Marketing can be challenging: Creating the right content, breaking through the noise, crafting the ideal customer journey...

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Finding the right mix of channels, tactics, and approaches can seem impossible, and a misstep can cost you. But marketers can also inspire our customers and audiences as they strive to achieve greatness in their industry.

World-renowned mountain climber and guide Vern Tejas knows all about helping people strive for the summit and overcome obstacles. In 2000, he was named one of Alaska’s top 50 Athletes of the Century by Sports Illustrated, and in 2012 he was inducted into the Alaska Sports Hall of Fame.

Success for a mountain climber and guide depends entirely on trust and reputation, and building meaningful relationships with customers while helping them to overcome intense physical and emotional challenges. Engendering trust, having empathy for your customers, and creating an unforgettable customer experience while helping people achieve greatness... Sound familiar? It's what marketers (and mountain guides) do every day!

I invited Vern to Marketing Smarts to share the story of how he built a global reputation for guiding people on some of the world's most daunting climbs, and to talk about his book Seventy Summits: A Life in the Mountains. [Note: if you've been using lack of time as an excuse for not writing a book, this is your moment of truth, because Vern's managed to write two while climbing mountains all over the world!]

Here are just a few highlights from our conversation:

From the very first interaction, start building trust with your audience (04:06): "I think it starts from the very first contact. I usually write a letter of introduction telling [expedition members] who I am and encouraging them to get in contact with me with questions or concerns they might have. Then Day One at the orientation, I want to make them feel respected and part of the team.

"I try to memorize everybody's name from the get go. I want to know their names before they've memorized all the guides' names.... I use their first names. I think that puts them on a very relaxed and respected basis, and that's where trust is found. It's so important that the trust is made early on, because the things I'm going to say could mean the difference between life and death."

Achieving greatness takes time, so keep your eyes on the prize (08:35): "I like challenges, and I guess most mountaineers must embrace that somewhere along the line. Otherwise, they wouldn't climb. Climbing is hard. It's difficult. It's risky. It's a challenge. For me, being a person who really likes to challenge themselves, seeing something as big and beautiful as [that first mountain was], that was the prize—standing on top. So I kept my eyes on that prize the whole five years while I was working up to it. I climbed every weekend. I became a member of the mountain rescue group in Alaska. I also joined the mountaineering club in Alaska. I was going out multiple times trying to get more experience, attaching myself to older, more experienced people that had information they could give to me."

Mastering a mountain pays dividends in other areas of your life (18:46): "Mountaineering is a metaphor. If you have challenges in your life, which everybody does, this gives you a feeling of confidence knowing that, 'hey, if I can't do it this way, I'm going to try it around the backside. I'm going to try a different route. I'm gonna try a different day, a different weather condition.' There's lots of confidence that comes from being able to stand on any mountain, but if you can bring it into your life, it's going to make you feel confident and resilient, and better adapted to taking on challenges."

Love what you do, and share that love with your audience (27:12): "Life is an adventure. I'm here to make my life as awesome as possible, but also to fulfill those dreams for other people. Having that as my goal gives me a vivaciousness that people can feel. It comes through in my guiding. They're growing, they're learning, they're enjoying the mountains. That's my goal: to be the best I can be at sharing the mountains with others."

To learn more about Vern, check out VernTejas.com or AlpineAscents.com, and follow him on Twitter @VernTejas.

Vern and I talked about much more, including how he found time to learn the fiddle, the guitar, and the harmonica, and to write two books while becoming a world-renowned mountain climber, so be sure to listen to the entire show, which you can do above, or download the mp3 and listen at your convenience. Of course, you can also subscribe to the Marketing Smarts podcast in iTunes or via RSS and never miss an episode! 

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Music credit: Noam Weinstein.