Thought Leadership, Analytics, And The Enlightened B2B Buyer
Online marketing is no longer about bragging about your success or how you achieved it. Today, it's all about thought leadership content. Thought leadership content is a way to earn trust and credibility from your audience. This would result in making them interested in you, therefore buying from you. To learn more about this, join your host Chad Burmeister and his guest, Marc Hausman. Marc is the Founder and CEO of Strategic Communications Group. They are a digital media company that provides thought leadership content and more. Learn how AI and analytics play into this B2B market.
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Thought Leadership, Analytics, And The Enlightened B2B Buyer
I’ve got the honor of having with me, Marc Hausman. Marc is the Founder and CEO of Strategic Communications Group. He’s been with his organization as the Founder and CEO for several years. He sees things change over the last several years. Marc, welcome to the show. Let’s dig in. It’s good to have you.
Thanks for having me here.
You’re in the DC area. You’re on the East Coast.
I was raised here in the Washington DC area and have always had an interest in storytelling. Because of that being in DC, you are affected by movies and have to deal with journalism, Washington Post, All the President’s Men, and all that good stuff. I have this dream, this desire that I was going to be a journalist. I was accepted to the University of Maryland in the College of Journalism. In my very first journalism class as a freshman after my first writing assignment, my professor approached me and said, “Marc, I’m reviewing your writing assignment here. Maybe you should be geared towards public relations.” I was like, “I’m not such a great writer.” I am good at telling stories. That was the start of my career and how I got focused on the practice of public relations, marketing and how organizations position themselves.
I like to get our readers to understand how you got to that spot. If you think about when you were young, 5, 6, 7, 8, what was your passion? What got you up in the morning to say, “I need to go and do X?” What was that for you?
People still do business with people that they know and trust.
There are two things that motivated me growing up and now as a father of three kids that motivates me or inspires me as a parent, the first is I’m a huge believer in competitive athletics, especially team-based sports. It teaches so many valuable lessons as it relates to collaboration, competition and being able to overcome adversity. I played a number of different competitive athletics growing up. That was a big part of my life. The second thing, as I indicated, my interest in storytelling. I’ve been a huge fan my entire life of comedy. What inspires me when it comes to comedy is the ability to talk about issues and topics.
Some of which might be very complex in a way that captures interest and attention. If you think about the sales process and how organizations present themselves in the market, I’m not saying it’s all a series of jokes, but what I am saying is the marketing process, the sales process is very much about capturing the person’s attention. When you get down to it, things like storytelling and comedy are very much part of that. In my senior year in high school, I did receive the accolade of being the class clown. I don’t think that was what I was hoping for, but it was reflective of my interest in trying to capture people’s interests through stories, to engage, entertain people, and try to get people to smile and laugh. When you get someone who smiles and laughs, it means maybe they’re more open to being connected with you to having more of a meaningful relationship.
I met with a company called MaxOne. On the sporting side of your passion when you’re younger, these guys use AI in virtual coaching of any kind of sport. Imagine a soccer kid who wants to be a professional soccer player or play in college. They go in as a young student and you get what you get when you have a coach. Imagine if you can have the best of the best soccer coach, coaching you from anywhere in the world and sending you daily, weekly routines and things to practice on, and even real-time one-on-one coaching via your mobile phone. It was pretty parallel where things have come to your point of a title shift. Even in the area of sports, it’s changing to a level where you can grow quickly.
You raised an interesting point because what you’re defining is whether it’s broadband connectivity or whether it’s the community that comes from social, what people benefit from is this has got access to more resources. They have access to more insight. As a soccer coach, in working with your players, helping someone grow as an athlete, you provide a perspective, but there might be another coach or resource that helps that player think about things or achieve something in a way that’s different or unique. My two older boys play competitive AAU basketball. As a parent, I stepped back as they’ve gotten older, but it’s interesting to see how they’ve been able to strike up relationships, not just with their coach and their teammates, but in the basketball community through social media things like Instagram and Twitter. They’ve been able to connect with other individuals they may not have connected with in the past because of their shared interest in competitive athletics.
On your second point of stories, my son had a little accident that he’s now healed from, but it was a burn accident with a grease fire. I posted that on LinkedIn, I said, “Please pray for Brandon.” It had a picture of faith. That was it. It was the highest interactive post on LinkedIn I’d ever done with over 20,000 views. Hundreds of people said, “We’re praying. I’ve told our church about it.” I understood the value of authenticity and, “We’re down as a family. Can you help us out?” That’s on LinkedIn and not Facebook. It was amazing to see the level of outpouring and connectivity. People are like, “I can relate to that as a father if that ever happened to my son.”
First off, I’m pleased to hear that your son’s feeling better and he is okay. That’s most important, but secondly, you raise another interesting point. I know the focus of your show is all about artificial intelligence. That’s incredibly important. At the end of the day, people still do business with people that they know and trust. That know and trust come from having a certain level of intimacy where I may be doing business with you or may have some connection with you on LinkedIn. When I started getting to know you as a person and understand you as a parent, as a father, it makes the relationship so much more meaningful.
What I’ve seen in a few years of deploying this is that the best users of AI are accelerating their ability to be a person. It’s like an Iron Man suit. You can’t outsource it all, but it brings your personality into the AI. Making sure that you have the right person at the helm of that deployment or people or a team is critical because now you can copy-paste and get the message out to thousands of people. You had better be inserting your personality into that conversation and not rinse and repeating some marketing slogan. Tell me about AI. Let’s go into that topic. You’ve seen several years of a changing market between sales and marketing. Where do you see AI deployed? Do you use it within your company? What customers are you seeing? What’s the latest and coolest AI deployment you’re seeing?
Let me provide a little bit of context. My company is Strategic Communications Group. We are a digital media company that works primarily for technology brands focused in either the business-to-business markets or business to government. We work in areas related to things like cybersecurity, cloud, network infrastructure, and enterprise software. Because of that, the clients, the organizations that we work for have this challenge of not just presenting their capabilities and their solutions, often it could be complex, but they also have the challenge of finding potential buyers at the right time. Historically, Chad, as we all know, the way that marketing was approached in the B2B world was like you undertaken activity to create a lot of noise you hope for the best. Maybe you go to a trade show where you run a big ad campaign or have a big public relations blitz.
There was this understanding among chief marketing officers. For years, it was like, “Fifty percent of my budget is wasted. The problem is, I don’t know which 50%.” The dramatic sea change that’s occurred in the marketplace over the last several years comes back to things like broadband adoption and the lies of social media, things that we’ve been talking about here. It’s based on the understanding of what’s referred to as the enlightened buyer. That’s a phrase that the analysts from Gartner Group uses, Forrester Research and other analyst firm uses the phrase, the buyer’s Germany. It’s this understanding that buyers now have access to more information than ever before. The buyer is spending a lot of time on their studying, researching, analyzing, and evaluating different vendors, providers, capabilities, technologies, and solutions before being willing to have a conversation with any sales rep.
The issue becomes, for organizations, how do you put information in front of these buyers at a time when they may not be raising their hand expressing interest? That’s this whole concept of the online buyer. In fact, research done by these analyst firms have revealed that your typical business-to-business buyer is nearly 70% of the way through the process before they are willing to have a conversation with any potential vendor. This has given rise to what’s referred to as fault leadership. Going back historically, marketing often was like, “Let me tell you the five reasons why I’m so great or why my solution is so compelling or why I have the best of this thing.” That doesn’t fly so well anymore. What generates interest and resonates in the marketplace with buyers isn’t so much why I’m so great, but here are best practices.
If you build credibility on a platform, people will want to write for you for free.
Here are lessons learned. Here are trends or issues that can help you as the buyer make a smarter and more informed decision. If you look at things like blog posts, things that you are doing on LinkedIn, or what you might be doing on other social media environments, or the content that an organization is creating, it’s more geared towards educating the buyer so they can make a smart decision. At the same time, recognizing that you’re a subject matter expert, a thought leader. You are someone that they should talk to when they’re at the point that they want to start evaluating and making a purchasing decision. Where does AI come into all of this? The problem is it’s great if you’re educating all of these people, but how do you know who the organizations are that are starting to express interest? Artificial intelligence or analytics serves as that roadmap.
A lot of what we do with our clients is when you’re publishing and syndicating or distributing all of this thought leadership content, by looking at the organizations that are spending time with your content, how they’re finding it, what are they doing once they get there, what else are they reading, it gives a sales professional a roadmap so they can make a smarter and more informed decision. Not just to who to make an outreach to or who to call on, but when they do call or contact that person, what should they be talking about based on what that person has been reading. In understanding that the market dynamic has changed, you’ve got these enlightened buyers, this buyer’s journey, the importance of fault leadership, and then how artificial intelligence analytics can be used, not to identify prospects that are expressing interest, but to understand what those interests might be so a salesperson can be more effective about appropriately positioning their capability.
You mentioned that there’s a product or application that you offer to customers. I heard the term free. What is that all about?
As a digital media company, we run a portfolio of websites that we refer to as online buyer community. I can’t call them online magazines because it’s not true journalism. It is quasi-journalistic thought leadership content. We work with organizations to source their thought leadership and then publish it for buyers in distinct vertical markets. We have a site in government that’s called Government Technology Insider. We have a site in financial services that’s called Financial Technology Today. We have a site in healthcare called Future Healthcare Today. These sites don’t have a million readers. They have like 50,000 readers, but they are buyers in a specific niche vertical market that is important to organizations that are selling technology solutions. We’ve been doing this for a while and we’ve had a lot of success, but what we found was over the last several years, organizations have gone all-in when it comes to creating thought leadership content. They’ve got corporate blogs, presentations, infographics, and all this great portfolio of thought leadership content.
It’s created, promoted, then within three weeks, it’s forgotten and sits on the shelf collecting dust. We said, “We’ve got these sites that publish good content. If I could publish more content that would give me the ability to have more readership, community, and engagement, that would benefit all of our clients. Where could I get all this new content?” It became an issue of, “What if I put a message out there to marketers?” I said, “I’ve got these great sites and I’ve got good reach. You’ve got great content. How about publishing some of that content with me? It gives you additional visibility and the ability to extend the life of content that you’ve already invested in. For my readers, my buyers, it gives them more high-value thought leadership content to make them smarter decisions. It makes my sites more meaningful, more relevant.”
To use a comparison point, it’s like a B2B play on the Huffington Post. What Arianna Huffington figured out was that if you build credibility in the platform, people will want to write for you for free. The more people that write and read creates a cycle of growth. There are consumer models that they’re advertising-driven. As a B2B version of that, my sites are sponsorship-driven. How I elevate their importance is by sourcing content from other organizations and allowing them to publish with me for free. The site is called www.ContentPlusInsight.com. Anyone can go to the site. It’s easy to register. Literally within five minutes if you’ve got blog posts, presentations, other things that are thought leadership, educational-oriented. You can then look at the different vertical market publishing sites that I have and publish any of your content for free. It’s a great opportunity for you to extend the reach. For me, it delivers additional value to the buyers that I’ve already attracted to my site.
Is there a vetting process in between or if someone writes a bad article, they get evicted? How do you handle quality control?
There is a vetting process. I do have an editorial staff. It’s interesting because we did go through the process of thinking about that. What we mean by thought t leadership may not mean everything to other people. The process is you register for the site for free. You submit the content that you’d like to publish. We do have an editorial team that will go through to make sure that the content adheres to certain journalistic standards. We do have a whole Q and A section on the site, which defines, “What we mean by fault leadership is this. If you look at the content that we’re publishing on the sites, here’s the approach that we’re taking.” You raise a good point, Chad, because for all of this to work, the content has to be meaningful for buyers.
A healthcare buyer has to come in and look at the content that we’re publishing on Future Healthcare Today and say, “These are the issues related to cybersecurity. These are the issues related to cloud. Here’s how it applies to my health system or my hospital or my pharmaceutical or my physician group.” There is some quality control to it, but what I always promise people is if you bought into thought leadership, if you’ve got a blog, I’m going to bet that you’re probably about 90% of the way there with the content.
I met with a marketer in Southern California. He said, “Have you seen what Google is doing lately where they’ve got a section of how to, or how do I? It’s the Question Section on Google search?” He said, “Chad, you need to build the top twenty questions that one of your customers might ask and then answer it, not the perspective of ScaleX, but answer it from the perspective of how that person would solve that particular business problem.” How do I generate more pipelines? How do I build a better list in LinkedIn with the advanced list-building capability? I started to do that. It takes a while for Google to pick up those blog posts. We built videos that are embedded into those FAQ pages. We’re launching them through the newsletter every weekend. We’re starting to see some pickup inside of the Google how to code. You probably are more versed in that. Do you remember what that’s called in the middle of the Google search?
AI empowers people to make smarter and more informed decisions which would lead to better efficiency and productivity.
I do have a digital team that is extensive in search optimization and how Google runs. Google owning the search market is interested in getting people to buy ads. They continue to make organic search very much. I don’t follow them for it. They’re in the business of selling ads, so you make your organic search more complex and you’re constantly changing the algorithm and goalposts. It is what it is. Your whole content operation is brilliant. If you think about what you’ve accomplished with the show and then some of the other social media activities you engage in and what you described in terms of once you create a show, editing it down into different pieces and using a different medium, it’s all designed to position yourself as a thought leader. If it’s like, “I’ve got some AI need. I don’t know if this is what Chad’s company does or this is what we’re Chad’s expertise is, but I need to have a conversation with them because it may be.” That’s ultimately the definition ship, getting a customer to think about you as being incredibly knowledgeable in a certain area, so their first stop is having that dialogue with you.
After doing 100 of these episodes, I’m learning a lot from a lot of different people in a lot of different areas and exposing that through the newsletter on the weekends and through the blog and the post. It’s been quite rewarding to stay on top of that learning curve. The thing that I’m seeing this 2021, especially, is that BDR outbound teams are running into a buzzsaw. It’s hard. Making cold calls is hard. Sending emails generally get stopped in spam, LinkedIn is starting to get overcrowded. What do you do? Vidyard videos that are personalized have some lift but are also hard. What I’m learning is this concept of a virtual assistant. I’d rather have one BDR that’s super-powered, have controls 6 or 8 virtual BDRs, and then have that one person go log in to each of those accounts and handle the replies. If you don’t have a virtual BDR these days, at some point in the not-too-distant future, you will, like everybody has an email address.
In doing a lot of content marketing and digital demand generation for companies, you have the opportunity to talk to their sales development and their enterprise sales organization. My light bulb moment was in talking to someone inside sales rep that was working the phone for a client of mine, what she said to me was fascinating. She said, “I know that there are 250 calls that I can make. What I need to know is what are the twenty calls I have to make?” This all comes down to AI. You talked about this in some of your other shows where people sometimes think, “AI replaces people.” It doesn’t. What it does though, is it empowers people to make smarter, more informed decisions to be more efficient and productive with their time.
There’s a guy, Bryan, right now who does these call blitzes. He’s got a team of nineteen people that are offshore and he’s growing them like crazy. He’s calling these, think of MQL, SQL, and now PRL, a Phone-Ready Lead. He asked these folks to call at a certain level and they pick up. When that person picks up you know they’re a picker-upper. If you can start to go in and pre-call that list, all it takes is 3 to 5 dial attempts, after you get the five, then it’s like, “That’s not a picker-upper,” If you tried five times and they pick up, whether that offshore person talks to them or not, it doesn’t matter. When I give that list to the marketer or the BDR or whomever, that PRL list picks up at about 1 in 2 dials, maybe 1 in 3 at worst, where a normal cold list, it takes you 30 to 50 dials. A PRL list only takes you 1 and 2.
We were talking about the analytics from our different sites. I can look at the analytics from my site, Financial Technology Today. I can look at the last couple of weeks, what are the banks, what are the global regional banks or the credit providers that are expressing an interest in hybrid cloud technology or in mobile banking by looking at what organizations are reading about. It all comes back to buyers like to educate themselves now. If you get that understanding of who’s reading what and why and how do they find that content? Similar to what you’re describing, it empowers the sales professional through artificial intelligence to make smarter more informed decisions. Ultimately, that’s what competitive advantage is about.
Thanks a lot.
Thanks everybody for joining. We’ll catch you on the next episode.
- Strategic Communications Group
- Government Technology Insider
- Financial Technology Today
- Future Healthcare Today
About Marc Hausman
I am Marc Hausman, founder and CEO of Strategic Communications Group (Strategic). In a complex and complicated world, Strategic is refreshing in its focus and simplicity. We are digital media company that helps business-to-business marketers leverage thought leadership to directly support revenue capture. I also perform stand-up comedy. Seriously!