Transcript of How to Make Yourself a KNOWN Brand with Mark Schaefer
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John: Most every business owner must become known for something. But how do you do that? Listen to this episode of the Duct Tape marketing podcast where I talk to Mark Schaefer, author of Known. Check it out!
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Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast. This is John Jantsch and my guest today is Mark Schaefer. He is an internationally acclaimed college educator, author, speaker, and strategy consultant and today we’re going to talk about his newest book, Known, the handbook for building and unleashing your personal brand in the digital age. So Mark, thanks for joining me.
Mark: It is such a delight to catch up with you, my friend!
John: So my last book, SEO for growth. Last fall I published – self-published and with – actually even had a co-author with that and I noticed that in Known, you also self-published so I wondered if that was a conscious decision to try and do something different or anything you want to say about that?
Mark: Well absolutely it is. And actually John I’ve self-published my last three books.
John: Oh okay. I didn’t realize that.
Mark: So I had three publish and three not published – you know published myself. And the reason — I just you know, the traditional publishing industry has kind of… imploded and if you’re known, you know, this is what the whole concept of the book. If you’ve done the work, created an audience, there’s just not a strong case to go through a publisher anymore. There’s not a real advantage. And — so it’s yeah, it’s a good experience, it’s actually — I kind of have fun doing it and you make a lot more money that way too. You have a lot more flexibility, you own the intellectual property. So there’s a lot of upside to it.
John: Yeah and this is a topic that I’m going to return to with a question because it is an element actually of what you’ve been talking — or what you do talk about in the book. So you know, personal brand and influence and you know, I want to say it’s a big topic or a trendy topic these days but really it’s just a significant topic. I can’t even call it trendy anymore. So, how has that notion of becoming known evolved over the last decade or so?
Mark: You know it’s — if you really specifically want to talk about a decade or even 20 years, you think about the way — I mean when you and I were growing up in business, you know maybe you’d work for a big company, you were groomed, you went through training, they kind of took care of you, so they led you along the way. Think about publishing a book. You went to a publisher, you got a contract, they believed in you, they would market you, they would nurture you, they would help you grow your audience. That model, whether it’s in industry or whether it’s in publishing, almost any aspect of your lift has flipped. No one is going to take care of you anymore. No one is going to pick you. You have to pick yourself. And there are so many personal and professional goals today that really depend on being known. I mean even in your own consulting business, what’s going to open up the doors? What’s going to open up these opportunities? Why will someone pick you instead of someone else? It’s because of your reputation, it’s because of your digital presence, it’s because of the emotional connection you’ve built, the trust you’ve built with an audience through your content. And that’s why I wrote the book because there are so many people that need to learn how to do this, but it seems so overwhelming. People are just paralyzed, they don’t even know where to start. So that’s what I want to help them do.
John: So before we get into some of the tactical how-to’s, strategically is this — like is the first step to actually find this thing that you do that’s different or this point of view that’s different or this way to clearly become known that makes you stand out? I mean is that first step to lock down on something like that?
Mark: Well you’re 90% there. I think that is important. You need to think through what you want to be known for and you need to think through how that relates to the bigger world. Who’s already doing it? How much noise and competition is there out there? And so part of the book — you’re exactly right. I walk people through exercises to help them determine what do they want to be known for and that’s different than following a passion or following your dream. I think you need to have a little bit of a plan. Now, the one word I kind of disagree with is the idea of locked down, because a lot of times you’re image kind of evolves what you’re known for, I think that’s certainly happened for me. And sometimes I’ll get feedback from people in my audience and they’ll say something that they like about me or something that they admire about me and I’ll think, “Oh wow, I never really thought about it that way!” And so, I think you don’t have to have it perfect right out of the box. But you need to take a step, take your best shot at it and start.
John: Yeah and I see a lot of people I think get this notion that they have to be known for something and so then next thing you know you’re the king of Google+ or the queen of Vine or there’s like these you know —
Mark: A master of Meerkat.
John: Right. Exactly. I’ve got this head start on everybody but now it’s gone. So I think there is a little danger in saying lockdown on a thing. When I say lockdown I do — like for you, you were big in Twitter, you were big in social media that’s you know, you’ve evolved your brand I think by actually becoming known as somebody who produces high quality thought leadership around the digital space in general. And I think that is something that you probably locked down on.
Mark: Yeah eventually I did. Absolutely you’re right. But especially in the beginning I kind of had to — I know I felt my way through, kind of stumbled my way through, to be honest with you. And the other thing that I think is important to think about is that to become known, it doesn’t necessarily depend on focusing on one single idea or one single platform. I mean depending on who you are, your point of differentiation can be you. I mean I’m working with an executive — I guess I can say he’s working from Cisco. And the man just has this amazing experience and he’s had leadership positions at Pepsi and Unilever and all these big companies and he has this amazing background, this amazing education. Just being him is a point of differentiation. That sort of deep expertise and experience – people are just going to love hearing what he has to say. So there’s a lot of ways to go, determining what you want to be known for.
John: Yeah I think you’re actually better off going into it with the thought that you’re going to evolve because as we’ve kind of kidded about, platforms come and go but your brand promise is the thing that you have to stick to, I think. And I take a look at myself I’ve been doing this 30 years and my brand promise really is that I believe marketing is a system and that the components of a system need to be very practical. Now, you know, we didn’t have Facebook when I started but now that’s a big component of the system and I think that’s where you really excel is when you’re able to grab some real estate around a brand promise.
Mark: Well and you said a very important word here and that’s this idea of consistency that you’ve been doing this for 30 years. And that’s one of the things I learned from writing this book, from doing the research and I interviewed nearly 100 people on this topic to see what is the pattern, what is the process, is this something we could codify, like you say, could we break this into accessible components and make it a system. And I think I was able to do that. And I asked each person I interviewed at the end of their interview, the last question was if you could give one piece of advice, if you could reach through this book and encourage people what would you say? And mostly everyone had some form of the word “consistency” or “resilience” and it takes a lot of work and it may take a lot of time to establish that presence. I didn’t meet one person that was an overnight success, not one. The average for kind of getting that traction and starting to see the payoff was about two and a half years. So I mean you’ve been at it for 30 years, I’ve been at it on my own in business you know outside — I used to work in the corporate world, I’ve been on my own about 10. I’ve been creating content for nine. And I’m still growing and I’m still learning, still evolving.
John: Well I just got an idea for a new book title: “How to get famous by working really hard for two to three decades,” what do you think?
Mark: By John Jantsch, forward by Mark Schaefer.
John: So I do want to dig into some of the practical tactical things but there’s one other topic that you talk about in the book and it’s kind of one of those sacred cows that I like to address too. And it is the do what you love and the money will come. Where does that fit into the idea of becoming known?
Mark: Well you know, perhaps this is a little bit of a… controversial part of the book but… the world just doesn’t work that way. And it’s not just the different of opinion. There’s plenty of research that shows why do people fail? And the number one – people fail, the number one reason businesses fail is because they have a dream without an audience. They have a passion without a plan. And I mean the world just doesn’t work that way and what I’m trying to do is just grab people by the jacket here and beg them, please just think things through. I’ve got lots of exercises in this book, I’m sure before you even saw my book that you were familiar with some of those exercises. These are battle-tested ideas to help people get focused. And so it’s fine to have a passion, it’s fine to have a dream but what I hope people will do, I’m begging them, to just take a little time, think it through, use the process in this book to give yourself the best chance to succeed.
John: Yeah and I think the only thing I would add – because I totally agree with that, I think the only thing I would add to that is you know, when you lock down – I know you didn’t like that term sorry, I better go away from — when you decide that thing you that are going to go after, it probably — one of the questions ought to be would I enjoy doing this though? Because I do think —
Mark: Absolutely. And I hope that comes through. And what I’ve done is tweaked it a little bit. Instead of saying follow your passion, the word I’ve come up with is sustainable interested. And it’s funny, John, because when you read the research on this, other writers have said, “You know, it’s not quite a passion, but I don’t know what to call it.” And they’ll say, “Well you know, it’s not just a passion.” And then they’ll go on with their writing and they’ll call it a passion again. So what I’ve done is say look, let’s define this as a sustainable interest, two keywords. It’s got to be interesting because you’re going to spend a lot of time with this, but it also has to be sustainable. There’s got to be enough of an audience there, enough people to help you achieve your goals, otherwise what in the world are you doing.
John: Well and I think the other piece that a lot of people underestimate is sometimes you get passionate about stuff because you work at it long enough to get good at it.
Mark: That’s such a wise point. Do you know Roger Dooley at all?
John: I don’t think I do.
Mark: Roger is an exceptional marketer and a great intellect. And he wrote a book called “Neural Marketing”. Now Roger 20/25 years ago, he was a web guy, a pioneer at SEO and his daughter went to college and took a class in neural science. And he started looking through her books and he got really interested in this and he wondered could you apply this to business, could you apply this to marketing. And he looked around and nobody was really researching this or writing this. He grabbed up a couple of domain names, started writing about this and this is now what he’s become known for, and he loves it. He’s immersed in it, he’s become known for this, other than you, but he is known for this. And, so that’s a good example of sometimes you don’t follow a passion, the passion follows you. You find that sustainable interest and as you get immersed in it and as the excitement builds for that, you become passionate about it.
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John: You have written on extensively on content and obviously content becomes a, you know, a big part of – at least in the digital world, how people are becoming known. Where’s content fit in now that everybody’s doing it?
Mark: Well that’s a very good question and a very difficult question because the world is so very very crowded, it’s getting extremely noisy and you do need to create some sort of content to be able to create a voice of authority out there. That’s the fuel, that drives this emotional connection between you and people who are going to care for you. But there’s still tons and tons of opportunities out there. One of my favorite examples from the book is a young woman who became a food blogger. Now there are, I don’t know… probably hundreds of thousands of food bloggers out there. There’s probably no niche that’s more crowded than that.
John: Maybe marketing but…
Mark: Yeah. Social media. And what she did was she combined her passion for Hollywood movies and television shows. And so she makes these cooking videos where she makes famous recipes from the movies or TV shows. And she dresses up like the characters in the show so I have a picture of her in the book where she dresses up like Marge Simpson. She makes this really awesome video showing you how to make donuts that Homer would like. And she’s a sensation. And she’s making a living at this now, she has sponsors, she’s written a cookbook; famous recipes from the movies. And so, I think the exciting thing is the hope for everyone is that if we look back at this time, this year, ten years from now… we would be thinking oh I wish I lived in 2017, the internet was just beginning. The ideas, the products, the people, the content that are going to be impacting us 10 years from now, they haven’t been invented yet. There’s still, I mean there’s room for everyone. I’m absolutely convinced of that. Everyone has the opportunity because we’ve got this historically amazing time where we can grab our influence, we can own our influence instead of waiting for someone to pick us, we can pick ourselves. And can everyone do it? You know I don’t know, it takes a lot of work, like you said it took you 30 years, I’ve been at it almost 10 now. It takes consistency. It takes an ability to adapt and adjust and I’ve also addressed things in the book about how do you know when it’s time to adjust, to stick with it, to pivot, or to quit. But there’s a lot of room out there left.
John: Yeah and you mentioned one of my favorite techniques. I think a lot of times people think, “Okay, I have to have content.” And so they think okay warmed over 500-word blog post, I’ve got content now. And I think what you have – what we have to be doing now — the world doesn’t need another marketing blogger, another food blogger, but how can you bring two things together? How can you intersect two things, that’s such a powerful way to then create your own point of view or your own niche.
Mark: Yeah. Yeah. Absolutely.
John: So let me ask you this. Is – we’ve skirted around this, is a book the answer? Does everyone need a book to become known?
Mark: Well, no. Absolutely not. I mean I think there are lots of ways to do it. The path I described in the book has basically four basic steps. I do talk about a book where going – starting a speaking career as a way that certainly would help. But I don’t think it’s necessary. And if you create a bad book it might hurt things. I mean writing a book is a big decision as you know very well. For me, it’s a family decision because there’s a lot of sacrifice.
John: A lot of three-day weekends at the cabin.
Mark: I had to lock myself in a room for days and days and days at a time to get that thing done. And it’s – for me it’s an obsessive thing, it’s an immersive thing. It’s not necessarily a healthy thing because I take it very seriously. I sweat over every sentence and every word. I want the work – the book to not just re-establish, reaffirm my brand promise of practical actionable, real-life solutions but also be something that’s fun to read, that sings, that’s a thing of beauty that you’ll appreciate. And you know, I’m proud of this book.
John: Well why don’t we lower the bar a little. Because I can hear some people going, “My prose doesn’t exactly sing. I don’t know that I can write a book that’s that fun.”You know I think the local SEO person or the local accountant I think could actually benefit from getting their unique approach down in a book that would allow them to differentiate. All I mean by that is I agree with you that there are a lot of bad reasons to write books but there’s a lot of really good reasons to buy books.
Mark: There are and you know I state that clearly in the book. I say, “Here are the five reasons to write a book. Here are the five reasons not to. Here are the benefits. Here are the things that might get in the way. Is it the right time for you? Let’s talk through these things.” But certainly, it can put a rocket behind your career.
John: Let’s talk about riding some coattails. One of the things that — there were many elements that led to the Duct Tape marketing brand becoming somewhat known and one of them I attribute was the fact that I — there were a lot of people out there that were already doing it. They were already influences and I used my podcast quite frankly and long time listeners have heard me say this at least a dozen times, to get access to some of those folks. But not to pick their brain, to get access to them to promote their products and services and eventually you turn around and look at my books and they’re blurbed by many of those original people that I interviewed. They became — essentially my influence grew because I was able to associate with folks that already had it and I think that’s still a tactic that is very much available if done right isn’t it?
Mark: Yeah. And I actually have a whole section of that in the book and kind of an interesting story. I mentioned to you that on average it took about two and a half years to gain this traction, except one guy. He did it in under a year. And the way he did it was exactly the way you talked about. He identified – he was in the construction business. And he identified some of the key influencers in that business. He was trying to build this consultant agency, consulting business. And sell online products. He got to know some of these influencers and he just offered his services for free. And they were so impressed with what he was doing that they started writing about him and started referring to him as their consultant, as their guru and within months he started being invited to conferences, to speak. He started building an audience very very rapidly because all it took was a mention in some of these powerful blogs. And his star rose very quickly. I mean that’s a very very rich topic, maybe we could even do another whole discussion about that sometime because I’ve got some very strong feelings about where influence fits in the world today. I think we’re moving inexorably toward an ad-free society and maybe all we’re going to have left is our influence and the influence of others.
John: Yeah we could definitely do a – I think we could do a whole show — I think you just unleashed two whole shows there, because really the whole ad-free idea. I don’t think we’ll ever get ad free, I think the bar for whether or not anybody will consume an ad will be that they find it entertaining or they find it useful and not just something that’s crammed at them while they’re – the football games off.
Mark: Mmm. I mean the way I look at it is I consume more television than I ever have but I only see an ad if it’s at a sporting event or the news. I listen to serious XM radio, I never hear an ad, I subscribe to the Wall Street Journal, the New York Times, a local paper, I never see an ad. My advertising consumption is done 95% in the last five years. And I don’t even have – let’s not even get into the ad blocker thing.
John: Or even some services out there that are selling ad-free subscriptions.
Mark: Yeah. So it’s not so much the technique or even the quality of the ads, it’s the access to the people. Where we don’t have advertising accessible channels anymore. And that’s the profound trend that is really going to be affecting a lot of businesses, a lot of strategies.
John: Yeah can you imagine trying to reach an audience through cable TV today?
John: So talk to me a little bit about – I know you have an addition to the book and some of the quizzes – well no quizzes but worksheets that you talk about you also have some other resources that you want to share with us today?
Mark: Well I created a workbook to go with the book and the reason that I did this is I just – I’m just so passionate about this. I just want to give people every chance to really make this work, I don’t want this to be one of these books that you put down and then you forget about it. So I create this workbook that goes with it to first of all, help you record some of your thinking from some of the exercises, but it also has bonus material in there. It has links to templates that you can download to help you think through some of these things and keep track of some of the things that you’re working to see if you’re making progress. You know, I thought about – a lot of people asked me what about online classes and you know, I’m probably not going to go down that route. But I did want to give something that people could hold onto to kind of take this to the next level.
John: And where can people find — obviously I know the books on Amazon, are there other places – any websites you’d send people to to find out more?
Mark: Well on my website which is businessesgrow.com I’ve got lots of resources, you can find all my books, my blog, my podcast and other resources to help marketers and companies big and small.
John: And we’ll have these links on the blog – the show notes from the blog. So Mark thanks so much for joining us, always a pleasure to catch up with you and hopefully we’ll see you out there on the road.
Mark: Thank you John!
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