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How to Cut Through the Clutter and Inspire Your Audience – @drewdavishere
The Agents of Change

In business, we want to make sure that we’re always front of mind for our customers and prospects. But how do we do that without inundating them with a blizzard of information, overloading them just to make sure they remember us? Maintaining inspiration within your audience is the key. You need to make them want to keep coming back to buy from you and/or consume the content you’re putting out.

Andrew Davis is an author and digital marketing strategist who challenges businesses to change the way they think, in order to find new ways to market their brands in this ever-changing digital world.

Rich: Andrew Davis’ 20 year career has taken him from local television to The Today Show. He’s worked for The Muppets in New York, he’s marketed for tiny startups and Fortune 500 brands. His latest book, Town INC, hit shelves in 2015.

He’s produced for Charles Kuralt on A&M T.V., he even produced a documentary film called Roadside Ambition: The Amazing True Story Of One Small Town With Two Huge Balls. I can’t believe you got that past the censors.

In 2001 Andrew co-founded Tippingpoint Labs, where as the Chief Strategy Officer, Andrew and his team help companies like Putnam Investments, Breville and TomTom. They built digital strategies for publishers like Rodale and Meredith. For more than a decade, Drew has led the charge to change the way publishers think and how brands market their products in a digital world. Andrew’s first marketing book, Brandscaping: Unleashing the Power of Partnerships, is one of Amazon.com’s Top 100 Marketing Books. Andrew, welcome to the Agents of Change podcast

Andrew: Thanks, Rich. That’s fun.

Rich: So one of the concerns that I hear from a lot of small business owners and marketers is a combined problem that they feel stress that they need to be on every platform to make sure they maximize their chances of getting in front of their ideal customers. And likewise from consumers, just the idea that there’s so much information out there – this information overload – that there’s so much data smog that they can’t find the right messages anyways. So how do you cut through this information overload to actually change somebody’s behavior so that maybe they’ll end up doing business with you?

Andrew: This is a constant problem. It’s kind of a paradox. At the end of the day the consumer is overloaded with information and you feel like you’ve got to be everywhere creating content on every platform. So you’re actually contributing to their information overload, and they’re stuck in this indecisive way of buying where there’s always another piece of information they could go after.

I think the first thing you need to do as an entrepreneur or business owner is really first think about what platform you could kill it on. Where can you just make the biggest impact on the audience you’re targeting, instead of feeling like you need to be everywhere? So for example if you sell widgets or you’re an online coach or you sell insurance, the first thing you should think about is, is my email newsletter worth subscribing to? Because that’s a very easy place to start. Instead of thinking I need to tweet every morning and I should have a YouTube video strategy, what am I doing on Snapchat, how’s my Facebook ad campaign doing. Maybe just starting with something very basic can help cut through the information overload and really build a relationship with the client or customer you’re going after. So don’t feel like you have to be everywhere. That will help cut through information overload on your end as well as the customer and client you’re serving.  

Rich: You know, we talk a lot about email marketing on this show, and just the fact that everybody – whether they’re on Facebook or Pinterest or an Instagram expert – is always talking about building your list. But I don’t think anybody’s ever phrased it quite like this, “Is my email newsletter worth subscribing to?” And I think that’s really a very clarifying question about whether or not you’re delivering the right type of information to your audience.

Andrew: I think email has kind of gotten lost in the clutter of all the other great platforms that are out there. A subscriber base can be your most valuable asset. I call it your “loyalty loop”. These are the people that want to build a relationship with you over time, so that when they need you, they’ve already built that relationship and they know who to go to.

Or, you might even be the reason they need to buy what you sell. You might even be able to inspire them to buy something they didn’t know they needed if you’re providing value into their life each and every week. So the most basic thing you should do is make an appointment with your audience on email. Just set an expectation that you’re going to deliver them some insight on a regular basis – I don’t care if it’s daily or weekly or monthly or quarterly – just set an expectation and then deliver that value when you said you were going to deliver it, and you’ll start building a good, solid “loyalty loop” that’s worth subscribing to. 

Rich: Now a phrase that I’ve noticed that you use in our earlier conversation before we started recording – as well as on your website – is the word “inspiration”. So why is inspiration such an important word for you?

Andrew: Inspiration is so important because I think it’s undervalued in our marketing information overload world. When you think about the purchases you make as a consumer. Something inspires you to go buy that thing you’re going to buy. Even if you’re in a convenience store and you realize you’ve got bad breath and you need to buy bubble gum or breath mints, you’ve been inspired in that moment to buy something. Or maybe you’re watching a DIY show on the weekend with your wife and they decide to renovate the kitchen, and now you go on a journey to renovate your kitchen. Or someone dies in your family and you realize you don’t have a life insurance policy.

That is a moment of inspiration that sends you on a journey you never expected. And when you understand those moments of inspiration, you can actually be a huge part of the buying decision in the mind of the consumer you’re going after. You can be there before anyone else. So understanding what inspires your audience to go on the journey to your product is an important part of great marketing and sales.    

Rich: Alright, so understanding what might get somebody to buy a website or buy some home remodeling or donate to a cause, offer these opportunities for inspiration. And it sounds like in your example of bad breath, that it could just be things that happen on a regular basis, But obviously we’re looking to create some of these moments as well. Are there ways which you have where you can manufacture these moments of inspiration?

Andrew: Yeah. So I think if you’re going to manufacture the moment of inspiration, you have to do one thing. At the very beginning of this process you have to target a very specific market. So I’ll give you a quick example that’s related to bad breath since we’re talking about bad breath already.

So there’s a guy who basically created a tongue brush, his name is Dr. Bob Longstaff. I don’t know if you ever heard of him before. But he created a tongue brush called the Orabrush, and the idea was that instead of using your toothbrush to brush your tongue. You need a specific type of brush that will remove bad breath from your mouth, and that will actually stop you from having bad breath all day and is a much better product than gum or any of those other things.

So this guy tried to market this product for 10 years and no one bought it, because no one needs a tongue brush. What he decided to do was target a very specific audience, you’ve got to know exactly who you’re going after. And he realized that teenage boys who might be getting their first kiss are the most vulnerable audience. Because their biggest fear is that they go in to kiss and all of a sudden they have bad breath and they don’t get the kiss.   

Rich: Absolutely. These are the guys who are willing to buy Axe Body Spray, so you know they’re desperate.

Andrew: Exactly. These are the guys that are buying Axe Body Spray. So what Dr. Bob did was he created a video that was just a tutorial video on how to tell if you have bad breath. And I’ll spare you watching the video, but if you search for “how to tell if you have bad breath”, you’ll find it in 2 seconds on YouTube. But basically you take a metal spoon – it has to be metal – and you brush your tongue and scrape it with the spoon. You let the spoon dry and then you smell it. If it smells bad, you have bad breath.

So that is the moment of inspiration, and all he did was advertise for $40 buying YouTube ads to get to the teenage boy demographic. They would watch this video, do the test, and those that realized they had bad breath would then buy Dr. Bob’s Orabrush. So he went from selling zero Orabrushes to selling 10,000 in 7 days with a $40 YouTube video that was designed to create the moment of inspiration in a very specific audience.

All you have to do to start this process is to identify exactly who you’re trying to inspire, because then it leads you down the right path to identifying the right moment of inspiration.

Rich: So that sounds all doable, although I can’t imagine what my video might look like after that story. What are some of the other elements that we might need to create this moment of inspiration. 

Andrew: So you need a great audience, we call it “fractal marketing”. You have to divide and subdivide your audience until you find a valuable audience worth going after. So even when I comes to the podcast, you need to identify exactly who should be subscribing to the podcast. Are they entrepreneurs that are already working on their own, did they quit their day job and now they’re trying to keep their startup going? That’s very different than someone that’s an entrepreneur but has a full time job. And those distinctions are very important.

The next step is actually defining what kind of value you’re going to add to their life on a regular basis, so that you build a relationship with them. So you might want to say eventually I want them to listen to my podcast so that I can sell advertising against them. Ok that’s great, but what kind of insight are you going to provide on a weekly basis through the podcast.

And you’re already doing that, actionable insight that helps any entrepreneur in their business from a marketing and sales perspective. And that’s the key to building that relationship that might send them on a journey. Number one, I might say to buy my book. They might buy Brandscaping or Town INC, because they heard it. That’s a moment of inspiration.

And a level deeper is what’s the moment of inspiration that an advertiser is going to hear this, and where do I want that advertiser to hear this message so that they’ll advertise with me. So the second step is building that relationship through valuable content on a regular basis.

Rich: So first we find our target audience; we understand what their inspiration might be. Also the flip side of that is what are their pain points. And then we start creating some value for them, and it sounds like we need to decide early on. Because obviously anyone we target might have multiple problems – speaking as a former teenage boy – I know I had more than just bad breath as a problem. But how are we going to help them. And then we can start to think about how we can create that moment of inspiration.            

Andrew: Yeah. So I’ll give you another example. There’s a woman named Lauren Luke who basically set up an eBay store to sell makeup supplies. And no one was buying her makeup supplies because she had never identified the audience and she had no audience to sell against. So what she did was she started doing a weekly YouTube video series called, Lauren Luke’s Looks. And the idea was that she would take a celebrity from the news or popular culture and then she would mimic their eye makeup. So maybe it was Angelina Jolie this week and do her lips, or Britney Spears look from the Toxic video.

And she would do a 10 minute tutorial on how to look like the person she was talking about every single week. She’s built a huge subscriber base that still was not buying her makeup supplies. She was creating moments of inspiration, but never tied it to the product. And as soon as she said she just opened up her own little store, she started selling hundreds of thousands of units a week to the audience she had garnered by creating value each and every week.

So she was creating moments of inspiration, and then tied it to the product in a very smart way. And now she’s actually built that company into a million dollar brand.  

Rich: And it‘s a nice hook in the fact that there’s obviously a lot of people out there saying how do I get Angelina Jolie’s lips, or Larry Hagman’s eyebrows or whatever it could be. But then she still had to tie it in to something she was selling. It wasn’t obvious to the people like, “Hey, I wonder if she has any products to sell”, because at that point they were just interested in watching the videos and imitating some of that stuff.

Andrew: Yeah, that’s right. I think two things; one you mentioned “hook”, and hook is one of my favorite words in the world. Because I think the best kinds of moments of inspiration come out of content that has a smart hook. And I define a hook as, “a simple twist on a familiar theme designed to ensnare or entrap your audience.”

So you need to create a piece of content that is not commodity content, that does not feel like everyone else’s content. If you sell swimming pools, it can’t just be “15 Cool Pool Designs For Your House This Summer”, that’s not that helpful. I think you need to take a very unique perspective on delivering value each and every week that’s maybe more about outdoor entertaining, so that you can actually deliver insight on a regular basis to an audience that might buy a pool over time. And you have to connect the dots like Lauren Luke did, between what you’re offering for valuable insight and what you actually do from a business perspective.

So you have to tell people that, “I sell pools, so when you decide you want a pool, I‘m the guy you go to. But in the meantime, I have seen a lot of great entertaining ideas outside and I’m going to share those with you on a regular basis, so you get inspiration for great outdoor entertaining.”  

Rich: So with the Lauren Luke example, it sounds like she built an audience before she started selling. I don’t know if that was her intent, but that was the outcome. I’m sure a lot of people are saying that’s great, But I don’t have time to wait for this, I have bills to pay. Do you need to first build the audience before you start creating these moments of inspiration? Or how quickly can you start building moments of inspiration, can you do it concurrently while you’re still building your audience? 

Andrew: You can. First of all, Lauren Luke started from scratch. She had zero customers and zero business. I think most of us are in a different circumstance, we at least have one client or one customer or maybe 100 or 1,000 if it’s a big scale business. That’s your loyalty loop and you should start with them for inspiration with your existing audience, right now today. It takes no extra effort and it might re-inspire them to buy from you again, or it might be an upsell or a cross sell. So that’s point #1.

You already have an existing audience that is interested in hearing your new value that you’re going to provide them, and is a great new opportunity to create a new point of inspiration in their minds to buy from you again or buy more of the same stuff.

And #2, there are partners that you can work with almost immediately that give you opportunities to market to them. So if you think about the answer to one simple question, “who has my next customer as their current customer”, you start finding partners that would be interested in your insight, and will help you build your business today and start selling your product today. You can give or share with that other partner, and the audience will be ready to buy. Does that make sense? Those were two big ideas I kind of through out at you.      

Rich: Absolutely. No, that’s good stuff. Are there specific places where these moments of inspiration work better, or certain places where maybe they’re not going to work at all?

Andrew: So I think moments of inspiration tend to happen with a very specific type of content. How about that? I think the kinds of content that doesn’t necessarily create a moment of inspiration is content that builds suspense or doesn’t foster aspiration in the mind of the audience you’re targeting.

So it’s very hard in a tweet to create a moment of inspiration. It’s very easy in a 10-minute YouTube video to create a moment of inspiration, if it has especially those two aspects of the story down. It creates suspense – meaning, I want to know how this video ends – and I want to see the end. Because the moment of inspiration is tied to the outcome of it, it has to identify with the audience; you have to understand what the audience wants to be at the end of that day. Whether that’s a better business person or a more effective time manager, you have to understand that intimately so that they see themselves in the story that you’re telling or the content you created.

So those two things make for a great moment of inspiration. It doesn’t necessarily work with very short form content where it’s hard to create those moments of inspiration in just 140 characters.

Rich: But couldn’t you create that moment of suspense in 140 characters and lead somebody to where the answer is, whether that’s to opt in for something, or to watch a video, or to take some other action?

Andrew: Yes. So if you think of multiple platforms – I kind of think of it in four phases – you want to build anticipation for the stuff you’re creating, and that’s inherent suspense.  So if you can raise anticipation for something that’s coming out on Friday, you’re building suspense without even having to tell a story. That’s really powerful.

The second thing you want to do is kind of maximize the honeymoon phase. So as you’re distributing and promoting content, you actually want to leverage the excitement around it when it comes out, to get people to consume the content or subscribe so they get the next issue or the answer or the outcome.

And then you’ve got to maintain inspiration from the content you’ve created before you release the next one. If you just have rapid fire tweets that don’t help build that little cycle, you’ll end up being in what I call, “relegation”, which is forgetting why you subscribed to this or no longer finding any value from the emails. That is the relegation phase where you’ve lost the suspense that you could create, and the relationship you could create with the audience you’ve got.      

Rich: Alright, awesome stuff. How do you find the moment of inspiration for the people that you’re targeting? Is there a moment that they are most ripe for your message, and if so, how do I identify that?

Andrew: Yeah. This is a good one. The easiest way to do this is go to some of your existing clients and customers and actually ask them why they bought your product or service. And what you’ll end up hearing are the easy things first like, “My friend Bob recommended you.” And you’ve got to say, “What led you to ask Bob for the recommendation?” And they might say they’ve been looking for your service for a long time and when they bumped into Bob it looked like he did it well so I asked him what he used to do it with.

But then you’ve got to ask the question before that, “When you said you were looking for a solution for a long time, why were you looking for a solution for a long time?” So you want to get to the very beginning of all of that search. And in this made up instance, it might be that that email provider doesn’t allow you to send emails at the time when people open their email most.

Well if that’s the case, that’s the moment of inspiration that sent that one customer out on the journey, and it gives you an opportunity to start talking about it in the content that you create. In this weird example, Rich, you might be able to then email your entire list and say, “Hey, sending your email out when your customers open it most is such a great thing, You should try it yourself.” And when they go to try it on their current email platform and they realize they can’t do it, you’re the answer to that question. Does that make sense?

Rich: Yeah, absolutely. It sounds like you take one person’s pain point and see if it resonates with everybody else.

Andrew: That’s right. And see if it sends them on a similar journey. And if it does, then you’re getting them very quickly back to you as a solution for their problem. And there are a lot of different versions of this, some are bigger than others. People aren’t looking for a new phone system this morning just because they woke up and need a new phone system. There’s something that sends them on that journey in the first place. And most of us that are selling phone systems, we’re just selling the features and benefits and functions of our great new phone system. Whereas if we could help people recognize their existing phone system has a problem, then there will be a solution to their search. Does that make sense?

Rich: Absolutely.

Andrew: So you just got to go way back with a few clients to find some really great insight that you can then leverage with your existing customers to try and see if it works first.

Rich: And make sure you don’t quit after the first question, keep on asking why and keep on digging deeper.

Andrew: Keep on digging deeper, yeah. You can map it. So what I do is I map it from the moment of purchase, backwards. And I just create a line that ends with the moment of purchase, and starts with the moment of inspiration. And then as I’m talking to someone I start identifying with checkmarks and a little note on that line, what the moments were that inspired them to take the next step. And I keep going to the previous step. And when they cannot remember, that’s the moment of inspiration.

Rich: It makes a lot of sense just thinking about my own day job at flyte new media, if I think back on why people chose us, there’s probably a few different categories. Some people chose us because they were just getting started, other people chose us because suddenly their web designer was not responsive, other people may have come to a conference that we put on and seen us, so it feels like there’s real opportunity for a  number of different moments for inspiration where we’ve inspired people to make a change. And now it’s just about identifying the “why’s” behind those, so that we can go out and talk about those moments with other potential clients.  

Andrew: Yeah, that’s exactly right. Don’t forget about the “who’s” in those, because sometimes the “why’s” might be different depending on the “who’s”. Which means if you have 2 different email subscriptions – one for the executives and one for marketers – there are going to be  different “why’s” for each of those. And the kind of content, even as subtle as it sounds, is going to be very important to sending those people in their moment of inspiration. Inspiring them to go on the journey hey never expected to go on, which is find a new web design firm as soon as possible.

Rich: That makes a lot of sense. This has been really awesome, Drew. And I’m sure a lot of people agree but want more. So where can we send people online to go check out more of your stuff?

Andrew: This has been great, by the way. I’ve really enjoyed this. The easiest way to find me is actually on Twitter, @drewdavishere, and that’s where you can find whatever I’ve currently written or wherever I am. You can also sign up for my 6 weeks of inspiration over lunch at youvebeendrewed.com. And that’s my way of trying to send you on a journey that maybe you never expected by rethinking your marketing, every week over lunch just for 5-6 minutes with me a some fun stories

So I think those are the two easiest ways to find me, and I’d love to stay in touch with anyone listening, So if anyone is listening and wants a free copy of my book, give me a tweet and I’ll send you  free copy of either Town INC or Brandscaping, and we’ll build a relationship from there.

Rich: Wow, very generous, thank you. And your time, I appreciate you being generous with your time as well, Drew. Thanks a lot, and we’ll be in touch.                   

Andrew: You got it, thank you.

Show Notes:

  • Drew invites you all to follow him on Twitter. Be sure to send him a tweet and let him know you heard him on the Agents of Change podcast, and you will receive a free copy of one of his books!
  • Rich Brooks not only serves up valuable information for small business owners through his web design and digital marketing agency, flyte new media, as well as through his Agents Of Change Digital Marketing Conference. Soon you will be able to have him in your hands in the form of his soon to be released book, The Lead Machine. Keep an eye out for that coming in 2017.