What the Presidential Campaign Can Teach Us About Sales and Marketing

You can use these same tactics to earn more customers.
September 18, 2020 6 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Scott Greenberg’s Wealthy Franchisee: Game-Changing Steps to Becoming a Thriving Franchise Superstar will be released via Entrepreneur Press on November 17. It can be preodered via Amazonand Barnes & Noble.

Politicians must do more than serve. They also have to sell. They’ve got to get the job before they can do it. Then they have to keep it. Right now, President Donald Trump and Vice President Joe Biden are actively selling themselves. Their campaigns are using powerful persuasion tactics designed to earn more votes. You can use these same tactics to earn more customers.

In his treatise entitled Rhetoric written around 350 BC, Aristotle described three modes of persuasion. Each of these modes is still deliberately used today by marketing experts, public speakers and political candidates to win over the public. These modes are very apparent in the Trump and Biden campaigns and serve as useful examples of effective selling and marketing.

The first mode is called “logos,” or logic. It’s using data, reason and facts to seek agreement on your perspective. Both presidential candidates cite the statistics they believe will best make their case and harm their opponent. Listen for stats about the economy now and during the last administration. You’ll hear references to statistical changes in Covid-19 infection. Both campaigns outline plans for the future, listing the steps they’ll take to improve the country. This mode of persuasion attempts to appeal to our heads with data and logic. You’ll see the same approach in an automobile commercial that describes a car’s features, mileage and available financing. Logos is all about ideas and information.

Related: Buying Into a Political Brand: 5 Things That Matter to Voters

Of course, this information is only effective to the extent the public believes it, which leads us to the second mode of persuasion, “ethos.” Ethos translates to ethics, but what Aristotle really meant was credibility. That means explaining why you’re the expert or authority on the topic. Here the argument is less about the message and more about the messenger. Often this credibility is established by third-party recognition. At each of the two big political conventions, well-known speakers stood up to praise their party’s candidate. Both candidates boast about the organizations endorsing them. Each will reference their experience, their accomplishments and the adversity they’ve overcome. They’ll bring family members to the stage to make them seem more human. They’ll cast doubt on their opponent’s intentions, competence and character. They’ll also challenge and reject any press they get they believe is unfair or untrue.

In that automobile commercial, the manufacturer might tell you how their car is number one in its class. They may show an image of their J.D. Power & Associates awards. Or maybe they’ll put Matthew McConaughey behind the wheel. If he’s driving the car, it must be pretty cool. Ethos is all about establishing yourself as someone worthy of believing.

The third and most powerful mode of persuasion in an election and in business is “pathos,” or feelings. It means tapping into people’s emotions. If we can get them to feel something, we can get them to do something. For Donald Trump and Joe Biden, the feelings both men try to elicit are inspiration and fear. Both deliver speeches that are aspirational and troubling. They give us a vision of a beautiful, better and more prosperous America. They caution us about how the opposing party will hurt the country. They tell stories about Americans who are working, suffering, thriving, starving — all designed to humanize their message. They use slogans such as “Make America Great Again” and “Restore the Soul of America.” These slogans don’t provide information; they’re just meant to create a feeling. Political campaigns intentionally stir our emotions to call us to action.

So do advertising campaigns. That’s why those same car commercials will show smiling owners and jealous neighbors. They’ll feature a couple arriving in style at a restaurant or a group of 20-somethings playfully signing as they cruise the downtown streets. Wouldn’t it be fun to do that with your friends? Pathos is all about emotions.

Combining these three modes of persuasion will empower you as a business leader. It’ll maximize your appeal to consumers. It’ll give you direction when designing marketing campaigns. It’ll also allow you to sell more effectively. (All of these advantages are logos.) I know this to be true because I’ve been an award-winning business owner, speaker and author for many years (ethos). As a widely celebrated philosopher, Aristotle’s ideas are still discussed by academics and executives; they’ve stood the test of them (more ethos). Consider how incredible it would feel to have these tools at your disposal. You’d actually be able to convince people to try your business and to spend more. Just imagine the possibilities (pathos)!

In these final days of the election, Donald Trump and Joe Biden will work hard to appeal to both our head and heart. They’ll share information, highlight their credibility and tap into our emotions. Whomever does it better will win.

Related: 5 Things Every Entrepreneur Can Learn From Kamala Harris

Business owners are on a never-ending campaign to bring in more customers and sell more products and services. There’s a lot of competition going after the same consumers. You want to influence people to come to you. The more deliberate you can be in your messaging, the more likely that they will. That’ll best happen when you appeal to them with logic, credibility and emotion.

3 Keys to a Highly-Effective Content Marketing Strategy

Zero in on these three areas of content marketing to boost engagement with customers and prospects.
September 17, 2020 6 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

Covid-19 has significantly changed business-to-business marketing plans. As Forrester noted recently, “It’s more than a combination of discrete trends such as rising bounce rates, declining open rates, or increasing churn; it’s that buyers now expect a fundamentally different relationship with your company.” Consequently, creating compelling, relevant and consistent content is a highly effective way to attract and retain your audience’s attention, gain their trust, and, ultimately, to convert them to customers.

In a world full of false advertising and eroding trust, content marketing should be at the heart of any digital marketing strategy. It’s the foundation of all digital marketing channels, including SEO, public relations, social media and traffic generation. According to Hubspot, 70% of marketers are actively investing in content marketing in 2020. Rather than trying to directly sell your products or services, you are offering useful, relevant content to your prospects and customers to help them overcome their challenges. So then, the focus is on content – be it in the form of infographics, YouTube videos, whitepapers, webpages or information in other formats.

Effective content marketing sends a message to potential customers that you are passionate about what you do and that you want to share your expertise with them — for free. To achieve this goal, it’s important to focus on three prongs: business goals, personas, and your sales funnel.

Related: The 17 Best Content Marketing Books You Can Read Right Now

Three Essential Factors to Build Your Content Marketing Strategy

In order for your content marketing efforts to be successful, you need to create a strategy based on these three factors.

1. Business Goals

Step One in beginning an effective content marketing strategy is to be certain it lines up with your business goals. Understanding what business goal you want to achieve or support gives you the needed clarity to set the appropriate marketing objectives. Are you aiming to strengthen customer loyalty and reduce churn? Maybe the goal is to attract new prospects or overcome objections. Once you have defined your marketing goals, you can develop your content marketing campaign.

2. Personas

Developing buyer personas is a necessary part of your strategy, but you have to take it a step further. Find the individuals within your audience that have the influence and enthusiasm that will help grow your company. If your audience is split into several types of buyers, refine your buyer personas to focus on those most likely to convert.

Start by identifying some of your most loyal customers. From there, find the primary decision-makers who championed the decision to purchase from or hire you. There are probably sales or service team members in your company who have close relationships with these people. Find those employees, and use sales data to create a persona – data points like goals/motivations, challenges, background, demographics, common objections, biggest fears and hobbies.

3. Your sales funnel

Vendor research happens online, and what will move the buyer down the pipeline is valuable content being published on your web, email, search and social channels. In order to drive success with B2B content marketing, you need to understand how the content you create fits into the different stages of your sales funnel.

Be aware that your funnel may vary from the norm depending on elements such as your sector, solution, business model, pricing structure and target market. In fact, experts report that “today’s B2B buyer might be anywhere from two-thirds to 90% of the way through their journey before they reach out to a vendor.” Confer with the sales team about the particulars of your sales funnel, then use that intelligence to create a marketing strategy that addresses leads at the top, middle and bottom of that funnel.

Related: Content and Content Marketing Are Not the Same. Here’s How to Frame the Top 11 Content Formats.

What Can Be Gained from Content Marketing?

There are many benefits of content marketing, including:

  • Addressing pain points leads to sales: When prospects look online for ways to solve their issues, your content is there to help over and over. As an example, marketers who use blogs as a primary communications tactic are 13x more likely to see return on investment.

  • Creating a community: As you establish thought leadership through content marketing, you gain credibility and encourage stronger relationships with existing and future customers.

  • Long-run savings: Good content has legs. It continues to work for you long after you’ve created it, continually bringing in qualified leads. That lessens paid marketing expenses. Demand Metric found that not only does content marketing cost 62% less than traditional marketing efforts, but it generates three times the number of leads.

HubSpot’s content marketing efforts showcase the powerful results that can be produced from a comprehensive strategy. The company is well-known because they produce massive amounts of content. HubSpot sells inbound market, sales and service software, but its claim to fame among marketers is the quantity and quality of its marketing resources, much of which is free. Their repertoire includes case studies, guides, ebooks, blog posts, courses, reports and more. Their content drives free traffic to their site, with the end goal of converting those leads into customers without spending a dime on advertising.

Related: The 5 Cs of Content Marketing Copy

Gaining Leads, Gaining Trust

Compelling and relevant content is the cornerstone of demand generation and lead nurturing strategy. Marketers depend on content to connect with prospects and existing customers in the current communications landscape, but to be successful, it must inform, excite and be worthy of sharing. It should arm audiences to address obstacles and accomplish their goals. If you’re able to accomplish this, prospects will come to trust your brand. This involves prioritizing original content creation to promote that message so it can add value to the lives of your customers. Use the best practices discussed above to begin or refine your content marketing strategy.

6 Skill Sets Every B2B Marketing Team Should Have On Its Roster

In order to execute an ABM campaign in 2020, you need a team filled with B2B experts-from forward-thinking copywriters to behind-the-scenes gurus.
September 17, 2020 5 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

If you’re like 15% of B2B marketers, your eyes are squarely focused on account-based marketing—but you haven’t fully invested in the strategic approach just yet. Account-based marketing, or ABM as it’s commonly known, flips classic marketing on its head, targeting a select number of high-value accounts while utilizing personalized content to generate qualified leads. ABM appeals to B2B companies across a range of industries because, quite frankly, it makes sense. With ABM, your ROI is higher, and both marketing and sales teams are in constant communication about what’s working, what’s not working, and the necessary next steps to achieve your KPIs.

If you’re reading this, though, you’ve probably already done your ABM research. You know how it works, you know why it works, and you know the types of accounts you want to target. There’s no use waiting around anymore; you’re only wasting precious time and resources focusing your efforts elsewhere.

Once you’ve made the decision to execute an account-based marketing strategy—and received the monetary approval from the CFO— your next task is building out an ABM team. Whether it’s a brand new team fully dedicated to account-based marketing or just a new direction for your current marketers and sales executives, there are several types of people you’ll need on your team in order to execute a dynamic, locked-and-loaded ABM campaign.

From creatives to developers, here are the six skill sets your account-based marketing team needs to succeed.

1. Art of the Written Word

B2B copywriters are easy to come by, but ABM copywriters, specifically, require a knack for nailing copy that appeals to a very specific person or audience. They have to know which words, phrases, and general ideas will appeal to a CMO—and they have to be able to alter that message to resonate with a Director of Operations. For example, if you’re trying to engage with a healthcare company in order to sell them your software, your ABM wordsmith should create content focusing on growth and revenue generation for a senior marketer, whereas a high-ranking member of the operations team will be more interested in the implementation of the service. And with ABM, the messaging has to be continuous. The ultimate ABM copywriter has the stamina and creativity to sustain a campaign from the awareness stage all the way through evaluation—and then continue to generate engaging copy as necessary.

2. Graphic Design Expertise

When it comes to designing an ABM campaign, experienced graphic and UX designers are critical. They should feel confident designing e-books, programmatic ads, and even podcast logos; ABM campaign creative assets truly run the gamut. While target accounts consume B2B content on multiple channels—including email marketing, LinkedInadvertising, and even direct mail—the visual messaging should be aligned. Branding guidelines and general awareness of when and where the targets interact with the content are instrumental for the design process.

3. Project Management Proficiency

Organization, organization, organization. While the right ABM software will automate a large portion of the process, a real, live human will keep all parties within the marketing and sales teams on track. Is the creative for the lead nurture email campaign ready and approved to launch? The sales team identified a new lead; what do they now need from the marketing experts? This type of employee can fall on either side of the marketing/sales spectrum, but they’re always well aware of the happenings taking place throughout the entire ABM campaign.

4. Analytical Ingenuity

No questions asked, your ABM team needs someone adept at taking a bird’s eye view of a campaign and aligning it with the granular details. They can spot everything from an account engaging at a higher rate than others to a missed opportunity when it comes to site conversion. The ideal team member with this skill is always pushing ahead and looking to reinvent the B2B marketing wheel. They may have seen another B2B software company’s ABM techniques and feel inspired to go one step further, asking the rest of the team, “How can we do this, but make it our own AND make sure it’s successful?”

5. An Eye for Budgeting

A trait that tends to fall under the “analytical” umbrella, budgeting in ABM focuses on the ever-important ROI. With a more focused strategy, 71% of marketers report they saw a higher ROI compared to previous non-ABM initiatives. But that high ROI isn’t just guaranteed. Your team needs someone, or multiple someones, to pay close attention to where and how the marketing budget is being spent. This type of marketer knows to hold back on PPC spend when an account is in the consideration stage of the sales funnel; the cost of keywords targeted at this stage is ultimately cost-prohibitive. And they’re not afraid to give a nod to a major spend on content marketing if they’re confident in the return.

6. Mastery of Operations

Finally, your team needs an individual with a keen familiarity of Google Analytics, Google Tag Manager, and whichever ABM reporting platform you’re utilizing. They work behind the scenes to keep your ABM campaign up and running. Question about channel performance? They’ve got your answer—in just a couple of quick backend clicks. Wondering why a particular account is lagging? This person can identify a low-performing campaign and communicate numerical data to help inform the next strategic step.

At the end of the day, account-based marketing is a complete team effort. A successful ABM campaign combines creativity with hard-and-fast numbers, and it seamlessly marries marketing and sales efforts in order to keep your business growing quarter and quarter and year after year.

15 Tools to Boost Your YouTube Marketing

This year, businesses have had to grasp at every opportunity to drive interest and sales. Luckily, YouTube has become a useful option. Video is great for user engagement, and YouTube can drive traffic–and leads. To that end, these 15 tools can help you optimize your YouTube content. Read the full article at MarketingProfs

2020 has been tough for everyone. Hundreds of businesses have collapsed, and those left standing have had to grasp at every opportunity to drive interest and sales.

Luckily, YouTube has become a valuable marketing option. It’s a relatively new and dynamic marketing channel, and it’s becoming essential: Nearly every major company now runs its own YouTube channel (as do many minor ones). And video content is great for user engagement; you can feature guides, tutorials, and even plain old commercials.

Yes, video content might be more difficult and time-consuming to create than other content forms, but that difficulty is the reason YouTube has less competition and can get you much more traffic.

What follows are recommendations for specific tools you can use to optimize your YouTube content. Some are free and some are paid, and they are grouped under three categories.

1. Tools for YouTube Keyword and Topic Research

Keyword research plays two roles in YouTube video optimization.

The first is fairly obvious: Through the use of certain terms in your video description, tags, and—most important—your video title, you let YouTube know exactly what your video is about.

Second, by researching and tracking SEO rankings of certain keywords, you can refine your own YouTube strategy. Specifically, once you know what topics are trending or most attractive or engaging, you can attack those first.

Tools mentioned in this section: YouTube Autocomplete, Google Keyword Planner, Rank Tracker, Keywordtool.io, Kparser, Keywords Everywhere

Say you want to make a small-ish one-shot YouTube video, and your company falls into a specific niche. You’ll likely want to use free tools as much as possible. Luckily, there are some good ones.

YouTube Autocomplete can be surprisingly useful. When you type in the keyword you’re interested in, autocomplete gives you a significant list of common variations. It shows you what people search for and what kind of long-tail (longer multiple-word) keywords you might consider using.

Autocomplete is the most basic tool to use for researching YouTube keywords. It’s free, which is a huge plus, and it’s embedded into YouTube itself. On the other hand, the drawbacks are obvious: There’s no data on the keywords, and you can research only one keyword at a time.

To research further, you’ll need a tool that’s a little more complex, though preferably still free and convenient. That’s Google Keyword Planner.

Keyword Planner is the weapon of choice for many YouTube marketers, and for good reason: You can research up to 10 keywords that you want your video to rank for, and it gives you a solid list back.

Ideally, you’d use Keyword Planner with YouTube Autocomplete to have the fullest list of keywords possible. But, at that point, you will have crossed into a larger-volume campaign.

If you’re aiming to run a full YouTube campaign, you’ll probably need to dig into more specialized tools. For example, Rank Tracker (full disclosure: it’s my project) brings together a bunch of different tools, and is useful for someone who needs to study every type of YouTube keyword research metric, sometimes simultaneously.

YouTube Autocomplete is there, but it’s extended with many more results and stats on each keyword, such as Keyword Difficulty, Expected Visits, and so on. Right next to Autocomplete is the aforementioned Keyword Planner. Rank Tracker allows you to research and save the keywords mined in both tools while seeing their stats.

For YouTube keyword research, it’s enough to use the free version. Rank Tracker is a good fit for those of us who handle large-volume SEO campaigns and need a free app. Note that it’s a desktop program, so it takes time to get it up and running.

Two additional apps that are Web-based and also work for keyword research are Keywordtool.ioand Kparser.

Keywordtool.io lets you search only one keyword at a time, but the list of keyword variations it returns is pretty robust. Unfortunately, the app requires you to pay almost immediately for access to full functionality, including data on the keywords you’re getting.

Kparser is better in that you can research a bunch of keywords at once; but, again, you don’t get the search data until you pay, and without that data it’s tough to figure out the best keywords to use. Kparser is also exceptionally slow compared with the other tools on this list.

Keywords Everywhere is a free browser extension that offers a lot of SEO data relevant to YouTube optimization.

Using these tools, you should be able to find the right combinations of keywords for your title, description, and tags.

2. Tools for YouTube Channel Audit and Management

To grow your business, website, or YouTube channel, you need to track your progress and current standing. On YouTube, you can always go by your subscribers and view count, of course, but you can also go beyond those.

Tools mentioned in this section: YouTube Analytics, Social Blade, quintly, TubeBuddy, vidIQ

First things first: YouTube Analytics is both free and convenient. It’s included with your channel and it gives you an overview of your audience and what they prefer watching overall. You also get a neat little graph of your viewership history. It’s not super comprehensive, but if you need only a few statistics it gets the job done.

You can enhance YouTube Analytics with Social Blade, which offers a bunch of useful information about your channel (or your competitor’s!). There’s also a neat module that gives a projection of your channel’s growth, but take it with a grain of salt: We all know how quickly things change online.

Part of quintly is dedicated to YouTube research. You get all the usual stats, and it includes a reporting feature for communicating with your team, your boss, or your clients.

If you’re looking for a channel management and auditing tool, TubeBuddy should be your first choice. This one is all about its multiple features.

TubeBuddy is really a software suite that allows you to control the entire YouTube workflow, from writing titles and editing thumbnails to analyzing your niche competitors and running giveaways. It’s packed as a paid browser extension at $9-49 a month, but, honestly, even the free version is totally worth using.

vidIQ is another all-in-one YouTube SEO solution packaged as an extension. Its functionality is largely the same as TubeBuddy’s, although the basic extension is a little bit cheaper. What makes vidIQ stand out is its most expensive and expansive plan, Boost+, which starts at $415 a month. That sounds pricey, but it includes coaching in addition to all the software. During monthly coaching calls, a personalized YouTube coach will offer you tips on how to grow your channel and improve your content.

3. Tools for YouTube Competition Research

The handy thing about SEO competition is that you don’t have to learn from your own mistakes—you can learn from your rivals’!

Tools mentioned in this section: Rival IQ, NoxInfluencer, Socialinsider, Vaizle

Rival IQ is a great tool for competition research. It not only shows your competitors’ YouTube SEO rankings but also analyzes their entire social media strategy—from Facebook tactics to video posting times.

NoxInfluencer offers a list of potential YouTube competitors to follow.

Socialinsider and Vaizle are both comparison tools that provide competitor research for all social media instead of just YouTube, and Vaizle is conveniently accessible with your Google login.

* * *

YouTube is a huge marketing platform that will likely stay relevant for years to come. We should all look into seizing the opportunity provided by such a large and reliable well of user engagement.

YouTube videos offer a potential viewership of tens of thousands; no business can afford to dismiss all those possible clients.

3 Powerful Marketing Leadership Strategies

Seasoned marketing executives’ advice to those seeking to advance their careers. 
September 15, 2020 10 min read
Opinions expressed by Entrepreneur contributors are their own.

When I graduated from college, the best career advice I never followed was to build my professional network. As an introvert with a borderline avoidant-personality-disorder, I preferred the mellow illumination of my computer screen, and the sound of a keyboard clicking like rain on a tin roof, over actually meeting people. In retrospect, my understanding of business and sales was naïve.

Now I know that networking is the key to success. Fifteen years of working with other professionals taught me that. More recently, interviews with over a dozen marketing professionals in the health and wellness industry drove the point home.

Related: Build Your Brand Online with This Up-to-Date Marketing Course

As part of EMPATH’s giving-back efforts, we donate time to local non-profits, schools, and other community organizations that need support. We found a common thread during engagements at our local colleges: what should students expect when they enter the workforce? A straightforward enough question.

My team and I developed our own take on the matter – through our prism of experiences, biases and inexperiences. It got us thinking. We’re a boutique brand and marketing consultancy. Many of these students aspire to work in large agencies or with exemplar brands. In the spirit of our mission to develop a deep understanding of our clients’ customer’s wants and needs, we decided to apply our own methodology to discovering what eager students can expect and plan for in their new careers. After speaking with many leading marketing professionals, we found that the advice shared, while valuable for students, would also be valuable for those in leadership positions (or those aspiring to become leaders).

We invested hours in interviewing leading marketing professionals in our network, and even more time doing secondary source research (listening to speeches, following social media comments and posts, synthesizing other sources). We found three central themes: be a generalist, know your customers (really know them), and pursue lifelong learning.

Of course, speaking with over a dozen specialists with the highest pedigrees elicited more than three takeaways. The conversations were so rich, it was a challenge to winnow the ideas down to just three.

A hearty thanks to all those who donated their time to satiate our curiosity as to what it’s like on the other side of the screen. Now, back to our three themes.

“It’s not a bad thing to be a generalist.”

Jann Parish, named as Forbes CMO NEXT 2019, is an experienced CMO/executive level marketer with brands such as Victoria’s Secret, Calvin Klein, Tommy Hilfiger, and L’Oreal. She described how being a generalist can make you a better leader. Early in her marketing career, she said she had an insatiable drive to learn as much as she could. That meant “never having the loudest voice,” but always developing the deepest level of understanding through asking thoughtful questions. “I didn’t want to be viewed as someone who would take over, but as someone who would contribute.” Especially when she was a young woman seated in a room full of men who had more experience and felt strongly that they knew best. She says that becoming a great leader is about developing a range of skills and being an active listener. But it’s also about “putting the ego aside and hiring the best talent.” When you’re a generalist, you’re good at a lot of things, but you rely on your team to be great in their own domains.

Related: Successfully Pivot Your Marketing Efforts Digitally With These 10 Master Courses

Erin Fitzgerald, CMO at Sermo, agrees. “It’s not a bad thing to be a generalist.” She explains how, for executive positions, “you don’t want to pigeonhole yourself into being an email marketing or social media guru.” A big challenge for all brands is understating the polar opposites of creative and technical marketing. From automation to the emotions that your marketing elicits, being a generalist gives you the ability to understand both extremes. She says that myopic views in marketing are dangerous: when you are too focused on technical and esoteric skills, you miss out on knowing why data is important, how to operationalize it, and how to figure out which KPIs matter.

Having spanned various roles at Carl Zeiss Vision over the last 16 years, Pamela Andrews corroborates this take on skillsets. She says that good project management skills are founded on having a broad range of professional experiences: they’re quintessential to overseeing the kinds of disparate projects a marketing professional has to juggle. “Literally, every day, I’m working on something different. One day might be a product launch that has many different elements that need to be pulled together, another day might be a promotion campaign.” The ability to manage all the different aspects of her role reinforces the value of a generalist point of view.

Greg Barntsen, a former P&G Exec, sums it up nicely: “A brand manager is the hub of the wheel of the cross-functional team.” The hub is only as strong as its spokes. And in life, you can’t be both hub and spoke. If your aspirations are to become a manager, to lead others, become a generalist. Your team will love you for it.

“External resources are good fodder. But…”

One of our key questions was to ask what resources these executives use most often to learn, evolve, and improve their skills and knowledge. Perhaps one of the most challenging responses came from Kristin Harper, previous Global Vice President at Cardinal Health: “external resources are good fodder and good food for thought, but the most important thing is to know your customer intimately.” She went on to explain how she doesn’t invest a significant amount of time to reading books and blogs and listening to podcasts. Instead, she invests the majority of her time in deeply understanding her customers. While every other interviewee listed multiple resources, Kristin became an outlier by expressing the importance of focus groups, tradeshows, qualitative data, customized surveys, and secondary source customer research. This was music to our ears because we beat that drum all the time to our prospects, clients, and team. Kristin expressed her love of reading customer behavior reports, looking at sales data, and using her access to PEW and IRI (among others), to learn about her customers’ motivations, interests, and aspirations

A key takeaway from our interview with Kristin is that “salespeople are a good source for getting to know your customer.” She mentioned the need to work closely with salespeople, but cautioned against drawing conclusions on one-off conversations. Like the rivalry between circus clowns and party clowns, sales and marketing folks are often in strife overvalues and approaches. You need to break down that barrier. Our next interviewee explains how.

Sarah Mayer, having held senior marketing roles at fledgling brands and stalwarts alike, had this to say about getting to know people: “everyone is busy these days, full days, jobs, family, bills to pay. Take a step back. Rather than being purely transactional, be down to earth, personal, and call out the fact that you know they are busy. Ask them to coffee. Tell them it’s just a conversation.” She says having coffee with people has been a key factor in her success.

Related: What Vans Can Teach Us About Influencer Marketing

Matthew Polk has similar insights. Having been a Marketing Director & General Manager at Foster Farms, he said, “I’m likely not the market for what my company sells. Being over-educated, overpaid, and having lived in too many different areas, I’m not the target customer.” What he said next surprised me. “Understanding consumer insights is quintessential, but It’s not an advantage to be one of your own customers. It puts blinders on you.” For those of you who are worried you can’t relate to your market: don’t be. According to Matthew, it’s an advantage, if you leverage it properly. He says you should develop a “method of thinking about consumer insight, target market, and what the consumers’ attitudes are. How your brand or product fits into, or needs to evolve to fit into their lifestyles. What’s the benefit proposition, relevance, what are their beliefs?” As Harper Lee wrote in To Kill a Mockingbird, “You never really understand a person until you consider things from his point of view . . . until you climb into his skin and walk around in it.”

If you haven’t learned this already, or are still fighting the urge to live behind a screen, take some advice from Bob Hurley, former Executive Advisor at eHealth. “Relationships are often—usually— the key to all success in life. Both your business and personal lives. The most successful business people are often excellent relationship people. The key to effective relationships in business is to create win-win partnerships that in the end serve all partners and constituents by adding value for everyone involved.”

“The journey is about learning.”

Beyond learning about your customers, Matthew Polk also advised to always be learning, period. Learn by getting involved, being curious and inquisitive. Each executive we interviewed either explicitly expressed their interest in learning or conveyed it by example. Like the way Haystack LLC Marketing Manager, Maria LaTour, started practicing meditation and yoga to inspire calmness. Or Jessica Yarmey, Chief Marketing Officer at Club Pilates, who says, “time in the seat is vital: you’ll make mistakes and learn from them.”

Erin Fasano, seasoned Marketing Director and Brand Manager, shared a resource that provides advanced brand strategy courses, Planning Dirty.

On the subject of strategy, Vice President of Integrated Marketing at Sambazon, Sebastien Marcq, explained how the Prof G podcast is continually improving his critical reasoning abilities.

The leading resources these marketing executives use to discover and distill insights was social media networks (no surprise). LinkedIn led the pack (biased because that’s how we sought out the interviews) with 80% acknowledging it. Instagram was second at 73%, with Twitter and Facebook tied at 26%. Podcasts were mentioned by 26% of the executives. Adweek and CMO Moves were cited by 20%, and Adage, Food Business News Daily, and HBR lagged behind at 13% each.

Key takeaways

If you want to be successful in marketing, it’s essential to acquire a deep understanding of your customers. Beyond personas and reviews. Meet them where they’re at: at work, in their homes, or in the field as they use your products.

If you want to become a successful executive, strive for four things. Be a generalist. Develop a focus on relationships. And become an amazing listener, because it’s never about who shouts the loudest, but who listens the longest. And always keep learning.