Return On Influence: The Revolutionary Power of Klout, Social Scoring, and Influence Marketing – with Mark Schaefer

How do you use influence marketing to increase sales?

Mark Schaefer is the author of Return on Influence: The Revolutionary Power of Klout, Social Scoring, and Influence Marketing. He’s also the founder of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, which creates marketing strategies, leading-edge social media services and scintillating content for you, at a fraction of the cost of traditional agencies.

In this program you’ll see how to get influence online. You’ll also hear how to attract more customers by showing that you already have a lot of customers.

Watch the FULL program

Mark Schaefer, Return on Influence

Mark Schaefer is the author of Return on Influence: The Revolutionary Power of Klout, Social Scoring, and Influence Marketing.

He’s also the founder of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, which creates marketing strategies, leading-edge social media services and scintillating content for you, at a fraction of the cost of traditional agencies.

Raw transcript

Mixergy's audio transcription is done by Speechpad

Andrew: In this interview, you’re going to hear the three key things that

you need to do to get a return on your influence. You’re going to find out

about that one sentence that you need to know how to complete for your

business. It’s starts with, ‘Only we,’ and you’ll hear how to complete that

sentence based on feedback from your customers and you’ll hear about an

interesting story of a man who owns an above, excuse me, not above ground,

below ground pool installation company, watch what happens to him when he

does social media right. All that and so much more, coming up, in this

interview.

Three messages before I fire you up with another great interview.

The first one is this. You ever have a user who comes to your website maybe

five, six times and never buys. What if you can get that user incentivized

enough to buy. That’s where Spring Metrics new called Smart Coupons comes

in. It detects that users have been coming to your website without buying

and pops up an ad like this. A coupon, that incentivizes them to buy. What

all about that traffic that you’re getting from an organic search? How

about converted into paid buyers. Spring Metrics Smart Coupon will bounce

up at just the right time to just the right person and give them that nudge

to make them close the sale.

It’s all, as I’ve said, from Spring Metrics, a company that I’ve been using

for a long time. I know one of the founders very well. Spring Metrics is

what I use, to help me increase my sales here, at Mixergy. If you go to

springmetrics.com/mixergy, they’re going to give you a free 30 day trial

and they’ll know that you came through me and that they won’t disappoint me

or my customers. So, they’ll treat you extra well.

Second message is from Scott Edward Walker. I’ve been telling you forever

that he’s the entrepreneur’s lawyer and the reason he’s the entrepreneur’s

lawyer is because he’s in the community. He’s not the websites that you’re

visiting. He’s probably the person that those websites turn to for advice

on the law when they want a lawyer to tell their audience about the law as

it applies to startup’s. He’s on CORA, he’s everywhere, and, most of all,

he is on walkercorporatelaw.com. I’ve known way before he ever bought his

first ad on Mixergy and I’ve been a friend with him for years and years and

I recommend going to Walker Corporate Law.

Finally, Shopify.com, you probably, if you’re listening to this, my guess

is, you can probably blindfoldedly, blindfoldedly, yeah, sure.

Blindfoldedly, you can create an online store for anyone of your friends or

anyone of your customers. So, why send them to Shopify? Well, for a few

reasons. First, Shopify stores will be beautiful. They will be easy for

anyone who you send to, to create a store. They increase sales and to me,

as someone who sells online, that matters more than any of it, beautiful

stores, and great. A store that increases sales is ideal and that’s why I

recommend to you and to anyone who ask you for advice to go to Shopify.com.

All right. I’ve yapped enough. Let’s start giving you one of my great

programs here on Mixergy. Let’s get started.

Hey everyone. My name is Andrew Warner; I’m the founder of Mixergy.com,

home of the ambitious upstart. In this interview, I want to answer the

question, “How do you use influence marketing to increases sales?” Mark

Schaefer is the author of “Return on Influence: The Revolutionary Power of

Klout, Social Scoring, and Influence Marketing.” He is also a fellow

founder. The founder of Schaefer Marketing Solutions, which created

marketing strategies, leading edge social media services, and scintillating

content for you at a fraction of the cost of traditional agencies. Mark,

welcome.

Mark: It’s nice to be here. Thanks for having me, Andrew.

Andrew: Do you have an example of the problem that this book, “Return on

Influence”, addresses and solves?

Mark: There are a lot of different issues and problems here. I think that’s

one of the things that have really ignited people about this book. It’s not

a business book that has one idea and lots of examples built around it.

There’s a lot of research that went into this book because it’s all brand

new. As you know, the concepts in this book could only, really have

happened in the last two to three years. I think it, kind of, a catch up

for a lot of entrepreneurs and a lot of startup’s to understand what is

this, what’s going on, and why it is important.

One of the things that I help people take out of this book, Andrew, is that

there is a lot of emotion around this. There’s a lot of emotion around

Klout and this idea of scored, rated, and ranked. I think the opportunity,

here, is to cut through the emotion and look at the cold, steely eyed,

business opportunity that we can start to use. As I said, this could’ve

only happened now, to cut through the emotion and look at the business

aspect of this and say, “How can we use this? How can we use this for our

businesses?

Andrew: So, how can we use this? Here’s what I’ve been seeing. I don’t

think anyone in my audience worries about being scored. I think, if that’s

the reality of the day, fine, we deal with it. The question then is, what

happens from this? All we’ve been seeing is that either people end up

getting time sucked where they spend a lot of time on Twitter and Facebook

and nothing happens. Or they maybe end up getting a great cloud score, and

we should explain what cloud is in a moment, and as a result of having this

cloud score.

I’ll explain it now. Cloud basically takes a look at, evaluates your

influence on different social networks based on different topics and gives

you a number. And so some of us see that and say, alright so if you have a

good number maybe the company that wants to recruit you or wants you to be

an influence of theirs will give you a prize. Yay! I’m an entrepreneur. I

don’t need a little prize just for getting a higher score. Give me

something that will help my business.

Mark: Right. Well you know, first of all I mean, you make great points. It

all starts with strategy. If you’re spending a lot of time on social media

and you’re not getting anything out of it, don’t do it. Either that’s an

ineffective strategy or maybe the execution is ineffective. But one way or

the other you need to evaluate what’s going on. Now here’s I think the cook

thing I think about cloud and cred, pure index, or some of the other

companies in this space. They all basically do the same thing. And look,

they’re not measuring te influence you have with your customers. They’re

not looking at the influence you have with your employees. They’re looking

at one thing. Can you create content that moves through the web in a way

that creates a reaction? That’s it. All right, now. Now it may seem simple

but it’s also incredibly important because for many businesses and for many

individuals, if you’re in sales, if you’re in marketing, even if you’re in

HR today the ability to create content that gets recognized on the web is

vital. And so…

Andrew: Why? What happens to me if I create content that goes out on the

web? I mean, i understand. What could happen? Give me an example of someone

who I could relate to, who I can think, alright if they got there that’s

where I think i’d like to be too and I’m now ready to listen to see how

Mark and Andrew can get me there. Like if someone in the audience is a

little skeptical give them an example of what we could aspire to do.

Mark: Yeah. Well I think, I mean there are lots of good examples, including

me.

Andrew: Okay.

Mark: I mean, I’ve built kind of a world wide consultancy and I can point

to almost everything in my career, including my teaching position at

Rutgers, that somehow came back to this idea of being effective on a

personal way of moving content and getting a reaction. You look at even

another example, someone that we all know like Robert Scoble or Brian

Solis. Where would they be today? They’d be unknown. They’ve built

incredibly powerful personal brands on this ability to create content that

gets ignited on the web some way.

Another example, let’s say an entrepreneurial example. One of my favorites

is there’s this fellow who had an in-ground pool business in the

Washington, DC area. Now, can you imagine what happened in that business in

2008? Faced bankruptcy. Couldn’t meet payroll, was months behind. So,

almost as an act of desperation he looked at this idea of creating content.

And what he did is he tried to figure out, what is any question that

anybody could ask about in-ground pools, pool installation, maintenance of

pools, and he answered it through blogs, through video. And this content

just went crazy. And now if you Google almost any of those questions it

leads you back to him. And 2008 his sales were 4 million dollars.

Advertising, $250,000. This year it’s like $5.5 million on advertising,

cost of $15,000. He’s doing it almost all through the creation of content

and moving it through the web.

Andrew: Ahh, all right. That’s the kind of person that I think we want to

aspire to be or duplicate his success with social media. So.

Mark: Well, again, it all gets back to your strategy. I mean, you have to

look at, where are your customers? How are they getting their information?

And if you, and by the way, if you think you know, this is a good time to

double check. Because there has been a cataclysmic shift in how people get

information today, what their preferred methods of communicating are. You

know, you look at, if you’re advertising on newspapers, if that’s the way

you’re getting the word out about your business. In adjusted, for inflation

in adjusted terms, advertising revenue is down to like 1950s levels. It’s

drying up. We’ve got to find new ways to connect to people. We’ve got to

find ways. And I mean, just having a Facebook page or having a webpage

isn’t going to do it. You’ve got to be helpful, you’ve got to solve

problems.

People are sick of being advertised to, they’re sick of being marketed to.

But if you create content that is helpful, that is interesting, that is

compelling, that solves problems. Maybe it’s even entertaining. And create

a network strategy that will help ignite that, that is what people, that’s

how people create an emotional connection to you and your company.

Andrew: Okay, all right. I want to give people a set of tactics so at the

end of this interview they can go and do something based on this excitement

and this understanding that we’re going to hopefully give them. And so

what’s the first tactic that we can take, that we need to understand in

order to capitalize on social media. It’s an odd thing to say to get a

return on influence, to capitalize on social media but I want it. I want to

capitalize, I want a return.

Mark: Well actually it’s quite ironic really. Because you know, yes there

is a segment of people that might try to gain this thing by spending all

their time. But I don’t think long term that’s going to work. I don’t

think, it’s not sustainable. And the advice that I give in my book, the

irony is, is the way to really increase your effectiveness, increase your

influence, is the same advice I’d give anybody or any company trying to

have a more effective web presence. Number one. Now, first let me take a

step back. Behind every social media success there’s two fundamental

strategies. You’ve got to have a content strategy and a network strategy.

The content doesn’t matter if it doesn’t move. You’ve got to ignite it. And

what most people think is, oh my gosh, I’ve written a blog, I’ve done my

job, I’m not getting anywhere with this thing. I’m wasting all my time on

Twitter. Because they’ve forgotten the network strategy.

So the first thing is to start to build a relevant, meaningful audience

that has some propensity to be interested in you, alright? So if you’ve got

a bakery in Philadelphia it’s not going to do you any good to build an

audience in Singapore. You’ve got to find the people in your area code, in

your zip code, that are interested in what you do. And the book talks about

ways to do that.

And then you’ve got to have a content strategy. And it doesn’t have to be a

PhD thesis. It doesn’t have to be a white paper. There are lots of

different types of content that people love, including deals and coupons.

There are lots of different forms that content can take.

And then finally you’ve got to engage. All right? Social media is social.

If you just broadcast and you don’t connect with people, you’re missing the

opportunities. So you’ve got to be authentically helpful. You’ve got to

connect in a human way. Now if you, those three things, that’s the advice I

would give to you or to anybody to increase their effectiveness on the

social web. And it’s also a way, if you do those three things, that’s the

most powerful way to also increase your cloud score.

Andrew: Okay. So, network, content and engagement. Why don’t we start with

network. It seems like that’s what you’re suggesting that we start with

before we even create content. Build this network of people who are going

to listen to us. What are some ways to do that?

Mark: Well, there are so many different ways to do that. I should mention

that in addition to return on influence I’ve got another book that I wrote

last year that could be helpful to your listeners today. It’s called the

Tao of Twitter. T-A-O. Tao of Twitter or Dao of Twitter. Doa’s the correct

chinese pronunciation. But there’s a whole chapter in that book about how

to build your network. But one example is, just let’s say, LinkedIn, all

right?

Let’s say you’re, well, here’s an example. I’ve got a client who’s a

management consultant in Nashville. And he wants to sell his services to

people that have the title of CFO, Chief Financial Officer. Well, there’s a

LinkedIn group for Chief Financial Officers of Nashville. Do you think he

should be part of that group? Yes. Every person in that group, there’s 800

members. Every person in that group is a potential customer, is a potential

link, alright? So he’s not just letting things happen. He’s mindfully,

systematically and consistently building that audience. So there’s

different ways to do it for different businesses.

Another site that I like is Twello. It’s like the Yellow pages of Twitter.

You can go on to Twello. And you can find people by company, by job title,

by interest, by hobby, by geographic location. So if you’re looking for

people who love dog grooming in Washington D.C. you can find those people

on [??] and start to build that audience.

Andrew: OK. I’m trying to think of what the next thing would, the next

issue that someone in the audience who does this would have. And that is

that I think at this point they sign up for a link [??], they go to [??]

who is in their network. But to get these people to engage with them. To

get these people to actually follow them takes a long time. And it’s an

uncertain process. What do we do and how long should we expect that to

happen?

Mark: Well, I think number one, the real catalyst is this content that you

provide. And what I, that’s what makes things happen on the web. That’s how

you attract a …

Andrew: First I find the network that’s already out there. I don’t even get

them to follow me. I just identify that they’re there. And now I’m going to

start creating content as a way of baiting them to pay attention to me if

I’m understanding you correctly.

Mark: Well yeah. It kind of goes hand in club. And you know, I’m not wild

about the baiting because that’s seems kind of unauthentic somehow. But I

mean, I think the content, you know, this is a big deal these days because

we are living in a very information dense world. And so you’ve got to

really pay attention. So what I emphasize as content is R-I-T-E. Relevant,

interesting, timely, and entertaining. And the difficult one for a lot of

people in businesses is entertaining. But if you think about, Andrew, the

type of content you like to share. That you ignite yourself is probably

really interesting. It’s very timely. It’s relevant to you and your

audience. And maybe it’s even compelling or funny.

So, I think that’s where we really need to look at our efforts. I mean, on

my blog every Friday I’ve got a social media cartoon. Why? Because that’s

different. And it’s some topical cartoon. I’m thinking by Friday,

everybody’s tired. They don’t want anything heavy anyway, at least I don’t.

So I pay these cartoonists. And that’s my way of trying to instill some

sort of entertainment value in a very simple way. And a very low cost way

to my content efforts.

Andrew: My concern with is that I know that it took me just to do

interviews well, it took me a few years. A few years of struggling with my

voice. A few years of struggling with the research. I’m going to guess a

few years of knowing how to regain my balance when I felt like I flubbed.

And to make it interesting is even tougher. To make it entertaining for an

hour is tougher. It’s a whole job I mean, for me and now a handful of

people who help me out here. I’m imagining someone who has a business.

Whether it’s creating software, or maybe consulting services, they have to

focus on doing that job really well, you know? Creating software is not an

easy thing to do. It takes a full time job to do it well. And now we’re

telling in addition to it, figure out how to do content in an interesting

way. Make sure that it’s timely. Make sure it’s relevant to your audience

which means a little bit of market research. That’s a lot of work for me to

ask my audience to do.

Mark: Well, I mean, I guess it’s a matter of perspective. And I guess

you’re hitting on one hot topic for me that I see so often with startups

and entrepreneurs. Is that they don’t account for marketing. They don’t

have a marketing plan, they don’t have a budget for marketing. They have a

great idea and it’s like you say, they’re passionate about their software

and they’re spending all their time on the software. But if you don’t have

customers, you don’t have a business.

And, for example, it’s great frustration I have. I live in an area of the

country that is a great hot bed for entrepreneural start ups. I live in

Knoxville, TN. We have a large university and a national laboratory. And

more PhDs per capita than any city in the country. So we’ve got a lot of

entrepreneural activity going on. Especially around alternative energy. So

I have a opportunity to meet with a lot of folks. Down at South at

Southwest, same thing.

You talk to these startups and these entrepreneurs and I asked one guy,

“How are you going to scale this?” and he said, “Oh, it’s very simple. I’ll

just add more servers.” I said “No, no, no. I mean how are you going to get

more people to buy into this? What is your marketing plan?” He said, “Oh,

this is such a cool idea. People will just use it. People will just do it.”

That is very unlikely to happen. I mean, you’ve got to find some way to

connect. So, the first point is, look, you know what? Marketing does take

time. Marketing does take effort. Either you’ve got to do it or you’ve got

to find the resources to do it.

So, it might be something new, it might be something out of your comfort

zone, but if you don’t have a marketing plan, if you don’t have the budget

and resources allocated to marketing, you’re probably not going to go any

place. So, that’s number one. Number two, let’s assume that you’re an

enlightened entrepreneur, and you are thinking about marketing. This stuff

does take time, but this is where the people are. Today, if you say, well,

I’ve got a website, my job is done, I think that’s very short-sighted. The

views of traditional websites across the board, it varies by business and

it varies by industry, are down about 25 percent over the last two years.

So you think, ah-ha, people must be spending less time on the Internet,

right? Well, of course not, they’re spending more time on the social web.

That’s where they’re getting their information, that’s where they’re

getting their content, that’s the world we live in. So, you can either

choose, yes, I’m going to be part of it, that’s where my customers are,

that’s where the conversations are taking place, and by the way, that’s

where our competitors are. That’s where the complaints and the

opportunities and the ideas are too. You have to be part of it, you just

don’t have a choice, and you’ve got to find that balance in your marketing

plan to accommodate that.

Andrew: You know what, Mark? I realized, and I wrote a note to myself on

this, my tone is a little negative, and that’s not the way I want to be.

Clearly, people are doing this, and they’re finding time, I shouldn’t be

pushing back and saying, I have no time, my audience has no time. What I

should be saying instead is, hey, the few people who do have time, and who

have figured out how to do this right, what are they doing well and let me

learn. If you’re willing to give me an hour here and do this interview with

me, let me pick your brain and learn from you, then I better stop this

negativity and really just look for what works instead of challenging you

on whether or not this is even possible. And you’re good by the way…

Mark: I think it’s a valid question. I don’t mind that at all. I think

you’re asking exactly the right questions that need to be asked. What I

tell people is, look, you do have the time because you’ve got the same

amount of time as everybody else. We all have 24 hours in the day, so

you’ve got the time. Now, you’ve got to figure out, how do I prioritize

that. Now, I got to tell you something, I’ve had success, I work hard, I’m

an entrepreneur, and I don’t watch a lot of television, I don’t watch a lot

of movies. You kind of have to make a decision, am I going to blog or am I

going to watch television?

I know right now, as part of my business, my blog is a very important part,

it basically is my marketing effort. In the last four years I haven’t spent

one dime on any sort of other type of advertising or marketing. It’s worked

very well for me. It’s worked very well for thousands and thousands of

people because we’ve had this paradigm shift in how people get their

information. If you know how to be [??]…

Andrew: All right, so we talked about the network, we talked a little bit

about content. Let’s spend a little more time on that and then go on to

engagement. For content, what’s the easy win? What’s the way to just get

started and feel like we’re making some progress which hopefully will

encourage us to keep on going and building.

Mark: Yeah. Well, I think the thing about this that I’ve learned and that

everybody seems to learn is that… you mentioned yourself, it took you

maybe a year or more to get comfortable in your skin as an interviewer in

this wonderful content that you’re creating for your audience. It does take

time and there are no short cuts, you’ve got to learn, you’ve got to

experiment, you’ve got to grow. It took me a year to really find my voice,

to really start to connect in a way that began to build an audience. One

break through for me is that I have this traditional marketing mind, that,

OK, I’ve got a target audience, I’ve got a target message, so that’s the

way I started to blog.

First of all, I was totally bored, and second of all, it wasn’t going

anywhere. And then I started to relax and write about things that

interested me, different observations around the social web. That was a

real turning point because instead of me finding my target audience, my

target audience found me. They found my voice, they fell in love with my

content. And that is the power now, and I hope that when people read my

book that’s one of the things that makes them excited, because this is an

amazing time, it’s a magical time. It doesn’t matter who you are, where you

are, how much money you have, or what color your skin is, you’ve got an

opportunity to go for it and create content that creates influence.

I hope people are uplifted by the book, are inspired by the book, to say,

yes, look at these people who are making a difference. Most of the people

that I celebrate in the book don’t have a college education. Most of them,

four or five years ago, would be unknown, and yet they have found their

voice. Another thing that you hint at, Andrew, is that none of this was

easy. One of the people I talk about in the book, Chris Brogan, a very

powerful social media blogger, very influential, famously said it took him

three years to get his first 100 hundred readers. It’s not an overnight

success, it does take patience, it does take commitment but there can be a

tremendous payoff as well.

Andrew: One of the quick wins for me, that I’ve noticed, is that if I take

what everyone’s talking about and I connect it back to what I’m doing, I’m

going to get people paying attention.

Mark: Beautiful, beautiful, absolutely. One of the tricks I use, and again,

I think LinkedIn is really an under-utilized resource in a lot of ways, but

I’ll go into some LinkedIn groups that are relevant, and I’ll see what kind

of questions people are asking and answer them. Boom, blog post, that’s

great content.

Andrew: You make a blog post out of the kind of questions people are asking

on Kora [SP]?

Mark: Kora, or LinkedIn. You find something that’s relevant to your

audience. Someone might ask, well, how do I convince my boss that social

media is important? And if that’s on one person’s mind in one of your

groups then that is probably on a lot of people’s minds.

Andrew: I see.

Mark: Let’s answer that through an interview, or let’s answer the question

on LinkedIn, then cut and paste and create a blog post out of it. It’s an

amazing way to get ideas. And the thing I like about that too, in that

example, is you’re creating content that is highly original because it’s

coming from you. I think this is another thing that needs to snap in

people’s brains, the world doesn’t need anymore blog posts about the five

biggest mistakes on Twitter, or five ways to get started on Pinterest or

something.

What I encourage people to do is create content that only you can create,

that comes from your heart. Not just your mind, also your heart. Even in

the questions that you’re asking me today, I can see your interest, I can

see your passion coming through on some of these questions. You’re asking

me questions that, frankly, no one’s ever asked me before so I think you’re

doing a great job. At the end of the day, that’s what creates value for

your audience because they’re getting you. They’re getting something that

they can’t get anywhere else. You have no competitors because you’re not

afraid to bring yourself to your business and your content creation.

Andrew: I am afraid, I have to be honest with you. But every time I go

personal, even in small ways, I feel “whoa.”

Mark: Oh, I know. Let me ask you something. Do you get rewarded for it?

Andrew: I do, and that’s where I get the most rewards but it’s surprising

how nervous it makes me.

Mark: Look, there has never been one single blog post when I haven’t been

nervous about pushing that publish button. It does take a little bit of

courage but that is where the reward comes from. I’ve experienced the same

thing. When you do push yourself, when you do take a little bit of risk,

that’s creating something that no one’s seen before, and you do get

rewarded for it, but it does take a little bit of courage.

Andrew: Shocking that it would, but I’ll tell you, my mentality a moment

ago was, if I push and start to connect it back to my audience maybe, I

won’t be able to articulate back what my audience. Maybe, it will seem too

self-centered, maybe, Mark has a direction that he’s already going in

that’s going to be way better than mine, why should I try to connect back

to my needs here? Why don’t I just sit back and let it be? All of this

stuff goes through my head and then I say, no, you’ve got to try to be open

about what you’re looking for, and even if you fail openly, at least,

people will understand what you’re trying to do.

Mark: When I work with my clients, I also do a lot of their marketing and

consulting. When I work with my clients, the first discussion that we have,

and I think this is good for any entrepreneur or start up. Is to think

about how do you complete this sentence. Only we… That’s the hardest

question in business. And yet it’s the essential question, because it

defines why are you unique. What are your points of differentiation? What

do your customers love about you? And they do, they love something about

you, because they buy something from you, or they listen to your program,

or your podcast.

They’re going to subscribe to your blog. So there is something about you

that they love. Who are your customers? What are their under served, and

unmet needs? What value do we create that helps them? Which by the way can

be something different than we sell. Serving what they need might actually

be different than what we sell. So let’s not confuse the two. Where are

they getting their information? How do they communicate? So you need to

think of all those things to be able to fill out that sentence. It’s the

hardest thing to do in business, but if you do it well, your business plan,

your marketing plan just unveils itself.

You can just approach it with total confidence and say look. I know why

people buy from me. I know what our core competency is, and I am going to

communicate that religiously. I’m going to defend that core competency in

everything I do, in every thing I communicate, and that’s what your

marketing is about.

Andrew: How do we know what they want?

Mark: You’ve got to go ask them. That’s the second thing I do. I’ll work

with the clients and I’ll say, OK. Finish this sentence, “Only we…”, and

they say, I can’t. So I say well let’s go talk to them. In my experience

going out and talking to customers, literally when I can, either by the

phone or visit them in their work place, or if I can’t do that on a wide

spread scale, I will do some sort of like Survey Monkey, or something like

that. But I find Andrew that this is really where the wisdom comes.

This is where the value comes. I’ll give you a short example of what I

mean. I was working with this telecom company, and they have all of this

high-tech, highly engineered equipment that they’re installing in these

very complex organizations. So they think of themselves as this high-tech

engineering company. When I talk to the customers the customers I said, why

do you buy from them? Why do you love them? They said, because we don’t

have to worry. This is so complicated we can’t hope to understand all the

changes in this business. But they are our voice of authority. So the value

that we get from them is peace of mind.

Now, based on that insight we entirely changed their marketing program.

From let us tell you about all these highly engineered geeky things to we

are you voice of authority. We’ve got it covered, you don’t have to worry

anymore. We were able to fill out, “Only we…” We are the experts, we are

the voice of authority. We’re like a blanket, that’s just going to keep you

covered, and you don’t have to worry about these mission critical systems

anymore. And that’s the way we created their marketing voice, and created

all of their marketing programs, and that wisdom only came from talking to

the customers.

Andrew: I see, so to find the “Only we”, that you then use as the message

that you broadcast out. You ask customers why do you buy from us? Why do

you want to work with us?

Mark: Yes, what makes us special? People just completely under estimate

this I think. When I talk about these marketing examples in my class. I

give examples like the swimming pool, or printer cartridges, or a company

that sells microscopes. These are not sexy things, and yet people do love

them, I mean there’s a bona fide emotional connection between the people in

this company, the products, and the customers. And I try to show, if you

can create this connection, if these companies can create a connection,

emotional connection through a swimming pool or printer cartridge, through

having an engaged audience, and having great content, then you can probably

do it too. The stories are out there. The passion is out there. You just,

how do you find it, how do you ignite it in no matter what you do.

Andrew: All right, so, if I wanted to use this on Mixergy, on my site, what

I would do is maybe, ask my audience using one of those kiss-in sites,

little pop-ups, what makes Mixergy special, or why do you come to this

site? And once I understand maybe why they come here is because they know

that we cover all the topics that they need as entrepreneurs. Maybe the

reason they come here is because they like the tech celebrities that we

have on here. Once we understand that, then we start creating content that

emphasizes that, like, here’s what tech celebrities think about that, if

it’s tech celebrities that they come for. What are you thinking?

Mark: You know what I’d do?

Andrew: What?

Mark: Pick up a phone and call them up, and think about how delighted

they’d be. And say hey, this is Andrew, from Mixergy, I see that you’ve

commented and you’ve connected, you’ve subscribed to our show, and I just

wanted to say thank you, that I really appreciate and I wanted to see how I

can do better. And, why do you subscribe? What are some of the broadcasts

that really impacted you? How did you use the ideas? And, I think you might

be amazed at what you’ll find because when I got comments on my blog, those

are observations. It’s not feedback. There’s a big difference alright.

So, comments on your blog, or comments that you get on your podcast, it’s a

chronological list of observations, but it’s not really feedback on how

you’re doing and why they love you. And when I started picking up the

phone, and talking to people from my blog, I would just call blog readers,

almost out of the blue, sometimes we’d schedule some time. And, I’ll tell

you something. It was one of the most rewarding thing I’ve ever done, to

actually go out and spend time talking to the customers. And they did give

me interesting insights.

You know, maybe I’m thinking, “Gosh, I put these cartoons up every Friday,

you know, nobody comments on them. Do they hate them?” They say, “Oh, no! I

look forward to those things every Friday!” It’s a great conversation

starter, I send these things around work. OK, that’s feedback. And that’s

gold for a business, right? That’s how you hone your plan, that’s how you

hone your competitive edge, so I’d encourage you, I’d encourage any

business to spend some time talking to people.

Andrew: OK. What else can we do? I shouldn’t actually just say OK and move

on. You’re right, I should be doing more of it. I have been doing more, but

not enough.

Last week we did a dinner that I posted up on the website where I invited

people out just to have dinner and talk. And that’s been helpful, before

that I did drinks, which was helpful. All right. What else can we do for

engagement, how else can we engage, let’s say, potential readers, and

potential customers?

Mark: Well, I mean, I think that’s really kind of that third area, and I

think that what a lot of businesses miss, in fact, I would probably say 90

percent, is that they miss they point. Is they view social media as another

advertising channel, so they just put out their press releases, they put

out their job openings, they put out the awards that they won, and they’re

not engaging. And social media is social. People are sick of being

advertised to, but, they will spend time with people who are trying to help

them save time, save money, teach them something, help them find ways to

have more fun in their life.

So, if you can create that kind of value, you’ll have that engagement and

you’ll build that loyalty. You know, some people say, “Oh gosh, that’s

hard. And that takes so much time.” But, it’s also, we’re coming back, full

circle, it’s not really revolutionary, if you think about how people pre-

1910, let’s say, or 1920 when radio started. Pre 1910 or even further back,

how did people buy things and sell things? Generally, you had a

marketplace. You had a store front on a city street or something like that.

Or you went and sold your goods in a market square. You had to connect to

people. You had to find those influencers and you knew who they were. You

knew if you got Mrs. Jones to buy your soap instead of the soap down the

street, she would recommend all her friends and they would start coming in

the store. And here’s something else. If Mrs. Jones wasn’t happy, she’d let

you know about it all right? She’d come in the store and you would know.

Now, people on the social web today and marketing is like they’re shocked.

They’re saying “What do you mean we’ve got to engage?” Well, look, we’ve

lost our way because we’ve got into their era of mass marketing and it

worked really well and it still does. But when we started to mass market

and mass merchandise, we created this digital divide between us and our

customers. And now it’s going away. Our customers are coming back and

saying “Wait a minute, I want to learn from you. I want to engage with you.

I want to know you as a person. And by the way, if I’m not happy, you’re

going to know it.”

So a lot of businesses are afraid, “Oh, you know, why would we open

ourselves up to this? People are just going to come and complain.” Those

are gifts. Why don’t you, don’t you want to know that? And yes, you might

get a few people who are haters. Just like medieval times. You’re going to

have a few people who are, who hate you for whatever reason and there’s

nothing you can do about it. But 95% of the time that people have a

complaint, they just want to be acknowledged. They just want to be heard

and say “Look, you know, I heard you. I care about you. I’m sorry. We’ll

make it right.” That’s all people want to hear really. I don’t think people

should be afraid of engagement. I think they should embrace it. This is a

historic time where we’re gaining the ideals behind the traditional

marketplace where people brought from who they knew and who they trusted.

Not an advertisement they see on television.

Andrew: I do see it as a gift when somebody complains. I know I must seem

weak to the Internet world when someone complains in a comment and I come

back and say “Thanks” because that’s really useful and I engage them

because they want to see me fight but it really is useful. When someone

criticizes the fact that we have bad audio or something, often they’ll give

me help on how to fix it. I’ve had people criticize the way that we do

things with WordPress because I guess I’m one of the weakest people when it

comes to WordPress. And then they come and I’ve had a couple people who

started out criticizing who then will do a Skype conversation with me where

they walk me through with how to fix it. These are people who used to be

complainers at first.

Mark: All right. I’ve seen the same thing. Some of the people who are the

biggest complainers end up being your biggest fans.

Andrew: Yeah.

Mark: There was one guy in North Carolina who was just complaining all the

time about stuff on my blog. And from my perspective I was thinking this

guy is on another planet. I just can not connect with mindset at all. And

yet I was patient and the thing is that the biggest gift that someone can

give you is their time. They’re taking time to create a comment on your

site. And that’s an incredible gift. If you acknowledge that wow, we don’t

see eye to eye on this but I sure appreciate the [??]. I sure appreciate it

that you took the time to do this. Now this guy, he is the biggest promoter

of my books out there. He’s sending out tweets everyday recommending my

books. And I don’t know how he come around to that point in his head but he

did and I’m grateful for it.

I think part of it is that I respect people. I acknowledge that as I build

my audience and build these connections that it’s not just a little avatar.

It’s not just a little picture. There’s a real person there. And that

person is amazing in their own way. Maybe they’re a great father. Maybe,

they’re a great mother or sister. Maybe, they do amazing things in their

community. You never know. But it’s very humbling that these amazing people

are commenting or spending time with me and I never take that for granted.

I think that’s a real key to building that engaged community that turns

into loyal customers.

Andrew: You know, the other thing I’ve learned is that sometimes I have to

say it’s a good idea but we can’t do it because our resources are

constrained or we’re focused elsewhere.

Mark: Right.

Andrew: And at first, that was a really tough thing for me to say.

Sometimes I would even say, we’ll try to get to that soon, not say no, but

that was just disingenuous. It’s much better to say no, and what I found

is, after listening to a few people in past interviews who told me, Andrew,

just say no, you can’t do it all and people will understand, people do

appreciate that, and they do understand that you can’t do everything, for

the most part.

Mark: Yeah, and I think that that is right. It’s also very difficult in the

situation that you’re in, or that I’m in, where people listen to your

podcast or they read my blog, and they think that they know you, so when it

comes time, and they have a suggestion or an idea, they say, well, look

this is my buddy. And you say, well, I may not have time to fulfill that

right now, but I think it is best just to be honest. And the irony is, and

the sad thing is, the more successful you are, and the bigger the audience

becomes, the more difficult it is to create that personal connection.

Andrew: Yeah. And the more people think that they have it at that point.

Mark: Yeah.

Andrew: You and Jeremy, our producer, talked about learning to be likable.

You talked to Jeremy, right?

Mark: No.

Andrew: No, all right. He put notes together based on your book for me, I

guess, and they’re so good it looks like you guys had a conversation.

Mark: Yeah, he said he read the book.

Andrew: One of the things he wanted me to talk to you about is how to learn

to be likable.

Mark. Wow.

Andrew: That’s a big topic, huh?

Mark: That is a big topic.

Andrew: But it’s important.

Mark: Well, I think one of the things that people are really enjoying is,

in the first half of the book, I examine how people become powerful and

influential in the offline world, and how does that differ now? And what

I’ve found through my research and many interviews is that there is a vast

difference. And likeability is one of those. Robert Cialdini, the wonderful

author and speaker on influence calls likeability one of the six weapons of

influence, and I basically do an analysis of all of these six weapons and

see how it shows up in the real world. I also add that there’s a seventh

weapon now, which is content, something we don’t really have in the offline

world, we’re not shoving blog posts at people at our dinner parties. But

likeability is one of those ones that probably has the closest value both

offline and online.

One of the things we kind of danced around earlier was this idea of

authenticity and people gaming the system by spending lots of time on

Twitter, and what I’ve found is that during the long term, you really can’t

fake it. A lot of people think, oh, well, I can create these icons, these

badges so people think I’m important, or I can do this or I can do that so

I will appear likable, and it’s amazing to me that on the social web we

don’t look people in the eye, we don’t really know their tone, and yet,

these personality traits to do come out, they’re almost amplified.

If someone’s a jerk in real life, they’re going to be a jerk online. If

they’re really nice and helpful, that eventually is going to show up on the

social web too. The social web almost amplifies these personality traits in

a way, so I think likeability would be difficult to fake. I think if you’re

a likable person, that’s probably an advantage to you in the real world,

and it’s probably an advantage to you in the online world as well.

Andrew: So, is there a way to learn to be likable? Is there something we

can do to come across, because if it’s one of the most important things in

influence, according to Robert Cialdini, then I want to know how to do it

right.

Mark: Yeah.

Andrew: It turns out it’s Alex Champagne, excuse me, who put together the

notes on your book, and he asked me to talk to you about Jenny Dietrich,

corporate strategy, how she…

Mark: Jenny Dietrich.

Andrew: Jenny Dietrich. My pronunciation was terrible on that but I’m glad

I got it. Tell me.

Mark: Yeah, I think that’s a wonderful example because Jenny is a very

successful business person, she’s a very successful entrepreneur, she

creates great content through her videos and her blog. But there are a lot

of successful business people, right? There are a lot of successful content

creators and I think the thing that distinguishes her is that she is very

likable. She fills the room with her personality. I had the opportunity to

meet her in real life for the first time a few weeks ago at the Social Slam

Conference in Knoxville where she was one of the speakers. People are

attracted to her because she is so very likable. I don’t think you can fake

that. I think that’s part of her authenticity and in the book she kind of

tells her story about how when she first started doing the blogs, the

videos, she was very formal. She was all buttoned up, every hair was in

place, right?

And then as she went along, which is almost like the story of my blogging,

where at some point you kind of relax. And she said, you know, I’m just

going to kind of be me, and that was the turning point for her. That really

propelled her company, her blog, her content, her videos, because people

appreciated this idea of seeing the real Jenny. I can remember one time at

Thanksgiving she took out her video camera, and her family was sitting

around the table, and she said, hey everybody, say hello to my blog

community. And then Jenny has a little message. And I thought, how real is

that? How likable is that? And that’s something I would never even think

about doing. It’s not part of my personality. I have to push myself to show

those more private parts of my life but to Jenny it just comes as second

nature. That likeability factor is a very powerful part of her success.

Andrew: What about reciprocity? That’s another thing that Robert Cialdini

talks about and you did, too, in your book.

Mark: Reciprocity is a huge deal on the social web. In fact, the social web

is run on an economy of favors. There’s not a lot of money that’s

necessarily exchanging hands, but I think that who we connect with, how we

connect, in some ways is fueling this economy. It’s creating deposits in a

social bank. A lot of advice that I give people is that a rule of thumb on

the social web is to give, give, give, give, give, then ask. It’s OK to

ask. As human beings, as business people, at some point we need to ask, but

we have to be mindful that we need to give of ourselves.

We need to contribute to communities, we need to contribute and help in a

sincere way the people in our audience. I spend some part of every single

day either mentoring people or helping people because, first of all, it’s

who I am and what I enjoy doing, but I know that I have to get my skin in

the game. I can’t just broadcast my blog posts every day, I’ve got to

connect with people in a human way, in a real way. If people are suffering,

if they’re confused, if they need help, then I want to help them. Over time

it just kind of works out. You build these connections and you never know

where they could lead. I could spend hours telling you stories about people

who you do a favor for, you help, and years later it will come back and

benefit you in some way. You just never know where it’s going to lead.

You just have to trust those three things that we talked about. You have to

build your audience, you have to create compelling content, and you have to

help people. You have to engage with people in a sincere and authentic way,

not a way that’s going to say I’m going to try to increase my cloud score.

People will see through that. If you want to build an audience, if you want

to build a business for the long term, it’s not a game. It’s relationships.

And if you approach it as a game, people will see right through you.

Andrew: It’s really hard though to do. I mean if you’re, when you’re busy,

because business is going great you don’t have time to just give any more

of yourself because your customers are already asking so much of yourself,

because your work demands so much of yourself. And when you’re starting out

you’re in such an uncertain place that you don’t have time to give and you

don’t feel confident yet to give. So isn’t there a way to do it more

easily. Like, let me see, there was one, Colonel Mustards Gourmet Shop who

gives away free samples of all their products which makes those who try

them feel obligated to purchase. That’s an example from your book, “Return

on Influence”. They’re doing it in a way where the founder doesn’t have to

spend hours talking to customers. Is there something like that that scales,

that doesn’t require more of our time?

Mark: Well, again it depends on your business. I mean, I kind of have a

unique business where it’s a personal service. And let’s face it, I mean if

you’re in let’s say, insurance. Or if you’re in real estate, all right?

That’s a highly emotional human decision. You want a realtor, you want an

insurance agent who you’re going to know. I mean, maybe you’re going to

find it through word of mouth or something like that. So you’ve got to find

ways to connect on a human scale.

But let me give you an example of how this can really save you money, and

save you time. I mean when I started my business I went to, what, trade

shows, right? Chamber of Commerce meetings. So you know, you’ve got to

drive to these places or fly to these places. Its expensive. You spend a

lot of time, you do it every week, okay. Now, compare to that to connecting

to people and networking on Twitter, which I can do at any time of day or

night, in my pajamas, without an airline ticket. So a lot of people say,

hey, you know how do you find the time to do this? And I’m thinking, how do

you find the time to do the other stuff? You know are you getting value

from all these personal networking meetings? I mean, come on. Something

like Twitter or Linked In or even Facebook, that’s networking on steroids.

I can connect to more people. I can paint on a bigger palette then I ever

could before the social web. A lot for a lot less time and a lot less

money.

So as I said, it’s a matter of priority. It’s a matter of perspective. That

this is an incredible way to be able to help people to be human on your own

terms, on your own time, in the comfort of your own home, instead of going

to all these meetings all the time.

Andrew: All right, final question. Where do we start? We have so much

content creation, networking, network building, engagement. Where do we

start so we could see some traction. How do we? What I’m trying to think of

is, I’m not formulating the question well. What I’m trying to think of is,

someone who’s heard this and feels like I’ve heard this before. Or who

reads the book and feels like, this is a lot of information. I just want to

see some results. And then if you show me results then I’ll go and I’ll go

to the ends of the world for you. So what do we do to give them that quick

win for their business?

Mark: Well, I think a real key is to stay, is first of all to learn. And

you don’t have to become an expert, but you have to learn enough to be able

to ask the right questions and to be wise enough to know how this applies

to your business. So one thing that’s very frustrating to me is that almost

every business owner today their default position on a marketing plan is a

Facebook page, right? I mean, it is very difficult to market on Facebook.

It is very, very difficult. It’s extremely time consuming and can be very

costly both in terms of time and content.

So I mean, it’s not a Band-Aid, it’s not a solution for everybody. So

you’ve got to learn enough to at least ask the right questions. So you may

want to go to a class. You may want to read a few books on the subject or

you may want to go to online webinars, okay? You don’t have to be an expert

but you’ve got to know enough to know how reasonably and practically this

applies to your business. Because if you just try to say learn everything

there is to learn about social media. It’s like taking a drink from a fire

hose, you’re just going to be completely overwhelmed.

The other thing I think that’s important, especially for small businesses

and entrepreneurs that are time constrained, or they’re doing two jobs,

you’ve got your day job and then you’re trying to build a business at night

or on weekends. Get some help. All right? There are lots of people out

there who want to help you. In almost every city there’s a social media

club. These are people who are interested, they’re passionate, and they

love to help people with their social media ideas and their problems.

I think my blog, Businesses Grow, is a good resource. This is kind of my

focus, to help people cut through the clutter and look at the essential

things that they need to consider in their strategy and in some of these

platforms.

The place to start is really to not just start doing, but to take a step

back. Take a deep breath, and to learn to see “How does this really fit

with my strategy?” Then for some period of time, maybe six months, buy a

piece of someone’s time. Maybe even an intern, a college intern, or

something like that. Just to get you pointed in the right direction. Just

to kind of get it set up and headed in the right direction to get through

the learning curve so that you can eventually start doing it yourself.

I think those are two key ideas with someone who is really time constrained

and a little overwhelmed to kind of start getting down the right path.

Andrew: Here’s a big note that I made here for myself also. It’s to find

that “only we.” The sentence you can complete with “only we” and the way to

find that out is to ask your customers, “Why do you want to do business

with us?” Or, “What makes us special?” Or, “Why do you buy from us?” And do

that on the phone. Don’t just leave that to a little pop-up as I was

offering earlier.

Mark: I think that’s a good take-away.

Andrew: The book is “Return on Influence”. I’m looking for the URL. You

have returnoninfluence.com, don’t you?

Mark: Yeah, returnoninfluence.com. It was published by McGraw Hill so it’s

available everywhere. It’s on electronic, on Kindle, bookstores. It’s even

starting to pop up in airport bookstores which is a very good sign.

Andrew: That is a good sign.

Mark: It’s been great. I’ve been very, very fortunate. The book actually

sold out in its first printing in eight weeks. They’re doing another

printing now, but Amazon’s got a warehouse I know. It’s available. People

have found it’s not only a helpful book, it’s a fun book. I’ve tried to

make it a fun, easy read as well. I hope your listeners enjoy it.

Andrew: I do, too. Thank you for doing this interview.

Mark: Thank you. Any time.

Andrew: You bet, and thank you all for watching.

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  • http://twitter.com/yagudaev Michael Yagudaev

    Different style of of interview, I like it :). Threw me off a little that you didn’t ask him the trails and tribulations he went through, but you stuck to the goal stated at the beginning of the interview.

    Maybe highlight the action item just a little bit more at the end of the interview. What should we do next, we are after all about getting things done as entrepreneurs ;).

  • http://mixergy.com Andrew Warner

    Good point.

    Michael, what would you say people should do next?

  • Martin S.

    Interesting. Made me think about whom I want to influence mid- and long-term, to which the answers probably couldn’t be more different. I’m still a bit confused, but at least I’ve got a few ideas beyond “start a blog” to brainstorm with.

  • http://twitter.com/yagudaev Michael Yagudaev

    Well as Mark Said, the hardest question in business to answer is “Only we _____”. I think people should attempt to answer that question. It doesn’t mean they will get it right, but it is a starting point. So answer the question and ask 5 of those closest to you how they would complete that statement about you and your business. Then tell them what you came up with and see their reaction. After that, do the same with 5 clients (if you have them already).

    What do you think?

    What I personally came up with was “Only we are to show the future of the web, today.” I plan on using it as a guiding principle in all my communication and decision making. Still need to ask a few people about that and see what they think.

  • Martin S.

    I like Dan Kennedy’s variation of that question: Why should I choose to do business with you versus any and every other option available to me in your category, including doing nothing?
    Too many businesses advertise themselves (in business since 1960; nobody cares since 1960) or specs instead of actual benefits.

  • Scott D Brooks

    Hey Andrew & Michael, I really enjoyed the interview.  I think you really drove home the point about getting really great content out on the web to bring authentic interactions with customers & others influencers that can help grow your business.  I personally am one of those tech guys who loves to build solutions that you spoke of, but far from the extreme where I think my great idea will have legs all on it’s own.  I do know that I need to strengthen my writing skills and really need to learn how to create engaging, valuable content to try to get my customer base’s attention.  I think this realization only has come after a month or so of pandering our product on Twitter and attempting to connect with industry influencers, with little to no success.  My guess is that the big guys in the social media realm are getting hit up for favors or even just for their time on a regular basis from everyone under the sun.  So I think your point about using content as one of the weapons in your arsenal can, at the very least, peak interest of these peoplewill hopefully grab their attention and intrigue them enough to interact with you.
    Andrew, I was really hoping to hear more about the content side of this discussion.  I just got myself the Copyhackers.com eBook series, but have yet to find time to dig into their advice on how to compose really compelling blog posts.  Maybe Michael has some opinions on their work?  I’d personally love to get my usual commute size bite of information that I so value from a Mixergy interview with them as well.   =)

    Thanks again guys!

  • http://twitter.com/yagudaev Michael Yagudaev

    Mark Twin once said: “Writing is easy, all you have to do is cross-out the wrong words”. There is no trick to writing. You have to just write. Like anything else you have to start from somewhere. Now, finding what to write about is easy too. My first article was about PHP relative paths and how oddly they behave. I originally wrote it to submit to a forum but never ended up doing so. Eventually I posted it to my blog and now it helped thousands of people. It was a simple problem, yet when I googled it took me a long time to find the reason why my code was not working. This is how I came up with a lot of my content. Also posting a question to a forum, getting an answer and then putting some more polish on it after works wonders.

    The trick is, I wrote for me. I thought to myself, gee, if I was struggling with this issue there sure would be nice if someone had a nice article explaining how to solve this particular problem. Then I realized, wait a minute, I am somebody! I will write it. So I do.

    Feel free to send me a draft of your content I will take a look at it and try to give you some pointers if I can (especially technical content).