Jantsch: You’re literally saying … Let’s say I’m a nonprofit agency and it comes to light that a key employee has been embezzling donor funds. That sounds like a crisis, doesn’t it? Are you literally saying we would sit around once or quarter or something and actually role play that?

Melissa Agnes: Absolutely. Once a quarter isn’t a lot. You don’t need to do it once a quarter to role play, but part of embedding a crisis ready culture is going through simulations. That’s great for two things. One, it’s great for honing your program, testing your program, finding gaps and weaknesses and areas of vulnerability and strengthening them in ways that you cannot identify those gaps and vulnerabilities unless you test it and you can either test it in an actual event, or before. Then it also … Being crisis ready means that your entire team instinctively knows how to identify risk, how to assess its material impact on your organization quickly, and then how to respond in a way that actually fosters increased trust and credibility in a brand. Well, that’s a skillset and that’s a skillset that you can train and learn as a team and simulations give you that power and that experience.

John Jantsch: I’m wondering if organizations, and this might go back to the culture, but I wonder if … I mean, I could see organizations treating this like they might treat a fire drill. “Oh, we got to do that again. That’s so silly. I’m not going to … ” Again, I know that’s part culture of, “Here we go again with another thing,” kind of thing. But do you ever see the risk of that, that something so remote is being practiced and it seems like a waste of time?

Melissa Agnes: Not with me, because I would never waste my client’s time. The organizations that do this type of … It’s scalable, right? If your brand has 10 that are … Or a company of 10, you’re not necessarily going to go to full fledged crisis simulation, but you should be having this conversation. There’s no reason why you shouldn’t know what are the most likely high impact types of negative events that can put you out of business ultimately, right? Affect your livelihood and the brand that you’ve build up over years and that you love. There’s no excuse to not know what those are. Then, straight through to [inaudible 00:18:33] brands that would go through these types of simulations.

Melissa Agnes: In order to make it a not waste of time, is to define clear objectives, right? Before any type of exercise or before … Whether that’s an exercise of a discussion around a table with leadership, or your entire team if you’re a brand of 10, or straight through to a full fledged simulation, you’re not going to test everything. You should never want to test everything. But you’re looking at, “Hey, how … Let’s find some gaps in our communication process. How can we strengthen that?” Then that translates into everyday strengthening business … A way to strengthen everyday parts of your business as well. Yeah, so you make it so that it’s not a waste of time. It’s a strategic spend of time.

John Jantsch: This may be more of an issue than a crisis, but today, because of social media, individuals and competitors can really insert themselves as part of our brand. How does an organization prepare for that kind of trolling and just kind of bizarre stuff that goes on now that unfortunately is public? I mean, where there’s YouTube channels dedicated to hating on people and companies. I mean, how do you deal with that?

Melissa Agnes: When I talk about those relationships and how being crisis ready helps you understand who your stakeholders are and you can use that as an opportunity, a proactive opportunity every day, the bigger trust that you have built up prior to something negative happening, whether that’s somebody going on YouTube and doing a bad product review that is entertaining and garners thousands upon thousands of views. That might quite frankly could be something that goes viral in the context of what you’re used to, right? You can get a hundred views and that could be viral to you in context of your everyday baseline and have impact, or threaten to have impact, or feel as though it could threaten to have impact. If you have a brand that those who matter most to your business know who you are, know what you stand for, know that anytime there’s any type of issue you are on it. Your team cares.

Melissa Agnes: They’re always putting people above profits and bottom line, which is one of my crisis ready tools. If you prove that day in and day out, you gain the benefit of the doubt at the onset of something negative happening. When that product review comes out and it’s entertaining and it starts garnering attention, those who matter to your business, not … The whole world does not matter to your business. Those who matter to your business, the ones that you’ve identified in that stakeholder mapping exercise, the ones that you work every day to strengthen relationships with, will look at that and turn it off and say, “That’s a joke. That’s not true.” And furthermore, they might even … If you do your job right, they could become your brand ambassadors and advocates and come back and fight for you in that, in shutting that down so that your team doesn’t even have to.

John Jantsch: Now we’re starting to really get to the opportunity idea of this point of view, too, is that by actually taking that point of view you’re not just buying insurance, you’re not just mitigating risk. You’re actually looking at it as a way to strengthen the brand, aren’t you?

Melissa Agnes: Absolutely. That is why I’m so passionate about what I do, because of … That is the outcome ultimately of becoming crisis ready.

John Jantsch: Melissa, where can people find out more about crisis ready and the work that you do?

Melissa Agnes: MelissaAgnes.com is a great place. I have links to my book there. I also have an online course that walks you through step-by-step the … I have a … The crisis ready model, which is the framework to becoming crisis ready that walks you through step-by-step to help you actually design and embed that culture, that program into your business.

John Jantsch: Awesome. Well, thanks for stopping by the Duct Tape Marketing podcast and hopefully we’ll run into you someday out there on the road.

Melissa Agnes: Yes, good. Thanks for having me, John.

Transcript of Setting the Stage for a Moment of Awakening

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Klaviyo logoJohn Jantsch: This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Klaviyo. Klaviyo is a platform that helps growth focused e-commerce brands drive more sales, with super targeted, highly relevant email, Facebook and Instagram marketing.

Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast This is John Jantsch, and my guest today is James Fell. He is a very popular health writer and speaker, and he is also the author of a book we’re going to talk about today. The Holy S!it Moment: How Lasting Change Can Happen in an Instant.

So, James, thanks for joining me.

James Fell: Thanks very much for having me on the show, John.

John Jantsch: So, we didn’t talk about this when we were off air, but that is the first time I’ve said that word on air. I run a very PG show here. I must admit though, I was in the airport the other day, and the top three best seller titles they had facing out, two of them had the F word in them, and one of them said ass.

I guess it’s just the world in we live in today, isn’t it?

James Fell: The funny thing is, is that I was at first opposed to that title. We don’t have to say it again. You want to be respectful of people that don’t want the potty mouth on their show, and that’s fine.

But, it came about because … The book is about the science of the life-changing epiphany, and that is what, in common vernacular, people will refer to it as. As a holy S moment.

John Jantsch: At that point, it’s not even a curse word to them, right? It’s like a phrase.

James Fell: Yeah. So, I was talking to my agent. We were weeks away from pitching it to publishers, and we still didn’t have a title. He said, “Just come up with 10 different title ideas, and send it to me,” and that one was one of the one’s on the list, and it was way down the list.

He came back, said, “Let’s call it this.”

I said, “I don’t know man, I don’t really like that one.”

He said, “No, it’s good. It’s accurate. I think publishers will like it, and later on we can change it, if we come up with something better. But, we need something now to pitch.”

I said, “Fine.”

As it turned out, the publishers loved the title. Everybody loved the title, and on and on since then. I’m still like, “I’m not to sure about it,” but so many people loved it, that through the process, when they heard about it, I said, “Okay, I guess it’s grown on me.”

So …

John Jantsch: Well, and I think, as you know, that’s kind of a phrase that people are used to. It’s not just gratuitous or uncreative, to stick it in there. I think that’s one that people can relate.

James Fell: Yeah, it’s a thing. People have used that term before. I didn’t invent it, I just turned it into a book title.

John Jantsch: As you mentioned, the book is about the science of life-changing epiphanies. When suddenly, someone has a sudden lightning strike of understanding that awakens their passion. I’m reading this from something you had written.

Would it be safe to say that your journey started that way? Your journey to becoming a very popular health writer, I should say?

James Fell: Well, it absolutely did. There was the big transformative event in my earlier 20s, that took me from a very lazy man, to an industrious hardworking one. I went from flunking out of school and being in debt, and drinking way too much, and in poor physical condition, to transforming everything, because of a sudden lightning strike of awakening.

Then, later on, there’s been more clarifying epiphanies that came later on. I ended up getting an MBA and working in business for about a dozen years. I didn’t hate it, but I didn’t love it either. It was about the age of 40 when I just said, “Life is too short to spend most of my waking hours doing something that I’m not really passionate about.”

And, I knew that writing was my passion. That it was something that was very excited, and I wanted to see if I could make a go out of it, and see if I could turn this into a career.

When I took that step, there was an overwhelming sense of rightness, that, “Yes, this is what I’m meant to do.”

I worked harder at that than I had ever worked at anything in my life, and it paid off. It was because I was so excited to do my job each day, that a year after I had my first published article, I had a column in the Los Angeles Times.

John Jantsch: Yeah. So, I don’t know, do you share what that epiphany was, or does that not make any sense to the story?

James Fell: Oh, the original one from my early 20s? Yes, I absolutely do. So, I tell that in chapter one. So, I was flunking out of university. I was about to be kicked out. I was overweight, and my credit card companies were calling. I read one of those motivation quotes.

Which, I’m not saying that I’m this huge fan of motivational quotes. It’s just that this one resonated at that space and time. I was just at the right point of my life to receive this sudden enlightenment. I read it in my university newspaper while I was sitting in the food court, and it was a quote, from all people, folk singer Joan Baez.

The quote read, “Action is the antidote to despair.”

When I read that, I realized that all of these problems I was facing down was of my own doing. It was a whole that a dug myself, and that I had the ability to take action to fix it all. All of these things could be fixed via my own effort.

So, that was the first sort of big insight. Then, the sudden flash of self reflection came, that made me realize that I had lazy my entire life, and I had skating through on cruise control, and that if I just got down and started to work really hard, that there was light at the end of the tunnel.

Then, what happens next in psychological terms is called dramatic relief. Where, you still see, all of those problems still exist. They’re still there. Still very real, but you’re relieved because you know your going to fix them. They’re going to be gone eventually, because you’re going to work towards the resolution. You see that light at the end of the tunnel, and I did.

Instead of going to the campus bar, to toss back beer, I went to the registrar’s office and launched an appeal to beg my way out of my failing report card. I told them, I went to that meeting saying, “I’m a changed man,” and they believed me. After that, I was a very good student.

John Jantsch: Well, great for them for taking a chance, because I bet you they’ve heard that story before.

James Fell: Maybe. Maybe the passion came through. I think I was pretty convincing, because I believed it. At my core, I believed that I had changed, and I guess they got that vibe. I ended up getting two master’s degrees.

John Jantsch: So, it was a good investment on their part too, right? Let me ask you this. Thousands of other people read that Joan Baez quote that day, and still flunked out.

My point is, what was the difference? Why did that strike you, and not those other thousand people? That quote, I don’t know if it was in a song, or something. That’s been around. That hasn’t moved a lot of people to act.

So, what was the thing going on in your brain, that made you choose to act? It’s like when that person … You know, my father-in-law tried to quit smoking for 25 years, and then finally decided to quit one day, and that was it. That was the end of the story.

I mean, what happened?

James Fell: Well, and your father-in-law’s example, there’s some research in the book about people that quit smoking. The ones that suddenly say, “That’s it, I’m done,” are far more successful than the ones that do the planned attempt.

John Jantsch: But, he did the planned attempt, 15 times. So, then one day, it just clicked.

James Fell: Yeah. So, the click was the one that worked, and that’s the research, that shows that those ones are more likely to be successful.

In my case, I was in the right space in time for a few different reasons. One is called crystallization of discontent. Where you have various different problems in your life, that individually they don’t seem like that big of a deal. But, when you are able to look at them as a whole, that whole becomes greater than the sum of its parts.

Where you read something akin to a breaking point, where you’re just like, I cannot go in this direction any longer. I think the thing that added the most weight to this was the fear of being kicked out of school made me wonder what’s my girlfriend going to think, because she was a straight A student who was destined for med school.

I worried, if I flunked out, that it would potentially spell doom for our relationship. That put more fear into me than anything else. That was something that felt unbearable to me. Was losing this woman that I loved. I think that was one of the things that really pushed me toward this realization, that I had to change.

Everything worked out. We’ve been together 29 years now.

John Jantsch: Want to remind you that this episode is brought to you by Klaviyo. Klaviyo helps you build meaningful customer relationships by listening and understanding cues from your customers. This allows you to easily turn that information into valuable marketing messages.

There’s powerful segmentation, email auto-responders that are ready to go. Great reporting. You want to learn a little bit about the secret to building customer relationships? They’ve got a really fun series called Klaviyo’s Beyond Black Friday. It’s a docu-series, a lot of fun. Quick lessons.

Just head on over to Klaviyo.com/BeyondBF, Beyond Black Friday.

You, in a previous book, wrote about weight loss, and you’ve worked with folks trying to lose weight. That’s probably another one of those, where somebody struggles for years, and then one day, or maybe six months, eight months later is 80 pounds lighter.

For some reason, something happened, and it clicked. Obviously, that’s very similar, probably, to the smoking, but is there a moment, or something that goes on in our brain, that makes something like that stick?

James Fell: Yes, and the answer’s a little bit complicated, so bear with me for a moment. That was actually, working with people who lost a lot of weight, was what first gave me the idea for this book. What it boils down to, it’s called the Rokeach’s Model of Personality, and it relates to what’s called The Identity Value Model of Self Control.

So, the Model of Personality is that … If you’ve ever seen the movie Shrek, he says, “Ogres are like onions.”

Well, people are like onions too, in that we have layers to our personality. At the external layer are our actions, our behaviors. Then, you go down a layer, and you’ve got beliefs, and then there’s attitudes, and then there’s your values.

Then, at the core is your identity, yourself. When people focus on changing something like weight loss, they focus on their behaviors. Eat better, eat less, get some exercise. If that is in conflict with your core identity and your values, that’s an incredible struggle.

It’s a model that’s built on suffering. Where you have to use willpower and grit, and it’s painful, and you gotta suck it up. The failure rate is tremendously high. It’s one of those reasons why we preach baby steps, where you minimize the suffering by just doing a little bit, that’s only a little bit uncomfortable. Eventually, you get used to it, and you slowly develop habits, and drag yourself over a motivation tipping point.

The failure rate of that is just so high, because it’s just such an uninspiring way to approach it. Now, the shift that we talk about in this book, with the life changing epiphany is it’s not about changing behaviors, it’s about changing core identity and core values. So, the example of a man named Chuck Gross. Chuck weighed over 400 pounds.

He had been heavy his entire life. He was the epitome of the person, that the likelihood of them losing weight and keeping it off was extraordinarily remote. He had tried and failed to lose weight many times. Then, something very unexpected happened. His wife came out of the bathroom, and holding in her hand was a positive pregnancy test.

At first, he said he was overjoyed at the prospect of being a father. Like I said, it was unexpected. Then, he realized, in a flash, that this time he was going to lose weight, it was going to work, he was going to keep it off. The reason why is what shifted was his identity.

In a moment, he went from not a father, to, congratulations buddy, you’re going to be a dad, and along with that came an entirely new set of values. Which were, I value of the idea of being a really fit father, that can rough house with my kids, and have a good, long healthy life, and be that type of a role model for my children, and all that type of thing.

For him, this was more important than anything else in his life. It was more important than sitting on the couch. It was more important than overeating on treat food. Here’s a direct quote from Chuck, “I didn’t have to struggle with my motivation. It came built in.”

He said, it was a fait accompli. It was a tremendous sentence of relief, that he knew that his weight problem … He still weighed over 400 pounds, but he knew that his weight problems were over, because he was going to lose it, and that was all there was to it.

He lost over 200 pounds, and he’s kept it off more than a decade, because of that core identity and value shift.

John Jantsch: So, we’ve been talking primarily about somebody trying to change a bad habit. Smoking, losing weight, or eating healthy. How does this apply to that person that wakes up one day, and goes, “This is what I’m going to do with my life,” or, “This is how I’m going to innovate this product.”

It applies equally, doesn’t it?

James Fell: Oh, absolutely. So, there’s the breaking point concept, of maybe rock bottom, or just crystallization of discontent. Then, there’s also the good-to-great scenario, which I’m stealing that line, as the title of a book by James Collins.

Which is a great book about how corporations can have tremendous success, and I reference the book a number of times in mine. It’s all about the vision quest. Where, suddenly you have this new passion in life that’s been unlocked, which is like me with writing. That, I felt that I had to become a writer, and I worked harder at that than anything I ever have.

I got to tell you, making it as a writer isn’t easy. You got to work hard. There’s examples of that in the book. Of one woman, she had an epiphany while she was walking across the parking thought. That she was going to go back to school and get her PhD in pharmacology.

Another example is of a woman that decided to move away from home, to launch a new career, because she just realized that her family environment wasn’t good for her anymore. So, these types of quests, where it’s about finding purpose in life.

So, I know that a lot of books have been written about happiness, how to be a happier person. Well, happiness is mostly a state of mind, and I think, some people, it may always elude them, and other people are just naturally happy, no matter what happens.

This is about flourishing. Where, you look at what your capacities and your talents and your abilities and your education and your wisdom all makes who you are. You look at that, and you realize, “What could I do with this? If I was suddenly inspired to strive for it, what could I use with my internally abilities and my situation? How could I make myself a better person, and improve? Do things that are good for me, and good for other people, and maybe even go on to change the world?”

That is the type of thing that will drive you endlessly. It will keep you awake at night, when you should sleep. I’m a big fan of these ambitious quests. I refer to it as, you know what, impossible dreams, you need to let those go. Implausible dreams can be incredibly motivating, because the potential upside has so much value for us, that we feel, the realization of this quest would be so amazing, that I gotta do it. I gotta chase it, I gotta give it a try.

John Jantsch: I mean, that’s the closest thing there is to a process for this, because I can see listeners going, “Okay, this is great, but how do I find my moment?”

What you just described is sort of the process, isn’t it?

James Fell: Yeah, that’s an incredibly 50,000 foot executive summary view. I wrote an entire book, and it’s not a short book. It’s a long the longer, that is filled, beginning or end, with action items. To use an MBA term.

There are tasks I give the reader all the way through, of things that you can do to have your holy S moment, your life changing epiphany. It’s really hard to boil down into a couple of minutes, but a lot of it can involve … First, believing that it can happen.

These types of experiences are very common. We’re seeing the approximately one-third of people have them without even trying. If you start to put effort into it, by believing that it’s something that can happen for you. Most of us sort of go through life on cruise control, without spending too much time thinking, “Well, what do I want to do with the rest of my life? What is it that would really bring me joy and allow me to flourish as a human being?”

Spending time, analyzing what your capacities and talents are, what that might entail as the new version of you, 2.0, and what you can do that would be good for you and good for other people, and really give you an overwhelming vision of success for the future, and spending time analyzing that.

Then, here’s the real key point. The solution to the problem, of what do I do with the rest of my life, doesn’t come while you’re actively trying to solve the problem. During that analytical phase is when you’re filing away bits of information into your unconscious brain. Then, when the answer comes is when you’re not actively trying to solve it. When you’re in a distracted state.

Which is why I’m a big fan. I tell readers, “Go for a walk, leave your phone at home.”

Take a shower, and don’t … Even if you have a waterproof phone, don’t take it in there with you. Meditate, pray. Prayer is a common one, because it’s another form of medication.

Just get used to lying on the couch without distraction, and letting your mind go anywhere. No offense to the work that you do, but if you’re going for a walk, don’t listen to a podcast, because you need to get comfortable with being alone with your own thoughts. That’s when these sudden insights arrive, when you least expect it.

But, there is the pre-work that you can do, to put the information into your brain. That, during this distracted state, allows those little bits of information to meander and collide, and gel in a profound way, that suddenly delivers unto you the answer. Which, can be incredibly motivating, because you’re suddenly very excited, and there’s a positive neurochemical rush, that says, “Oh, yeah. This is it. This is what I got to do.”

John Jantsch: You know, we’ve been talking, of course, about people that … You mentioned the person that had a lot of weight to lose, and smokers, and that person who’s destitute, back against the wall. They have that decision time.

Sometimes I think there’s a far greater amount of people that are stuck in, “Everything’s okay,” or in mediocrity land, who don’t realize that they maybe are suffering as much as they are.

James Fell: That’s absolutely right. There’s some research in the book about that. When life is good, we become risk averse. The person who reaches a breaking point has nothing to lose. Where as, where life is good, we see people who are suffering. We’re like, “I don’t want it to be like that,” and that can demotivate us to go on an ambitious quest.

But, you have to realize … There’s a great quote, that I put in the book, by radio personality, Earl Nightingale. Earl Nightingale was one of the few men who survived the sinking of the USS Arizona in the battle of Pearl Harbor. So, this guy knew about struggle.

This quote is, “Most of us tiptoe through life, trying to make it safely to death.”

When I read that, I was like, “I don’t want to be like that.”

Other people may read it, and say, “Yeah, what’s wrong with that. That’s fine,” and that’s okay. If that’s the way you think. If you want to tiptoe through life and make it safely to death, that’s okay. I won’t judge you for that.

But, if you read that, and say, “No, that’s not for me. I want to make it unsafely to death. I want life to be more of a thrill ride, where I feel like I realized my true potential.”

William James is considered the father of American psychology, and in the 19th century, he wrote about how most people only utilize a fraction of their potential, and that if you start thinking about what could I do if I was truly inspired. If motivation was not a scarce resource. If I had all the motivation I needed to do something, what would that something be?

Start asking yourself that question. What’s the harm in investigating the question? You never know what answer might pop up.

There’s another quote, TS Eliot wrote, “We do not know what egg it is we’ve been sitting on until the shell cracks. You need to be ready to embrace the audacious.”

You never know. You may end up becoming so inspired, that when this answer comes to you, the world better watch out, because you can be capable of more than you imagine.”

Other people may not see it. Maybe, right now, you don’t even see it. But, when something wakes up. When people wake up with these visions and missions, the world gets changed.

John Jantsch: There’s a Dylan Thomas poem. It’s one of my favorites. “Do not go quietly into that great good night,” that really talks about that idea of raising a ruckus while you’re here, because we’re all going to die.

James Fell: Oh, yeah.

John Jantsch: So, you only get one chance at this. So, James, where can people find out more about your work, your writing, and of course, pick up The Holy Sh!t Moment?

James Fell: So, my website is BodyForWife.com. Yes, that was the lovely woman I was talking about earlier. BodyForWife.com.

If they click the book tabs, there’s links to every possible purchasing platform, including audio. If people didn’t mind listening to my voice, I’m the one who did the narration for the audio version, and I’m also very active on Facebook.

I’ve got a big interactive following at Facebook.com/BodyForWife, and less active on Twitter. Which is @BodyForWife.

John Jantsch: We, of course, put these in the show notes. So, people will be able to click on them if they head on over to Duct Tape Marketing.

So, James, thanks for joining us. Really enjoyed the chat. Going to dig into the book myself, and hopefully we can run into you someday out there on the road.

James Fell: Thanks so much, John. It’s been a pleasure.

Transcript of Creating a Community for Entrepreneurs

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Asana logoJohn Jantsch: This episode with the Duct Tape Marketing podcast is brought to you by Asana, a work management software tool that we use to run pretty much everything in our business, all of our meetings, all of our product launches, all of our tasks. And I’m going to show you how you can try it for free a little later.

Hello, and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast. This is John Jantsch, and my guest today is Abdo Riani. He is a consultant and coach, founder of a number of businesses we’re going to talk about today including the community called Startup Circle, where startup founders get together and talk about all the trials and tribulations of starting a business. So Abdo, thanks for joining me.

Abdo Riani: John, thank you very, very much for having me. I’m very, very excited for this episode.

John Jantsch: Well, thanks. So tell me, you gave me kind of your background in bio, and I think it’s an interesting story. Give, if you don’t mind, I don’t know if you’ve got this down to like the five minute version or something, but give us a little insight into your entrepreneurial journey prior to Startup Circle.

Abdo Riani: Absolutely. So John, I started business because I was blown away by how a few lines of code can make such a big impact in people’s lives. It was back in, I don’t actually remember the exact year, but I was a sophomore in college, maybe eight years ago. Actually I’m still in college right now, just a month or two away from completing my PhD, but back then, John, I wanted to make an impact the way business owners make impacts. I have always respected entrepreneurs because they create value from scratch. They give birth to new things that can contribute to many people’s lives, many stakeholders.

I had always been passionate about the environment, and I wanted to create something that can boost awareness for the environment and can boost recycling rates, so I created Recycler Spotter, a platform that rewards users for their eco friendly actions. And back then you know I needed funding to create the platform, at least I thought I needed funding to create the platform. This platform that can gather users that can connect them to the nearest recycling facility that can help them scan their barcodes and get points for recycling, that can help them use those points to get rewards from local businesses. But I just wasn’t able to get the funding I needed to create this technology, this application. A lot of investors were interested, but many required some tracks, some results, some revenue before they could invest. But for me at that time, and the way I was thinking about it is how am I going to be able to create traction, how am I going to be able to generate revenue if I don’t have this product.

But then I started thinking about it differently. I started doing things that don’t scale. Instead of creating the product, I became the product. I went to market under the condition of the unavailability of the product, so was the one connecting people to the nearest recycling facility, literally using my cell phone, I was doing it. I was the one keeping track of people’s points. I used excel sheets for that. I was the one that helped them get rewards from local businesses through email. I was the one doing all of that. I was the one in the middle connecting three stakeholders, and that helped me, not only go to market quickly, and under, limited to no budget, but also it helped me actually raise funds for creating the scalable version of the application. Many of those are recycling facilities noticed that a lot more people were coming in, and they said, well, can you give us a little more exposure, and we don’t mind paying for, or prepaying for our listing on your website when it’s ready. And when two people said that, I said, well, I can do the same thing with a lot more companies then.

Why don’t I try and ask. I generated, or I raised, I guess, I’m going to call it raised, $20,000 that helped me create the scalable version of the application and that allowed me to serve thousands of people instead of being the one serving 500 people manually.

Now two years and a half later, I realized that I was a lot more passionate about starting businesses than running business, so I started a [inaudible], startup development studio that helps nontechnical groups have entrepreneurs, all in the same idea I followed when I started my first venture, which that is taking ideas to market by doing things that don’t scale. And that helped me, or allowed me to get involved in the launch of about 50 startups over the course of four years, and it wasn’t until the beginning of 2018 when I said, you know what? I want to offer different other products. So I want to offer coaching services. I want to offer digital products. So why don’t I try and do that? And one of the challenges that I was faced was that I didn’t have an audience. I didn’t have an audience that trusted me. I mean I could buy an audience through apps, but I needed people that trust me because I am the asset. They’re going to be investing in me, and I have to prove that I can help them take their ideas to market or grow their businesses.

So one of my hypotheses last year was what if I can leverage people or experts instead of fighting for the attention of their audience? What if I can highlight experts’ expertise, and as a result of that get their promotion, get their testimonials, and get their recommendations to the audience? And that’s when I created the Bootstrapping summit where I highlighted, where I documented the journey of 100 Bootstrap entrepreneurs, and that helped me get exposure to about 5,000 people, that is 5,000 subscribers, and was actually a lot more than 5,000. And thanks to that I was able to sell my coaching services.

Now, a couple months later came Startup Circle. So looking back at my journey of launching startups, I realize that the reason why I was sometimes successful at launching startups, because, not because of resources, it was because of a small change in mindset or a small change in plan. And it was few conversations with customers, especially with mentors, and partners that I thought, those are just small discussions that made such a big difference. What if I can give other entrepreneurs, other passionate entrepreneurs an opportunity to chat with successful founders? Even if it’s a 15 minute chat. Even if it’s a 30 minute chat once in a while. And that allows them to get personalized answers that can help them move their businesses forward.

So I created Startup Circle, which is exactly that, a daily live Q&A session with successful entrepreneurs where, and we keep the sessions small so that those who join, attendees or the entrepreneurs that join can not only ask questions, but follow up questions and get personalized advice and connect with the speakers and get to remember. And Startup Circle has so far allowed me to connect many passioned entrepreneurs with many successful founders through, so far, about 150 live Q&A sessions. We host them on a daily basis, and the goal is really to get to a point, perhaps, in the future where we can democratize guidance, where every entrepreneur can connect with their idols, or at least those who are a few steps ahead of them so they can tell them what to do, what to avoid, and what to focus on to move their businesses forward. So this is a snapshot. I’m not sure it was five minutes, but hopefully I shared the journey.

John Jantsch: That was perfect. So you’ve actually, in some ways, I don’t want to gloss over this because I think it’s an important aspect of this, in some ways you have also learned along the way how to kind of start and leverage joint partnerships to build a business, build authority, build connection, build sales. You’re doing, you actually mentioned the Bootstrap event, so you’re actually using that as a kind of a marketing channel, aren’t you?

Abdo Riani: Exactly. That had, that made a huge difference, John, last year. I mean, I had invested a lot in content, marketing. I had invested a lot in social media marketing. I had written guides that were 15,000 words long, and applied many strategies that helped me distribute those guides and help me create some virality, but it wasn’t until I created the Bootstrap, and so that simple idea that if you highlight people’s expertise and can give them exposure, and can build the relationship with them, why would they mind sharing and distributing your message to their audience? So I, the Bootstrapping summit allowed me to accomplish my goals very quickly, in fact launching online events or launching joint partnerships is what I consider now every entrepreneur’s opportunity for two, three months overnight success because it can help you accomplish so many things, whether it’s relationship building, whether it’s exposure, whether it’s branding, about branding, in fact, thanks to that I was able recently to become a Forbes contributor. I have been trying to become a Forbes contributor for a while, and thanks to that, thanks to that proves that I am the Bootstrapping guy online, or one of the Bootstrapping people to write about one of the Bootstrap entrepreneurs to write about Bootstrapping online. It has helped me get that branding and the attention of the editors.

So I wanted to apply this same idea, John, and exchange this through email in different ways. One of the other ways I’m doing it is, I mentioned chambers. So I went to local chambers, and I told them one of your goals, I know that one of your goals, and I’m looking at your calendar, I know that one of your goals is to educate local entrepreneurs, is to provide them with human capital resources that learn from experts and get advice to help them grow or start their businesses locally. And I told them that I know you have a budget for that, and perhaps it’s not feasible to get many experts to come in and give a presentation for a couple thousand dollars every other week. So one of the things I proposed I could do is bring those experts, although not in person, bring them online where we can have them talk about something and share some insights and answer questions live. And a lot of chambers were very open to the idea, and currently actually am in the planning stages of launching the first ones with here, one of the local ones in South Texas. So that is another application of what I call the accelerate method, or a way to accelerate your growth no matter how you define growth actually.

For me, the distribution that’s exactly what I asked for, when they ask me how else, how can we compensate you? And my answer is distribution. All I need is for you to distribute this event or this initiative so that people can come and learn about me and learn about Startup Circle, and also learn about the speaker and the topic. So it becomes a win win, and it’s also doing the same thing with other companies, companies that offer complimentary services and that need or want to educate their members so that their members can use those companies’ software and build successful business. So whatever they want to, that those companies offer the software for, so yeah, John, took some time to answer your question, but [inaudible] online is important.

John Jantsch: I like the chamber idea because I think it’s a very old school business that you are bringing some new ideas to, and a lot of online marketers have been doing summits and webinars and using this technology for years, but there’s still a lot of local business, and I would put the chamber in that, that haven’t come around to that, so I think it’s a great sort of proven application to bring to those businesses.

Hey, as I said in the intro, this is brought to you by Asana. It’s a work management software tool that we’ve been using of a long time. Our entire team, it just allows us to be so much more productive to unify our communication, to keep track of tasks, to assign and delegate, pretty much run everything from meetings all the way up through our client work, and you can get it and try it free for 30 days because you are a listener. So get started at asana.com/ducttape. That’s asana, A-S-A-N-A, .com/ducttape.

John Jantsch: Tell me a little bit about, I mean putting together one of these summits, just kind of go into if somebody’s thinking, okay, this sounds interesting. I like this idea. What goes into putting one of these on?

Abdo Riani: Oh, a lot. In fact, you know when I launched the Bootstrapping summit back in May, I had actually never interviewed anybody in my life, John, back then. Right now I run one to three sessions a day, but back in April, I think, i had been thinking about launching something like this for a while, but I hadn’t done it, and I just woke up, and I said, you know what? I think this is the right time. I have the time, and I have the energy, and I have been thinking about it for a while, so let’s do it. And what goes on is obviously interviewing a lot, so you have to first be prepared that you are going to interview people and that you are going to prepare for those interviews, and that you are going to try to get as much information from those speakers or guests as much as possible.

What is more, I don’t want to say more important, but as important as the interviews is promotion. So the idea is that you are going to get most of your attendees, most of the people that are going to sign up for the summit, are through the speakers, through the guests. The guests are encouraged, I guess, to share with their audience, preferably through email, one or two dedicated emails, and if you can, if you want to go an extra step, then you find partners, partner companies or promotional partner companies. For my last summit, for example, I had 14 promotional partner companies, and those are companies that are I cold emailed that reached out to and told them about the summit and what it’s created for, and if they would be inclined to partner with me on this by sending two dedicated emails to their audience in exchange I would do the same thing for them.

So to summarize, two things that you definitely need to have is number one, you definitely need to have speakers about a topic, and the more specific you are in choosing the topic, the better, because people will be coming and expecting some outcomes from joining the summit. And the second thing is the promotion, just as important, mostly those who are going to be your guests are those who are going to promote you. Just need to make sure that they are aware of that, and they are willing to promote, in fact one of the mistakes I made last time was that I had 100 sessions. I then realized that I didn’t need 100 sessions. 100 sessions, or 100 interviews is a lot. I could have focused on perhaps 40, and tried to be more specific with the topic instead of saying, for example, Bootstrapping, in general. Perhaps Bootstrapping [inaudible] startups or Bootstrapping [inaudible] startups or Bootstrapping AI startups. That was number one.

And the second thing was that quantity of sessions didn’t matter. What mattered was how many people promoted, and about 20% only of those people promoted. So if I had perhaps 40 people, and only 20 promoted, I would have had the same result as 100 people, and only 20 promoted. Even in terms of content, it didn’t make that big of a difference because I realized later that a lot of people who joined and attended every single session got to a point where they got tired, sometimes confused, some … It’s normal that entrepreneurs get to different places through different routes, so when you hear 10 different entrepreneurs talking about how they bootstrapped their startups or small business, and you hear 10 different ideas, you sometimes get overwhelmed and confused, so focus is important. And then you just go to market, then launch.

John Jantsch: So tell us a little bit in closing about Startup Circle. Can … how can people … what can people expect when they come there, and what’s kind of the best way for somebody to participate?

Abdo Riani: Absolutely. So StartupCircle.co. You need to register. We keep the sessions small, and the way we, the way we do it, in other words, the way we assign people to sessions is through a couple questions. So we ask you who, first of all who you want to attend, which sessions you want to attend. You find a list of upcoming sessions, and by date and time. It’s easy to find the page and select the speakers that you want to attend. You reply to our welcome email or the first email that you will receive with a list of people that you want to attend, and a quick description about yourself, and finally one of your most active social media accounts. The reason we ask if we want to make sure that those who join really need to be there. Those are free sessions, but we want to make sure that if you join, you need answers from the speaker or this topic. And once you’re in, then the way the sessions are organized, for about 20 minutes, we I interview the guest, focusing on one topic. And then you open the conversation. You can ask your questions through chat. You can unmute the microphone. You can turn on the video. You can do whatever you want for about 20, 30 minutes. And then you connect into the next session, the next session, the next session. We host many sessions.

John Jantsch: Well, Abdo, thanks for joining us and telling us about your entrepreneurial journey. And love hearing about Startup Circle. We’ll have the URL in the show notes. So, Abdo, thanks. And hopefully we’ll run into you out there on the road.

Abdo Riani: John, thank you very much for having me. This has been great.