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Elevating Brands 009: Prepare to Prepare

Len Sullivan:
So, Pieter, do you prepare to prepare?

Pieter Bickford:
I try to think I prepare to prepare, but sometimes preparing to prepare takes a lot of preparation.

Video URL

Len Sullivan:
Which is true. Welcome to Prepare to Prepare, yet another Elevating Brands video installment. I'm Len Sullivan.

Pieter Bickford:
And I'm Pieter Bickford.

Len Sullivan:
And as you can guess, today we're talking about being prepared. I guess that's a very large, open ended topic, but I wanted to let the conversation free flow. But one of the things that strikes me, Pieter, and we find this all too often when we do marketing, we work for companies that... and this goes back years and years, when websites started developing, is that companies only say, "Where is your website?" And they go, "Well, it will be www.nameofmycompany.com." And there's no preparation in terms of buying URLs, or any other thing that they may use in the future.
 
And what ends up happening is prospectors will come in and they'll buy those URLs, and then the companies are trying to get them back years later, and they're spending thousands and thousands of dollars trying to reclaim something that they could have gotten for a few dollars, had they had the forethought to do it originally. So there are so many things happening in marketing right now, from the Metaverse to the social media. Even TikTok still feels new to a lot of people, that preparing to prepare has become very important. Go ahead, you were going to...

Pieter Bickford:
Yeah, no problem. Yeah, I was thinking even HighRock dealt with that. We have our own story where we were HighRock Studios when the company started, and so we bought highrockstudios.com. I want to say that the owners of our company right away knew that they wanted highrock.com, correct? But there was somebody that owned a business in another state far away that refused to give up the name until very recently. And so that was something that if we'd thought of that even sooner, we might have gotten ahead of ourselves and been a little bit more prepared.

Len Sullivan:
Right. And I mean, that happens a lot. So, I mean, it's not uncommon. And we talked about this in a previous Elevating Brands, about the change in marketing, the change in audience. And I think that idea of, well, the Metaverse right. I mean, it's this virtual reality world, that's a truncated version of our world, right? It's going from longhand writing to shorthand, or to typing, or whatever it is, but it's a very finite experience that people want to just experience things, consume in bite sized chunks, right? I think I've heard someone refer to it as snackable content.

And that's what we're moving towards is this idea that smaller bits of marketing that are more effective, and understanding what those things are, and preparing to be in front of your audiences on these things that they are snacking on. So then the question becomes, what's the trend? Do I have the right snackable content on the table for these people? And what am I doing and where am I doing it? And how do you think about that? In the future, how do you watch trends, and how do you figure out what we're going to invest in, and where we're going to place our bets? It's a difficult question, but it's one that every marketer has to answer in 2022.

Pieter Bickford:
Yeah. It's definitely the challenge of our job, but also the fun part of our job, is we need to stay up on really what the latest trends are. Not just in popularity, obviously, but also in marketing. What is coming down the road that could impact your business? And I think we even find ourselves probably six months ago, if Len and I said, "Have you ever done a TikTok?" We would've said no. And now it's the number one social media trend. It's the number one downloaded app right now. We had to become fast experts in TikTok. I don't know if we're there yet, Len, but we're working on it, right?

Len Sullivan:
I mean, everybody's working on everything. I mean, take YouTube, for example, YouTube has been around for how many years now? There is influencer marketing all over YouTube, but if you've paid attention over the years, you may have noticed that the longer we're going, the more sophisticated these influencers are getting. So the good content, the cream, is rising to the top, and it's identifying…maybe you play the long game, and you identified those influencers, and you attached yourself to those influencers, and they're able to rise to the top. Now it could be for a variety of different reasons, right? If they get more support, then they elevate their game, and if they elevate their game, they get more subscribers.
 
There are a lot of channels that begin in somebody's garage and end up in a professional studio that they were able to fund themselves. And now they've created their own programming, essentially. A snackable version of a large television company, right? That's what they basically have. But these are the people that are uncovering new audiences, and I think what a lot of the trend has been is looking at this content, this snackable content, to open up that marketing funnel to what are my targets for retention? What are my targets for new customers? And how do I get them into my funnel, and repeat content over and over again?

Pieter Bickford:
Yeah. Because that's one thing that's a constant that's never changed. Despite how media has changed by social media, and social media has changed, it's still about getting the word out about your services you offer, the problems you solve. Hopefully to a large enough group of people that then can be funneled down into your sales funnel as we like to call it. So you're finding that likely contact, that likely client who might pull the trigger and hire you.

Len Sullivan:
Yeah. And I mean, it's...I don't think anyone would ever say it's a replacement completely for other avenues to marketing. But this has been a very effective trend in driving audiences to companies and their content, and companies are realizing that, and they're willing to spend the money. Probably a little bit too much at this point, given the way that content is going, and how that structure has worked. But this is the way to find new audiences. And in some ways, it's because companies didn't do it themselves. And that's these influencers, because I've heard people say, "Oh these influencers, they have too much money. Why should I give them money?" It's at like, the content is dumb. It's this, it's that, whatever it is.

Pieter Bickford:
You've said it a few times, Len, haven't you?

Len Sullivan:
I think everyone has said it a few times.

Pieter Bickford:
Oh yeah.

Len Sullivan:
Because audiences are so different, and I mean you have to admit, even as a marketer, you try to be as objective as possible. But as a consumer, I fall into a bucket somewhere. And you have to admit that as well. You like certain things, you do not like certain things, and you would say this is good and this is bad. But what I would never argue with is, is it effective? I don't like pop songs, and yet I can't argue with the fact that pop songs sell more than the music that I like. And that's an irrefutable fact. And I think that's what marketers tend to, or companies, tend not to understand, is they don't view their product as a commodity that is being consumed. They think that it's about what they want, as opposed to what is needed, from the perspective of the customer.

Pieter Bickford:
Yeah. I was just going to add that I think we're all shocked when we hear of what some of these influencers make, but it also is a sign of one of the things we're talking about, is that companies, our clients, there's always a sense of a little bit of a panic when we're having meetings sometimes, when they meet with us as marketers. Because it's like, "Am I doing enough?" And so one of the things they do is they try to find the latest trending person now. I've heard I've got to have influencers as part of my brand. And they just throw money at them, hoping it'll work. Sometimes it's really effective, obviously. We think about some of these major pop stars that've gotten there because they're influencers, and other times it hasn't been a good investment. It's like everything else. They're still trying to find their way in this world.

Len Sullivan:
Yeah. I mean, it's a new dimension to the...when something new comes along, you have to either hire someone that knows how to do it, or you have to learn how to do it yourselves. The third option is you can attach yourself to similar content, and get your audience out there via influencer marketing. If it's a channel about surfing and why surfing is great, and you sell surfboards, then obviously it's a no brainer to do that. And that is associated marketing between trends that make sense, right? But in terms of, do I understand TikTok?


You have a distinct choice. You can either hire someone that knows how to do it. You can learn how to do TikTok, or outsource it to someone that can do it. I mean, when we started, a long time ago when my partner and I had originally started our 3D studio, there was no college courses. When we were in college, there was no college courses on how to do 3D. It was learned, inherently, and that turned into a business venture.
 
So, these are the things that we encourage companies to sort of...your idea of preparing to prepare is understanding how you're going to tackle. Are you going to be the person that's going to hire somebody aggressively to take care of this for you? Just TikTok, right? Are you going to hire a person to run your TikTok account, along with other social medias? Or maybe it's just TikTok by itself, maybe you're large enough that you just have one person doing that. Or you can learn, but in some ways you have to prepare for how you're going to tackle that problem.
 
I think, regardless of what you do, one thing we can probably agree on is we're at a point in 2022 where you have to elevate your content. It's not just a matter of getting out there. It's a matter of finding the right partner. You can't just throw things on a wall and expect them to stick anymore. Some of this content is getting elevated, and some of the ingenious ideas that are coming out of TikTok, some of the really solid content that is fighting for attention in this world of streaming videos and streaming music. There's also content that's on YouTube that's fighting for attention in the same venue.

Pieter Bickford:
Yeah. And the one thing I think about that is in the past if you're a company, you think, I need a TV commercial, and I'm going to sink my money into a TV commercial, which is expensive, and certainly it's worthwhile. I think now what we're finding is, being prepared is also being ready to promote yourselves. And it might be relatively crude. You can do that nowadays. One of the things with social media is people are forgiving if you don't have the slickest video, but it's just you talking through some of the things maybe you're an expert about.
 
Maybe you go on like we do and have a back and forth conversation trying to give our thoughts on the latest ideas in marketing. Or maybe it's, again, if you're an accountant and it's close to tax season, maybe you're giving your top 10 tips, and you don't have to be in a beautiful studio with fabulous lighting and a voiceover. And yet that, because it's authentic content, that people are interested in, it might just grab hold. And probably, people will find you online, especially if you've built a good following, and hire you to do their work.

Len Sullivan:
Absolutely. I think that's a good place to end it. So for those that are listening out there, I think the idea that we want to take away is, think about the marketing, and think about where you're going to go in the future. Not just one, two years down the line, think about the 10 year plan, and prepare to prepare.

Pieter Bickford:
And I want to say that I'm going to go buy lensullivan.com right now, just in case you blow up, but I'll give it to you for free, buddy.

Len Sullivan:
Thank you.

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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