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

bottle_0002_oban-14yo

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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026 The totally awesome networking strategy Chris Wike uses that you should use too

Chris Wike

Chris Wike is an attorney at Hajjar Peters here in Austin– not exactly someone you’d think to turn to for Sales for Nerds.

Lawyers can’t sell and market like everyone else. There are regulations and ethics rules and approval rules that limit what you can do. For example, if there’s a lawsuit against a business, lawyers can’t reach out and offer to help them with a specific case (unless it’s an existing client). If you want to run an ad on TV or send out a mailer, or even publish ads online, you need to get approval.

You can argue whether this is a good consumer protection or incumbent-driven efforts to make it harder for young lawyers (maybe some of both?), but that’s the reality, especially in Texas.

So, in this episode, Chris walks us through selling as a lawyer…

  • How Chris starts relationship building with folks you might not expect and how it  gives him control of his career.
  • Chris’s rule for networking.
  • How he manages referrals.
  • How Chris gets meetings with high level people.
  • How Chris hosts networking events– this is a crazy good idea that you should start doing right now.
  • Why Chris doesn’t like retainers.
  • Chris’s strategy for networking outside of his own events.
  • How Chris tries to set himself apart as a service provider (great advice for any service provider).
  • Why it’s great that clients may not care what you’re telling them.
  • How do you give great value to clients.
  • Chris’s 2 rules for working with people and what he wishes students would learn in school.
  • A crazy internet lawyer ad. (And here he is getting busted for contempt.)

Plus, I interject with my philosophy on people and tell you how to get an inside track to Sales for Nerds.

Chris and his partners have a 1500 bottle cellar in their conference room.

wine wall

But you don’t need that to take advantage of Chris’s killer networking strategy.

The wine…

resign grenache2015 Godspeed Granache from Resign Wine. Yummy blend of 80% Grenache, 20% Mourvèdre– the grapes are California, but the company is actually based here in Texas.

(As the producer notes, this label is supposed to yell, “f it! I’m out!”)

 

Where to find Chris:

p.s. I couldn’t make the last event Chris threw, so I’m now “banned for life.” 😉

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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Networking for Nerds

Of all the uncomfortable sales and marketing activities you suddenly have to handle, networking is probably the least favorite for introverts. Trying to make small talk is painful. You know some people can “work a room” without apparent effort, but that’s not you.

Here are some tips to make the experience more fun and more productive.

  1. Know why you’re there. It’s not just to eat lunch or make sales. (More on that in a moment.) Are you there to find contacts for your pipeline? To hire employees? Meet experts who can help you with key business tasks? Meet people who have expertise you want to gain? Knowing the purpose lets you target the right events. If you’re targeting prospects, visiting with your peers may not be helpful. But if you need expertise and a sounding board, your peers will be more useful than your customers.
  2. Don’t try to sell. The power of the network grows exponentially with its members. If you try to sell everyone you meet, you’ll not only not make (m)any sales, you’ll shut down sales to those peoples’ networks, which is where the real opportunity is.
  3. Meet people, not opportunities. Don’t treat people just as dollar signs. If there was no business involved– say you’re at your kid’s soccer game, talking to other parents– you’ll establish a human connection, not an economic connection. Do the same thing at business networking events. Of course, the central topic of conversation may be business, instead of excessive homework, but talk to people like people. Ask people about themselves. Be interested. Not just “what do you do?”, but “this may be a silly question, but is that like X?” or “Why does someone hire you instead of doing it themselves/using popular alternative/etc?” Ask questions to get a real understand of who they are and how their business works. People love to talk about this stuff, and I always learn more by listening than by talking.
  4. Offer to help. When you make a connection with someone you like, ask who is their ideal customer? If you know someone who is struggling with the problem they solve, offer to introduce them. (Depending on how comfortable you are, you can always ask the person already in your network if they want the introduction. If they do, obviously make the introduction. If not, just explain that the timing or the fit isn’t as good as you thought. The new contact will still appreciate that you tried.) Often, people are not good at describing their ideal customer. I have met people who say “any business” or “anyone with a website”, and stubbornly resist my attempts to get more specific. Unfortunately, these people don’t get introductions, because I am not confident in their ability to help people more than anyone else in the market. But if they say, “we help dentists get more patients from their websites”, then I know who might be a good fit, and I have a good reason to make an introduction to dentists. (The flip side of this is that people will often ask you the same question, and you should be ready with a very crisp answer.) Beyond introductions, if there’s something simple that you can do without cost, offer to do that. (Maybe you can’t optimize the dentist’s website, but you can offer to take a look at it and make some suggestions.) Keep in mind that the people who will be most eager to get your free help may be the least likely to pay you to actually solve their problems. It’s up to you have a way to be helpful that doesn’t take too much time.
  5. Follow up. So many good opportunities die because people get busy. If you’re organized and disciplined about following up, you can get much more out of networking than the people who work the room and collect all the cards and never follow up. I’ve had opportunities materialize years after meeting people, because I stayed in touch with people, because I introduced people, because I tried to be helpful. Don’t think of the goal as “get X business cards at this event”, but instead, “make X introductions over the next 3 months based on people I meet at this event.”

Networking is a long game. Don’t be one of those people who thrusts business cards at everyone they meet and doesn’t make a single actual connection. Be helpful to the network, and let the network work for you. You’ll take a lot of pressure off yourself and a lot of awkwardness out of the events. You’ll have more fun, and, before you know it, get more business.