In this episode of the #GoFarFast Show, we chatted with no-nonsense marketing expert Louis Grenier all about the most effective ways to get your business seen. He answered our burning questions with great advice, from explaining the marketing basics, to sharing his unusual insider tips!
In this episode of the #GoFarFast Show, we chatted with no-nonsense marketing expert Louis Grenier all about the most effective ways to get your business seen. He answered our burning questions with great advice, from explaining the marketing basics, to sharing his unusual insider tips!
Merlie: Hello folks and welcome to another episode of our #GoFarFast show. Our small business talk show that's designed to get you, our audience, the answers to the burning questions of today. Boy have we got a show for you today, haven't we Aaron? I'm excited about this one!
Aaron: I certainly am. The name of the show is the #GoFarFast show and that's exactly what we have for you today. We have the wonderful Louis! Louis is here to tell us all about his podcast, aptly named 'Everyone Hates Marketers', more on that in a minute. It boasts one million-plus downloads, with no ads, in less than four years – which is an absolutely amazing achievement.
Don't worry though, Merlie, we won't be missing an opportunity to ask the obvious question – why does everyone hate marketers? Louis has 10-years of experience in the field, including jobs at Dropbox, and is quoted as saying that 'radical differentiation is the antidote to marketing bs'. We're definitely going to ask him what that's all about!
We're in for a treat as Louis is honest enough to tell us the truth about what it's like to launch products and services that flop and, crucially, how to learn from mistakes and create stuff that stands out and makes you feel good. He should be the best person around to ask that age-old question 'what's the point in marketing and what makes a good marketer?'
Then my favourite part of the show, we're off to the legendary community questions. Merlie, can you tell us how this show works and what happens? Then we can get our guest onto the show!
Merlie: Absolutely! Guys, you know the formula by now. Aaron and I will ask some questions to begin with and then we'll turn the floor over to you. Thank you very much for sending in your questions for Louis. Like Aaron, I'm really keen to hear why everyone hates marketers!
Having been a big fan for a while now of Louis' amazing newsletters, I recommend signing up for Louis' seven-day feast of hot tips and insights on marketing. Please don't miss it – it's amazing and I love it. I have that 'Yes!' moment to pretty much every one of Louis' newsletters. Those of you who know me well know I don't do that to most of what lands in my inbox! So this is one not to miss and there are some amazing podcasts with some great insights too.
Don't forget to like, comment, and subscribe as we go through. If we haven't got the questions that you really wanted us to ask today, ship those across to us via any of the social media feeds in the usual way and we'll follow up on them.
Aaron, I think it's time to pull back the curtain...
Aaron: It certainly is! Louis welcome to the show, we're really grateful to have you here today. We're going to head straight into questions if you don't mind, and this question is quite apt. we'd love our viewers to get to know and hear about 'Everyone Hates Marketers'. I'm really intrigued about how that name came about. Will you share the story with us? Why does everybody hate marketers, in your view?
Louis: Bonjour! I need to to to fly my French flag a bit, just so that you have no doubt whatsoever that I'm very French – that's the accent you'll hear today.
Thanks so much for your time. The story behind 'Everyone Hates Marketers' didn't start four years ago when the podcast started. It's going to sound very cliche, but it started maybe a year or two after I was born. I was always trying to contradict my mother in particular and that turned into this kind of defence mechanism to get her attention. That turned into me trying to find flaws in people's thinking all the time in high school. I got called an intellectual terrorist once for that very reason. I'm not very proud of it, but that's just to show you the kind of personality I had. I always had this contrarian mindset, where I was always trying to find flaws in people's thinking; my teachers, my parents, my friends, everyone. I managed to channel that energy into something a bit useful, which is marketing.
As soon as I entered the industry, after reading a French book that was a translation of the great book by Cialdini, Persuasion; I noticed things that I wasn't super happy about within the marketing industry. There were a few things that really annoyed me, frankly. That's when I started to create this mindset around the marketing industry and the marketing mindset that was kind of wrong. It took me a while to get the confidence and the knowledge to actually put it out there. It wasn't just 'boom I have this brilliant idea let's do it'. It took years of shipping stuff, seeing what worked, seeing what people liked, what they didn't like, before having the idea of finally launching a podcast.
So, why does everyone hate marketers? Well, I think we all know! This is why I don't have to really explain it. Intuitively people understand why we tend to hate marketers. We tend to hate marketers because they like to take a product that is quite average and make it sound like it's best in class. We think they lie a bit to people and try to make them believe things that are not completely true. There is plenty of other stuff and you may have your own reason for why you hate them, but actually, I don't blame marketers. That's the main thing. I don't blame you if you're a marketer and you have to use sleazy tactics, because I know that you are very likely under pressure. You might be under pressure from your boss, from the industry, or the economy. You might be in a situation where you have to feed your kids, and frankly I can't blame you for that.
This is the trick about the title, it's very contrarian and it's there to make you notice it, but I'm not there to insult marketers. I'm here to help them so that they can reach, juggle, feed their families, and achieve their goals without being sleazy.
Merlie: I think that comes across so beautifully in the newsletters and the podcast as well, in fact in everything that you do, Louis. This isn't critical because there's so much wisdom in what you actually impart and it's different wisdom. It's very insightful and I definitely want us to be digging into that a bit more in today's episode.
I want to ask you a particular question right up front Louis, and that is what's the point of marketing? Because I think it's very misunderstood. It's a very generic term that's often misused too, and I know you advise businesses around the globe on marketing – why they should do it, how to get it right, who can we learn from? I think that's one of the biggest questions – who's getting it right? Who can we learn from and copy in some way? The rather brilliant owl on your website sums it all up wonderfully, but Louis, why should we be doing it and how do we get it right?
Louis: Whether or not you are intentionally doing it, you are doing it. Marketing is is the science of obsessing over a group of people until you understand them so well that you can provide them with the solution that they seek. It's about transformation. In the right sense of the term, it's about making people reach a goal and helping them reach their goal – whatever it is. It's a generous act, as Seth Godin would say. It's a generous thing and it annoys me when people take this discipline and turn it into something like advertising. Advertising is a smaller part of marketing, but marketing as a whole is really about understanding your audience so well so that you understand their wants and their needs better than they understand themselves.
Engineer a solution that is different from the rest and that helps them to reach their goal or their objective in a better way. Show up, frankly for years and years and years, to make sure that you attract more people who like your stuff. Get feedback and do it all over again.
Marketing starts with your markets, that's where the world comes from. I know it sounds very obvious, but that's one of my biggest pet peeves. Marketing is about them, not about you. It's about your market and never about you. Once you understand that things get easier – it's never about you. Don't get angry if people don't listen to you, it's because there is something wrong with the way you communicate and it means that they don't care. No one cares about you and that's the beauty of marketing. It could feel a bit crazy to think 'no one cares about me', but it's a good thing. If no one cares it means you can try stuff. You can take some risk and you can have fun. Once I understood that things became much better on my side. So that's one of my biggest pet peeves. That's what marketing is, it's about obsessing over your market.
Merlie: I love what you just said there about it being about them not you. How do we take that art of communication further then, to make sure that we're doing it right, Louis?
Louis: You have a few ways. The first tool that you can use is your brain and your intuition. A lot of brilliant marketers, for example, Seth Godin, who wrote Purple Cow amongst other books. He's an intuitive guy and all of his books talk to you about how to use your intuition and how to use your brain. He never really talks about market research or interviewing customers
So that's the one way, some people are very good at intuition. To develop your intuition you need to love your craft. You need to practice every day. You need to be curious, and I'm afraid I can't teach you that, you have to just try your luck. Make a guess, ship something, see if it works, get feedback, do it all over again. That's the first tool
The second tool I mentioned is market research. I'm not talking about focus groups or anything like that, these could be very biased. I'm talking about trying to talk to customers who recently purchased your products. That's my first actionable takeaway. If you're listening to this right now, you can do it today; reach out to folks who bought your product or a competitor's product in the last three months so that they have some recollection of it and ask them about the journey. Ask them to think about the very first time they ever thought about a product like this or buying something like that. What came to mind? What happened? Ask what other solutions they looked up. Ask those questions so you can paint a picture of the reality of their situation, then you don't have to guess. Once you interview enough people you will start seeing patterns. Our brain is a beautiful tool for that. We are very good at pattern recognition and making up patterns. You will start hearing the same thing over and over again from people who don't know each other and that's when you know that you're going to have something interesting. You'll get so much more data than from looking at your Google Analytics dashboard. We are humans and that's what happens; you get to know who they are, you get to sense how they communicate, you get to understand their body language and their non-verbal cues, you get to understand the words they use and don't use. Everything gets easier once you don't have to guess stuff. Don't interview or try to talk to folks who never bought a product that you're selling. Don't try to talk to tyre-kickers because they might give you very bad data.
Another way to do it is just to ship stuff – see what sticks and what doesn't. Honestly, even after years of experience, even after interviewing people and using my experience and my intuition, there is a lot of stuff that fails. That's normal and you need to be humble enough to say the data I'm getting is not a reflection of my ability. It's just the way the market works and how marketing work – everything is a grand experiment.
I would say those the three main tools; intuition, interviewing recent customers or customers of competitors, and shipping stuff and seeing what sticks.
Aaron: I love the raw honesty there and I love the fact that we're looking at it in terms of how it really is for businesses. I'm sure Merlie's felt the same. We've sat there in meetings and we've watched these Google Analytic boards and we've been told this number means this and this number means that. You definitely can learn a lot from it, but it's what you said there about actually speaking to a customer. You're going to learn so much more about understanding the human and how that human interaction is going to be. I really appreciate that piece of advice.
Thinking of advice and what you've just said about how complicated the whole world of marketing is and the ability to understand and know your craft; I know you've touched on this, but can we just deep dive a little bit into whether there a need for a marketing qualification to do it well?
As a small business, we've tried to muddle through ourselves and we tried to do our own marketing. We tried to have a go and obviously, it didn't work out as well as intended. What advice do you have for people like ourselves who are just muddling through and trying our best? Is there anything we can do better or worse? What would you say to that?
Louis: That's a very good question because I know this is something that people ask themselves a lot.
Whether you're at the start of your career and you want to find your first job in marketing, or whether you're a small business owner and you want to get better at it, I think the strategy depends on the context. Overall, what I see happening and what is probably the best strategy, is to start by putting yourself out there in some shape or form. Start a project, a blog, a newsletter, a podcast, a YouTube channel, whatever... There's nothing better than the reality of it. If you have a small business, try starting ads yourself or trying stuff yourself. Seeing what happens and the methods you need to use is the best way to start. It might feel a bit messy but that's how it should be. People are messy and people can't understand why they really bought something. They can explain a few things to you, but you need to use your intuition to add to this. It's the same way for your marketing, you need to get started.
Let's say you like Facebook ads and that's something that you really like doing, by all means, specialise in that and take a course. But, try to find courses that are being taught by practitioners – not in colleges necessarily because they're quite out of date – but by folks who know their stuff in that field.
Overall, what you're going to need above all else – and that's for everyone whether you're a small business owner or private practitioner – is the foundations. You need to understand the foundations. By foundations, I mean market research, positioning, competitive analysis and strategy. Strategy meaning what to do and, even more importantly what not to do. That should be your question; what should we not do? Where should we not be? Who should we not target?
Once you have the key foundations that will never change and the psychological principles that will never change, you have a solid base. Basically, you can do anything after that. You can move away from Facebook ads and do PPC, or move away from social media altogether and focus on strategy only. You could specialise in one industry only.
That would be overall my advice to get started. If you don't have a job or if you're looking for experience, contact small businesses and offer to do their ads for free for three months. See if you can actually generate some money for them. Try to do something. The beauty of the marketing field it's that it's practical, you need to ship stuff and see how people react and that's the beauty of it. That would be my advice.
I'm not saying 'no' to college certifications and diplomas, or bachelor degree and master degrees, because some of them do touch on the fundamentals. But overall, the quality of the marketing curriculum in traditional universities is not as good as what I've seen from independent bodies like Marketing Week and Mark Ritzen with the mini MBA, or even Seth Godin and some of the stuff he does with the Alt MBA. They're more up to date and they're taught by experts who do stuff every day in the real world.
Merlie: I think that's such a liberating answer, it is about getting out there and, as you say, feeling it, doing it, watching it, monitoring it, and obviously not ignoring it – which is what some of us might have done! We tick that box and it's done, we've done the marketing bit now, but that's a great answer.
Louis, I want to talk to you about the workshop that you run. You have this rather wonderful Stand The F*ck Out (STFO) workshop and I know the next cohort kicks off in September. I have a little bit of an insight obviously into what's involved. You've mentioned these alternative training solutions or experiential solutions that we could be thinking about if we want to improve our marketing, or if we want to get up to speed with what it really means. Can you tell us a little bit about what the workshop does? What can we expect? Can anyone apply and, if so, how do we apply Louis?
Louis: I appreciate you asking that question, thank you. It's killing me frankly that I can't curse and I'm going to really try to take it easy on this!
The programme, that I'm not going to name because I'd have to curse, is something that I designed through years and years of thinking about the craft and thinking about the core question, which is 'how do you fight marketing bs?'. How do you actually give folks a method and some sort of a curriculum? Something they can follow that will be valid today, in 10 years, and 50 years to actually stand out and become number one in the market, whatever the category? Once they're big, they can employ some big boys tactics and strategies, but most of the time what I see from consultants, small business owners or bigger businesses who want to become number and grow their market share, is that problem of differentiation. How do you stand out? That's the question.
How do you fight marketing bs? By radically standing out. By becoming the only solution for a specific group of people in a specific category. By category I mean if you are selling accounting software then the category will be accounting software. If it's even more specialised, for example, if it's sophisticated academic software for a specific industry, that would be your category.
By becoming the 'only' you remove direct competitors from the equation and you really focus on the problem. You stop copying everyone else. So that's radical differentiation in a nutshell and, to me, that is the answer to fight marketing bs. Honestly, that's what I've found to be the true answer. Once you nail that part everything becomes much easier. You have solid positioning, and a solid story to tell a group of customers that you can obsess about for years and that you can defend as well. Then you just share that. You make sure that people understand you, notice you, trust you and things get easier – it's a cycle. That's what I teach through this eight-week, high-intensity programme. It's high-intensity because it takes time, so it's not for everyone. You need to put a minimum of six to eight hours a week on this and the assignments that you are given every week are real work.
We have small business owners, consultants, VPs, very experienced folks to be honest, which is awesome to see. We go through four phases. The first one is 'challenging your mindset' because standing out and challenging the marketing bs is really part of the mindset; removing some self-limiting belief that might prevent you from taking action. Two is obsessing over your minimum viable market, so all the stuff I told you about the market research and whatnot. Three would be engineering your radical differentiation. This is really about looking at the many insights that you've collected from different sources and truly engineering your product that you have thought about, or taking something that you're selling and cutting the fluff, adding some stuff, removing some stuff – engineering it so it becomes truly the only one in the category. Finally is what I call 'the jolt'. This is making people notice you, trust you, and buy from you by being generous and by sharing what I call a gift. This is not like a lead magnet or a PDF on the website, it's much bigger than that. Anything can be a gift as long as it's generous.
That's what we go through, so it's very high-intensity – it suits my personality very well and I like it. We are in the middle of cohort number two right now – we are recording that in mid-March – and the next one is in September.
Merlie: Perfect Louis. Folks you heard it here, if you go to Everyone Hates Marketers you can find more details including how to sign up. I think it's a phenomenal course and it's covering some of the answers that we need to be focusing on and asking ourselves. Thank you, Louis.
Aaron, I know you and I have loads of questions that we would love to interrogate Louis on further, but I think it's time to turn to our community questions. Do you want to kick us off?
Aaron: Certainly, let's get on to those questions from the community. I think it's really all about what Louis just said there, about the fact that we've all been sold these marketing courses before, but the course that was just described was absolutely brilliant. It's not a prescribed formula. You're not just being given some formula and you're going to become a marketer. It's about actually understanding your market and understanding what's going on. I think that's where the community is struggling and this question that we've got here emphasises that: I keep being told I need a brand story or a personal story to help me stand out and persuade people about my business. I'm totally stuck. Is there any way you can help? Is it essential to have these kinds of stories or not?
Louis: I love that question because that boils my blood to a degree you wouldn't believe! This is mostly bs. The reason it's bs is that you can't radically stand out or be noticed with just a message or a different story. If you have an average product that you sell to everyone, you don't know why you're better – you're just average things for average people. You have the same features as everyone else and you have no chance to stand out. You can put lipstick on the pig if you want to and you can craft a beautiful story on top of an average product, but it's not going to work.
In today's world, clutter is everywhere. Everyone with a brand and a laptop can start a business, become an agency, or become a freelancer. This is not going to cut it anymore and that's as plain as I can make it.
To really stand out, the formula is to become the only solution in a specific category for a specific group of people. Once you know that, the story you tell is 'simple', but not easy. It's simple to understand, you need to truly tell them 'Hey, this is the problem you're facing, I know how you feel, we are here to help you, we are the guide, this is my call to action to you, this is what you should do'. Hopefully, this will prevent you from failing and you'll succeed. Any storytelling framework you see online is rooted in the same psychology principle. People remember stories and people understand stories better. It's because our brain can't tell the difference between something that happens through a story or something that happens to us in real life. That's why storytelling is this big buzzword. Ultimately, once you have a good product to sell to a group of people you understand in a specific category, the story writes itself. There is a good book called 'Building A StoryBrand' by Donald Miller – read it, it's a good framework – but frankly, the story itself is never going to cut it.
Merlie: That's a great answer. I think a lot of us are afraid of narrowing things down as well, Louis. We're all taught 'think big', 'think scale', 'think of the fact that you're going to serve millions of people'. I think part of the difficulty with a lot of the storytelling is that it gets narrowed down and we don't want to narrow it down, we don't want to niche or radically stand out if that means we sell to five people versus five million.
There's the point I think you made earlier about not blaming marketers because it's the pressure of everything else around them that suddenly makes the story distorted, right?
Louis: There are a few things here to unpack. Firstly, marketers should have a seat at the table when it comes to business decisions. Radical differentiation is a business strategy disguised as a marketing method disguised as a positioning method. Ultimately marketers must influence the four traditional Ps of marketing; product, price, place, promotion.
Product is something that we must be able to influence as marketers and as business owners. If you're being given a product that you can't do anything about, and by a product, I mean the box or service you're selling, it's going to be very difficult to do your job.
The second thing you mentioned is one of the biggest self-limiting beliefs that I see out there, which is that if we go too narrow we're going to miss out on opportunities. Clients are going to reach out to us and it's not for them, so we'll miss out on money. Now, let me ask you a simple question – when you have huge tooth pain are you going to see your GP or your dentist? When you have heart problems are you going to let your GP operate on you or will you see a heart surgeon? It's the same thing for whatever you offer. You must specialise because people see and understand specialisation as expertise. The question to ask yourself is not 'what are we missing out on by narrowing down', it's 'what are we missing out on if we don't focus on a specific group or a specific solution?'. You're going to miss out on more money because expertise sells. You're going to miss out on deeply understanding that group of people better than anyone else so you can become the number one. Once you have nailed that group of people and sold to enough to become number one in that small category for that group of people, by all means expand. Use the money to expand to another market and another market and another market. If you try to do everything at once you're going to fail at everything. It's going to be incredibly difficult.
One last thing... You might think big brands sell to everyone and they have an average product that all looks the same and yet they are successful. Why not us too? They are successful because they are big and they are leveraging a force that is called the Double Jeopardy Law which was coined by Byron Sharp. There has been scientific research and studies conducted over many years and industries that indicates the higher your market share, the more likely people are going to stick around and the more they recommend you. Whereas the smaller the market share, the more likely people are to switch to other brands and the less loyal they're going to be. So, the bigger you are, the more you're going to get a big force pushing you forward. Radical differentiation and everything we've been talking about is relevant for the 99.9% of companies out there who are not number one in their category and who need to grow market share. Once you have this scale, different forces apply and it's a different game, but most people will never get to play that game.
Merlie: Well we need to listen to what you say then, so we get closer to being radically differentiated and grabbing that market share. Time for another community question Louis, if we may?
This one's about marketing plans: I have no idea how to go about creating a marketing plan and Google is just sending me down rabbit holes to places where people seem to assume that I know so much more than I do. I just want something simple, what's your advice?
Louis: There's a great book written by Allan Dib called The 1-Page Marketing Plan. I'm a big fan of one-pagers! If you're not able to summarise anything on one page, you haven't simplified it enough and people are not going to remember it. It's a great book and it follows a very simple funnel. It's in three parts. The first part is about your audience; who they are and the psychographic, why they buy and the channels where they hang out. The last two parts are basically the six steps of a traditional funnel from attracting, to nurturing, to converting, to closing and after that.
I've used that strategy, that plan and that framework for many scenarios in big companies and small companies. Every time you can summarise things. Even if you're a big company, if you're not able to summarise things in this way then it means you don't really understand what you're doing. It means you're focusing on too many things at once.
Aaron: I think that's right. I think we went down that same rabbit hole! We got external help and were given this massive 60-slide Powerpoint presentation on how we can improve our products and market to x, y, z. If we can't put that down onto one piece of paper and understand it ourselves, how will our team and our wider audience understand what we're trying to sell? I think that's really important advice. That's definitely something that we learned and we would definitely recommend.
We've got more community questions here. This one is related to current circumstances and everything that's going on. We've got a community member here saying that they're really struggling to work out who to sell to: I had some early success with customers who seemed to like my product, now COVID has changed how they buy and they're not so interested. I've never done personas but I've been hearing that they can help. Where can I go to learn about personas and how I can create them?
Can you give some insight into what they should be doing? I know from our community that a lot of people are going through this at the moment, so any advice will be really useful for them.
Louis: Firstly, I feel for you and I know it's not easy to have to change things around because of a pandemic. It's not easy and you're doing a very tough job.
The important thing about understanding your market is is that you need to understand why they buy from you. Where do they hang out? How did they make this decision? What other alternatives did they look into before looking at you? Why did they buy it from you and not someone else?
Those are a set of questions that you can ask yourself and that you can ask recent customers. You can also ask customers who bought from direct competitors. Once you have that you need to really do the job of layering it down and asking yourself are there any differences in the market that could put you at an advantage? This is an important question. Is there any group of people who are part of a bigger group that you have thought of targeting? Could they put you at an advantage because you could become the best and the only solution for them? Those are hard questions to ask because have to trim things down, that's how it starts. So again, market research. Just ask those questions, send surveys with similar questions, use your intuition, look at what direct competitors and alternatives are doing.
I have a few episodes on that topic on the Everyone Hates Marketers podcast. Search for 'persona' on Everyone Hates Marketers and you'll find a lot. You'll discover that buyer personas are usually bs. I'm doing very well, I haven't cursed, I'm so proud! It's mostly bs because they focus on demographics, thermographics, and geographics – everything but the reason why people buy from you. Granted, if you're selling accounting software for a specific industry already, you know the industry and where it's at, but it doesn't tell you why people buy. It doesn't tell you where they are when they are experiencing the triggers to buy. It's doesn't tell you when, with whom, and answer all of those questions. Once you understand that things become much easier and then you can make the plan.
This isn't a 100% perfect method. You have to try things and see what sticks, but usually the issues of 'I don't really know who to target' and 'it feels like I'm not really good for anyone' stems from the fear of narrowing things down. Once you narrow things down and understand that you can dominate that small market and then move on, things become much easier.
Merlie: I think that's such a powerful answer Louis, thank you. I think we've got time for one more community question and then we'll probably need to wrap up. Guys you've sent us so many questions for Louis! We'll try and scoop up some of the other ones afterwards. Louis, this is the last one I promise: I have an idea for a business, but it's not that new. However, I think I can do it better than it's been done already. Is that enough of a USP (unique selling proposition)? What sort of marketing should I do to ensure I stand out like your site says I should, where there's already a bit of competition?
Louis: That's a good sign. Differentiation is not trying to create a new category. There's so much buzz around, but it's a very rare occurrence where a company has enough of an innovative solution that they claim that a new word is needed to describe what they do.
Most of the time it never really works, because changing people's minds, behaviours and making them learn a new world is just incredibly difficult. The fact that you have direct competitors already is a good sign. It means you have a category that already exists with direct competitors who are making money out of that category which is perfect. The game is to play inside that category and this is probably what I love to do the most. It's about identifying everything that this category tends to do and I'm just going to give you an example. This example is not a business per se, it's the marketing podcast category, just to show you how it works.
What I did was to list down everything that is currently expected of a marketing podcast and everything that is being done. I'm talking about behaviour, not features, which is a very important thing. I'm not just talking about the feature they offer, I'm talking about the behaviour which is bigger than this. For example, on a marketing podcast, the host will ask a lot of questions about the guest at the start – basically you are being offered a subject but you have to wait 30 minutes to get to it. There's a lot of ads in between and they always ask you to leave reviews. They don't allow you to curse, I'm only joking on this one! Everyone does their own thing and everyone has their own differentiation. By listing down what your category traditionally does; the feature they offer, the behaviour, the experience, all of those angles, you'll start seeing opportunities.
The key question to ask yourself is 'what can you remove?'. What can you stop doing that they're currently doing, to achieve congruence between the specific group of people you've identified and the solution you offer. Congruence is a funny word, it's a feeling and it comes with taste and experience. It's not that easy to describe and to say 'hey you have it, and you don't'. It's really this feeling that you can't remove anything else and that you have the perfect solution for this specific problem. By removing as much as possible you're going to shed light on the positives. That's what happens. When you remove stuff people are not going to notice this as much as they're going to notice what you actually do. And they will assume that you do it better! This is a good sign, play inside that category. Also, try to look at alternatives and companies you admire that are absolutely not in that category. Try to see their behaviour as well. What do they tend to do differently, that you could also mimic and that becomes part of your DNA?
Again, you have to challenge some norms and have fun with this. Ship it to a group of people to see if they like it, and then improve it. This is why I go back to the very small example of the marketing podcast category and this is why I can claim that Everyone Hates Marketers is the only marketing podcast out there for people sick of marketing bs. I can claim that as my spot and no one else can claim it. Or rather, they can claim it if they want to, but I was first and that's what matters. Then I can grow into doing other projects, I can grow into developing a programme or I can grow into helping businesses to radically stand out. However, I'm only able to do that because I started small within a category. I challenged a few norms, took some risk and had fun in the process, and then it took four years as well.
Aaron: The question coming through is: I had no idea that marketing was so much about money and data, it's a bit beyond me. I'm selling okay, but I need to expand my customer base. I think I need to do some marketing, but I don't have a head for figures and I find the data really confusing. I'm not sure how I can do something that won't be a waste of time and money. Can you give me some simple suggestions?
Louis: I love that. It's not just about data, science and numbers because humans are very interesting creations. We come from 4 billion years of evolution and our brain has been crafted to sustain a lot of stuff. Frankly, we don't even understand ourselves that well and science hasn't come that far when it comes to understanding why people make decisions.
Creativity is very important. By creativity I mostly mean connectivity. It’s as Brian Schwartz, the famous copywriter, says “creativity is really about connectivity, connecting two things that shouldn't really be put together”. Just connect the things that you learn from books and your experience and put them together.
My best advice if you're not into numbers and data, if you're someone who creates instead, that is all good. You just need to double down on your unique abilities and strengths. Work on what you're good at and what gives you energy and then outsource the rest. If you know that your customers hang out a lot on Facebook, but you don't really want to Facebook ads yourself, then hire someone who can do this for you. Double down on what makes you good. If you have a good sense of what makes people tick, or creativity, or crazy ideas –then double down on that and see if it stick. There is no formula. The world is so complex and there are so many different contexts at play; whether it's the time of the day, the weather, the mood that they’re in, the channel you use, or the message. There are so many variables and there is no bulletproof way. The best way is to ship what you have in mind, follow your gut, go for it, see what works and then do it again. Outsource the things you're not good at. Marketing is not all about data and science, if that was the case every company would absolutely nail it and grow their market share. Yet creativity, creative brands, and differentiated brands are proven by many studies to generate more revenue. People are willing to pay a premium for them, so creativity and standing out in some way is absolutely critical.
Merlie: Brilliant answer, and very liberating. I don't have a head for figures. I find the figure work and statistics critically important and I obsess about understanding them, but I also find them really draining of creativity. I really like that answer.
The next question is: If you're starting out, should you work with a marketing agency and how much should it cost? I've got a bit of an investment, and my investors are telling me I have to get some marketing support, but I'm being quoted mad amounts of money. I've got no idea if I'm being spun a line. Also, I don't think the agencies I'm talking to are really listening to me.
Louis: Follow your gut. From the question it sounds as though you don't feel it, so don't go for any of the agencies you’ve talked to. You are already doing marketing whether you like it or not, so your investors are not telling you to invest in marketing, they're probably telling you to invest in advertising. The marketing that you must do as a founder is to absolutely obsess about your customers. That's your unique advantage and your number one job. Do what I mentioned a few minutes ago, and check out the episodes of my podcast where I talk about the questions to ask in-depth. Do talk to your customers, obsess over who they are, why they bought from you, what they like most about you, and double down on that. Excellence always implies a trade-off – meaning you need to focus on a few things and do them really well – then you can scale. Focus on your customers. Once you have a deep understanding of your customers; where they hang out, where they don't hang out, what they say, and the words they use, put that all on a one-page strategy document as we described before.
Once you have that, and only then, decide what channel you want to test out. Think about whether you should do SEO, or if you should do some paid ads on Google because a lot of people search for services there. Are your customers all on Facebook and Instagram? Or do they hang out in communities and are quite fearful of Facebook? I don't know, but once you have those answers, you will know which channel to focus on. Double down on it, see if it works, and then move on to the next one.
Marketing agencies are going to claim that they understand your market better than you do, and they're going to make you do things that might not be the best choice for you. You need to do your due diligence yourself and that can't be outsourced.
Aaron: Amazing. If we ever get a time machine is there any chance that you could go back to the beginning of Boffix and relay this?
Merlie: Farillio too! I wish I'd known about you then.
Aaron: A nice simple one now: what's the difference between marketing and PR, and which one is most valuable?
Louis: PR is part of marketing, but marketing is a huge field. Marketing is not just advertising. Marketing is about understanding people, knowing where they hang out, engineering a product that fits them, making sure that you're being noticed and being trusted, and making sure that the experience is good from start to finish – even after the purchase. Marketing is a massive field and PR is a tiny aspect of this. The question doesn't make a lot of sense when you put it in this perspective, so it depends. PR is a very profitable channel for some companies whereas for others it doesn't matter whatsoever. You have roughly 19 channels to try and that's from a book called Traction. It's mostly written for startups but it's quite interesting for the fact that it gives you a list of channels, you can't really come up with more. I would challenge you to read it. My only caveat with this book is that it's quite generic. For example, it would say that content marketing is a channel, but inside content marketing, you can do a YouTube show, a podcast, a blog. So you will still need to dig one layer deeper I would say. Again those answers would come from your understanding of how customers have heard of you. If all of your recent customers, that are very profitable for you and that you love to work with, say they found out about you from a newspaper article then you know what to do. If that doesn't seem to be the case then there's another channel for you.
Merlie: That's such a good answer and that crops up an awful lot. This is the last question in the community questions and then if we get a chance, Louis, let's come onto personas. The question is: what really makes a business stand out? Do you have to spend loads before you can stand out?
Louis: You don't have to spend loads, but you have to take risks and you need to feel like you're taking risks. Although the only risky thing, out there where there is so much clutter, is to not take any risks. The risky thing is to stay in obscurity, do what everyone else is doing, and follow what every direct competitor is doing. That's the actual risk. You need to feel butterflies in your stomach when you see that marketing campaign and you need to take risks. What makes a business stand out is the intersection of being the only solution for a specific market in a specific category that does that specific thing. Meaning that you offer a specific value. I hate that word value, so let me just describe it. I mean you help them reach a goal better or solve a pain, that's basically what it is. That's when standing out really happens. It needs to be congruent, meaning you can't leave everything out there just because it's already there. You need to ensure that every part of the experience is carefully crafted so that it feels like it's congruent. I'll give you a quick example, Daft Punk, the biggest electronic band in the world. They are French obviously! They retired recently and they are an example of congruence when it comes to their own behaviour, their personality, and what they believe. They released only four albums, they wore helmets almost from the very start, they wore masks. They knew they were fighting the monster that was the star system and they did not want to fall into the trap of being told to create specific music for a specific label. They did so many things from the outset. They were so young and did it so well, and they were able to become the biggest electronic band in the world by removing everything and focusing on tiny little things. When they were recording their last album, they used three microphones. They recorded the voice of a famous guitarist and they used three microphones for this. One used today's microphone technology, one microphone was from 30 years ago, and the other one was from 60 years ago. When they were recording parts of his story from 60 years ago they used the 60-year-old microphone. The kicker is that no one else notices, but they do. This is the small stuff that makes a difference. You need to craft the experience like they do. Double down on what works and follow that energy that guides you while you’re doing that. You don't need a lot of money for it, but you do need to take some risks and feel like you're taking some.
Merlie: The other thing you mentioned in all of that, Louis, is the fact that they did things with purpose and meaning. It meant an awful lot to them to have three microphones and to have that detail. There was real passion in that and there was real purpose. I think a lot of people do things that are quite meaningless to them. Going back to questions like ‘should I use a marketing agency or not’ – the minute you start outsourcing things that are at the heart of who you are and what you do, there's a sense of remoteness that creeps in. With Daft Punk, I love that level of detail and that level of thought that drove what they did, even though as consumers we probably just thought ‘this sounds great’ and we really liked it – even though we hadn't appreciated the subtleties.
Louis: That's what it takes. That’s what I mean by behaviour, it’s what you're doing and not doing. When they launched their first show, they designed and built a pyramid in secrecy. They did it themselves. They hired suppliers but made sure they were sworn to secrecy – not even the producer knew. The first time that everyone saw this was when it went live in front of 50,000 people. They were also the first ones to pioneer LED in the backgrounds. They had millions of LEDs in the background and it was one of the first times this was done at that scale. They had to use many different suppliers because LEDs were not a big deal back then. They were able to do that by focusing on very few things, but doing them better than anyone else. Bands have asked themselves for years how can they sound like them. They can't, because Daft Punk paid someone to create an entire bespoke mixing console that’s unique to them. By focusing on a few things they were able to become the best in the world. It's the same for everyone. When we do marketing, even as a small business owner, if you pay that much attention to the small things that add up to congruence, then you have a big shot. Your direct competitors are not going to do this. 99% of them will be too scared and will have self-limiting beliefs, they will just follow each other like a flock of birds. This is your chance and you don't need a lot of money to do it.
Merlie: I really love that answer, thank you. Louis, have you got time for one more?
Merlie: I'll shorten the question because it's going into the ‘Dear Farillio’ expert section: Louis, why is everyone obsessed with personas and do they ever work?
Louis: It's because HubSpot tells you that you need to create personas.
Merlie: It does!
Louis: Marketing 101, when you start reading things online and you stumble upon the HubSpot blog posts, it's easy to look at the surface level advice created by people who frankly have never had stakes in a business. They've never felt like they need to generate revenue next month or else they'll go bankrupt. Once you put that into perspective you start to think of personas as an exercise that you do in a boardroom. You decide that this is Katie, she's aged between 20 and 35, she works in HR and she has two dogs. This has nothing to do with why she bought that car, but you write it down because that's what you're being told. The real way to think about buyer personas is as semi-fictional characters that you build from customer interviews. Demographics, thermographics and geographics are the sprinkles that you put on top of the cupcake. The cupcake itself is why they bought from you. You want to understand their motivation, the objections they had, the alternative solutions they looked into before. You want to understand that journey. Once you understand that journey you can say, okay those people really want to do that thing or solve that problem. Who do they tend to be? Do they have a role in common? Is there an industry in common? Do they tend to be older or younger?
Adele Revella, who is the CEO of the Buyer Persona Institute and who I interviewed for the podcast a few years ago, told a very cool story. She was doing a job for a software company in the US and they wanted to know if there was a group of people they could obsess about so that they had an advantage over the competition, so they conducted interviews. They found out that they were using two types of personas, the small business owner, and the accounting/ tax person in bigger companies. That's how they were classifying them, so they were going to run small business campaigns and bigger business campaigns. Obviously, it didn't really work, otherwise they wouldn't have hired Adele. They found one key difference and one key psychographic that made people care way more about their solution than anybody else’s. It was that the people who really loved their services was scared of going to gaol if they did not file their taxes on time. That was the insight and you can see how you could build campaigns around that. They knew that the people who cared the most about them were the people who afraid to go to gaol if they didn't file the taxes –people who didn't have a team around them and you had to do it themselves. So boom, you have it! This is a group of people that you can obsess over and who have an actual reason to buy. They have strong motivations, a pain, something that must be done now. Imagine all the campaigns you can run and the fun you can have with just this small insight.
Merlie: Brilliant. Thank you so much, Louis.
Aaron: Louis, thank you so much. This has been brilliant and we've learned so much. I love the way that you're explaining things to people. From day one it's about getting rid of the bs. You're giving us a great learning point and a good story to go with it that illustrates exactly what you're trying to say. I think that's really important and I think that's what we're going to definitely take away from this. It's not only everything that you've been telling us and all those wonderful little niblets that will help us in our business and make us understand why everyone hates marketers – which is the whole point of this! We're going to have so many stories that we can relay and use to go forward and help other business as well, so thank you very much.
Louis: You're so welcome
Merlie: Thank you. And thank you, Louis, for making Aaron invent the term 'niblets'. I love it.
That's all for today's episode folks. Louis, a massive thank you for all of that advice and wisdom. Guys, we will store up the extra questions that we haven't got to and we'll see if we can interrogate Louis on those. Check out the blog site and the 'Dear Farillio' expert site as well. You'll find the show and Louis' questions and answers there for your knowledge and illumination very shortly.
In the meantime, don't forget to like, comment, and subscribe. We are listening. If there are other topics you want us to cover with brilliant guests like Louis, let us know. We're on it already. It's just left for me to say to everybody thanks again. Louis, Aaron, always a pleasure
Have a great week folks and #GoFarFast