Victoria: Welcome to this week’s episode of The Boss Boss podcast. In our interviews we feature remarkable people doing imaginative things in often unimaginative markets, usually from the world of B2B. This week, we’re joined by author, speaker and podcaster Jay Acunzo. Jay, thank you so much for joining us today.
Jay: Thanks for having me, Victoria. I really appreciate it.
Victoria: So, Jay, you’ve had a successful career in marketing, including working with big names such as HubSpot, looking back, what were some of the most valuable lessons you learnt during your time there, and how have you applied them to your work since?
Jay: I if I’m looking at the HubSpot role, so the context here, I started with lots of, I guess, like a predictable path when one is in content marketing and b2b, I worked for ESPN and Google HubSpot, a tiny startup at a VC. That’s like my in house job. But since 2016, I’ve been independent, and I look back and as a storyteller, you find these stories, buried and hidden moments. And I was at HubSpot for about a year as their head of content and my style of content was not their style back then. And I was too young to understand, I shouldn’t say young, I was too inexperienced in the area of like internal politicking, or getting buy in to really understand like, how to share my vision in a way the executives got on board with. So there’s lots and lots of lessons I learned at that one particular job, mostly tinged negative that I’ve used as positive sense to learn from them. But one in particular jumps to mind, which is informing my work right now, which is that I remember being really disappointed in my own work and unfulfilled because I was mostly managing, not making. So I walked into my boss’s office for one to one. And I said, “Listen, I don’t think I’m doing the best work that I could possibly do here”. And he’s like, I agree. And I was like, cool, cool off to a good start. And then I said, “Well, what I was gonna say to you before you shared my own insult back to me, I suppose, is I consider myself a maker. I’m a writer”, I started in sports journalism. I’m a storyteller, I’m a creator, I had yet to move into podcasting. But I felt that that was it within me and within my skill set. And I just didn’t feel like I was creating. I was managing, I was a strategist. And what he said was, “Listen, you’re early in this content marketing, content creator thing, especially in b2b, you could probably be the best in the world someday, or even someday soon at being a content strategist. But there’s so many creators in the world” and this was back in 2013, when he was saying this. So even back then he was like, “There’s so many creators in the world, you’ll probably never be the best creator.” And I was like, Okay, I kind of took that to heart and I went back to work. And basically what he was saying, in a roundabout way was like, “Shut up and do your job as described on the description”, right, like as listed. Looking back, though, what I realised was how terrible that advice really was. Because what does the best even mean? Like there’s no objective or academic way of ranking a content strategist, a content creator, you know, what does it mean when we say something is the best? Like, what’s the best Disney film? Or what’s the best shirt you own? Or what’s the best restaurant in town? What we’re really saying is my favourite, right? Like my personal preferred pick is this. By the way, on the topic of Disney movies, it’s a Goofy Movie, I will take no questions. There are there are tonnes of things we should be instead especially to be successful in our work. Like people don’t make choices based on the objective or academic rankings of things. People make subjective choices in their lives, and they rationalise it later. And so the goal is not to be the best, the goal is to be their favourite, and favourite doesn’t mean anything objective. It means their personal preferred pick for a specific purpose. And so we’re all capable of that we don’t need more resources. We don’t need to be early to things we don’t need to be some analyst company or some blogger or podcasters, ranking like number one, or optically the biggest I mean, the most defensible thing we could possibly do to grow our businesses, and have long lasting passionate fans who share us and bring us new business for free is to be among the choice few things in their life that feels irreplaceable. And we have a word for that, which is “my favourites”. So don’t be the best be the be their favourite.
Victoria: Yeah. That’s the key lesson that you’ve brought away from especially that meeting and your time managing people and I guess working for other people, because you do a lot of work yourself now. So that’s probably one of the last times that you had managers and constructive criticism like that to take on board,
Jay: Correct. Yeah, I’m out of bosses. So I’m bad at bosses.
Victoria: The b2b tech industry can be highly competitive with many companies going after the same customers. What are some of the more successful strategies that you’ve seen work for b2b tech companies looking to stand out amongst the crowd?
Jay: I think historically and by historically I’m using that term very loosely. I don’t mean generations ago. I mean, when content marketing became a thing, marketing teams were figuring out how to create content. And I think the best teams are starting to realise that. While that might be the case, while you might have a company blog that approximates basically a help centre, but instead of it being about your product, it’s about the thing that the audience is trying to get good at, right? You sell software for social media marketing, you have help centre for the product, but your blog is essentially and historically was like a help centre for customer questions about how to be good at the job. Thinking through strategies and tactics and trends and news, right? While that might be the case, and you might still have something like that, across mediums. I think rather than create content, marketing teams are going to start to create creators. Like the creative economy is going to move in house, or spread in house is the way I should say that. And one of the reasons I think that is, you know, being a creator myself, being an independent maker of things builder of an audience, and monetizing that audience, what I’m seeing is, and this is only made more, I think visible, and obvious and maybe even annoying, because of the rise of generative AI. And we have to start saying that generative AI, not AI because AI is a huge category has been around forever. There’s a bright line being drawn among creators today. And I think it’s also affecting marketers, or will very soon. The line divides people who think the job is to create content from people who know the job is to create connection. Like that’s what the content is for, you’re making things to make a difference, not to make more things not to ship more stuff out into the world, not to push pixels, but to connect emotionally. You know, my favourite quote about storytelling is from author Kazuo Ishiguro, when he won the Nobel Prize in 2016. He said stories are like one person saying to another, this is how it feels to me. Can you understand what I’m saying? Does it also feel this way to you? And I think we over index on the “can you understand what I’m saying part of it?” “Am I speaking clearly”, that’s hard in and of itself. But the second question is where the power comes from, does it also feel this way to you? Am I aligned with your life experience in some way, such that your thoughts, your emotions, even your abilities feel amplified? I mean, the the urge to act that we feel when that happens, that’s called resonance, right? That that’s the job is to resonate with others to spark action. So they are served and we are served better. So this bright line that I’m seeing, it’s the difference between someone who goes, I need to 10x our content output. With half the resources, I got to do more with less and ship more things, there’s a difference between people who get excited about that. And the people who go, Oh, if I tell more personal stories, or if I create higher impact things, or if I stop thinking about volume, and think about the power of what I’m creating, which in cold, hard, capitalistic terms is the efficiency of what you’re creating the effectiveness of what you create. Well, I can resonate deeper with my work, I can actually connect with the audience that picks us instead of someone else that sticks with us and doesn’t replace us as soon as something else comes along. So I think that’s going to be and already has started to become a powerful not the go to market approach, but a powerful go to market approach, which is to turn to your team’s best communicators. And as we’ve done with executives for so long, take the marketers or other go to market type roles and develop their voices give them the chance to create a project or projects around their person, and, and personality. And honestly treat them like in house content. Because this is what media companies have done forever is you fall in love with a media personality. Whether it’s the classic idea of like a news anchor or a more digital media company, like say the ringer, which got acquired by Spotify. It’s like I love this podcaster who talks about the NBA, it’s Jason Concepcion, back when he worked there. He’s at cricket media now. I loved him for NBA commentary. Oh, he’s on a podcast with this other person Mallory Rubin. And they’re talking about high fantasy on a show called binge mode. Well, now I love another show of theirs and also Mallory, and I’ll follow Mallory around five or six people in I’m waking up going, Oh, my favourite website is the ringer. Right? Like that’s how it happens. That’s how connection happens. It’s person to person. It’s the Ishiguro idea of one person saying to another, can you understand what I’m feeling? Or can you understand what I’m saying? Does it also feel this way to you? So the punchline to all of that is marketing teams today are focused on creating content I think the best are starting to focus on creating creators their in house teams are becoming collections of talent like with a capital T that helps bring to market powerful ideas that their brand can own.
Victoria: I think that’s really interesting as well, because especially the younger generations, they’re watching more and more creators, and everyone has their favourite creator, like as you said. So those people that are aspiring to get into these markets and have careers in these markets, they can sort of harness the best of both and be that creator, and also work in these markets. And as you said, if that’s going to benefit the companies, then that definitely looks like the best way for them to go.
Jay: Yeah, yeah. And there’s there’s hesitations that I can even sense people listening to this having, which is like, well, what if? What if they leave us? You know, first of all, that’s a problem in any job function, your executive team, your best designer, your best customer support manager, you know, your your your best operations person, your best marketer? What if they leave us well, but they’re also more visible. So if they leave us it could make news, okay, well, unless they leave under scandalous terms. And let’s set that aside, because that won’t happen for you, my dear listener, friend, unless that’s the case. And it makes news, man, if they done some great work for you, right, you want to put them on a wall and go, Victoria worked here. Like, isn’t that incredible? It was Victoria and then Jay. And then it was like three people all at the same time. And they’re all gone doing incredible things. And you should work here too, because of that. So there’s that benefit. But then there’s also the idea that the core competency that you’re mastering and developing and giving yourself as an advantage as a brand is not Victoria and Jay work here. It is, we know how to create and cultivate and empower Victoria’s and Jays’s right in the way that you know how to whatever create a podcast. And we’re very lucky that Victoria host this podcast like, but there’s a meta underlying thing, this framework, this approach, the strategy and tactics, and also the vision you have for the collection of those things. That is your core competency, not necessarily that this person works for you. And again, if they leave, and it makes news, as long as it’s positive news, all the while. That’s great, because you’re further along, and you can attract other talent to
Victoria: Yeah, exactly. And as someone who has worked with both startups and established companies, what are some of the unique marketing challenges faced by each? And how do those challenges differ?
Jay: I think about this from a storytelling standpoint, because that’s sort of the hammer that I have, I think it’s going to be easier for startups to execute on what I’m talking about. Because they have fewer layers of bureaucracy, and they have fewer, I wouldn’t say no ego, there’s a lot of ego at all company, but fewer egos competing for what feels like a sexy approach, like, Oh, we’re going to platform this person publicly, we’re going to empower them to be on LinkedIn with a video series, and sharing things to Twitter and appearing off site on podcasts. I mean, I think that’s really the model is what is that core on site, meaning like under your brand’s URL series that they own. It’s a podcast, it’s a video series, it’s a book, it’s a speaking circuit that they go on or webinar series. And then using that as a place to kind of develop really powerful ideas and collect stories and insights go off site, as I do, as an author write the book is the on site thing, where the show is the on site thing, or you know, my, my newsletter, which I write every other week about storytelling is an onsite project. But then I take things from that or inspired by that and go away from my domain to promote things and evangelise them. That’s the model, I think it’s going to be harder for big companies to get on board with that. Because historically, big companies wanted people to be more like cogs in a wheel that were highly replaceable, especially at the lower tiers of the hierarchy. Whereas a startup you have to deliver, like, you can’t just be good at the posture of success or what an entrepreneur friend of mine, Andy Cook, he calls success theatre. Like if you’re good at success theatre, you can kind of get by I worked for Google. It’s not like I’m shooting from the hip as an entrepreneur being like, these big companies, like at Google at HubSpot, you know, at companies I’ve been working with as clients, I see firsthand that the politicians are the winners, they’re not the practitioners, not the craftspeople, necessarily, those are different skills, you could have both. And so it’s a little bit harder, I think, for this model to apply to anybody that’s not the most powerful or loudest voice in the room at a large company. In other words, mostly the executives, I think, at startups, they’re more prone to trying lots of different things because you need to deliver now. And if it doesn’t show up in actual results, they’re going to kill it and move on. They’re more in experimentation mode. And so I think you see this already playing out in b2b SaaS, if you’re on LinkedIn, in that community, you see more junior level people who have a voice, who are empowered by their employers to have videos and written work and podcasting, you know, on YouTube, on LinkedIn, on Twitter, on their on their own domain, like as in the person.com, not the brand.com. And the brand thinks highly of that because it’s doing a lot more for the company than if they kind of reacted or looked at the downsides at a large company to well, if Victoria is out, you know, running her mouth again out there, you know, like it’s a little less out are now exciting and a little more scary for some large companies to get on board with that.
Victoria: Yeah, I got what you mean this, especially with larger companies there’s so many different levels of management and managers above that and people above that that needs to approve of things that most things don’t even make it through the door, let alone going through and getting approved.
Jay: Yeah, I think the difference for it to work at a large company is they have to take the page from large media companies where being talent at a small media company is one role of a lot of roles you might play. I mentioned the ringer. I mentioned Mallory Rubin. She’s their Editor in Chief. She’s also a podcast host. She also appeared on like live stream posts, Game of Thrones episode like recap series, like she did a lot of what looked like talent. And I mean that as a job function, not as a compliment, although she’s talented. She did a lot of talent jobs, while also being editor in chief because the ringer especially when she started there was was very small. If you look at a large organisation like ESPN, yes, the talent has a say in the direction of their show. They also have an executive producer, right? Like this is a role that I’ve started to play for many creators, which is like the voice behind the voice. While I have a lot of public facing things, my coaching service looks more like, you know, me being that executive producer, that coach that collaborator that, you know, I like to joke that I’m like your own personal podcasting, Rick Rubin but without the belly beard and psychedelics. It’s also delusional to claim that I’m like recruitment. But I think the large companies can take a cue from the ESPN of the world from the large media companies that they understand this as a job function, the talent brings vision, and then brings performance, the content, the honour, ability, the charm, the trust, the storytelling, the interview, skill, all of that. And so they can have a more dedicated function, a more specialised function within the larger organisation, bringing their marketers to be talent. And historically, that already goes on in big companies, it’s a little bit rare, it’s a lot rarer, but within house people being like anchors or personalities or MCs, what’s more common, however, is these large companies will contract a celebrity. And I wanted to bring this up, because that’s not the model I’m talking about. The trust flows to the voice, so the trust flows to, I’m going to just keep using you as the example. So well known influencer, Victoria is hired by MailChimp to host a show, which is something MailChimp does. Now I think there’s there’s good and bad in that. But that is a dangerous game to play. Because unless you’re willing to go as far as perhaps MailChimp has in developing a tonne of projects. If you have like a pillar show or two. And it’s hosted by someone who does not work for you, that trust goes to them. So as soon as you say I’m dropping a new album, or I’m writing a new book, people go, I’m really excited because they listened to this show. And they go, It’s your show Victoria. So what’s happening for the brand is you’re paying production costs. But for sponsorship benefits, because it’s not really your show. It’s the voices, it’s the talents. And so I think it’s always better that you cultivate internal talent from people who work for you who understand the culture that carry their bid your banner no matter where they are. And you can trust them more, even though for some super weird reason. Large companies seem more prone to trusting the celebrities or trusting the influencers with their brand than saying why don’t we have our own collection of talent internally from employees. It’s like the trust and I’ve been on unfortunately, I’ve been on the receiving end of this as an employee, where there was a bigger name that came in and hosted something where my content team was not asked, or I’ve been on the flip side as an independent where I’ve been asked to host the show, I’ve been asked to say something that the team could host or the team could be saying, and the executives aren’t hearing. So there’s a massive opportunity. And actually, I think it starts with trust, but direct line to a better marketing strategy as well.
Victoria: Yeah, definitely, I think it seems like these companies can often take like the easy way out just by going with these big names already, rather than investing the time and money and developing the talent themselves internally. So I completely agree with you that I think the best way to go sort of developing that in house and then yeah, quoting these amazing creators.
Jay: Yeah, like I’m, you know, I’m taking you as a host of this show. And I’m saying, so what is your spin out? Solo vehicle? Where are you showing up on social media? How am I empowering you with financial and educational resources to strengthen your connection to the audience or to appear in other places, away from the domain away from the show’s feed, that will come back around in lots of ways to grow the show directly, but also to just improve the brand perception? And not just awareness? But most most importantly, the affinity that the brand has?
Victoria: Yeah, well, that kind of leads me on to my next question. So obviously, branding is an important part of startups marketing strategy. So what would you say some tips are for creating a strong brand identity and how can start-ups be certain that their brand messaging resonates with their target audience?
Jay: it’s really dangerous to try and develop an identity around your topics. And I think that’s where people go because it looks like keyword research, or it looks like a category or whatever. I think the missing piece most often is developing a premise. Now this is something I learned developing shows for clients, like the show is the combination of a premise of format and talent, one or multiple, and people are really quick to run the format, oh, we’re gonna do this gimmick, or we’re gonna have this structure, it’s gonna be the style episode. And they’re really quick to think about talent, even if they don’t think overly strategically about it. It’s like, I’m the boss, I’ll host or I think Victoria and our team is great, she can host. And so I think there’s a real danger in forgetting, well, you need a premise. Like, you need that big idea, which I would define as the specific defensible purpose for a project or a whole brand. That’s pulled from your personal vision for your audience. So do you have that interrogator specific? Are you saying something specific? Or is it generic? Are you like, we’re the best in the world, at personal brand management for social media influencers? Like get get in line? Right, like you’re one other another group of people, a group of organisations? So what is your specific thing that is also defensible? Like, it’s not enough to just have it be specific? Because if other people own that specificity, that’s not enough. Like, here’s a really dangerous game, we’re going to be the first, let’s just say podcast for content marketers, at startups in Calgary. We’re first fantastic, you created a moat, that is the width of my pinky finger. As soon as somebody steps into that realm, you don’t have the differentiator anymore. So it was defensible. Sure. It was specific. Absolutely. But then the defensibility is pretty weak. So specific, defensible purpose. And then this is a real key here pulled from your personal vision. So like, Sure, you could have a talk show on camera where you interview marketing influencers, and you ask them to eat spicy chicken wings, which is a ripoff of hot ones on YouTube. Right? Okay, well, hotline’s uses the gimmick and talks to celebrities, like actors and musicians and athletes, because they are on a channel, which expressly is about the overlap of food and pop culture. So it makes sense celebrities wings euram, marketing tech company, why are you yes, you’re talking to marketing people. That’s a relevant topic. But to make it more enjoyable, I guess, you add on the hot wings. Okay, where’s the connection to the content? Oh, I know. I know. I know. Instead of just asking them to eat hotter wings, we’re going to ask them harder questions. Okay, fine, that’s a little bit more integrated the gimmick to the content, but I’m looking for you, where’s your personal vision. And it’s not until you start with I think frustration, where you’re like, This is broken about our tribe, about our space. And as a leader, as an individual or team, I are, we are going to take our audience over there to that mountain peak, others want to go to the right we want to go to the left, we see that this is the world we’re trying to build. And our show is a way of trying to get there join us on this journey. Right? You have a vision there. So with the hot wings example, it might be like, All right, well, I’m actually really frustrated that nobody is willing to admit that marketing today is actually being asked to do too much. Everyone is just trying to say, Yeah, marketing is under a lot of pressure. But just that’s the job. That’s just the world like up, suck it up, rub some dirt on it, get back to work. And no one is willing to stand up and say like, actually, this is unsustainable. And the solution, by the way, is not to say, we’re not going to play into the new technologies are looking at new approaches, or, you know, think of it No, no, I’m not saying don’t be on the cutting edge. What I’m saying is my vision, my mountain peak for where we’re going? Well, we have to just embrace that if this is the status quo, which is profoundly broken for marketers leading to miss numbers and burnout, then we ought to master adaptability, and how to evolve and sustainability as a discrete skill. In other words, it’s not enough to say, we are marketers who happen to be good at adapting to the world. What we need as marketers is actually to develop two core competencies, and maybe even two types of job functions on the team. We need people who really master things that feel and look like marketing. And then we need people or at least systems and strategies and tactics like we have for the marketing stuff to adapt. Right. Okay, great. That’s your personal vision for your audience. So now you go back to the wings, and you’re like, we’re going to talk to marketers, while they eat progressively spicy wings. And we’re going to ask them harder questions, because we believe that marketing today is just burnt out, and not adapting as quickly as possible through no fault of their own. We’re asking them to do too much we believe that the core skill marketing can have today is to learn to evolve, not just learn marketing. So just like you’re increasing pressure on your marketing team all the time or just like you a marketer feel an increased pressure all the time on our show we’re increasing the pressure on our guests by asking them to eat progressively spicier wings. And you know, to pitch that show very simply, it’s okay. This is a show about modern marketing. Unlike other shows about modern marketing only, we believe that the core competency that marketers should have today is how to adapt. And so we’re going to ask our guests to adapt live on the show by asking them to eat progressively spicy wings. And if you’re feeling frisky, add a punch line, add a tagline. I mean, right? And like you’re like pitching the show publicly, you know, the Modern Marketing Show, because the only thing top brands have in common is how they adapt. Right? So you can own outright this idea of adaptation in marketing today, it is a very important notion that you own and have a vision for that your personal vision for your audience that no one else can own. If you stand up publicly as a brand overall, or even in just one show, to help manifest this and say, that’s what we stand for. That’s where we’re going. So that’s the power of a of a premise, not just a bunch of topics, but a premise. It’s more like IP that you own, and use to drive your whole brands growth, and your brand’s affinity. It’s not keyword research. It’s not topics, it’s not the how tos that’s the follows from having the premise
Victoria: it’s everything that lies underneath that basically just keeping that sort of in place.
Jay: Correct. Very simple analogy. It’s like if you’re the leader of the team, it’s like once you develop this premise, you’re handing out classes that are tinted that colour. And so everywhere your team goes, everything they see, every way they communicate, is sort of through that lens. It’s through that vision that you share on the world and for your audience. So that yes, maybe other people talk about similar topics, but not like you do. Yes, maybe other people have interviewed Victoria, but not like you do, because you have this view this lens, this vision on the world. And that’s what separates you. That’s why you not only stand out, but do so in a way that’s not gimmicky and hollow, you do so in a way that that causes you to resonate emotionally with your audience.
Victoria: Yeah, I really liked that class. It’s analogy. I’m going to use that one in the future. Right. And when it comes to marketing, a, a tech startup, what are some of the biggest mistakes that you’ve seen companies make? And how could a startup avoid these mistakes?
Jay: One of the hallmarks of being at a startup. So really quick context. So I started my career at a large company at Google, very quickly went to a tiny company, that was 12 people. And I was doing a lot of a lot. But that was my shift from sales to marketing, specifically content marketing. And what I saw firsthand there, even at HubSpot, we were pre IPO when I was there. And certainly when I was in VC, we, you know, invested in like 50 companies while I was there, too. So I’ve seen seen the movie a few times, which doesn’t make me an expert, it just means that can pick up some commonalities, and one of those commonalities was, everything’s a test. But unfortunately, a second commonality was, and we have no idea how to measure tests as different than measuring the thing that’s supposed to work. Like what we’re looking for, when we measure a test is signal of success, what a lot of people are looking for when they test something is success, and that gets them into a really dangerous spot. So I’ll give an example. I’ve been standing up publicly, I’ve said it multiple times on the show, talking a lot about resonance, talking a lot about why you should care about connection, not content, and affinity, not awareness. And residents over reach. Talking about that a tonne. Well, when I started, I was very much saying resonance and reach I was very much contrasting the two reaches how many see it residents how much they care. It was me testing I care about this does anyone else. So I’m going to speak as plainly and obviously as possible, what I believe is what’s going out in my content. And I was not looking for a large group of people to come my way and hire me as a coach or join the membership or just listen to my show. What I was doing was looking it was like being someone digging for gold on the beach with a metal detector. What you’re not looking for is just finding gold immediately. You’re also not going to just dig a bunch of holes everywhere haphazardly, all you want is the beep. Like the success of a metal detector is actually not finding gold for you. It’s the beep. So the success of this test, do people care about residents? Is this a thing? Should I talk about it, they feel the pain of like people not focused on it enough. All I wanted was a small number of people reacting in big ways. Like ironically, to test my platform about residents. I was looking for signs of residents. A small number that got passionate and big ways. That’s it. Now that is not enough to build my business. But it’s signal that if I invest in that spot, if I dig down deeper in the sand there, I might find some gold. So today when I show up, definitely still using the words like resonance, but I’m also talking about story. I’m also talking about, you know, making things that matter. I’m talking about connection, not just content. I’m using words that for the Layperson who’s not like so in my atmosphere that they are just instantly on board. With the idea of resonance, they need to hear something that to them represents what a marketer might call a parent value. Because it’s like, Yep, I definitely like just as you show up like that, Jay, I want to be a better storyteller, thank you. And then you enter my ecosystem and spend some time with me. And you find that there’s discovered value, which is the core of what I’m teaching, like how to trust yourself, how to draw from your life, to tell more powerful stories, like all these things, and then using words like resonance and creative growth, unabashedly not trying to position it in a way to meet you where you’re at, because you’re already where I’m at. Right? So there’s a parent value and discovered value. If I hadn’t done that, I don’t think you’d be talking to me right now. I don’t think I’d have any members in my in the Creator kitchen at all, I would have zero coaching clients right now. Because I would have said, okay, yeah, it’s fun, I guess when a few people say nice things about my work. But that didn’t quote unquote, work, that test of my language of my ideas didn’t work, because I’d be comparing it to whatever another product or past book or something that had a lot more people paying attention to it, right. So back in the startup world, that’s the problem we get into is we’re trying a bunch of different things. And what we’re looking for is which one of these works? No, that’s not what you’re testing, what you’re testing is, which one of these is worth investing in further, which one of these yields a signal of success, a sign that it could work, so you can focus there, you can drop the rest and invest the precious few resources you have in something that is giving you signal of success, but it is not itself final success.
Victoria: Yeah, I think we’ve all heard stories of startups that have quite quickly ditched an idea because it wasn’t immediately earning them money. And later on other companies go for that exact idea. And it’s just about investing the time and as you said, seeing the signal for success. And just being a bit patient with that, I guess, totally.
Jay: And when we don’t do that we get into this mode, I mentioned that, like example of the chicken wings, and the hot ones and all that and the marketing example there was marketers are burning out, that’s what happens to us, when we are not looking for signal, we’re looking for a test to work better right now than the thing that we did before that worked or that others say worked, we start to burn out because what ends up happening is all we look for is what hits big now, which are usually the unsustainable lottery ticket like things, it’s like, I went viral with this post. So recreate the viral virality, like recreate the spike in the numbers. But there’s two problems with that one, a spike is a spike, because it goes up quick and down quick. It doesn’t keep going up. So now you’re trying to arbitrage things. It’s exhausting. You’re like, I gotta be new to every platform. I gotta be on every tactic. And on every trend, there’s no sustainability. It’s frenetic, reactive work, you know, I like moving smooth, because as a friend, like say to me, you’re moving slowly, rather slow, as he says slow is smooth and smooth is fast. So I can’t do that if I’m just like what worked this hit, force the issue, like manufacture another viral moment or big moment of hitting. So you’re just constantly seeking that it’s like getting a hit of a drug, you’re just like, becoming a junkie, and there’s long term ill effects there. So that’s the first problem with a spike. And the second problem is you’re not paying attention to the valleys, or the arc of the line. So like, I don’t really care about the spike right now, what I want to see is what will arc my line, my trajectory overall, are with this one thing, higher, like get that slope up a little bit. I’m looking at the valleys, you know, is this sustainable? Or did it hit and die? Not that they don’t have a purpose, those types of things, but you got to recognise them for what they are. They’re stunts. And I don’t know about you, but I’ve never met a startup that has successfully scaled and grown and served an audience by conflating Oh, marketing is pulling stunts. Like that’s not a sustainable strategy for the humans on either side, internally or externally. And it’s not a sustainable strategy for the business.
Victoria: Yeah, I think it’s interesting, it’s like a drug because I was literally just thinking the same thing people are, you know marketers, especially are constantly chasing this high of viral posts. But as you said, it’s just not sustainable. And to invest that much time and effort into trying to get every post viral, you’re just burning yourself out. And that’s why a lot of marketers are in the position that they’re in. Yeah,
Jay: you’re it’s delusional thinking to think, “Well, if we can go viral, or if I can spread quickly, or if I can hit a million plus or whatever”. That’s one end of the spectrum of completely unrealistic thinking. But there’s another end of the spectrum, which is what if all we had to do to grow our startup and succeed and hit our goals and serve our audience and advance our mission, all the things we want could be served if we created one piece of content, and shared it with one person. Like, that’s unrealistic thinking too. But what if we could do that? That sounds more sustainable. That sounds smoother? I think I’d want that more than the other extreme of like, create lots and lots of content that lots of other people love that go viral and reach a lot of people all these things like what if all you had to do very simply was not even create a piece of content? What if you had to send a tweet and one person saw it? What did you That 115 minute conversation with a dear friend. And that was all the marketing you ever had to do. Imagine if, again, impossible. But imagine, shouldn’t we start on that end of the spectrum? Instead of racing and digging all these holes all over the dry sand, trying to look for gold? What if it was like, I’m going to walk up directly to where the gold is, I’m going to casually reach down, I’m going to pull up a thing of gold. And I’m done. Right? Like, what if that was possible? Okay. Now, imagine neither of those scenarios are possible. Where are you going to tilt? I’m tilting to the ladder? I’m gonna say, How do I create fewer things that are better? How do I not need ever to increase the top of my funnel and just merely straighten the funnel, so fewer things and fewer people and fewer moments feel wasted? Right? There’s less leakage in that funnel, I’m not dripping water all over the place, and then trying to pour more water in that makes no sense. So we have all these incentives, or these behaviours, rather, in marketing that look like the exhausting work that look like I’m obsessing over reach even at the expense of resonance, which I think is at the expense of results and efficiency of results of that. And it’s not because we failed as marketers, or failed to see what marketing is, we’re acting like chickens with our heads cut off, because the social networks that dominate distribution today, benefit from that. Because what they’re incentivizing, sometimes very subtly, it’s just sort of in the water and you observe it, and sometimes overtly when they amplify things that you post is, well, we as a social network are really an ad network, we make more money, when this type of content gets on our platform at greater scale, how do we get more of that content onto our platform and spread it? And how do we get that content at scale? Right. So being good at social media posts, although there’s some benefits to you, is not the same as being good at marketing. Because these companies are for profit businesses that want something a certain way for their bottom line. That doesn’t necessarily mean it is what you uniquely have to offer to the world created, the way you can uniquely create it created the way the audience uniquely wants it created in a way that helps your actual business, not theirs, but yours. What we’re trying to do is find the overlap of those two, I get it. But that’s not always possible. And it’s often very dangerous. Because we get into this fanaticism, we play somebody else’s game. And I thought, I don’t know if I’m mistaken here. But the last time I checked my notes, I thought the point of being an entrepreneur was you can play your own game, we say you can build anything you want your own way. Yes, solving a problem. Yes, understanding we have constraints and market conditions and customer demands and all that stuff. We’re not, you know, I’m not trying to be too idealistic here. But I value control, I want to build the things I want to build. And as an entrepreneur, I see a lot of entrepreneurs today trading in house corporate bosses, for even larger corporations who become their boss. And I didn’t sign up for that. And in fact, I think it’s totally reasonable to opt out of that.
Victoria: 100% I think as well, a lot of marketers and consumers. Both ends, forget with social media marketing, that there is that middle man involved, that is the social media platform. It’s not from creator directly to consumer. And that middleman the social media platform has a lot more involvement in it than people ever really realise. So yeah, there’s no wonder that that you’ve gone on to become a bit of a creator yourself and have this podcast and your books and everything, because it does leave you in a bit more of that control. So sort of moving on to your podcasts, obviously unthinkable, which is amazing podcasts. I’ve been listening to her for absolutely weeks. It’s such a big fan. How do you think podcasting can fit into sort of a b2b marketing strategy? And what are some of the best practices for creating a successful podcast?
Jay: Unfortunately, I think a lot of people assume that a podcast is kind of like an audio blog. And that informs their thinking, in many ways. From the strategy standpoint, that means okay, this is about broadening the top of funnel, it’s about net new audience. If anyone who’s ever hosted a podcast, you’re not, there’s nothing wrong with you, podcasts are insanely difficult to grow and reach net new people until the flywheel of like passionate listeners kicks in. And even then it’s it can be difficult to because over time, folks who leave you might leave because they dislike you or might leave because they got things that they needed, and now they’re on to something else. They’re a win. Whereas the first group was, you know, possibly a win “wrong listener wrong type of listener” Good. I’m glad they’re gone, or a loss, like “Oh, Victoria really is a perfect listener for this and doesn’t like my show”. So there’s so many terrible internal monologues that US podcasters have about the growth of our shows, because we think of it as an audio blog or we think of it as it’s gotta grow. It’s a top of funnel, public facing, etc. But actually, podcasts are wonderful relationship accelerators, they don’t increase the size of your audience. they tighten the relationship you have to your audience. So rather than think about the funnel, think about concentric circles for a moment. And the outer ring almost like a dartboard. The outer ring is total strangers, the inner bull’s eye. Those are your superfans. As you move from the inner to the outer, you get weaker and weaker relationships. Right, so your superfans know like and trust you. They evangelise you maybe buy from you. They’re taking a simple action that benefits you. And they also see how it benefits them. Those are super fans. Your show is really great when you get started activating those people before you do anything else. If you’re not hearing from some people, don’t promote the show. Don’t grow the show, fix the show. Like a lot of people say to me, I only have 100 listeners. How do I get more like okay, do you hear from your 100? listeners? Do you hear from two? No. Okay, you mean to tell me you’re publishing episodes every week, every other week, these are 10 minute 15 minute, 45 minute high friction, very immersive experiences. And the 100 people who are listening are not responding. By the way it might be a new 100 every week, as people turn you don’t really know, given the data you have access to. So what you’re telling me is, my show is not resonating with 100 people that allegedly like and trust me already. I want to put it in front of more people. What, In what world does that make any sense at all, like you’ve become the bad pickup artists at the bar being like that line, that cheap line didn’t work on this person, let me try it to 17 more people, like no one likes that person, please don’t be that person. Let’s change the culture around that person. Let’s change that culture and marketing to. So that’s the superfans they are the activation layer for a show for anything you do. And if you’re not getting that initial beep of the metal detector, you’re not seeing a sign of resonance, then you don’t have a reach problem, you have a resonance problem, fix the resonance problem, then think about reach. And you may never need to because they’ll share it for you. So it gets a lot easier to grow reach. That’s super fast. That’s the bullseye. As you move out, you go from super fans, to loyal audience, to active audience, these are the folks that are around you. But if something else came into their world, they very well might substitute that for you. Then you have passive observers, they’re like vaguely aware of you. They may like you, they may not but they know about you, then you have total strangers they didn’t even though you existed until it right now, or currently, they don’t know you exist at all. I don’t know why. But a lot of marketers seem to like the outer rings more, we gotta go out to these people that don’t know us at all, or only casually aware of us and get them into our funnel, and then we end up trying to sell them too soon. Like marketing is just two things. It’s earning trust sparking action. And we get so obsessed with sparking action from people who, where we have not earned trust that we feel spammy. As a result, that’s the difference. The divide is like my trust bar has not filled up. If you ask for an action, it will sort of drain that energy, I need to get a lot of energy built up first for you to ask me to do anything. So we haven’t earned the trust. So I think a better model for marketing overall, which makes a podcast even more powerful for your marketing at the core, is take the people who are super fans and activate them to talk about you then take the people who are active audience may be loyal audience and make them super fans. A show does that brilliantly. Because unlike most marketing focused on grabbing attention, a show is about holding Attention, attention. It’s not about awareness, it’s about affinity. And for my money, I mean that literally, for my money, if I’m gonna invest dollars and time and things. I’m going to invest in a show as a way to connect the dots and develop the relationship such that people go from actively around me to loyal and passionate and vocal like I want to secure and defend against people replacing me because I’m already in their ecosystem. But if something else comes along, that feels bigger, or resonates more emotionally, or even if it’s a podcast, I have a comedy show I want to add I can only fit so many shows in my life. I’m dropping this Marketing Show, like a non competitive show is your competitor. So that’s what I’m trying to do. I’m ignoring the outer ranks these like very inefficient people to reach very expensive people to reach. I’m going to the people that already know me, and I’m ensuring they love me that’s what a podcast is for. Yeah,
Victoria: and what are some of the biggest challenges that you face while growing that audience or making those loyal listeners even more loyal and the superfans? What would you say you face that is one of the biggest challenges?
Jay: I think a big one is they don’t get to know you it’s premise format and talent right so the talent part they don’t get to know you like Victoria I don’t know what you do before the episodes I don’t what you do after the episodes give me more you on this right like I’m you’re letting me rant a lot like reciprocate with stories, ask follow up questions. Do like I, I have enjoyed talking to you. But part of me is going is that because I like to talk and she’s letting me there’s a service there. Don’t get me wrong. There’s a service there to your audience. Maybe other episodes not so much this one, but it’s sort of like part of it is you haven’t thought about your job as talent with a capital T not us specifically, but people who are hosting shows and how do you bring out Your personality quirks or get what I call your, your creative fingerprints all over the work, so that it can only come from you your style, your approach, etc. So that’s a big problem is the trust flows to the voice? And do I trust that voice? In so much as they’ve given me five or six interviews in a row? Sure, but so does every other podcaster, you know, that I could possibly find in the space? If I white labelled it, how would I know the interviewer is you? So that’s part of it. The will go in the reverse order. So premise format, talent will go to the Format. I haven’t thought through yet how to actually hold attention. So it’s a 10 minute intro monologue or a two minute intro bio. And then it’s 45 minutes of discussion with a guest. And then it’s a two minute outro. Well, that’s not a format. That’s not a structure. How are you going through the conversation? You know, you hear really big interviews like Kara Swisher in tech show once in a while, she’ll leak out, like somebody will say something and she goes, Yeah, we’re gonna get to that next cycle, right? She’s got a plan. She’s got a flow in mind. She doesn’t stick to it in a rigid way. But she has this arc. Like I know the story I want to tell before I tell it and I’m willing to pursue interesting this, if something else rears its head, but I’m trying to think through how do I continually purchase your attention, not in a way that sensationalises it like coming up after the break? Victoria says something that could get her fired? Like that’s not what I’m doing. But it’s there’s a sensitive drama to the questions. There’s there’s an arc to the interview, or if there’s a different type of show, maybe it’s over segments or story arcs or what have you. So the format is underdeveloped. And both of those things, the talent and the format flow from the premise. It’s like, Do you have a specific defensible purpose pulled from your personal vision for your audience? This is a show about X, unlike other shows about X, only we why. And it’s not only we bring you the raw and unfiltered truth about marketing. So first of all, raw and unfiltered is amateur podcasts, speak for bad and unedited. Like, don’t let someone say raw unfiltered and you get excited or we dive deep. Is it a podcast? Do you talk for many minutes? Yeah, that’s what it’s for. You want to have an angle, they actually get practical. Well, your competitor would go, we have marketing job, they get practical here to what you want us to say. This is a show about living an excellent life. Unlike the dozens of shows tonnes of shows and way more content about living an excellent life. Only we ask the world’s most inspiring people to discuss the three books that most transformed them. Because we’re on a crazy 15 year mission to find the 1000 most transformative books in the world. This is a real show by Neil pessary. Joe called three bucks. So you’ve heard Brene Brown, you’ve heard Seth Godin, you’ve heard Malcolm Gladwell a dozen times or more, but not like you’ll hear them on that show. Right? Like there is a premise to the show. This is a show about X, unlike other shows about X only we why. So when a podcast fails, it’s typically one or multiple of those three pillars are underdeveloped, and the most important because it informs the other two, and all of your marketing as well, is the promise.
Victoria: Lovely, thank you. And finally, I’ll ask you just one more question. As someone who’s spoken with numerous marketing leaders and innovators, what do you see as the future of b2b marketing? And what trends do you think will shape the industry in the years to come?
Jay: I don’t know what the future of b2b marketing is. But I hope the future b2b marketing is something I hope the future of b2b marketing is that we stopped thinking about the future b2b marketing. Because I think what that like prevents us from doing is actually executing in the context we’re in now, like, there is always, always always an opportunity, a distraction, et cetera. And there are creators in my world that play on similar channels, to me have a similar shaped body of work with the show and the books and the speaking and the coaching and the membership. And they trade in that they arbitrage distraction. They say, here’s how to get to know NFT’s and they just wrap their identity in that and now it’s AI, and they just move you from new thing to new thing based on fear. So to be less snarky about it, I hope the future of b2b marketing is that we stop feeling so darn reactive and start getting proactive. What are the defensible things we can do that actually have an impact that actually matter to the audience like the beauty of what I try to stand on a stage digitally or in person and say about this emotional story, and creativity driven stuff? The beauty of all that to building a brand, and being a marketing leader or practitioner is the result of your work as you matter more. And when you matter more to others, you can beg for attention less, and don’t we all want that. Like I hope the future of b2b marketing is we focus on how to matter more. In the work of our audience. I mean, what a gift to be in b2b, we get to help others have more fulfilling careers and therefore lives and execute something they’re doing and work better. And we can trade in fear we can trade in all these negative Things we can make people feel dumb because we have this excellent podcast with excellent guests, which by the way, a lot of big name podcast seem to do to people, where we can say, where we stand right now is broken, I think we should go over there, that mountain peak and my work is an endeavour to do that, please join me, because that’s my vision for the work. I have a personal vision, we as a team, we have a personal vision. I’m telling stories pulled from my daily life pulled from my memories, right? For metaphors for allegories for analogies, powerful personal storytelling. I mean, doing this style of personal work is the most defensible thing we could possibly do not only because it’s aI proof, because it’s the stuff that actually is valuable as AI drives, generative AI drives all that commodity stuffs value to zero. It’s the stuff that actually stands out that actually connects deeper. It’s the stuff that actually matters. In your work as a marketer, like that’s the job. That’s that’s the entirety of the job reaches, how many see it resonances, how much they care. We are not in the I hope they see it business. That’s not enough to build a business. We are in the insurer, they care business. And so that’s what I hope b2b realises not in the future. But right now.
Victoria: Yeah, it all comes down to resonance. And you’ve definitely taught me a lot today, in this podcast, and certainly a lot for me to go away and think about, but I really appreciate your time. Thank you, Jay. Thanks for joining me. And yeah, as I said, it’s been great talking and hearing your stories and insights. So I really appreciate your time. Thank you again.
Jay: Thank you. I appreciate it. And to your listeners. Thank you for listening this far. Don’t go follow me go do some really meaningful work like seriously the way to honour this conversation. Go ship whatever you are burning to ship right now. Use the inspiration, use the energy go make something that matters immediately. Amazing. Thank you, Jay.