Stop Depending on Referrals: How to Build Your Consulting Brand

Are you a marketing consultant? Do you feel like you’re too dependant on referrals to win new clients? If yes, this episode is for you. My guest today will teach you how to use brand marketing to build trust and get more clients.

Joining us for the second time on the podcast, we have Philip Morgan, an expert marketing consultant who specializes in positioning for tech companies and the author of The Positioning Manual for Technical Firms. In this episode, you’ll learn why being pushy can damage your brand, when to invest in brand marketing, and how sharing your expertise can help you build trust.

Listen to the episode:

We covered:

  • What usually triggers marketing consultants to start marketing themselves more aggressively
  • Why you should not outsource your “business development” to people in your network
  • What is direct response marketing?
  • When should you start doing brand marketing to gain trust?
  • Why sharing your authentic opinion publicly is powerful
  • The litmus test to figure out if you’re ready to do brand marketing
  • Why client feedback is vital to improving the tone of your brand

Resources:

Full Transcript:

Louis: Bonjour bonjour, and welcome to another episode of everyonehatesmarketers.com, the no-fluff actionable marketing podcast for marketers, marketing consultants, founders, and tech people who are just sick of shady, aggressive marketing. I’m your host Louis Grenier. In today’s episode you’ll learn how to do marketing as a consultant or freelancer by using both what’s called direct response marketing and brand marketing, and you’ll also learn how to make the switch between the two, when to do direct response, when to do brand marketing.

Louis: My guest today has been on the show before, and I actually realized that I talked to him two years ago, almost the same date in October of 2017. He talked about positioning yourself as a freelancer and consultant two years ago, and as you can guess, my guest specializes in positioning for tech companies. He literally wrote the book on the topic called The Positioning Manual for Technical Firms. So he knows a thing or two about marketing for consultants and freelancers.

Louis: But even if you’re not a consultant or freelancer, I think you’re going to learn a lot from this episode as a marketer, because a lot of principle will probably apply to you. So keep on listening even if you’re not a freelancer or consultant yourself. Phillip Morgan, welcome.

Philip: Thank you Louis. It’s so funny that this was almost exactly two years ago. I feel like maybe I have a body clock that tells me I should reach out to previous podcast hosts at some interval, and apparently it’s two years.

Louis: Yeah, it makes me feel old as fuck. It’s weird. Feels like a lifetime away.

Philip: Sorry. Well, I was going to give you a hard time and say I thought this was The Everyone Loves Marketers podcast, and I’m going to have to leave because… No. Anyway, it’s good to be back.

Louis: So, we talked a bit about the topic of today, right? And you said something interesting. So, you said that basically consultants tend to decide they’re going to do marketing. They wake up one day and it seems to be a trigger that makes them say, you know what, it’s time to do marketing now. So from your experience, what is this trigger? Why do consultant or freelancer decide to say, you know what, it’s time to do marketing.

Philip: It’s interesting. I was talking to a firm with 70 employees this morning, and the trigger has happened for them. And I’ve seen it happen all the way down to the small end of the scale with solo people like myself. I think that it’s frustration with lack of control. So the way that usually manifests is all of our business comes through referrals, or word of mouth, or things that just happen accidentally.

Philip: I remember some years ago talking to a firm that had written an article about how to upgrade from one particular version of PHP to the next version, and this article just got tons of SEO traffic, and it brought them leads. But it was essentially accidental. It wasn’t something they’d done intentionally. It wasn’t a part of a plan, and it wasn’t repeatable. So for them it was a happy accident. It produced leads. And it’s frustration with that lack of control that, I think, is the unifying thread why people decide they want to change something.

Philip: Sometimes it’s like a presenting event of you had a whale client, and the whale client went away for some reason, and there was no… Whale clients, in my experience, don’t travel in pods. They don’t travel in groups. They usually come along one at a time. And so there wasn’t one to replace the whale client. So it’s something like that where there’s a feeling of frustration, and people perceive most forms of change as risky. And so, there’s a greater willingness to embrace that risk and try something different.

Philip: So, what we do then is what I want to spend the first time of our time together talking about, because it’s not the same thing every time, but there’s this consistency to what we decide to do when we get fed up with not having control.

Louis: Right. So before we dive into that, which I suspect you will talk about direct response and what it means, what is direct response marketing in the first place and all of that, so what’s happening really for most consultants and firms who rely on clients from word of mouth recommendations and some random leads coming from random places, it’s really this feeling of that they don’t have control over the number of leads they get, the number of clients that they get. Right? And it’s like they have no way to control that.

Louis: And it seems like the second trigger is more, they are literally going to fall from a cliff if they don’t do something or else the business is going to plunge, because they lost the big clients and they need money. And so in this situation they are way more willing to take a risk and go out of their way to find new clients.

Philip: Yeah. It’s almost like that fight or flight response that we have when something threatening happens, we believe it’s threatening. And you change your behavior in that moment, and you’re willing to do stuff that’s pretty extreme compared to your normal behavior. So I find that sometimes those clients are really successful at executing the change because their normal defense mechanisms around change are gone.

Philip: But, yeah, those are the two main triggering events, is a slow building frustration of, if this business is going to last, I need to be in control of it more than I am right now. And one of the things I need to control is how much opportunity I have.

Louis: I hinted at it just a few seconds ago, but what do you think is wrong with their approach? Why do you think they just get clients randomly? What’s the issue there?

Philip: It’s a tailwind effect. So, this is more relevant, and parts of what we’re going to say are going to be relevant to different people, what I’m about to say is relevant to people who are bootstrapping. They got into self-employment like me, like think a lot of people did, where they had a job and then they said, I’m going to work for myself. Or they didn’t have a choice in the matter. They got laid off and decided to improvise something as a self employed person. So for those people, when you do that, there’s lots of sayings about how, just take some bold action and the universe will help you out.

Philip: Well what happens is, unless you’re a complete isolated person with no social network at all, when you become self employed, people want to help you. They see this event happening in your life, it feels risky to them, and so they try to help you by giving you opportunity. So they proactively start saying, Philip just went self-employed. Back when I did this I was operating as a copywriter, and so they would say, do I know anybody who needs any kind of copywriting? And they would proactively connect me with that opportunity.

Philip: So that’s a tailwind. That is people volunteering to do business development on your behalf because they like you and they don’t want you to fail, which is beautiful. It restores my faith in humanity sometimes, that people will do that, but it doesn’t last for forever. And it depends on your situation, but I would say for most people it’s like one to three years and then that tailwind is going to go away.

Philip: People are going to say… Well, they’re basically going to get tired of you outsourcing your business development to them. And so they’re going to say, well, I don’t know who else I can send to Philip, I’ve sent everybody I can think of to him, or I don’t really exactly know what Phillip does to be honest. I think he does copywriting, so I don’t know who to send to him. So I don’t want this to turn into a positioning discussion because that would be the first part of the answer to that, is becoming super clear about what you do.

Philip: But again, you start to, what I’ve seen anyway with the clients I work with is maybe two, three years in, they start to see their opportunity surface area getting smaller. And that happens because people are just not doing what they used to do, because what you were really doing is outsourcing your business development to them.

Louis: Yeah. I love the way you’re putting that. And again, I completely join you in what you said when you started as a copywriter. When I left employment with no plan expecting to find clients, that’s exactly what happened. I didn’t have a lot of people in my network, and I had a few people recommending me and all of that, but it didn’t last one, two, three years, it-

Philip: How long did…

Louis: … lasted maybe three to six months.

Philip: Okay. I was curious how long it lasted for you.

Louis: Yeah, because I had no credibility really at this stage. I didn’t have a lot of network. I had only moved to Dublin recently. And so, yeah, I mean, I was very unprepared. So what you’re saying is even for prepared people who have strong network, from your experience, it could dry out quite quickly to just rely on business development from your network. And I like this way of saying it. So usually then what happens is, as you described, they decide to do marketing, and they basically start to do what’s called direct response marketing.

Louis: I don’t want to use too many buzzword in this episode or in the podcast in general, but it’s pretty self explanatory when you think about it. It’s basically a way to get a response almost directly from whoever you’re contacting in a sense, right? So at the opposite of it, which is brand marketing, which is more… takes longer, you don’t expect a response right now, it might take months or years to convert. So, how would you then define direct response marketing? How do you define it yourself?

Philip: Let me take a quick detour. It is the default, meaning if you say, okay, I want to “do marketing”, and you say, I want to figure out how to do that, and you seek advice, the chances are just incredible, incredibly high that you’re going to get advice that is based on… And we’ll just use two buzzwords in this episode, direct response marketing and brand marketing. Those are the only two buzzwords, the rest will be buzzword free. But the chances are so incredibly high that you will get pointed to this tool set called direct response marketing.

Philip: I did a Google search recently, and I’m just going to give you three examples. The search was marketing for consultants. I think I did it in an incognito window, so I got decently good results. And the first article 10 coaches and consultants were asked about marketing that works for them, seven of them answer in terms of direct response marketing. Next result, seven tips on marketing, four of them are specifically direct response methods. Third result, five tips on marketing for consultants, three are focused on direct response. So, it’s just the default. It’s what we’re pointed to.

Philip: And the next thing I want to say before I actually answer your question, Louis, is, the tools are neutral, it’s how you use them. But there is an inherent conflict between a certain type of business, which is one that’s based on expertise, and direct response tools.

Philip: So, to your question, what is direct response marketing? I have a purposefully clever definition, which is, it’s a form or a button with a funnel behind it. And I have a parallel definition for brand marketing. We can get to that whenever you want. But at the very highest level, at the most simplistic basic level, that’s what direct response marketing is, is a form, and I mean a form on the internet, or a button, that has some plan for marketing to the person who responds to that form, or clicks that button.

Louis: So can you give me examples of methods? So you mentioned those articles that mentioned a few methods that basically are direct response marketing. What are the methods that were described there?

Philip: Yeah, so there’s a set of tools, and I’ve just named two of them. And the tools can be combined together into an approach, or a methodology, or that sort of thing. But the tools are things like, and I guess some of this is bordering on buzzwords, but hopefully not. I want to be able to live out my promise that there’s only two buzzwords that we’re going to talk about. So, let’s see. I mean, I can run through a list of the tools, and then let’s circle back and dive into any one of these that you think would be interesting to our listeners.

Louis: Sure.

Philip: So, the first is a clear call to action. The second would be some low friction form that you see used to collect signups or opt-ins. The third would be some content asset like a white paper or a PDF that is behind an opt-in form. The next would be some low price product that’s used to measure buying intent or just simply to collect contact information. The next would be some event that’s actually…

Philip: The purpose of the event is not to be valuable in and of itself, it’s just meant to collect contact information that will later be used to promote something, long form sales copy, a sequence of emails, money back guarantees, testimonials, and finally what I call engineered pricing, which usually has three tiers for something that you’re going to sell. That’s quite a list. Those are all the tools of, I mean, that’s maybe not an exhaustive list, but those are the primary tools of direct response marketing. These tools are-

Louis: Yeah. I’m thinking of other… Sorry. [crosstalk 00:14:41].

Philip: I was just going to say real quickly, I just wanted to remind people these tools are neutral. There might have been a little tone of judgment in my voice, but the tools are neutral. Sorry, Louis, go ahead.

Louis: Sorry to cut you there. So, what I was about to say is cold email outreach could be another one, right? You reach out to people who fit your description of the company. You send them an email, you expect a response such as, yes, let’s set up a meeting or let’s have a call. It could be like doing webinars, basically I feel like… or LinkedIn posts where you say, hey, I’m available, send me a DM if you’re interested for work. All of those, basically, all of those methods that you mentioned and the ones I mentioned are basically a way for you to get a direct response from someone.

Louis: You expect an action from them pretty much straight away. I think that’s the way you can describe it.

Philip: Exactly. That’s the unifying thread, is that all of these things we expect, not everybody who’s exposed to this marketing, but we expect some people to take some response, and that response is going to generate information or data on them. We might just get a name and an email address, but that’s information, that’s data. And we are going to, sometimes even if we don’t set out to do it, we’re going to collect more and more information about them so that the process of selling them something can be just brutally efficient. That’s the mindset behind direct response marketing, is it needs to be super efficient.

Philip: And I’ll just add incidentally, that’s another one of the reasons we pick up that tool set at the beginning of our “marketing career”, meaning we decide we need to start doing marketing. The tools that we’re going to pick up is the lowest cost, most effective one, which happens to be direct response marketing.

Louis: Right. And what happens then after a while is that those start to not work that much anymore. They’re not as efficient as possible if you want to be in the business of expertise, right? If you want to really be seen as an expert in a specific industry with a very specific positioning, with high prices and whatnot. So, can you tell me more about, because I don’t want to talk too much about how to do direct response marketing, but instead how to do brand marketing when you want to position yourself as an expert, when is the trigger from…

Louis: When do you need to start looking at brand marketing? And maybe we can define it then instead of just direct response. When do you feel like the transition needs to happen?

Philip: I think we need to lay a little groundwork if that’s okay.

Louis: Sure.

Philip: We need to talk about, just briefly, where our ideas of what an expert looks like comes from. And for the most part, they come from licensed professions like medicine, so a really great all purpose example of an expert is some sort of very skilled, very specialized surgeon. It’s not the only example, but that’s an easy one to talk about. So, when we think about how that person gets opportunity, they almost don’t have to do anything that looks like marketing to get opportunity coming their way.

Philip: And part of that is invisible to us outside the profession. But there is a mechanism by which they get opportunities, called referrals, from other practitioners. So, but that’s a little bit invisible to us. We don’t think about that as a marketing tool, because it’s woven into the structure of the profession. But also, very notably, we do not see brain surgeons or other skilled, helpful, specialized medical professionals, we don’t see them hustling for work. We don’t see them using anything that looks like direct response marketing for that matter.

Philip: Now, you will see things that look like direct response marketing in things that are optional procedures like cosmetic surgery for example. You’ll see billboards, here in the US anyway, by the highway, or you’ll see other things that are a little bit like direct response marketing, but you will never see a brain surgeon trying to hustle up work. It just doesn’t happen. And that creates this expectation that if you have real valuable expertise, you will behave in a similar way. And so, I’ll tell you a brief story about when I started to… Well, let me interrupt myself.

Philip: I for sure started using direct response marketing tools at the outset of my career. I’m also describing myself, I’m not saying, oh, you guys are doing it wrong, do it the way I did it. I’m saying that this transition from direct response to brand marketing tools is pretty natural and pretty consistent for most professionals. And then I’m further saying, if you want to get beyond a certain level of authority, which is trust plus expertise, then you will have to migrate away from direct response marketing tools, because at some point there’ll be a conflict between the tools you’re using and your ability to earn trust.

Philip: And I became aware of that when I was having lunch with someone who’s on my email list, really great guy named Frank, and we’d been corresponding for a while. And I was in Nashville and had an opportunity to put together a lunch for people on my email list, and he was one of the guys who came.

Philip: And he told me, and I’m glad that he picked the in-person context to tell me, he was like, Philip, when I first came across your stuff, I had to check around. I had to ask around and make sure you were legit before I really paid any attention to what you’re doing, because the way that you were selling your book, for example… And, by the way, this is still true, I still have a very long form copy sales page where I sell my book on positioning. And I want to change that. I just hadn’t had the chance to yet. He was like, that just seemed fishy to me.

Philip: This is not a direct quote of what Frank said, but it’s a pretty good paraphrase of what he said. It just smelled funny. It seemed fishy. It gave off this funky odor of like, wow, this guy seems really desperate to sell this book, or he seems like he’s working really hard to sell this book, and that is something you would never see to use our example of the expert medical practitioner, you’d never seen them do that. You wouldn’t see them work that hard, because the value of their expertise is self evident.

Louis: This is incredibly powerful. Right? And thanks for sharing this story. Let me try to rephrase it in a way to make sure I understand it, and also repeat it for listeners right now. You say that basically what matters as you grow as an expert is trust plus expertise, right?

Philip: Yeah.

Louis: But direct response and trust are going head to head, because with direct response you use tactics that could be closely related to growth hacks and quick ways to get some result quickly, as you said, long form sales copy that are very pushy, bring urgency to the max, it’s now never or never, tomorrow the offer is gone, to posting everyday on your LinkedIns and you’re looking for work. It definitely diminishes trust, right? And it’s incredibly difficult to measure, but qualitatively when you get feedback like Frank gave you, you can feel it, it’s like, I’m not too sure I can trust this person.

Louis: So your thesis, may I say, is the fact that trust and direct response don’t very go well together at a certain point, that if you really want to be trusted, you want to be seen as an expert. You want to get away from pure, hardcore direct response methods. Am I paraphrasing correctly?

Philip: You are. There is that tension. At the most extreme version of that, we would say that direct response marketing tools are a necessary evil during a bootstrapping phase. So I use the example of a medical practitioner. For those people, there is a system in place for them to accumulate expertise and to validate the efficacy of their skills and their expertise. And that’s the profession. And the same thing exists in any other licensed profession. They have that infrastructure.

Philip: People like you and I, and I assume many of the listeners here, are operating outside of that context of an established licensed profession. We are cowboys, to use a gendered example, we are mavericks. We are people who see an opportunity and cultivate expertise to help make that opportunity to fix a problem or to create improvement or change for our clients, and we do that all on our own. And that’s why I love working with people like us. I know that sounds tribal to say it that way, but I mean, that really is my tribe.

Philip: So, we need every advantage we can at the outset. We need inefficient, oh sorry, we need inexpensive, highly efficient tools. Well, I mean, that’s direct response marketing, right? So we need that, every advantage we can get. And so not only are the direct response tools the default, they are also the tools that we need for a while until we get some feedback from the marketplace.

Philip: I guess this is the answer to your question, Louis. When do you make the switch? When you have feedback that there’s a trust problem. And I can’t say, okay, it’s going to be three years for you. There’s just no way to know with that kind of precision ahead of time. But I can say at some point you’ll get a sense, some feedback from the market, that you’re not trusted as much as you think you should be. And that’s when you need to start asking this question of is it the direct response tools that are causing the trust problem, or is it the expertise itself?

Philip: Maybe it’s the expertise, maybe you’re just really not that good, but hopefully that’s not the problem. And hopefully it’s just you need a different vehicle for connecting and building trust in the market, something other than direct response tools.

Louis: So you really need to be listening to your people’s feedback, right? You want to be open to feedback and making sure you don’t go into a bowl protecting yourself from this feedback, just making sure you listen to it. And I suspect that this type of feedback is easier to get in person, right? I mean, the closer you are to the persons, the easier, I mean, Frank didn’t tell you that until he actually met you face to face. Right?

Philip: Yeah.

Louis: And that’s an example, right? I don’t want to make generality out of it, but it’s pretty clear that when you talk to people face to face, they’re more likely to trust you. They see you’re a person. They might be more likely to share feedback they hadn’t share with you before. I want to give you an example here of what you’re saying, like illustrate this with a real example that I noticed actually yesterday.

Louis: I was reading one of Seth Godin’s latest blog post, that he publish every day. We didn’t push him for anything, he just publish and gives, gives, gives his expertise to people. And as a PS of one of his blog posts, he just says, today’s the last day to sign up for the freelacers workshop. This is our last session of the year. That’s what he says…

Philip: Right.

Louis: … after the blog post. Right. And that’s his way. You may say it is direct response because you click on it and therefore you might actually sign up to the program, but the way he’s putting it, it’s just so unsalesy, and you can’t see any other PS before or after. He’s just doing it in small doses. And that contributes to his image of having this strong image of a marketing expert. Right? Do you feel that this is an example to illustrate what you’re talking about?

Philip: I think it’s very much so. And this might also be a really great transition from talking more about direct response to talking a bit more about brand marketing. So, Seth Godin is a wonderful example of actually combining both tool sets, but in a way that is, first of all, almost perfect from a tone perspective, avoiding all the things you mentioned at the top of this podcast about crappy marketing, right? But he does use direct response tools as well. And he might be just a wonderful case study that we can talk through.

Philip: So you’re talking about Seth’s blog, which you can sign up to receive by email or you can just read on the web, and one of the main characteristics that I notice when I look at his blog is the spirit of generosity that’s there. So anything that’s sort of a sales pitch is… It’s not really an afterthought, it’s well thought through evidently. But I don’t know Seth personally, so I’m not speaking from direct experience here, I’m just saying that it’s all… has the hallmarks of being really well thought through. But it’s relationship to the gift is how I define brand marketing, which is brand marketing is art with a logo on it.

Philip: So if you imagined, and you can’t take that word art too literally, I don’t mean just visual art, or poetry, or music, or just those classical forms of art, I mean anything that’s meant to speak to a culture in a way that challenges or enriches the culture. And I’m borrowing a little bit from Seth when I use the word culture, but again, when I say culture, you should really just think a group of people who have something in common.

Philip: So when you’re intentionally making something that is a gift, no strings attached, but there’s a little logo on it, and the logo is the fingerprint of you, it might be your personal brand, it might be just the fact that you transmitted, or created, or gave the gift, or it might be, in the case that you just gave Louis, it might be a put a PS on an on a helpful generous blog posts that says, hey, by the way, we do this thing, yeah, it costs money, and also today’s the last day you can sign up for it. I wanted you to know that.

Philip: That relationship between the generosity and the gift, there’s always a commercial intent with almost any form of marketing. So it’s not like brand marketing is giving gifts with no ulterior motive, but there’s this relationship between the spirit of generosity, and the thing you’re doing, and the commercial intent that’s just distinctly different than direct response marketing.

Louis: Yeah, that’s a really nice way to put it. What it sounds like is more like really taking advantage of the reciprocity principle, which is one of the behavior bias, psychological bias that people have. The more you give, the more you can expect to get in return. Right? But it seems like those experts who do brand marketing very well, are in the business of giving, giving, giving all the time, right? They have podcasts, they write blog posts every day, they organize events for free.

Louis: They just give and give and give, but they know that in return they will get something. It might not be today or tomorrow, but it will come after many, many interactions, after someone sees your content 20 times that at six months did something, you know what? Fuck it. I’m going to get in touch with this person. Because trust is not issue anymore. You trust this person so much from the reciprocity, from what they give you. And if they have a good positioning, if they’re seen as a good expert, then that’s a home run.

Philip: Yeah. I mean, I’ll slightly disagree with one thing, which is to say that that brand marketer, if we could be inside their head, I think the mechanism is in fact this reciprocity principle. I’m not sure they’re thinking about that. That might be somewhere down the list of things they’re thinking about, but what’s much more top of mind for them is how can I make a difference? What does this culture need?

Philip: I have an example that I haven’t seen recently, there’s this confluence of events with the MIT Media Lab and Richard Stallman, who’s a famous, flawed individual. And this confluence of like, oh, the way that all unfolded with his pattern of abusive behavior, and the pattern of being covered up and enabled by an institution, it was gross.

Philip: And if someone who had something to say about that said something about it in the form of a really great talk or a podcast series tackling that issue, or a book that they wrote, really trying to think through how can we move through this difficult time in the social dynamics and politics of technology and get to a better place, that would be just a wonderful gift to a culture. That’s an example of a gift to a culture.

Philip: And if the person who created that or the company that created that happened to be a PR firm, or an HR firm, or something like that, they have an obvious agenda, which is this is related to the work they do, maybe you would want to hire them because of their perspective or the thinking that they’ve done.

Philip: But the gift itself, I think, comes from a place of real generosity of thinking and feeling, we’ve got a group of people that we care about serving and they’re suffering because this event is difficult for some people and traumatic for others, and we need a way out of this, and we’re going to contribute our thinking to try to create a solution here. That would be a wonderful example of brand marketing.

Philip: And, again, I think the primary motivator is life has been good to us, our business is going well, yes, we want more opportunity and we want future opportunity, but we can take some time to write this book because a lot of people are going to benefit from that. So I think that’s really what drives a lot of brand marketing, is that feeling of I’ve got something to offer here. I think there’s an audience for it. I’m going to invest in doing this thing.

Philip: And I don’t have a way to measure the response, I don’t know how quickly it’s going to happen, I just trust that by repeatedly being generous with this group that the business I need is going to materialize. And it sounds careless to put it that way, but I really do think that describes the thinking and the way this is done.

Louis: So repeatedly being generous with the people you seek to serve. It’s a good definition of all of this, and repeatedly is extremely important, right? Repetition builds trust. That’s also proven. The more you show up regularly, day after day, week after week, year after year, the more people would trust you. Obviously that means you need to show up and publish good stuff, and share interesting stuff, but it’s clear that repetition is also part of this. So generously and repeatedly sharing stuff to your people, right? The people you care the most.

Louis: So let’s get into a step by step method. Let’s say I’m a consultant, I’ve been doing direct response, I’ve been relying on my network, I’ve been doing a few stuff like funnels, landing pages, and generated long sales copy and whatnot, but I haven’t really touched on brand marketing. And I feel like, yeah, I got some feedback, and it feels like, and maybe it’s time to move on or to transition slowly to brand marketing. So how do you advise this person to go about it? What would you advise to start doing a step one? What is the first thing you think they should be doing?

Philip: I mean, this will sound weird, but if you have any feeling of like, oh, I’ve been doing it wrong, or I’m not really proud of what I did as a direct response marketer. Even if you’re a consultant using those tools, you’re still kind of a marketer. So I don’t mean you’re a professional full time marketer, I just mean you’ve used these tools in a certain way. The first step might be to just say, I’m not proud of that, but I am moving on here, so I’m not going to feel a lot of guilt or shame. That’s not going to help me to do better.

Philip: So, I mean, the first thing is just to sit down and say, you know what? You did what you did to get where you are today. And it’s a minor miracle that you’re still here today, you’re still surviving as a self employed person, and maybe even thriving, and you need to do some things differently. That’s fine. That’s a fact. Don’t waste any emotional energy about it. So, I think the first thing to do practically beyond that is to assess the tone of what you’re doing now. You did a great job, Louis, of describing the status quo.

Philip: You’re probably going to have these artifacts of the kind of marketing you’ve been doing hanging around on your website or places out on the internet, and the first thing to do is just to think about the tone and decide if that’s maybe the only thing that needs to change. Because, I’ll add, changes like these, especially if you’re a one man band, or a one woman band, or one person band, they take time. They’re not overnight changes. They’re not something where it’s like changing the headline on a website, or changing a few pages on a website where you could do it over a weekend, these changes will take longer.

Philip: And I can tell you from personal experience, it’s good to have the next lily pad to jump to and to not do this as a sort of overnight transition, because sometimes things can interrupt your momentum mid transition. And you’ll find that you’re like, okay, I think I need to change some things about how I do do marketing. And then you’ll just start making the change and then something happens. Before we hit record, you mentioned you’re moving house. That’s pretty disruptive. That’s not the ideal time to launch a new project.

Philip: So, if you lose momentum on the change, it can be painful because that can start to affect your lead flow, and that can start to affect your financial viability. So, make sure you’re thinking about this in terms of a gradual transition, or some overlap, or not biting off more than you can chew, because if you lose momentum, it may not go well for you. I say that with a feeling of pain in my voice because I’ve partially experienced that myself.

Louis: So it implies, in a sense, that you need to be comfortable financially, right? You don’t want to just switch everything from direct response, if it’s been working for you, to brand marketing overnight. You certainly don’t want to stop the flow of leads if you have any right now. And it seems like you first need to, yeah, as you said, think step zero is let go of the shame if you have any. We really are not saying here that you shouldn’t do direct response or that you should feel [inaudible 00:38:56] if you do so.

Louis: I mean, it takes what it takes to survive, right, to make money, to get clients. I know what I’m talking about. I had to do that at the start. It’s not easy to get your first client. It’s not easy to build a practice like that. Right. Let me just it say this way. So it’s still okay to feel a bit shameful, but you shouldn’t. You should let go that, that’s completely normal to do direct response this way. You need to make ends meet. So, it feels like you need to take your time and plan it out, right?

Louis: It feels like you want to plan your transition, maybe take three months to do it, or six months to audit your assets, start changing them slowly, get feedback, feel if it feels less yucky and salesy for people. Is that a step that you’ll take?

Philip: Yeah. Let’s say three to six months maybe. I’ll just circle back and add that one of the weird incentives is that when you figure out how to use direct response tools and they start working, the incentive is to say, well, what if I did more of this? What if I cranked up the volume knob on the tone and had a little more pressure, a little more urgency? And you do that for three years like I did, and you can find yourself at a weird place. So that’s why I specifically pointed out, you just need to forgive yourself for whatever you’ve done.

Philip: And, yeah. Remember what you’re doing when you transition to brand marketing is you’re saying, I’m going to shift the balance of generosity and neediness. I’m going to go way in the direction of generosity. And to do that you need to be able to invest more in your marketing. So there is a need, a requirement, I guess, that things should be working reasonably well before you can invest in brand marketing. That’s the inverse of what we said earlier.

Philip: The question was, how do you know when to switch? I said, well, when you get some feedback that maybe your trust is affected in the marketplace by what you’re doing, but also, you also need to be able to move forward, and to be able to do that you have to invest more deeply. So, one of the specific things you might start doing as a part of that inventory is saying, are there lead magnets or gated content assets? That’s another, sorry, I guess I just slipped another buzzword in there. That’s another thing that you might be using, right, is something that is behind an opt in form.

Philip: And you could consolidate those into something that’s a more generous less fragmented version of that. I don’t know what that would look like specifically for folks listening, but something along those lines might be a very easy, simple first step, or some of those gated content assets, some of those lead magnets. You could take away opt in forms and you could say, I think this thing is so useful, I just want to give it away. Here it is.

Philip: So those are two things, there are some other ideas I have, but those are two things specifically that you might do that are moving things towards generosity and away from this feeling of like, oh, I just need to get every email address I can.

Louis: And what do you say to people who might feel like, okay, that’s all well and good and I’m ready to do that, but what if I get less clients? What if people actually don’t convert? And actually those email address that I collect, they do turn into clients. How do I feel like this is working? How do I know that this would work for me? How can I take this risk?

Philip: Well, I’m debating whether… Okay, I’ll just go ahead and say it. So there’s a sort of litmus test. This might be another way. This is a sort of preflight checklist. You could think of this as, well, if this is not true, then now’s not a good time for me to move into brand marketing. And what I should do instead is just change the tone of how I do direct response marketing. I should know, I’ve done it for years. I still use elements of direct response marketing. The tone with which you do it makes such a big difference.

Philip: So, as an intermediate, I’m ready to move away from pure direct response. I’m not ready to move into brand marketing as an intermediate step in that middle area. You might say, well, I just really want to change the tone because x years of doing direct response marketing led me to this really pushy tone that, I think, undermines trust. And it just doesn’t feel like a generous place to come from. So I’m going to change the tone of how I do it. I’ll still use the tools of things like webinars, and email courses, and lead magnets, and stuff like that, but the tone is going to be really different.

Philip: So that might be that intermediate step. Here’s the litmus test, and some people will be like, great, I’m ready to do this, and other people, I think, are going to crap in their pants. The litmus test is, could you get on a stage for 45 minutes and say something to an audience, assuming it’s the right audience, and at the end of your talk there’s no CTA, all you did was introduce yourself, and you walk off the stage and someone walks up to you and says, we need to talk. Where you’re coming from is so relevant, or your perspective is so what I need, or your expertise is so clearly valuable that we should talk.

Philip: If you can do that, you definitely have what it takes to move into brand marketing.

Louis: Can you give me quick example of a tone that feels very direct responsive, very pushy, urgency laid, and one that is not, maybe… I know it’s on the spot, but just to illustrate what you’re talking about.

Philip: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, let’s just use almost an elementally simple example here. I have an event coming up in this example, there are 100 seats for this event. Could be in real life, could be online. Let’s just keep it simple. Here’s the direct response tone, this could appear in an email, or a social media post, or whatever. The event is for sale, seats are selling out, and 30% of the seats are available. So there’s 30 seats out of 100 that have not sold yet.

Philip: Here’s the direct response version, seats for this event are going like hotcakes. We’re not sure how much how much longer you’re going to be able to get into this. Only 30% of the seats are available, and we just urge you to to buy now because we have no idea how much longer we’re going to be able to make this available to you. And that’s actually a fairly tame version of the direct response. But you still get a sense of, I never said how many seats were available, so I just teased in front of people this fear of missing out and this urgency about taking action.

Philip: So here’s the the brand marketing version, we’re doing a seminar on this topic, we’ve got a hundred seats, as of the time of this writing 30 are still available. If you’re trying to learn more about whatever, this is going to be a good event for you. Here’s how you sign up. So, that’s one example of the tone difference.

Louis: Let me give you another one. I mean, I’m going to name them because they feel like their copy and their tone is extremely salesy, very pushy, very urgency driven. And I don’t really trust this company for this reason. So ClickFunnels is the one I’m talking about. Their homepage is like, quickly create beautiful sales funnels that convert your visitors into leads and then customers without having to hire or rely on a tech team, start free 14 day trial now, start building your first funnel right now, that’s [inaudible 00:47:06], right?

Philip: Yeah.

Louis: And the Ontario site is based on that. Now, I respect what they’ve built as a business, fair play for building such a big business. I am not able to do that, so fair play to them, but when it comes to the tone, and if you want an illustration of what is very direct responsive, very urgency lead copy, that you should probably stop using if you want to be seen as an expert, I think go to clickfunnels.com and see what I mean. It’s very out there. I mean, that’s my personal perception of it obviously.

Philip: Yeah. Well, I think that’s a good example. And again, mine wasn’t even as extreme as I’ve seen, but hopefully it illustrates that these are subtleties. When we’re talking about tone, a lot of times it is a subtlety. The information that’s being conveyed might be the same, but the word choice and the usage of things like fear of missing out, or urgency, or really trying to accentuate the pain that someone is in in order to increase their willingness to take action, those are all the genre expectations of direct response marketing.

Philip: So, if you go to a concert and someone tells you, yeah, this is a heavy metal band, you’re going to expect a certain thing, really loud guitars, screaming vocals. And if you get something different than that, then the problem is you were expecting the genre of heavy metal music and you’ve got something different. The problem is not necessarily the band.

Philip: So, a lot of what we’re talking about here really has to do with genre. It has to do with when we see a person who’s a respected surgeon giving a talk, we know that the reason they can do that is they don’t need to sell that time on an hourly basis while they were giving the talk. They’re financially fine. They can afford to invest in sharing their expertise in a way that is somewhat expensive. And when we see a webpage that has a certain look, and uses words in a certain way, and has buttons that look a certain way, those are the genre expectations of direct response.

Philip: So, part of it might just be, again, this transition between the two is what I’m talking about, part of that transition might be you use the genre expectations of brand marketing while still making use of some of the tools of direct response. And I feel like Seth Godin does that really well. So if you’re on his main email list, you’re getting his attempt at giving you the best gift he can give that day, seven days a week. And an occasional thing that says, hey, here’s a thing we do, here’s a workshop, here’s a paid thing you can sign up for.

Philip: And then if you do sign up for that thing, even just to learn more about it, you are in a direct response marketing funnel where the tone is very much brand marketing. So maybe what I should have done instead of saying all this stuff, Louis, is just say sign up for Seth Godin’s list, and then when he announces a workshop, sign up to learn about the workshop. You don’t have to pay to take the workshop. That’s not what I’m saying. I’m saying you will see these two things being fused in a very, I think, harmonious way if you do that. And that may be one of the best things our listeners can do to…

Philip: If this stuff is interesting to them, maybe one of the best things they can do to start learning more is to do what I just said, is to be on Seth Godin’s main list. And then when he announces a workshop, signup to get emails about the workshop, and you’ll see both of those things being woven together.

Louis: One thing that I like to do on a read copy or I try to assess whether something is salesy or too pushy on the urgency side, and other aspect, other manipulation tactic, is to ask myself, would I actually say that to my own mother or to my old friend? If I had to say that out loud, would that feel weird? And you see, when I read the ClickFunnel copy a few minutes ago, I felt very odd saying it out loud. It just doesn’t ring true. But then if you read Seth Godin’s copy on the seminar, for example, you can absolutely say that, yes, you could say that out loud.

Louis: PS, today’s the last day to sign up for the freelancer workshop. This is our last session of the year. I mean, you can actually say that out loud. But then, let’s read the first paragraph of the program. Freelancers are not tiny little entrepreneurs who haven’t succeeded yet, freelancers, people like you and me, are doing a different sort of work, the work of a passionate individual. Again, could be very much the first sentence of a presentation, but I’m going to reread briefly the ClickFunnel one.

Louis: And I know they’re not selling the same thing, and I know it might be working for them. I’m just trying to make a point here, quickly create beautiful sales funnel that converts your visitors into leads and into customers without having to hire or rely on the tech team. You would never say that out loud to someone. It just doesn’t make any sense, or at least I don’t think it does.

Louis: Anyway, so apart from the tone itself, and then we can transition quickly to the last few question I want to ask you, apart from assessing the tone, auditing, your assets, changing the tone so that they fit more into the genre of brand marketing instead of direct response, what would be the number one assets you would recommend listeners to create to be generous with their audience.

Louis: And I know it’s a very general question for a lot of people here, but what is the top format? What is the top channel? What is the top method that you think is very worthy of spending time on to be seen as an expert, to be trusted as an expert using in brand marketing?

Philip: So I’m going to make a generalization here. The audience for this generalization is self-made experts, people operating outside of the infrastructure of a licensed profession. And I will say, I think is a partial answer, maybe not a complete answer, but anything where you use your voice, and I mean the sounds that come out of your mouth, has an advantage for trust-building. When you speak in a way, especially when it’s live on stage.

Philip: And I realized for some folks that’s not a great fit as a marketing tool. There are a parallel channels like podcasting that have many of the same advantages, or being interviewed, like I am today. When you do something live with your voice, it seems to have this quality of building trust rapidly. My theory about why that is, is you’re taking a risk. I could come on your podcast and look like an idiot. You probably wouldn’t publish it if that happened, maybe you won’t publish this one, but I’m taking a risk by being here. And I’m happy to do it in service of my audience, but it’s a social risk primarily.

Philip: I risk looking like a dummy by saying something and not having it thought through, or saying something that’s wrong, or just not being a good communicator. Those are all ways that I could look like a dummy, and looking like a dummy is a risk. So, anything where you use your voice seems to carry this extra channel of information about confidence.

Philip: Video has this, and then the additional onerous demand of you looking good, or being confident and knowing what you’re saying, but like… Who was the presidential candidate? I think it was Nixon who discovered that television’s a different medium than radio. And it has this additional channel of information where if your skin’s a little moist, it’s going to look like you’re sweating, which is going to make people think you’re nervous.

Philip: And it has this additional complexity, but it’s still the same core thing of this was live, and they showed up in a way that was impressive, at least from an expertise perspective, and therefore I can trust them. It’s a shortcut to building trust. So I would say keep that in mind to those of you that are trying to answer that question, what brand marketing stuff, or if I’m trying to build some asset, what does that look like?

Philip: It probably, honestly looks like giving talks, doing a podcast, writing a book is not the risk that I just talked about because you have this editing process that can make things so much better, especially depending on how good your editor is and how much you invest in that process. But still, it has some of the same qualities of the book doesn’t exist unless there was something worth putting into a book. And so, there’s that trust building element. We could, I think, talk about some more options there, but that’s really the core. That’s how you think about that question, I think.

Louis: Yeah. That’s an excellent answer. Something I’ve been thinking about it for a long time, and which is why I believe podcasting as a channel is working very well nowadays, is because it does carry some trust. You need to put yourself out there. Speaking in a microphone and having your voice into people’s ear creates more trust in general than an article being written. You don’t actually know if this person wrote it himself, or herself, or themselves.

Louis: And yeah, I agree with you 1000%, podcasts, podcast interviews, videos, anything that carries more than just the written word probably has a more power overall. And again, we’re making generalization here, but I’ve seen that happening quite a lot. Phillip, thanks so much for sharing those insights. Very thoughtful insight as always. I like the way you think deeply about topics before sharing any of them, so I think listeners were quite happy to hear from you today. I just have two questions before I let you go.

Philip: Great.

Louis: What would it be the top three resources you’d recommend our listeners today? So it could be podcasts, conferences, books, anything.

Philip: I’m going to think about that for a moment. Okay. I’ve got a few. So there’s a book called The Business of Expertise written by David C. Baker. I think that’s just a great compliment, in a way, to this conversation, or it’s just more of the same kinds of things we’re talking about here. And so, that’s one I would like to recommend. Two more.

Louis: I’ve actually interviewed David on the podcast.

Philip: Oh, that’s great.

Louis: He actually sent me his book over the post, and even he autographed it. I feel like a fucking superstar. Yeah, very good book. The Business of Expertise. Absolutely.

Philip: So that’s-

Louis: Two other resources.

Philip: Two other resources. Oh, man. There are some episodes of Seth Godin’s Akimbo podcast that feel like really valuable resources. It’s been so funny to see my podcast consumption rise and fall in direct proportion to how much time I spend driving by myself, which has been very little lately. So I haven’t tuned into recent episodes, but that’s a good resource. And then I’m trying to think of one that’s maybe aligned with these topics that would be good to share.

Philip: I mean, if you want to hear my podcast partner, Liston Witherill, and I work through this stuff in the most inefficient manner possible, you would check out our podcast, but I almost feel like… Well, it’s called Offline, is the name of the podcast, that might be worth listening to. Again, you’ll hear us very inefficiently talking through a lot of what led to what I did today, which was a bit more concise than many, many hours of Liston and I talking through this stuff.

Louis: Yeah. I concur. I love Liston as well, and I actually had him on the podcast as well.

Philip: Oh, nice.

Louis: So…

Philip: Okay.

Louis: Great. People can listen to David’s episode searching for it on everyonehatesmarketers.com. You can do the same for Liston’s episode. If you want to hear Phillip’s past episode, you just search for it on everyonehatesmarketers.com as well. Phillip, thanks so much for sharing all of those insights, very thoughtful. Once again, thanks for taking the time to share all of that, to share your thought process. I really enjoyed it. Thank you so much.

Philip: Me too, Louis. Thanks for having me on.

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