Mark Schaefer Explains How to be Invited Into Your Audience’s Inner Circle

Just a few years ago, it wasn’t difficult to buy people’s attention. But it doesn’t work like that anymore. You have to be invited into your audience’s circle. 


So how can you do that?


Mark Schaefer came on today to talk about how he helps companies make it into their audience’s inner circle by becoming the most human company. He explains exactly what it means to become a more human company and actionable strategies you can implement.


How did you build your own brand?

Everything starts with content. It’s really the fuel of a personal brand. 


He began blogging in 2009 after leaving the corporate world and at the time was consulting and teaching. Eventually, he realized that every new business opportunity that came in was from the blog. This was a pretty significant realization and he became more disciplined in the process. 


Creating content not only makes you discoverable, but it also makes you more authoritative as well. He later went on to write books, which lead to speaking engagements and eventually that led to more higher-level consulting.


You say that the most human company wins. What does that mean?

People don’t see a lot of our traditional advertising like they used to. For example, instead of watching TV like we used to, we now just pay for Netflix and never see ads. Similarly, a lot of people listen to Spotify and never hear ads with their music. 


Therefore, interrupting people doesn’t work anymore.


In fact, 2/3rds of our marketing occurs without us. So how can we get invited into those 2/3rds? You can’t simply buy your way in like you used to be able to.


People want to be connected with in a human way and that is not robo calls, spamming inboxes or interrupting them.


Therefore, you have to ask; “How can we add our passion, faces, and smiles to the community.”


How do you teach your employees how to be better storytellers?

Truthfully, it isn’t easy. He has some friends on Instagram that can turn absolutely nothing into a great Instagram story. 


The first step is to teach your employees how to be aware of daily events happening around them that they can turn into stories. 


You also need to capture the idea right in that moment. Write it down, because you’re going to forget later.


Finally, if you’re really serious about building a human-centered brand, you need to block out time and be consistent. 


At the end of the week, pull out all the ideas that you wrote down and spend time crafting that content. Consistency is incredibly important- it’s more important than being a genius.


Your marketing isn’t about you. It’s about your customers. So how do you do customer research?

The first thing he does when he goes to work with a company is he asks this question: “Only we___”. 


If there are five different people in the room, and each one gives a different answer, they have no marketing strategy. So we start there.


What is different about our brand? Why do people love us? What is our story?


Even if the company brought him in to work on a marketing strategy, he asks them to stop and take a few weeks to do some customer research.


His research process is literally going into the customer’s place of work and asking them, “Why do you love this product?” “How do you use it?”, “How is it different from the competition?”


This is where you can really get to the meat of a company’s “why”.


A big mistake that companies make is that they confuse what they selling with what people are buying.


A big mistake that companies make is that they confuse what they selling with what people are buying.


For example, he was working with a very geeky telecom company. They had the latest technology and were really proud of being a cutting edge company. However, when he did some customer research, the customers said that they loved their service because their system never goes down. It’s reliable. They didn’t actually care what kind of technology they used, they just wanted it to work.


The company was selling: We’re the latest and greatest technology

The customers were buying: They are our security blanket and we can set it and forget it.


Therefore, he changed the marketing program to sell what customers were buying.


You actually go out to the customer and talk to them in their place of work. Does it make a big difference versus doing customer research online?

Yeah, that personal connection really does help. For example, with an online survey, you can‘t ask any kind of follow up questions. 


Sometimes people also aren’t honest on surveys and just do it to get it done. 


However, even if you did a phone call with a customer, you don’t get to experience the customer’s daily work life. What are they actually doing? How does your product fit into their daily life? What kind of pains do they have in their day to day routine that we could help solve? This also helps with upsells.


If it’s a product displayed in a store, you can ask customers why they picked the competitor’s product over yours or vice versa.


What are some of the best questions you ask to get information?

What is it about this company? Why do you love it?


Or if they don’t, Why do you like their competitors? 


Another super important question to ask is What do you do in your job that you hate?


For example, you might find that they really hate billing and if you could offer quarterly billing instead of monthly billing, you’d have an edge over your competitors.


Going back to the topic of social posts, what are some mistakes that you often see people making when creating their social media posts?

Usually, social media posts that perform poorly are too brand-centric and brag solely about how good the brand is rather than focusing on what the customer wants to hear.


To really connect with your customer your content needs two key elements:

  1. Human Presence

This can be a face, or person because it’s difficult to fall in love with a logo. There should be some sort of voice and face that people can fall in love with.

  1. Create Unique Value

This could be teaching them something or entertaining them. For example, there was recently a case study about Walmart. Now think about Walmart; there’s nothing sexy or luxurious about it. People just want to buy their toilet paper and shampoo and get out of there.


However, in this case study, they had a grumpy little old lady posing with various products. Soon enough, it really caught on and went viral. The reason being that it’s no longer just a picture of tires. Now you just want to see what this grumpy old lady is going to be doing next.


They actually had her on Good Morning America and people drove from all over the country just to see this little old lady. 


The reason why it won was because it had a human element and a unique value (entertainment).


The most human company wins. That’s what people want today.


I noticed that you’re also a marketing professor. In my experience, everything I learned in college was no longer relevant because marketing changes so quickly. How do you face that as a professor?

The reality is that most marketing programs are terrible.


The probem with most universities is that they hire professors that no longer practice. And unfortunately, if they aren’t practicing, they probably aren’t up to date on the current situations.


Connect on Twitter: @markwschaefer


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