What Did You Learn? Episode 20

It’s our 20th episode of “What Did You Learn?” and I couldn’t imagine having a better guest for this special occasion. In this episode, Jay Baer, the founder of Convince & Convert and one of the premier content marketing thought leaders join me.

We discuss why emotion needs to be a central part of your marketing strategy, how thinking of your mom can help you make marketing decisions and why customer experience is more important than ever before.

“Customer experience has always been important. But it’s more important now than it’s ever been because people are making decisions based on perceived safety, on speed, on lack of confusion on these kinds of things, which is a huge opportunity. That’s why if you can get it right now, over the next few months, it will create a moat around your business that will be very hard for your competitors to breach for quite some time,” says Jay.

Ahava: Hi. Welcome back to “What Did You Learn?” I’m Ahava Leibtag and I am your hostess. I am very excited. This is our 20th episode of “What Did You Learn?” and we have a very special guest today who’s a good friend and colleague. Before I dive into that, please know that if you found this video on LinkedIn, we have a longer version on YouTube as well as a full version of the audio on our podcast, also by the same name, “What Did You Learn?” and you can find that wherever you find your podcasts. Now on to my special esteemed guest. Welcome to Jay Baer, the founder of Convince & Convert. Jay does not really need an introduction, but he is one of the premier thought leaders in content marketing and content strategy. And he is a wonderful friend and a phenomenal author. I learned the most I’ve ever learned from about content marketing from his book Youtility, and he’s written some other really fantastic books, which you can see behind him, including Talk Triggers. Without further ado, welcome to Jay.

Jay: Thank you so much for being here. Thanks so much, my friend. Fantastic to be here. Excited to be your milestone at 20th guest. Wishing you many, many more.

Ahava: Thank you, thank you. It is very exciting for us. So before we dive into your fantastic knowledge that you’re going to drop, just to give everybody who doesn’t know you as well as I do, some information about yourself. Tell us how you’ve spent the last 700 years that we’ve been in quarantine.

Jay: During quarantine or before quarantine?

Ahava: Before.

Jay: Before quarantine. I have been in digital marketing about as long as that existed. I started in 1993 somewhat accidentally, back when domain names were still free. I’ve had a series of professional services, advice agencies since then. I started this firm, Convince & Convert, in 2008. So we’re in our 12th year and there are a number of us spread out throughout the US and some outside the US, and we work with interesting and exciting companies helping them with content and social etcetera. I have a podcast called Social Pros, you mentioned earlier, write books and have spent a lot of time back in the BC, before COVID days, traveling and giving presentations all around the world. I used to be on the road about 200 days a year and not so much anymore. I’m from Arizona. Spent most of my life in Arizona. I moved to the Midwest 10 years ago. I now live in Bloomington, Indiana. Just sort of the classic Midwestern college town vibe, which is great except for now, when college students are doing what college students do. Wear a mask out there.

Ahava: Wear a mask, exactly. And did you, because, so you and I have talked about this already, but we’re both road warriors, and how have you found that transition between now being home 200 days of the year instead of on the road 200 days of the year?

Jay: It was super weird at first. It was just almost a shock to the system, I guess. Because I’ve never really been off the road. I was doing 46 weeks a year on the road and I had for 20 years. And the longest number of days I had been home consecutively for 20 years, was 22 days in a row. It’s the longest I’d ever been home. And I have now been home for what seems like infinity days in a row. I’ve even gone to the next town over, much less gotten on a plane. At first it was really strange for me and for my family because they’re not used to seeing me on a day to day basis like that. But now it’s great. And I didn’t realize how stressed out all that travel was making me until I was forced to stop. I’ve actually really enjoyed it in most ways.

Ahava: If somebody had told you back in November or December hey, Jay this unbelievable thing is about to happen. You’re not even going to believe it. What’s the one thing you wish you had known?

Jay: Well, I guess I wish I would have known that everybody is adaptable if they have to be. You may not want to be, but you can do it. I can succeed perfectly fine without leaving the house. And clients can be successful without seeing me or my team. And events can be successful without having speakers stand on a stage. We can all find a way to share toilet paper eventually. I guess I knew that anyway. But this year has definitely proven in multiple circumstances that when push comes to shove, you’re capable of not necessarily more than you thought, but of existing in a different way than you thought. And ultimately, how you handle that and the effect it has on you is somewhat on you.  How you, you can either look at this as an opportunity at some level to spend more time with your family, etcetera, etcetera. Or you can bemoan the fact that this has happened to you. And I try to stay in the former camp as much as I can.

Ahava: A lot of us in our field are talking about this new documentary from Netflix, The Social Dilemma. And it’s a documentary, for those of you who haven’t seen it. It’s definitely worth the watch, about how social media has disrupted society and how the social media big tech companies may be taking advantage of certain human behaviors to manipulate us. But as a content marketer and as a digital marketer, I watched it on two levels. I watched it as the parent, Ahava, and also Ahava myself. But I also watched it as a professional. Tell me, what do you think, when you come to work every day, you think integrity looks like in our profession?

Jay: Well first, I would say that, yes, the current version of this is called The Social Dilemma. But it could have easily been called and was in the past, the television dilemma, and the direct mail dilemma, and the misleading outdoor advertising dilemma, and the snake oil dilemma. So using communication methods and tactics to cause behavior change in a way that isn’t necessarily 100 percent objective or free of any nefariousness has been going on like since people had ears and mouths. There were unscrupulous caveman advertisers as well.

Ahava: Right, what’s going on in those cave paintings?

Jay: Yeah, we just don’t have anybody to document it. I feel like this flavor gets the wrath now because it is the current flavor. And obviously, there’s some algorithmic advantages to current technology that makes it easier to manipulate people. I don’t think there’s any question about that. But I think first of all, I almost look at it like a Hippocratic Oath. First, do no harm. That’s how I look at it. And I have a very interesting perspective on this, Ahava because I used to be in politics. That’s where I started my career. I managed political campaigns. For congress, for governor, even for president. I’ve been down this road. And I’ve been in meetings where we literally have a conversation about, “this isn’t 100 percent true, but it’s true-ish.” Does it make the flyer? And I think you have to say first, do no harm and then recognizing that content marketing is not a fine arts project. It’s not a poetry class. Content marketing is about creating behavior changes in service of company objectives. That’s the truth. At some level, you got to get okay with that and then I always use, I think you’ve heard me talk about this before, with my team what we call the mom test. Which is if you actually explain this to your mom, the levers and the dials, and here’s what we’re saying in order to cause this behavior, would your mom say that’s fine, or would your mom say, “You know what? That’s kind of sketchy.”

Ahava: Right.

Jay: And if your mom, who presumably loves you unconditionally, is like, “that’s kind of sketchy,” then you probably shouldn’t do it.

Ahava: Right. Well, it’s interesting to hear you talk first of all about the past and then thinking about it in terms of the current context. I do think that you’re right, that there’s a lot of feeling of, oh my gosh, this is a brand new thing. I’ve heard a lot of people say, oh, we’ve done a 10 year social experiment on society and look at where it landed us. But it’s a good point. We’ve done that every time we’ve made any sort of change right. The wheel also disrupted society, the Industrial Revolution. What I think is interesting, though, about what you’re talking about is getting comfortable with the idea of what you’re doing when is that line, besides the mom test, because not everybody has that kind of level in their agency. But when do you start to ask yourself the question as a professional, am I doing this in the best service to my audience? Because the whole idea of content marketing is we’re going to give you the information you need so that you can do your job or your personal life better, and hopefully you’ll buy from us eventually. So where does that line maybe get crossed a little bit when you’re sitting in the seat of the person writing, creating, strategizing?

Jay: Yeah. Typically, you’re hoping to use content as additive to somebody’s life.

Ahava: Right. A force for good.

Jay: You’re going to educate them or inform them in some way that makes it easier for them to act in a particular way. But there’s many successful content programs that actually use fear. Think about the Truth campaign which isn’t necessarily content marketing in the classic sense, but of a sort, very famous, very effective anti-smoking initiative which was dire and scary and at some level, out of context, and very much intentionally intimidating. Is that manipulative or is that a fantastic execution because smoking’s bad? It’s hard to be pedantic about it because it is by definition, circumstantial. Which is why we try to use the mom test because you’re like, look, if you think it’s wrong, it’s probably wrong. If you’re having a conversation about, you know we should have a conversation, then you probably already have your answer. And what you’re looking for is justification from somebody, whether it’s the client or your boss or your intern, that oh no, it’s fine. Don’t worry about it, right? If you’re not sure, you probably already are sure.

Ahava: Yeah. Our expertise is in healthcare marketing, and I recently had somebody call me and ask me a question about pulling emails from Epic with a certain diagnostic code attached to them and email that list about a certain diagnosis. And I was like, you can’t do that. And then I literally called five other people who I consider knowledgeable and they were like, no, you can’t do that. So I went back to her and I’m like, you can’t do that. She’s like, I know I can’t, but everyone else is saying I can. And it was such an interesting conversation for me about how I kept grasping at straws, trying to find somebody to tell me this was okay when I knew it was not okay.

Jay: Is it me? Is it me? It’s not me, right? It’s not me.

Ahava: It’s the law.

Jay: Exactly. Yeah.

Ahava: The other thing that you said at the very beginning of this thing that I tied myself to was the way you set your table. When you first said it, you were like the way you set your table in the next five months will be the way you set your table in the next five years. I think now it’s become the next 20 years.

Jay: Yeah, maybe. Yeah.

Ahava: But where, how have you seen that play out real-time? Because you have really great examples of work you’ve worked on. I just read your 2020 best content marketing examples. But is there a specific project or campaign or company that you could point people to to say this is really where I see them having to set their table for the next few years?

Jay: I don’t even think it matters on an individual company level because the advice is so applicable to all. The reality is that the relationships that you have with customers, whether they’ve been a customer for five minutes or 50 years, is completely frayed. And nobody understands the answers anymore. Not to mention the fact that there’s been a tremendous amount of research since the pandemic to show that customers of all kinds, and really in all industries are much more likely to change providers now for whatever. Doctor, dentist.

Ahava: Hairdresser.

Jay: Hairdresser, ham sandwich purveyor, closet installer, it doesn’t matter. People are much more willing to change horses than they were pre-pandemic because the order that they make decisions based on, the inputs that they used to determine vendor A or vendor B have been rearranged. Safety, when was the last time you thought about safety when you got a ham sandwich pre-pandemic? Zero times. You weren’t like I want to make sure the air circulation is good in this deli. Nobody ever said that ever. But now it’s literally on the list, towards the top of the list. Everybody’s decision making has been scrambled. And that means that customers, even your loyal long-term customers, have a wandering eye, not a lazy eye, a wandering eye. And they are thus more likely to switch to a competitor. And this means that you have to A, first and foremost, kind of rewire those long-standing relationships. Make sure that they’re still in the fold. Do you understand? Do you feel secure? Are we still the right choice for you? You almost have to resell them, and that’s challenging. But it’s also a huge opportunity because your competitors’ customers are also now more willing to switch to you if you do it right. If you’re the one that makes them feel safe, secure, taken care of. Which is why customer experience, in addition to content, is such a huge part of the success equation right now. Customer experience has always been important. But I would argue it’s more important right now than maybe it’s ever been, literally maybe ever, because people are making decisions based on perceived safety on speed, on lack of confusion on these kind of things, which is a huge opportunity. That’s why, like you said, if you can get it right now, over the next few months, it will create a moat around your business that will be very hard for your competitors to breach for quite some time in my estimation.

Ahava: What do you think the most important thing you’ve learned over this time period is?

Jay: For me, personally, I think the most important thing I learned was that I don’t need to travel 200 days a year to accomplish my business objectives or to make myself feel important.

Ahava: Do you want to go back to that, though?

Jay: Nope. I’m not going back.

Ahava: Do you think we’ll ever have those big in-person conferences again?

Jay: Sure, yeah, those are the conferences we will have. The ones that are very difficult to replicate online will be the ones that survive ironically. And so I think, actually, what will happen is the bigger conferences will come back because it’s really tricky to sort of do that on a computer. It’s the smaller conferences that I think won’t come back because it’s internal conferences and the company meetings. You know what? It’s just easy enough to do it on Zoom. It’s fine. The ones that are the boondoggle is the annual convention of the whatever association. Those will come back because for a lot of those people, especially small business owners and things like that, that’s their annual vacation. So yeah, yeah, yeah, it’s a conference, but that’s also the big trip that you bring your spouse to and all that. That will come back, I think. And I’m not suggesting I’ll never travel again. But the chances of me doing 70 live events a year not going to happen. I’m not doing it.

Ahava: How do you, let’s say somebody comes to you and says in the next two or three years, Jay, what was the thing that changed your ideas about marketing, digital strategy, digital communications during the pandemic? What’s the one North star you plan to incorporate?

Jay: Well, I’m a very linear thinker. Just as a person, I am sort of a Vulcan in that way, I’m a Libra number one. If you’re down with that kind of thing. It’s just how I think. A to B to B to C. I just, I’m a very logical person. But we are truly living in a post-factual world. The thing I’m taking away is the quality of the information, or the truthfulness of the information is no longer enough. And one of the things that I’m not very good at historically, because it’s just not what I’m comfortable with as a human being, is injecting a lot of emotion into my work. And I think one of my big takeaways is that it has to be 50 percent logic and 50 percent of emotion going forward, because logic enough is no longer sufficient to carry the day in content marketing or frankly, in anything else. And that’s a big change for me. So in my work in the last few months, I’m trying to be more evocative and emotional and inspirational and vulnerable, and all those -ables. And it’s been an interesting time.

Ahava: Jay, it was so fantastic to have you. Where can people find you to get even more of your great knowledge?

Jay: I’ll just be right here in my house. So just come on by, just knock on the door. I’m always here for the most part. Main site for us is convinceandconvert.com Thousands and thousands of articles and content.

Ahava: It’s amazing stuff.

Jay: We’ve got lots of stuff.

Ahava: Sign up for the webinars. They’re amazing. All the people that work with Jay are fantastic as well. Thank you so much for being here, Jay. It was wonderful to have you.

Jay: I appreciate it, my friend. Thank you.

Ahava: And thank you to all of our viewers and listeners. Keep with us. We’re going to keep interviewing more amazing experts and people in the trenches so that you can learn from them as well.

Stay Tuned for More Episodes!

“What Did You Learn” will feature a new guest talking COVID-19 content marketing every Monday. Have a question you’d like one of our guests to answer? Email us.


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