CMC Interview Series: David Meerman Scott
[00:00:08] Welcome here David David. How are you.
[00:00:10] I’m great. I’m so thrilled to have been on the stage just a couple of minutes ago here at content marketing.
[00:00:16] It was great to have you here. It’s funny to hear you it just seems like seconds ago the crowd just it was like cheering and here we are and you really people enjoyed your present thank you.
[00:00:26] Yeah it’s great fun. I you have such a great conference. Always pleasure to be here.
[00:00:30] Indeed. And our conference this year was just completely spot on. You tuned us in with how content marketing is going to evolve. Which is our theme this right. Tell us in your mind if you were to summarize evolution of content marketing and where you see it going which you reveal to us. Tell us your quick thought on that. Yeah.
[00:00:47] So evolution I mean content marketing is a hundred years ago the Michelin Guide content marketing for Michele entire. And then so I started writing about content marketing back in 2004. And then the evolution became real time content marketing and things like news jacking and I think now that the pendulum has swung too far in the direction of superficial online communication with people like on Facebook is just like bang bang bang bang bang and email spam and fake news and we’re just bombarded with superficial information from all quarters. I think what we’re evolving to is genuine human connection and people will want to hear from a small number of organizations who actually communicate with them in a human way.
[00:01:46] You reveal that you we may be onto something very big here in the sense of what you call fan accuracy which we can release now because this is going to be a would delay getting out and thank you for that honor and do that. But what is it about fan accuracy and what is that concept that makes you think that this is the next thing we need to be pondering as we think about content marketing and lots of things for us so for many decades companies have been in charge companies have said Here’s my content we’re the best.
[00:02:16] Here is my sales materials. You have to come to me to learn about our car. All of this kind of things. And as we know content marketing has been the idea of providing the kind of valuable information that people want. That’s great. But I believe a fan accuracy is when fans are in charge you’re not in charge of your your company you’re not in charge of your business. This conference is great. But guess what you’re not in charge of it. Your fans the audience the people who are who are watching on this video right now they are in control of what they say of what they tweet about of what they who they share it with or don’t share it with. So the idea of a fan accuracy is when there’s a true partnership between an organization and its customers. And then those customers actually become fans. So I see a fan accuracy is how you can you turn your customers into fans and your fans into customers interest is two different things.
[00:03:19] Tell me about this this this challenge of building your fandom or whatever you want to call it right. It’s hard to do that. You know it’s difficult to earn trust with people. No one wants to be sold to. Right. We have to be careful with pushing our brands more than we’re pushing our desire to collaborate with people. Tell us about that tension will we start building our fan base differently if the world is perfect according to your new book.
[00:03:48] I think there’s some small things that we can change especially as content marketers that will help to make it more likely that you develop fans. Here’s a small one. Content marketers for decades have been putting email subscription forms on the front of valuable content. Right. Because we have a white paper an e-book whatever it is. Oh. We set up an adversarial relationship. Before we even have before we even know somebody by saying you must fill out our form before you give us before we give you something. I believe that removing that requirement and making that content completely and utterly free with no registration required is much more likely to build fans. No you’re not going to develop an email list but you will develop fans which ultimately is a more important asset. That’s just one example. I’ll give you another example.
[00:04:41] So Neuroscience tells us that the closer we are to another human being if we trust them and know them the more powerful the shared emotion is. And therefore. we can actually have personal relations. Ships with our customers which was what you’re doing right here right now by bringing a thousand people together at a conference like this. We are having human relationships face to face actual human relationships. But it turns out that through something called mirror neurons if you see somebody on a screen in the form of a video. and they’re also as if they’re close to us our brain fires as if we are in the same room in proximity in proximity with them. So that means that we do videos in a slightly different way. We do videos in almost the same way that we become. We feel as if we know a movie star or television star because we feel like they’re talking to us. That’s what you do with your videos.
[00:05:49] You talked a little bit about personalization and I want to get to that. What are the challenges that you’re going to face with personalization as you know you either need big data to assemble data so you can personalize at scale or you need to actually have personal relationships with people which is obviously much better difficult to do that when you have say thousands of customers. Personalization becomes probably that critical element of fan. You have a one to one relationship or at least the customer and or partner and or whoever it is feels that way. How can you do that. How can a small company with a few people have personal relationships with a large base. So I think that people recognize is that they’re not going to have a personal relationship with you if you have a certain type of practice or if you sell software for example but if they feel as if you know them.
[00:06:40] And you write in a human way and you don’t say we’re a best of breed cutting edge mission critical company that builds cutting edge technology you don’t do that. Yeah you say something as if we’re talking right now. You use human language. Just one example you always tell the truth even when it hurts even when you make a mistake. You always tell the truth. And that way you’re treating somebody as a friend as a family member as a fan as opposed to saying you know Wells Fargo or whatever brand it is saying oh you know you know we just screwed up and here’s why. And they’re not telling the truth. They’re not using the language that a friend would use. And I think that can go a really long way. So it’s not personal in the sense that it’s one to one that form of personalization but it’s personal in the sense that the language that you used feels like it’s a human connection and the truth that’s told feels like it’s a human connection. I’ll give you an example of what not to do. A couple of months ago I hop International House of Pancakes changed their name to I Hobb they lied to their fans and they purposely lied to their fans and social media exploded. You don’t purposely lie to you or your fans. And if it had been April Fool’s Day. OK fine right. But it wasn’t. And they even went so far as to show a sign with a crane that they’re changing it from I hope to i ha yeah. And that was just a silly advertising agency gimmick. But that’s not how you treat your fans. You don’t manipulate them in that way. Yeah it can.
[00:08:33] Can you be a fair weather fan in your new world that you’re creating for us and how do you tip somebody over to becoming a super loyal fan. How do you begin distinguishing the level of fan support you have in your book and tell us.
[00:08:47] I think you can get a lot of it depends on what type of product or service that you sell. But I think I think you can. We share an example of a restaurant here in Boston and they they have a chef’s table at the chef’s table is located in the kitchen. And so what you can do to develop the most loyal fans is that you can.
[00:09:10] Have an experience that they can have that’s above and beyond what the average customer can experience. So you can have dinner in the in the kitchen which is amazing. There’s another organization we talk about called Green surfboards and green surfboards makes wooden surfboards and they’re sustainable. They’re green and they’re beautiful. And so one way is you can buy a green surfboard but what’s really neat is you can have an upgraded experience that only true fans will want to do. You can go for four days to their factory and make your own wooden surfboard with their team. They push you through the whole way. I’ve done it twice myself and I’m a massive fan of green surfboards because they have an experience. It’s for their super fans that’s above and beyond what other people can do. And and so each business can think to ourselves how can we create an experience that’s above or beyond it is possible to also do that in the online world. It doesn’t always have to be a physical manifesto.
[00:10:18] Let’s talk about that experience for a little bit. And first of all we know that no one really wants to be sold to these days and the minute these we say the word brand we think company we think they sell stuff and they’re going to do stuff for me because I want me to buy more. Yeah. This is the tension that you’re probably never gonna be able to get rid of. You’re a music lover of probably numerous bands certainly the Grateful Dead being one of them times. You understand fandom in the music world. Yeah but there’s really not a commodity that the bands are selling. You know fans are in love with something that happens to their body. Yes. Can a brand ever make that transformation and create an experience so powerful. I would say you know Red Bull might be a good example. You know where they literally are like we don’t care if you buy our product we just want to do cool stuff and have you love us like a fan. I mean is that what you think we’re gonna move to is something out of the sales zone where we’re creating pure experiences kind of like these graphics in our background right here and this is right.
[00:11:22] This is actually a fabulous example of the kinds of things that companies can do. I don’t think that it’s mutually exclusive. So I’m not arguing that the entire world will cease doing selling products and service. Yeah yeah just just like when the online world allowed us to do content marketing in the ways that we’ve been doing content marketing for the last decade doesn’t mean that television commercials go away. Right. And just like billboards Don’t go away or direct mail the things we’re doing today aren’t necessarily going to go away but the companies that can understand that the closer human relationships you can have with customers that you can grow them into fans and separately you can grow fans that aren’t even your customers that one day might be your customer is something that’s incredibly powerful and a good example of that is HubSpot.
[00:12:22] Hubspot software company to do marketing and sales and customer service automation and what’s really interesting about Hubspot is they have a conference and you’ve been. We’ve actually met and met there a couple of times. And the inbound conference twenty five thousand people last year and not very not not very many of them are actually HubSpot customers. Anybody can go and they have millions of followers on their channels their blog their video their social media channels and those are all fans of theirs. But they’ve got 50000 customers. So they way more fans. than they do customers which I find fascinating. So there is a really big opportunity for companies to do. The kind of marketing that we’ve always done and not necessarily stop that. Just like. OK we’re gonna use social media marketing doesn’t mean we stop wholesale. Our direct mail or in our TV ads. We don’t go oh I’m going to devote my entire attention to fandom right now. I think that would be a big mistake. But I also think that it’s essential that we think how can we make more personal connections with the people that we want to build a relationship with. On the other on a truly human scale.
[00:13:47] Are there front row tickets in your in your in your fan world. For example when you go to a concert and you get close Sun you feel that eyes on day. And that means priority. That means you have some you know you have to sell tickets only some people. So.
[00:14:02] So on Sunday I’ve been to 760 live shows. I love going to live concerts. It is my thing. I am all over it. A target number by the way no bounce in you. No but I know I don’t have a target number but I am constantly thinking what is the next show I’m going to go to and I keep keep keep a spreadsheet because I want to remember. Oh my God. What date did I see such and such. When was the last time I went to a jack white figure. So on Sunday I went to a show. It was the linen. It was the clay pool Lennon delirium.
[00:14:33] It’s a it’s a show where less Claypool from Primus got together with Sean Lennon and and and Clay pulls a basis Lennon’s a guitarist and they add up a couple of other musicians backing them and they sold a premium ticket which included a meet and greet. And I had an opportunity to meet Sean Lennon and less Claypool and it was a little bit more money as a fifty dollars more wasn’t a huge amount of money more and was even more interesting than meeting them I thought was even cooler than meeting them as you’re about 50 people who bought this special ticket. We went backstage before the show and they did a Q and A session for an. For a half hour. And anyone who wants to could ask some questions so people ask Les Claypool questions at Sean Lennon questions asked about what cheesier. Yoko Ono and John Lennon tell us about your life. You know it’s pretty cool. And so that’s an example in the world of music but all of us.
[00:15:31] Every company has an opportunity to figure out how can I develop something special for our best fans whatever that might be such that they become excited they become even becoming evangelists for what we do. So we haven’t taken on the tough question though which is which is how do you create that passion that creates a fan.
[00:15:58] Right. How do you do that to you. Do you do. Do you have to do great things to the world for example. Do you have to you know we’ve ruled out. You have to have great products and services. That’s what we’re talking about. It’s you have to do something else that’s special. I think that’s right. What is it. What are the choices and options we have as entrepreneurs that build experiences is it experiences. Is that where you get the passion from. What is it.
[00:16:25] Well there’s a number of different prescriptions that we’ve identified and I keep saying we. Because I co-wrote the book with my 26 year old daughter so my daughter reiko is really interesting working with her because obviously she’s a different generation. Obviously she’s a different gender. She’s also half Japanese Jewish different race. She’s a very different person to me. She did a neuroscience degree at Columbia and now was in medical school and she has way different fandoms than me. She’s into comic con she’s into speculative fiction. She wrote a nice eighty thousand word alternative ending to the Harry Potter series where Draco Malfoy is a spy for the order of the Phoenix working against double door dawn she published on a fan fiction site.
[00:17:06] So I’m like this huge live music geek and chooses huge speculative fiction geeks so we and we work together the super deep. This really really great really yeah it’s really really interesting.
[00:17:15] Well so. So I think that. as we were researching this idea of passion. What we’re talking about is passion. I am incredibly passionate about live music My daughter is incredibly passionate about the books that she read. And when you’re passionate about something. You live a better life and here’s why. Because you develop deep deep friendships with people who share that passion whatever it is. Fishing or golf or needlepoint or going to rock concerts or whatever it is that you do that you are incredibly passionate about you tend to develop your closest friends your closest human relationships with people who share that fact that passion. And it turns out that companies who hire for passion. It doesn’t need to. Doesn’t need to be anything related to your business but if you find someone who’s incredibly passionate about something they’re more likely to help you to develop passion around your business. We learned this because they come at it from the perspective of a fan and I believe that every company has an opposite or every organization has an opportunity to develop fans. And and it means thinking about the way you communicate and in a little bit different way not like how are we going to get our target prospects. How are we going to close more leads. How are we going to build our funnel. Maybe you can still do that but ultimately it’s how can we develop passion. in the people that we’re trying to reach.
[00:18:58] Your books kind a fear. Tell us how to figure that out. I have another question for you though. So there’s another element to fandom and that is this camaraderie amongst your fellow fans. Right. And that perhaps is. even more rewarding in some ways than the actual event that you go to right. Or the experience that you have which is exactly what your area has here right. What you’re doing here is you’re bringing together a thousand like minded people people who are passionate.
[00:19:33] About content marketing people who are passionate about growing their business by creating interesting experiences for their customers through content. And.
[00:19:44] I was at the dinner last night and the conversation at my table was amazing right. And I will remember I remember a couple of things a year two years from now three years from now I remember that dinner conversation. Fabulous conversation I remember of course giving my keynote. I’m not necessarily going to remember many of the other sessions a few of them stood out but people take away that human relation YEAH. AND I ASKED WHERE WE’RE GOING MAN. I think that’s where we’re going. It’s like understanding that. and yes you’ve done a fabulous job with this. But you build it and you let people interact. You let people do their thing. and then they walk away and goes. How is a fabulous conference conference but if you tell them exactly how to behave now you will go to this room now you will do that now you will must do this by three minutes from now you’re less likely to develop that ultimate fandom because you’re not letting go of the creation the creation you’ve created here. You need to let it go and let the fans take over which you do a good job. Thank you. But some people don’t. Yeah.
[00:20:58] Back to this camaraderie thing you know. Do you think we’re gonna be able to find some new technology that connects our fans and allows them to communicate and connect. Or does that need to happen in this social sphere where it’s public where people can make individual decisions and think here about you know even content marketing conference. You know we don’t really have a forum back there together. We probably should you know because it’s a small tight group and you can see who’s talking and who’s chatting for those that want to experience fandom in the forum world. Yeah. But do you think that that we’ll see some advances there if this is so I’ve got to so probably I think that probably will happen.
[00:21:36] I think there’s probably room for smart software companies to create the kind of software I think we see use or some of it already exists.
[00:21:46] Yeah I mean you know you can use Facebook groups and other things to create communities of yeah. Well there’s certainly ways to do it. And I think that that is definitely something that we will see.
[00:21:58] But you know I look at this I look at the idea of a pendulum and think about food for a second. You know our ancestors for thousands of years eight natural food. And. the pendulum for whatever reason in the 60s and 70s shifted to the idea of processed foods. you know as. Foods that stayed on the shelves for ages that that had all sorts of chemicals in them that you could put in the TV dinners and the Pringles potato chips and the you know all of this stuff that that had all these chemicals in it. We’re now the pendulum swung too far in that direction. It’s now swung back so that many people are now looking at all kinds of different very natural foods. Many many people are doing that that same pendulum shift is something I look at around this idea of content creation and marketing where we had human connections for hundreds of hundreds or thousands of years. You knew the person who sold you the chicken in the town square one hundred years ago. The pendulum shifted to this whole world of superficial online you know beat people up until they buy kind of spammy stuff. And it’s shifted too far in that direction we’re going back to where we were. Yes it’ll be online many much of it but we’re going back to wanting that human connection absolutely convinced of it. And I think there’s opportunities for people to create products for how we can do that in a more efficient way given the whole world of A.I. and communications as it is.
[00:23:36] Well here’s an idea for you and you welcome your thoughts and look forward to it. So you yourself have fans are you going to do anything interesting for your fan base as you launch fan. OK.
[00:23:47] I’ve got a all all sorts of interesting ideas for when I’m going to do and we’re doing this recording now about eight months before the book will come out. So some of it’s too early and some of it is just ideas. Sure.
[00:24:03] But I’ve got some interesting things I’m cooking up and I’ve always tried. I’ve done 10 books this will be my 11th. I’ve always tried to figure out a way to market my books in the way because I write about marketing right. In a way that I talk about with marketing wrote a book about viral marketing tried to create something that went viral.
[00:24:22] I wrote a book about news jacking trade to news Jack to get interest in that book.
[00:24:25] So I’ve got some things I’m cooking up terrific will add add me to your list at least ahead of that beta testing. Got it. Example and I’m sure of a few ideas for you two for our community at both Content Marketing Conference and writer access. Awesome. Thanks for being with us today. Pleasure. Thank you for having me here. So really great conferences honor to have you honored to be here. Look forward to another another fabulous CMC event. Thanks. Thanks. Right on. Thanks everyone. Bye bye.