Category: Actionable Marketing Podcast

Actionable Marketing Podcast

Avoiding the Pit of Dark Mode Despair and Making…

Are you familiar with the dark mode? About 92% of those with smartphones use dark mode on at least one app. The increased use of dark mode with various email services and clients present challenges. How do email marketers make sure that emails are easy to read in dark mode?

Today’s guest is Melissa Sargeant, Chief Marketing Officer (CMO) at Litmus, a well-known email marketing software company. She explains exactly why dark mode matters for marketers, and what they can do to make sure their emails look their best. Melissa provides insights into why this is important for marketers to understand, test, and optimize.


Some of the highlights of the show include:

  • App Developers: Dark mode makes type and visuals lighter on dark backgrounds
  • Functional Trend: People use dark mode to read content; easier on their eyes
  • Benefits: Reduce screen brightness to preserve battery; accessibility preference
  • Email Clients: Apple, Samsung, Google, Microsoft, and Yahoo offer dark mode
  • Problems: Prioritize dark mode for subscriber preference, different email clients
  • Cost: Sending email versus potential cost of not optimizing email to be visible
  • Tips and Tricks: Settings, assets, code, examples, and guide to dark mode
  • Do More with Less: Build, test, and analyze emails, then send them for review
  • Email Analytics/Insights: It doesn’t end with send; use data to make better email
  • Test every email, every time to deliver an experience that exceeds expectations

If you liked today’s show, please subscribe on iTunes to The Actionable Content Marketing Podcast! The podcast is also available on SoundCloud, Stitcher, and Google Play.

[Tweet “Avoiding the pit of dark mode despair and making sure your emails look awesome with @mhsargeant from @Litmusapp.”]


Ben: Hi Melissa, how are you doing this morning?

Melissa: I am doing fantastic, Ben. How are you doing?

Ben: I’m not doing too bad. It’s a short holiday week as we’re chatting right now. I think it’s going to be good to get a little time away from work and decompress a little bit. Hopefully, you’ll be able to do the same.

Melissa: I too am looking forward to that. What I like about this time of the year—there’s a lot of things I like about it—it seems to be the only time of the year where everybody takes a collective beat. Unlike when back in the day when we got to do summer vacations, you would come back and you have 5000 emails, you’re back in the office for five minutes and it feels like I didn’t take time off at all. That’s what I really appreciate about this time. Everybody collectively takes a beat.

Ben: For sure. For our listeners, would you mind taking a moment just to introduce yourself and explain what you do over at Litmus?

Melissa: Sure. My name’s Melissa Sargeant. I am the chief marketing officer at that Litmus. I’ve been at the company for a little over a year. I’m in charge of basically all of our marketing from demand generation to brand building globally for our customers and our company. At Litmus, what we do is help companies put one of their most dependable marketing channel’s email first. We do that by helping them to optimize and collaborate on their emails so that they can go out the door perfectly every time, know that they’re going to reach the inbox, and that they can take those insights and use that across their entire marketing mix.

Ben: Very cool. Something that we’re going to talk about today is dark mode. I think that most people are familiar with the basic concept of dark mode and what the supposed benefits are. It seems like every other web app and service out there offers some kind of dark mode. There’s even a statistic that 92% of smartphone users use dark mode on at least one app on their phone.

For email marketing, that could potentially have some pretty important ramifications for how emails are designed because if someone’s using dark mode on like the iOS mail app and that causes your email to be illegible, you’re probably better off not sending it. Before we get too far along, could you explain maybe for some of our listeners who maybe aren’t super familiar with dark mode, or maybe they’re aware of why dark mode has become a trend in app design but maybe they don’t know why, would you mind just taking a moment just to explain what are some of the functional benefits that it can provide for users that would make them want to use it?

Melissa: Sure. Practically, think of dark mode as taking things like your typography, your visual elements, putting those on dark backgrounds and making those light colored. The reason why a lot of people are viewing things in dark mode—we talk a lot in email marketing about accessibility to your emails—for some folks, it’s just easier on their eyes. It’s an easier way for them to read content.

On our mobile devices, we’re always running around trying to plug those things and preserve our battery life if you’re on the go. By reducing the screen brightness, they can actually help protect your battery life.

For a lot of people, it’s just easier for them and how they read content. It’s just easier on their eyes to read it. They may just have a personal preference for a dark interface and how to read content.

Ben: Certainly. I think one thing that’s challenging in general with email marketing is there are so many different email clients, so many different webmail services and all kinds of different things that you have to account for, which already makes things difficult enough because getting one email to log good for the majority of users is shockingly challenging. I think that the introduction of dark mode really just adds one more thing to think about for people who already have too many things to think about when it comes to, are my emails readable or at least do they not look broken to the people I’m sending them to.

For our listeners’ benefit, if you can rattle off at least a few popular ones off the top of your head, which specific email clients out there do offer dark mode that have a really high rate of adoption right now?

Melissa: As you correctly stated, sending an email is hard enough across 90 different combinations of devices and operating systems. This list is literally growing day by day. In our engineering team, we have a whole crew that’s just focused on and keeping up with dark mode in addition to all the other clients that they keep up with, but on iPhones, your iPads, your Samsung, Apple Mail, Gmail, Outlook, Windows, Yahoo Mail, it’s really growing very, very quickly. The best thing to assume is that in your subscriber base, you’ve got people that are doing things in dark mode today, for sure.

Ben: I think that some of the potential problems for not taking dark mode into consideration might be obvious, but I’m going to guess there’s probably some that are maybe less obvious, too. For our listeners and for email marketers, some people might be hearing this and thinking, I have enough on my plate already. We’re already tinkering with enough stuff, like you said trying to get things to what could go on an impossible number of permutations between devices, between operating systems, between email clients, between everything else. Why should I make this be just one more thing to concern myself with? What are the real potential problems that I could find myself facing that might even be hard to detect if I don’t make this a priority to take care about this?

Melissa: We should prioritize it because we think about email as a channel. It’s truly this one-to-one connection that you have with your subscribers. If they are showing a preference for how they want to view their content, it’s a good idea to honor that, respect that, and do the best you can to deliver them their content the way they want to read it. As you were stating, email rendering is really, really complex.

When you’re taking this across 90 different combinations, it can seem like a math problem that’s really, really difficult to solve. If you are using an email optimization platform, you can do all this building and testing across all these devices and ensure end clients that when that email goes out the door, you’ll know with certainty that people who are arguing and dark mode are able to view it in dark mode.

Ben: Something we’re touching on for a moment here is the cost of sending email versus the potential cost of not optimizing those emails to be visible on as many devices as possible. I think most of us at this point understand that email marketing is really tricky. Getting emails to look good on the multitude of different combinations of email clients and services and devices that people can be on gives us a lot to think about already.

If you were to go into a conversation (as you might) with an email developer, a marketing automation specialist, or whoever is responsible for actually building the emails and testing the emails that you want to send, they might be curious why all of a sudden do you care so much about dark mode and why is dark mode a thing that they should concern themselves with on top of all the other things that they’re already asked to do.

It might be a good idea for you to go into that conversation by tying that back into potential results and potential negative impact on the investment that you put into that email. When you can take these conversations away from things that might be easy to overlook or things that someone might feel a little bit silly, you can actually tie it back to something that might actually negatively or positively affect something that you’re putting money into.

You might find making forward progress on those conversations and actually getting other folks in your team on board with the idea that this is important. That could apply to whether it’s making sure you’re testing your emails on dark mode, making sure that they look good in dark mode, or it could be something else entirely different. Being able to tie things back to numbers and money is really a powerful emotional lever that you can pull to help make the case for why this is important. And it is important. Now, back to Melissa.

It really doesn’t have to cost you that much more time doing this. If you’re doing this in a centralized way and doing it in an agile workflow way where you’re building and testing as you go along, you can know with confidence that every email you send, whether they read it and dark mode or light mode, whether they’re reading it on a Samsung device or an iPad, is going to be viewable and they’re going to be able to consume that content. When you consider that the average email can take—in some organizations—up to two weeks to get out a single email that you’re toggling in between multiple tools to even do that, you want to make sure that all that effort that you put into it is actualized for the recipient.

Ben: Certainly. Obviously, using a platform that helps you test and optimize your emails before you send them out is one solution. Whether they use Litmus—I’m sure there are others out there—that can go a long way toward making sure that your email isn’t going to look illegible. What are some of the things that someone might see? If I’m trying to view an email on a device using dark mode, if an email is not optimized for dark mode, what are some oddities or some weird quirks that I would likely see on my device? Would I just see black screen? Would text be invisible? Would visual elements be buried? What could possibly happen?

Melissa: All of those things that you mentioned. Just like any other broken email that you’ve received before, all of those elements cannot render properly. What makes the challenge even more challenging is that there are little nuances for each different client. Because it’s a newer thing, there are nuances there and little quirks that you need to take into account as your team is coding those emails to make sure that they take those things into account. It’s just like any other broken email that you would receive where some of the elements are going to render properly, some of them may disappear, all sorts of things.

Ben: Beyond using a platform or in this hypothetical situation, let’s assume the listener has what they need to test their emails or to optimize their emails. They have the tools and the resources available to them or they could procure them if they need it. What are some specific things that they can do or that they should really be paying close attention to, to make sure that their email is easy to read in dark mode?

Melissa: There are specific settings. Actually, we’ve got some really good assets that you can use, that are very, very practical with actual lines of code that you could do as a CMO. I’m not allowed to touch any of the tools anymore anyway, but I would recommend that there’s some specific tips and tricks that you can absolutely take into account, and we can help you with that.

You can actually just get that from our blog. We’ve got a specific article around dark mode. We actually show you some examples of things that were optimized and not optimized based on specific clients what you actually look for and what it looks like in light mode versus dark mode side-by-side so that you can make sure you account for those little tips and tricks, as well as just the nuances that there are with the different clients.

Ben: On the flip side of that, is it possible to go too far in tailoring an email for dark mode? Could you potentially encounter a situation or have you maybe even ever witnessed a situation where someone went all-in on making their emails look great in dark mode to the exclusion of everyone else so if someone was just looking at something in plain old Gmail and it just didn’t look maybe the way that it was supposed to?

Melissa: No, that shouldn’t be a problem because you’re building them for both light mode and dark mode. All of the extra steps that you went through before dark mode, in the nuances that you have with the different clients and devices, this is just taking that another step forward. The real benefit is that it’s a very subscriber-centric approach, just like all of the other things that you do to make sure that it’s easy for them to read and consume your content, and it rides in their inbox the way they would expect it to. You’re just taking that one more step forward.

Ben: Okay, so it’s not really a concern. You’re not going to go present your email designer or developer, your marketing automation team or anything like that with an either-or.

Melissa: Correct. It’s both, so you cannot over-rotate on dark mode.

Ben: Good to know. I ask because I feel like sometimes as marketers, it is certainly possible to fall into a tendency to overcompensate for one problem and then just create two more problems somewhere else.

Melissa: Definitely. Efficiency and the email workflow process is super important. Anytime you add something else to that, you start to think is that now going to take three weeks to get it out the door for a single email? It’s definitely understandable and something that you want to be able to account for and how you’re delivering your emails.

Ben: The last thing I’d like to touch on, something you’ve mentioned a couple times through the course of this conversation is workflow. I think that’s really important to discuss because if you are in a situation like you’re describing where it can take time to get a properly optimized email send, ready-to-roll without issue, especially even if it is relatively easy to make considerations for dark mode, it is one more thing on a long list of stuff. I think something that you’re alluding to here is that in order to keep things efficient, you need your workflow to be dialed in.

As it pertains I think more broadly going even beyond dark mode, at a high level in your view, what should a good email testing workflow or email optimization workflow should look like? How could a listener make it more efficient so that adding one more thing to that list doesn’t become the straw that breaks the camel’s back or just something where you get told, no, we have enough stuff. This is already too hard. Don’t come at me with one more thing I need to worry about that’s going to make this more difficult to get over the finish line.

If it already is going to take 2-3 weeks to send out an email, you have to be really careful about at what point is it good enough before it just gets to a point where workflow inefficiencies just make it so that it becomes a more difficult conversation to get people to not ignore stuff like this.

Melissa: It’s a great question. We are always trying to do more with less in our marketing organizations. From an email optimization perspective, the things that you want to be able to do or to build, test, and analyze your emails, and send them out for review in a single plate. I mentioned that a typical organization that’s not doing this can take 2-3 weeks to get out an email. We do this annual state of email survey and some companies have 4-5 different reviewers that have to happen for a single email to get out the door.

You’re doing this and sometimes in multiple different tools. The email developer, the email manager is building this, trying to test it. Then they have to create a proof, send it to somebody else via email, get their comments, and try to consolidate from five different folks in the organization. What you really want to be able to do ideally is centralize all of that work in that workflow so that you’re building, testing, reviewing, and approving. When you do all that work, most companies are going to be using an email service provider to just sync with the ESP so that you can hit send on your email.

Even more important is that we say it doesn’t end with send. That has to go beyond your traditional opens and click-throughs which everybody looks at, but you want to be able to understand what did that person do who received it? How long did they spend reading it? What did they do after they read it? Did they forward it to somebody? Your email analytics and insights are far more powerful across your entire marketing mix than just your email program.

Of course you’re going to use that data to make the next email send better and the one after that. But if something’s performing really, really well in email, why can’t that be a webinar? Why can’t that be a blog post? Why wouldn’t you take that topic and look at your paid search mix and wonder if that’s something that people are going to engage with? It really has the ability to supercharge your entire marketing mix.

Ben: I think that’s a great answer. That’s all I had prepared for you, but before I let you go, is there anything else on this topic or anything that’s loosely adjacent that you think is important for our listeners to know that we haven’t touched on yet?

Melissa: I think it’s just a reinforcement of you want to test every email every time, no exceptions. Your subscribers have an expectation of that one-to-one connection with you. You want to deliver that subscriber experience that exceeds their expectations every time. It’s very easy to do this in a consistent and systematic way, so don’t leave anything to chance. Make sure you test every email every time.

The post Avoiding the Pit of Dark Mode Despair and Making Sure Your Emails Look Awesome With Melissa Sargeant From Litmus [AMP 219] appeared first on CoSchedule Blog.

Actionable Marketing Podcast

Everything You Need to Know About Headline Studio With…

What does it take to write a great headline? A simple, yet effective tool that makes marketers more confident when writing headlines. Take the guesswork out of improving headlines.

Today’s guest is LaRissa Hendricks from CoSchedule’s product marketing team. She introduces Headline Studio, CoSchedule’s new premium headline testing platform that takes your headline writing to the next level.


Some of the highlights of the show include:

  • Differences between CoSchedule’s Headline Analyzer and Headline Studio
  • Headline Data: Leads to more engagement, traffic, clicks, higher rankings
  • Challenge: Know what to write to get people’s attention, click to read content?
  • Familiar and New Features/Functions:
    • Word/character count
    • Headline feedback and suggestions
    • History of past headlines
    • Headline and SEO scores
    • Word banks (power, emotional, common, and uncommon)
    • Full thesaurus
    • Free browser extension
    • Search competition

If you liked today’s show, please subscribe on iTunes to The Actionable Content Marketing Podcast! The podcast is also available on SoundCloud, Stitcher, and Google Play.

[Tweet “Everything you need to know about Headline Studio with @heyhendricks from @CoSchedule.”]

Ben: Hey LaRissa, how’s it going this afternoon?

LaRissa: It’s going well. How are you?

Ben: I am not doing too bad. It’s Friday afternoon for us, just having a casual conversation about Headline Studio before we duck out of here for the weekend.

LaRissa: Let’s talk about headlines.

Ben: For sure. Before we get too far along, would you mind introducing yourself to the audience and explain what you do here at CoSchedule?

LaRissa: Sure. I’m LaRissa Hendricks. I am a product marketing strategist here at CoSchedule. I basically strategize and write copy for all of our different CoSchedule products. I work on everything from product positioning to website content, to marketing materials, and in-app copies—the whole plethora of stuff. I’ve been fortunate to be involved in the team that has been creating content for Headline Studio, which is our newest product.

Ben: Most of our listeners are probably familiar with the Headline Analyzer but Headline Studio is probably a little bit newer to most folks. Would you be able to briefly explain what is the Headline Studio product and what was the purpose behind building a more robust headline tool?

LaRissa: Headline Studio is a more robust version of Headline Analyzer. It is what we like to call a premium tool that helps you analyze and score your headlines, and know how to improve them. The Headline Analyzer has been around for a long time as a free CoSchedule tool. Our goal with building Headline Studio was to take the capabilities of Headline Analyzer to the next level. We have gathered a ton of headline data over the years, literally millions of headlines that have been written in Headline Analyzer—it’s over 4 million headlines, a crazy amount—and we wanted to be able to put that to use and help marketers write headlines that get them even better results in the world of headlines that would refer to more engagement, more clicks, more traffic, higher search engine rankings. That was our goal with building Headline Studio.

Ben: Something you touched on there was the sheer number of headlines that we’ve been able to analyze ourselves that have been put into the Headline Analyzer over the years just to develop a better sense of what tends to score well and to understand the anatomy of a strong headline on a very granular level. For a tool like Headline Studio, why is it important to have that much data to lean on, to make sure that the tool is reliable?

LaRissa: Writing headlines can feel very vague. I’m a writer. I’ve had to write blog headlines so many times and it just feels like how are you even supposed to know what to write for your headline, how are you supposed to know what’s actually going to catch people’s attention, what’s actually going to make them click and read your content. That’s a huge challenge.

One thing that you actually can do is use data that’s out there about headlines, and know exactly what it takes to write a good headline that actually gets those clicks, get engagement, and that people actually are interested in reading.

That’s where all of that data comes in. With over 4 million headlines, we have a very good idea of what works and what doesn’t, and what actually leads to those clicks and conversions of that traffic. It’s incredibly important because it takes the vagueness and the guessing out over writing headlines. It’s an awesome shortcut when you spend all of your time and energy writing this blog post and you’re like, yes, this feels awesome. I can’t wait for people to read it.

The thing is, people aren’t going to read it unless they’re compelled to click on your headline. They’ll never even see your content unless they’re like, that headline sounds interesting. I’m going to read that content. It’s surprisingly important to have some data involved there and actual numbers to back up what makes a good headline.

Ben: Sure. Rather than going through trial and error on your own after publishing, you can get a better sense of whether or not your headline is actually a good headline before you hit publish, which is invaluable.

LaRissa: It takes so much time and effort out of it and it decreases that amount of trial and error, and helps you get those better results even faster.

Ben: The benefits of a headline testing tool and the Headline Analyzer are pretty straightforward, pretty self-explanatory, and you’ve gone to pretty good detail into what those benefits might be. Could you share some insight into what initially inspired the idea to take the success of the Headline Analyzer and to expand on it? If I’m a Headline Analyzer user listening to this, what does the Headline Studio give me that I’m not getting from the free tool?

LaRissa: To start with, the inspiration side of things. Headline Studio was sparked by the longstanding popularity of Headline Analyzer. It’s a tool that so many people have used since it was built in 2014. That’s seven years ago now, which is cool. It’s still very popular. But the thing is that what makes a good headline has changed a lot since then. We started to realize that there was a lot of potential there. We could take this tool that people enjoy using, find value in it, update it for 2021 and beyond that, and just build it out to be something that’s bigger, better, and unlike any other headline tool out there. That was the inspiration.

There are so many cool new features in Headline Studio. I’m not going to cover all of them, but I’m going to try to cover quite a few here. To start, you’re going to see some familiar features that you saw on Headline Analyzer. It’ll still feel familiar to you. You’re going to see your overall headline score, your word balance that tells you which types of words to use more or less of to increase your score, things like word count and character count. Those are all still there.

There are a ton of new things that you can do in there. You will get an actual list of suggestions to improve your headline. You can work your way through that list and actually watch your score increase as you address each of those things. You can click back through the history of all your past headlines and favorite the ones that you want to revisit, which is really convenient. There are actual word banks of power, emotional, common, and uncommon words right in the tool, and a full thesaurus, too. If you’re a word nerd like me, you can find new words to try right in the tool, which is awesome. You don’t have to go off and find a different thesaurus or try to look up words that would be more engaging.

Along with your headline score, there’s a new SEO score as well, so you can find out how your headline might rank in search engine results, see your search competition and things like that. There’s a free browser extension that you can download, that you can open right on your blogging site or CMS, so you can literally write your headline and analyze it in the exact same place, which is pretty cool, too. That’s a long-winded answer, but those are at least some of the new functionalities that are valuable in Headline Studio, and that will look different from Headline Analyzer.

Ben: It just blows my mind that the insights Headline Studio provides come from analyzing 4 million headlines over the years. That is such an incredibly large number. But it’s not just a big statistic that we share simply because it sounds impressive.

In order for Headline Studio to be an effective tool that you can trust and that anyone—ourselves included—would even want to use, we all need to know that it’s data-driven and it’s not based on assumptions. If you do decide that you want to take Headline Studio for a spin, rest assured that it’s a tool built on a very strong data foundation and not just some marketing snake oil. Now, back to LaRissa.

You’ve expanded on a ton of functionality and all these different things that this headline Swiss Army knife of sorts can let people experiment with and do all kinds of things with, but if I’m a Headline Analyzer user or I’ve used it before, and I found it helpful, and maybe I’ve even made it a regular part of my workflow, what are some of the specific things—maybe just two or three things—that you would call out as personal favorites of yours, that you can do what you couldn’t do before, that you have to get Headline Studio to be able to do because the Headline Analyzer—as a free tool—has more limits?

LaRissa: One thing definitely is the browser extension which I just mentioned briefly. It’s so convenient. It’s a whole new thing where you can still use the web version of Headline Studio. You can still sign into the website and just use Headline Studio right there. Or with a browser extension, it literally just takes one click in your browser.

Say you’re in WordPress. You just click the Headline Studio button at the top of your toolbar, and it just pops right down, so it’s side by side with your blog. As you’re actually typing your headline in there, into your blog, you’ll see it pop up in Headline Studio, and it’ll just populate. You can analyze it right there, and you have full access to all the features of Headline Studio. You can be looking upwards in the word banks, incorporating those suggestions, trying to improve the SEO side of things for your headline, and you can do that right alongside your blog.

I absolutely love being able to do that personally. I’ve mentioned the convenience, but it’s also just so cool to be able to just pop it up right there in the midst of writing and have it all in one place. That’s one of my favorite new features.

Another thing that I think is cool is the suggestions that we provide. A big thing for our team when building this tool initially was just taking into account the feedback from Headline Analyzer users. Early on, we sent out a survey to find out what they loved about Headline Analyzer, what they didn’t love, or what they wished they could achieve with it. We heard a lot of people say that they wanted it to go deeper than just the numbers about their headline. They were hoping for actual suggestions that would help them know how to improve their headline scores and write better headlines. Who doesn’t want that? That was a big challenge for them and it’s something that we took to heart and incorporated in Headline Studio.

Now, not only are you getting the data and the numbers about your headline, but you’re also getting the next level of feedback and specific ideas. You can try adding this specific type of word to increase your score, or simplify this complex phrase to make your headline easier to read, or here’s a list of keywords that you can try implementing into your headline to possibly rank higher in search. So, very specific feedback and suggestions to make it so easy for you to just improve your headline and make it more engaging, I think that’s really cool.

Ben: Yeah, I agree. Those are some of my favorite things that have been added in. These aren’t just bells and whistles. These are things that actually improve your workflow, actually do save you time, actually do help improve your results.

For anybody out there who’s listening, do you have any expert advice or tips that you might be able to share with our audience on how to get the most from Headline Studio? I imagine that not overlooking the Chrome extension—that sounds like one that’s probably pretty big—what other advice would you give to somebody? If I was just sitting down with it for the first time, how do you suggest that I get the most from the tool, and stretch the boundaries of what it can do?

LaRissa: Headline Studio is like a super fun playground for your headlines, so I would encourage you to just sign up for free. You can get it at I would encourage you to just dive right in and explore it for yourself. Take it for a test drive with a few headlines. Start with a headline that you think is basic and isn’t going to score very highly, and see how much you can increase your score from there.

I know I’m probably super biased since I actually worked on this tool, but as a writer I am a total nerd for actually just testing my headlines in here, starting with a four or five-word phrase and trying to improve it all the way to get my score in the 80s and the 90s, in the green area. Every blog I write, I’m there plugging in the headline, adding new words, checking suggestions off the list. I would recommend that’s what you try doing. Just get in there and click around, explore all the different tabs and areas of the tool. There’s a lot in there to look at and try. Compare the headline you started with to the headline you actually published, and it’s really cool to see the difference.

Ben: There is something really satisfying about moving a number upward.

LaRissa: It’s so fun. We even have internal competitions here at CoSchedule to see who can write the most improved headlines or the headlines with the highest score, the lowest score, and that’s been fun to do as a team, too.

One other thing I would say to you is that—this might be a bit of a spoiler alert—you should keep an eye out for new features and updates because this is a brand new tool. Right now, our team is constantly trying to improve it and make it more valuable for our users. We already have a lot of new, exciting features in the works, so stay tuned for those. Keep checking back, keep analyzing your headlines. If you have feedback, let us know. You will continue to see some changes and hopefully, some more helpful features to help you write even better headlines.

The post Everything You Need to Know About Headline Studio With LaRissa Hendricks From CoSchedule [AMP 218] appeared first on CoSchedule Blog.

Actionable Marketing Podcast

How to Overcome Boilerplate Marketing Approaches (And What to…

What’s the problem with doing what everybody else is doing? Marketers are expected to come up with something wildly innovative or creative. Dare to be different and get unstuck by presenting interesting or authentic ideas in a meaningful way.

Today’s guest is Mike Poznansky, founder and managing partner at Neato — a full-service marketing agency that helps brands connect with young audiences, including college students and Gen Z. Mike explains how to break out of a rut and do work that reflects you and your brand. What makes you uniquely valuable, instead of someone simply following the leader of the pack?


Some of the highlights of the show include:

  • Neato: Uncovers insights, develops strategies, and creates marketing programs
  • Turnkey Tactics: Marketers observe how successful brands market themselves
  • Thoughtful: Put time, energy, and effort into effectively identifying ‘why’ or ‘how’
  • Copy-and-Paste Marketing: Don’t expect the same results by mimicking tactics
  • College Culture: People’s needs, pain points, aspirations are always changing
  • Human-Centered Approach: Understand brand, organization, accomplishments
  • Iterative Process: People on the ground and prototypes represent audiences
  • Authenticity: Be yourself, know who you are, what resources/assets are available
  • Failures: Try to do something for the sake of evolving and learning

If you liked today’s show, please subscribe on iTunes to The Actionable Content Marketing Podcast! The podcast is also available on SoundCloud, Stitcher, and Google Play.

[Tweet “How to overcome boilerplate marketing approaches, and what to do instead, with @mikepoz from @NeatoAgency.”]


Ben: Hi Mike, how’s it going this morning?

Mike: It’s going great. Thanks, Ben. Good to be here.

Ben: Absolutely. Before we get too far along, would you mind taking a moment to introduce yourself to our audience and explain what you do at Neato?

Mike: Sure. I’m the founder and managing director of Neato, and we’re a full-service marketing agency that connects brands with young audiences. We have a focus on college students and Gen Z. Everything we do at Neato is driven by this core belief that young people are happy being marketed to as long as it adds value to their lives. That’s the core principle that drives our approach. We’re a full-service agency. We help uncover insights, develop strategy, and create marketing programs.

Ben: Very cool. I understand you’ve worked with tons of huge brands that a lot of our listeners would likely be familiar with. Would you mind taking a moment to share who are some of the companies you’ve worked with? Feel free to hype yourself up a little bit here.

Mike: Sure. We’ve been around since 2013 and we’ve had the opportunity to partner with some very incredible brands and wonderful people behind those brands—Target, Vans. Vans was one of our first clients and we’ve been working with them since our first days in 2013, for the last seven years now. Wall Street Journal, Spotify, REI, Anheuser-Busch, and Anheuser-Busch portfolio brands from Budweiser, Bud Light, Natty Light, Boston University—a wide range of brands. I’d say the one thing that binds all of them together is their aspirations to connect with a younger audience.

Ben: That’s awesome stuff. That’s a fun portfolio. Something that I want to dig into this conversation is this idea of boilerplate marketing and copy-and-paste marketing. A lot of different spaces very often have a tendency to want to look at what other companies are doing, and want to look at things that have worked for other companies prior to ever making a move of their own. As a result, you can pick a vertical and you’ll start to see the same things that just start to look familiar that every company in that space is doing. I imagine when you’re marketing to younger audiences in particular that’s a problem because with audiences that are looking for more innovative thinking, I imagine that’s all just going to start to just wash together.

In your view, what’s the problem with just doing what everyone else is doing? Or with being afraid to ever deviate from anything that you’ve already seen work for someone else?

Mike: It’s a great question. I noticed this, I spent my early career at Red Bull. I started working for Red Bull when I was in college as a student brand manager, and it was how I discovered marketing and ended up running Red Bull’s college program out of Santa Monica for Red Bull, North America for quite some time before going off and starting an agency. I had no desire to work at an agency, let alone start one. But one of the things that I noticed was as we started to scale, and we wanted some external help in terms of just creative and some executional assistance, I realized that most agencies focused on the youth space were offering a menu of turnkey tactics. It was pretty much an insert brand, insert product here. It was like, would you like the mobile event, or the sampling program, the field marketing program, the ambassador program, or experiential? Here’s exactly how we approach each one of these tactics, and here’s what you could expect as a result.

Marketers in the space as well, they look at what other successful brands are doing, and they observe the way these brands are marketing themselves. They attribute their success to the tactic or to the medium itself. When in reality, they don’t want to take the time and resources to figure out the most effective way, or the why, or the how. It’s helpful if I give you an example. Ambassador programs are a perfect example.

Companies who want to connect with a college audience would say, hey, we’ve seen other brands like Red Bull have an ambassador program and be incredibly successful. Go out there, find an agency, get me an ambassador program, make it cheap, and just get it done, because if we have one—if we have an ambassador program—we’re going to be successful as well.

When in reality, leading into that program, someone like Red Bull is asking themselves, how could we get a better understanding of what culture is like on these college campuses? How can we identify the right people that we need to be building relationships with? And what does that process of cultivating these relationships and nurturing these relationships look like? How can we personalize some of the marketing initiatives that we have on a global level, on a national level to these specific markets? The list could go on and on. How could we be supporting some of the sales accounts that we have both in the on-premise, and off-premise, and some of these high-value markets?

Through that, they’ll say it would be incredibly helpful for us to have someone on the ground who has plugged in, ambitious, well-connected. If you look at that on the surface and you’d say, great, it was an ambassador program that made them successful. When in reality, there was a tremendous amount of time, and energy, and effort put into figuring out the most thoughtful way to go about that. If you just try to copy and mimic the tactic itself, you can’t expect to have the same results.

Ben: Right, absolutely. That’s a great example of that in practice and a great example of what to do instead. This is something you touched on, it’s more work to come up with something on your own versus just looking at what brands XYZ in our space have done, just give me our version of that. What advice would you have for a company that’s maybe dealing with some internal resistance because either they don’t want to put in the work, or they don’t feel they have the resources to come up with something new, or whatever the case may be? What would you say if a company came to you, looking for something generic, what would your response to them be in that situation?

Mike: It happens all the time. We had a new business conversation with a company that we’d love to work with last week. They came to us and they gave us a little bit of a background on what they were hoping to achieve, and marketing to college students, and wanted us to provide them with a set of tactics. That’s a perfect example of a situation like that. What we typically do is we just say, hey, we’re incredibly interested in helping you to solve this problem, but we want to make sure, as your potential partner, that we figure out the most effective way to do that for you and for you to be approaching the segment. For us, that process always starts with talking to, in this case, college students, talking to the target audience, whoever it may be.

I’m pretty cynical about anyone or any collective out there who says we are experts in X. It would be very easy for us to say, we’re college experts. In the beginning, we might’ve even said that which is a little cringy. Look, we know the space better than anyone else. The longer you’re in it, the more you realize that culture is so quickly evolving, especially if you look at the world in 2020. People’s needs, and their pain points, and their aspirations are always changing.

Going back to the question, it’s essential that any marketer, whether it be a brand or an agency, connects with the audience that they are aspiring to market to, and has conversations with them to get a better understanding of their perceptions, some of their behaviors as it relates to the category itself and the brand, and then get a better understanding of what it is that they want, or what it is that they need. Then figure out how that reconciles with the brand and the business, and what they’re setting out to do because we often find those needs are not mutually exclusive—the needs of a young audience or a specific consumer segment and the objectives of a business, typically those meet in the middle. If they don’t meet in the middle, if there is no common ground, it’s often because it’s not a viable target.

If I were talking to someone who had no money, I would say, that’s fine. You’re probably going to have to do this on your own but just connect with people who are part of your segment, part of your target. In this case, go find some college students, or go find some people who represent Gen Z, and sit down with them for an hour and have a conversation with them. I mean that also will address your question around internal resistance. This is a long-winded response to a pretty simple question, but if you’re a marketer and you’re finding that someone is trying to prescribe tactics, your CEO wants you just to do X, Y, and Z, and not invest the time and energy to figure it out, if you want to go toe-to-toe with her, you can, but it’s going to be an uphill battle.

If you come back to them and you have real insights from your customer or your ideal customer, your potential customer, whatever it may be, and you have supporting quotes and statements that you could play back to them that rationalize your recommendation, that’s a much more approachable conversation. You’re going to find that there’s a lot less conflict there because you’re simply advocating on their behalf versus coming off as trying to just be someone who’s disagreeing.

Ben: Something that’s really important to keep in mind here is that actual authenticity doesn’t necessarily need to mean being super raw, or edgy in any way. In fact, I think for a lot of our listeners, odds are that’s sort of a cliched perception around what authenticity really means. It’s probably not going to be a good fit for your brand unless you are marketing to an audience that’s looking for that sort of thing.

What it really does mean is really figuring out who you are, what sets your brand apart, understanding what your audience really wants, and really expects from you, not operating off of assumptions but actually doing the legwork to really start to arrive with some solid answers for those things.

If you can focus on just those few areas, then better solutions and better ideas will often times just naturally start to present themselves so that you don’t have to look so hard at what other people are doing or be afraid of taking a risk or doing something different just because you haven’t seen it work for someone else before. Your competition, those other brands that you look up to, they’re probably in the position that they’re in because they’re doing what’s best for them. If you copy anything about what they do, it should be that you need to figure out what’s best for you too. Now, back to Mike.

It sounds like what you’re getting at is rather than looking at what’s been done before, rather than first looking toward your competition, you’re saying go talk to your target customer base, and let them tell you this is who I am, this is what I like, this is the way I behave in the world and all these other things. Then using that data, which your CMO, CEO, whatever stakeholder you’re dealing with can’t disagree with it. The data is what it is. The voice of your customer is what it is, too.

Let’s say that I’m a marketer, and I’m listening to this episode, and I’m realizing that I’m guilty of some or all of maybe some of the less enlightened practices that we’ve touched on a little bit. For a marketer in that situation, where would you recommend they start with reassessing their strategy so they can get off that hamster wheel of copycat marketing, and stop trying to play it safe so much, and move toward a more audience-centric or customer-centric way of working, what it sounds like you’re advocating for.

Mike: I’m glad you brought up that more human-centered approach because I like that. I would say first and foremost, make sure you have a very clear understanding of who you are as a brand, as an organization, and you’re very clear on what it is that you’d like to accomplish—you want people to know about you, you want people to believe, to feel. Then yes, to have an understanding of your audience or your potential audience as well, and find where those two things meet in the middle.

It’s not just research. You could co-create with people that you’re trying to target. I certainly believe in the value of having some initial conversations, doing some either round table discussions or one-on-one interviews with your target at the beginning part of the discovery phase. But even when you get into some creative exercises, come up with some initial tactics and play them to your target—to people that you’re hoping to connect with, to people that you want your tactics to appeal to—and get their feedback, and maybe shape those tactics with them.

That’s actually the real value of when you look at some of the organizations out there who have a vast field marketing network or an ambassador network if they have people who are on the ground who represent their customer base, who could be part of that creative process. But prototype it, and then get out there and try stuff, and show up, be a part of that experience or that event, and see how people respond, and talk to people afterward, and then refine it. It’s an iterative process.

Most likely, by the time you see a best practice that’s from a brand, there was a whole lot of thought that went into that at the beginning—there was a pilot for it, there were some initial phases of it, perhaps some of those were unsuccessful—by the time you see something that wins an award or celebrated everywhere online, it’s benefitting from all that collective experience, and all that collective feedback. Don’t expect to just create that overnight and especially take a tactic down point of view. But I love that point about the human-centered approach because I think that’s part of the process from discovery, to creative development, to execution, to refining the tactic.

Ben: Certainly. That’s a great point that you raise. People don’t see the sweat equity that goes on or that goes into an award-winning campaign. Those things don’t happen by accident.

Mike: Right. Especially as a new brand. We’ve had conversations with brands before, even existing established ones, and we’ll be going through a set of case studies, and we’ll pull up a slide on Vans. I’ve had marketers say to me, that’s amazing. We want to be like that. Just make us like Vans. It’s the equivalent of me. I’m here in Austin, marching down to South Congress, and walking into the salon, and pulling up a picture of Leonardo DiCaprio on my phone and saying, can you make me look like him? If you give me the right haircut, I’m going to be Leo. I would say don’t underestimate what it took for people to develop, and create, and refine their approach as you set out to take that same journey for yourself.

Ben: It sounds like what you’re advocating here is say, being like the agency, you would be the salon essentially in that metaphor. You could go in one of two ways. If someone says, turn me into Vans, you could either be like, sure, I’ll take your money. We’ll cash some checks and we’ll fail to make you Vans because you’re not Vans. Or you could tell them no, that’s not actually what you want. You don’t want to be Vans. You want to be the best version of you. Let’s figure out what that is.

For an in-house marketing team, if it was the CMO talking to the CEO and the CEO says I want to be whatever the Vans is of my space. Maybe what that CMO should do is turn that conversation around and be like we can’t be them because we’re not them. Is that what you’re getting at there?

Mike: Earlier you were talking about younger generations being a little bit more advanced of a target. I’d say almost every brand that’s approaching the segment, even ones who have just a more capitalistic point of view, that’s like, hey, we see this as a viable business opportunity purely and we’re not so interested in exactly how we get there, we want the outcome. I’d say everyone acknowledges in some capacity, the need to build a genuine and meaningful relationship with the segment in order to get them to care about your brand. It’s critical for brands to show up in an authentic way.

You can’t just show up and say, great, if I’m a beverage brand, I want to be exactly like Vans. Suddenly, I want to start talking about Off The Wall and inspiring creative expression or whatever it may be. You need to be yourself and you need to know who you are. You need to know what resources and assets that you have available to you as the company you are and the brand that you are, and then figure out where those meet the needs of the audience. It’s really about authenticity and if you aren’t genuine or you aren’t authentic, it’s going to be glaringly obvious, and it’s going to be a turnoff.

Ben: Yeah, 100%. At a more advanced level, a brand or a marketing team, let’s say they’ve gotten a pretty good grasp on these things. They understand what it actually means to be authentic in a real sense. They talk to their customers, they do their research. They put the legwork in to create a brand that is going to stand out versus one that is going to blend in. What’s next at that point? If you’re 90% of the way there, how do you add that extra 10% to your brand that really is going to make you stand out?

Mike: That’s a good question. I would say the process never really stops. You aren’t finished. One of the most effective things that we’ve found that serves the creative process well and the innovation process well is to get together and have a workshop. Get together could mean different things in 2020 but in an ideal world, you have everybody in the room. At the very least, everybody’s got time carved out and is fully focused and dedicated to the format, but have a creative workshop, have a generative session. Walk into that with some specific questions that you’d like to address, some things that you’re really curious about.

I will say, when it comes to looking at other brands, it is great to seek outside inspiration because there is a lot of great work out there. Bring that inspiration in there, have some campaigns that appeal to you. Deconstruct what it is about them that made them appealing. We always like to start with some initial inspiration. We like to follow that up with some things we heard from our audience or possibly even do a little bit of immersion into the current brand and the business, and have a generative discussion about what opportunities are out there.

I would say in an ideal world if you’re talking about going 90%-100%, a mistake that a lot of brands make is they put so much time, and energy, and effort into the upfront process. Then once the creative process is complete and they ship something out, they’re done. But stay invested, stay involved, continue to refine that approach, continue to learn, continue to listen to your segment, assess the results, and figure out how you can improve and make it better. We find a workshop format to be an incredibly effective way to facilitate a conversation like that.

Ben: Awesome. I love how that’s a very practical approach to actually bringing those minds together. The last question I’m going to throw your way—and this ties back into some things that you’ve already touched on pretty well—but there is a tendency for marketers to fall back toward whatever’s comfortable either when they don’t know what to do or when something doesn’t go well. It’s like, let’s just retreat back to a time-tested thing we know that we can execute that’s not going to ruffle any feathers.

Let’s say that a marketing team succeeds in getting buy-in to try something different from what they’ve done before, or to just try something that they don’t have an example from another brand to point to say that this works. In my former life of working in an agency, clients would always ask before they would ever do anything, it’d be like, can you show me a brand that this has worked for before? But then they would also want you to pull a rabbit out of a hat and be wildly creative, not seeming to understand the disconnect between those two things.

Let’s say there’s a marketer in that situation and they managed to convince the client, or maybe if it’s an in-house team, they got some stakeholder on board with doing something else, not doing things that way, and then let’s say it fails. Now the stakeholder’s pissed because they think they should have just done the easy thing. What do you do to recover? How does a marketing leader pick themselves up, and go face that stakeholder, and manage to continue to move forward without going backward?

Mike: It’s tricky because if you were hired to deliver against a specific set of objectives and you’ve seen something to be effective in the past at achieving those objectives, rationally, it would make sense to channel a lot of your resources into that existing thing, and I would still advocate doing the same thing. But then that raises the question, how can we evolve and how can we continue to be creative while balancing that with being efficient and effective with the limited resources we have? Because even with the biggest brands out there, there’s still some cap, some limitation on the resources available.

I like the idea of complimenting some of those tried and tested tactics with some new endeavors. It just comes down to setting clear expectations. One to say, look, we’re going to have a really open and vulnerable conversation about how we could push this forward a little bit because it’s working for us now, but maybe it won’t continue to work for us now as the landscape evolves, as the category evolves, whatever it may be. Carve out 20%, 10% of the budget of the agency’s time and give them that space where it’s okay to fail, and where it’s okay to try something and do something purely for the sake of evolving and learning.

Fear of failure or fear of sounding stupid or uninformed are real creativity killers in businesses and in the agency-client dynamics. I would say, align on the intention to try something interesting and different, give people the space to do things that are courageous and potentially fail, and learn from them, and make them better. Because eventually, you’ll either find that it doesn’t work or it’s going to inspire something great.

Ben: As I said, that was the last question I had for you. But before I let you go, is there anything else you’d like to add or any other parting thoughts you’d like to leave our audience with? It’s fine if not.

Mike: I was thinking about it. I would say, just never stop having conversations with your target, even if it’s four people, if it’s eight people. Sit down, schedule a Zoom with them. Maybe it’s even just family, friends, or connections that you have. Have conversations with them, learn about their lives, what they’re going through, what their needs are, what their values are, what sort of brands they’re interested in and why, and just don’t get lost in your own world of being a marketer.

For a CMO, you almost become this corporate maverick and your job is consumed by internal processes, stay in touch with your audience, and what they need, and what they want. That will pay off tremendously in the short and long-term as you continue on your professional journey.

The post How to Overcome Boilerplate Marketing Approaches (And What to Do Instead) With Mike Poznansky From Neato [AMP 217] appeared first on CoSchedule Blog.

Actionable Marketing Podcast

How to Use Rewards Programs to Build Customer Loyalty…

How do marketers bring customers back to maximize revenue? Loyalty programs build customer devotion and retention by incentivizing repeat business. Buying becomes a habit.

Today’s guest is Matt Baglia, co-founder and CEO of SlickText, an SMS marketing platform. If a loyalty program makes sense for your business, Matt talks about what it takes to make a loyalty program work as a growth lever.


Some of the highlights of the show include:

  • Why loyalty programs matter? 20% of company’s customers make 80% revenue
  • Brand Champions: Pay attention to their interests, what they’re buying or not
  • What is a loyalty program? Distinct difference w/two purposes—register, rewards
  • Customer Behavior: Value-add messages give customers a reason to return
  • Getting Started with a Loyalty Program:
    • Step 1: Understand clientele
    • Step 2: Incentivize customers
    • Step 3: Talk and listen to customers
    • Step 4: Select a loyalty service
  • Growing a Loyalty Program:
    • Interaction: Ask, are you a member of our loyalty program yet?
    • Incentivize: Join loyalty program by providing value
    • Integration: Plugin pop-ups and other online opportunities for information
  • Marketing Metrics: Subscription velocity, click-thru links, opt-out rates, check-ins
  • Do’s/Don’ts: Get permission to send messages, or face legal ramifications

If you liked today’s show, please subscribe on iTunes to The Actionable Content Marketing Podcast! The podcast is also available on SoundCloud, Stitcher, and Google Play.

[Tweet “How to use rewards programs to build customer loyalty like the best brands around, with Matt Baglia from @SlickText.”]


Ben: Hi Matt, how is it going this afternoon?

Matt: Couldn’t be better. How are you?

Ben: Not too bad, not too bad. We were chatting a little bit earlier. It’s December and there is no snow in North Dakota. I’ll take as many […] as we can get right now.

Matt: You’re doing better than we are. It’s cold and we have snow.

Ben: Please accept my condolences. We’re going to be there with you probably sooner than we would like. Would you mind taking a moment just to introduce yourself to our audience real quick and explain what you do over at SlickText.

Matt: My name is Matt Baglia. I am a Co-Founder and CEO of the company. We provide mass text messaging, SMS marketing, and mobile marketing solutions for businesses ranging in size from small mom, pop up, to global enterprise. Personally, I oversee a lot of the search visibility stuff. More importantly, I focus a lot on the product and engineering. That’s really where my expertise lies. Have been doing this now for going on 10 years. It’s been a wild ride watching the company grow.

Ben: Very cool, very cool. Something that we’re going to talk about specifically within your areas of expertise is running loyalty programs and using those as a means of building customers loyalty and customer retention. I think that’s something that’s very top of mind for a lot of marketers right now, just given the challenges that we’re all facing—we’re trying to sell products or services, I guess what you could call a recession.

Your research shows that 20% of the company’s customers will typically make up about 80% of their revenue. I can’t remember exactly where that statistics originated, but it’s something that in the marketing and business world, it’s become just almost a common knowledge at this point. But I still think it’s something that’s really important to remember and it’s very relevant to why loyalty programs can be important. In your view though, what does that figure mean for the loyalty programs? Why does it matter if the bulk of your revenue is going to come from a minority of your customer base?

Matt: It’s the classic 80-20 rule. We see that that is used and applied to a lot of different areas. What it means in this particular case is that you have a small cohort of your best customers. It’s really important that we’re paying attention to what they’re doing, what their interests are, what they’re buying, what they’re not buying, how they’re buying, and make sure that we communicate and market to them appropriately.

It’s amazing. Those customers are typically repeat buyers, the most engaged, and the ones that you would consider to be brand champions.

Ben: Sure, that all makes sense. You mentioned that SlickText serves customers of all different sizes in different industries and in all different situations. From what you’ve seen, what types of companies typically do best with loyalty programs?

Matt: I would first start off by mentioning that some people have differentiating understanding about what a loyalty program actually is. Some people think that a loyalty program is really hey, I’m just signing up to receive text messages from a particular business, or emails from a particular business or something like that.

For us, we see it as a lot more than that. When we think of a loyalty program, we actually think of it, hey, register for our loyalty program and earn points towards rewards. I think that there’s an important distinction that needs to be made there for people who are listening to this. Because they are two very different things. One complements the other.

We have both. SlickText obviously powers a lot, tens of thousands of SMS marketing programs that people might consider to be loyalty programs. But we also have loyalty software where merchants can have a tablet at the point of check out and at their store. When they make purchases, they can check in and receive points for visits or how much they spend and then get rewarded for that.

The value is very, very simple. For us, it serves two purposes. One, we need to get people to come back. In order to do that, we need to give them a reason to come back. You can do that by not only just giving them offers via SMS, but also give discounts in the form of points or rewards to come back. A thing that’s one big value add to the customer.

The other thing that is often overlooked, that when you pair SMS marketing with a loyalty program is that we get some interesting data in terms of the customer behavior. We start to learn when people purchase and when they don’t, what they purchase, what they don’t, and how often they purchase. Simple things like hey, we haven’t seen you in a month and you’ve got a $5 off coupon. Click this link now to shop and come back and see us. Those types of things are extremely important. They’re very, very relevant. I think that’s an important topic that we’ll cover as we get into this a little deeper.

Ben: How would you advise marketers assess whether or not a loyalty program might make sense for their business if they don’t already have one in place?

Matt: There are some very, very obvious things. I think the biggest one is do I have frequent repeat buyers? We see real estate agents who often want to take advantage of traditional SMS marketing. In that sense where you’re pushing out recurring offers to people, it doesn’t necessarily work that well. Because it’s not that often that you’re in the market to buy a new home.

Works very, very well for retail, ecommerce, restaurants—any type of industry or business where you have people that are coming back on a regular basis and you need to incentivize or remind them to come back.

Ben: Let’s say I’m a marketer listening to this episode and my company fits the description of what you’ve just laid out. We’ve decided we’re going to just test a loyalty program of some sort with zero experience doing anything of that nature. How would you recommend they get started? What’s step one for that team?

Matt: Step one would be to understand the clientele. Just because you’re in a space that has repeat buyers doesn’t necessarily mean that they are ones that are tech savvy or would be open to the concept of receiving messages via SMS—particularly promotional ones. I think that that’s the first thing that you would want to figure out.

In most cases these days, even if you’re 75, 85 years old, you may be just fine with receiving promotional text messages. It’s kind of a very, very top box to check. As you start thinking about it, it’s about getting sober regarding what your customers find valuable.

One of the things that we always talk about with SMS marketing is that every single message needs to provide value. If it doesn’t, it’s not what we’re sending. It is a completely different communication channel, it’s not like email where people expect to receive your spam every single day. No, people expect to receive one, two, maybe no more than four promotional messages that are high value and targeted.

The next thing that I would be doing is saying, hey, what type of value are we capable of bringing to our customer? If you find hey, we really don’t do discounts or we don’t do points back for this, we’re not willing to do that. It might not be a good fit.

In most cases, most businesses have bill problems, shaving a little off, or craving an incentive to have their best customers come back in. Think that that would be the next thing is am I willing to incentivize my customers? Do I have something of value? Value might not necessarily be a discount or some sort of offer. It really could be something as simple as an important piece of information or a timely piece of information. People find that very, very valuable as well. It doesn’t have to be a tangible thing necessarily.

Once you get past those two things, I would probably start talking to some of my customers. Some of the best customers that you see regular, hey, what would you think about us launching a loyalty program? Don’t tell me what I want to hear, but be honest with me. Would this be something that you would find value in?

If I was a coffee shop owner and I said to some of my best customers, what if your 7th coffee or 10th coffee, it was free each time? Would it be worth it for you to come in and punch your phone number and each time that you’re in line or scan a QR code on your code each time to rack up some points? Little customer feedback is always great and I think that can give you some directional learning about how your customers would respond to it. If things sound good, then it really is about selecting a service.

There’s a lot of loyalty services out there for us, our philosophy on the loyalty experience is that we can build a great one. But that’s not where our focus is. Our focus is that we have a great loyalty program, but it is just to power the intelligence behind the text message marketing. We’ve got a great, great loyalty program that people’s per spending is the lowest $29 can get in and start building today.

It’s easy, but again, our thought is that we want to start to understand our customers behavior so that we can message them in higher value ways. If they’re not just coming in for discounts, but we’re getting them right at that time of the months where we know they get paid and then are much more likely to make a purchase because of it, or they’re interested in this product that’s coming back in stock or this or that.

I don’t want to overcomplicate it, but it’s really just about hey, is this a fit for my business? What’s the criteria, do I have repeat buyers? Would those buyers find value in what I have? Do I have something they can get value in, get some feedback, see what they think and ultimately about just putting one in place and trying it. If you own a coffee shop, or a restaurant, or a retail store that has multiple locations, try it in one and see how it works. See what the adoption rate looks like. If you see people are signing up for it, then great. You can step on the gas and continue to pursue it. But I don’t think it has to be that long of a process.

Ben: Before we get too far along, it’s important to ask whether a loyalty program truly does make sense for your business. Now, like Matt said, if for example you’re a real estate company, you’re probably not going to get frequent sales from the same customers very often. They’re not going to come back to you to buy houses on a repeat basis.

Say if you’re a restaurant, a coffee shop, any kind of service based company that people use all the time. You solve something that people need frequently, then you might be onto something here. If incentivizing customer loyalty isn’t something that maybe you’ve been proactive about incorporating into your marketing strategy in the past, then from listening to Matt, it really sounds as though it definitely could be something for you to consider. Especially considering the tough economic climate that all businesses are weathering right now and are really going to have to continue to find ways to navigate, at least for the near future.

Now, back to Matt. Once a company has established the basics of a loyalty program. They’ve moved past the testing phase, they’ve determined that this is potentially a really valuable growth lever for them and a really good means of building customer loyalty and retention. How would you recommend the approach growing it? Things are up and running and you’re seeing some success, what’s next?

Matt: It goes back to what I had said earlier. The first thing that you want to do once you realize, hey, this is important, this is going to drive value. I think it’s important to know are we doing this just for the loyalty program? Are we doing this just to get people to come back in with their points? SMS serves no further purpose than just to let people know how many points they have when they check in.

Or is it that plus we’re going to use SMS as a driver to market to these people. That’s the first piece of it. Because it changes how you’re going to want to grow it. As you want to grow it, obviously there’s the hey, we’re going to roll this out to all of our other stores. There’s a lot of different levers that you could pull to grow your SMS marketing list and your loyalty program. .

Some of them are really simple. Have you ever walked into Abercrombie, Gap, Banana Republic or any of these other stores. The first thing they’ll say to you when you throw your clothes on the counter is, are you a member of our loyalty rewards program yet? Particularly in retail restaurants. Any type of business where there’s an in person interaction there, you have to ask for it. It’s simple.

I’ve seen so many cases where businesses don’t prioritize that simple thing. They don’t make it something that’s required for all of their employees to ask when the interaction is actually happening. It was a lot of opportunity. Asking for it is huge.

Another big one is to incentivize the joining of the program. Whether that’s opting into your SMS marketing program or joining the loyalty rewards program in the beginning. You have to provide value. You walk into that restaurant or you log on to that site and you see a pop up and it says, hey, get 15% off your first order. Get a coupon code right now if you texted this to that short code.

The idea behind it is that we’re going to give them something extra special to get it now. That is the second most important in most cases. The strategy is very based upon a type of business that you have. Ecommerce is blowing up right now, especially given the whole COVID thing and everybody’s doing the shopping online. We see a lot more of these pop ups on the websites that are calling people to take action right then and there. We have some great integration, we have a great integration with Shopify right now. Anybody that has a store, whether it’s a small boutique, whether they’re doing tens of millions of dollars a month in sales. Whatever it happens to be, we power the SMS marketing for those types of companies and it’s very easy to plug what we have into their online stores so that they can have those pop ups come up and capture that information, or capture that stuff at checkout.

You’ve got to look at every point at which you’re going to interact with a customer or a potential customer. You look at that as an opportunity, capture their information and get them to join if they already haven’t.

Ben: For the last question that I have for you, I imagine the answer is potentially going to differ based on what kinds of offers you’re providing or some of the specifics of the program that a business might be running. But what are some really key metrics that marketers should be monitoring in order to really understand whether their loyalty program is actually effective?

Matt: Yeah, certainly. I just split this down the middle and I’ll talk from an SMS marketing side and then from an actual loyalty program side. On the SMS side, some key metrics that you want to look at in creating your subscription velocity. We want to see how many people are coming on and how quickly they are coming on. That gives you a very, very good idea at a high level of whether or not your employees are asking people to join at checkout. Gives you a very good idea about whether or not the incentives that are behind that initial opt in are strong enough. It gives you a signal as to whether or not people care about your product.

I think that’s an important one. Obviously, when it comes to text messaging, there’s less that we can track because we can’t track opt ins, we can’t track a lot of things that you can in email. We recommend that you’re providing links on all of your messages so you can track click through rates, a very, very easy one. You want to see how many people are clicking to go to the website or clicking to go place an order or whatever. That’s certainly one there.

The third one, this is a big one, is your opt out rate. Very simple things, but looking at how much of your list churns every single time you do a blast, and maybe once you’re really get going a little bit, changing the frequency of your blasts in such a way that you can start to see are there certain times of the day that when I send the message we have more opt outs. Or is there a point in which we’re sending too many messages where we’re starting to get some people to churn off that list. Those are three very, very easy metrics that you can pay attention to that give you a really, really good idea about how things are performing.

On the loyalty program side, the actual counting of the beans, so to speak, and offering people rewards and getting them to come back in, it’s very, very easy to see the check ins. We can look and say, okay, the average customer checks in x amount of times per month. Maybe if my best customers, how often do they? You really can’t look at your custom base as a whole, you need to break them down into smaller segments. You want to look at whether or not they’re actually taking advantage of their rewards. Let’s say you send a message to 500 people who have rewards sitting waiting to be used. How many of those people actually come back into the store and redeem those things? Those are all metrics that you can see in any good loyalty program’s analytics dashboard, including ours.

Those give you an idea about whether or not people care. This was years ago, but it makes me think about QR codes. Again, QR codes have become more popular since COVID. I heard a statistics somewhere for one of the popular QR code scanners that this app had 250 million codes scanned and the average number, I can’t remember exactly what it was, but it netted out that each app scanned 1.1 codes. If you think about that for a second, that very, very clearly tells you that they download the app, they use it once, and then they trash it.

The same thing goes for loyalty programs, is that people can say we’ve got thousand customers in my loyalty program and they’ve all checked in once or 1.1 times on average. That tells you that they’re not finding the value in it or the employees at the store are not pushing to make sure that people check in each time they come.

Ben: Those are some really important points to keep in mind. Before I let you go, is there anything else that you think is really important for our listeners to be aware of if they’re entertaining the idea of starting a loyalty program that you haven’t had a chance to touch on yet.

Matt: One thing that I would definitely throw out, there’s a lot of different things that I could cover today. One thing that we’ve seen more of, particularly around this time, right before Black Friday, going into the holidays, is we find a lot of people who say, yup, I want to give this a try. I’ve been collecting phone numbers in my POS for the last five years. I want to take all of those people, load them in and start blasting them with text messages.

The thing that I would say is don’t do that. Unless you have been abundantly clear that people are signing to receive text messages and special promotions from you, don’t do it. There are legal ramifications that can be pretty hefty. If you look at the previous TCPI lawsuits, it really just boils down to getting people’s permission before you market to them. It’s the case regardless of channel. But there’s a lot more at stake when it comes to SMS, particularly in the United States.

Make sure that when you are collecting opt-ins that you are doing it appropriately, you’re doing it correctly, you’re following the guidelines. We’ve got a lot of resources in our website that make it very clear about how you go about doing this the right way. It’s not hard. But start from scratch and get the people who are really, really interested in receiving your messages via SMS.

Ben: I’m glad you just threw that out there because I think any time you start potentially getting legal issues involved, that’s definitely pretty important to keep in mind because if this is something that you’re going to do with an eye toward customer retention, that could turn costly really quickly.

Matt: It can. It doesn’t need to scare anybody away. Everybody has some sort of SMS communication component to their business it seems these days. Don’t be a bad human. Think about what your customer is going to feel like if you did business with them five years ago and now you think that you can message them, they’re going to be upset. Don’t do that.

Our platform makes it really easy. It’s very easy to say hey, text this to this to opt in to our program. Or if you’re online, you fill out a form, and you double opt in to join the text program. It’s easy. You have your bases covered, you grow your list, and people are happy to receive that, people also know that they can opt out anytime by replying stop or cancel. A happy list is one that’s going to be the most performing.

The post How to Use Rewards Programs to Build Customer Loyalty Like the Best Brands Around With Matt Baglia From SlickText [AMP 216] appeared first on CoSchedule Blog.

Actionable Marketing Podcast

How to Retain an Engaged Audience by Treating Content…

How can marketers retain an engaged audience? Treat content like a carousel by getting people to come back for unique value from you and your brand.

Today’s guest is Lindsay Tjepkema, CEO and co-founder of Casted — the first and only B2B marketing platform for brand podcasts. Lindsay knows what it takes to build, grow, and retain an audience.


Some of the highlights of the show include:

  • Podcast: Opportunity to connect with audience and sales by providing content
  • Marketing Channels: Leverage content for podcast business to amplify voices
  • Content Challenges: Underwhelming access to software and experts
  • Actionable Advice: Be the change you wish to see, and practice what you preach
  • Casted: Create, publish, syndicate, and leverage show content across channels
  • Content Carousel: What is it, who’s it for, how will you continue to serve them?
  • Good or bad thing? Customers stop coming once they get what they came for
  • Audit Audience Trends: Downloads, listens, and other signs people stay or leave
  • CRM Capabilities: Engagement and retention rates—who listens and when?
  • Advocate for Seasons: Make and compare changes, but don’t change audience
  • Repurpose content and re-order ingredients to re-engage audience

If you liked today’s show, please subscribe on iTunes to The Actionable Content Marketing Podcast! The podcast is also available on SoundCloud, Stitcher, and Google Play.

[Tweet “How to retain an engaged audience by treating content like a carousel, with @CastedLindsay from @GoCasted.”]


Ben: Hi, Lindsay. How are you doing this morning?

Lindsay: I am awesome. Thank you so much for having me.

Ben: Yeah, absolutely. We were just chatting a little while ago, but it sounds as though you’ve been a listener of the show for a long while now.

Lindsay: I have. I think I was one of your first listeners back in 2015. I said it then, I’ll say it now, I love the actionable advice that’s shared on this show. It’s got a whole lot of pontificating and stuff you can use. I’m going to try to do the same thing here today.

Ben: Awesome. Thank you so much for sticking with us over the years and for now coming on the show yourself. To get our audience up to speed with who you are, what you do, and what Casted is all about, would you mind taking a moment just to introduce yourself to our listeners and tell us what you are working on over at Casted right now?

Lindsay: Sure. I’m Lindsay Tjepkema. I’m CEO and co-founder of Casted. I spent the first 15 years of my career as a marketer—always in B2B. I was on the agency side, I’ve been on the corporate side.

Prior to starting Casted, I was a marketing leader at a global enterprise SaaS business leading content and brands. We had a great content engine going. I was getting lots of great advice from CoSchedule from the Actionable Marketing Podcast and seriously applying a lot of it.

We launched a podcast. I saw the opportunity there to better connect with our audience and actually provide our sales team with better, more engaging content that they could rally behind globally. I was happy that we did it. It did what we wanted it to do, but I was vastly overwhelmed with the software that just didn’t exist for me as a marketing leader, for my team as a B2B marketing team to be able to leverage the type of content that you and I are creating right now for the business.

There’s a lot out there for people who want to do podcasts, but not a whole lot for marketing teams that want to have access to that content and amplify those expert voices across the other channels that marketing teams leverage.

I left the world of marketing, not completely, but I left my role as a marketing leader to be the change I wish to see. I started Casted about a year and a half ago, and was the first and only (right now) B2B marketing platform that’s built around a brand podcast that says, hey, go create a show like you’re doing now. Yes, publish it with Casted, syndicate it with Casted, but also wring it out. Leverage that content across other channels. We have the full-on solution to help make that happen. That’s where we are.

Ben: Very cool. Thanks for filling us in on your background. It’s all great stuff. Something we’re going to talk about—and you had also mentioned earlier so it’s not necessarily an original concept, but it is one that you believe in very strongly in that you practice regularly and also practice what you preach like us as well—is the concept of a content carousel.

Before we get too deep into that, something I want to ask is, sometimes even when you have the most engaged audience in the world, people will drop off and fade away for a multitude of reasons. Whether they’re brands, shows, publications, or whatever, I know that there are things that I used to read or used to follow that I don’t anymore, and I honestly couldn’t tell you why. It’s just a natural thing that I think happens for us.

In your view, what are some of the things that typically might cause a reader, viewer, or a listener—whatever the case may be, to stop following a brand’s content or just drift off and fade away?

Lindsay: When that happens, you just look at yourself. You stopped getting what you came for or you got what you came for, you’re done and you turn around to the next thing. The best thing that anyone can do to avoid that is to continue to ask yourself—what I say is you should ask yourself before you even start a podcast before you go into any content—who is it for and why are you doing it?

Who is your content for, who is your show for, and why are you doing it? How are you serving that audience? What’s it supposed to do for your brand? What’s your goal? Perhaps, there’s some content that exists to meet people at a certain place in some journey—buyers’ journey in developing brand awareness or brand affinity, there’s a certain purpose.

If someone advances on from that further down the funnel, maybe that’s not a bad thing depending on your goal. But if your goal is to hold onto them for a longer period of time, if your goal is to really maintain that relationship—maybe it’s with customers and you want to maintain that relationship and build deeper, deeper trust and credibility with them—continue to ask yourself, who is it for? How are we serving this audience, and how can we continue to give them what they’re looking for and provide them with valuable information ongoing over time? How can you continue to entertain them, educate them, or give them something that they can’t get anywhere else?

One, ask yourself, is it a bad thing? If people aren’t listening or continuing that content anymore, are they advancing on to the next step? Then it’s not a bad thing. As long as you keep filling that funnel.

Two, if it is a bad thing and you’re losing people for the wrong reasons, how can you just go back to the basics? How can you better understand your audience and give them more of what they’re looking for? Even if that means changing the format, changing the topic, or changing the content a little bit?

Ben: Sure. I think that all makes a lot of sense. I understand that as part of this content carousel concept. It sounds like you have a set of solutions to this problem that are collectively intended to make your content function. Like a carousel, if we can all mentally envision how a carousel operates, you keep people coming back in a circle.

I think this is important since we’ve mentioned this term several times already without really explaining how it works. Could you explain, what is a content carousel before we get too much further along? How do you go about building one? Obviously, we’re not going to get out the tools and go build a carousel in a literal sense. I’m curious what that actually looks like in practice.

Lindsay: Sure. I definitely need to give credit to where the term originated. One of our customers at OpenView Partners, her name is Meg Johnson. She is the host of their show and they do some incredible work with their podcast and with their related content.

I don’t want to try to capture her words but what it means to me in the way we talked about it at Casted is amplifying your content, bringing out that content, and saying, okay, start with a show. Start with a conversation like you and I are having right now, and saying, okay, great. I’m going to capture the expertise of guests on our show—people that my audience wants to hear from—because I know who they are and why we’re doing it. Okay, that’s step one. Publishing the show is step one.

How can I wring it out? How can I take that content and use it in other ways? How can I use it to fuel my blog posts? How can I use the transcript to fuel my blog posts? How can I leverage the transcript to increase SEO value and also give my audience something richer and deeper to dig into if they want to look at the textual version of that conversation?

How can I wring out that content on social media and use clips to draw people in to listen to the bigger conversation? How can I fuel my sales team with content that really matters to their audience, to the prospects that they’re talking to? At what point in the conversation did the guest mention some stats, actually get into a point where they were talking about a testimonial or a little bit of a used case that my sales team would just love to get their hands on?

It’s looking for different opportunities to wring out that content and use it across other channels. I hope I’m doing Meg from OpenView justice about something that pours perspective on it. It’s saying, if I start with this in the core, I provide value with the core, and I’m fueling all the rest of my channels with that great, rich content. It creates a flywheel by saying, I’m giving my audience more and more ways to engage with this content, to consume this content in ways that are valuable to them, ways that they want to consume content.

If they start here, they start in the center, they start that podcast, and they’re interested in learning more, digging into some more actionable information, getting tips—there are those options and opportunities for them to dig deeper. To her point, is it a marketing merry-go-round or a content carousel? I think it’s the way that she put it in our interview. It just spins and spins and gives your audience more and more to sink into.

Ben: I think that’s straightforward enough. How should marketers go about diagnosing whether their content is losing its appeal to the audience or not? There are probably some obvious signs like your podcast downloads or listens go down, your blog traffic goes down, your YouTube views go down. It’s also possible that you could be just flatlining because you’re bringing people in about the same rate as what […] are leaving.

You might have a problem there without realizing it because your numbers aren’t telling you the whole story. From your perspective, how would you recommend that marketers go about auditing their presence on their channel, or their audience to see if this is a problem for them in the first place at all?

Lindsay: Great question. That was one of the things that frustrated me in starting a podcast in my past life, and it led us to start Casted. What do downloads really mean? If it’s a number, then numbers simply go up or down. Downloads only mean that somebody subscribed to my podcast and it was pulled down by their device. It doesn’t even mean that they listened to it. And what if they listened to it 566 times? It’s still just counted as one download. That creates a lot of problems.

Specifically, what we did in the Casted platform—in the bigger picture why I think it’s still important—is that to your point, marketers need to know more about engagements and impact on the brand and the bottom line. Is what I’m doing as a marketer making a difference? Am I doing the right things? Is it fueling pipelines? Is it contributing to revenue in any way?

One thing that was important for us to start with was engagement metrics like, yes listenership—overall listenership. Are people listening, are they completing the episodes? You can watch if that trends up or down. But then there are also new listeners versus repeat listeners.

To your point—again, depending on who my show is for, what I’m trying to do, what the content is about—if I have a certain number of listeners and that number stays more or less stagnant but I see that they’re all coming back and my retention rate essentially is high. Then I’m starting to hear anecdotally some feedback that correlates with that like, hey, our customers love our podcast; this, this, and this; and this is what we’re seeing as a result. Our retention rate is higher, our loyalty is much higher. It seems like they trust us more. That seems like it’s doing well.

Now if on the other hand, your intent is to generate more and more awareness, it’s the very top of the funnel, and you don’t have more and more new listeners, that’s a problem. Being able to see things like new listeners versus repeat listeners, that’s important.

Also, we added integration for anybody who uses HubSpot for CRMs. You can see not only how many people are listening, but who is listening. I can see if Ben came and listened to our show. It shows up in the timeline just like Ben opened an email and Ben came to the website. I think that’s important too. We, for one, are expanding into more theorem capabilities and you’ll see that more as time goes by.

Ben: It seems like such a simple piece of advice but because it’s so simple, I think that it’s one that’s easy to overlook. That’s to make sure that your content is really, truly, actually focusing on the things that your customers care about the most.

Of course, as marketers, we always think that we’re giving people what they want, but if we aren’t listening, we’re getting complacent, or if our market changes and we don’t change with it, it can be easy for people to slip away without our notice. I think it’s also true that if we aren’t dedicated to continuous improvement in our work, it also leaves room for other competitors who are maybe hungrier, more innovative, or more ambitious than us to slowly eat our lunch without our notice.

If you’re seeing the clients, your audience size, your engagement, your traffic, your conversions, or other key metrics, the best place to start finding solutions is to just go back to the very basics. That all begins with just talking to people. They will tell you what it is they’re looking for if you’re willing to listen. Now, back to Lindsay.

Once marketers have taken those steps, they’ve assessed where they’re at with their audience—good, bad, or neutral, whatever the case may be, what would you recommend they do next? What do you do differently with your content versus what you were doing before to maybe either double down on what’s working or to shore up what isn’t?

Lindsay: I’m going to zoom out from that even one tick more. I think, generally speaking, I’m a big advocate for seasons. I’ve been in the role where we’re going to do a podcast every Wednesday forever and ever and ever. It’s always going to be about this topic, and it’s going to be great.

The problem with that is you’re going to paint yourself into a corner and you don’t have an opportunity as easily. Nothing’s impossible, but it’s not as easy to take a beat to say, how did this season compare to last season? When we changed this one thing, was that a good thing or a bad thing? When we changed up the host, we looked at the topic from a different angle, or we changed the format, what did it do?

When you do seasons, you have those opportunities, and it’s not as jarring to the audience to say, hey, we’re going to take a break for a week, a month, a quarter, whatever it may be. When we come back, things are going to be a little bit different. The audience expects it.

We’ve actually done that. Season one was about the host of shows. It’s always been about marketers with podcasts, but season one was about the host of the shows. Season two is about the unheard voices, behind the mic (if you will). Then season three was about from a leadership perspective, how are you prioritizing podcasts, and so forth.

It’s always the same audience. You’re not changing up who it’s for but you’re changing up the subject matter a little bit. We could compare over time, wow, our audience seems to like this topic versus this topic. That tells us even a little bit more about who they are and what they’re looking for in our show.

To get to your question, when you have that data, then you can go back and say, okay, we changed this one thing—that was a good thing or it was a bad thing, or we haven’t tried this other thing yet and I think that we should. It’s all data. You just need to set yourself up with the ability to compare that data. Because if all you have is just an ongoing show, you don’t know what your variables are so it’s hard to compare over time what you’re doing differently.

Ben: Absolutely. One point that I think is also something that gets talked about a lot and that’s maybe related to this concept of building a content carousel is the idea of repurposing content. In fact, we hear this all the time whether or not everybody necessarily abides by it or actually applies it as much as they should or as well as they’re capable.

From your perspective, where do you think that repurposing content fits into this whole picture, and how does repurposing specifically help reengage people who might have fallen off the map for you?

Lindsay: Yes, repurpose your content. You put a lot of effort into it. If it’s good, it’s good especially if it’s evergreen and has a nice long shelf life. Especially if you start with an expert voice, if you start with a show, yes we’re in a podcast right now but maybe it’s a video.

If you are interviewing experts—and that doesn’t have to be an author, that doesn’t have to be an influencer, it’s an expert. An expert is someone who knows a lot about a subject matter that your audience cares about. That can be your interns, that can be your engineers, that can be your CEO, that can be anyone.

Who is it for and what do they care about? Interview those people. If you’re starting with that, then what you’ve got is an hour, a half-hour, 15 minutes, whatever it is, worth of valuable, rich, original content that only you have.

Don’t stop with simply making it into a show. Do that first, but then bring it out across other channels that we’ve talked about before, use that—that’s kind of that Meg’s content carousel is used across other channels. But then as you’re doing that—let’s do something arbitrary about apples.

We’re talking about apples. You bring in apple experts onto your show and you bring that out across all of your other channels. Then think about what are the other interviews that we’ve done? What’s the other content that we’ve produced about apples, about fruit, about fall foods, or about pears? What other angles can you look at that to say, what do we already have that we can either republish, repromote, or pull parts off to pull into new content?

If your audience cares about apples, they’re going to care about everything you have to say about apples. It gives you an opportunity to not only be more engaging with your audience and give them more of what they’re looking for but to be more efficient—which marketers are always looking for—by reusing content you’ve already put a lot of effort into.

Definitely take a moment. I think the simplest way to do that is to keyword search in whatever your content database is. Keyword search in your blog, keyword search in your database—wherever you’re hosting it.

In Casted, we have search capabilities that search your transcripts, all of your show titles, and everything as well so you can go back through that content. Whatever way works for you with the tools you already have, just do a simple search for the content you already have access to and think about different ways that you can include it along with that new content that you’re putting out there.

Ben: For sure. That’s great advice to leave our audience with. Before I let you go, is there anything else that we haven’t touched on in regards to this topic that you feel is important that people understand after they come away from this conversation?

Lindsay: Along the same lines but a little bit bigger picture is we’ve all been doing content marketing in a very similar way—kind of from the same playbook—for the last, in my whole career, so 15–20 years.

There’s nothing wrong with it, it’s very blog-centric, SEO-centric. That served me well throughout my career, it served a lot of people well. There’s nothing wrong with it, but what that does is it focuses on blogging and SEO first and foremost and then says, cram everything else in around the sides, push those videos, podcasts, and all the other rich media that your audience wants into the margins. That has put a lot of pressure on marketing teams.

I’ve lived it, I think a lot of your listeners are living it now. I guess I would just encourage everyone listening to say, hey, what if you just turn that on its side? Thought about things a little differently and said, instead of blog-blog-blog, SEO-SEO-SEO, everything else in the margins, what if you still had all of these ingredients but you just reordered them and said, I’m going to go have some conversations. I’m going to capture those conversations, publish them—whether it’s something simple in social media, in a podcast, or on the show—and then I’m going to wring out all my content from there.

I’m still going to do the blog post, I’m still going to do social media, but I’m going to start with that source content straight from the mouth of the expert and see if it makes your life a little bit easier and your content a little bit more effective and engaging.

The post How to Retain an Engaged Audience by Treating Content Like a Carousel With Lindsay Tjepkema From Casted [AMP 215] appeared first on CoSchedule Blog.

Actionable Marketing Podcast

What Marketers Can Learn From Nonprofits About Building Brand…

What strategies can marketers learn from nonprofits about building brand advocacy? Successful nonprofits know what it takes to get people to rally behind a belief or cause. Brands that turn their best customers into advocates build brand loyalty and drive sales.

Today’s guest is Spencer Brooks from Brooks Digital, an agency that helps health-focused nonprofits grow a digital presence and turn patients into advocates.


Some of the highlights of the show include:

  • What is an advocate? Highly engaged customer doing work on brand’s behalf
  • Passive to Active Promoters: How to turn customers into brand advocates
  • Why do brands need advocates? Free marketing saves time and money
  • How? Gift products and provide positive referrals, reviews, recommendations
  • What makes nonprofits effective? Fewer resources rely on constituents
  • Meaningful Why: Nonprofits use emotional storytelling to create advocates
  • Company values solve some philosophical problems when things are done right
  • Foundational Concept: Brand advocacy resonates product/service with identity

If you liked today’s show, please subscribe on iTunes to The Actionable Content Marketing Podcast! The podcast is also available on SoundCloud, Stitcher, and Google Play.

[Tweet “What marketers can learn from nonprofits about building brand advocacy, and why they should start now, with @spencerbrooks from @Brooks_Digital.”]


Ben: Hey, Spencer, how are you doing this morning?

Spencer: Hey, Ben, I am doing amazing. Thank you for asking.

Ben: That’s awesome. It’s rare to hear such enthusiasm to that question these days, but I really appreciate that.

Spencer: Sometimes I do that at the grocery store and people just stop and think it’s amazing. You always get the I’m good, thanks. But sometimes it peps up someone’s day to be oh, you’re doing amazing. Has anyone asked you how you’re doing, Ben? How are you doing this morning?

Ben: I’m doing good. I’m hanging in there. Not riding too high or too low, but thank you for asking.

Spencer: There you go. Hopefully, in the end, we’ll take this from good to amazing. That’ll be my goal.

Ben: For sure. I think that’s a good goal. Before we get too sidetracked, would you mind just taking a moment to introduce yourself to our audience and explain what you do with Brooks Digital?

Spencer: Sure, I’d be happy to. My name is Spencer Brooks, and I run Brooks Digital which is a digital agency. We specialize specifically in helping health-focused nonprofits build out digital presence and a digital platform that improves the health and well-being of the people that they serve. I’m really excited today to just bring what I know in my experience in the profit sector and bring that perspective to bear on the conversation we’re going to have today.

Ben: For sure. I think this is a super interesting topical intersection because I do believe that there are a lot of things that nonprofits can learn from for-profit companies and that for-profit companies can learn from nonprofit companies. The specific thing that we’re going to be talking about is turning customers into brand advocates. I think that’s something for nonprofits, getting people to buy into a cause is bread and butter. But for B2B or B2C companies, that can maybe be a little more challenging, especially if you’re in a “boring” niche.

There’s no such thing as a boring industry. If you have a product that someone needs, it’s not boring for the person buying it. But actually getting people to care can be challenging. Before we get too far along, what does it mean to turn a customer into an advocate?

Spencer: The way that I think about this is that an advocate is this type of highly-engaged customer that’s doing some sort of work on your behalf. It’s usually marketing work. That might be telling their friends or family about your company. It could be gifting your products. Christmas is coming up when we’re recording this, it’s November. An advocate might be the person who is buying something that your company produces as a gift for their friends or family, it could be providing referrals, positive reviews. They’re doing some sort of action on your behalf.

I like to think about this in terms of maybe a spectrum. You have someone who could be just a passive consumer and bringing them, and turning them into an advocate is getting them into an active position and active promoter. It’s this push from passive to active that really represents turning a customer into an advocate.

Ben: Sure. That’s a really simple concrete way of thinking about it. Why are brand advocates important, how are they crucial for success? As a marketer, why do I need advocates versus just people who give me money?

Spencer: I think there is some sort of intuitive reasoning that many of us probably have. The advocates are important on some level. The way that I think about it is that advocates are important because they provide a leverage point. What I mean by that is they’re doing (a lot of times) free marketing for you.

If you think about spending money right now on content creation, on advertising, things like that, it’s a lot of time and money that you’re investing in those assets. If you have 10, 100, or 1000 advocates that are doing marketing work on your behalf, that’s a huge point of leverage.

The stats already back up what most of us already know. 92% of people trust the word of mouth recommendations. If you have a brand advocate, they’re spending twice what your average customer is going to spend. If you have a customer that’s referred by one of your brand advocates, they’re going to have a 37% higher retention. It confirms what you probably know inside—they’re important.

In terms of how crucial they are to success like I was saying before, it’s a continuum. I think you can be running a perfectly fine business and not have a ton of advocates. I don’t think it’s necessarily about you’ve got to have advocates or your business is going to tank. But I do think it is a huge growth lever that you can pull if you have high growth targets or you want to add a little bit more oomph to your marketing.

It’s a little bit more about maturity as opposed to this got to have it or you’re not going to be successful mindset. That’s the way that I think about it.

Ben: I think that’s a very realistic and a very clear-minded way of looking at it. We may all occasionally see anytime anyone’s hyping up any kind of tactic, I feel like sometimes, it can come off a little like if you don’t do this, you better be looking for your next job right now. I appreciate that you’re not bringing the doom and gloom with us. It’s good to think of it as a maturity thing, for sure.

Spencer: The space that I work in a lot—I think this is true not just nonprofits, but B2B, B2C—is that there’s only so much time that each of us has in our marketing to dedicate to any particular tactic. I’m sure, everyone listening knows, there are so many things that you can be choosing from because nonprofits, in particular, are very resource-constrained. That example of that phenomenon where I have to help them pick what are the top three, five tactics, channels, the things that you’re going to focus on. Because if you’re spread too thin and you just take everything but the kitchen sink approach, then you’re just not going to have the time and money to invest and actually succeed and compete in any particular tactic or channel.

That perspective has to be brought to this conversation that creating advocates is work, and you have to recognize when that is an inappropriate strategy to be using. When you can say, hey, you know what, this is going to be a good thing for us to maybe do down the line. But right now, we’re having a hard enough time as it is keeping up with our content calendar.

That’s why I did want to highlight, hey, if you’re having high growth targets or if you’re maybe a little more mature on your marketing continuum, then let’s be thinking about this. But I do think that even folks that might not be there yet can start having some of these things that we’re going to be talking about churning in their mind. And they can start laying some groundwork, which I think will help all of their marketing.

Ben: Certainly. I think a super interesting point that you touch on there is that nonprofits are used to operating under much tighter resource constraints than what probably most marketers are if they work in a for-profit type company. With everything that’s going on now in the economy and then the society as a result of the pandemic, it’s also certainly true that I think a lot of marketers who maybe were used to having a little bit more money or a few more team members, unfortunately, to get things done are now finding themselves in a somewhat similar situation. Where it’s like, we have to get the most out of every dollar we spend, more than ever.

It’s always true, but it’s a true thing that’s truer now for all of us. But nonprofits have to be good at this. Because their existence relies on it. What makes nonprofits, in your mind, particularly effective at turning donors into advocates? Do you think of them as donors or customers in nonprofits?

Spencer: The nonprofits would use maybe constituents. Some of them are donors, but there’s a wide variety of their audience. I think what makes them effective, I guess to your point, Ben, your observation, is that yes, nonprofits are forced by resource constraints to have to get the most out of their dollar. With advocates, they have to be effective at doing that because they can’t do their work by themselves.

If you’re a nonprofit and you’re trying to petition congress or something to lower the price of insulin or something, you’ve got to get a ton of people to buy into that so that you can get what you want to get done done. But to your question, nonprofits are really good about using emotional storytelling to turn people into advocates. What I mean by that is they’re working from a strong position of meaningful why.

From a B2B and B2C perspective that a good product or service may not be enough. I view this as the cost of entry. It’s easier to differentiate with a why, and that’s what nonprofits do really well is they tap into this emotional connection that they’re doing to get people to take action. I think that abstract missions don’t always motivate.

One of the things that a B2B or B2C organization can do to try to mimic that because the reality is that sometimes you’re right, Ben, there’s boring industries. No industry is boring. It’s not going to be the same as Save the Children. It’s very tangible. There’s probably not going to be pictures of starving children on your website and things like that. They’re these gut-wrenching things. But I do think, in every single industry, there is some kind of philosophical problem that your product or service is addressing.

The StoryBrand Framework is a great tool, it’s a book by Donald Miller. If you haven’t heard of it, it does a very good job of helping put the product or service that you provide inside the framework of your customer’s story. One of the things that he talks about in that book is a philosophical problem. As an example, Apple could solve the philosophical problem of technology should be easy to use. It’s those should statements that represent this is the way the world should be as it relates to my specific industry.

Every industry has those philosophical problems, and those are the things that brands can tap into and learn from how nonprofits do that same thing, just with a much more obvious philosophical, social issue that they’re trying to motivate people to take action on.

Ben: Yeah. That is a great way of explaining that. It’s certainly true, any company can apply that to what they do.

Spencer: Absolutely. It’s challenging to do that however because, by default, most companies (I would imagine) are not approaching this from the position of the philosophical problem when the company is founded. I think they see other problems, and maybe the more obvious stuff is, well, we help our customers do this or solve this very tangible problem. But underneath the layers of that, you can dig out a philosophical problem. I do think that getting clear on company values is a very good way to start by doing that. If you’re not sure about it, I want to uncover my philosophical problem but I’m having trouble doing that. Digging out on company values is a good way to start.

One of the resources that I really like is just one of many for the value setting exercise is Traction. It’s by Gino Wickman. An entrepreneurial operating system. In that book, he has a process where he asks, has some leadership. Go pick three people that if you could clone them, you would dominate your industry. Everyone comes back with that list of three people. And then you say, why did you choose these folks? What characteristics or qualities do they represent? And you can start distilling those into the stuff that you really care about in your values.

I really think that by doing that, you’ll start to pull out some philosophical problems that you’re solving. We’re going to choose this particular person because they’re not going to stop until the customer is happy—random example. Or they embody such hard work, discipline, or things like that. I think those represent—for your organization, for your company—the way that things should be when they’re done right and I think when you’re clear on your values. There’s a lot of value mumbo jumbo, but when it comes down to helping you define your philosophical problem, getting straight on your values is a good way to uncover the way that you think the world should be in your industry. You can market and message around that.

Ben: If you’re still wondering whether it’s worthwhile to focus on building brand advocacy, I’d refer to the statistics that Spencer mentioned how 92% of people trust the word of mouth recommendations, and brand advocates spend twice what the average customer does as well. Neither of those statistics is particularly hard to believe, but they do reaffirm what most people could probably already assume is true. That’s people trust recommendations from people that they know, and people who are passionate about a product will spend a lot of money on it.

If you’re in a conversation with your colleagues, your supervisor, your team, or whoever it is that you’re trying to convince that this is something that you should try to nurture among your customer base, then there are two numbers that you can use to support that argument. Now, back to Spencer.

It doesn’t have to be totally life-changing if what your industry does just doesn’t happen to be this grand mission. We’re not all saving the world. But I can certainly think of random products that I buy if anybody were to ask me for a recommendation on some random thing. There are definitely brands I can point to where I would be like, yeah, that’s the one you need for XYZ reason. I think you did a really good job of summarizing that. But I just want to touch on that point a little bit for our listeners.

In case anybody is listening to this and they’re like, I sell some obscure hardware component that one industry uses or something like that, something real niche.

Spencer: No, I think it’s a very valid point because it’s all relative. I think once you get into a niche, you don’t have to have this. I think it would honestly be a mistake to try and make your philosophical problem larger than it needs to be. It doesn’t have to be, we’re going to try to reduce carbon emissions. Too much and people are going to be like, wait a minute, I’m just here to buy this obscure hardware component.

In every niche, people know how that niche works. Here are some of the problems that we’re dealing with here. Here’s just the way that the industry works. There are just things that we like and don’t like. I think being able to understand your niche enough to pull out the inner dynamics of it and then frame your philosophical problem just around your pond, that’s I think the lesson to be learned, not so much that you need to try and match the grand mission of a nonprofit.

You just have to look inside your fence and say, what are the issues? Even if they’re nitty-gritty, that is actually impacting everyone else in my industry, and how can I use that to differentiate my product or service in a meaningful way?

Ben: For sure. Going beyond the basics, I think this is getting back to your point about maturity. Let’s say that I’m a marketer, I’ve got a decent grasp on what brand advocacy is and how to nurture it. What would be some advanced tactics that you would recommend? If I really want to take brand advocacy to the next level, I want to be at the forefront of companies. When people think of companies that are really good at brand advocacy, I want to be one of those companies. What would you recommend? Maybe that’s a big ask.

Spencer: I’ll give it my best shot here. A foundational concept to grasp—as we dive into that—is the idea of identity. Brand advocacy and identity go hand in hand. What I mean by that is I think the companies that do the best at turning their customers into advocates have a product or service that resonates strongly with a customer’s current or desired identity. So much so that that person feels compelled to share your product or your service in order to tell other people who they are in some way.

Honestly, the thing about social as well—I’ll make a small point here before moving on—is that people don’t always share who they are. They share who they want others to think that they are. As you consider making people into advocates, you not only have to look at who they actually are, but how they want to be perceived by other people. Usually, your product or your service represents them making a shift into that desired identity. They share that as almost a way of saying this is who I’m becoming.

With that framed, I actually think that that concept is one of the most important things that you could be understanding about the nuances of advocacy. Then going in and actually identifying and learning from your existing advocate, that’s doing customer research and interviews to dig in and say okay, who’s actually already doing this right now—being an advocate, I mean—and what can I learn from them about how they perceive their identity in terms of my product or service—the philosophical problems, the things that they care about? It’s nuanced, but to uncover some of the strongest drivers.

And then once you’re able to identify those big philosophical things—the identity issues—then I think you can create content that allows people to share that new identity with others. As an example, my brother is a huge brand advocate for Dr. Squatch, which is a men’s soap company. They’ve done a fantastic job of creating really funny video ads that people want to share, that my brother wants to share, but it also taps into this other philosophical problem there, which is you should be able to feel masculine while you’re using soap. I can be a manly man and also take care of my body.

I think they did that by understanding the desire of maybe a man that wants to be perceived as masculine, but to also say, hey, I want to be able to actually have some self-care and take care of my body and use these products but I’m afraid to do that. Here is a piece of content that I can share to now proclaim to other people, hey, you know what, I’m okay, I’m a little bit more secure in using soap. And it’s packaged in a humorous way so it’s not this super serious thing that a guy would feel awkward sharing.

Those are some maybe key points that I want to say. But I think it does start with actually doing first the research to recap. And then using that research to create pieces of content that are shareable in a way that allows people to express their desired identity as it relates to your product or service.

Ben: Love it, yeah. I think that’s super good advice. I love that example too, how people visualize what that research and execution actually look like. Yeah, I think that’s great. That does it for all the questions I had for you. But before I let you go, is there anything else on this topic or […] topic that you haven’t touched on but you think might be important for people to know?

Spencer: I think that one that I wanted to bring up—it’s just an idea to leave someone with here—is that also, you can partner with related organizations when you have a clear why, a clear philosophical problem. One of the things that nonprofits do really well is that they understand their why and then they also understand that they can reach certain segments of the population that resonate with that, and they can do it by partnering with related organizations that have an audience that shares that why.

I think it’s very powerful for a B2B, B2C company that has defined their why in a way that might allow them to go then partner with a company that you would otherwise never really have an opportunity to get in front of their audience or share audiences with, and that you can use that as yet another way to grow your audience and boost your marketing. If I had to leave with any kind of closing thought around that, it really does come back to centering around a real differentiated why and that philosophical problem. Because I think if you don’t have that setup and tactical work that you’re going to try to do around building advocates is just going to fall flat because it’s not going to be centered around something that is a meaningful, philosophical problem for folks.

Ben: Sure. If our listeners want to dive deeper into this topic, what resources or things that people can easily find would you recommend they go check out next?

Spencer: Some of the things that I mentioned are great starting points—StoryBrand is a book, awesome resource, Traction. I think there’s a book called Lean Customer Interviews that goes into detail. I could be getting the name of that wrong. After this, I’ll find the name of that book and I’ll throw all these resources up on a page. You can just use and I’ll find the links to all the stuff. I’ll put it up for listeners so they can grab it.

There’s a book called Lean Customer Interviews (I think) and it goes into detail about the knots and bolts of doing a customer interview, how you phrase the questions and book all the appointments if you want to get started on that process as well. And then for nonprofits, I wrote a cheeky article titled Digital Marketing Tactics Are a Waste of Time, going through the process of how you would select and narrow down on the digital marketing tactics. For maybe those people who resonated—it doesn’t have to be nonprofits, but just for those folks that are saying, hey, I might be over-leveraged on my stuff.

I’ll throw all those resources up on that page I mentioned and people can access them there.

The post What Marketers Can Learn From Nonprofits About Building Brand Advocacy (and Why They Should Start Now) With Spencer Brooks From Brooks Digital [AMP 214] appeared first on CoSchedule Blog.

Actionable Marketing Podcast

The Best Ways for Brands to Be Genuinely Helpful…

What are the best ways for brands to make a difference during times of crisis? Connect customers with solutions to their problems.

Today’s guest is Richard Lau, founder of Logo and executive director at Water School. Richard discusses how to build a business and brand. Find the right balance between being genuinely helpful and useful while driving sales and revenue.


Some of the highlights of the show include:

  • Donations: Time, money, and network covers clean water project costs
  • NamesCon: Purpose of conference and partnerships to raise awareness
  • Sun, not Son: Women and girls are burdened with getting clean water
  • Colon Cancer Crisis: How it changed Richard’s perspective on life and business
  • Doctor’s Orders: Required workaholic to rollback on number of hours worked
  • Life Goals and Lifestyle: Borrowed or gifted time where life is about relationships
  • Compliment: Create a culture where everyone feels like more than a paycheck
  • COVID: Companies can better serve customers, employees, and communities
  • How to help other people? Prayer and passion; publicity is not the goal
  • Change Management: Invite and support others to do something—small or big
  • Pay It Forward: How are you, each and every day, a hero in your own life?

If you liked today’s show, please subscribe on iTunes to The Actionable Content Marketing Podcast! The podcast is also available on SoundCloud, Stitcher, and Google Play.

[Tweet “The best ways for brands to be genuinely helpful without being sales-y with Richard Lau from @Logodotcom and @waterschool.”]


Ben: Hi, Richard. Welcome to the show.

Richard: Thanks for having me. I’m excited to be here.

Ben: Yeah, absolutely. Before we get too far along, would you mind introducing yourself to our audience and explain what you do over at

Richard: Sure. I have been in the domain name business for going on 20 years. As part of that, I had a lot of buying and selling of high-end domains. Occasionally, I’m able to snag one and bring it into my own inventory instead of having it across my desk.

I’ve had domains like,,,, and With each of these ones, there’s something that I’m like oh, I could build a business here. I did that successfully with Resume, exited to Indeed, and now we’re doing the same thing with Logo where we’re like we know people want to be able to build a logo when they go to That’s what we’re building. We’ve got a local team and we’re taking the aspect of building a logo from upwards of 15 days down to 20 minutes.

Ben: Cool, very cool. I also understand that you’re the executive director of WaterSchool. Would you mind taking a moment to explain what that organization is all about and what your role in it is as well?

Richard: Certainly. WaterSchool is at and it focuses on clean water projects in Uganda. I started as a couch donor, just writing a check back in 2007. Slowly, over the years I’ve gotten more and more involved. Now I’m the executive director so a lot of that is just overseeing the fundraising that happens in North America and making sure as much of that as possible goes to the projects in Uganda.

As a board, we only have board members that are giving up their time, their money, or their network. The board personally covers all expenditures in North America so that donors know that 100% of what they’d give goes to cover project costs in Uganda. We’re very tight with what is spent in North America in terms of marketing and fundraising and all those costs. Generally, we’re just covering them out of our own pockets.

It’s raising awareness. I started a conference that sole purpose was to raise money for WaterSchool and that was in the domain name business, it was called NamesCon, which is now part of the GoDaddy family. Over the span of three or four years, we raised over half a million dollars for WaterSchool just from that conference alone.

We’ve got all kinds of partnerships that we do but it’s an exciting work that they do where we use the sun as the main focus. The sun is what disinfects the water rather than using chlorine or wood. There’s a whole lot, I can talk for an hour just about WaterSchool but there’s a ton that we’re doing there. It’s a women and girls focus because they’re the ones that are burdened with getting clean water.

Ben: Very, very cool stuff. I understand you’ve gone through some very difficult experiences in your life, including a cancer diagnosis. I’m curious were there any specific things you feel you learned from that experience both about life and business? I’m sure that when you go through any kind of experience like that, it’s going to leave you a different person than you were before and it’s going to have different ways of maybe altering your perspective on things. I’m just curious when you came out the other side of that experience, how did that change the way that you approached really anything but business in particular?

Richard: I’m 50 now, I was 30 when I was diagnosed with colon cancer, told that I wouldn’t leave the hospital to get my affairs in order. To be able to actually leave the hospital, come out of it, that was life-changing in itself. But it was a process, definitely a process coming out of that. I would’ve been a workaholic, working seven days a week from the time I was 20 until I was diagnosed and went to the hospital. When I came out, I was under doctor’s orders to roll back my work, so I rolled it back to 40 hours a week and that honestly felt like a vacation, I merged my company over with someone else.

But in terms of life goals and lifestyle, I think it was a godsend. From the time I was 30 until now, that to me has felt like borrowed time or gifted time. There’s this saying that life is about relationships, it’s not about money. Your money buys you a nice place to park your boat, it doesn’t buy you the happiness, right? What you’re going to get out of life is your relationships. In terms of business, I treat all of our team members like they’re humans.

When I was 20, I had terrible bosses. I had inhumane bosses. I had bosses that would swear at everyone, not just me, but swear at people and just cracking the whip and I’m like you know what? Life’s too short to work for a bad boss and I don’t want to be that. When I’m in that position, it really impresses me that hey, take a check. Not just with your family, but what relationship are you having with your coworkers, with your employees, with your contractors? I pay everyone, right? You pay your employees first, you never string them along. You pay your contractors what they’re expecting, when they’re expecting it.

If you’re running a small business and there’s eight people working for you, that’s eight families, that’s eight families that are relying on you. If you string them along by oh, things are tight. I need to delay payroll. No. Do whatever it takes to pay your people because that is a thank you, right? Money, in that instance, isn’t just money, it’s a thank you for your time. If you don’t appreciate their time, then don’t have them coming in.

When we had a Resume Christmas Party, it was right near the exit and people just started speaking about their time over the past year. Some people got emotional because they’re like I came into this company, I just thought it would be a job but really I feel like part of the family. To me, it was the biggest compliment, that creating a culture where everyone feels like more than just a paycheck, that there’s security in there, and that they’re going to be paid when they expected, and there’s significance. They’re recognized and they’re valued as human beings.

Ben: Yeah, absolutely. I think that’s fantastic stuff and just really everything you have to say in that area, I think that’s great. It’s really refreshing in a lot of ways. I feel like I’ve personally been fortunate to work for a lot of really great companies but not everybody certainly is. That’s awesome stuff.

Something that I’ve gleaned from everything that you shared, I think that making sure that you are treating people well, making sure that you’re nurturing relationships properly and authentically, and all these things are things that evidently are very important to you. Giving back, and leaving the world and people’s lives better than they were when you found them.

I think as the COVID-19 pandemic has continued, and it’s just been this thing that’s just been with us for as long as it has been and as long as it’s going to be. I think from a business perspective, I think that companies, organizations, brands, a lot have been searching for ways that they can better serve the customers, better serve the employees, how do they manage people working from home, and things like that. As is the case with anything, some of those companies are more successful than others.

But I think also in that, anytime that there’s a crisis, there’s also opportunities. There’s opportunities to find ways to meet those challenges maybe in creative ways. You could take this question I think in a lot of different directions but if a company, or a marketing department, or just somebody at a company right now is looking for opportunities to be as genuinely helpful as they can, whether that’s for their customers, for their employees, for their community, whatever it might be, how would you recommend that person starts to look to identify what those opportunities might be in their specific instance?

Richard: That’s a great question and it’s not an easy answer. I think that if you have a faith-based spirituality, you could pray, you can pray about it. You can ask God to bring something into your life. If not, you can be reaching out. What triggers me in a good way about a particular project or a particular need, what do you relate to? There’s so much need.

For me, clean water was what I was passionate about. But since then, we’ve also done a project on keeping girls in school. Where you think that it’s going to take you down this pathway, and now the focus for keeping girls in school is actual menstrual health. It’s just like never in a million years would I think that I would be talking with fellow guys about hey, we need to talk about menstrual health education in Uganda. Talk to me three years ago, I never would’ve connected the dots but that is how you keep girls in school, how you show that they’re valued, and keep them from being married off at 13, 14 years old.

Just be open and explore. What you’re not wanting to do is go in with an attitude of a transaction. It’s not hey, we have this company. How are we going to get the most bang for our charitable buck? Because then you’re just looking at a transaction and you’re not getting that—for lack of a better word—good karma out of it. What you’re going to get out of it is a tit for tat, and this applies for building your own network.

Go in and see how you can help somebody. If you get something out of it, that’s publicity, fine, but that’s not at all the goal. The goal is, how do you help other people and in what way are you going to help other people? The real challenge in your question is what method? There’s so many different needs out there. It’s like which one are you going to choose to go alongside people, pick up the shovel, and be like you know what? We’re here to help.

There’s so many needs. If people want to help, there’s just so much out there where you can help, so it’s just a matter of determining where do you fit in the social good, and where does your company fit in that social good? From talking to a lot of companies, the leaderships of the companies are looking for people in their company who are passionate about a cause.

They may be the CEO, their calendars may be chock-a-block full, but if someone from the customer service department says hey, you know what? I’m really passionate about this. What do you think about having the company do this or give in this way or in this manner? And I’m going to do this myself, blah, blah, blah. The CEO’s going to be like yeah, sounds great. Not only because they want to support you, but because they’re like hey, I get to do no work, I get to look good, and this is going to make the company look good.

There’s so many positives that just if you have something that you’re passionate about, even if you’re not running a large company, just ask and the support you would get will be usually beyond your expectation.

Ben: One key thing about helping to drive the organizational change necessary to get your coworkers or to get your supervisors to buy into the cause or the mission that you’re trying to build up support for is to ensure that you’re inviting people to join into something that’s bigger than themselves. Rather than treating it or presenting it like an obligation, or an exchange where they do something and then they immediately expect something back, or something where maybe there’s some amount of guilt-tripping involved where you’re maybe just trying to make them feel bad for not seeing the value of whatever it is that you’re trying to do. Those things obviously will not work so well.

Really appealing to people’s desire to be a part of something. If you just invite people to just do something interesting, I think that you might be surprised by how easy it can be to really get people to rally behind you and behind something that is meaningful. That’s really the root of success here. If you really want to drive an impact, in the matters that Richard describes, you need to get the support of other people and to get them as committed and as bought in as you are. Back to Richard.

Let’s say I’m a listener to the show and I work for a company, or I participate with some organization in some way that maybe I feel like maybe I personally am not doing enough or maybe there’s more that the company could be doing. Just like you said, there’s so much need just all over the place. Maybe more now than ever, but there always has been and there always will be, certainly. How would you recommend that the listener approach the conversation internally in order to effectively motivate that organization to take on some of those opportunities?

I imagine, generally, if you’re going to your boss or whoever saying that you want to do something good, who’s going to say no in a lot of instances? But at the same time, I would imagine that any time you’re asking people to do something that’s going to take their time, it’s going to take their energy, you might need to apply some gentle persuasion to maybe get people past identifying, yes, that’s a really good idea and you should do it. To actually themselves want to be a part of that thing as well. If someone’s in that position, how would you recommend they go about that conversation?

Richard: That’s a great way because a lot of times, people would go and they’ll approach the conversation as in hey, can you give… It just puts the person on the back foot or back step. Really, what you want to do is you want to ask them to join you. You can start small, you can have this I want the end goal that my company is giving $10,000 a year to the organization that I want to support. Well, let’s roll that back.

Don’t just walk into your boss’ office and say hey, can you cut me a check for $10,000? Roll that back and be like I’m doing this walk to support this charity. Do you mind if I put up the notice in the lunchroom? Or, do you mind if I include it in the company newsletter? Or, I’m doing a fundraiser. I’m going to do a walk or a ride and I’m raising $2500. Would you consider having the company do some matching funds? I’m going to put in the first 500. Would you guys mind matching that and whatever else people in the office do? You’re asking them to come alongside you, you’re not asking them to just write a check. You grow the relationship over time so that over time, they feel like they’re growing in the support for that organization with you.

You start with a walk, you start with a flyer, you start with something new, and maybe you draw two or three other people in your team to support it as well. That way, it becomes a company support of the organization. It’s not just hey, there’s Richard again going around for his bike ride asking everyone to give. No, no, I’m asking everyone to join me.

Your first invitation is always to join, and your second invitation is asking them to match funds or to consider giving. But the first thing should not be just hey, can you open your checkbook? The first thing is hey, can you join me? Can we give back sometime? What could we do to support an organization? That conversation is not about writing a check. It could be about hey, what if we did a roundup on our shopping cart? What if we donated a dollar of this particular products queue that we sold or from this online course?

Whatever it is you’re doing, you’re like okay, when we go into Starbucks and you buy that Ethos Water, $0.05 cents from the $2.75 goes towards a clean water project which is a miniscule amount but it adds up to millions of dollars. Starbucks is asking their customers to join them in supporting clean water.

It’s the same thing where you’re asking or you’re providing an opportunity to your company and just say hey, how can we do the right corporate thing that you see Starbucks doing, you see other people doing? And they’re doing it in a small way so it doesn’t have to be huge, it doesn’t have to be painful, it doesn’t have to be 50% of that product price. It can be $1, $2, 5%, 1%. One drop, I think they designate 1% of their gross profit to charitable causes. That’s a great way to do it.

Have a brainstorming session, just bring it up in a staff meeting and it’s not something that’s instantaneous, it’s something that you plant a seed and you’re just like over the next year, I hope to grow our company from giving zero to having three people participating and the company doing matching funds. Something like that.

Ben: I think when you lay it out that way, it really does sound pretty straight forward. But it also sounds like really where everything starts with is offering an invitation to people to be a part of something rather than leading with hey, this is really important. Will you get your credit card out right now? Yeah, for sure.

When it comes to companies doing—I don’t know what you would call it—but I guess maybe any corporate philanthropy, or any giving back program, or anything generally along those lines, are there any common mistakes that you see that get made? And if so, do you have any advice on how those mistakes could perhaps be avoided?

Richard: Yeah. I think that the big mistake—and it’s not even a big mistake, it’s just like a faux pas, so to speak—is that I see companies, they do something good, and then they spend more in promoting the fact that they did that good than the actual good that they did, do you know what I mean? They might give $1000 and then they spend $5000 on the PR around the fact that they gave $1000. Really, you want it to be the other way around. You want the fact that you did this to be viral, you want it to be a soft sell.

There’s a verse in the bible that talks about you want to give anonymously. If you’re giving to a homeless person and you make a big show of it, you’re like hey, I’m giving this. Look, look, look, what I’m doing here. You’ve had your reward, that’s it. You’ve more than taken it. But over the next 10 years, you’re quietly supporting the homeless shelter and it’s just like, yeah, yeah, I give. It becomes a part of your fabric rather than a PR opportunity.

That’s what I would encourage companies as well as people is that you’re giving and your support is just a part of who you are rather than hey, this is what I’m doing. I got to tell every single person that I’m doing this or that I’ve done it because that’s my reward. My reward isn’t from actually doing the support, my reward is actually from the recognition I get for doing it. Gosh, if you’re only doing something for the recognition that you’re going to get, I don’t want to say don’t do it, because everyone needs that support, but it’s not a healthy way to approach it.

Ben: I’m sure, too, that if you are approaching something that is aesthetically altruistic but is intrinsically self-motivated, you’re not going to approach that thing in an effective manner anyway, so you’re really failing both ways.

Richard: Yeah. I apply that to when I’m giving advice to young people about building their network. When they’re talking to someone who they see as a mentor, as a senior person in their industry, don’t approach them as like how can I glean something out of this relationship? You need to flip it around completely and be like I’m going to have a conversation with this person. I’m going to learn about where they are, where the company is. Whether it’s in that conversation or whether it’s later, over LinkedIn, or email, it’s like hey, I came across this other opportunity that you might be able to benefit from.

As a senior person, you take a look at it from that other side. They were talking to someone who then two weeks later says hey, you might be able to get your product into this store. Whether or not that also includes a commission, you’re like hey, that person remembered our conversation, did something whether it was a hustle or whether it was just something helpful, and that’s going to leave a much bigger impact, an impression, in a very positive way than just having a conversation. It’s like hey, can I have an hour of your time? Can we meet for coffee? Can you answer these questions? Where you’re just like oh, every time I get an email from this person, it’s them asking me for something. Whereas if you turn it around and you’re being helpful to all your relationships and having that as your motivation, it will come back to you. It won’t come back to you necessarily in every single relationship, but it will come back to you.

I’m not just talking about good karma feelings, I’m talking about opportunities. People will be like hey, you know what? Ben, I really want to work with you because we had a great conversation a year ago. I remember how helpful you were to me and I’ve got this position. And naturally have this feeling of hey, I want to be helpful to Ben. He was helpful to me.

Ben: I think that’s such a great point because I think that I see this a lot in the marketing space where you see people just spanning their peers with very transactional type… In our industry, a lot of times, it’s manifested itself as this very self-interested cold email, pitching, and things like that. But you see it in other ways, too, where a lot of things that are presented as “collaborations” or partnerships or things that are meant to be mutually beneficial, but really they’re very one-sided and they’re very transactional in nature.

For a lot of people in marketing, that is the way that they’re taught to do marketing, and that’s the way that they’re taught to think about it, and to always hustle and grind and be focused on the results. It leads to this annoy the many to convert the few clichéd type strategy that ironically works much less effectively than taking approach like the one that you’re describing, even if it’s not in a terrible context just in general, I mean, that’s really just the way that you should treat other people or other professionals in your industry.

This is taking us a little bit off of the focus of charitable giving and philanthropy and those types of things and really more toward just how do you be somebody that people like to work with? But if someone’s listening to this show and they’re thinking about their own work, or their own company, or their own approach to things, they’re thinking like god, you know what? I really need to make some changes about the way that maybe I reach out to people, or the way that I relate to others, or maybe I shouldn’t be treating everything like a transaction, so to speak, and actually treat things like an actual relationship.

If someone’s in that position and they’re recognizing that themselves and assuming they’re willing to be honest about that reality, how would you recommend that person maybe begin to start shifting their mindset? And then once you’ve shifted your mindset, obviously, the next thing is how do you adjust your tactics accordingly?

Richard: I think that’s a really good thought. There was a short story I read when I was in grade 11 or grade 12 and basically it was about the definition of a hero. Basically that a hero is someone who never gets recognized for the work or the sacrifice that they did. I think in the modern times, we’re just like a hero is someone who’s just courageous in the face of danger. But a hero in the sense of not being recognized or not doing that sacrifice because of the recognition you’re going to get. You’re not going to jump out of the foxhole and go and drag your buddy back because of that purple star you’re going to get, you’re doing that because you’re wanting to be altruistic.

How are you, each and every day, a hero in your own life? This is like how are you going to be helpful to someone else where that person won’t recognize it? This is like how can you pay it forward where the person who’s receiving it doesn’t even know your name, or won’t even have the opportunity or is not in a position to return the favor. If you’re helpful to someone and you’re like, oh, it’s going to come back to me. They’ll help me out when I need the help. I’m helping them out, they’re going to help me out when I’m in need. No, that’s transactional, that’s a friend. When can you be a hero in someone else’s where you’re like this person will never be able to help me again.

There’s the stranger in the street that used to live in London. They didn’t have elevators and a woman would be at the bottom, folding up her stroller, you’re just like let me help you. I’m never ever going to see this person again. You’re living in a city of 10 million people. That act of helping cannot be repaid back to you, okay? You’re not going to be recognized for that act of kindness unless you raise it, tooting your own horn.

It’s like how can you be a hero in your life where you’re doing acts of kindness or you’re doing acts of service to someone else? And it’s not just helping somebody with their stroller, it’s like can you give a leg up to someone who needs a job? Can you do a recommendation to someone who needs help to get their product into a store? What ways can you help other people? It’s not, at the end of the day, saying oh, man. I give to everyone. I give to everyone in my family and they’re just walking all over me. It’s not about being a doormat, okay? You have boundaries, et cetera.

It’s about being helpful to people that cannot repay you. It’s not about being helpful to people that should repay you and don’t, it’s about being helpful to people that cannot repay you. For me, that’s doing clean water projects in Uganda. These people can never ever repay the effect that we’re having on their lives and we don’t want them to. That’s not why we’re in it. We’re in it just because we know we can make a difference.

They can be tiny things or they can be big things, but identify something each day that you can do to, as you put it earlier, leave that person better than you found them. But don’t only have that be the people that you interact with every day, go out and seek. How can I help that person? I got a neighbor two doors down, they’re 90 years old. When it snows, I will be checking on them. Are they going to ever repay me? No. I’m not looking for it, I just want to make sure that they’re okay. Just reach out and be helpful.

Ben: Very cool. I think that’s fantastic advice and I think you really offered a lot of valuable insight that I hope our listeners will be able to take to heart. Before I let you go, do you have anything else that you want to add or any parting thoughts that you’d like to share?

Richard: Obviously, I’m here, I’m promoting but really it’s a soft sell, right? We want to earn your business and that we want you to do a business with a company that is run by and staffed by people that you want to enjoy the fact that you’re a part of. At, we’re developing logos. It’s an easy product to explain. You come in, you design a logo, and you leave with tremendous value. Our pricing is ridiculously low because we’re trying to turn the industry on its head. $20 for a logo that you’d pay a hundred plus more for elsewhere and you’re getting it done in 20 minutes.

I think that this is part of what we’re doing in terms of going onto podcasts and talking about how to be helpful, how to grow your network, my personal experience with battling cancer, I got all kinds of messages, and stories, and just sharing because I want to help people out. Whether you are in a position to sell a product to that person, there’s still other things. We’re human, is like 20% of my life. The other 80% is relationships, and that’s true for everyone. Even if you’re working 9-5 and you’re just like oh, can’t get my head out of this. Life is what you make it, and no matter what position you’re in, whether you got a good boss or a bad boss, life is what you make it and it’s how you react.

Cancer was a punch in the face to me and it was like how do you react? Do I stay in bed or do we get up and get back on the horse and embrace life? That’s why I say there’s so many people that are worse off than you are, and that is true for everyone down the line. Just get up, be helpful, put a smile on your face, and there’s no better remedy for self-motivation than for helping someone in need.

The post The Best Ways for Brands to Be Genuinely Helpful Without Being Sales-y With Richard Lau from & Water School [AMP 213] appeared first on CoSchedule Blog.

Actionable Marketing Podcast

Empathy Is More than Emotion: How to Infuse The…

The belief that being empathetic means being emotional is not actually very empathetic. Marketers often misunderstand customers when crafting messaging and marketing content. How can marketers be genuinely empathetic?

Today’s guest is Megan Thudium from MTC – The Content Agency. Megan discusses how to adjust, adapt, and authentically understand the needs of customers from different cultures and countries.


Some of the highlights of the show include:

  • MTC: Berlin-based B2B organic content marketing agency w/empathetic mindset
  • COVID and Cultural Barriers: Stay connected and relevant during tough times
  • Empathy Marketing: Long-term gain emphasized now when emotions are high
  • Empathy: Them to you, not you to them process for messaging and marketing
  • Worst-case Scenario: Miss the marketing message? Lose customers
  • Bottom Line for Business: Make messaging more empathetic for direct impact
  • Marketing Evolution: People want authentic, engaging, empathetic conversations
  • Consequences: Failing to do right messaging or following cookie-cutter structure
  • Practical Takeaways: Connect with and talk to customers/teams to get feedback
  • Back to Basics: Marketing should be empathetic; put buyer personas into action

If you liked today’s show, please subscribe on iTunes to The Actionable Content Marketing Podcast! The podcast is also available on SoundCloud, Stitcher, and Google Play.

[Tweet “Empathy is more than emotion: how to infuse the basics of human relatability into your content strategy with @ThudiumMegan from @mtccontent.”]


Ben: Hi, Megan! How are you doing this morning?

Megan: I’m doing well. Thanks for connecting.

Ben: I’m really excited about this episode because I think this is a really important topic just in general, but probably now more than ever. Before we get too far along in this conversation, would you mind taking a moment just to introduce yourself to our audience and explain what you do at MTC?

Megan: My agency is called MTC | The Content Agency and we are a B2B content marketing agency based out of Berlin, Germany. We work specifically with German clients who are going into the North American market. In a lot of ways—which we will dive into this conversation—we have to be empathetic in our market but also our clients. That is what we do at MTC. Everything we do is for B2B companies and we do only organic marketing, so we are specialized in that.

Ben: I think you’d be well-prepared to answer this question even if we weren’t in the middle of a global pandemic. I think if you’re in a somewhat unique situation where you have to be mindful of cultural barriers, cultural differences, language differences and so forth, then empathy is going to be very much at the front of your mind all the time.

In your view, why do you feel that it’s important for marketers to really understand, though, that empathy means more than just emotion? Especially in situations such as the one that we’re in right now with COVID19, but also more broadly in general. Why is it important to understand truly what empathy actually means?

Megan: You are 100% correct to say that empathy marketing is a long-term game for marketing. It is not something that needs to be discussed now, it’s something that always has to be discussed as part of our marketing playbook. The reason why it’s really being emphasized right now is because it’s the most needed. Our world is a little bit crazy. If you haven’t noticed, a lot of things are going on. Emotions are high. That’s what empathy is very important in understanding so that we can remain connected to our audience during these tough times.

When you define empathy, how would you define it? How you define empathy is understanding your audience at a level that has a deeper understanding of what they need; developing in a context of marketing and content, developing your messaging, your marketing, your content to help them, so it’s them-to-you and not you-to-them–type of process. Something we should always be practicing in marketing.

Right now, during COVID, when people are very emotional and things are tough, this is even more important to remain relevant with your audience to keep connected to them. This is something for us to keep in mind because if we make a mistake, this is where you don’t want to mix up just being emotional, monopolizing off of the emotions that are happening, but taking a step further, being understanding, and empathetic with where they are coming. If you miss this mark, you’re going to isolate your audience. They’re going to step away from you, they’re going to disconnect, which is the worst thing that we wanted in marketing because then we lose customers.

Ben: We certainly don’t want to be losing customers. That’s literally the opposite of all of our jobs. Beyond being good for business, do you feel that businesses have any ethical or moral obligations to make their marketing messaging genuinely empathetic in times of crisis?

Megan: This is a very interesting question. If I look at it from the business side, I would say absolutely, if you want to remain relevant to your audience. Yes, you have to take and understand that the positioning that you’re taking as part of your messaging and the position as to how you are presenting yourself during this COVID time is going to have a direct impact on your bottom line. Kind of like what we already played into, so there is a business.

Ethically and morality side, actually, if we want to take COVID out of the picture, it goes into the much bigger picture of where marketing is evolving in general. Marketing our audience is looking for more authentic, communicative, engaging, and empathetic conversations on marketing from companies. They’re not looking for sleazy situations with salespeople, they’re not looking to feel disconnected. We’re looking for different experiences.

Overall, the audience’s needs, pains, and things that they’re looking for are adjusting overall. COVID, of course, plays into that. But if you look at it as a bigger picture, if you want to remain relevant, past COVID, going to 2021 and beyond and beyond, you have to think a little bit more about how you are ethically marketing because even if we go deeper into what the audience is demanding—younger people, this next-generation—they want to know if a company is being sustainable, for example.

For example, Patagonia—I’ll throw that brand out there—does a great job at marketing their communication on where they stand, not just in sustainability, but also across the board—their stands on feminism, equality, and age gap. These things are becoming more important to younger generation audiences. We’re seeing it at B2C. B2B is always a little bit behind, but I think it’s definitely going to come. This is really where having a moral and ethical stance in your marketing is going to be important for you to remain relevant in the future.

Ben: I think that makes sense. I think that we can establish, as marketers, as communications professionals—whatever specific title any of us might have—being empathetic with your audience (obviously) is an essential but perhaps overlooked component of actually meaningfully connecting with your audience or with your customers. It’s very important.

As we all see, sometimes brands don’t get it right and they don’t get it right because it’s not easy. What are some of the possible negative consequences for brands missing the mark or getting this wrong? In terms of now (the pandemic), we’ve all heard a billion ads just generically reminding us of the “unprecedented” nature of the times that we’re in. That is a copy-paste boilerplate at this point. Beyond being just annoying, I think it’s more damaging than that at this point. That doesn’t feel authentic, like this car company doesn’t care about me. They’re just trying to make it look as though they’re acknowledging the situation.

In your view, what are the possible negative outcomes if you try to appear empathetic but you’re very transparently not being empathetic at all?

Megan: I really think you hit the mark, actually, and what you said. When you fail to do the right messaging, right now, this empathetic approach or you use the same cookie-cutter structure of a sentence in messaging, you’re not going to stand out and it’s not going to feel authentic and you’re not connecting specifically towards your audience.

If they see the same content, tonality, structure across different companies, how does that feel authentic? How do they feel like they are actually being spoken to as a person or even as a community as a whole? Who are your customers? Your customers are your best friends, they’re the ones who are buying from you and you want to keep buying from you. You should be adjusting (at least) that messaging to their voice and their needs.

That goes into the other thing. I think this tonality, this structure that a lot of companies are hitting the mark because it’s so generic and it’s not specific. Your audience is screaming out, we all are worried about the same things, but depending on your specific audience, there might be specific needs. That comes from talking to your sales team. What are the things that people worried about now?

In B2B, it’s the bottom line. Am I going to make all my revenue targets? Am I going to do these? I’m worried about losing my job. That’s actually where it gets a little bit more emotional in B2B. I might be losing my job soon. These types of things. Or on a CEO level, how am I going to connect my team remotely?

Reevaluating, talking to your audience, to your sales team, to these people, to understand where their current needs and the emotions that they have at this point, and then adjusting all your marking to fit that.

Ben: If you’re still wondering why this is so important, consider the cost of not infusing your marketing messaging with genuine empathy for your customers’ pain points. You’re not going to fully understand what problems they are trying to solve, what motivates them to find a solution, or even be able to identify and accurately articulate how exactly you solve those problems or how you could motivate them to make a purchase.

You’re also liable to come across as a little bit tone-deaf. If you’ve ever seen a brand just get roasted for an inappropriate social media post that was trying to show how much a company cares about a given issue or circumstance, or if you’ve ever rolled your eyes at a TV commercial from a brand claiming to care about you in a way that is obviously a little disingenuous.

To take an example that I saw a lot of the spring where car dealerships trying to tell people, like now is the time to buy or now is the time to get where you’re going when everybody was staying home early in the pandemic. Maybe that wasn’t the best messaging to go with. Wasn’t really empathetic with my situation, I can say that for sure. But if you’ve ever seen anything like that and you’ve seen first-hand what no-empathetic marketing looks like, it’s not good and you don’t want that to be you. Now, back to Megan.

Ben: If there are downsides to not getting this right, there must also be upsides for really understanding this well and executing on this idea in a way that is genuinely effective. Looking at the same questions just through a different lens a little bit here, what are the potential benefits to really infusing your marketing messaging with more empathy for your customers?

Megan: How to be more empathetic with your customers. What’s the practical takeaway? The practical takeaway, I already mentioned one. Connecting not only to your audience but to your team, and the key people in your teams that are connected to your audience.

In general, marketers should be more connected to our audience in one-to-one, getting on sales calls with the sales teams, having been in the conversation with those people, understanding what is happening. But if you can’t do that, if you’re busy with issues, meeting up with the sales team on a weekly basis to understand and hear the patterns of things of how the market is changing. I think that’s one practical step. Just being connected to the marketing team, keeping this conversation going between marketing and sales, hopping on sales calls, if you can, is always ideal. Really talking to your audience.

What are the things you can do in marketing? For example, LinkedIn has a great pool feature. Social media provides us a great outlet to engage and connect with our audience and to get their feedback. I do believe, especially in the B2B world, if you ask for people’s feedback, they will definitely give it to you.

If you ask these types of questions in an open way, I think that’s key in this whole empathy matter is how you present the questions, how you present the information. It’s not a yes or no question; it’s open-ended. The way that you’re messaging your content on LinkedIn in these pools is open-ended questions. Something that’s specific towards the pain and the points of your audience. I’m not going to put an example in there because that’s specific to you and your situation, but making the question open enough to where you can start a conversation with the people on LinkedIn.

Ben: I really love that point of making it specific and just not wanting to throw out a generic example. That’s exactly what people need versus just looking at what other brands are doing and copying the same message because you feel like that’s what you’re supposed to do. Treating it like a line item in a creative brief instead of an actual, sincere desire to actually address those pinpoints. I think that’s fantastic.

The last question I’ll throw your way—we talked about this before the interview here a little bit—what’s an example of a brand that you really feel understands this concept well and really embodies empathetic marketing messaging in a way that our listeners could go out and they could check them out and be like, oh, I see what they’re talking about here?

Megan: This is a great example question. This is where my living in Germany rubs off on me, this cultural aspect as nope, no company is perfect. I’m going to give you two examples, but take it with a grain of salt. A B2C example, I’ve already mentioned them. I would say Patagonia. I think we all heard about Patagonia, we’ve read many articles, but they really are hitting the mark across the board on not just how they’ve approached COVID, but also how they approached different important pieces that are developing in our society—politics, society, feminism, on the Black Lives Matter movement, these things. Understanding how they’re approaching, how they’re adjusting that messaging, even how their CEO is leveraging his personal brands in the marketing aspect to push that empathetic marketing and that messaging. That’s a great example.

On the B2B side, Slack is a great example of COVID in general and how Slack has overnight adjusted pretty much their messaging on how their platform can be now used for remote teams. It was always for teams. It was always about collaborating and bringing people together. It felt like overnight, they went to now we are the platform for remote teams, now we’re connecting you as a CEO or connecting your team from all over the world because we’ve been pulled apart by COVID. Slack is what’s bringing us together. I think those two on B2B and B2C are definitely hitting the mark you can learn from.

Ben: Very cool. I would agree. I think both of those companies are really great examples that our listeners are probably already familiar with, but maybe they’ll want to go take a little closer look at each of those companies and really dissect what they’re doing in this area. As I said, that was the last question I had. This has been a really great conversation. Before I let you go, I just like to give you the opportunity, if there’s anything that you think is really important in this topic that you haven’t had an opportunity to bring up, is there anything else? Any parting thoughts you like to leave our audience with?

Megan: I think my parting thoughts would be going back to the basics because we don’t really touch on that yet. We talked a lot about COVID and how empathy, marketing, and all that’s playing into it, but this is a long term thing. In general, you’re marketing should be empathetic. Gave you lots of practical examples, but even before you get to actually putting an action, you have to understand your audience.

How do you do that? You do it through the most basic buyer personas. I’m bringing it up because people are still not doing it. I guess that’s one of my big takeaways is you need to be doing the intelligence gathering, the understanding of your audience for your marketing in general. It’s going to help you with COVID, it’s going to help you to stay relevant in 2021 and beyond everything. Understanding your audience, doing the investigation and like work. That’s not just you and marking, looking through the data on your site, it’s also talking to people. That’s where empathy marketing is going to come in. Talking to people, talking to sales teams, talking to your customers.

The post Empathy Is More than Emotion: How to Infuse The Basics of Human Relatability Into Your Content Strategy With Metgan Thudium From MTC – The Content Agency [AMP 212] appeared first on CoSchedule Blog.

Actionable Marketing Podcast

Using Data to Better Understand Consumer Behavior And Turn…

Consumer behavior is always changing. Even with COVID-19 affecting people’s lives and how businesses operate, it will never be the same. How can businesses better serve customers by staying ahead of changes and trends? Data.

Today’s guest is Jonathan Silver from Affinity Solutions, a data intelligence platform with access to consumer data. Jonathan talks about how businesses need to collect data, know how to interpret that data, and turn it into action to succeed.


Some of the highlights of the show include:

  • Affinity Solutions: Access to unique data around people’s purchasing habits
  • Permission and Participation: Banks provide businesses with consumer data
  • Business Benefits: Use data to build relationships and grow, retain market share
  • Consumer Benefits: Use data to improve people’s lives to get what they want
  • Shifts: COVID changes behavior with price sensitivity, personalized experiences
  • Trends: Parallel reality where physical environments change with technologies
  • Predictions: Colder weather will spike COVID cases, continue habit to buy online
  • Data Types: Understand and adapt to consumer behavior with purchasing info
  • Regulatory and Privacy Trends: Personal data cloud and operating system
  • Survive and Thrive: Expand to include external data to redefine competition
  • Insight into Action: Distinguishes successful businesses and drives returns
  • Data Platform: Artificial intelligence/machine learning make directed decisions
  • Downward to Upward: Use data-driven tools, dashboards during difficult times

If you liked today’s show, please subscribe on iTunes to The Actionable Content Marketing Podcast! The podcast is also available on SoundCloud, Stitcher, and Google Play.

[Tweet “Using data to better understand consumer behavior and turn insight into action, with Jonathan Silver from @ask_affinity.”]


Ben: Hey, Jonathan, how are you doing this morning?

Jonathan: I’m doing great, Ben. How are you doing? Thank you for having me on your show.

Ben: I’m not doing too bad. We are getting our first snow of the season here in North Dakota, which is a little bit sooner, but we’re tough. We’re dealing with it. Would you mind taking a moment just to introduce yourself to our audience and explain what you do at Affinity Solutions?

Jonathan: Happy to do it. Jonathan Silver, I’m the founder and CEO of Affinity Solutions. What we do is use data. We have a ton of unique data around people’s purchasing habits because we have relationships with thousands of banks for which we run loyalty programs. They send us every day, every transaction that happens. We’ve been able—with permission from the consumer—to take that data and make it available to others to help them.

Particularly, businesses build deeper relationships with their consumers, with their customers and prospects, so that they can grow and retain their market share, in a time, of course, COVID, when business challenges are significant.

We are using their data to help businesses build and grow their market share, and the underpinning of all of this is using data to improve people’s lives. There’s a consumer orientation, which is about helping people get what they need, create personalized experiences. We’re even looking at how data can be used in personalized health and education, but the primary client, if you will, a customer is helping businesses use that data to improve and grow their market share.

Ben: With access to as much data as what you have. I imagine you’ve been able to understand all kinds of changes in shifts in consumer behavior that have been developing since the beginning of the pandemic.

I’m curious, what are some of the biggest shifts in consumer behavior that you’ve seen that you can attribute to everybody’s lives, essentially, just being upended?

Jonathan: It’s certainly been interesting to see those trends play out in the data that we’re getting. Beyond the obvious, people are buying online. They’re doing things. You do something once—it’s interesting, it’s novel, you do it twice. But once you do it three or more times, it really starts becoming a habit, and more and more people—even those that have typically not have done so—have gone online.

Hybrid—buy online pick up in-store, but what we’re excited about is the trends that businesses are starting to reorganize around this, creating highly personalized experiences. This is not in five years, not in three years, probably in the next 24-48 months. Imagine walking into a store and it becoming the Ben Sailer Store. I imagine all of the products that are tailored to you.

I was telling folks back in January, I was at CES—formerly known as the Consumer Electronics Show. The CEO of Delta Air Lines, Ed Bastian, was on stage, and he was bringing some of his partners on the stage to talk about the future of travel.

Even though travel was put on pause, what was really cool is they were about to introduce—in Detroit Airport and LAX—this cool technology called parallel reality, where Jonathan Silver and Ben Sailer can both be standing in front of a billboard. You’re looking at that billboard, and you’re seeing things that only relate to Ben Sailer. You’re seeing what time you’d be at your gate, the restaurant down the terminal that has food that matches your preferences, the weather, and the destination city. Everything about your travel experience, and nothing else.

I’m standing right next to you looking at the same billboard, and I’m seeing things that relate only to Jonathan Silver and not Ben. We’re not wearing special glasses, we’re not doing anything, and yet, we’re having this incredibly personalized experience. That kind of thing where physical environments are changing with these different technologies is going to become a norm. That’s more of what’s coming, but definitely, as we look backward in addition to online, we’re seeing more price sensitivity.

One really interesting thing that I think your listeners would want to hear is there has been a dichotomy in higher-income and lower-income spending. Where people that are higher incomes, they have the ability to shrink their discretionary spending down, and because they haven’t wanted to go out to restaurants and haven’t wanted to go out to service establishments, and so forth.

That’s been the most significant decline in spending has been among the higher income versus the lower-income where there’s not a lot of discretionary spending to decrease. We’re seeing interdependency between those groups. The higher-income folks, if they’re not going to restaurants, the lower-income servers or waiters aren’t getting tips, they’re not getting employment.

If higher income is not going into a nail salon or a beauty salon, then the people working in those establishments aren’t getting paid. There’s this weird interdependency with higher income folks spending less, and how that affects lower-income employment, and so on. I can give you more examples, but those are just some of them.

Ben: Sure. I’m sure there are all kinds of changes. I’m sure that’s an ever-evolving situation right now.

Jonathan: Can I give you one other example?

Ben: Absolutely. Go for it.

Jonathan: We’re only a short time away from an election, and so we’ve been also looking at the spending behavior of Republicans versus Democrats because the southern states tend to be a little more republican leaning. What we’ve seen is that the southern states—republican leaning states—are doing a bit better in terms of consumer spending and employment. Of course, it’s coming at the expense of coronavirus cases.

We’re seeing a lot of willingness based on the posture of the governments in those local and state governments, as well as the attitudes of the people in those states. More businesses are open, more people are going out of their homes to shop. Coronavirus cases are spiking, but the economy is doing better in those states.

Ben: Interesting. One other question I would like to ask you along that train of thought. This is something that’s going to become relevant to people very quickly, if not already, and I think especially for those of us in colder climates. Also, keep in mind, this episode is going to go live sometime around the end of November or early December, somewhere in that window. How do you anticipate just like colder weather impacting consumer behavior?

Obviously, in places where you don’t get a lot of snow or maybe if just inclement weather isn’t likely to impact a person’s willingness to leave their home, maybe it’s not such an issue. But if you are looking at places like where we’re at in the upper Midwest, maybe on the East Coast like the Northeast Coast, maybe the Northwest Coast—places where whether it’s a bit more of a factor. It might be difficult to gauge if you don’t have data to look back at retroactively at this point.

Do you have any predictions or any educated guesses as to how the winter season could impact consumer behavior when you’re taking that and you’re combining it with what’s going on with the pandemic?

Jonathan: Well, I think there’s at least a consensus that with the colder weather, there’s going to be additional spikes in Coronavirus cases, so that the combination of it being really cold out, and more cases will keep people indoors more for sure.

The trends that we’re seeing in online spending will certainly be there. A lot of the home delivery services like Instacart for grocery; Grubhub, Uber Eats, and DoorDash for restaurants are obviously going to be continuing to consolidate share.

We’re seeing some restaurants getting really good at home delivery. We always talk about Domino’s and Papa John’s because they always have home delivery, of course, but what they managed to do with COVID is to make it completely end-to-end contactless, so there are no human hands touching the pizza from beginning to end.

I think one of them, you can order food to specify the front door, the side door, or the back door of the house. They’ve perfected home delivery and that experience. You’re going to see more people hunkering down clearly if the cold weather starts to spike.

I think also just the habit of buying online, there’ll be more and more innovation around personalization, bringing that virtual reality even into the home. This technology around virtual reality, mixed reality, augmented reality, and the internet of things where the home will become transformed into this commercial environment that if I never have to leave it, I could survive.

I think more of that, but we’re seeing a prediction that the cold weather is going to be pretty intense for certain states as we head into the winter.

Ben: Yeah. That’s something that I’m bracing myself for personally. I was just curious to get your insights on how that might be a factor. Obviously, you’ve got access to just an incredible amount of data. I would believe that you have a very strong understanding of which types of data—as it pertains to consumer behavior—are most important for marketers to gather, analyze, and understand so that they can better adapt to those changes that are occurring very rapidly right now.

In your view, if I’m a marketer and my business is being impacted by the pandemic—which is pretty much all business right now—which types of data points or which things would you say are most important for that marketer to be looking at right now?

Jonathan: As you know, I’ve shared earlier in the call, in the podcast, we have a ton of purchase information. We see that it’s foundational because the best predictor of future purchase behavior is what you’ve done in the past.

If you’re a business, looking to organize your products and services and your customer experience in a way that meets customer demand, you need to start with this foundation of purchase behavior outside in.

There’s also a ton of other data and because our data is what they call matchable, meaning, even though it’s anonymized, we do the anonymization in a way that can match up to other datasets.

We’ve linked and matched to that data all kinds of demographic, behavioral, and lifestyle data, which is incredibly useful, so we can understand the difference as we talked about earlier between higher-income and lower-income folks. Generation Y versus millennials versus baby boomers. We’re seeing differences […] there. You have to understand your customer in that regard.

It’s also this other massive data set out there for location data, where are you at any given moment, your online behavioral data. We believe that all of that data is going to be consolidated into what’s called the personal data cloud. There are trends going on now, both regulatory wise and business application development.

Imagine, Ben Sailer, you’ve got your personal data cloud, all of this data sitting there. Imagine a couple of years from now or even sooner, this new app store where your buddy will tell you, hey, Ben, you got to go check out this incredible experience. You walk into Home Depot, they recognize you by name. They make recommendations. It becomes the Ben Sailer store, and you’re like, oh, cool. Let me go check it out. You go sign up for the app, and when you sign up for the app, you’ll provision or permission your personal data cloud to that experience.

We talked about this idea of a personal operating system. Not to get too techie, but the operating system is usually thought about as associated with a device like Windows for your laptop, iOS for your iPhone, or Amazon has its own version of it.

We think about it as an operating system wrapping around a person. Ben Sailer has his personal data cloud. There’s consent management to make sure that your data is only provisioned to those that you give permission to do so or privacy controls. There’s machine learning that allows you to intersect with the world and get personalization, and we think it’s going to go beyond commerce.

We think it’s going to go to medicine. Imagine personalized medicine taken to a whole new level. Education, imagine three, five, seven years from now, our current educational system will look prehistoric compared to what it will be then. It’ll be personalized based on young adults’ and kids’ aptitudes, interests, and skill sets. And it will be a whole different way of educating.

We see that all of this data filtered through the lens of a personal data cloud will be extremely valuable, both for the businesses that want to personalize their offering to consumers, as well as consumers who want to make sure they get what they need.

Ben: Sure. Getting a little bit more specific, what are successful companies doing differently with data right now that’s helping them to survive or even thrive under our current circumstances? What is really separating top performers from those who are struggling?

Jonathan: Great question. We talked about Domino’s and Papa John’s, they figured out the whole contactless delivery. We’ve seen grocery chains is one very big one that we’ve worked with. It’s redefining their competition.

Grocery stores—let’s say Safeway or Kroger—would look at other groceries as their competition. What we were able to demonstrate with our data is your competition isn’t just other groceries. Your competition is restaurants. Your competition is QSR. Your competition is delis that are competing for your share of stomach. That’s another way of saying share of wallet in the food business.

The same thing with McDonald’s, they started to reorient themselves as their competition isn’t just Burger King and Wendy’s for hamburgers. They were able to show—when Popeyes introduced their chicken sandwich—that McDonald’s had the most significant lots of share, not to other burger places, but to Popeye’s. That led to McDonald’s introducing their own chicken sandwich.

What we’re seeing is the businesses that are doing better are realizing that they can’t rely on their own internal data. There was a big hole punched in the data with COVID. People didn’t come into their restaurants or stores. They weren’t going to their websites. You have to rely on outside-in views of what’s going on, and that outside-in view leads to insights that you wouldn’t have otherwise.

If I were to boil it down, it’s businesses that are getting near real-time insights, ideally, at the local level. The McDonald’s at One Main Street may have a different dynamic in terms of customers than McDonald’s halfway across the country at Two State Street in another city. It’s understanding and then being able to take action on those insights very quickly.

In the case of McDonald’s, they introduced a new chicken sandwich. In the case of Safeway, they might change their food service to compete with restaurants, or there’s a whole marketing dimension to taking action. Which is if I know what products are most interesting to this particular segment, I can target that segment more effectively. I can optimize the marketing that I’m deploying because I only have so many marketing dollars.

That whole insight to action—being able to get real-time insights locally and being able to act on those quickly and short turnaround time—distinguishes the successful from the less successful.

Ben: One takeaway we can extract from Jonathan’s insights here is the importance of personalization moving forward. This is something that a number of other recent guests on the show have also discussed. Whether you’re talking about personalizing brick and mortar experiences like Jonathan does in this episode, or you’re talking about digital experiences on your website, in your app, or whatever the case may be. It’s something I have a feeling is going to turn from being optional to being table stakes sooner rather than later. Now, back to Jonathan.

A follow-up question I have to that is when you’re moving really, really fast, I imagine you might not always have quite as much time to think through what you’re doing, as what you may have felt that you had under normal circumstances. Particularly, with large companies that maybe struggle to do anything with any amount of speed.

If that’s changing and you’re being forced, you’ve got to get this data, understand what it’s telling you, and react very, very quickly. How do you balance that with making sure that you aren’t just really, really rapidly burning through whatever budget you have? If you’re doing things like you’re using that data to help you quickly, not just take action with it, but take action that is going to help you drive a return very quickly as well.

Jonathan: It’s all about ultimately, technology. How we’re showing up Affinity Solutions in the market is we call our data platform—for lack of a more imaginative name. The data platform for us is the technology that has artificial intelligence and machine learning built-in so it can make decisions for you with your direction quickly.

We have a product called purchase signals. What are purchase signals? If I’m running a campaign, there are a lot of variables that go into a campaign. There’s the creative, there’s the offer, there’s the positioning, there’s what websites I advertise on or social media—if it’s Facebook, or whatever. It’s the timing of delivery. It’s the audience that I’m targeting because you could do that in programmatic advertising. It’s the frequency. It’s all of those variables. How can a person make a decision that quickly with data to your point?

Purchase signals are a way to say we’ll feed real-time signals into the machine learning engine, to be able to optimize the allocation of those budgets in near real-time so that it has the best return on investment. If it turns out this creative on these websites to this audience is performing better, then that creative on the same website, but to a different audience, then that’s where the money starts to go.

Instead of a human being having to think that through and spend a lot of their brain and time when things are changing so rapidly anyway. What’s true today may not be true two weeks from now, the machine can do it for you. It doesn’t mean that you’re just sitting there idle, it means you give direction. The data platform is designed to enable all kinds of companies to create applications that will take inputs from clients, will take inputs from businesses, and then they’ll optimize for those.

I want to optimize for new customers. I want to optimize to get my existing customers to spend more. I want to optimize to reduce attrition on the back end. You tell the machine what to do, the data feeds into it. Obviously, insights are available to be viewed and acted on independently of the machine, but the machine can then act on your behalf.

Ben: Sure. Marketers very often have access to a lot of data, or they’re crunching a lot of data and point insights out of it that are certainly going to be helpful for their own purposes, or for their own team or department. Very often, that data achieves its full potential or full value when it’s shared with the entire organization. There might be folks in other areas of the company or other departments that could also make better decisions if they have access to a lot of that data.

A roadblock that marketers often run into is one, figuring out how to even make that data accessible in a way that other people can consume and understand what it means. Two, also getting other people in the organization to care about it.

In your view, what are some of the advantages of breaking down data silos, and making marketing data available to a whole organization is the first part of the question? The second part, how would you advise a company to go about getting buy-in? If they’re running into either—if not resistance, just passive indifference within their organization? How would you advise that they build the case to say, hey, like this data that we have is valuable? We think that departments X, Y, Z should also be looking at this.

Jonathan: Great questions. I have to say, that’s one trend that we’re seeing. Of course, there are always early adopters and early movers. But this idea of breaking down silos and getting not just the marketing department. We’re starting to see—in these early movers—companies that are getting full alignment, this idea of the consumer at the center of the business has always been a story that marketers will tell.

We’re starting to see supply chain line up merchandising within retailers, merchandising, supply chain, customer experience, and real estate. All of the different parts of the enterprise are lining up around this idea of the consumer at the center.

There are two ways that, as a marketer, we can get these other groups to line up. One is, of course, to show them these examples of early movers and the success that they’ve had, and there are a number of them. But it’s also the threat. If you don’t do it if you don’t get the company lined up in that way, you’re going to get surpassed. In this environment of COVID, I think it’s caused a lot of companies to rethink their business models and look at their customer experience. Not just how their ads go out the door, and whether the ad is properly targeted to the right customer, but the whole end-to-end experience when the customer walks in the door. The story I told earlier about personalized experiences is a big part of the story.

The operating teams have to line up in order to create that experience and deliver it. The best way to convince internal groups to line up is to show how the best companies are executing on that, and we’re seeing some really good examples of that.

Certainly, some of the digitally native companies that are emerging, they’re starting from that premise. They don’t have to change their legacy systems to line up. We are seeing tools that make it easier for companies with legacy systems to transition. The typical scenario is the infrastructure makes it so hard for these companies to move. It’s becoming a lot easier now with some of these new tools.

Ben: Sure. The last question, I’ll throw your way. If I’m a marketer and I feel like I’m struggling to produce results and that struggle is directly tied to a downturn that is connected to the pandemic. Maybe they started the year thinking they were going to hit a certain set of numbers. The unexpected happens. Suddenly that’s not maybe looking possible in the way that it maybe did in “quarter one.”

Where would you recommend that marketers start to look to find answers, to help them guide their way forward? Maybe this marketer understands how to use data. Given that we’re in a time where a lot of people don’t feel like they know which way is up anymore, which can make it difficult to know. If you’re even wanting to begin to try to dig yourself out of a hole that you might be in right now, you really might feel like you’re really up a creek right now.

Also, just given that different marketers and different companies could find themselves in all manner of different scenarios. With all of that in mind—and this is going to be a long question—but where would you recommend they start? What’s a basic guiding principle that you could follow to find your own starting points right now?

Jonathan: First we have to distinguish between smaller and larger businesses. I know many of your listeners are smaller companies. What I’m excited about is that there’s this emergence, this democratization of toolsets. The data-driven tool sets that were historically available only to the bigger companies are now available to smaller ones, and that’s fantastic.

It’s almost like the days of computers—big mainframes, minicomputers, and finally, all of us have this massive computing power machine on our desktop and in our hands. Same thing with the tool sets that are helping businesses manage this typical time.

It will not surprise you to tell you that data-driven is the answer. If I was having a difficult time, my first order of business would be to find the most efficient way of getting information that’s the outside-in view of my customers and prospects.

For example, if I have a restaurant in the Southside of Chicago, we can look at the share of stomach for that restaurant. We can see what kinds of customers are coming in or not coming in. If competitors are winning more of that share of stomach, and what do those people look like? How can you, therefore, change your product mix and stories so you attract some of the customers you’re not getting? Are more of my competitors getting the home delivery or the online business than I am?

All of that information is available to you on the dashboard. Imagine turning on your laptop every day logging in, and having this information of what happened last week, or even the last few days—be available at your fingertips. That’s what you need.

Our strategy and approach is to make this data platform—with all of its embedded technology that happens behind the scenes—available to partners, who in turn make available applications to small and large businesses that will allow these tools to be leveraged.

Insights to action is the storyline. I get insight, I get recommendations, and then I choose to act or not act, and I can make decisions. You got to start with a toolset that gives you a view of what your customers are doing, not just in your businesses, but also outside.

Ben: Like I said, that was the last question I had prepared. But before I let you go, is there anything else on this topic that you feel is particularly important that you maybe haven’t mentioned yet, or maybe there’s something that you want to reiterate, just to leave as a parting thought with our audience?

Jonathan: Sure. We talked a lot about businesses’ access to data today. I think the most important thing that we want to keep in mind is data to improve people’s lives.

If everybody orients how they use data. Obviously, you want to be privacy-centric. That’s one element of consumer centricity. We’re at the tip of the iceberg right now, in terms of how data is going to be used to improve people’s lives.

In a commercial context, giving people what they need, aligning them, personalizing the experience, and recognizing them when they come in stores. It is incredibly valuable in terms of building deep, sustainable, long-term relationships and creating an emotional resonance that you want to have with customers.

That’s our mission is to help businesses take advantage of those tools and data, and to ensure that consumers’ lives are improved along the way. We think the best is yet to come as the months and years ahead. You’re going to see some really exciting things.

The post Using Data to Better Understand Consumer Behavior And Turn Insight Into Action With Jonathan Silver From Affinity Solutions [AMP 211] appeared first on CoSchedule Blog.

Actionable Marketing Podcast

Optimizing Marketing Under Extreme Conditions By Bringing Digital and…

Two things are true about marketing — saturation across digital channels makes it difficult to be different and using direct mail is a unique option to reach customers at home where they are spending most of their time these days.

Today’s guest is Nick Runyon from PFL. The software company makes tools that help marketers bridge the gap between digital and direct mail marketing using Tactile Marketing Automation (TMA). Go beyond the send!


Some of the highlights of the show include:

  • PFL: Orchestrates digital difference between TMA and direct mail marketing
  • Pandemic vs. Marketing Plans: Collectively, society remains pessimistic, fearful
  • Consumption and Conversion: Cut through digital clutter for direct mail comfort
  • CRM Mishaps: Direct mail data mashed together from multiple people, places
  • TMA: Enables direct mail to be triggered to send based on digital intent signals
  • Getting Started:
    • What’s the overall experience that you want to deliver?
    • What business objectives do you want to move with that experience?
  • Sales Process Sequence: Experience value proposition via opt-in engagement
  • Bottom Line: Direct mail is popular right now but more expensive without TMA
  • Advanced Tactics: Accelerate value with TMA software through PFL

If you liked today’s show, please subscribe on iTunes to The Actionable Content Marketing Podcast! The podcast is also available on SoundCloud, Stitcher, and Google Play.

[Tweet “Optimizing marketing under extreme conditions by bringing digital and direct mail together, with @Nick_CMO from @pflcom.”]


Ben: Hi Nick! How is it going this morning?

Nick: It’s going well, Ben. How are you?

Ben: I’m fantastic, hanging in there, as we all are right now. Would you mind taking a moment just to introduce yourself to our audience and explain what you do at PFL.

Nick: Sure. My name is Nick Runyon, I’m the CMO at PFL. I’ve been in this role for about a year. I think PFL is really what I would call my first real job. Got hired back in 2003 and I was here for about 6 years before working for a number of different companies and then found ourselves back in Montana and was asked to come back as CMO and I’m excited to be here.

Ben: Very cool. Montana, I believe you’re out in Bozeman?

Nick: That’s right. We love it. It was one of those moves that we made recently. Started that conversation probably about three years ago. My wife and I, we’re actually vacationing back out here and visiting some friends, we’ve maintained good relationships over the years and say, you know what, we need to try to figure out how to get back to that place. We’re happy to be back.

Ben: Very cool. Bozeman, it is an awesome town. Just fantastic, I love it out there. Is it safe to assume that you enjoy skiing at all?

Nick: Yeah. I made the comment my first real job, before that I was a ski instructor actually. We love to ski. We just bought our season passes for Bridger Bowl here this year. We’re a big Bridger family. Whenever you come out next, I would love you to ski in with you or if it’s summer time, we’ll go fishing.

Ben: Yeah, absolutely. I would love to take you up on that. We’re in Fargo, North Dakota. We’re just pretty far away, but also just one state over to your east.

Nick: Yeah. You can drive 90 miles an hour and be here in no time.

Ben: Right. My wife’s family, they’ve had a tradition of going to Bridger Bowl once a year, going back years and years. The very first time ever went downhill skiing was out at Bridger Bowl. By day three of our trip, I started to get it. Trying to learn how to ski as an adult, when you’re 6’4’’ and 200lbs, is not the easiest thing in the world. It was so much fun though. Like I said, I love it out there.

Nick: For real. It’s obviously sincere when I made the comment before, but you should let me know. We’ll go ski together. I haven’t been a certified ski instructor for many years, but I can help you out and list some tips probably.

Ben: Sounds like a fair trade. Getting us back on track here a bit, I understand that PFL, you specialize in something called tactile marketing automation. Would you mind taking a moment to explain what that’s all about?

Nick: Yeah. I think for your regular listeners, they will have heard a podcast with Ryan Cote recently. You guys talked a lot about direct mail. Actually, I was just listening to it prepping for this conversation. You made an interesting comment in that episode. You said when people talk about marketing, they assume digital. I think that that is true. The phrase what’s old is new again was also made in that episode about direct mail.

When I think about direct mail and I think about tactile marketing automation, the difference between those two is that we’ve taken direct mail into the digital environment.

What I mean by that is that tactile marketing automation is really the orchestration of an overall multi-channel customer journey. That’s what PFL does. We build software that allows that orchestration to take place.

Ben: Sure, very cool. With the global pandemic wreaking havoc in the economy and shaking up all kinds of different markets in all kinds of different ways. Maybe for some industries, things have been better than for others, certainly. Nothing is the way that it used to be for anyone and nobody’s marketing plan now looks the way that it did prior to March 2020.

All these things being shaken up and being impacted in various different ways and things really shaping up or projecting right now to be more challenging heading into the Winter, especially for those of us who live in cold climates. This is something that we are bracing ourselves for. What are some of the toughest challenges you see marketers facing in the near future?

Nick: You mentioned the cold climates, I don’t think those things are unrelated. Winter is coming and we’re recording this on a day where it’s probably really the first day that we’ve shifted from summer to winter, fall was about a three day window in Montana.

Ben: Yeah, same here.

Nick: That I think is having an impact on people’s outlook. We love winter here as well, with all the activities and stuff. Collectively as a society, the markets that we’re trying to reach are just, in a general term, if I can paint with a broad brush, I think pessimistic. Many people have bee caught doom scrolling. I’m news addicted right now. We’ve got the election, we’ve got the pandemic, all of these stuff.

There’s a real FOMO that’s setting in. Like, I want to figure out what’s happening right now, what else do I need to know, what’s around the corner. This digital activity that is increasing in the markets that we’re all trying to reach is making our traditional marketing using digital channels much more difficult. Since the ski instructor days, I was the head of marketing in PFL back in the day, when we were strictly ecommerce. We have it dialed in. I knew that if I spent $83, I could acquire a new customer. All I had to do is keep my conversation rates, my retention rates and my everything in line for quality and then I just had to find new digital channels to acquire customers.

We’ve always dealt with fractions of a percentage. One of the challenges that marketers are facing now with this increase in digital consumption is cutting through the clutter and making an impact, gaining a moment of attention from our customers and our prospects.

What we’re finding in PFL is that, I think this is one of the reasons why direct mail overall is resurging is it’s comfortable, it’s familiar, it also monopolizes my attention whenever direct mail is in my hand.

Last night, I got home. I don’t mean to take this in a political direction or contiguous in any way, but Montana is a mail in ballot state. Everybody gets to opt in to mail in now, it’s whenever you can get your license here. That piece of mail shows up and that’s an event this year. The family is around the table, my kids are asking me how I’m voting and why. We’re having a conversation. What am I not doing? I’m not answering my phone, checking my email, getting distracted by other pop-up ads or other things that are sharing the screen. I’m right there in that moment with that physical piece.

We find the same thing to be true for marketers that are using PFL to deliver direct mail in a tactile way. You are monopolizing somebody’s attention in that moment. What that’s resulting in is really some incredible response rates. If you can use that moment in time and lead that conversation forward… I think that digital clutter is a challenge, finding out as people have shifted from work from home, I have to mention that in the B2B space where we have a lot of information that’s in my CRM, I’ve got a lot in my marketing technology stack that helps me understand where a person’s corporate location is, it’s much more difficult now to understand whether they’re work from home or work remote location. We’ve had to develop some tools that help our customers and ourselves get around that challenge as well.

Ben: Yeah, that’s a really interesting point. In an instance like that, theoretically, you know a lot about an account, but you don’t necessarily know a ton about the individual person you’re trying to reach at that account. Maybe you don’t have their home address, but even that person wouldn’t be comfortable getting a piece of mail at their home address based on information they have provided about their company. Like I know personally, I think when I was talking to Ryan Cote, this might have come up.

I’ve recently had some weird experiences where I would get a piece of direct mail that seemed to have data mashed together from three different places. It’s a like my name, a family member’s street address, a company name and it’s just like something went haywire with someone’s CRM that’s why I’m getting this thing. I’ve also gotten some very high quality pieces of direct mail. I’ve noticed that more since the pandemic has started. But if you’re in that situation where you don’t necessarily know the best way to actually get that piece of mail or that piece of collateral in front of the right person anymore, what do you do? What’s your first step?

Nick: You talked about data cleanliness a little bit there. That’s something that marketing operations teams are always fighting that battle for us. When we’re talking about tactile marketing automation and this software that enables direct mail to be triggered, what we’re doing is we’re triggering the send based on digital intensiveness. This is where the orchestration happens.

What you do in that case is, you can’t look at it as a silo channel anymore. For people that are wanting to get started, what we encourage them to think about is what’s the overall experience that you want to deliver and then what business objectives are you trying to move with that experience? We’ve already established that delivering dimensional or direct mail. I just want to clarify, when I think about direct mail, the context that is carried with that is like a non profit mailer. We’ve talked about letters and envelopes with the ballot example. We also build boxes, fully branded kits that deliver swag. It can be this whole spectrum of things.

I’m looking for what type of digital intense signals I want to trigger off. I have been ordered to deliver a piece of direct mail and then provide timely follow ups. One of the things our software does is lets you know within 15 minutes that that piece has been delivered so that you can then make a phone call. It’s really that multi channel experience—the digital, physical, audio, phone call. When you put those together, that’s when we start to see response rates in the 20%, 30%. We see incredible ROI. We have several customers that have double digit ROI just in the first campaign. Pretty incredible.

Because it’s a multi channel experience, about the address capture question, one of the things that we’ve started to do and we implemented immediately back in March, April, when people started going work from home is we’re still sequencing people with emails, we’re still making outbound phone calls as part of our sales process. But we want to help people understand our value proposition by experiencing it themselves. We make that invitation available where customers can begin to engage, which now I start to see in my ABM platform that I’ve got engagement at a certain rate so they can engage and give us their preferred address in order to opt in to that experience.

In a way, this remote work and the ask for an opt in has really leveled up engagement with our prospects. Because now, they’re saying yes, I want to see, I want to take this next step. I’m constantly reminding my team, we have to deliver value at every touch point. I’m not just putting something in a box and sending it to you, then letting that go into ether. They need to capitalize on that moment, make sure whatever I’m sending you is one, valuable. Two, helps you understand what’s the next step to take if actionable and we can help to move the conversation forward as part of our business.

Ben: Something that is so interesting to me about tactile marketing automation is this ability to personalize a piece of physical collateral and to take something that’s cynically been an advantage of digital tactics—personalization and so forth—and really being able to cross a divide between digital and physical space in a way that really allows you to do some really interesting things that people haven’t seen done a billion times before. That is of course as long as you can keep your data clean and your processes sound, and you don’t send me personally, something with CoSchedule’s name and my sibling’s street address, and then somehow have it arrive on my doorstep.Which, by the way, is a real thing that happened and I still think it is super weird.

But, conversely, it certainly hasn’t soured my enthusiasm for this idea or the potential that it may have for marketers. Now, back to Nick.

As things are starting to get tighter for business. Budgets are certainly getting tighter, even for businesses that are doing well, they’re probably starting to look at their bottom line a little bit more closely than they were before. All of us really trying to maximize our return on every dollar we spend on marketing right now. With that in mind, say I’m a marketer, I’m listening to this episode and there’s always a hundred different things that any of us could do work and spend on our money on in a given time. What makes direct mail a particularly smart option right now, especially as one, people are spending more time at home and two, they’re also spending a lot more time on their devices. It’s just something you touched on a little bit before, but knowing those two things, what makes direct mail the smart play there?

Nick: There’s a budget element there, it’s a lot of that, I think is important to address. Because people think about direct mail as being expensive. When you compare it to cost per click or any other type of digital efforts, it is going to be more expensive. But there is the difference for tactile marketing automation. When you’re using digital intense signals to trigger that expensive scent, you can do so with laser-like focus. I think that’s why people should consider it.

Especially, anybody that’s in account based marketing or has an ABM strategy. I know that I’m sending to you and I want to create an experience for you, personally, and it really takes us back to the days where you’re making sales calls in person or I can follow up on a customer face to face. That’s incredibly effective whenever you get to have a conversation and you can open up that moment in order to truly engage and deliver your value proposition to your customer.

The idea here is that you can do that at scale so you could create the one to one opportunity and then you can scale that really, infinitely as your business grows. That’s why I think the software element comes in and why that’s important. I imagine that your listeners have a variety of different elements in their marketing technology stack. But if I’m looking for certain engagement points, I’m not going to send direct mail, just batch and blast it, like people used to. You don’t have to anymore. I can see that target prospect, or customer, or even multiple people from an account are engaging in different ways. I can make a decision about when do I want to send them that tactile piece. And then, I can coordinate my sales team’s efforts to make sure that they call within 15 minutes of that being delivered and you get those experience where it’s like, oh, I’m glad you called. I’m actually looking at your thing right now.

That’s not a coincidence. We did that on purpose. That’s where the orchestration comes together. Because budgets are tighter, because it’s harder to cut through the clutter, because it’s harder to find movement in the metrics that we’re trying to drive… Personally, this is why I came back in to PFL when I saw that there’s this blending of the online and the offline, I’ve never seen results like this before. I’ve been marketing for 20 years, mostly in the digital space. You can’t afford not to do this today because of the impact that we’re driving.

Our business is just like the example that you gave. We’re more cash conscious, I think you have to be. I’m so tired of hearing uncertain times, but only because it’s a constant reality. As a business leader, you have to be making budget conscious decisions. What we’re seeing is that when those things are well orchestrated, this is the place to spend a quarter to move business objectives for. I think it’s pretty exciting because we’ve created this new category where it blends in the online and the offline for some remarkable results.

Ben: Sure. Let’s say I’m listening to this conversation and I’m sold on the idea of direct mail, of tactile marketing automation and all these things, and I really have a strong feeling that this might be the missing piece in my marketing strategy right now. How would you recommend somebody in that position get started? Say, direct mail is never been a thing that you have done anything with, what’s the first thing that you do?

Nick: I’m a big fan of Eric Reese’s book The Lean Startup. If we’re talking about truly just getting started, I wouldn’t go out and buy PFL software. If you haven’t yet proven it out that that’s going to be a big lift, I actually wouldn’t buy any software because you can, and I have in the past in other roles, effectively implemented direct mail to prove out the concept. I directed a non profit before this. Part of my role as the top executive was fund raising. I knew the owner, I didn’t have very much information, I had no relationship, there were no networks that were related to this person, but I knew he had a common mission and would be interested in what we were doing. I just wanted to start the conversation.

I sent a package to his office by FedEx. I use FedEx because I know it’ll be delivered before 10:00 AM and I know that I can track the delivery, because they sign off for it immediately. When that was delivered, I made a phone call and the receptionist connected me immediately because he was engaged with my piece that I had sent him right in that moment. I was able to just break in. It’s a door opener. I got five minutes of his time and three weeks later we were having lunch together and we spent a whole day together. It was a really great relationship.

I would test out some of these concepts in those ways. You can do a lot of the swag closet, probably with existing marketing material on a low level. Once that’s been proven out, now it’s time to think about how do I scale this, what type of intent signals do I want to begin sending off of, and then what type of business objectives are we trying to move over things. I think those are foundational when starting. As prospects and customers engaged with PFL, that’s where our teams begin. More than just selling a software, we are really working with our customers to build marketing campaigns and strategies. You work with around five or six customer success—a team of people that help build campaigns out for your target customers.

That’s where I really start to geek out. That’s the fun thing. What problems are you trying to solve now, let’s try to see how we can move the needle on that. But I think that’s the place to start.

Ben: Cool. Once a marketer has gotten to that level, they’ve gone to their proof of concept phase so to speak, they’ve scaled up to the point where now they have some software or a platform, what would be the next, more advanced tactics that you would recommend that they explore in order to get the most of the capabilities of what that software can enable them to do?

Nick: That’s a great question. Because if it’s not providing value, then there’s no reason to keep using it. This is where we really see an opportunity to accelerate value. We’ve recently published a marketing maturity curve. Based on what we’ve seen, some of the biggest brands in the world doing with their TMA software through PFL. One of those brands would be Blue Cross Blue Shield in Michigan.

As you’re asking a question, it comes to mind. I recently chatted with Angela Dunbar at Blue Cross Blue Shield in Michigan. She had a great quote. Because I was asking her about triggering direct mail for customers based off of their known communication preferences. The context was around budget. If somebody’s digital only, take them out of the physical sense. They don’t want it, they don’t need it. That’s a way to save cost and just orchestrate your customer experience.

As I was asking about that, she said, I don’t even think about those things anymore. We’re way beyond that. They’ve been using PFL for about four years. What we’ve seen is customers like Angela. Once the basic principles of tactile marketing automation have been applied with the customer journey, usually, people want to apply it to the buying process. That’s where you find immediate ROI. After that, marketers can begin to think about triggering direct mail using intent signals from really multiple sources or working with cross functional teams that are enabled with TMA.

Normally, we’re working with the marketing team and they’re using the buyer journey examples that I mentioned earlier. But we’ve started to just take people build customer programs around their customer success teams, customer enablement for maybe a referral program. Maybe there’s customer success initiative. It’s really deeper in the customer journey with cross functional teams. You can gather these intent signals from your entire ecosystem and really decide what type of experience do I want to present at different points from that customer and how does that return on the investment for the overall organization.

A lot of people are having great success—especially in 2020—working with their existing customer base. In some cases, cross sell, up sell. But really, to just deepen the customer relationship which gives them a stronger foundation for 2021 and beyond.

Ben: Sure, I think that’s a great example. That does it for all questions I have for you. But before I let you go, is there anything else on this topic or in this area of discussion that you feel is particularly important for marketers to maybe know or to take the heart right now?

Nick: I appreciate that, because as a recap, we talk about direct mail, we get into the weeds and the timing and when do I send what. The focus tends to always come back to the send. I think that’s really a mistake. An important thing to keep in mind is the experience. What experience are you trying to create and then where does that get applied at different stages of the journey.

Really, it goes beyond the active sending, it’s not about enabling your sales team to send or enabling your marketing team to send. Really, at a foundational level, it’s about what experience do I want to present to the customer, what message do I want to deliver, how does that align with my brand? We want people to go beyond the send and think about the overall, long term customer experience as a way that it’s coordinated across these multiple channels.

That’s where we started and it’s a great place to leave it at the end. Thanks for the opportunity to recap that.

The post Optimizing Marketing Under Extreme Conditions By Bringing Digital and Direct Mail Together With Nick Runyon From PFL [AMP 210] appeared first on CoSchedule Blog.

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