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


 

About Mark Schaefer

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).