029 Stella Orange on Authentic Marketing

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Stella Orange talks about her strange path to marketing and copywriting via Japan, school teaching, bike riding, and writing copy to raise money for an arts nonprofit in Montana.

This includes the books she read to teach herself direct marketing, how she got her first clients (a great strategy for people who don’t have a sales engine when they start), and the mistakes business owners make in marketing.

[Extra props to Stella for taking time out of her vacation to record this episode, which I had to reschedule not once, but twice. This did leave her without whiskey, which was quite unfortunate. And then her dog threw up during the call, which she cleaned up on the fly. Thanks for being a trooper.]

Check out this episode to learn:

  • How working for a nonprofit and writing and performing plays gave Stella a great perspective on the performance of marketing. (Everyone has an interesting story about how they got into sales and marketing, and this might be one of the most interesting stories I’ve heard.)
  • How she turned her passion for writing into a “career”, despite being “unemployable”.
  • How she got her first clients, and how she taught herself sales. (And what her coach said to her when she said, “I’m a writer, I want my work to speak for itself.”)
  • Why she cried when she was starting her business, and why she cried after it took off.
  • Her stress over charging $450 for a 5 page website (she now charges much more, and has a great way of dealing with price objections).
  • “Old marketing”, focusing on pain, versus “new marketing”, focusing on desires, which can attract more qualified leads for many businesses. (Stella spent way too much time on unqualified leads early in her career.)
  • The biggest mistake people make in marketing (and of course, what you should do instead).

Books (if you don’t want to spend the money on the Amazon link, you can go to the public library like Stella did):

The wine whiskyOban 14 Year Old

Reuben had some Oban 14 year old Highland whisky. It’s got a little bit of sweetness to it, with hints of vanilla and caramel. Nice for people who don’t want all the peat, but also want a bit more flavor than the Macallan.

bottle_0002_oban-14yo

Stella wished, for just this one moment that she wasn’t on vacation, and was at home with her bottles, preferably the Yoichi Japanese whisky.Yoichi Single Malt

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Where to find Stella:

Where you can find Reuben: @Sales4Nerds, @Mimiran, Mimiran.com.

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You can also  listen on Overcast, or Subscribe on AndroidPlayer.fm.


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027 Justin Foster goes from ranching to sales to spiritual branding– come on the journey

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No one on this podcast grows up aspiring to be in sales. I always enjoy hearing about the journey, and Justin Foster has had an amazing journey.

He grew up on a ranch– something we are more likely to experience through the mythology of the screen than in real life. While he loved ranch life, his home life was challenging.

He moved to Austin in 2014, and describes it as the first place that felt like home.

Justin started his marketing firm in 2003 with the notion that sales and marketing should get along. (Crazy talk, right?)

Justin got his first job in sales 10 years earlier, in 1993, because he and his wife had just had their first son, and he needed to make more money. He bugged an office supply company to give him a job on 100% commission, with no sales support, working a territory that no one else wanted. His sales training consisted of a product catalog. He became the top selling first-year sales rep in the company’s century-long history.

How did he do that? For one thing, ranching is hard work. He was used to doing that. So sales seemed much easier than ranching. Plus, he enjoyed talking to people, he always honest with people, and he had some charm.

He focused on small town governments and manufacturers, and a list of “maverick” accounts that other reps had tried to sell but without success.

Here’s the question he asked his buyer:

  • What do I need to do to make you look good? (For some people, it was about buying local, or maybe about saving money, or just avoiding running out of office supplies.)

Then he’s say, “what you need to do to make me happy is order just one thing, and I’ll hand deliver it.”

Why is it so important for sales and marketing to get along? Shouldn’t this be obvious? Yes, but the rise of social media has changed the playing field.

Here are Justin’s 3 Rules for marketing:

  1. Tell the truth.
  2. Find out what their needs are.
  3. Be a human being. (This is hopefully starting to sound familiar to long time listeners.)

Branding is no longer the candy wrapper around the product.

“A brand is how other people experience what you believe”, whether you have a solo firm or Coca-Cola. Great brands are therefore spiritual experiences– Justin cites Patagonia, Yeti, and Southwest as examples of these great brands that create a connection beyond even the emotional level.

You connect with your mission. (A mission statement is evidence you don’t have a mission.)

A mission has  few characteristics:

  1. It has to improve humanity.
  2. You can invite others to join your mission.
  3. It’s a bit terrifying. It can seem like heresy– because it goes beyond your role, for example, of making your quarterly numbers.

What do brands need these days:

  1. An authentic voice.
  2. Consistently memorable experience.
  3. Compelling story.

Unfortunately, brands usually miss some things along the way:

  1. Lacking the will to want to be a brand.
  2. Lacking the courage to be different– you can’t just be slightly better. (“Don’t be a karaoke singer– make your own music.”)
  3. You have to do the work and make it a daily habit (uh-oh, I’m in trouble).

The best thing you can do for your sales team is:

  1. Give them a product that doesn’t suck.
  2. Provide good branding.

But #2 can’t make up for #1.

How can people get started:

  • Go to your website, and remove the “plastic flowers” — the jargon and other crap on your site.
  • Look at “time on site” in Google Analytics– this shows how much interest people–  you already have a transaction with them– they are giving you their time.
  • Tell the stories of the people you are helping.

Most companies aren’t doing these things. Do them and see if your time-on-site goes up.

How do people find their spiritual mission and their roots?

  • Write down what you’ve always known to be true.
  • What would you be willing to commit civil disobedience over?

Justin notes that all industries are in chaos, and the only thing that cuts through the chaos is the truth. It can be hard for family businesses to brand because the older generation often ends up selling to their friends and can’t adjust.

You have to work on your personal brand, even if you’re not the founder of the company. It’s the one thing you can control. If you don’t like yourself, why would you expect others to like you? Self-worth is critical– confidence can be faked.

Books mentioned in the show:

The Go-Giver by Bob Burg.

Essentialism: The Disciplined Pursuit of Less by Greg McKeown (“the power of choice can neither be giving away or taken away, but it can be forgotten”)

 

 

The wine whiskey…

Ben Milam Bourbon

Justin’s enjoying some Ben Milam Texas Bourbon from down the road in Blanco.

Justin’s also using a giant ice cube for less melting and dilution.

Ardbeg 10YO blancReuben has some Ardbeg 10 year old Islay Whisky. (Note the lack of ‘e’.) If you like it peaty, this is a great whisky for you.

Where to find Justin:

Where you can find Reuben: @Sales4Nerds, @Mimiran, Mimiran.com.

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You can also  listen on Overcast, or Subscribe on AndroidPlayer.fm.


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024: Bryan Payne gets thrown out of school, starts companies, and completes Iron Man triathlons

Bryan PayneBryan Payne is a serial entrepreneur, salesmen, Iron Man (12 times over), and general man of adventure and humor.

Normally a beer drinker, he was a good sport about having some wine on the podcast (and didn’t seem to mind too much).

This episode is a bit longer than usual, because there were just so many interesting episodes that I wanted to hear about, and I think you will, too.

For example, learn how Bryan and his brother got clever when starting their sales career chocolates to raise money for their elementary school.

Then hear about how he started a lawn care business in high school that he grew to 13 employees, and which he sold to one of the actual adults working for him.

Learn how he was the only student in his class not to go to college (and how he got expelled) and what he did to get his first job instead. It’s not conventional, but probably applies even more these days.

Then Bryan gets into how he accidentally landed his first official sales roll, and what did to be successful.

Plus,

  • Why he quit to start his own company.
  • The big bet he made on technology (and how the same technology almost killed the business).
  • How he acquired a business for almost nothing and turned it around from bankruptcy (hint, it involves pricing)
  • How be built up a capable, motivated sales team with almost no capital

In addition, learn:

  • “48 Hour Rule” for moving quickly
  • 1st Principle of Sales
  • What song you should listen to if you want to appreciate 70s music (I don’t agree with this one)
  • Why Bryan loves millennials (seriously)
  • The completely unlikely way that Bryan got into doing Iron Man triathlons.
  • How he got hundreds of resumes with a simple, no-bs story (here’s the actual story)

 

 

The wine…

Stephen Vincent Sonoma County Pinot NoirAnother yummy, fruity Sonoma Pinot Noir. What can I say? I like them.

 

Where to find Bryan:

Where you can find Reuben: @Sales4Nerds, @Mimiran, Mimiran.com.

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You can also  listen on Overcast, or Subscribe on AndroidPlayer.fm.


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Episode 21: Michael Katz on Winning by being a likeable (human) expert

michael-and-emilyHow do you differentiate yourself when your competitors are also experts?

And would you want to take advice on differentiated service from someone who spent over a decade working for a cable company?

It sounds crazy, but in this case, you should.

Michael Katz did in fact spend over a decade at a cable company. But then, through a series of happy accidents, he became Chief Penguin at Blue Penguin Development, helping small services companies market better. He’s also been quoted in the WSJ, the NYT, Business Week Online, Forbes, Inc, USA Today and more. Plus, he’s won an award for humor.

Hear about those happy accidents (well, they seem happy now) and more, including:

  • How he quit his stable job during the internet boom and failed.
  • How he accidentally stumbled on a niche and how that turned into a great business.
  • Why he doesn’t care about SEO or Google ranking.
  • Michael’s 3 step process for being successful in services (some of this advice may start to sound familiar to regular listeners).
  • Michael’s “Sports Illustrated” Rule for successful marketing newsletters.
  • How your marketing is like going to the gym (and Michael saves me a lot of time, right on the show)
  • How Seth Godin has been stealing his best ideas for years (remember the humor bit)
  • How being authentically yourself at work and beyond makes life so much easier.

Michael’s also got a new book (it just happened to come out between the time we recorded the interview and the time it’s published, which is why we didn’t talk about it on the show) called The Likeable Expert, 121 Insights to Start Your Day and Grow Your Business.

likeable expert

Bonus: Get the first 15 tips free here on this page Michael set up just for listeners.

The wine…

8796499443742I enjoyed a(nother) glass of 2013 Franciscan Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley. A nice, up the middle of the road cab. (It’s pretty expensive on the Franciscan.com site, but you can get it for $15-18.)

Yes, this was from the episode with Aaron, saved thanks to the Vacu Vin Wine Saver (really handy for enjoying a bottle over the course of a few days).

.beer-smokedagger-can.. and the beer…

Smoke & Dagger black lager from Jack’s Abbey in Framingham, MA.

Where to find Michael:

Where you can find Reuben: @Sales4Nerds, @Mimiran, Mimiran.com.

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You can also  listen on Overcast, or Subscribe on AndroidPlayer.fm.


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Episode 20: Aaron Ross on going From Impossible to Inevitable

Aaron RossFew authors have had the impact on sales that Aaron Ross has had over the past few years. His first book, Predictable Revenue, called “the sales bible of silicon valley”, he co-authored along with Marylou Tyler, who was on Sales for Nerds in Episode 14.

Now he’s back with From Impossible to Inevitable: How hyper growth companies create Predictable Revenue. This time, Jason Lemkin, former CEO of EchoSign, leader of SaaStr, and more, is his coauthor.

This book breaks done how companies can grow quickly and sustainably, with 7 steps:

From Impossible to Inevitable Cover

  1. You’re not ready to grow until you Nail a Niche.
  2. Overnight success is a fairy tale. You’re not going to be magically discovered. You need sustainable systems that Create Predictable Pipeline.
  3. Growth exposes your weaknesses and it will cause more problems than it solves—until you Make Sales Scalable.
  4. It’s hard to build a big business out of small deals. Figure out how to Double Your Dealsize.
  5. It’ll take years longer than you want, but don’t quit too soon. Make sure you can Do the Time.
  6. Your people are renting, not owning their jobs. Develop a culture of initiative, not adequacy by Embracing Employee Ownership.
  7. Employees, you are too accepting of “reality” and too eager to quit. You can Define Your Destiny to make a difference, for yourself and your company, no matter what you do or where you work.

Aaron does all this while he and his wife raise 12 kids (!!!) (mostly adopted, for those wondering how that’s even possible for such a young-looking guy).

You might think that Aaron’s some sort of superman, or at least a cyborg, but what’s great about his books is that he admits that this is hard. There’s no “X easy steps to winning.” In fact, the books include painful episodes in Aaron’s life, and the admission that things will be hard and tiring.

His whole career in sales started because he didn’t really know how to sell. He never thought about sales, and certainly never thought he’d end up the author of best-selling sales manuals.

But when his first company failed because he didn’t have the sales chops he wanted to have, he joined Salesforce.com. He was employee number 150, which gave him a bit of stock, but not enough to get rich, and he was “on step up from the interns.” He helped build the outbound engine that developed leads before handing them off to account managers. This helped salesforce grow rapidly and efficiently.

However, it wasn’t until he left salesforce and was consulting with another company that he realized how critical it is to specialize your prospecting (early funnel) and your account management (late funnel).

Even if you don’t have a huge sales team, even if you’re just one person doing everything, you still need a way to focus on your time and energies on these different activities. As they write in the book:

Specializing your roles is the #1 most important thing for creating predictable, scalable sales growth.
Even if it’s just marking different times in your calendar for different activities.
What else did Aaron learn?
First, the importance of “Nailing your Niche”.
This comes up again and again, but “you’re not ready to grow until you nail a niche.” This doesn’t mean you can only work in your niche, but you need to have one and nail it. It makes everything easier.
While consumers tend to buy what they want, business tend to buy what they need. If you’re talking to people and they say, “that’s cool”, but they don’t buy, that means it’s a nice-to-have.

Once you’ve got your niche nailed, you can use your:

  • Seeds (word-of-mouth)
  • Nets (marketing– including testimonials, which are a form of word-of-mouth)
  • Spears (outbound targeted marketing and business development)

Aaron also offers some tips on how to handle the overwhelming number of possible sales and marketing activities, with what he calls “cake vs icing.”

The cake is the core thing that helps your grow your business. For Aaron, it’s writing books. For Jason, it’s being active answering questions on Quora. (If you’re in the software world, you should follow him.) Do that one thing well, and then you can use that in other ways (the “icing”). Don’t try to do everything, or you’ll never get anywhere. Aaron blocked out Wednesdays for a year to write the the book. For Aaron, social media isn’t very interesting, so he hires someone to help him with that part of marketing.

As a pricing guy, I also appreciated Aaron’s view that you should spend as work trying to double your average deal size as you do finding and closing twice as many deals. As Marc Andressen says, “raise prices“.

Aaron also provides some tips on how he manages the family schedule (“one day at a time”). If you’v got less than 12 kids, no complaining. 😉

The wine…

8796499443742Aaron couldn’t partake, because he was in the middle of the morning California time, plus, while he really wanted a glass of wine, he knew it would put him to sleep which is not good when you have a short workday and a huge household logistical puzzle to solve each day.

However, I enjoyed a glass of 2013 Franciscan Cabernet Sauvignon from Napa Valley. A nice, up the middle of the road cab. (It’s pretty expensive on the Franciscan.com site, but you can get it for $15-18.)

Where to find Aaron:

Where you can find Reuben: @Sales4Nerds, @Mimiran, Mimiran.com.

Get the episode on iTunes (check out the new Apple Podcasts– nice!)

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You can also  listen on Overcast, or Subscribe on AndroidPlayer.fm.


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Summer Reading List

Who doesn’t love the summer? People trying to schedule podcast interviews, that’s who. 😉

Sales for Nerds will be on a monthly schedule because it’s just too hard to coordinate schedules right now.

With that in mind, here’s a summer reading list, pulled from recommendations from past episodes, with a few added bonuses.

Books on Overall Productivity

Sales and Marketing

Organizational and Management Challenges

 

  • Creativity Inc, by Ed Catmull on how Pixar works hard to maintain a creative, open culture. Sure, you may not be churning out Hollywood blockbusters, but there are a lot of lessons here on how to create and keep a healthy workplace.

Fun Beach Reads

  • The Three Body Problem (book one of a trilogy), by Cixin Liu. Science fiction that will pull you in.
  • Shoe Dog, by Phil Knight. The memoir of the Nike founder. Surprisingly gripping account.

Nerdier Beach Reads, but not about Business

Summer Wine

I usually prefer red, but when it gets into the triple digits in Texas, some Sauvignon Blanc starts to sound good, like the offerings from Kim Crawford in New Zealand.