It is our honor to introduce you to a new member of the Golden Spiral team, Angus Nelson. Angus joins us as Director of Development and will work with our integrated team in strategy building, new client onboarding, and tactical planning. He has built a career around human-focused marketing. He hosts the “Up In Your Business” podcast and has spoken for brands like Walmart, Whole Foods, BMW, Coca-Cola, and Adobe.
Feel free to read this edited excerpt from our interview below or click to stream or download the audio of our interview.
What was an early key milestone along your career path? What first defined your marketing journey?
There are many, but my first was back in the 1990s in Central Wisconsin. I started a non-profit organization fronted as a coffee house/concert venue. I had recently acquired a brand new, at that time, Apple computer. My dad bought it at Sears for like $2,500. (I’m no Johnny-come-lately Apple guy.) I got into graphics because we had to promote these shows; we had to get the word out. In addition, they had to be semi-cool graphics, because our target market — teens and college kids — wouldn’t come to something that wasn’t semi-cool or better. I didn’t have any formal training. I didn’t know what I was doing. I was just throwing things against the wall and seeing what worked.
Within a couple of months, I realized, “Well hey, you gotta have a cool font. You have to have a certain kind of clarity.” And, I started to figure out the messaging part of visuals, not just words.
We had 15,000 kids come through our doors in the few years we were open.
You said you learned a lot about messaging at that time. Talk to me about the lessons you learned? Did you have any big failures?
Not one big mistake, just many, many, many small ones.
I learned a lot about tempo and rhythm. We were doing shows every week and we had multiple shows, and what I found out is I started losing my audience the more I started just pushing out stuff. If there’s not relevance to that stuff in context of people’s attention span or an understanding of their interest, you will lose them. During one stretch, I tried to market a ska band one week, a metal band the next, and a punk band the week after that. Those attract very, very different audiences.
I realized that messaging has to have a consistency and a relevancy to it.
You brought up four key words that I think can apply to B2B tech companies. Rhythm, tempo, consistency, and relevancy. Where do you see the need for tempo and rhythm most in how companies communicate?
Product launches, campaigns, seasons, building audiences — those four issues are all critical components to how you share your story. Ultimately, everything comes down to one thing. And it’s the mistake of so many marketers. We don’t put the customers and their needs first. Marketers have a great ability to talk about ourselves really well — and I’m not immune either. Marketers can be super narcissistic. We’ll talk about, “Oh, we brought in these experts who built our product.” “Oh, we worked for years to really make this service awesome.” At the end of the day, the buyers are asking different questions. They’re saying, “I have a need, I have a pain, and are you the solution?”
Tempo refers to the way we tell stories. Stories should follow a certain trajectory and offer elements of discovery.
Our lives are lived in seasons — calendar seasons and seasons of life. “Is this product relevant during this season.” If you have a medical technology product that addresses colds and flu, for example, you have to capitalize on cold and flu season. What’s the primary time for you to tell your story? Do you need to tell different stories during different seasons?
Where do B2B companies struggle with relevancy?
Number one, I would just say, we don’t get out of our own offices, out of our own boxes. We get super proud of our child, our baby, and we think our baby has all these attributes about it that the end user may not understand, or may not connect to. So, we struggle with relevancy and need to be able to do our homework, and that could be as simple as going through all of the feedback that you’re getting. What are people talking about you in your social listening online? There’s one component.
How about troubleshooting? Your customers are calling your support lines. What kind of complaints do they have? What kind of objections do they have? Use their own words as your copy. I’m amazed that we forget this so often. The words of a sentence spoken by a human are far more powerful than the fancy words that we try to conjure.
Yes, if you’re talking fintech, there’s a vernacular. If you’re talking health tech, there’s a vocabulary. There’s context, there’s nuance, and then there are acronyms. These become ubiquitous to particular industries, but if you’re not careful, they can become jargon and your audience will say, “I don’t know what that means.”
We talk about two other milestones in our complete interview.
Click here to stream or download the audio interview
or scroll past the excerpt to read the transcript.
Who has influenced you? Who are your mentors and the voices — whether alive or dead, known or unknown to you? Who are they and why do they matter to you?
In fifth grade and sixth grade, I was influenced by Mr. Godfrey and Mr. Peterson. They were the first male school teachers I had. They spoke into my life and at the end of the school year, we were doing this big picnic thing. Mr. Godfrey asked me if I would be one of the captains to pick the kickball team.
He gave me other opportunities to lead. Mr. Peterson in sixth grade would call on me to have different opportunities. They were calling leadership out of me.
Then, in hockey a few years later, I had Mr. Torney. He did something very similar. In his coaching, he didn’t just coach a team of punk kids, he tried to build young men. He’s the one that put his arm around you when you had a bad game, and instead of saying, “Hey, you should have done this, and you should have done that.” It was more like, “How are you feeling? How did you feel about that?” And he gave you an opportunity to put words to your disappointment, or to your frustration, or whatever. He’s like, “Well, let me give you a different perspective.”
Then he would speak life into that situation, even though I thought I failed the team, or I missed that one shot, or I missed that pass. He be like, “These are opportunities to learn, and opportunities to grow, and you’re gonna be such a better human being, and every time you learn.”
Angus discusses another personal influencer in our complete interview.
Scroll down to read the transcript
or click here to stream or download the audio interview.
What have you been reading lately?
The first is a deeply psychological book. It’s written by a coach. I was on a trip to go speak at an event, I was in the airport, I was buying some gum, I saw the title of this book, it was shocking, I’m like, “Well that looks interesting.” Then I read it, and I scribbled all over it. The title is controversial: How to Un-F Yourself.
It’s a personal development/growth mind-set kind of book. I hardly every read fiction, I always read non-fiction. Your brain is such a powerful tool. It’s an organism, it’s always growing. If you give it food and sustenance, it will grow. So that’s one book that I would highly recommend.
Ryan Holiday has some good stuff that I recommend. His book, Ego is the Enemy, is important. I also recommend any of his marketing books. Trust Me, I’m Lying: Confessions of a Media Manipulator is really good.
Angus goes into depth about other books and authors
in our complete interview. Scroll down to read the transcript
or click here to stream or download the audio interview.
Do you have a favorite quote right now?
I’ve done coaching for companies and brands, and I love this quote because it revolves around products, leadership, things that we want to do. Why do we hesitate? It was Joseph Campbell that said this: “In the cave you fear to enter lies in the treasure that you seek.”
So whether that’s in your personal life, in relationships, in your leadership, or in your brand, or in some things that you’re working on in your career, I believe that fear is an invitation to a higher echelon, a higher way of living, existing, and then normalizing. If you stay in a growth mindset, and you’re constantly growing, then you constantly have to be uncomfortable.
That means you have to face every fear along the way, and the more that you face those things that give you pause, the stronger you get, the more confident you’ll get, and the more powerful ways you’ll impact the world with your brand and your leadership.
“In the cave that you fear to enter lies the treasure that you seek.”
Transcript of Full Interview
Hi, this is Mark Whitlock from Golden Spiral, and this is a special audio edition of the blog, and you either got here one of two ways. One, you clicked on a link that got you directly here, or two, you were reading an excerpt from this interview, and said, "Hey, I wanna listen to the whole thing." So, you're here for a good time. It's my honor to introduce our newest switch-hitting pro baseball super-stud marketing guy, Angus Nelson, here with us. Angus comes in as our Director of Development. We are so glad you are on our team. Thanks for joining me here behind the mics today.
The crowd goes wild. It's funny you made a baseball reference, 'cause I'm terrible at baseball.
That's okay, so am I. So, it's okay, but you're just a super-stud. We could call you the Swiss Army Knife, would you have preferred that?
That would be perfect. I'd like to think that.
We won't back up and redo this, we'll just keep going with it. The reason we wanted to sit down today, is that both Angus and I have a love for podcasting, and a love for talking things out, and so I thought this would be a great way for us to get to know each other even better, and for us to introduce you to Angus. And, I have a nefarious purpose. I'm lobbying that we'll do a podcast.
So, Angus, when we speak of marketing, what are two or three key milestones along your career path that you would say, "These are seminal moments. These are defining moments in my marketing journey." So, tell me about one of 'em.
So I started a non-profit organization fronted as a coffee house/concert venue back in the 90s, and it was in Central Wisconsin, and I had just recently acquired a brand new, at that time, was an Apple computer. So my first Apple computer was in 1994, my dad bought it at Sears for like 2500 bucks. So, I'm no Johnny-come-lately Apple guy.
So I got into graphics because we had to promote these shows, we had to get the word out. In addition, they had to be semi-cool graphics, 'cause our target market, the demographics were young people, they were teenagers and college kids. I didn't have any formal training, I didn't know what I was doing. I was just throwing things against the wall, and seeing what worked.
Within a couple of months, I realized, "Well, hey, these fonts, you gotta have a certain kind of cool font. You have to have a certain kind of clarity." And, I started to figure out the messaging part of visual, not just words. Right?
So like, how those words fit together. So that was the first one. End up having like 15,000 kids come through our doors in the few years we were open in central Wisconsin. So that was number one. That's when I learned how to communicate my message. Number two, part of that, related, is that I learned how to do an email list.
So, we had like 1600 kids on our email list, and every week I would push out a little note with some little inspirational thing. You know, trying to encourage them in their teenaged awkwardness, and then what shows we had coming up.
Alright, so that was all my first primer. The next primer was, I wrote a book in 2010, and I went to go market it. So I started playing around with social media. Now, I was on social media. You know, the iterations of MySpace, and then Facebook, and the Twitters, etc. Right? And I started speaking at different conferences and events, and I started kind of building momentum around marketing a book, which is a very different beast.
In addition, you also have to ... as an entrepreneur, this is a little side item, is learning how to position yourself, and all the weird things that go through your head when you do that. And then the third piece, I got into the corporate space. So this is some really weird jumps. I got an opportunity to work for an association built around innovation, and being able to build messaging and positioning for a completely different demographic. Now, you're in B2B.
What started that season, I thought, was a differentiation from B2C, and B2B. I quickly learned that there really ... that's decreased since the time that I started that 'til now, they've all kind of merged. It's like Millennials are now the ones who are kind of the decision makers, and so instead of them following some big brand or something, they jump on Google, they search, and if you're not keen enough to have search engine optimization to be able to tell a great brand story, and then to very quickly take them to a journey of discovery, you lose.
So, all of those three things are probably the most primary pieces of those ah-ha moments in my marketing journey.
Okay. Let's go back to the coffee house. You mentioned things like visually telling a story, and telling a message so the message is responded to. You also talked about messaging at that point, "what am I going to say, how am I going to say it?" What's a big blow up you had? Do you remember making a big mistake about that that led to some lessons?
Not one big, just many, many, many small.
Okay, what are a couple small ones?
So, one is tempo and rhythm. We were doing shows every week and we had multiple shows, and what I found out is you started losing your audience the more you started just pushing out stuff.
If there's not relevance to that stuff in context of people's attention span, A), and then B) where is the interest point? So, just off the top of my head, I talk about a ska band, and then we talk about a punk band, and then we talk about a metal band. Those are all very, very different audiences.
And you try and say, "Hey, we got this! And we got this!" Not that ... you can add that voice inflection that I just did, but you kind of are, through the messaging.
Angus: That was a huge mistake, is realizing that your messaging has to have a consistency to it, and a relevancy to it. So that was my early trip-ups of just really screwing it up.
Okay, hold on ... let me pause you right there, 'cause you've brought up four key words that I think can apply to those who are listening to us, our B2B tech companies that we love and know so well. Rhythm, tempo, consistency and relevancy. So when you're thinking about some of our B2B friends, talk to me about that. So, where do you see the need for tempo and rhythm most in how they communicate?
Product launches, campaigns, seasons, audience, those are all critical components to how you share your story. Ultimately, everything comes down to ... this is the mistake of so many marketers. We don't put the customer and their needs first. We talk about us really well, we're super narcissistic in many of our marketing realms.
We'll talk about, "Oh, we brought in these experts to built our thing. Oh, we worked this long to really make this awesome." And it's like, and the end of the day, I have a need, I have a pain, and are you the solution?
We forget about all of those, and so the tempo is an element of telling the story, and helping them kind of follow the trajectory, or the elements of discovery. The seasons are, "How is this relevant during the season?" For instance, your health-medical now, it's cold season. It's flu season, that's primary time for you to tell a different story than when it's summer, and now you can take a different spin to it.
By the way, I have an influencer marketing background too, so the storytelling is a whole other beast that I'd love to sink my teeth into.
So, where do you see us as a B2B tech world, or even just B2B world, where do we struggle with relevancy? Build on the thoughts you just had about, "Hey, we talk about ourselves, we talk about all the wizbang stuff we've done, we talk about the technology, we talk about the investment." But, other than that, or maybe you can expand on what I said, talk about relevancy. How do we gain more, how do we identify? How do we audit our own stuff and go, "You know what, we're not being relevant enough."
Number one, I would just say, we don't get out of our own office, out of our own box. We get super proud of our child, our baby, and we think our baby has all these attributes about it that the end user may not understand, or may not connect to. So, one of it is being able to do your homework, and that could be as simple as going through all of your feedback that you're getting. Those feedback mechanisms. What are people talking about you in your social listening online? There's one component.
What about troubleshooting? So when they're calling your support lines, what kind of complaints do they have? What kind of objections do they have? And then even using their own words as your copy, and that's where we forget. The words of a human spoken sentence are far more powerful than the fancy words that we try to conjure.
We think we're saying things in really verbose and awesome ways, and it's like, people don't talk like that. Even in the business space, depending on your vertical. I mean, if you're talking FinTech, there's a vernacular. If you're talking health, there's a vernacular, absolutely. There's context, there's nuance, and then there's also acronyms. It becomes ubiquitous to that particular industry, and annoying if you're not from that industry, and like, "What did he just say? I don't know what that means."
The voice of the brand gets lost on the customer when you are perceived as, "You aren't even going to tell me what that acronym means!" Again, the context here is everything.
Sure, well the acronyms are everywhere.
I used to live in a military town, Huntsville, Alabama. And they start using acronyms all the time, all those military boys, and I'm like, "I have no idea what you're talking about." Context, I'm not military, so I'm like ... Same thing in your industry. If you're trying to branch out of your industry, or you're trying to branch out of your space into a new product, a new launch, it's a whole new plan, and therefore a whole new context that you have to create.
Got it. The second milestone along the way when you were talking about the email list, and you said, "Positioning." How to talk about yourself. Now, at Golden Spiral, if you've been reading our blog for any amount of time, you know that positioning is really important to us. It's something that we have a degree of expertise in, and helping our clients find a way to differentiate themselves from their competition, and stand out in a crowded and noisy environment.
What about there? What are some of the things that you ... did you hit any walls, or run into any dead-ends, or roadblocks in coming up with that? And, what lessons did you learn about positioning when you were building that 1600-strong email list?
So, there's a couple different elements, and I think I would start first with storytelling. The context of that storytelling is this: When someone's new to your list, for me, it was like, if I would be really honest, I'm just shouting at people, "Look at me! Look at me! Look at my thing! And I've got this thing! And look at my other thing!" Versus telling a story that really connects with your customer. Then, any good soap opera, or any good Netflix binge-worthy show.
Don't stop the story at the end of a story. Stop the story in the middle of a story, and that will cause your reader to want to read the next one.
What I mean by that is don't always give away the farm of the answer, the solution. Respect your reader so that they have a little bit of self-discovery, and then they have a little bit of self-worth and connectedness to your story, and then the second piece is, you start of any kind of mailing list entry by introducing who you are, why you are, and what is the relevance to them, and then you stop in the middle of each of those stories. So this might be four, five, eight emails as you tell this story, before you make a call to action.
Some people have different opinions of that. They say, "Oh, you got 'em on the line, they're on the hook, reel 'em in." And I'm not an advocate of that. What I want to do is I want to matter, as a brand I want to matter in these people's lives, and I want to show some kind of a respect and connectivity to where they feel like they're a part of something bigger than just my product, widget, or service.
And one of those things that I like to say is if you look at all the best brands, they build movements, not just marketing. What that means is you involve your customer in the process in some form or fashion. They feel like they belong too. And you could be a manifesto, it could be an identity. If we're talking B2C, so if you look at say the Nikes of the world, the Starbucks of the world, the Harley Davidsons of the world. When someone participates in those products, they have a different feeling about them, "Oh, you drink Starbucks. Oh, you're better than this." There is some connectivity that my third place of Starbucks puts me in a different identity than the person who went down to Bubba's Café. You know? If you own a Bubba's Café, I'm super sorry. I'm not trying to insult you, I'm sure your coffee's great.
If I'm a Harley Davidson owner... the majority of Harley Davidson owners aren't the thing you see on the weekends driving around. They put on the leather chaps, they put on the jacket, they have the scarf thing around their head, and charge off. And they feel like they're the badass. They're usually a doctor, they're an attorney, they're some other identity, but they take on this new identity as a part of this brand. It makes them feel something.
So that's the B2C. In a B2B, what is my partnership going to look and feel like by me choosing to work with you, versus someone else?
So now the category leaders are seen as the people who are the first and foremost on this journey, they're the ones cutting the trails. I wanna sync up my wagon with you, because me working with you says something about my company, and furthermore, travel down the food chain to the people that I serve. Does that make sense?
It makes perfect sense. So let's go to the third thing you were talking about, when you had to learn how to identify a completely different demographic, a completely different audience. That's hard to do. It's hard to understand who your audience is. We have persona tools on our website goldenspiralmarketing.com, because it's such a difficult thing, and yet even with those tools, even with background education, sometimes you miss the audience, and sometimes the nuances between the different audiences that you have, 'cause nobody has just one audience, are hard to determine.
So what's a tip you can give us living in audience land, for how to help understand audiences, or what are red flags that go off, that you go, "You know what, we need to just alter what we're saying just a little bit because we haven't met our audience perfectly?
I think the miracles of our day and age is we can test and measure everything. So, to me it's all about A/B testing. Whatever messaging you're putting out, particularly if it's on social, specifically, you can always test on social to see how people respond. Imagery, colors, copy, all of those become immediately measurable. Usually it's pretty distinct, like you're gonna get one that's gonna give you a vast majority of response.
Then you can translate that through other areas of your company, and other messaging. So you can experiment on social, and then you can take that, and now that becomes sales copy for your website; that can become copy for if you're gonna use text, or billboard, or whatever it is that you're messaging. Test it in a way that you can do it relatively inexpensively, but more authentically.
What happens sometimes is we'll put together user groups and stuff, and it's usually internal. It's like, that's skewed, that's absolutely biased. So you need the ears of your customer to be able to help you, you know, guide you. There's another aspect too, when you could have such a strong connection with your audience.
Let's say you built an association around your brand, and now your customers, your other businesses that are working with you and partnering with you now have voice in your association, and you have them beta a new software, a new tool, a new product. Their immediate feedback gives them A) ownership, they get to be a part of the process. B) it fills all of their personal needs of, "I'm important, and you care about my opinion." And then third, they're gonna give you real-time feedback. Especially if you created the right culture, where it's welcomed if they criticize.
But even then, there's still a little bias, because if they're your customer already, they're not necessarily an objective ear or eye or the new potential customer. You know what I mean?
So those become starting points, but without a broader plan, you'll fail on the back-end, 'cause then you think you've nailed it, but you haven't walked it out to the next piece. That's only the beginning, so then you can test it from there to see how you can hone it in and perfect it.
That's cool. I love how you were talking about testing at different things, because there's not only just the copy, there's also the tone that you can check out. Your tone of voice. And then, there is ... drill down into your product. There are probably at least 3 ways you can approach the first introduction of the product, and so how do you talk about that, and how do you do it? What's the best gateway in? So, pretend they're doors. What's the best door to walk through for your product?
All of those things can be tested in different areas. You talked about the bias of doing an internal group. Same thing happens with a focus group. The high paid consultants know all this too, but here's a tip: If you ever try to bring in a small group of customers or something to run ideas past them, is there a strong leader in that group? Is there somebody who is very vocal, especially at the beginning of the meeting, who sets a tone?
That can skew the entire meeting from there on, so you need to be careful in facilitating that, to make sure that there's nothing in the first 10 minutes that sets you down a track, that builds a rut. You know they say in Alaska, there's this sign that says, "Choose your rut carefully, you'll be in it for the next 45 miles." So, don't get into one of those ruts that you'll be in for the rest of the time, to check out your information.
And I would also caveat, I'm trusting that you have a great product, or a great service, or a great widget, whatever. Because if that's an issue, that's a whole other ... that goes beyond marketing, alright?
Indeed, indeed, and we're grateful to work with so many great brands who have phenomenal, innovative category-defining products, and we're grateful for that, and we hope that if that's you, that you give us a call, and introduce your product to us, and see if there's ways that we can cooperate together to make your message even louder.
Before we go, I also wanted to talk with you a little bit about people who have influenced you, the mentors, the voices whether alive or dead, known or unknown to you. Who are some people that have mattered a lot to you, either professionally or personally, and can you tell me a little bit of why they matter to you?
Sure. How deep do you want me to get?
Welcome to Dr. Phil, we have boxes of Kleenex spread out around the room.
You joke, but I actually have some depth to me. So, I would start with ... so fifth grade and sixth grade. So it's Mr. Godfrey and Mr. Peterson. They were the first male school teachers that I had, that spoke into my life, and at the end of the school year we were doing this big picnic thing, and Mr. Godfrey asked me if I would be one of the captains to pick on the kickball team. We had this big kickball thing.
He gave me another opportunity, and Mr. Peterson in sixth grade would call on me to have different opportunities. It was like they were calling leadership out of me, right?
So I didn't have those kinds of experiences a lot.
Then, in hockey a few years later, I had Mr. Torney, and he did something very similar. In his coaching, he didn't just coach a team of punk kids, he tried to build young men. He's the one that put his arm around you when you had a bad game, and instead of saying, "Hey, you should have done this, and you should have done that." It was more like, "How are you feeling? How did you feel about that?" And he gave you an opportunity to put words to your disappointment, or to your frustration, or whatever. He's like, "Well, let me give you a different perspective."
Then he would speak life into that situation, even though I thought I failed the team, or I missed that one shot, or I missed that pass. He'd be like, "These are opportunities to learn, and opportunities to grow, and you're gonna be such a better human being, and every time you learn."
So those were really critical things, and then I became an adult and I jacked it all up.
As we do. I had a guy named Bruce, Bruce Martin. After a damaging business loss, and I was like, "How do I get up on my feet again? I thought this was gonna be the thing. I made some mistakes." Part of it was immaturity, part of it was other conditions outside of my control, and part of it was the 2008-2009 economy.
He was the guy that stepped in and reframed everything that I had learned. It was almost like he was saying ... and these aren't his exact words, these are words that I've learned since. But basically his point was that everything I had done up to that point was tuition to live and leadership. Like, we always see failures in our lives, in our business, or whatever and then we sometimes carry around guilt, or shame, or regret, or these weird deeply emotional ... and here we are, getting Dr. Phil now.
And yet he kind of reframed in my head that there are no such thing as failures and slip-ups and whatever. They happen, but the real question of people who have a growth mindset, and people who are true leaders, is they ask themselves, "What can I learn from this? What is the lesson I get to walk away with?"
Because otherwise, you'll end up recreating those situations in your life, whether self-sabotage, or limiting beliefs, and all these other elements, because you equate yourself to those conditions, versus saying, "Those have taught me something, I'm gonna look forward, and I'm gonna move from here."
So all of those guys really spoke into my life. Then now, what I've learned is there are ... I tell my wife, I'm listening to my gurus. There's a handful of people who are not personally associated in my life, per-se. I'd love them to be, but they're people who, I think, speak to my soul. Brené Brown, Brendon Burchard, Tony Robbins. For so long, I thought those guys were — or at least that category of people — a little woo-woo, and a little out there.
Now as I've gotten older, I'm like, "Well there's some very significant substance to how we think, and project ourselves to the world. So much of our lives comes back to our thinking, and this is where I think marketing, for me, has really come down to an element of, "As you see yourself, you will project to your customer."
We don't understand that leadership creates culture within our companies, and how we manage the people around us, will help us to attract the right talent, keep the right talent, and have that talent project to ... or I should say, communicate with our audience through messaging, marketing, and value, what we're trying to build as a company. That gets super deep, and that's where value, and worth, and really engaging your team into a collaborative company. That's a whole other conversation beyond our marketing, but I believe that marketing transcends just twisting the right dials, and pulling the right leavers.
It is an expression of a culture and a philosophy of your company, and your brand. That becomes the contagion for customers to want to work with you, and if you mess that up, and you're operating out of narcissism, you're operating out of power, you're operating out of control; on some weird energetic or subconscious level, customers feel that, and then they're actually retracted. Retracted? Is that the word? They're detracted? I dunno what ... they don't wanna be around you. What is when you don't want a mosquito to come by you?
You repel them.
You repel! There's the word. Repel.
Wow. So what would you say, what's a company that you look at the culture that stems from leadership? That you look at and go, "This is a really cool case study to put my philosophy I just talked about into practice."
So, I don't have a direct answer specifically right now, because I've been looking at older companies.
And I'm actually working on a chapter in my book, which may actually kind of go beyond this, so I need to find some more modern. But if I were gonna give an example, I would say Alan Mulally from Ford Motor Companies, when he came through and he turned that company around — he's not leading there anymore.
But when he came and he put a real focus on customer and customer experience. There's a story of him bringing all the team together in a kind of stand-up meeting, and I don't remember if it was weekly or biweekly, or something of that nature. He said we're going to provide time at every meeting for people to bring about conflicts, complaints, criticisms about our own company. These are not people from outside the company, these are the management in the company.
For several months, he'd get to that point and he'd ask, and nobody, nobody would say anything. 'Cause this is corporate America. All the politics and everything that come with that. Bureaucracy, blah, blah, blah.
But one day, somebody finally lifted their hand and said, "Hey, this thing right here, blah, blah, blah, whatever." And as the story goes, and I don't know if I have it completely accurate, but he basically applauded him. Literally clapped his hands, and then asked everybody to applaud that person, and then celebrate them. Then went on to say that this is why we exist. We are to be our own experts, and to use our experience, or consciousness of, "Oh, that doesn't feel right." Being self-aware, being involved in emotional intelligence to not just know something, but then do something about it.
So many times, we'll be pushing something out to the world and shipping our product wherever, and something in our gut says, "I don't know, there's something not right. Maybe we should be doing that." And I don't mean perfectionism, but rather there's just some nuance to it. And we just ignore that because we're on a deadline, we're trying to meet some quota, we're trying to ... whatever.
It's almost as his example was, if we are self-aware, and we take this moment of insight, all of us can win. Because now you take the group intelligence, and our expertise, and our brilliance, and we can solve that problem together, instead of somebody somewhere within the company who just feels like a cog in the wheel, and they're desperately wanting to change something but they can't. Suddenly, they've been empowered to say, "Your opinion counts, we're here to support you." Rather than you feel like we're gonna just crucify you for criticizing, we're gonna say how can we make this better.
That's a game changer. When leadership goes from that level, I think everyone wins, and it trickles all the way down through the company, and to the customer.
I asked you a question before you hit start on the recorder here, and that is: Is there something that you've seen on a repeated level, on all the customers and clients that you've worked with over time, that's kind of one of those areas that bothers people, that's a root we trip over in our marketing? What's something that you've seen, and how have you been able to highlight it and address it with folks you've worked with?
So I can think of a whole bunch of stuff, but the one I think that I would answer with kind of corresponds with what we've been talking about, and that is the old saying, "The customer comes first." We get so built on our own hubris that we think we know our product, and we know our brands, and we know everything about is, that we forget that there is a company that is desperately looking for a solution. Or, a customer who is desperately looking for a pain to go away.
We are not taking it upon ourselves to make their decision easier, and their pain disappear faster, by improving and expediting the right messaging for that relationship to begin. So, if we know we have an answer, if we know we have a solution, I think it is upon us to put a priority on making sure that our messaging is as clear and concise as possible, so that the company or person that we're helping can make an easy decision to say, "You're the one." "I've been waiting for you."
I'm gonna put you on the spot, so customer comes first is the way you phrased it, and it's become a little bit cliché, and we've got to reframe that. So, I'm going to put you on the spot. How would you reframe a sentence, or a fragment of the idea, and how you just developed it?
So inquiry and involvement — actually reaching out and talking to a customer. I was dealing with a client just a few weeks ago, and I said, "What if every week you set aside an hour out of your week to throw your phone up in front of your face, and shoot a video thanking a specific customer for their contribution of participating in your brand, and maybe even jump online and do a quick search on their tweets, or their Facebook or whatever, something that they're dealing with, and make it super personal."
I said, "What do you think would happen to their involvement or feel from your brand?" And I said, "Add to that, ask them a question. How can we make this better?"
They're going to give you immediate feedback, because A) you just made them feel like they mattered, B) who doesn't want to feel recognized? We all, on ... here we go, getting down and dirty into Dr. Phil again, all of us want to belong.
So now your customer feels like they belong, and they're hearing from the top. This is a co-founder of this company. And third, when you ask them, "How can we make this better?" You're giving the opportunity that their opinion counts, and you're giving them participation in solution, and they feel like, "I'm a part of this. I own this solution." So now, if they give you such a great idea that you go back to your team and say, "Hey, this is what our customer is saying, this is the words they used, how can we fix this? Are we gonna fix it?"
Then you push it out, and then you send a little note to that customer and say, "This was your idea. Thank you so much." Do you know what kind of magic you're creating? And if it's their problem, it's probably likely there's a whole lot of other people that have that problem too.
That's a really powerful process to walk through for a co-founder. So, let me just ask you a follow-up question, because if somebody's going, "Hey, I wanna do this too." When the co-founder made that video, was he posting it publicly, or was he sending it through a private channel to the user?
You send in a private channel, through Instagram.
And this guy, he's Parisian. He's from Paris. So he's got a cool accent, and stuff like that. And we're at a restaurant when we were talking, we were having dinner and I just handed him my phone, and said, "Here's the guy." 'Cause I actually knew someone who uses his product, and I said, "Hey, he brags about your product all the time. Maybe you can give him a shout out."
So he did, right there on the spot, and fortunately he was game for it. What I said afterwards, everything I just told you, "What if you did this every week?" His whole team did exactly what you did. They all sat back in their chair.
Yeah, you couldn't see that here, on the recording. Sorry.
It's like, you just like, "Huh. That's powerful." And this is human nature 101 that we do not incorporate in B2B. We think B2B is boring, we think B2B is corporate, we think ... we put all these weird words that we mask the reality that everyone of us works with human beings. It's not B2B, it's not B2C, it's H2H.
My friend Bryan Kramer coined this phrase, "Human to human." I just think that is absolutely true. That's the part we forget.
Wow. That's incredible. We've got seven minutes left on the calendar, before somebody storms in and takes over this conference room. So, you strike me as a reader. Is that correct, or do I need to edit this out?
No, this is true.
Okay. What have you read lately? So, what's something you've read in the last two months that's memorable? Well, I don't care what genre it is. Talk to me about it.
I dunno that I can say it on the air. How to Un-F Yourself.
And it's a deeply psychological book, and it's written by some coach, and I wish I could tell you his name. I was on a trip to go speak at an event, I was in the airport, I was buying some gum, I saw the title of this book, it was shocking, I'm like, "Well that looks interesting." Then I read it, and I scribbled all over it.
So that's a book, kind of a personal development, growth mindset kind of book, and those are the things that ... I hardly every read fiction, I always read non-fiction stuff. Again, your brain is such a powerful tool. It's an organism, it's always growing. If you give it food and sustenance, it will grow. So that's one book that I would highly recommend.
I'm reading right now.... Traction, is another book I'm reading right now.
I read that a year ago, and it is business changing. I am shocked. So we use the Traction grid here at Golden Spiral every day, and I've worked in a number of companies, some that are traded on Stock Exchanges, and some that are small and very powerful, and I went to our COO, Peter Smith, after about being here three months. I had read the book, and I had been in I don't know how many meetings run on this Traction platform.
I said, "This is incredible." Because I mean Peter has built on it, added to it, changed it, dropped some stuff out of it, and really formulated it. We are more efficient and get more done than any agency I've ever been affiliated with, whether I've hired an agency or been working inside an agency.
I'm blown away, and that book, and that philosophy, and that framework is what brought that efficiency about. So, if you have an efficiency challenge, you oughta take a look at Traction.
Yeah, well of course that's why I'm reading the book, 'cause I said, "Hey John, if I'm coming in and I wanna know your philosophy, what's the book you recommend?" And that was the one he told me. So I went on to Amazon, I scooped it up, and I'm on chapter two.
Would you say ... is there a book that ... there may be five or six at the top of the pile that you always recommend, but is there a book that you go, "This is one that I'm regularly recommending to other people because this book matters to me, it's been influential in my life."
Oh gosh. So, I read a lot of books. So, on kind of a metaphysical maybe deep part, Ryan Holiday has a book called Ego is the Enemy. I also recommend any of his marketing books. Oh gosh, what is it? Marketers are Liars, I think is one of them. Or something like that. Believe Me I'm Lying to You, or something like that.
So Ryan Holiday has some good stuff that I recommend. So I'm going to take you down ... if you're listening, and you can't tell already, our company is really deep into empathy, and to connecting with the customer. One of the best ways that I think you can do that is to first start with you. I've already kind of articulated my opinions, right?
Brené Brown. Her ability to connect you to vulnerability and transparency to ... and there's all sorts of nuance to that, and I have some opinions on it. But I think the essence of it is, in a marketing context, it gives you insights into seeing that human quotient magnified, and how to bring about or articulate your brand in a way that people really want, need, and desire. Start with Daring Greatly.
And then this book is ... anyone who has dabbled with the kind of eCommerce and funnel world knows Russell Brunson. Not so much on the B2B space, people are still not really familiar with him in an enterprise space unless they have side-hustles. But he's been able to increase a buyer's journey that might take, in the past, 20 days, and he can crunch it down to 20 minutes, just by really powerful storytelling, and building ... his company is called Click Funnels.
His book ... his first one was called Dot Com Secrets. But then he wrote Expert Secrets, and to me Expert Secrets is something that every company should be examining from a context of understanding your customer in ways that you probably never have before. So if I was gonna recommend one marketing book that you should just completely reframe your brain, that would be the one.
And Expert Secrets is okay to read without reading Dot Com Secrets?
Yes, in fact, if you really look at it in context, it's really the beginner. He actually released the book in the wrong order, because I think ... Well, he wrote Dot Com Secrets, and I think what he said is, "Man, they really should know this in order to understand that." And I think that's kind of the order they went in. Apparently, he's working on a third book that then goes the next step, to put it all together.
Got it. So, before we sign off, anything else you'd wanna say?
Well since we're being so deep, here's one thing I would say. So one of my favorite quotes right now, and I've done coaching for companies, and brands, and stuff around this thing we've been talking about; and that is this quote revolves around products, leadership, things that you wanna do, but you have some kind of a hesitation. It was Joseph Campbell that said this, he said, "In the cave you fear to enter lies in the treasure that you seek."
So whether that's in your personal life, whether that's in relationships, or whether that's in your leadership, or if it's in your brand, and some things that you're working on in your career. I believe that fear is an invitation to a higher echelon, a higher way of living, existing, and then normalizing. If you stay in a growth mindset, and you're constantly growing, then you constantly have to be uncomfortable.
That means you have to face every fear along the way, and the more that you face those things that give you pause, the stronger you get, the more confident you'll get, and the more powerful ways you'll impact the world with your brand and your leadership.
"In the cave that you fear to enter lies the treasure that you seek."