It's framed as a discussion about business communication, but this week's episode of Marketing Smarts and all the wisdom and banter contained therein could pertain to all walks of life, personal and professional.
Don't miss a MarketingProfs podcast, subscribe to our free newsletter!
And if you want to do marketing right, says Steve Multer, you've got to get personal, anyway.
"Start with the human to create the connection first before you move to content, data, support, or arguments....If you start with here is what we do, here is how we do it, and here's why we do it, you're marketing wrong," he says. "You start with the why, then you go to the how, the what is last."
Communication is about reaching the human, and a big part of being human is making mistakes and humbling yourself. "I'm a big fan of negative stories, of talking about where I've failed, where I've screwed up something so badly," Steve says. "Because it makes me human, it makes me fallible just like them, it proves I have messed up so many times."
Similarly, the enemy of good communication, explains Steve, is expertise: ""Expertise for most marketers, most strategists, most salespeople is not your friend. It is potentially your enemy. It's great to have experience. Experience is vital....What [expertise] does, is it tends to put blinders on. I'm already good at what I do, therefore either nobody knows this better than me or I don't really need any help."
Those expertise blinders can lead to lecturing—which is not a conversation, Steve insists.
"It has to start with empowering the individual or individuals that you are speaking with, not empowering yourself. Their success is your success. Give them what they need. Create that value for them and you're going to soar, you're going to fly on their backs. They are the hero."
Listen to the entire show from the link 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.
George B. Thomas: You know I'm excited. This time super duper excited. If there was something over super duper excited, that would probably be my thoughts on this conversation. I'm a big fan, an advocate if you will, of great communication. Today, I get to talk to Steve Multer about the three pillars of winning communication. We dive into value, passion, and connection.
Of course, along the way I ask Steve what keeps him up at night pertaining to B2B marketers and communication, we talk about how to get started with winning communication, we talk about hurdles, what success looks like, and some words of wisdom along the way. This one is chock full of great stuff pointed toward the direction of being human in your marketing, human in your communication, and there are so many gold nuggets. Get that notepad ready. Before we get into the good stuff, let's learn a little bit about Steve.
Steve Multer is all about corporate storytelling. As an industry leading corporate spokesman for global power brands, Steve Multer has delivered more than 20,000 on-stage and on-camera presentations to over 2.5 million audience members across the Americas, Europe, and Asia. Corporations like Cisco, Panasonic, FujiFilm, Siemens, AGFA, Volvo, Phillips, and the list goes on and on, many more trust Steve as their storytelling face and voice, revealing the value, passion, and connection their customers, partners, and media analysts expect and demand.
Steve is also a leader in executive presence and winning communication training and speaker coaching. He partners with multinational organizations, including Splunk, Sprint, Ring Central, Florida International University, and many more to up-level their brand stories. He is recognized by C-suites and sales teams for personalized engaging programs that bring out the very best in each presenter at any level in their career.
Of course, you've got to check out Steve's new book. It's called Nothing Gets Sold Until the Story Gets Told: Corporate Storytelling for Career Success and Value-Driven Marketing. Ladies and gentlemen, we're going to talk about the book, we're going to talk about Steve's newsletter, we're going to talk about all of the things that you need to know about winning communication. Without further ado, let's get into the good stuff.
I'm sitting here with Steve Multer and I'm excited. In my life, communication has been a huge differentiator in things that are impossible to things that are possible. For you to be able to listen in on this conversation around the three pillars of winning communication, not just general generic communication, but winning communication. Today, we're going to talk about value, passion, and connection, and Steve is going to lead the way.
Steve, everybody knows that I always start the episodes with this fun question that leads us into some really interesting places. What the heck keeps you up at night around B2B businesses or B2B marketers when it comes to the word communication?
Steve Multer: Great question. First of all, it's amazing to be with you, great to be with your audience and your listeners. I so appreciate the time and the effort here.
Here is what keeps me awake at night when it comes to communication. It is communication that is strictly corporate and never comes from the human being, never comes from the personal. So many companies, so many organizations, so many of the people who work for those organizations get so narrow-minded, they get blindered. Sometimes it's by the legal department, sometimes it's after years of churning out marketing and sales, sometimes it's forgetting the core base of the business, the original passion and inspiration that kicked off the business to begin with. For whatever reason, it's only talking about product, service, solution capability from a position of metrics, data, KPIs, and statistics, and forgetting all of the humanity, which means that all of that information is getting lost.
As an advocate for better corporate storytelling and communication, that is what I worry about all the time because I see it 99% of the time and it just makes my skin crawl. So, we're going to talk about how not to do that.
George: I love this because it really is about the human element. Steve, you are talking my language. I am always the guy that is saying how can you be more human in your email, in your marketing, in your videos, in your communication. It's the old school let's just double-down on being who you are and being the best who you are.
Probably a totally different podcast episode, but with the rise of AI, I think this human level and this focus on value, passion, and connection is probably something we need to ramp up, but is going to just take a dive around a lot of humans and they're not going to see it coming.
I've mentioned it, but I want to give you room to breathe around the three pillars of winning communication. Talk about what they are and why the heck it is those three in your mind.
Steve: That's a great question. I'm going to put a little note in your mind. Let's come back to the AI thing, because I had a recent experience, literally just last week, that perfectly clarifies the excellent point that you just made. For now, let's talk about those three pillars.
Value, passion, connection. This is really the baseline. It's the fundamentals and the support of what makes for a phenomenal interaction. When we talk about communication, I think a lot of people either misjudge what communication is and they think about it only in terms of large communication, like I'm standing on a stage delivering a keynote in front of 1,000 people, or I'm speaking into a camera and I have 50,000 people tuning in and all those different touchpoints. It's not really about that.
Communication is you and I, sitting right now, looking into our cameras, and talking to one another. It is you sitting across the desk from your boss or from a fellow team member. It's you trying to make a pitch in a room to two, three, or four people. It's everything from the smallest interaction to the largest interaction.
What we have to do is figure out ways as a business in B2B marketing to level-up the quality and the impact of that communication, no matter how small or large it happens to be, to create an effect, a result at the end of the interaction. What I always give to my trainee groups is, I'll say this is the same if you have a one-hour presentation or workshop that you're delivering or if you happen to be a medical equipment sales rep chasing a doctor down the hallway of a hospital and you have a minute-and-a-half to state your case.
Interactions are every bit as valuable when they're tiny and when they're grand, and we have to think of them as one core piece. How do we think of them? In terms of those three pillars; value, passion, and connection. I'll keep it short for now, but we can dig deeper.
Value is everything that you say should be the benefit of the person you're talking to. If you're valuing yourself over the person that you are communicating with, you have flipped the general and generic and real value of the nature of the interaction. Try to make everything about the other person whenever you possibly can.
The second part, the passion part, is if you do not show genuine excitement, ignition, passion for what it is that you are there to communicate about, you are putting all of that pressure on the person you are communicating with to develop that passion for themselves. When we show energy and excitement about our topic, our capability, our argument, our idea, whatever it happens to be, we inspire the same passion in other people and we make them want to climb on board with us.
The connection part is what you talked about a minute ago, George. It is that humanity. It is looking at whoever you're speaking with, whether it's one person or 50,000 people, and saying I get you, I know you, I am you, your challenges are my challenges, my problems and successes are your problems and successes, we share a commonality. I'm not going to speak to you like an organization or a corporation, because people don't trust companies, people trust people first.
There are also three layers of how we onboard communication and information, and we can talk about that as well. The minute you create that connection, you establish trust, you establish credibility, which means whatever you have to share, whether it's business related or a personal issue, you now have the foundation to be able to deliver that content and people be 100% receptive to it. Value, passion, connection, the core of winning communication.
George: I feel like we could clock out right now. If you just took that and ran with it, it would be absolutely amazing. But I do have to dive in a little bit deeper. There's a couple of things I want to pull out of there.
We as humans are a what's-in-it-for-me society. I love that you were like no, it's what's in it for them. When you come to add value versus extract value, you will win more times than not. I love that you mentioned I get you, I know you, and I would even add into that the power of I see you. There's something to that that is amazing to people.
Speaking of those things, you said let's circle back. I do immediately want to circle back. I am going to give you time to dig deeper into value, dig deeper into passion, dig deeper into connection and what marketers need to know around those three at a deeper level. Let's take a pit stop and go off the beaten path and talk about AI and human communication. What the heck happened recently that you want to share with the audience?
Steve: I'm glad you asked because it's a fun story, as well as an informative story. I put out a weekly newsletter, my Tuesday Tips and Tricks newsletter that goes out, and I highlight this particular instance.
My younger daughter is an excellent artist. Of course, she is concerned about AI. What is it going to mean for my career down the road? Is AI going to supplant the individual human artist? I keep saying no, there's room for both. My older daughter is a musician. Is AI going to supplant some musicians? There's room for both.
So, I started playing with AI back in December and January. I was hosting a conference in the very first part of January and I said just for fun, I am going to put in a certain amount of prompts into ChatGPT. I'm going to say here are the things I want to talk about, write me a 10-minute opening for this conference. I wanted to see what it was capable of. It was total garbage. Everything it spit back was pat, bland, generic, no human connection whatsoever. I asked it to add a bit of a sense of humor. The jokes weren't even bad enough to be fun bad dad jokes, they were just dreadful.
I did it as a fun experiment, and I actually brought that experiment to the conference that I was hosting and said, "I want to share some things with you. What if I had said this to you," and we made it part of a workshop because it was on everybody's mind. I kind of had ignored it other than the news items. Then last week I hosted another conference down in Miami with a higher education institution that I've worked with for about a decade. I said it's been four months, let's give it a go and see how much it has learned. Everybody says every week it's getting stronger and stronger.
I did the same thing, only this time I loaded in tons of prompts, including prompts that I had been told by the media will make the AI stronger. For example, speak like you were an expert in this subject, speak like a mentor rather than a salesperson. I was very specific. It was even more garbage than it was four months ago. Because now it was smarter, it got more verbose and it gave more detail, but none of it had a bit of real value, none of it had an ounce of passion, and none of it had any connection with the people out there. It's the kind of thing that you would expect a robot to write.
Again, I brought it down and I shared a little bit of it with the group at FIU. With the humanity stripped away, there is nothing there for anyone to connect with. It made absolutely no sense whatsoever and it was even more fun the second time around because while AI is getting better in a lot of ways, what it can't supplant is what you just said, human interaction. Speaking from the heart about something that you are not only an expert on but also are deeply passionate about and bring your own individual experiences to when you communicate because that is what hooks other people.
Our experiences and the experiences of those we speak with align before we even meet one another. I don't know if you've studied what happens at the Hasson Lab at Princeton, but Uri Hasson has studied with a lot of his students a phenomenon called brain coupling. It's the concept that we share a lot of commonality that we don't even know about until we get into the room with one another. The more we can bring up that commonality initially in the first part of communication and conversation, the more people say I know that dude, that dude sees me, as George very wisely said a moment ago. You see me, you know who I am, and you understand me.
That is something that I don't know that AI is ever going to get, because it still has to be programmed. You know when you're talking to a human versus talking to a salesperson or talking to a robot, they are very different things.
George: Three totally different things, although two of those might be closer to each other sometimes, if you're talking to a bad sales rep. Just going to throw that out there. If you're talking to a good sales rep, then they lean more on the human side.
By the way, there's a podcast episode on selling like a human that you could probably go listen to. The one that I really want you to go listen to if you're on the fence about AI and you're like, I know, I'm kind of ignoring it, I want to dig in deeper, we did an interview with Christopher Penn, amazing human, A B2B Marketing Deep Dive on AI Foundations, the Future, Tips, and More. Man, did he pull the gloves off when it came to what to think about moving forward with that.
Steve: I'll have to look for that.
George: Steve, I'm here with you today, and I want to dive more into value. I think this is a huge word, and words have power. When it comes to B2B marketers around communication and the word value, give us a deep dive of what we need to know.
Steve: So perfect. I'm glad that we are starting at the top of the chart there, because I think until the value is there, the rest of it almost becomes, I'm not going to say meaningless, let's say it's definitely secondary.
As you said brilliantly earlier, WIIFM, what's in it for me, what's in it for them, and knowing which side of the table you're on. A lot of people accidentally don't. They think what's in it for me, and they either think of me as the communicator or they think what my audience really wants to hear is what I believe is most valuable for them. No. It's what they believe is most valuable for them, which means you have to know your audience. Whether it's one person or 500 people, you have to know them well enough. You have to do your research, your background, and your foundation.
Value, fundamentally, is the concept of the moment you open your mouth, the person or people sitting across from you think, "I am going to walk away from this interaction with something that I need. I am going to clear an obstacle out of my path. I am going to surmount a hurdle based on the nature of this interaction. I have been seeking an answer to this particular question," whether it's personal, professional, or both, because everything we're talking about affects your personal life as much as it does your business life. A lot of people like to separate those out. No. Human interaction is business interaction and vice versa.
Getting to the fundamental value of what that person wants and needs, and what you can do in service of them. I know service is an enormous part of your life, George. You had a great conversation recently with Christine Gritmon, and one of the things that she brought up and you reiterated was, are you serving or are you selfing. I loved that. I had not heard it phrased quite that way before.
If you're in service of another person, it means you're providing actionable value for them. You are sparking their imagination, you're painting a beautiful picture of what their life could look like in some small or large way if they follow the vision that you have. You're putting them smack in the middle of that future vision, and you're empowering them to go out and make it happen for themselves.
When you create that kind of value, everything else flows from that because they know they are in this conversation or interaction for the right reasons, they're not wasting their time, and they were smart to choose you to have that communication and conversation with. Create the value up front, which I call prove value first, and then continue proving value throughout the interaction, which is what I call prove value always. PVF/PVA is the acronym that I always work with, prove value first, prove value always. Do that, and every interaction instantly becomes successful.
George: I'm geeking out right now. Steve, I think we're brothers from another mother. I'm just going to throw that out there. There's a couple of things as you were doing that piece where I'm thinking it's like the EF Hutton. Yes, I know I just aged myself.
Steve: I'm right there with you.
George: When EF Hutton speaks, everybody listens. Why? Because they had built a brand and it had become value, it was things that you needed to hear. I just love this idea of service. You know that's a big buzzword for me, servant leadership, and leaders add value. When you get to this point in your core programming as a human is I need to diagnose the hurdle, eradicate it, and help them reach their aspirational point, people want to hear the words that are about to come out of your mouth.
For me, that's because I'm passionate about the humans. Let's dive into the passion. When it comes to B2B marketers and what they're doing inside of their communication, their messaging, their storytelling, how important or how can they leverage, maybe both of those, maybe it's a two-sided coin question, where does passion fit in?
Steve: You actually just put it really beautifully. There are two sides of this coin. One part of it is the passion that you demonstrate, that is an outward affectation of your passion. Hopefully, ideally, if you believe in the core of your brand, if you believe in the marketing message that you have to share, if you believe in the way that you deliver for your sector, that part is going to come naturally. You believe in your product and are happy and excited to talk about it.
The other side of that coin is the nonorganic side, which is I am truly still excited about what it is that I create and what it is that I sell or am I chasing a bottom line at this point. What we find is that so many corporations, especially those that have been around for some time, it is so easy to have passion during your startup phase. You're trying to raise money, you're trying to look for foundational support, you're trying to look for investors.
Then you go into the launch, you're very passionate about the launch because there are two, three, or four of you working on the project and you built this thing from scratch. You built it to fill a gap, a need in the marketplace, and you built it because you sensed, based on your business acumen, that you had something that people wanted and that they needed. It was so easy to get excited about that. You were also the only storytellers. If you're the CEO of the brand of a startup, guess what? You are the storyteller 100% of the time, there's nobody else.
What happens post-launch? You start scaling, and a year later, and another year later, and you get successful. The company builds and builds, and all of a sudden, the storytellers are so far removed from the original spark that created that particular corporation. Terry O'Reilly talks about this all the time. Malcolm Gladwell talks about this a lot of the time. Simon Sinek talks a lot about this, getting to the heart of your why.
Most companies have forgotten their why. Inevitably, the person doing the storytelling on behalf of that brand doesn't have the passion that the founders had. But the founders may have founded it in the '70s or the '80s, and maybe they're gone from the corporation, maybe they were forced out by the board because their original vision didn't adapt enough over time for what the board and the shareholders were most satisfied with.
Getting passion initially is easy. Maintaining passion over time is very hard. So, what I like to do when I'm working with people that I coach and with teams that I train is when it comes to discovering the passion in why you do what you do, it's not about the product, it's about the service that your product creates for another person.
One of the analogies that I love to use, and I bring this up in my book, is let's say that your B2B organization creates rubber gloves that people use. So do 100 other companies and competitors. Your job is to sell rubber gloves, and you really don't have much passion for rubber gloves, they're your job, your income, your paycheck.
It's not the gloves. What does the glove do? The glove allows the nurse at your child's school to be able to interact with as many kids as possible during the day so that we keep sickness at a minimum, so your child can stay in school and everybody stays healthy around your kindergartener's classroom. The gloves allow a mother who is trying to hold her baby in the neonatal infant care unit at the hospital to actually have physical contact with her child. Without the right pair of gloves, that doesn't happen. Somebody who is on a job site who does not have the correct pair of gloves gets injured or killed.
These are real human issues that face every single one of us. If we tell stories based around those issues, the gloves sell themselves. It's second nature. If all you're going to do is talk about the Tencel strength of your glove or about how much more comfortable they are or about better fit, guess what? All of your competitors are telling that exact same story. It doesn't land with people. It's the personal communication that creates the passion for you and creates the passion in your listener.
George: It's so interesting. My mind goes to fundamentally I wish each individual human could understand it's about reprogramming their brain. You mentioned the gloves and I thought to myself how many people, when somebody says, "What do you do for a living," says, "I save people from injury and death on a daily basis," or they say, "I'm a glove salesman."
Steve: Yes. They all say, "I'm a glove salesman."
Steve: There's a personal story. If you explain your job as the way you make money, your B2B branding, your B2B marketing is off. You've lost the vision, you've lost your own narrative. Why do you do what you do? Tell that story and your product sells itself.
George: I love it. I want to pause for a minute. I know I want to talk about connection, and it's going to be a massive section, so stick around. But you mentioned two things that I'd be remiss if I didn't give you a chance to talk about. One is you mentioned your newsletter. If people want to get your newsletter, where should they go?
Steve: Thank you for doing that. I appreciate it. I'm pretty easy to track down. You can see right behind me Steve Multer, Corporate Storytelling. Search that and you're going to find me literally everywhere. The name of the book that I just put out is called Nothing Gets Sold Until the Story Gets Told: Corporate Storytelling for Career Success and Value Driven Marketing, which is what we're going after here. But the newsletter is all connected into my other website, which is CorporateStorytelling.com. You can look at SteveMulter.com for everything else that I do, but when it comes to the newsletter, the book, and all of that, CorporateStorytelling.com. It's as easy to track as possible. You're going to find a number of different ways to sign up for the newsletter.
Normally we'd save this for the end, but let's just do it now. I have a free e-guide that is really cool that I created for anybody, any level of your career, any location, any kind of organization you work for or as an independent contractor, wherever you sit in your career right now, it's called "5 Paths to Passionate Storytelling." Anybody can go and download it right now at CorporateStorytelling.com/guide. That's going to bring you right to it, and then you're going to put in the code SoldTold23. You'll get the e-guide, you can sign up for the newsletter, and you can learn a whole lot more from there.
George: Well, I know what I'm going to do after this interview. We'll make sure to put the links in the show notes as well so that you can get to them.
Steve: Your book is on the way. You're giving me the address, so the book is on its way to you. I just wanted to let you know.
George: I can't wait. I love it. Let's dig back into the good stuff and talk about B2B marketers and what might be the most important, but I fear is sometimes the most difficult, the connection portion of this. What do B2B marketers need to know when it comes to layering on connection above, beyond, and into the passion and value that we've talked about?
Steve: This is actually my favorite one to talk about. As you said a moment, rightly so, this one gets deep. I always connect connection to structure. When it comes to any type of storytelling, whatever it happens to be, a one-on-one personal communication or something that is very business related where you're trying to move product or trying to create some sort of an association between corporations, anything that is connection-based begins and ends with good structure.
Your audience, one person or 1,000 people, they have to follow the track of what you're after. What are you trying to accomplish with this interaction? Bad structure in communication creates confusion and it creates disconnection. People don't follow bad structure, they don't know where to go. What are we doing here? What is the point? Why am I investing my time, my interest? We're not seeing eye-to-eye with one another. We're not speaking on the same level. Good structure is going to help.
Good structure, in my view, always begins with an initial clarity that puts the people above the content. Human first. We've talked about it again and again, and it's such an important part of what you do. As a little sidebar to that, there are three levels of information incorporation that I think are so vital to create good connection. It's the way all of us, no matter who we are, hear and process data as an onboard.
Right now, the estimate, I don't know that anybody can scientifically prove it, but the estimate is every single one of us, no matter what lever of power, control, money, association, level of authority you happen to have, we all process information on three levels.
First, we process it on a human level. As any piece of data stimulus arrives of the 10,000 pieces of stimuli that hit us, we immediately bin that content into high value, medium value, low value, or no value. Almost all of it goes directly to low value and no value because we just can't incorporate that much data.
We first process on a human level does this appeal to me on a moral level, on a subconscious level, do I like what I'm hearing, do I like the person delivering the information to me? What is my emotional gut initial response? If it's good, then we will move to the next level. If not, it gets thrown out and we never hear anything more, which unfortunately is what most B2B marketing is and it goes straight to the low value or no value bins.
Second, we hear and process information as consumers. Notice, we're not at employees yet. Consumers second. Would I buy this? Meaning, would I buy it with my money, would I buy it with my time, would I buy it with my personal investment? Do I prioritize it over the other elements and aspects in my life to the point that I would create an investment in this idea, concept, capability, solution, service, product? If it makes it past that level, then we go to number three, which is the flipside of what most marketing does.
Now on level three, we process as employees, which means as corporations. Guess what almost all B2B marketing is? Take that model, flip it upside down. Begin by processing or by selling or communicating with the company, then go to the consumer, and then put the consumer last. Every B2B marketer should start flipping that on its head. If you want to create connection with your audience, you begin by speaking to them on a human level, then if you get through that process, you go to the consumer level, third is where you speak to them as a company, a corporation, or an employee.
I'm telling you, if you remember one key takeaway from our conversation today, for everybody who is listening in, let it be that one. Start with the human to create the connection first before you move to content, data, support, or arguments. Those are all secondary, but we all learned in business school to go the other way around. Again, it's Simon Sinek, it's The Golden Circle. Start with why. It's his concept, it's just another way of saying it, which has been said again and again throughout business history. You can go back to Henry Ford and find the same concepts. If you start with here is what we do, here is how we do it, and here's why we do it, you're marketing wrong. You start with the why, then you go to the how, the what is last.
George: The fundamental principles never change, they just get told in a different way. I know right now the Marketing Smarts listeners are probably thinking we're bought in, we're good to go, the three pillars, I get it, I want to as a human have winning communication. That leads me to my next question.
Earlier, you said something about onboarding communication and onboarding winning communication. To me, onboarding is getting started. They're listening to this podcast episode, they take all of the information they learn here, they go get the book, they read the book, but what else can they do to get started to flip this model that they might historically have been using?
Steve: That is such a great question, and beautifully put. When I wrote this book, just as a sight sidebar, the reason that I waited as long as I did... I've been doing this now for 25+ years, and what I do is I support some of the world's largest corporations. I've been a leading face and voice for Cisco since 1997. I have 20-some odd years invested in speaking for and supporting brands like IBM, Microsoft, Panasonic, FujiFilm, Siemens, Bayer, and a lot of massive corporations.
What I have to do is go in the door and I have to break down where their marketing strategy has been up until this point, and I have to say what needs to alter in order to make those value, passion, connection points. The only way that we're going to do that is by fundamentally giving people a new way to think about it.
The reason that I wrote the book the way that I did is I didn't want to just be informational, I wanted to also say here is how you do it. Literally, every page giving you here is how you might have been doing it and here is how you could do it differently and show people exactly what to do.
Let's talk about the onboarding here. I call it onboarding better communication because it is almost like learning a new skill. Salespeople and marketers are very good at what they do, so nothing here is to put down all of the sales strategy skills and the marketing development capabilities and the customer connection points that great marketers and salespeople in your audience have had for years. You're excellent at it. Think like the Olympian. Work with a coach and work with a trainer to get that much better to add a couple extra tools to your toolbelt, to start to think differently about how you win, to engage your customer even better and up-level your success even further.
Let's talk about it from this connection point. Opening with connection. What can you do right out of the gate? Like I said, start with structure. Begin by not talking about you, by not talking about your product, by not talking about your company. Do not give me proof points of how excellent you are, how long you've been around, how much market share you command, the awards that you've won. Why? Because those are all self-centered, even if they're accurate.
Even if you really do build the best product on the market, your audience doesn't care about that at this point. What do they care about? Themselves. Not because they're selfish, but because of the 10,000 bits of stimuli and the binning that we talked about a moment ago that means you have to hit them where they live first, then once you've established that trust, that credibility, that foundational authority that makes them want to be in the room with you and listen to what you have to say, now you get to go to all of the statistical data to back it up. Initially, the connection has to begin with being personal.
How do you do it? Get to know your audience. We talked about that earlier. Who am I speaking with? What makes them tick, what do they care about most? Let me open by speaking about that. Let me try to find parallels between what they find vital and what I find vital so that I can create that human-to-human interaction between us long before I ever get to the meat of why we're here. Let me tell a story, let me share something personally from within my life, positive or negative.
I'm a big fan of negative stories, of talking about where I've failed, where I've screwed up something so badly. Why? Because it makes me human, it makes me fallible just like them, it proves I have messed up so many times. One of the things I would love to help you do today is not make the same error that I did. Let me tell you about that error and how I could have done a whole lot better, will do better in the future, and you can as well.
Quotes. I love quotes. Providing a quote reveals something about you. Why do you choose certain quotes? One of my big ones as a corporate storyteller is by Carl Buechner. Everybody always misattributes the quote to Maya Angelou, although she did love it. "They may not remember what you told them, but they will always remember how you made them feel." If you can make someone feel something during an interaction, whether this is B2B marketing, whether this is strategy, whether this is sales, or just one-on-one communication, make them feel something, they will remember you and your content long after the conversation ends.
When I use that quote, it not only talks about the genius of Carl Buechner, it tells the audience a little something about me and what I find most important. If I open with money, if I open with data, if I open with metrics, the person I'm speaking with says, "That's what is most important to Steve. Steve is about the numbers, the bottom line, the sale, the marketing." If I open with something very human and very personal, they say, "Steve is about the individual, about communicating with the person before communicating about the product."
These are all initial ways that you can onboard better winning communication. They're all strategies to get you in the door and to start by talking about the other person instead of about yourself or your company.
George: This episode is so good. Ladies and gentlemen, I have to pull a golden nugget out of that last section. It's simple, two words. Evoke emotion.
George: It is so powerful. Steve, what are the hurdles that get in the way, where do people mess it up?
Steve: One word for you. Expertise. Expertise for most marketers, most strategists, most salespeople is not your friend. It is potentially your enemy. It's great to have experience. Experience is vital. The more time you spend in the field, the more you get to understand how interactions work, you understand your customer, you understand how to talk about your product.
What it also does is it tends to put blinders on. I'm already good at what I do, therefore either nobody knows this better than me or I don't really need any help, I'm already very successful and the top sales representative of the company. You start to speak into a vacuum. It becomes I have a set of things that I always talk about and these are my go-to, wherever I go and whoever I speak with, I'm roughly going to tell the same story to everybody, no matter what their level of expertise is, no matter what their knowledge is, I'm going to speak the way I'm comfortable with speaking. This is what expertise can do, and that's what creates an obstacle to greater communication.
The best communication happens when, first of all, you begin by assuming the lowest common denominator. If I have a concept or a product to sell, I need to speak to my audience first as though there is one person standing over in the corner of the room who just joined the company two months ago and hasn't learned about all of this yet. They need some extra support. I can't assume that they're an expert right out of the gate.
At the same time, I have another person sitting next to them who I already have a 15-year existing relationship with, and they need to know what I'm going to do for them next. Good communication allows me to speak to both of those individuals and make sure they are both included in the conversation. Nobody is excluded. I'm not talking above anybody or below anybody. I'm looking at the room, reading the space.
What are we back to? Pillar number one, create value for everyone. Most marketing forgets the real value. They're too busy touting their product and too busy telling everybody how great they are at what they do. The reality is it doesn't win business because all of your competitors have their arguments, their KPIs, their metrics for why they actually are the best at what they do in the sector, and so do their competitors. When you compete on that level, nobody wins.
Four kinds of toilet paper lined up on the shelf, whether you pick Charmin or pick Cottonelle, or whichever, I don't remember all of the brands, everybody can say that their toilet paper is the best. If you don't create an emotional connection to that particular brand, to that particular product, everybody is just going to go based on price point and buy the cheapest, or they'll buy the one that they believe to be the softest. Meanwhile, the one next door to you is claiming to be the softest. It's a personal preference. The key word there is personal.
Don't let your expertise get in the way of understanding that. Really reaching out to your marketplace, especially in B2B where it is human-to-human, we're not talking C2C, we're not even talking B2C at this point, we are absolutely talking human-to-human, personalize it, create emotion around it, as you just said a moment ago, that is where your success really lies.
George: I love this so much. Blast from the past, "Please don't squeeze the Charmin," by the way. There's been something ringing in my brain, and I was like no, don't ask it. But in that last segment, you talked about talk tracks and it's almost like this programmed version of what you're going to say, so I'm going to ask. I'm going to go off the beaten path. We're going to take a little bit more time for the listeners, but I think this is going to add some value. The word that keeps coming to my mind is where does listening fit into all of this?
Steve: That is so good. I'm glad you brought it up. Most communication is lecturing. It's not a conversation, it's a lecture. Most people when they want to talk, they're going to go into a pitch session, they're going to go into a Zoom meeting or a WebX meeting, they are going to stand up on stage at an event or conference, whatever it happens to be, and they have their talk track all set. "Here's my script, here's what I'm going to work with."
What does that script usually not incorporate? Any sort of querying of the audience, engaging and involving them in the conversation and making them as important in the room as you are. Again, it has to start with empowering the individual or individuals that you are speaking with, not empowering yourself. Their success is your success. Give them what they need. Create that value for them and you're going to soar, you're going to fly on their backs. They are the hero.
If you think about it in terms of the hero's journey, you think Joseph Campbell, most companies, most marketers mistake the roles in the hero's journey. The hero's journey is all about taking somebody, an individual, the hero, out of their comfort zone, getting them to step across a threshold on a road to something new. You've been here, you've got a certain amount of success at that point, but now you want to step across that line.
B2B marketing is all about this. Let me guide you toward a new reality, a new vision. People don't like to leave their comfort zones. We don't like change, so we're going to resist that. But you have to hold your hand out and you have to usher them across that threshold, walk them down the road to success. Eventually, if you lay out your argument correctly, strategically, structured, what's going to happen is you will get them to see the logical conclusion. You've seen all of the arguments, you've seen why this is going to be great for you, so now all I need you to do is take the final step across that line and poof, new reality.
Guess what? Most companies, most businesses believe they are the hero. I am the one who is delivering this great capability to a hungry marketplace. You are not the hero. Your customer is the hero. You are the mentor. You are there to guide them to their success. Make them successful, your organization, your company, you personally become more successful yourself because of the hero's success. That is the actual journey that we are talking about guiding people along.
Did that get way too esoteric and way too storytelly?
George: No. I absolutely love it. My brain is screaming out pieces and parts of what we talked about, and that is masters are always learning and mentors are always teaching. If you can just throw that in your brain and add it to your B2B mix, you are going to be off to the races, ladies and gentlemen.
Steve: I have one more thing that I want to add, because I think we are at that time. I realize you asked me a question the other day that I didn't quite get to. How can you begin to sort of open that door to communication? I said a moment ago that most talks, most interactions are lectures rather than conversations. Engage your audience and let them be as much a part of any talk or interaction that you have as you are. They are really the goal for you.
If you're in service of them, if you want to create value for them, they are not just as important as you are in that interaction, they are more important. They are the goal and the target. Include them. Whatever scripting you have, whatever talk track you have as a sales representative, as a marketer, include your audience in that and now you open the door to two-way communication, and that is the guaranteed path to success for both of you.
George: If you're sitting here thinking, "How do I dive deeper into that voice of customer," make sure you check out the Nate Brown episode that we did a while back, because it was absolutely fantastic.
Speaking of fantastic, Steve, this has been amazing. I have one last question for you. It can go on the super duper über human side, if you want, or it can be about communication and B2B marketing, it's totally up to you. What are some final words of wisdom that you want to leave the Marketing Smarts audience?
Steve: Anybody who has ever thought about marketing, always market in the voice of your customer and never in the voice of your organization. If you don't know the difference, it means you need to get to know your customer better and ask yourself 'what if' questions.
What if questions are the best. Blue sky thinking. Open it up, no limitations. What if my customer was able to do this? What if my customer was able to achieve this level of benefit? What if we were able to provide this thing that we can't afford and we don't know how to build, but what if we could build it, deliver it, and offer it to our marketplace? What if thinking opens up possibilities and allows you to start thinking about what your customer wants from you. What they really want from you, not what your shareholders want, not what your bottom line wants, not what your sales team or your supply chain wants.
Think about your customer. The more you do that and put the focus on them, the more likely you are to see remarkable percentage growth and scale the likes of which you haven't seen before.
George: Marketing Smarts listeners, did you take lots of notes? I have to ask, what is your one thing, your number one execution opportunity after this podcast episode? Make sure you reach out and let us know in my inbox or on Twitter using the hashtag #MPB2B.
I also have to ask are you a free member of the MarketingProfs community yet? If not, head over to Mprofs.com/mptoday. You won't regret the additional B2B marketing education that you'll be adding to your life.
We'd like it if you could leave us a rating or review on your favorite podcast app, but we'd love it if you would share this episode with a coworker or friend. Until we meet in the next episode of the Marketing Smarts Podcast where we talk with Liz Murphy about the importance of being human in your B2B content, I hope you do just a couple of things. One, reach out and let us know what conversation you'd like to listen in on next. Two, focus on getting 1% better at your craft each and every day. Finally, remember to be a happy, helpful, humble B2B marketing human. We'll see you in the next episode of the Marketing Smarts Podcast.
Don't miss a MarketingProfs podcast, subscribe to our free newsletter!
Published on May 4, 2023
Steve Multer, a trusted corporate storytelling face and voice for the world’s most powerful and influential brands. Over the past 25 years, he’s crafted and delivered more than 20,000 talks at 800+ events for corporations including Cisco Systems, Splunk, Fujifilm, HP, Siemens, Panasonic, NTT Data, Xerox, and dozens more. As a trusted speaker coach and vocal evangelist for better corporate storytelling, Steve supports thousands of C-suites, executives, keynoters, thought leaders, engineers, developers, and marketing professionals to improve presentation content and increase communication success.
LinkedIn: Steve Multer
You may like these other MarketingProfs articles related to Marketing Strategy: