Why Community Is The Last Great Marketing Strategy

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Marketing Podcast with Mark Schaefer

Mark Schaefer, a guest on the Duct Tape Marketing PodcastIn this episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast, I interview Mark Schaefer. Mark is a globally-recognized keynote speaker, college educator, marketing consultant, and author of books such as Marketing Rebellion – Cumulative Advantage, and Belonging To The Brand: Why Community Is The Last Great Marketing Strategy.

Key Takeaway:

Mark Schaefer argues that brand communities are the future of marketing strategy. In this episode, he highlights the major benefits of building community from a marketing perspective and the role they play in the world of business.

Questions I ask Mark Schaefer:

  • [2:03] What’s the difference between community and audience/customers?
  • [3:45] Would you say you don’t have community if people aren’t talking to each other?
  • [6:08] Would you say there are very few people that have actually activated a community in the way you’re talking about as a marketing strategy?
  • [8:18] There’s a real hunger nowadays for community wouldn’t you say?
  • [12:01]  You actually introduce a new idea that I hadn’t heard of but it’s the genesis of a business being community-based. That this is actually how it starts as opposed to it being a bolt-on channel – could you talk more about this idea?
  • [14:26] Why do you call this book the last great marketing strategy?
  • [16:32] You suggest that if you don’t start your community with purpose first, you’re doomed to fail right out of the gate. Could you expand on that idea?
  • [19:38] Talk a little bit about the technology aspect of a community from a practical standpoint – how does community management play into this?
  • [22:43] Where can more people learn about your work?

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John Jantsch (00:00): This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by Outbound Squad, hosted by Jason Bay and brought to you by the HubSpot Podcast Network. The audio destination for business professionals host Jason Bay, dives in with leading sales experts and top performing reps to share actionable tips and strategies to help you land more meetings with your ideal clients. In a recent episode called Quick Hacks to Personalize Your Outreach, he speaks with Ethan Parker about how to personalize your outreach in a more repeatable way. Something every single one of us has to do it. Listen to Outbound Squad, wherever you get your podcasts. Hello and welcome to another episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast. This is John Jantsch. My guest today is Mark Schaefer, a globally recognized keynote speaker, college educator, marketing consultant, author of books such as The Marketing Rebellion and Cumulative Advantage. But we're gonna talk about his latest book today, belonging to the Brand, why Community is the Last Great Marketing Strategy. So Mark, welcome back to the show.

Mark Schaefer (01:17): Thank you, John. I love writing new books cuz it's an excuse to talk to you. .

John Jantsch (01:22): . Well, I think this is at least your third appearance, if not Martha,

Mark Schaefer (01:25): At least. At least. Yeah. Yeah. And thankfully we do get a chance to talk to each other, you know, once in a while in between, but it's always nice seeing

John Jantsch (01:33): You. That's right. I did run into you recently. Where in Boston? Marketing? Boston.

Mark Schaefer (01:39): Oh, Maine.

John Jantsch (01:40): Oh, well is it been that long?

Mark Schaefer (01:42): I think it might have been Maine, yeah.

John Jantsch (01:44): Oh, okay. I thought we ran into each other at a, at another, another event more recent than that. That seems like eons ago. That was like pre covid.

Mark Schaefer (01:51): Well, that was pre Covid.

John Jantsch (01:53): , yeah. That's gonna, that's gonna be the new like, like BC and AD now it's gonna be pre Covid, post Covid. I don't know. All right, let's get into your book. Um, first off, I want to get a definition what's, I mean, what's the difference between community and like audience or even customers?

Mark Schaefer (02:09): Yeah. Well I think that's an important janan one I hit right up front in, in the book. You know, I think there a lot of people might have a blog or a podcast and they say, this is my community, but it's really not. It's an audience and that's fine. There's nothing wrong with that. I look, I owe a lot to my audience. I have a deep emotional connection with my audience, but it's one way. Mm-hmm. . And if I go away, the audience goes away. It's a sort of a cult of personality. The beauty of community is it brings the emotional connection to the brand to a new level. Because not only do people love you, they love each other in the group. I'm sure you experienced that with your own, you know, your duct tape community. So from, for, here's something so interesting, John. I mean, I went down a lot of academic rabbit holes on psychology and sociology when I was writing this book. But it suggests that the bonds built in the community, that those friendships and that love spills over to the brand. It almost suggests it's more important to build these relationships in a community than to build the relationship between the customer and the brand. And it builds this emotional switching cost. Because if people have friends in the community, well, I can't leave this brand. These, this is my place, these are my people. So it's really quite profound when you get into the marketing benefits of community.

John Jantsch (03:45): So a couple things I want to touch on that I heard you say, one of the key differences is, is instead of one to many, it's a true network. Yeah. So to speak. And there's not, well, there might be a leadership structure or guide, you know, it's really the individual. Like you don't have community if people aren't talking to each other. Right.

Mark Schaefer (04:02): . Yeah. Yeah. And I, and it's a great point that you make that when you talk about the leadership structure, and I think this is one of the most important values of the book, is it talks about really the new leadership mindset required this friend over in the UK who had a B2B marketing agency and he created this community and the community is now bigger than the company. He's gone all in on this community. This is where he is getting his revenue. Yeah. And he said it's so intimidating and disorienting to, you know, just all the stuff we learned at the university is turned upside down about leadership, about giving up control, about nurturing people. You're not trying to build a staff. You're trying to, you know, build leaders in your community. You know, in marketing that you and I do over the years, it's ephemeral. You know, you have a campaign, right? When the money runs out, you start something else. A community, there's like this implied social contract. Yeah. That's new for marketing. , that's new idea. But what I hope people get out of this book is that community isn't added through the lens of brand marketing is. Yeah. You and I have been around a long time. When was the last time you and I, when was the last time you've been to a marketing conference where they've got a track on community and it's this obvious opportunity staring as right in the face and it's just almost completely overlooked by the world.

John Jantsch (05:44): Well it's interesting because as you noted, well first off, you know, churches were communities, schools were communities, small towns, you know, talk about, you know, community. So as you said, we've always had that tribes and the initial native tribes were communities. But then when I think when we all went online, all of a sudden we had access to people outside of our community who believed the same thing we did. And so we have been talking even in marketing circles about community for, you know, at least 15. But I think there are very few people that have actually activated a community in the way that you're talking about as a marketing strategy. ,

Mark Schaefer (06:23): Right? Yeah. I mean, if you remember when the internet began, the first thing a lot of people tried were communities, right? Coca-Cola I remember had a community, most of the big brands, even like one of the oil companies like Exxon had like a community thing, right? I mean you can see that why that wouldn't work very well , but everybody tried it. But you know, in the early days they were built to try to sell stuff, right? They didn't really have the right bandwidth. We didn't have the right technology. You couldn't do video and it just didn't work. So most communities failed. The communities that survived. Almost all of them are transactional. It's customer self-service. Oh, your problem with your software, go into our community. And I think the way the world, the reason the world went that way is because it's easy to measure. You can see the ROI of that kind of community because it's cost avoidance. And we completely overlook this idea of if we have like-minded people coming together, we can collaborate and co-create and it builds trust and it builds loyalty. And you've got customer advocacy and you have di a direct line to consumer information. And it, it's just, I think I put together a very compelling case in the book to say, Hey, yeah, wake up and at least consider this idea.

John Jantsch (07:55): Well I know over the years, you know, I have sold for years, I've sold courses, I've sold training, I've done one-on-one. I will tell you some of the most beneficial programs that I've ever run have been small cohorts of people coming together Yeah. In a group. And I think that while I wouldn't call that a community necessarily, even if we come together five or six times over, you know, so many months or something, people get very connected. And I think that that in some ways what I'm witnessing is just a real hunger that people have for this, right? I mean, it's not just that people need to create this, it's that there, there's a real hunger. There's a, you even start the book talking about, you know, a lot of this is driven out of loneliness, which has probably gotten far worse. , you know, for a lot of people that aren't going into offices anymore.

Mark Schaefer (08:38): Yes. The first chapter of my book is probably the most depressing chapter in the history of different books, . Cause I start off talking about my own childhood loneliness and how I was lost. I I something happened to when I was a kid that just made me a shadow. It just, it made me someone just a ghost of a person. And then a miracle kind of happened in high school where I was embraced by a community and I was always haunted by this idea of what if that didn't happen? I mean, I was going down this road of isolation and depression and this is why it's significant. And this is one of the reasons I wrote the book. I saw this headline in the New York Times that said the loneliest generation talking about our children and our teenagers and the pandemic didn't cause this. No. It was, it's been creeping up actually for decades.

(09:38): But the pandemic really amplified things. And just like you said, that we've got generations like just living in their rooms. And one, one of my students said my, my my daughter graduated college the last year and a half of college was spent in her bedroom cuz it was remote. Then she got a job that was remote . She said the last this important two and a half years of her life, the big change in her life has been moving from one room to another. And she's so lonely and she's so desperate to see people. And so we are, we do long to belong. And I'm not being Pollyannish John, this is a business book. It's based by data, it's based by research. You know, that's sort of a hallmark of my books. But there's also this aspect that community heals. It not only works as a marketing idea, but it really heals.

(10:40): I mean we need this, as you say, psychologically, sociology, sociologically even there's a little bit of research in the book that shows h helps us physically to be happy and belong. So I mean, it it, it is a business book, but I think it also sort of creates this sort of new meaning to marketing. We, it's the only marketing I think our customers would actually embrace because they need it. And I think that's a powerful idea. If you create not only marketing that works, but marketing that, that heals. That's, that's something that appeals to me. Hey,

John Jantsch (11:18): Marketing agency owners, you know, I can teach you the keys to doubling your business in just 90 days or your money back. Sound interesting. All you have to do is license our three step process that's gonna allow you to make your competitors irrelevant, charge a premium for your services and scale perhaps without adding overhead. And here's the best part. You can license this entire system for your agency by simply participating in an upcoming agency certification intensive look, why create the wheel? Use a set of tools that took us over 20 years to create. And you can have 'em today, check it out at dtm.world/certification. That's DTM world slash certification. You actually introduced what for me was kind of a new, it's probably not a new term, but it's the genesis of a business being community based. That that actually being the way that it starts as opposed to a bolt on channel.

Mark Schaefer (12:18): Yeah. It was new for me and really inspirational. And I guess you'd have to say this was another sort of seed that was planted in the book. You know, I was writing, it was like 2018, I was writing Marketing Rebellion. So I was like on the lookout for new marketing models. Mm. And I was at the social media marketing world and was at this, uh, breakfast held by Andy Costadina, one of our mutual friends. Mm-hmm. and Dana Malstaff was there, first time I ever met her. She started telling me she had, she was an entrepreneur, she had been pregnant and didn't feel like couldn't find a lot of support for being a mom and being a business leader. So she created this Facebook group, cut Boss mom. Long story short, in the first nine months she was making a six figure income. She now has 70,000 members in this group.

(13:14): It's nearly a million dollar business. She always corrected me. It's not quite a million dollar. She said, mark, don't call it a million dollar business. I'm almost there. But in a short period of time, her business has been doubling every year. No sales department, no marketing department, no marketing budget. Sort of a remarkable idea. She's a, she's created this million dollar business in a short period of time with no marketing budget. Because if you have this community of 70,000 people, she just, they just are eager to buy her courses, her videos, her events, her coaching, her workshops, because they believe in her. They love being in this place. They belong to her as a brand. And so she doesn't have to sell. She was careful to say, I can sell . Right. Yeah. She knew it if she needs to, but she said I don't need to.

John Jantsch (14:11): Yeah. I suspect a lot of people underestimate, you know, how much selling probably is, but not in the traditional negative way that we think about it. Yeah. Right, right. I mean you're, you're selling the vision, you know, of belonging and that's, that's still, you know, a sales job in some ways you call this, I mean it's in the subtitle last great marketing strategy. So you, there's nothing left. Like there's no more. This is it.

Mark Schaefer (14:33): Well it's gotta be my last book. Right? Well the reason, yeah, I know it's a very, it's a provocative subtitle, but this is the way I looked at it. First of all, it was the first marketing strategy. You know, when, you know, my, my grandparents lived in Pittsburgh and they shopped at these neighborhood stores and the people at those stores knew my grandparents, they knew their family, they knew their kids, they knew their birthdays. They would talk and it was a community. It was a community atmosphere. And I'm just one generation away from that and I've never experienced that and I just long to belong to something like that. So it was really the first way that the first marketing is you belong there. And I think we live in this community, in this world now where we have this streaming economy, you know, last night, you know, I was batching it last night, so I got on to Netflix and just binge some show and then, you know, tomorrow I'm going on a trip and I'm gonna listen to Spotify for hours and hours and I might listen to an audiobook and all these hours I'm consuming content.

(15:46): I am not going to hear one ad, I am not gonna hear one brand messaging. There's gonna be no PR spin. And so we've gotta find something new. Yeah. And I think when all the interruptive advertising and the spam and the robocall finally go away, the last thing we're gonna have is community. Because we've always had community, we've always needed community and we always will. And so I think this is the one thing in this fast, crazy world we can really count on. Our customers need this. And I think this could be a long lasting strategy if it's done the right way.

John Jantsch (16:32): It's one of the points that you make, I think in probably has its own whole chapter. If I recall, you know, I'm envisioning somebody listening to this going, we need to do community, we need to increase customer retention by 12%. So let's start community. Yeah. And you suggest that actually if you don't start with purpose first, yeah. You're doomed to fail right outta the gate.

Mark Schaefer (16:53): Well, most communities fail. That's the hard fact. And the main reason why they fail is because the communities are created to sell stuff. Right. And that's great and we gotta do that, but it's not a reason to gather. So you have to think about what is the intersection between what you do and what you believe in and this and the purpose of your customers. And one of the things I'm proud of in the book is I have dozens of brand new case studies, diverse b2b, b2c, big companies, you know, small companies. There's even a stay-at-home mom with five kids that has a community of 50,000 people in this book. So it's very inspirational. Yep. But I will rely on good old Harley Davidson. It's a worn out example. But you know, here's a, it's a transportation company, but they don't have these crazy ads. You know, we're going crazy.

(17:56): Come down, it's President's Day sale. You'll never hear that from Harley. You never will because they've got points of differentiation, right. About their look and the leather and all this stuff. But the purpose that unites them, and this is, this unifies that company and I have firsthand experience with this. I've worked with Harley Davidson. They are obsessed with everything they can do to make you a badass. That is what, that's what if you wanna be a badass, they're gonna help you do that. And that's why they never need to have a sale. That's why they're never in your face with all these stupid ads. Because you know, you can really only be a badass if you have Arnold Davidson . Right. So it's all based on this pur on this unifying purpose. You wanna be a badass, we wanna help you be a badass. And that's the way it goes. So I spent a lot of time on this in the, in the book helping cus helping businesses think through what do you want to accomplish in the world? And you can do it better if you've got your customers with you. There's lots of prompts I think to help businesses think that through. And, but it does, it, it it does start with a, not just a purpose, but really a unifying purpose.

John Jantsch (19:22): I hate to get too practical from go from purpose to tools , but you did kind of mention one of the challenges early on was we didn't really have great tools for building community. You know, there's a whole new breed of community platform cropping up through the, you know, I'm thinking of the circles, you know, of the world. Yeah. So talk to a little bit about both the technology but then also the practical standpoint. I think where a lot of communities fail is they think that you just put a bunch of people in there and they're gonna like mingle. And so, you know, there has to be a community management aspect as well as the, you know, whatever the technology is, doesn't there.

Mark Schaefer (19:57): Yeah. You know, in, in that part of the book, I stay pretty high level because,

John Jantsch (20:05): Because it's all changed already. , it's

Mark Schaefer (20:08): Changing

(20:09): And I can't tell you what to do because Yeah, look some pe the only piece of advice I really give in the book is it's probably going to help if you meet in a place that's organic to your every, the everyday experience of your community. So if the people in your community, if they go to LinkedIn every day, maybe you should be on LinkedIn. If you go to Facebook or Twitter or Slack every day, maybe you should be there. Mm-hmm . Mm-hmm , my community is on Discord. I fought and kicked and screamed not to be on Discord , my community is about learning about the future of marketing and the community said, look, if we're gonna learn about the future of marketing, we might as well learn about Discord. So I couldn't argue with that. So there we are. The one thing I point out in the book that I think will be fascinating to any marketer is, are these new ideas about NFTs and Web three and the Metaverse?

(21:08): And I point out in this section of the book, talking about the future of the community, why many of the things we rely on in marketing today, like social listening platforms are gonna become obsolete in some ways They already are because Gen Z, they're not on Facebook. Yeah. They're not on LinkedIn. Even business majors. I gave a presentation to Esther's degree students at Rutgers, almost none of them were even on LinkedIn. It's like they resisted, where are they hanging out? Discord. Twitch arguably the biggest community in the world. I could even say Fortnite, right. Is a community. And guess what? They're undetectable and like gens, when we talk about Gen Z, we're not talking about babies. The first member of Gen Z just got elected. The Congress. Yeah. They're here, they're buying stuff, they're gonna be our new leaders. You know, they punch way above their weight when it comes to culture and fashion and music and art. And I mean they're having an incredible impact on our society and they're invisible. And so, so, and I don't have answers to that, but I think considering where these new communities are popping up, number one they, there's an implication there for our own communities. Number two, there's an implication there just to for finding these people cuz they are in communities. Yeah. But you and ie. You, you may never know it. Yeah.

John Jantsch (22:45): Speaking with Mark Schaffer on his wonderful new book, belonging to the Brand Mark, you want to tell people, I know the book's available anywhere, but uh, you wanna invite people to connect with you in any fashion as well as check out the work you're doing.

Mark Schaefer (22:55): Sure. Thanks so much John. You know, it's just always a joy to speak to you. And so you can find [email protected]. You'll never remember how to spell Schaffer. You might not even remember how to spell Jan .

John Jantsch (23:10): I guarantee you we've both got the that S C H in common. But other

Mark Schaefer (23:14): Than that, yeah, you can remember Grow. And if you can remember that you can find my book, my blog, my podcast, my social media connections. And I'd love to hear from you. And John, thank you so much, as always.

John Jantsch (23:25): Well, I appreciate you taking a moment to stop by the Duct Tape Marketing podcast and hopefully we'll run into you soon. Mark one of these days out there on the road. Hey, and one final thing before you go. You know how I talk about marketing strategy, strategy before tactics? Well, sometimes it can be hard to understand where you stand in that, what needs to be done with regard to creating a marketing strategy. So we created a free tool for you. It's called the Marketing Strategy Assessment. You can find it@ marketingassessment.co. Check out our free marketing assessment and learn where you are with your strategy today. That's just marketing assessment.co. I'd love to chat with you about the results that you get.

This episode of the Duct Tape Marketing Podcast is brought to you by the HubSpot Podcast Network.

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