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We don’t finish, we iterate

September 21, 2021

This column is the sixth of a series where we explore the seven principles that I’ve identified as vital to Walt Disney’s success as he built one of the world’s most iconic and profitable brands.

Here’s are the seven beliefs/habits that I believe led to Disney’s success:

  • Your vision must be so clear and so well-articulated that someone else can complete it perfectly, even if you’re not there anymore.
  • No detail is too small, and in fact, the smallest details have the biggest impact.
  • Obstacles are road maps to innovation.
  • If the team is happy, the customer is happy.
  • Ask the best questions because you need to keep learning.
  • You’re never done.
  • Never forget who you serve and why you matter to them.

The Walt Disney Co. started with animated shorts. As they evolved to full-length animated movies, the company invented the multiplane camera in 1940 as it was working on “Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs.” The same design was used for several decades until digital technology replaced the original multiplane camera.

Today, Disney and Pixar use the latest in computer camera technology.

Disneyland opened in 1955, and it was pretty amazing. It had attractions and shows like the world had never seen. Jungle Cruise, Peter Pan’s Flight, and the Mad Tea Party, among others, were all there to welcome the inaugural guests.

Today, both Disneyland and Walt Disney World allow guests to register for the Rise of the Resistance attraction via Disney’s app.

Over the years, the small animation company has grown, created new offerings, and bought companies like ESPN, ABC, Marvel and others as it continues to reinvent itself.

As Walt said, “Disneyland will never be completed. It will continue to grow as long as there is imagination left in the world.”

That has to be true for our organizations as well. We can’t be stagnant, and we can’t miss an opportunity to share our innovations with our customers and prospects. One of the silver linings of 2020 was that just about every organization had to reinvent some aspect of their work and how they served their clientele.

Many companies created new products, services, or delivery channels during the pandemic out of necessity. But a subset of those new necessities have proved to be profitable and popular with your customers. Circumstance forced us to be innovative.

The question is, how can we incorporate that same drive to keep creating when we’re not in a worldwide pandemic? Marketing can play a significant role in this effort in several ways.

  • We can keep learning from our clients through formal research, customer intercepts, buying patterns and customer service contacts.
  • We can secret-shop our competitors and other similar businesses to make sure we’re staying ahead of the curve.
  • We can track industry and societal trends and lead ideation sessions with other departments to imagine the future and begin to experiment with some of the better ideas.

It’s very easy to get into a rut when things are going smoothly. Disneyland was met with rave reviews during the first few years. It would have been easy for Walt and his Imagineers to let it ride. But instead, their culture pushed them to keep re-imagining the future, which meant that every time a guest visited the theme park, they discovered something new, which encouraged them to keep coming back.

As marketers and keepers of the customer experience, we can have a considerable influence on whether or not our organizations continue to evolve. We’re in a very unique position – we are tracking the pulse of the client, and we’re inside the company. That perspective can help bridge the gap between the company’s goals and the customers’ needs and serve both in a substantial way.

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.

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The power of questions

September 14, 2021

This column is the fifth of a series where we explore the seven principles that I’ve identified as vital to Walt Disney’s success as he built one of the world’s most iconic and profitable brands.

Here are the seven beliefs/habits that I believe led to Disney’s success:

  • Your vision must be so clear and so well-articulated that someone else can complete it perfectly, even if you’re not there anymore.
  • No detail is too small, and in fact, the smallest details have the biggest impact.
  • Obstacles are roadmaps to innovation.
  • If the team is happy, the customer is happy.
  • Ask the best questions because you need to keep learning.
  • You’re never done.
  • Never forget who you serve and why you matter to them.

Perhaps it comes from being creative by nature, but Walt never saw what others thought was a finished project as being done. He saw it as being ripe for some questions to make it even better. He believed that if you asked yourself and the team the right questions, you could level up everything you created.

He also believed that questions allowed people to explore, and in that exploration, there were fresh ideas and connections to be made. Walt’s Imagineers were always waiting for Walt to say, “What if we looked at this another way …” and then they’d be off to the races.

Questions can be a fantastic marketing tool to help you attract and connect with your audience. Here are some ways we can use questions in our marketing.

Check your assumptions: One of the most dangerous habits we can get into is accepting our own assumptions. As you’re developing your marketing strategies, make a point of asking, “Do we really know this is true?” Another question to ask yourself is “How would I prove this in a court of law?” You’re going to discover that much of what you believe to be fact is indeed supposition, guesses, or long-held beliefs that may not be accurate anymore.

Query your clients: One of the biggest compliments you can get from a prospect or current customer is “No one has ever asked that before.” It demonstrates that you’re thinking about them in a deeper, more meaningful way. It also indicates your genuine interest in helping them solve their challenges, and it reminds them that they can count on you to always be thinking about their business.

Use questions in your advertising: Questions make very effective headlines. They draw the audience into your ad, and when someone asks you a question, your brain is hard-wired to answer that question. They’re already engaged and considering your question before they get to the key message points.

Ask your customers to imagine: Asking your best clients to help you visualize the future takes some deft moderation and insightful questions. But if you can get them in a mental state where they’re helping you imagine how you could be of more service to them, that’s a goldmine for your R&D, sales and marketing teams.

Marketing timelines are always aggressive, and it’s tempting to skip the discovery time and get right to producing the work. But that work is far more effective when you take the time, as Walt often did, to look at the problem, the audience or the messaging in a new way.

The right question can lead to a profitable and powerful breakthrough idea. But it’s rarely the first question you ask. The key to asking that right question is to ask many questions and let those initial inquiries open up new avenues for additional questions.

Allowing yourself the space to be curious will yield some potent questions that will lead to marketing that feels authentic, speaks directly to your consumer’s heart, and reinforces your brand.

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.

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Your best marketers are your employees

September 7, 2021

This column is the fourth in a series where we explore the seven principles that I’ve identified as vital to Walt Disney’s success as he built one of the world’s most iconic and profitable brands.

Here are the seven beliefs/habits that I believe led to Disney’s success:

  • Your vision must be so clear and so well-articulated that someone else can complete it perfectly, even if you’re not there anymore.
  • No detail is too small, and in fact, the smallest details have the biggest impact.
  • Obstacles are road maps to innovation.
  • If the team is happy, the customer is happy.
  • Ask the best questions because you have to keep learning.
  • You’re never done.
  • Never forget who you serve and why you matter to them.

One of Walt’s beliefs about his business was that it was his job to take care of the cast members (Disney-speak for employees) because if he took care of them, they’d take better care of the guests (Disney-speak for customers). And if the guests were well cared for, that took care of the bottom line.

Whether they’re a new executive overseeing thousands of employees or a new custodial cast member who keeps the streets of the Magic Kingdom clean, everyone goes through the Disney Traditions training class.

In this onboarding course, the cast members don’t learn their on-the-job duties. Instead, they’re taught the history of Disney and the fact that they could be the cast member that creates a lasting memory for a family who has saved for years to visit, no matter what their role. They are soaked in Disney culture and pride. The culmination of that class (after backstage tours and other activities) is that each cast member is given their official name badge by none other than Mickey Mouse.

In 2020, the Walt Disney Co. had to lay off or furlough over 30,000 employees due to the pandemic. Those same employees are now accepting offers to come back to the company they love. For some of them, the wait was over a year — but it was clear that as soon as they could come back, they were ready. That level of loyalty and commitment to the company’s mission is why 70% of first-time visitors to Disneyland or Walt Disney World come back for another visit.

Walt was right: When an employee loves their work and feels appreciated, they go out of their way to be of service to the customers. It shows in how people are flocking back to Disney in 2021, how steady the stock price held during the pandemic, and the glee-filled parade of Disney cast members who are heading back to work.

There is no better marketing than a delighted customer telling others about their experience with your company. How do you instill that pride and ownership in your team so that they create magical experiences for your clients?

Share feedback and praise from customers. Make it very public that someone was recognized for going above and beyond. Celebrate the behavior you want.

Invest in training. Disney’s training gets cast members invested. They connect with the history of the company and the idea that they can be someone’s favorite moment of a vacation, no matter what their role.

Create recognition programs for team members who earn your clients’ praise. Make the rewards both meaningful and significant.

Actively ask your clients for input and feedback. Disney makes its promise of a magical experience very clear and then checks in with its guests to see if it has honored that promise. Don’t be shy about asking your customers to catch your people doing something special.

As Walt said, “You can design and create the most wonderful place in the world. But it takes people to make that dream a reality.”

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.

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Roadblocks show us what matters

August 31, 2021

This column is the fourth installment as we explore the seven principles that I’ve identified as vital to Walt Disney’s success as he built one of the world’s most iconic and profitable brands.

Here’s are the seven beliefs/habits that I believe led to Disney’s success:

  • Your vision must be so clear and so well-articulated that someone else can complete it perfectly, even if you’re not there anymore.
  • No detail is too small, and in fact, the smallest details have the biggest impact.
  • Obstacles are road maps to innovation.
  • If the team is happy, the customer is happy.
  • Ask the best questions because you have to keep learning.
  • You’re never done.
  • Never forget who you serve and why you matter to them.

One of the most often told stories about Walt Disney is how many banks rejected his request for the initial funding of Disneyland. Over 300 banks said no. And yet he and his brother Roy just kept finding yet another banker and asking again. Walt was so convinced that the world needed Disneyland that he refused to accept that it could not be done.

He ended up cutting deals with ABC (agreeing to produce TV shows for them, which ultimately were both entertaining and commercials for Disneyland) and a few other banks and venture capitalists to get the theme park off the ground. Ironically, ABC owned almost 35% of Disneyland in the ’50s, sold its interest back to Disney in 1960, and Disney bought ABC for $19 billion in 1995.

It was a very unconventional financing arrangement for the time, and it’s a reminder that where there’s a will, there’s away. Walt was so passionate about the concept for his theme park that he was willing to take huge risks and do things a little differently.

The truth is that Walt was often carving new paths. Sometimes that meant figuring out how to work around a detractor or barrier. And in other cases it meant inventing something because what he wanted to do had never been done before. Since 1952, when Disney founded the Imagineering department within his company, it’s been granted over 115 patents in special effects, interactive technology and fiber optics, among other things.

One of his greatest strengths was to see an obstacle as a test. Just how good is this idea? How strongly do we feel about it? Are we willing to push the boulder uphill to make it happen?

Obstacles in business force us to get creative. We’ve seen a lot of that over the last year. I’m guessing very few organizations did not have to overcome a challenge or two in 2020. There were some incredible outcomes for those companies that did.

Obstacles forced/allowed us to:

  • Create new service offerings.
  • Find new ways to deliver our products and services.
  • Connect with our clients on a deeper level.
  • Rethink our internal and external policies.
  • Invent new pathways for potential customers to find us.

How do obstacles inspire us to better marketing? There are many ways, but I believe the most powerful is that they force us to get out of our comfort zone or the “we’ve always done it that way” mode. We really have to focus on our clients and stretch ourselves to serve them in new or more appropriate ways.

Now the question is which of those pandemic-inspired additions or changes should stick around, and how do you involve your customer in those decisions? Doing some analysis on the adoption levels of your new offerings and even surveying your customer base might be some smart first steps.

The obstacles of the last year forced us to innovate. For many, that’s been one of the silver linings. How do we capitalize on those innovations moving forward? That’s a question Walt would ask!

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.

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It all matters

August 24, 2021

This column is the third installment as we explore the seven principles that I’ve identified as vital to Walt Disney’s success as he built one of the world’s most iconic and profitable brands.

Here are the seven beliefs/habits that I believe led to Disney’s success:

  • Your vision must be so clear and so well-articulated that someone else can complete it perfectly, even if you’re not there anymore.
  • No detail is too small, and in fact, the smallest details have the biggest impact.
  • Obstacles are road maps to innovation.
  • If the team is happy, the customer is happy.
  • Ask the best questions because you have to keep learning.
  • You’re never done.
  • Never forget who you serve and why you matter to them.

For this week’s column, I want to focus on the concept that the devil is in the details. As Walt was creating Disneyland, he drove his team nuts, making them scrap projects near completion (and putting the project behind schedule) because he felt vital details were missing. He had the unique ability to push aside his insider’s knowledge and truly see the park’s elements as a first-time visitor would see them.

Even today, almost 70 years after Disneyland opened, some of those details Walt insisted on are among the most talked-about features of the park. Perhaps the most famous is a tiny detail in the Pirates of the Caribbean attraction. As you ride through the attraction in a small boat, at one point you go under a bridge. Sitting on the bridge, with his legs dangling down, is an animatronic pirate. The first time Walt rode the attraction to give his blessing, he looked up as the boat went under the bridge and saw, for him, a glaring omission. Next time you ride Pirates of the Caribbean and notice the leg hair on the pirate sitting on the bridge, think of Walt.

That ability to see your facility, product or service through the eyes of your consumer is marketing gold. That’s when you can spot the missing details or that something is a little off. We get most of the big things right. But we miss the opportunity to plus-up the experience. It’s the surprising touches that we add to our core offering that make a customer stop and take notice.

We don’t need to do the details, but we do it anyway because we care that much. It makes our customers feel like we’ve gone out of our way just to delight them. It’s the handwritten thank-you note that you pack when you ship your product. It’s the decadent chocolate placed on a pillow. It’s picking up the phone on a weekend when a client is in crisis.

I love Walt’s attention to detail because with every nuance he and the Disney team painstakingly put into place, it reminds us that they were thinking about us and what would make the experience magical.

It also makes it talk-worthy. When we write a review or make a recommendation to a peer, we talk about those little extras that made the experience special. If you want to learn more about this marketing insight and how to create those magical extras, check out the book “Talk Triggers” by Jay Baer and Daniel Lemin. They observed in many other organizations what Walt knew instinctively.

The details matter, and they reassure your customer that you’re willing to go above and beyond to demonstrate how important they are to you.

How do you apply this to your business? If you don’t have Walt’s gift to unknow what you know and see with fresh eyes, consider using secret shoppers to help you identify where you can add the minute details that will get your customers talking.

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.

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Can I see what you see?

August 17, 2021

As I mentioned in last week’s column, I will spend the next few columns digging into seven principles that I’ve identified as vital to Walt Disney’s success as he built one of the world’s most iconic and profitable brands.

Here are the seven beliefs/habits that I believe led to Disney’s success:

  • Your vision must be so clear and so well-articulated that someone else can complete it perfectly, even if you’re not there anymore.
  • No detail is too small, and in fact, the smallest details have the biggest impact.
  • Obstacles are road maps to innovation.
  • If the team is happy, the customer is happy.
  • Ask the best questions because you have to keep learning.
  • You’re never done.
  • Never forget who you serve and why you matter to them.

This week let’s talk about having a vision that is so clear and well-articulated that someone else can complete it on your behalf.

Walt Disney died in December 1965. The groundbreaking for Walt Disney World was May 30, 1967. At the ribbon-cutting in 1971, a reporter remarked to Walt’s brother Roy that it was too bad Walt wasn’t there to see it. Roy replied, “If Walt hadn’t seen it, we wouldn’t be here.”

Walt used several tools to bring his vision to life that all of us can emulate.

Storytelling: Walt didn’t just talk; he wove a story. He used vivid detail about every new undertaking. He described the project, how it was going to be done, the players involved, and how the audience would react. He painted a 3D picture in everyone’s mind.

War room/wall: Walt had a secret lair where he would paper the walls with mind maps, scraps of color, visuals and timetables. He’d invite key people into his war room, where they would be immersed in the project’s nuances.

Theme or catchphrase: Walt believed in boiling any project’s essence down to a single sentence or theme. This single sentence would serve as a touchstone for the work. As decisions were being made, the team members could ask themselves if what they were about to do would get the project closer to honoring the underlying theme or core message.

Focus on who and why: Walt never let the team lose sight of the audience for any work they did. The work was done in service to that audience. There was a greater purpose in terms of how the project would affect them. Would it inspire children to dream big? Would it allow adults to be kids again? Would it continue a legacy and introduce it to a new generation?

The result of deploying these strategies was that Walt Disney World was the embodiment of Walt’s vision, even though he was gone long before the groundbreaking.

Sharing your vision is not just an intelligent leadership trait, it’s going to give your marketing a boost as well.

You can see how following these habits could fine-tune your marketing efforts around this project. The story of how/why the product or service was created will be rich with language you can weave into your ads and product descriptions.

The war room walls might help with the mood and tone of your marketing.

The theme or catchphrase would provide direction and messaging hierarchy for landing pages, product materials or headlines. Just like it did for the team creating the product or service, it can serve as your true north too.

The who and why will give your marketing team everything they need from an audience perspective. Who is going to care about your offering, and why is it important to them?

A shared vision that is vibrant, 3D and very tangible means that everyone can march it out together.

 

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.

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Disney’s Magic Touch

August 3, 2021

I am an unabashed Walt Disney fan. Like all of us, I know he had his flaws, but it’s hard to argue with his business success. He arrived in California in 1923 with an idea for a cartoon series and the need for a distributor. Once he secured that first yes, the Disney company was born.

Four years later, Walt’s distributor told Walt, pointing to a clause in their contract, that he  — the distributor, not Disney — owned the characters Walt had created and he was going to make future cartoons without Walt’s involvement. That was the last time Walt signed a contract without knowing what every word meant or could mean.

Walt had to walk away from his first moneymaking creation, Oswald the Lucky Rabbit. But with his back against the wall, he knew he had to create a new character for his growing studio. That’s when Mickey Mouse made his first appearance. To say the rest is history completely ignores the torrent of challenges Walt faced over the years. But he won his first Academy Award in 1932, just five years after he thought all might be lost.

One of the things I admire most about Walt’s business acumen is that he figured out multiple ways to make money. If one aspect of the business was struggling, there were plenty of others that kept feeding the health and growth of the overall company.

Over the years, I have studied the evolution of the Walt Disney Co. and Walt’s leadership gifts. I have gleaned seven core beliefs that I see running through Walt’s life and, interestingly, still see them as guiding principles in the Disney Co. today.

Over the course of the next several columns, I’m going to unpack each of these seven principles and look at them from both a business growth and a marketing perspective. I think you’ll find some thought-provoking takeaways as we delve a little deeper into each of Walt’s best habits and beliefs.

Here’s a sneak peek at what we’re going to be covering:

  • Your vision must be so clear and so well-articulated that someone else can complete it perfectly, even if you’re not there anymore.
  • No detail is too small, and in fact, the smallest details have the biggest impact.
  • Obstacles are road maps to innovation.
  • If the team is happy, the customer is happy.
  • Ask the best questions, because you have to keep learning.
  • You’re never done.
  • Never forget who you serve and why you matter to them.

In 2020, the Disney Co. held assets worth a total of over $200 billion and, in its 2020 annual report, announced that its revenues exceeded $65 billion. Even after COVID, it has more than 200,000 employees across the globe and is diversified in its product offerings. 2020 was brutal for the company, and its income loss topped $2.8 billion, but as it has done so many times since Walt started the company in 1923, it will be back with a vengeance.

The company has plenty to work with to rebuild after the pandemic. Disney creates movies and original TV programming, owns theme parks in the U.S., France, Japan and China, and owns other entities like Pixar, Marvel and LucasFilm.

But above all that, it has 200,000 employees who believe in the magic that is Disney and who operate the company, from the guy who sweeps up popcorn in the Magic Kingdom to CEO Bob Chapek, with these seven core beliefs front and center.

I believe every one of us, no matter what our company does or sells, can learn from the lessons Walt’s life can teach us. It will strengthen our messaging, our marketing and our bottom line.

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.

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Is there a book inside you?

July 27, 2021

Back in March, I was part of a panel of nonfiction authors at the DSM Book Festival. As we were fielding questions about our writing process and how our books came to be, it became evident that there were quite a few ways to become an author of a business book.

In previous columns, we’ve explored the marketing and sales benefits from being perceived as an authority. Being the author of a book has always carried a great deal of cachet and earns the author some amazing opportunities to build on that esteem. Authors are often invited to speak at conferences, be guests on podcasts or write articles for trade publications, which leads to greater awareness and interest in your company, product or service.

Of course, before you can take advantage of all of those opportunities, you have to actually write the book. Fortunately, there are many ways to accomplish this goal.

You can interview your way to a book: Many authors build the content of their book by interviewing other people about their experiences, beliefs or habits. As the author, you need to make sense of the information you’ve gleaned and give it context and structure. But the bulk of the writing is done for you.

You can write your book in bits: Think blog posts, short, focused emails, or even voice memos. I have a client who wrote a book on podcasting over the course of a year’s weekly newsletter articles.

You can convert your book from another format: One of my books was a direct lift of a two-day workshop that I taught. We filmed the workshop and transcribed the entire thing. The transcription was the basis of the book’s outline and much of the first draft. It could be a speech you’ve given, a class you’ve taught, or manual you’ve written.

You can divvy up the work: Imagine authoring a 25-chapter book and only writing a chapter or two. You could share the writing duties with other people with an expertise that complements yours. By being both the writer and the editor, you can protect the book’s overarching message without having to write it all.

You can talk your way into a book: Build an outline and then talk it out. Just riff on each chapter’s topic until you run out of things to talk about. Transcribe your improvised musings and then clean it up a little. It will probably need some reorganization and editing, but you’re naturally going to hit the highlights.

Ghost your way to a book: Many books are ghost-written. A good ghostwriter will work with you to build an outline and then extract each chapter’s content from you from written or oral interviews. It’s your expertise and thoughts. Someone else is simply capturing your best stuff and putting it into a book format.

Last but not least – you could just write the book: Many people shy away from writing a book because it feels like such a daunting task. But when you break it down into manageable bits, it’s very doable.

Decide on your core message or topic. Build a mind map or an outline that guides your reader to the learnings you want to share. Most writers do best when they write at a particular time of day or in a specific place. You may have to experiment a bit to find your rhythm, but you’ll get there.

I don’t know any authors who regret the early mornings or the lost weekends as they reflect on their book’s creation. And I know many authors who have leveraged their book to be one of the most productive marketing tools they have. Why wouldn’t you want the same?

 

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.

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How much are you willing to invest?

July 20, 2021

Over the last several weeks, we’ve focused on how brands can leverage people of influence to advance their marketing with the influencer’s audience. This week, I want to look at the same opportunity, but from the other side of the coin.

What if you were the person of influence? There’s no reason you couldn’t build an audience that would see you as an expert. Because they’d come to trust you, it’s likely they would become a potential buyer for your product or services. But it sure doesn’t happen overnight.

Many business owners and leaders have spent decades in their industry, developing a deep subject matter expertise. They speak at conferences, write books, and often consult. They produce weekly content that teaches their audience and improves some aspect of their life every time. If that’s you, then you could be ready to step into that authority position.

But Dave Ramsey, Seth Godin, and Brené Brown didn’t become subject matter experts overnight. They didn’t just decide that they’d like to be considered an expert. They earned that moniker. We don’t get to decide that we’re an expert. The audience decides when we’ve been at it long enough, our advice has served them well, and our consistency has proved that we have a depth of knowledge that is sustainable. Then, and only then, might they consider calling us an expert.

Many people believe that writing a book or having a podcast is enough to earn the label. Don’t get me wrong — it’s a fine start. But it’s just a start.

We often believe that it’s the big things that earn someone that expert status. But in reality, it’s the little things that add up to the depth of trust required to label someone an expert.

Dave Ramsey has done a daily show (first radio and now TV) since 1992. Seth Godin has written a daily blog post for almost two decades and has written 18 books. Brené Brown has been an educator and researcher for decades. She produces a weekly podcast and has written five bestsellers and publishes on her social channels every day.

These professionals have so much to share that they produce helpful content every single day. For more than a decade. That’s how you become a subject matter expert. You make the grand gesture with a book or two. But then you support that grand gesture with daily or almost daily contributions that add value to your audience. You teach every day. You give away your best stuff. You don’t hold back or bait and switch.

You give generously.

I can hear you already. “I don’t have time to produce that much content. I’m too busy taking care of clients.” If it were easy, everyone would be an expert. If this matters to you and your business, you’re going to have to carve out the time.

Here are a few suggestions for being consistent with helpful content so that you can earn your expert badge from your audience.

Choose a single channel: You can’t put new content everywhere every day. Decide which channel both suits you best and is attractive to your audience.

Batch the work: Carve out a few hours on your calendar every week and produce next week’s content. Always be working at least a week ahead and make the consequence of missing your deadline one you never want to endure.

Think snack, not a meal: You’ve already written the book or done something else significant. This content should be snack-sized. A single idea or a helpful tip.

The value of being seen as an authority has a direct connection to your bottom line. But you have to be willing to earn the title if you want the rewards.

 

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.

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Amplifying your audience

July 13, 2021

In last week’s column, we identified the difference between a celebrity influencer and someone who has influence with the audience you care about. This is the marketing equivalent of having a very connected and highly respected person write you a letter of recommendation for a coveted job. They’re not celebrity family or even internet famous, but a good word from them can make you a top contender for the job.

Sure, you still have to be qualified and earn the opportunity. But that letter of recommendation gives you a significant edge over everyone else. It’s someone’s endorsement of you — and to a group of people who know, like, and respect your endorser, that is gold.

In many ways, that is what makes micro-influencers more effective than their celebrity counterparts.

When you follow someone who isn’t Jennifer Garner-level famous and interact with them on social media or attend an event where they’re present, you come to feel as if you actually know them. Many authors, podcasters, researchers, subject matter experts, etc. enjoy that level of intimacy with an audience that values what they have to say or what they create.

These influential people actually build a community of fans and followers. Suppose you can find someone who has gathered the same type of people that matters to your brand. In that case, there’s a significant opportunity for you to borrow from the esteem and respect that already exists among the community members.

There’s incredible power when you can become part of an existing community and earn the community leader’s endorsement who has already proved him/herself to everyone else.

So how do you find one of these very targeted micro-influencers?

Online tools: There are online tools like BuzzSumo.com and Followerwonk.com that have search tools to help you identify blogging or social media micro-influencers by topic. There is no end to these tools, so pick two or three and see who shows up on multiple platforms.

Conferences and trade shows: Pay attention to the speaker lineup and don’t just focus on the keynotes. Breakout and roundtable-level speakers may be exactly what you’re looking for in a partner.

Authors and podcasters: This is a treasure trove of potential. Not only will their book or podcast declare their subject matter expertise, but odds are they’ve been building a following for a while and are used to promoting their own show or book.

Social channels: Who do you follow? Depending on what your company sells, it might just be an enthusiastic amateur who talks to your kind of people.

Use hashtags to ferret them out: Make a list of 10 keywords that drive traffic to your website. Identify a handful of hashtags that play off of or support that keyword list. Look for frequent posters who regularly use those hashtags.

Once you’ve built a potential list of partners, you need to start following them. Listen to their podcast. Read their book. Connect with them on social channels. Pay attention to the content they create and share. Do you agree with it? Did you learn something? How do they interact with commenters? What signs do you see that they’re actively building a community?

After you’ve narrowed down your list, you still need to approach them to see if they’d be interested in partnering with your brand. Ideally, you want someone to partner with you for more than the money. The best influencers only endorse the products, services and brands they genuinely believe in.

In next week’s column, we’ll talk about what that approach looks like and how to increase the odds of a mutually beneficial long-term partnership. It may not be as complicated or as expensive as you think.

 

This was originally published in the Des Moines Business Record, as one of Drew’s weekly columns.

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