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Elevating Brands 003: Marketing is Like Losing Weight

Len Sullivan:
Pieter, marketing yourself is hard. I mean, as marketers, we really deal with businesses all the time. You know, we know that we get so caught up in our customers and the operation of a business and just the everyday issues that pop up nonstop that the last thing we really think about doing, including videos called “Elevating Brands,” is that it's just the last thing that we want to tackle during the day. And that's what this episode of “Elevating Brands” is about episode three, I'm Len Sullivan…

Video URL


Pieter Bickford:
And I'm Pieter Bickford.


Len Sullivan:
And welcome. So…


Pieter Bickford:
And market ourselves.


Len Sullivan:
Market ourselves. I mean, this video in and of itself, if you're watching this video, you obviously have taken the time out of your day to, you know, think I've ... want to learn something about marketing, to sort of market our business. And you've actually taken the hardest step in terms of what can you do to push your business ahead, or what can you do to succeed? Because, you know, this is a common denominator amongst businesses that are gigantic and businesses that are mom and pop retail, is that they find it very hard to not only find the time to do it but do it on a consistent basis that their customers come to expect that they're going to be delivered some kind of content about this business. And if, if you've ... we spend so much time trying to get that business that not catering it to, it seems, it seems very “opposite thinking.” Like, you know, you spend a lot of time getting a customer or losing a customer is one of the fastest things that you can do. So, holding yourself accountable.


Pieter Bickford:
To marketing.


Len Sullivan:
To marketing and to ourselves, I mean, really it's, it's, it's really what it is. So, I kind of wanted to talk about some of the things that, that we've been doing in terms of holding ourselves accountable and to get, to get marketing out the door. Because, you know, I think this is a common problem that a lot of companies will face in that time is an issue. And let's talk about planning first. I mean, that's kind of, that's kind of a key thing. Knowing your plan. You know, I would say as a general rule, when talking to anyone that, you know, you, you should really at, at the very least plan for a year and break up your plan into quarters. And then try to tackle it on a quarterly basis. I mean, do you find that's kind of something that, that you find businesses doing often?


Pieter Bickford:
They should be doing it. I think you're absolutely right. I think most of the time when they come to us, they're generally, they arrive at our doorstep saying I've seen a dip in sales and I'm going to assume it might have something to do with my marketing. What can I do tomorrow to get sales boosted? And unfortunately, as you know, it can, it has to be a long-term strategy. There are some quick things you can do, but for the most part, you need to plan out that marketing campaign for quarters for the whole year. And I think you're absolutely right. The more you, the benefit of doing that, is that then when you have those moments where sales slows, for some reason, or COVID hits and everything changes, you can then pivot on that strategy because you already know how to strategize. So, it's, we talk about exercising your marketing muscle a lot. And I think it's one of those things, even by just sitting down and saying, okay, I don't really know what I'm going do, but I'm going come up with a plan. It gets you started; it gets you down that road.


Len Sullivan:
Right. Well, I love the exercising, really because, I think that's a great analogy for what we're talking about in terms of holding yourself accountable. Marketing is like exercising, and it, it really is. It's like, "Oh, I went to the gym once, why, why am I not losing weight?"


Pieter Bickford:
(laughs)


Len Sullivan:
You ... and, and, and that's exactly the point that we kind of have to talk to people about all the time is it's not a one and run thing. And then people like, "Well, you know, do I really need to be consistent? What if I don't have anything to say." Well, if you're not consistent, you're not going to do it. You, you're not going to go to the gym. Like if you basically say, I'm going to go to the gym four days a week and it's going to be these days and I'm going to go there, then you will plan your day around it. And marketing is sort of the same way in that, once you establish your plan ... again, if it makes it easier for everyone, let's just use exercising. You know, I want to lose 30 pounds by the end of the year. How do I get to that goal? Okay. We're in the first quarter, I want to lose, I know I'm going lose a little more weight in the first quarter.

So, let's, let's shoot for 10 pounds within the next three months. That means I have to go to the gym four times a week, and marketing is pretty much the same way. You know, you have to plan out accordingly and say, "Okay, if I'm, if I'm going to do a social media blitz and I want to put some content on there, what do I want? What, what is my goal with my planning? Do I want followers? Do I want sales? What is, what is the end result that you want to get? And then how do I make my content, get me to that goal?" I, I kind of think people reverse it sometimes. And they're like, "I'm going to put out content, but I don't know what my goal is."


Pieter Bickford:
Absolutely. Yeah. And, and the, the people that I see it, you know, we, we work with a lot of small businesses that are just getting started. It's sort of a helpful thing we'll do. And the people that I see that do it really well is they just make that commitment that I'm going to, you know, I know something I'm getting into a business for a reason. Why am I getting into the business for a reason? I'm selling coffee. Okay, well, why am I doing that? Well, because I want people to have a place where they can, show up, get a great cup of coffee, but also there's that social, social nature to it. So then they, they made a commitment to every day, to a new video and every day doing a post, and at the beginning, you know, these small businesses, they're not necessarily great at it, but you, don't ... the nice thing about these, the tools that we have today is you don't have to be great at it right away, because if it's ... if you're fulfilling a need and it's something you know about, you're going to get better at talking on camera, you're going to get better at posting. You're going to start seeing what people react to. And then all of a sudden you look at, I mean, how, how many businesses have, have we worked with Len?

Where you look at where they started? And then a year later they become these fantastic self-marketers. And then they can come to us and say, "Well, now I need to really expand my reach." And then we can get into the, the bigger strategy of where they go from just being a small company to the next elevation.


Len Sullivan:
Yeah. And I think that's interesting kind of the way that you approach that when you say that they sort of learn, I think there's a big difference though, is the people that do learn are the ones that can succeed. And the ones that don't learn are probably not going to succeed no matter how long they do it for, because there is a bit of a learning curve in understanding what your audience wants. And I, I don't want to be deceptive and say, everybody needs to go out there and be social media stars 'cause they really don't. It really is a case of there are a lot of people doing very successful things that are not particularly, you know, people centric. You know, it's very promotion oriented. If you have a yogurt shop and you introduce a new flavor, obviously that's going to get traction.

If you've decided you're going to introduce a new yogurt flavor every month for the next, you know, year, that's obviously going be something that you can play on, and there's no people involved in that. But it's more just getting out there, not so much getting on camera, but just putting the content out there for people to digest and to understand and give it time to be, to be shared. So, we use, you know, a variety different platform and I'm not going to endorse any kind of platforms in terms of accountability. But there is a bit of holding your team accountable. You know, and this is very much about accountability, not only for yourself, but I think for your team. And and I think in order to get those, the next step to get to that point of consistency, you have to be accountable to, ‘I'm going to make these posts. I'm going to go to the gym and I'm going to, you know, do all the repetitions and exercises that I need to do, get me where I am in marketing is sort of the same way.’ Do you find the better people do that, the people that are doing marketing better than others are sort of holding themselves accountable to some kind of plan?


Pieter Bickford:
Yeah, definitely. I think that the great thing about a lot of people that are starting their own businesses or are in business and are at a point where they're saying, "Boy, I really need to grow." They're already at that point where they've strategized. So, if you're starting a business or you want to grow your business, you're obviously thinking, ‘there's a problem that I need to solve,’ or ‘there's a need that I can fulfill that people want.’ So, you've already begun that strategizing. And a lot of times what we know when we sit down with meetings and when people say, "You know, I need a website and I don't know where to begin." And, you know, that's your guys' job to figure that out.” Well, we turn it right back on them and say, "What's, what you've already done some of them, you've already answered some of those questions. We just need to draw that out of you to see what are the things that make you unique, what are the problems you're going to solve?" But as you said, and I think hierarchy even had to go through that point when we recently rebranded as to say, "Well, what's been working so far about the company, what are we like doing and how do we hone that message even more?" So…


Len Sullivan:
Right.


Pieter Bickford:
We had to discipline ourselves a bit to just take that moment and reflect and go, “what problem are we solving and what are we really good at?" Frankly, it's…I think part of the reason why a lot of people don't necessarily keep that discipline of regular marketing 'cause sometimes they're humble and you almost have to…it's almost like you feel like you're bragging about yourself, but there's, it's going to pay off.


Len Sullivan:
Yeah. You know, I think there's a common story that you hear amongst people invariably, everyone sort of has a story like this, as they know a kid who is maybe a teenager. And that teenager says, "You know, I have a plan and my plan is to go to college and buy a, you know, a BMW by the time I'm 24." And, they end up paying their way through college and they ended up buying the car and everyone sort of goes, "Wow, that kid's remarkable." You know? And it's really one of those things where I kind of, when you think about it, you're like anyone can do it. It's just that, you know, that kind of idea of the irresponsible teenager, not doing it. And we're all sort of, we can all be it, you know, that's a very typecast scenario, but we're all sort of that irresponsible teenager when it comes to a variety of different things. It's just, we think we're more mature because we, you know, "Oh, well I've done this and I can do that."

But there wasn't really a plan to get there. And, there's nothing really remarkable sometimes about this other than the fact that they worked hard and they were really goal-oriented. And, I know we're trying to break this down and make it feel a little more simple for everyone who's listening, because there are a variety of different skill levels, and obviously this is very basic levels of marketing, but I think that this is a key component that even very seasoned marketers, I guess it's a little harsh to say that they're winging it. But I think that's kind of the danger, right? Is without good planning, especially in a social media world where everything is revolved around planning and revolves around good content or revolved around things that get out there and are consistently generating interest in your brand and in your product, and in your space and your service maybe, that that's super important.


Pieter Bickford:
Yeah. And, and I think I kind of know what you're getting at, in that part of being marketing is you get the data, right? So, you want all the different – you want to look at people's sales, and you want to look at what they've done in the past, and you want to look at the numbers. But at some point, you are winging it in that you get all this information in. But, then the creative side has to take over. And then you move forward. I think a lot of people expect, you know, we hear about ROI a lot and they want to see if I spend this much money, I'm going to get this much back. And it's all data-driven. And at some point, the creative side has to kick in, and so that can feel like winging it sometimes because you are sitting in a room brainstorming and saying, "Well, why don't we try this? The data would support that if we try this, this will work. And sometimes we try something, and it just doesn't stick." So, you really have to wing it at times I think it's a perfectly safe thing to say to people that, you know, part of marketing is winging it, but you hoped you're doing it in some sort of informed way.


Len Sullivan:
Right. Right. I think the hardest thing now, is to kind of be honest with yourself. I mean, when you agree that, that when it's not what you said to kind of wing it, but a lot of times winging it comes from the fact that you really are not sure of what to do next or you're trying something new or, in some cases that's an analogy for, you know, with the weight loss thing to kind of come back is, "Well, I skip five days, I'm going to work extra hard this time, and it's going to make up for all of the things that I, I sort of missed." And I, I guess I would kind of say that's really not a plan. Right? I mean, you can't – you can try things I think, and, and you can sort of go for the catch-up model, but unless you're being consistent, but there are people that won't be honest with that. You know, they're going to be like, "Oh yeah, well, you know, what are the ramifications of not doing it, right?"

So, is it that I discipline my team members? There's a danger to it in terms of not only being honest with yourself, did I do it? Did I do it in a way that makes sense, but also, you know, is your team going to be held accountable? And if your team's going to be held accountable, were they in a position to basically sort of fudge the results on their benefits. And I'm not saying that any team member is going to lie particularly, but, you know, no one wants to…


Pieter Bickford:
I might, I might once in a while.


Len Sullivan:
Well, nobody wants to be not accountable to something. So, when you say, did you do your weekly posts? And the answer is no, then at first it's going to be really awkward. But, the next time, if you are going to enforce sort of an honest policy about this, the next time is more than likely that before that meeting comes up, someone's going to feel guilty about it and be like, I better go make that post on time, the way that we should have done it so that everybody knows, you know, I'm not the one at fault. And I think that sort of level of honesty, that sort of accountability, that team inner accountability can be very strong in not only executing your plan, but also doing it in a timely manner.


Pieter Bickford:
Yeah. And, and I think that, well, and I think in some respects what, what you've demonstrated in the company, but I'm going to brag about you a little bit. But, you know, you're been pushing marketing. And as a marketing agency, as you're right, we're so dialed into what our customers are doing and we're so, know, we're, ‘what do we do?’ We're always meeting with potential new customers and then we're working with the current customers that we have, and then you hope that at the end of the week, you have some time to actually work on yourselves. I think during COVID, people did see us slow down and there was, you saw in the areas even like us, that we thought there might be a slowdown, we sort of took some time and looked at our company again. And then it turned out that there really wasn't much of a slowdown, but we were all most that much more ready for it. I hope that makes sense?


Len Sullivan:
Yeah. I mean, I think we were ready. I think we kind of said we had to practice what we preached. And we've been preaching it for so long that regardless of the team size and regardless of how many beat you have to kind of make the time and do marketing, you know, just to, just to resonate with the people that you're dealing with. And I mean, that's the reason behind this show basically, is to try to help our customers, you know, answer some basic questions about what you can do better, how, how you can make, get more traction within your marketing. But let's be, let's, let's come back to the, um, you know, being honest with yourself. I mean, we're, we, we try to be as honest as we can about it ... and, and it was an observation. I'm not exactly sure who made it, that a team member is basically said, I feel bad if I don't come to a meeting and have, have done the things that I was supposed to do during the week.

And, and the reaction is, you know, we, we kind of go ... we didn't want you to feel bad, but we also wanted to get done and we're in the same boat. And I'm going to have to ... I think at this point, somewhere in the middle, as we're kind of in the middle of this, we're going to rename this episode to Marketing is Like Losing Weight, because I'm going to come back to the losing weight analogy again, because it's like having an exercise buddy. And I think if you can establish that your marketing is in tandem with, you know, your team and, or partnering, then you're going to be more accountable to get your marketing up there and get it up consistently. No other episodes we've talked about how to do effective marketing, but really what we're going to talk, what we wanted to talk about here is consistency and accountability and honesty with yourself because that is actually more, almost more important than the content itself.


Pieter Bickford:
I think the consistency word is key. I think, again, with anything, if you just consistently do it, support others who were doing it, as you said, as you've been very good about getting other team members to do it and focusing on what they do well, so they become part of the process. But we've, as long as there's consistency there, two things are going to happen. One, people are going to expect to see it, but two, you're going to get better at it. And I think that's, it's just like with exercise, keeping that analogy going, the more you do it, you're going to see improvements. If you do something every day, that's all about improving yourself, you're going to see improvements. I think back to like one of the things that drives you crazy, if you're looking at like discipline posts and things about with advice for discipline usually that boils down to, well, you just have to make a commitment to do it.


Len Sullivan:
Right.


Pieter Bickford:
And it's always like, "Yeah. But you're supposed to be giving me advice on how to get discipline." But, it really boils down to you just have to make that commitment to do it. I will say one thing that I have found though that's easier in recent years when it comes to marketing, is as long as you do it, there's lots of tools that make it as easy as possible. So, for example, now with Zoom, you know, we can record this where you used to need, you know, a fancy production studio to do anything on video where now you can use your phone, you can use your laptop. And then from there you can put audio, and then from there you can upload it to a transcription tool and you've got quotes for a blog post. So, I think that's probably getting a little bit into the weeds, but I think for a lot of people, once you are consistent and make the promise to yourself to do it, it's very easy to then convert that into other forms of marketing.


Len Sullivan:
Yes. But I guess I also don't want to think that, you know, not everyone has to do a podcast or…


Pieter Bickford:
Yeah. Yeah.


Len Sullivan:
...Video log. I mean, it really is also about like, let's save your retail location, you know. I think the tendency is, do I have a new release to talk about, you know. Did I get a new shirt in that I would like to put on social media? But one of the things that they tend to forget about is if you have a long-term plan, new releases are just part of it. I mean, you have a whole store filled with other products. If you're a restaurant and you debut a new dessert, what about the other five desserts that you have on your menu? You know, they're all viable. So, if you basically say, you know, it's dessert Tuesday, and you focus on a new dessert every Tuesday, you will eventually start seeing people come in to get that dessert on the date that you're basically saying that it's there. So it's really about that idea of execution.


Pieter Bickford:
I’m going to make fun of you for a minute though. Okay. You're talking about exercising and then eating dessert. Come on, that's just not fair, Len.


Len Sullivan:
Gosh. This isn’t fair, is it? I, I didn't realize that.


Pieter Bickford:
Much exercising that now you're ready for dessert. Well, I guess that's your reward, right?


Len Sullivan:
Yeah, I guess so. It depends on what the dessert is. I don't know why I went with dessert. I shou- I could have said entree.


Pieter Bickford:
No, I'm just kidding.


Len Sullivan:
You know, you pick out like, "Hey, that's, goal-oriented marketing, isn't it?" Like, I actually think that it's fair enough to say, if I've exercised for six months, I'm going to go have dessert. That is my goal. And I think that's a great way to wrap it up. So, everybody get on the exercise bike, exercise for six months and then go have dessert because obviously that's what we learned today. Thanks for joining us for episode three, renamed Marketing is Like Losing Weight.


Pieter Bickford:
Well that, thank you as always.


Len Sullivan:
Thanks Pieter.

Nikoletta Gjoni

by Nikoletta Gjoni, Project Manager

As a graduate of the University of Maryland Baltimore County (UMBC) with a degree in English Literature and Journalism, Niki's passion has always been storytelling and all the forms it can take. As such, her professional experience has ranged from working in cable news to holding communications and marketing director roles in the nonprofit sector. She enjoys connecting with audiences through strategic branding and marketing approaches and believes a good story will almost always win someone over for a new product or experience.

Outside of work, Niki is an award-nominated fiction and creative nonfiction writer, as well as a manuscript editor and creative writing coach for new and young writers. She enjoys traveling, eating good food, supporting indie bookstores, and combatting writer's block, among other things.

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