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John: Staying top of mind is how you generate leads, it’s how you increase profits, it’s how you get referrals. So we’re going to talk to the author of Top of Mind, John Hall. Check it out.
Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast. This is John Jantsch and my guest today is John Hall. He is the CEO of cofounder of Influence and Company and the author of a book we’re going to talk about today called Top of Mind, use content to unleash your influence and engage those who matter to you, so John thanks for joining me.
John Hall: It’s great to be here.
John: So are you in Kansas City today or are you in Columbia?
John Hall: I am in Columbia as of today so we’re in between Columbia, St. Lewis and Kansas city where are offices are but as crazy as it is, I’m typically in San Francisco, LA, New York or on a plane so it’s just great to be home where my wife and kids are.
John: Well I do so few interviews with Kansas City folks that it’s always kind of fun to — I actually did an interview with a business owner that is across the street from me and I was actually looking at his business so that was my closest one. So —
John Hall: Yeah I wish — I should have definitely come to KS, we could have done this in person but maybe next time.
John: So we’re going to talk about content and I know people are sick of hearing about it, I know that I’m verging on being sick on talking about it in the way that we have been talking about it I think for many years and we’re going to talk about how that’s changed. But let’s define it, when somebody asks you — because you’re talking about content for influence, for all the reasons. But if somebody asks you what is content, do you have a good answer?
John Hall: Well yeah everything’s content, when you’re communicating verbally it’s content, I mean like when my wife tells me why didn’t you take the trash out, that is content. What is coming out of her mouth is words and communication. So like for me we live in a world of content in everyday life and that’s where some people look at — they thought this book was going to be about like only content marketing when it’s not, it’s about how you engage people and how you communicate so that people naturally — so you stick in their mind naturally and at the right moment they think of you. Now for scale, content marketing and you know having content platforms is huge and a big part of that, but at the same time there’s also a lot of very important relationships where you communicate one-on-one or in a group setting where it’s very important to come across engaging and care about the audience that you’re speaking to. And so when I look at content what that means is it’s how you interact with others and the words, the communication that you’re using to basically communicate with them and to create the desired result, so sometimes that’s just me having a one-on-one where I’m just enjoying a friendly conversation where it’s about amusement, other times there’s an agenda where you’re trying to affect a behavioural change that can benefit your company. So for me this book — part of it I would say the beginning part talks about how everyday life we can make these slight changes to become more engaging and then it grows into as you try and scale things and grow a larger platforms, this is what content means in that case. So I start very broad in the definition but then it just depends how you’re using content on how like — the definition of you know communication one-on-one compared to a content marketing, full-scale plan for a business.
John: Yeah I have actually — you know it was kind of trendy to talk about content as king and I’ve really been for the last couple of years saying no, it’s air, I mean you really can’t — you can’t participate in any step in the customer journey without content but unfortunately what that’s produced is a lot of polluted air. So where — when I talk to people about content where — to me the other C we need to be adding is context.
John Hall: Yeah I mean like one, I mean content is king has been thrown around there for the last — I mean for years and years and I never actually loved that at all, I think it was actually king for a short period of time but any time — if you go back and study trends in — even media communications from 80’s and 90’s early with TV, content was king at a certain point but then they were spending I think let’s say $5 for every $1 of distribution so they were spending $5 on creation, $1 on distribution and then that changed to $1 on creation and $5 on distribution. I think we’re in the same — we’re in the same boat from back then where now we’re looking at okay there’s a lot of content, there’s a lot of pollution, however you have to maintain a level of quality so just because there’s a lot out there doesn’t mean you don’t maintain a little quality so you need maintain that but the focus needs to be on distribution after you maintain that and consistency. So for example, one of the things that I just did at this keynote, I said, “Who here has been to South by Southwest?” And they were like — there’s like five that raised their hand and I said, “Okay, is that just a mess?” And they were like absolutely, it’s a mess. So you would describe it as — let’s say in your own terms John, pollution. You would describe it as a mess and noisy, yes. So when I go to South by Southwest I specifically go there to target a specific group and I [00:05:43] specific events and I’m communication with specific people and I get a lot of value out of it. Out of the 100,000 people there I meet the 20 that I need to, so that’s a distribution effect. So I think that your right, there’s a lot of noise, there’s a lot of pollution however that doesn’t mean you get distracted or you — you know drop quality or you give up, it’s simply that you maintain the level of quality and you go and find better ways to distribute that content to the right people at the right time, at the right moment.
John: Yeah which to me is the definition of context of course because another thing that you state and we can debate this all day and what the actual statistics are but I think we can all agree, 63 to 90% of people today go out there and they start looking for a company and doing research and finding content and basically making a decision about who they’re going to hire or buy from before they ever pick up the phone or walk into a store. So how — here’s my question on this, how do you think about content for each of those steps of the journey and perhaps how do you get involved at the earliest point when they don’t really know what their problem is or they’re certainly aren’t looking for you to solve it?
John Hall: I mean the first step to me is you document a content strategy that I think first puts you — like the first step for me is familiarity, so you can’t — very few sales happen if someone isn’t familiar with your brand, your company or there’s some credibility built around it so you have to make yourself familiar to them and part of that is investing in yourself, your own brand, your companies brand so that you are out there as somewhat of a resource in the industry so let me explain that a little more so for example, with Influence and Co. we made the investments starting out that there would be content coming from me, and at the same time as my co-founder and then also different employees and then we would also use content to be — to have on site with our blog and on-site content and so for us we’ve just simply said from the start is that we want to be familiar, that people when they run into us they’re somewhat familiar with our brand, they’ve seen us [00:07:53] before they’ve seen it in some way so for me, it’s one seeding the landscape where people are consuming content with your own content first, that’s the first step and so you’ve got to have a strategy that does that, so map it out and say where are the places that people are consuming content that I’m trying to reach, how do I inject that content into there or how do I draw them to my own property so they’re paying attention. So for me, that first step is the familiarity aspect, then it’s the nurturing, how you get them further drawn to you, where — you know it depends on the marketing funnel, it could be in an email campaign or it could be simply your on-site content in a newsletter that they opt into. So what I would say is the first step out of anything is getting credibility around you, your brand so that when people are interacting with and no matter what you do they feel comfortable and there’s trust there because no matter what marketing campaign you do, it could be PPC, it could be paid ads, if you don’t have some sort of trust and credibility created where they want to engage their brand you’ll lose a lot of sales on the way.
John: So let’s dive into that because I was — I think that’s probably the most important in this digital age we live in, probably the most behaviour that we have to try and influence is trust. So what are some of the ways you are seeing people use content effectively to not fake anything, but to build trust and engage?
John Hall: Yeah and that’s where at the first like five/six chapters of the book is focused around trust and how you create what I call trust touch points, that should be everybody’s goal with a buyer or with any audience that’s a stakeholder or an important relationship to us, we’re on this almost trust totem pole I would say, or trust meter and the more you have these touch points consistently, the more you go up in that trust meter and ultimate if you’re able to as a brand, as a company so you’re towards the top of that meter, you can sell, you can ask for advocacy, you can do a lot of things so there’s a variety of things that build up that trust. So for example, with — as simple as this is, likeability, that is the parts in the book where I talk about people trust people they like, it’s very simple. I’ve gone up against so many companies that had either an equal or service or some sort of a product that is equal to what we could do for them. However, they really liked when we met them at an event or liked our content where they felt connected to us and it resulted in us winning that business, even if we were more expensive. And so I’ll give you an example of recently I wrote an article which I would class as fairly — the goal of it was to present myself as a relatable leader and also be fairly transparent and so I wrote an article about how pride had hurt the growth of our company in different ways or how it can affect a leaders — a company through leadership pride and what I meant by that was it was an article in Fortune where I basically said that I, myself struggled with getting feedback from people, I’d struggled at a lot of things that I was very honest about it and that article, several people reached out either from in our pipeline or had — [00:11:21] important relationship for us and they said, “Really enjoyed this article, really related to is, thank you.” And so there’s these different things we can do where for example, likeability is one and transparency is another, helping others, there’s a lot of times in an article I’ve written about other influencers and stakeholders in our industry, I’ve written about you before because you’re somebody I respect and like and so that’s just as simple as me trying to make an effort to help other leaders in our industry who are doing great things and so there’s all these different touch points, doesn’t matter if you’re writing for Fortune or your own blog, if somebody sends me a link and says, “Hey, love what you were doing, wrote about you in this article linked to one of your pieces.” I’m like thank you very much and it creates this familiarity aspect and so there’s a variety of things you can do there, that’s just a couple.
John: Yeah and as I listen to you talk about that and we always talk about how things have changed so much. Some of those principles you’ve just outlined have sort of universally been true right? I mean helping each other and pointing to good, useful content and being likeable, that’s always been a winning formula.
John Hall: Yep. Content triggering is something that I always preach and I say it if you hear me in any podcast, any speech I almost — I mean you’ll hear it every time almost and what I mean by content triggering is that it’s an exercise that helps you what is engaging to the people that matter most and so what I think, for example I was at [00:12:43] last week and I was talking to several people that could be a customer, could be a partner, could be a publication relationship for us and I just listened to them and I ask them questions and say, “Oh did you find this interesting? And what do you think about this topic?” And they were oh yeah I’d love to learn more, one of the examples I gave last year was I was talking to a few CMO’s and they were talking about how there CFO drives them nuts, this is a dinner where they’re like my oh my god, my CFO drives me nuts and I’m like really? So tell me about that. And they’re like well, one, he doesn’t make an effort to understand — or here she doesn’t make an effort to understand marketing, they don’t do this, they don’t do this and it was a complain fest and I just told them you know what, what I need to do is I need to help not just your CFO but also you as well, let me — and I ran through the points with them, I took down notes and when I went home that night I sent that off to my team and said we need to develop some really good content around this because this is a challenge for them right now. So we did a series around the relationship between the senior marketers and the person in charge of their finances and how you can increase and make that relationship — or how you can make that relationship better. And we sent it out, we targeted CMO’s and CFO’s sent that out to them, we did ads, we sent out to different lists and the results were really good, they came back and were like wow, this was something that helped us out, the people at the dinner said I shared this with our CFO we actually met up afterwards and talked about it and this really helped us. Now, that is in my way a clear example of a content trigger that happened when I was speaking to them, we took notes down and then we developed the content which was exactly what they needed and it was a way to help them. So it was a great way and we scaled that to more people because they had the same challenge.
John: yeah and I’ve often talked about using content to — you know I wrote a book about referrals and I talk in there about using content as a way to generate referrals and I think when you produce content like that that is so useful, people want to share it.
John Hall: Yeah and with referrals I mean [00:14:44] the title of the book, it’s one of the key things with our referrals that have boosted our referrals as a company, so if people like you, if they like what you’re doing and they think it could be valuable to other people if you stay on top of their mind, they will content the dots for you, it’s as simple as that. That’s why it’s so important to stay in front of them consistently because when they have a conversation it happens all the time where the best people — like I love advocating and helping people out and when I’m speaking and somebody says, “Hey, I’m looking for a web designer.” Like great I have three people that I need to connect you with, I get excited like John you should see me, [00:15:23] there was several people that were like oh I need help in this and I go oh my gosh, I was like a kid at a candy store, get excited, I’m immediately [00:15:30] interest because I love making connections. Now, our best partners that get the most value out of me are the people that stay in front of me and consistently engage me, the same way I try to preach and tell people to do for others, and it’s the number one reason you can get more referrals is if you stay in front of them consistently and they think of you at the right moment, you’re going to — it’s going to be extremely valuable and you do that through content and engaging them at the right times and giving those trust touch points up there.
John: Yeah I think you know, so many people feel like referrals when you do good work and certainly that’s one component but you’re absolutely right you’ve got to amplify that.
John Hall: Yeah I mean I think that’s a very — that’s one way of looking at referrals, it limits you. You put yourself in a box and say oh yeah well if I do good work I’ll get referrals. Well yes obviously you’re going to do that, but that happens where like if any agency, company or service that says I create phenomenal work every day in my like — my clients just screaming from the rooftops how great I am, that’s just not the case, we get big wins for clients say once every three weeks or once every month or something. What happens more frequently is they’re interacting with a variety of people on and everyday basis. Now what you want to hit is not just when you do something good, yeah you certainly want to do that, but you also want to basically get into their mind so that you have a mini sales person in them and they don’t even know it because if you get the right people and you’re in their long-term memory as a good resource then they’re going to think of you when they’re just having every day conversations, not just when you do good work.
John: Hey thanks for listening to the Duct Tape Marketing podcast. Are you an independent marketing consultant or an agency? You might want to check out The Duct Tape Marketing Consultant Network, it is a growing group of independent marketing consultants and agencies that are partnering and collaborating and using the Duct Tape Marketing tools and really scaling their businesses. So check it out at ducttapemarketingconsultant.com
One of the things I know you advocate for an it’s proven to be an effective approach but it’s also scary for particularly say a CEO that’s never gone down this path, this idea of being more transparent, this idea of being more human. How do you get some of your clients to buy into that if they’re resistant?
John Hall: Yeah I mean we deal with a lot — and I’d say like we have clients that are starting out entrepreneurs but we also have some really big brand clients and the brand clients wanted — it’s huge with because they have this huge barrier because we have this brand that we just need to push out there and [00:18:08] human to human connection more than they ever did and so when we’re talking to a brand or a company — like a lot of entrepreneurs get it, they’re like hey, I want to connect they have this passion that’s like I want to connect to this audience to feel like we’re good people not just a company and that there’s something behind there. So obviously there’s South-west and some brands that really embrace it and do it well, however many brands don’t do it well at all and the problem is they haven’t — it hasn’t clicked for them yet that in every day communication the way that — there’s a couple of factors that have come in that have influenced us. One, generations have changed, generation Z does not say I want to talk to brands all day, they want to talk to people, it’s just something with the generations after us. In addition, there’s so much content out there that a human connection is one of the differentiating factors. If they feel like they’ve connected with the people behind the content then there’s a stronger opportunity, there’s a stronger chance they’re going to engage with you. An example of this would be in the book I gave the example [00:19:11] he ran that conference for a few years and he picked me as one of their key note speakers and he went up and he goes hey, I want to introduce John Hall, he’s been on my mind this last year pretty much every week and he actually said it in a really creepy/fun way where it seemed like he would just dreaming about me every day and it was kind of funny and I got up there and that’s where I started talking a lot about top of mind is that I engaged — our company engaged him so that he was reading our blog content, he was reading content from me, he was hearing me on podcasts and different things so he felt this connection. We hadn’t talked in a year and when it came down to pick a key note he goes I need to get Influencer and Co. John Hall involved and he thought of us. And said hey to him, we immediately like — it was like a huge, hey it’s good to see you, there was such a connection — human to human connection, I hadn’t talked to him in a year and so I would say there’s so many case studies and examples where the — when people feel like there is actually meaning behind a brand, you can look at — there’s a study it’s called Brand Meaningful Index and it looks at meaningful brands and it looks at their performance compared to the SMP and the meaningful brands where there’s connections from a human level to the brand and the people behind it perform substantially higher than the SMP 500. And so it mattered whether you’re a big — a brand or you’re a small company. People want to connect with the people behind a brand.
John: That’s so easy to do too. I know a lot of people think oh they’ve got all these resources and what not, you can — you know I love it when I get a confirmation email from a company and it has a little bit of human touches not just the default template so there’s so many little ways you can do it and I think we’re also used to getting the default approach that you can make a huge impact I think by just having somebody go hey, that was different.
John Hall: Yeah and that’s — what happened is and you’ve been through this. You’ve been in marketing for a while and you’ve seen how we went through the stage of let’s scale this and make everything automatic where in reality everyone goes over to being automatic and you don’t differentiate yourself and so in the book there’s a ton of clear examples of personalization and people do it at scale. Like a lot of times people are like you can’t personalize things and you can’t do it at scale, you absolutely can. Disney is the best example of personalizing at scale when they invested money in there [00:21:49] fans. When my daughter walks into Disney and she says oh my gosh, did you know Mickey knew my name? And I was like no, I saw that — I mean I didn’t tell this to her she’s three years old but I saw Mickey scan your wristband [00:22:03] wristband and it went to Mickey and Mickey says, “Hey Adeline! How are you doing?” And that is the brilliance behind some of this — that’s communication, that’s content in a way. And I look at it and I simply — if you read the book you’ll get some ideas of this. One, I talk about how every holiday I send about two or three thousand emails out to people that are in my network and it just says hey I hope you’re having a great time with either family or friends or people that matter to you, look forward to working together — looking forward to you know our next chat or something like that. And then I’ll make sure so it’s a templated email, however I’ll add one sentence that my goal with it is to let them know that I identified them and not someone else. For example I’ll say, I’ll template it and then I’ll just put in here — and I use [00:22:57] and I just use — excel spreadsheet I have their name and I just say, “Hope things are going — you know hope it’s not too cold in Chicago.” Then go to the next one, “Hope things are going well with [00:23:08]” or whatever company it could be and I just add these little things to it, it inputs it in there and then I send all those emails out and everybody — like I would say I think my acceptance rate when I did the numbers, a response — it was like 80 or 90% and everybody got back and they look and it helped a personal connection because I wasn’t emailing them about work, I just simply wanted to personally — for them to know I was thinking about them during the holidays and almost everybody got back and was like wow, thank you I appreciate this and it’s hilarious a lot of them would say hey, by the way I’ve been meaning to talk to you, we’re going to need your service starting in January. And I’m like well I didn’t say anything about that but you connected the dots yourself. So there’s a variety of things you can do to scale personalisation and make somebody feel special, but ultimately it comes down to differentiating yourself from others and there’s a lot of trust touch points that you can do to connect with them.
John: John tell people where they can find out more about — I know where we can get the book, anywhere books are sold. But where can they find out more about Influence and Co.?
John Hall: Great I mean really the site — you can just go directly to the site influenceandco.com. We’re pretty easily findable, I mean we try to make ourselves as approachable — like we believe in thought leadership, we are a leading thought leadership company and we believe in education so if you think we can help out go to our contact form or the site and say hey, would love to learn more or this is where I need help with. With the book, in particular if you buy the book in there there’s an email and resource library at the back of it that tells you all the different tools, all the things that we use or I use and then also it has an email in there that will direct you to the team and myself that we’ll respond to it, because one of the big chapters is about helpfulness so I wanted to back that up so I have a personal email, I see every single one of them, if it’s something my team can answer then they obviously answer but I’d say right now I’m answering probably 50% of them. And so try one of those ways, but I would say either going to the website Influencer and Co. in the contact form but pay attention to our content you know we practice what we preach so go to our blog, go to my Forbes or [00:25:22] column or one of the other places I contribute and pay attention and hopefully I can be helpful.
John: Awesome. Speaking with John Hall, CEO of Influencer and Co. and author of Top of Mind, so John hopefully we’ll get a beer in Kansas City before too long.
John Hall: I really do look forward to it, you’re always a helpful and good guy so I look forward to our next catch up.
John: Hey thanks for listening to this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing podcast, wonder if you could do me a favor? Could you leave an honest review on iTunes. Your ratings and reviews really help and I promise I read each and every one, thanks.