Mark Schaefer: Owning Your Marketing Strategy

In this episode of the 15-Minute Strategy podcast, we talk with Mark Schaefer from businessesgrow.com about how important knowing and having your own business strategy is to your future success.

 Mark shares how you can get your team on the same page and how your customers are vital to that journey.

Mark talks about being humble, understanding what your customers are truly buying, and the power of great questions.

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About the Expert

Mark Schaefer

Mark Schaefer is a globally-recognized keynote speaker, educator, business consultant, and author. His blog {grow} is hailed as one of the top marketing blogs in the world.

Mark has worked in global sales, PR, and marketing positions for more than 30 years and provides consulting services as Executive Director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions.

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Full Transcript

Dan Moyle 0:08
Ready to spend 15 minutes with the experts you admire need strategy sessions from thought leaders brought directly to your ears. Welcome to the sprocket talk 15 minute strategy podcast where every week George B Thomas uncovers the challenges that sales, marketing and service professionals face and of course, the strategies to help them overcome their biggest hurdles. So sit back and set your sights on growth with these bite sized conversations build with your strategy goals. Ladies and gentlemen, welcome to the 15 minute strategy podcast.

George Thomas 0:38
All right sprocket tears, I am super excited to start this journey with you. I'm probably more excited because the man who is sitting next to me is well one of the most known folks a content King, a mind who is always pushing the limits when it comes to marketing and business and strategy. Mr. Mark Schaefer. How are you doing? today.

Mark Schaefer 1:01
Well, I am doing great. He took me by surprise with the sprocket tears thing. That's fun. Yeah,

George Thomas 1:08
well, you know, I try to learn I pay attention to folks and one of the things in priming

Mark Schaefer 1:12
my mind like the Mouseketeers, there you go where my ears George,

George Thomas 1:16
there you go

Mark Schaefer 1:18
like a sprocket on my head. Now

George Thomas 1:19
I'll send you a pair. Actually, we should probably make that but it's all about naming your community that is their name. And they are all sprocket ears because of the sprocket talk podcast, the 15 minutes of strategy that we're on right now. Now mark, I'm super interested. Before we dive into this topic that now I'm really excited about. We're talking off camera to get going. Just let people know a little bit that are watching that might not know about you where they can find you your website, your podcasts like you're doing a bazillion things. Give them some lowdown on who you are as far as a master of the marketing, mayhem that we go through on a daily basis.

Mark Schaefer 2:00
Well, I don't know if I'm a master, but I'm a student and I love being a student of everything marketing related. And so I mean, I've been I've had a great career I spent about 27 years in the corporate world, managing every kind of marketing function you can you can think of, and then started my own business about 11 years ago, started consulting, started teaching, starting, I became a professional speaker. I'm an author of eight books. Probably, you know, my last two books are probably my best known books, known how to create your personal brand in the digital age. And then my latest book is called marketing rebellion. The most human company wins and you can find all about me at businesses grow.com my blog is there. I have a wonderful podcast with Bruxelles The marketing companion and you can learn more about my books there too.

George Thomas 3:04
Yeah, definitely audience, viewers, listeners, if you have not been listening or been reading, those are some great resources. Now it's fun mark, one of the nuggets I want to pull out is something that you just kind of slipped in there. And we drove right on by is that you said I love always being a student. And I want everybody to realize that that is so important. When you're trying to run a business when you're trying to do marketing, sales or service, being a student always being curious to what you should be doing. And when you think about you as a student, and you sit back and you're doing all this learning, and you're learning and looking at the landscape of what's happening, what people are doing inside of these businesses. Mark, what do you feel right now is the biggest problem that most businesses are facing.

Mark Schaefer 3:53
Well, the biggest problem well there's a there's a lot there's a lot of I think you know, number one, I think finding enough good people is hard. I think people keeping up with the right skill set is hard in this very fast changing world. I think trying to figure out what's next is very hard right now. But one theme I see everywhere. And I love the idea that strategy is a big part of your the topic of your show is that, especially in the social media and content worlds, people just get too obsessed with tactics. You know, they're they, they're looking at, you know, how do we do our Facebook ads a little better? How do we do our content a little bit better? How do we get a little more traffic or whatever, and they're missing the big picture, that they really don't have a strategy. And here's a little trick you can do to figure out if you have a strategy, and this is the first thing I do, I consult with companies all over the world. I consult with fortune 500, and startups and universities and a variety. And this is the question, anyone listening to your show can use this need to go back into your organization, whatever organization it is, and you have to be able to finish this sentence. Only we. So whether you're a nonprofit or you know, related to the arts, or you're a big fortune 500 or startup, you've got to be able to figure out why you're distinctive. So, go back to your company, get your leadership team around a table, have them get out a piece of paper, say, Hey, everybody, I want you to write down how you would finish this sentence only week. And if everybody doesn't write down the same thing, you've got a problem. you're setting yourself up for failure, because people don't they're not giving you any direction. You don't know what to say you don't know where to say it. You don't know who to say it to. And all of that can only come from being able to finish that sentence to figure out what makes us distinctive. Why do our customers love us? Why do our competitors fear us? And where do we need to be next? That's the first question, really, to get focused on strategy. And it's hard. It's really, really hard sometimes. But you've got to be able to do that, or you're just wasting your time.

George Thomas 6:38
Yeah, it's it's interesting, I hear you say that mark, and there's a couple things that go through my mind I think about how you always hear that there are no new ideas. And so if there are no new ideas, how do you actually separate yourself you also in my mind, kind of wrapped around this idea of like, man, getting anybody to align in the same direction is somewhat difficult, and I don't Know how many businesses are taking the time to do what you just said? What if I'm sitting there at the table around with my team and we realize, Oh, we've got a major problem. And the major problem is that we've been optimizing our time to somebody else's strategy. We don't even have a strategy. What's the strategy to figure out the right direction to go as a company? Where does your mind go? When I asked you that

Mark Schaefer 7:26
question. First thing you do is you go out and talk to your customers. And I don't mean just a survey. I mean, go out and really visit them and see what they do and see how they're using your product and your services. And this is never failed for me. As I've gone out and tried to figure out, you know, where does this company fit in the ecosystem? The customers will tell you, you just have to be patient. You have to listen well. You have to be humble. And by the way, don't mistake what customers are buying for what you're selling. It could be two completely different things. And I won't tell a long story, but I mean, that there was an example in my career where this customer, the customer of mine, was selling this high tech stuff. It was geeky, geeky, geeky techie, techie techie. But when you talk to the customers, they could care less. They said, These people create this communication system for us that never fails. They're the best service on Earth. You know, they are like our security blanket. The company was selling geeky tech. The customers were buying a security blanket that changes your marketing. Right? So you've got to know you've got to know that. Or you're really you know, you're just setting yourself up for failure.

George Thomas 8:55
Yeah, Mark, it's, it's interesting. I love that you brought out the word humble. I love that we're on the This journey we're a podcast is gonna bring hundreds of episodes around strategy that the first thing you got to realize is you don't have a strategy. Here's how you get a strategy. I love that the strategy is listening to your customers and being humble while you're doing that. The thing about it, I want to dig one layer deeper to really maybe give the viewer some nuggets of actionable things that they can do in a way to do it the right way. Is you I know you, you're a great communicator, probably one of your weapons that you can pull out of your tool belt is like great questions. So when I'm sitting there, I'm a mortal, you know, mere mortal human being and I go to talk to these customers, what types of questions Do I want to ask them to get the right answers that I need to be listening to, to really unpack? This is the direction we're going to go with our strategy for our company?

Mark Schaefer 9:52
Well, I think you know, one of the things that I really value is just looking around and seeing how Are they using your product? How are they displaying your product? How do they talk about your product? Are they using all of it? Are they using some of it? Do they really know what they're doing? Could it be optimized? What about the competitors? How are they displaying the competitors? What you know, there's you can you can really glean a lot from just looking around and watching how they work. I would ask the question, What do you hate? What do you hate about your job? What are there? Are there things that we could be doing? That could relieve you of some of the things that you hate? You know, what do you you know, what do you love about us? We are Why do you keep coming back to us? Why do you keep buying from us? And and you'll if you just listen well enough and you and you listen long enough. It might not be the first customer or the second or the third, but someplace in there. You'll hear those words You'll hear those words and you'll say, Ah ha, that's it. That's what everybody's telling me. And now I know where we fit. And now I know what we need to say, where we need to say it, how we need to say, who we need to say it to, how many times we need to say, how many ways we need to say it. And one thing I want to come back to is, you know, you said something about, oh, well, there are no new ideas. You know, how can we come up with something new? It doesn't necessarily have to be an idea, or a feature. That's new. Okay. Marketing is a big, big toolkit. There are lots of things that you can do. One of my favorite examples, is this podcast. The Entrepreneur on Fire john Lee Dumas, right. Okay. Here's this young guy, right? He decides he's going to create a freakin podcast on being an entrepreneur. How much content is there about create being an entrepreneur? a bajillion. It is saturated game over. Now. How did he succeed? Because he was the first one to create a show every day. Right? Yeah, wasn't the content wasn't the questions wasn't the guests. It was the frequency made him different. That's his only we. I'm the only one to do it every day. Right?

George Thomas 12:32
So every company, every organization can answer that question somehow. It may take weeks to figure it out, but you gotta figure it out. Yeah, I love that example. And as we're getting close to the 15 minutes, and this is 15 minutes of strategy podcast. Mark, I've got one more question for you. And of course, you know, we're gonna have you back on another episode at a later date. But when you finally figure out here's the it whether it's frequency or a motion Or tool or whatever it is it this is it. Can you think of any gotchas when you start the maneuver? Now this new strategy, this new messaging, this new baby that you're going to deliver to the world? Are there any gotchas that come to mind that you've helped other companies kind of navigate through?

Mark Schaefer 13:20
Well, I mean, there's a there's a, there's, there's lots of different things that can happen, of course, but I think the biggest problem that companies have is that maybe they've discovered their new unique value to the world, but not enough people care. So that isn't a very good business model. So maybe you're the best in the world at what you do. But there's only five people in the world who really care about it. And you can't make a business out of that. So you've got to your part of your assessment is you've got to figure out are there enough people out there To matter, I think another gotcha is, is the company culture. I mean, your culture is your marketing. That's what's going to show up in the world. So once you figure out your only week, and how you're going to maneuver in this world, do you have the leadership? Do you have the culture to pull it off? You know, that's a big, that's a big question. Sometimes if you're going to make a little change or make a pivot, that takes bold, brave leadership, you know, do you have the right people to do something like that? So those those are a couple ideas that could be gotchas.

George Thomas 14:38
I love it. So in this first episode, make sure you're not optimizing somebody else's strategy. Make sure you have your own. Make sure you're listening to your customers asking the right questions, looking for the it no matter what it is, and then watching out for those things that might stop you from actually being successful with now what is your strategy mark as we head off, and of course, we're going to have you back for another episode, where would you like people to go if they want to reach out and connect with you and maybe have further questions or want to work with you around strategy?

Mark Schaefer 15:08
Well, I'm active on most of the social media channels and you can all you cannot even find those. On my website businesses grow. Nobody can remember how to spell Schaefer George I just gave up so most people can remember businesses grow, so you can find that you can. You can find me on the web

George Thomas 15:25
and viewers listeners. We'll see you in the next episode.

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