Marketing: the more it changes, the more it stays the same. For every new buzzword that blows up on Twitter, there are as many timeless principles about how to succeed.
Mark Schaefer is a globally-recognized author, keynote speaker, futurist, and business consultant who blogs at Businesses Grow — one of the top five marketing blogs of the world. He has spent his entire career learning to separate the signal from the noise in business.
In this conversation, we cover whether trends matter, why dirty businesses lose, and how to win in a post-SEO world.
- Marketing in the new world
- Trends come and go
- Invest in content
- How to win in a post-SEO world
- Three criteria Peter Drucker used
- Flow: the secret to writing
- Should you pick a niche for your personal brand?
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05:03 – Marketing in the new world
A lot’s changing in marketing, including what it takes to succeed.
“It depends on your career. If you’re in accounting or if you’re in finance, The world is changing, relatively slowly, is determined by, by, regulations. In the world of marketing though it’s being tweaked literally every day, if not every hour. And I do think the necessary skill sets are changing, there are fundamental things learning about consumer behavior and research. Certainly those are important, but there were things on the list, and I don’t have it in front of me right now. I could pull it up if we need to, it had nothing on there about content marketing. It had nothing on there about influence marketing. Nothing on there about Web three Metaverse, which, where that is, where all the money is going right now. What does it say about our industry when it’s look, it’s they’re looking at conversions and seo and that’s the world’s moving beyond a lot of that stuff and the skillsets required to. As marketers. It’s gonna be experiential. Where’s experiential user where’s customer service, user interface? It’s not on the list. it’s almost an alternate universe for where I see where marketing needs to go and where it still is today. It’s sort weird. It represents that. Many companies and many leaders are slow to change in many ways. They’re trying to hold onto the old ways. They’re trying to hold on to advertising. They’re trying to hold onto things that are easier to measure .And you can either move with the world and keep up with the pulse of our culture. Or you can, be comfortable and do your old things and measure the old ways you can’t do both.”
07:10 – Trends come and go
Most people only think about current trends instead of how they might intersect with other trends.
“I’ve had a good track record of predicting what’s gonna happen and what’s gonna come next, and I realized that it was not till my thirties, I was a late bloomer trying to figure out what I was good at in this world, but I was in marketing and. When you have conversations with most people, they dwell in the trend that’s going on now. Here’s an example. Remote work, right? Now we’re in a pandemic and boom, remote work. And then you talk about remote work and you’re dwelling in the trend of the moment. What I do is number one, See how trends intersect. That’s one trend. But what about this other trend? How do they intersect? And then through, for example, what are the implications? Everybody’s talking about remote work and companies are thinking about, we need to upgrade our technology. Here’s what I’m thinking about. Remote work is not gonna go away. And when you have more and more people working remotely then they’re gonna have special needs. All right. You’re gonna. You’re gonna need, You have, it needs, you might have childcare needs, you might have healthcare needs, You might need food delivered in the middle of the night. I thought, look, this isn’t going away. I predict we are going to have remote working communities, especially some of these old rust belt towns. They’re gonna provide incentives. They’re gonna create a hub where you’ve got 24 hour childcare, 24 hour fitness centers, 24 it support, 24 hour everything. And I predicted this a year and a half ago. I on the Wall Street Journal, this is coming true. That’s an example where I think things through and then you look at certain areas of the country that need to attract people.”
09:51 – Invest in content
In order to stand out, content creators should be prepared to spend money to get the word out there.
“An example, probably my most famous example, and some people thought it was controversial, was, and I wrote an article in 2014 called Content Shock. And this is, this was the height of everybody’s getting into content marketing. And I know you were at HubSpot and they, that was the heyday of HubSpot and, if you think it through, it’s not sustainable. Because if you start getting too much of anything in a human system, in a natural system, in an economic system, something’s got to give. Some things got to change. People are producing more and more content. This the niches will fill up. That means you’ve gotta spend money either on promotion or on quality to compete. Then your competitors do the same. It becomes an arms race. Some people will win and some people are not going to be able to compete, and content marketing is not gonna be sustainable for everybody in the long term. Now, who benefits the readers? the readers benefit from the content arms race. That’s why you. We, one of the greatest shows one of the breakthrough shows of the history of television was Game of Thrones. 10 million in episode, right? Unbelievable. Mandalorian. 15 million in episode right Next year, we’ll probably see something. This 20 million in episode right now, Netflix on the rope. They don’t have those deep pockets to compete that. Amazon does. Disney does, Apple does. And even in that sort of content to cut through, you gotta have deep pockets in the long term. And that’s not to say that there still aren’t niches and there aren’t opportunities, but from a mega trend perspective it’s harder and harder to compete And cut through.”
15:13 – How to win in a post-SEO world
There are some clear advantages to creating unmissable content, rather than relying solely on SEO tactics to draw people in.
“You want to own and dominate a niche. Your competitors will never be able to touch you, which is what HubSpot did. It’s not necessarily good for business or for the world, but that’s how the algorithms work. Let’s say, 10 years ago, I’m a digital marketing consultant. If I hammered it out, could I make some progress on search results for digital marketing consultant? Maybe. Today, I’ve written 10 books, I teach at a university, I studied under Peter Drucker, I’ve blogged for 10 years, I’ve had a podcast for 10 years, I’ve won all these awards. Will I win SEO for Digital Marketing Consultant? No. Never. Ain’t gonna happen. I’ve gotta do something else. I can’t rely on that because the only people that are gonna win are the meanest, richest, junkyard dogs in the industry. They’re gonna be battling each other out forever for those top three slots on search. I can’t do that. I have to rely on authority. I’ve gotta create content that’s interesting, unique. I’m gonna opt in to him because I love what he does. I don’t wanna miss a single thing. At that point, you don’t need Google anymore.That’s where the world has to go: create content that’s interesting, unmissable, and entertaining. People opt into you and you don’t have to depend on all the money you’re putting in the search.”
19:46 – Three criteria Peter Drucker used
He had timeless principles for knowing which companies could be saved and which were doomed.
“Look for three things. Number one: is it clean? If the place is a mess and filthy, it represents a culture that doesn’t respect the process, the management, the products, and the customers. It’s a sign of deep disrespect. There’s a deep problem if the place is filthy. Number two: are people in meetings all the time? If you’re in meetings all the time, that’s a culture of fear. Points to deeper issues because you’re not letting people be accountable. You’re not letting people make decisions. 75% of the meetings that you have should be with your customer, either internal or external. The third thing: is there a flow? Are people fighting fires all the time? Or is there a peaceful flow to how the business is run? If there’s a peaceful flow, then there are good processes in place. That probably means there’s good quality in place, happy customers, and profitability. If people are fighting fires all the time, there’s deep process problems. He sees these very surface-level things, but he’s right. If any of those things are wrong, that leads you down the rabbit hole to help that company.”
24:20 – Flow: the secret to writing
It is possible to enter a state of flow while writing, where one becomes so focused that time seems to disappear.
“It’s happens, when I write I’ll get, I’ll literally, I’ll get into a state of flow. I have to come home to dinner. It’s about a, 50 yard walk down the hill and, my wife is expected me for dinner and I didn’t, around six. And I didn’t show up till eight 30 because I was in the flow. I , it was pouring out of me. You gotta go, you can’t interrupt that. When you’re doing something short, a blog post, you can stop and you can start, You can stop, You can start. But when you’re doing a long form content, a book, every time you stop, you have to reorient yourself in terms of where was I now, did I tell that story here or did I tell that story there? And. That’s the number one reason why people cannot finish writing a book because they stop and start and every time they stop, it becomes overwhelmingly disheartening because you almost have to read everything to figure out where you are. And right now, even. I’m having a pretty good consecutive time of writing. It’s still confusing about, wait a minute. I meant to do that. Did I need it? Do I do it in this chapter or did I already do it? I better go back and look. Because it’s, it’s a lot of words and a lot of stories and a lot of lessons. I personally. Can only do it in a sprint. I gotta, when I typically would work on a book would be the summer or the winter holidays, that’s when everything slows down.”
35:25 – Should you pick a niche for your personal brand?
People believe that picking one path can limit someone’s ability to be successful.
“I can name five people who bet their careers on being the Google Plus guy. The way I remain relevant is by looking at what do I do, what are my skills, and how is the world changing? Instead of picking one path, I’ll say “how do I apply my talents in a new way that’s relevant to the way the world is moving?” A lot of people say niche down, but it depends on what you wanna do. If you wanna be a great marketing professional, you can’t do one thing. You’re doing a disservice to your customers and to the world. You become a hammer looking for a nail. You’re the Facebook Ads person, right? Now every solution is Facebook Ads. People trust me cuz I don’t have an agenda. I know a little bit of everything. I’m gonna push people in the right direction, no matter what that direction might be.”