Are you tired of the same old marketing strategies that yield average results? Do you feel like you're just digging a hole in dry sand?

If you're looking for a fresh perspective on B2B marketing and storytelling, then this episode of the Marketing Smarts Live Show featuring Jay Acunzo is a must-watch.

Let's dive into the key takeaways and resources shared during the show.

The Problem with B2B Marketing

Jay Acunzo identifies two major hurdles in B2B marketing:

  1. Understanding the Problem: Marketers often use cliché positioning statements like "We are the leading X" or "It's a better way to X" without truly understanding the customer's problem.
  2. Having a Vision: Marketers need a unique point of view on what would be a better way for their community.

Action Item: Audit your marketing efforts to remove any "puffery" and focus on truly understanding your customers' problems.

The Importance of Resonance

Jay introduces the concept of "resonance" in storytelling. He emphasizes the need to measure success by looking for a small number of people reacting in a big way to your content.

Resource: How to Use Story Selling and Modular Content to Drive Sales by Melissa Andrews

Metrics that Matter

Jay breaks down metrics into two categories:

  1. Things that can be bought: Traffic, downloads, emails.
  2. Things that must be earned: Repeat visitors, episode completions, passionate responses.

Mindset Insight: Focus on metrics that must be earned to truly measure the effectiveness of your storytelling.

Words of Wisdom

Jay shares a transformative idea from Andrew Davis: "Ask questions that Google can't answer." This approach encourages marketers to be explorers and investigators, inviting their audience along on a journey.

Principle: Are you asking questions that Google can't answer? Are you allowing best practices to make you mediocre?

This episode of the Marketing Smarts Live Show is a treasure trove of insights and resources for any B2B marketer looking to elevate their storytelling game.

Next Step: Watch the full episode, below.

Make sure you don't miss any future episodes: Subscribe to the Marketing Smarts Live Show on YouTube. And to catch up on all previous episodes, check out the full playlist on YouTube.

Episode Details, Guest Information, and Referenced Links

Episode No. 23

Guest's social media profiles:

MarketingProfs resources referenced in the show:

"In B2B News" article referenced in the show:

"From the #mpb2b Community" links referenced in the show:

Transcript: A Masterful B2B Marketing, Unthinkable Storytelling Masterclass With Jay Acunzo

Hello to all my Marketing Smarts Live viewers today. I'm super excited to bring you episode 23 of the Marketing Smarts Live show.

This week's topic is all about A Masterful B2B Marketing, Unthinkable Storytelling Masterclass. So, if you're ready to get your learn on...

Buckle up, get your note pad ready, and let's get ready to rock and roll.

Hey, I'm your boy George B. Thomas speaker, trainer, catalyst, and host of this hear show, the Marketing Smarts Live show as well as the Marketing Smarts podcast found on your favorite podcast app.

The original podcast episode was sponsored by Semrush and from that episode, our guest clips today are brought to you by none other than Jay Acunzo.

Jay Acunzo is one of the world's most sought-after business storytellers, authors, and show hosts.

He's worked in marketing roles at Google, ESPN, and HubSpot, created original series for tiny startups and massive brands.

He hosts the award-winning podcast Unthinkable and authored the book Break the Wheel. His stories have been heard by over a million people worldwide.

Today, Jay teaches creators and marketers to question best-practices, tell better stories, and resonate deeper.

Now, remember, the clips of Jay Acunzo today are pulled from the full marketing smarts podcast episode and, if you want to listen to the full interview with Jay Acunzo and myself, make sure to tune into the Marketing Smarts podcast, link to the full show will be in the description below after the live show ends.

Now, in this episode, again, I'm talking with Jay Acunzo about A Masterful B2B Marketing, Unthinkable Storytelling Masterclass.

Are you leveraging storytelling in your business? Are you a storyteller yourself? Do you understand the power of being a storyteller and use storytelling in your B2B business?

Do your stories call people to action or away from an action?

Many businesses don't even know what it means to use story as agent of change and creating or earning passionate prospects, leads, or customers as superfans.

But, that's exactly where I wanted to start so I asked the questions: How can B2B marketers get (Started) or put a story first system that focuses on "Earning Passionate Superfans"?

Jay: Thinking about the MarketingProfs audience very specifically where it's very B2B driven, but this applies everywhere. What we are in the business of doing as marketers is inspiring change. That's what an action is. You were not acting or you were acting a different way, and now you're doing it this way. Or you understood the world slightly differently than we do as a brand, and now through these stories, now through our content, now through our messaging, you understand the world like we do, which also makes you a more qualified prospect and easier to sell to, etcetera.

So, we're in a business the change, and a story is a vehicle to communicate change. This tension, this question, and then the resolution. This problem in the industry and our vision for what would be better. It is all about marching people away from something, away from the thing that they're doing that they know or you're telling them is not good enough or won't cut it anymore or is doing them a disservice toward something better. That's really what leadership is, away from something and toward something better. I see storytellers as a form of leaders.

Given that, of course, as marketers we all want that, so we are all in the business of change. I'd ask you a very simple back end maybe this never gets to the website type of exercise. Can you stand up to the world in your head, or maybe even publicly, and say, "Stop this. Start that."

I'll give you an example. You can't be on a marketing podcast without one of two people coming up. It's either Seth Godin or Simon Sinek, because everyone is going to talk about some sort of Seth Godin idea and everyone is going to talk about the word why because it is such an important part of marketing, and somehow a single human being has owned the word why in the zeitgeist for many years, Simon Sinek.

Let's talk about Simon Sinek. Stop selling what you do. Start selling why you do it. Stop acting like an expert. Start acting like an investigator. That's the thesis behind my book Break the Wheel. Can you say stop this, start that? Stop trying to be a good storyteller. Start being an effective storyteller. Of course, we have to define what those things mean.

On my homepage, I tried to articulate the story that I'm telling the world instead of just having a tagline or what I do, so the header phrase on my website says, "Don't market more. Matter more." There's some tension there. Stop doing this. Start doing that. Now, a lot of it is implied because I'm speaking to marketers and creators, and they understand what I say when I say you're probably marketing too much, or don't market more, matter more. There is a lot to unpack there, but you can probably do it if you're in my target audience.

That is a really helpful heuristic to understand we're going for one gram change in philosophy, in approaches, in whatever, the behavior of our audience, that would become the brand level story, off of which you can tell actual narratives or come up with slogan, taglines, campaigns, content, and all of that stuff.

This is hard won. I hope I'm not making it sound too simple. This is the hard work. It feels like back end work, but this is the strategy work that allows everything you actually then produce and ship into the world, the stuff we get stuck on as marketers, the tactics, it allows that stuff to actually work harder on your behalf.

What is that change that you're trying to inspire in others? Start there, and the storytelling part becomes a lot easier.

Did you hear that?

Are you inspiring change?

Are you showing your prospects, leads, and customer your vision of the world? What is possible!

Are you directing them to something better?

As a B2B marketer, you are in the business of change!

What are you getting your tribe to stop doing so they can star doing something else?

Put the answer to that in the chat pane or, let me know on Twitter using the hashtag #mpb2b and of course, tag me using @georgebthomas.

We'll get back to Jay Acunzo and his thoughts on A Masterful B2B Marketing, Unthinkable Storytelling Masterclass But first, I have to ask...

Are you part of the MarketingProfs community? If not, become part of the MarketingProfs community by heading over to - That's

Now, it's time for one of my favorite sections...

In The B2B News - Where we talk about breaking B2B news or really important tips we find on the google news tab related to you and your B2B business.

This week, the title is: Companies can explore emotional messaging for B2B marketing—LinkedIn

According to the professional network LinkedIn, B2B marketers may want to look at humanizing brands and stimulating emotions as part of their strategy this year.

In the five trends that LinkedIn identified that will help B2B marketers elevate their brands in 2023, the trust and tested emotion-led marketing and thought leadership may help companies get ahead of others.

"As we kickstart the new year, forward-thinking marketers should be looking at how they shift their priorities this year and focus on how they can humanize their brand with emotion-led campaigns and thought leadership activity," said Prue Cox, director Enterprise SEA, KR & ANZ Marketing Solutions.

So, why do I think that article stuck out to me from Because if you are going to leverage story, you are most likely going to have to inject some emotion along the way. Or, understand, your story will bring forth emotion from your customers.

I also got a little emotional when I saw that one of the things they talk about in this article is the fact that - Purpose-built B2B measurement metrics will emerge. I leave that right there for you to ponder on for a bit!

To read this article, check out the link below when the live show is over.

So let's get back to Jay Acunzo and his Marketing Smarts podcast episode.

I wanted to attack the conversation around what hurdles stop most B2B companies from reaching storytelling nirvana in their marketing efforts so, I asked the questions...

What is some "start with story" hurdles you've seen marketers face or fall prey to along their journey?

Jay: The first hurdle is to really deeply understand the problem. I think talk to customers has become trite. I'm friends with some software product managers as dear friends, and I'm thankful because they've impacted my life as friends, but also my marketing in a really profound way.

Great product managers do not go out and talk to customers about what they should build. Great product managers go out and talk to customers about the pain. They identify the problem. What problem are you facing? How are you currently trying to solve that problem? What is not going well? Or show me how this works and I'll identify what's not going well about the current status quo of solving that problem. They understand, explore, and look at it from all angles, the pain, the problem, the things that are not going well.

It starts with frustration. Then they go back as product leaders with their engineering team, with their design team, with their go to market teams, and they, using all of the skills they've worked very hard to hone, their imagination, and their taste, they create a solution, software or content or a message. They create the solution that the customer would never have known to ask for.

It's really dangerous to go out and just give the customer what they're asking for, because what the customer wants is not necessarily what they need. It's a delicate dance because you have to meet people where they're at and then walk them every step of the way toward what you think might be better. We're really bad at identifying the problem. That's the first hurdle.

This manifests in a lot of cliché positioning statements that you see. I think there are three awful but ubiquitous, especially in B2B, positioning statements you see. Let me just go through the three, because I think it will be kind of fun.

The first is, "We are the leading X." Okay. Based on what? I was in VC for three years, I was the vice president of content at a VC firm. We saw seed stage companies. Some of them had a prototype and no customers. They would come out and position, "This is the leading app that does this for this crowd." You have no customers. How are you saying that? Then you go even larger and it still is fluffy, it still is much puffery. The leading based on what? So, that doesn't say much. You try to be the best, not their favorite.

Then you start getting more problem focused and people go, "It's X that doesn't suck." That's the best you can offer us? It's like we are marginally passable as a solution. Really? Then by the way, the problem is not that the current email software they're using sucks. They might say that, but what's the real problem? What do they mean by that? A product manager would understand that, would try to glean that, and then use that in the product development and also inform product marketing and other brand go to market initiatives.

Then my favorite is, "It's a better way to X." Awesome. I'm all in. Are you going to tell us what that better way is? That is the second hurdle. If the first hurdle is understanding the problem, the second is having a point of view as to the vision for your community of what would be better.

People see my bio, and in marketing they latch onto one company that I've worked for, which was HubSpot. I was briefly their head of content. HubSpot for many years had a brand story that had that vision down. Instead of saying it's a better way to X, which maybe they did say, they knew what the better way was.

Here's that three-act one simple story. The status quo, for years marketers ran the same playbook over and over again, buy a list and spam it, do out of home, run interruptive advertising, etcetera, field marketing. Thanks to the internet and social media, a lot of these interruptive tactics no longer work because the customer has all the choice, so the customer has all of the power. That's the tension. Now, the resolution. From status quo to tension to resolution. The resolution, you now have to be the thing they choose, you have to create marketing people actually love. We call that inbound marketing. Here's our methodology, here's our education, here's our tool set, etcetera. They actually had a vision for what was better.

Those are the two big hurdles that you asked for. What is preventing marketers from telling good stories? They don't really understand the problem and they don't have a vision for what will be the better way. By the way, all of your competitors could understand the problem the exact same way you did.

Let's say you all somehow downloaded a dossier of here is everything you need to know about your customer's problem. You should still have a unique point of view as to the vision for what is better that your competitors would truly admit, "We don't think that's the better way. We think it's over here instead." This is where we get into differentiation territory. Understand the problem and have a point of view that is unique to you for what would be the better way.

Oh my gosh, did you hear any hurdles you may have fallen into? Or, are you fully stuck in something you just heard from Jay?

First things first, Do you truly understand your customers problems?

If not, how can you fix that stat!! No really like right now after this episode, that's the first thing you should fix.

I also, had to laugh around the topic of PUFFERY! Please make sure you audit your marketing efforts and remove any puffery you may see.

And, please listen: Do you have a vision for what the better way is for your customers? Are you showing them the way?

We'll get back to Jay Acunzo in a few minutes but first it's time for some...

Dope B2B Learnings From The Vault of MarketingProfs Articles

That's right, It's time to dig into the treasure trove of valuable information and pull out two pieces of gold to help you be a better B2B marketer.

Article one this week is: How to Use 'Story-Selling' and Modular Content to Drive Sales by Melissa Andrews

Some marketers would tell you that salespeople are babies who need structure and boundaries, and can't be trusted with the nuances of storytelling.

As a marketer and former sales representative, I disagree: A more accurate—and less demeaning—portrayal of salespeople would be that they are renegades.

So much of selling has in the past relied on the individual salesperson who was almost exclusively responsible for his or her own destiny: "Only I know my territory. Only I know my process. Only I know my clients."

Which is why it's easy to see why sales reps roll their eyes when asked to align with Marketing and work together with those dreaded "creative types."

Article two this week is: Four Steps to a Compelling Brand Story That Wins Over Customers by Courtney Apps

You may think your brand story is about your business... but think again.

The brand story, at its core, is about your consumers. Your story is what your business stands for; it is its set of beliefs, its purpose, and its meaning. Those values, in turn, become the signals that your consumers learn from and associate with.

When that story is crafted correctly, consumers will be proud to represent a brand, and they will market the brand of their own volition via word-of-mouth.

But how do you craft such a compelling brand story?

Want to keep learning more? If so, check the links in the description below after the live show to get access to both amazing MarketingProfs articles.

OK, back to Jay Acunzo... Let's dive back into this conversation of A Masterful B2B Marketing, Unthinkable Storytelling Masterclass.

One of the things that I totally nerded out on during my interview was this idea of resonance and measuring the resonance of our content aka our stories.

So, I asked Jay What does "Resonate Storie success look like?

Jay: We hear success, we hear success metrics, so let's talk about metrics. Let's talk about measuring resonance, let's talk about if you're a great storyteller, how do you even tell. I think there are some initial ways to tell that's more qualitative data.

This is my I will die on this hill. Data does not mean numbers. Data means information stored for later use. Yes, collect the numbers. Also, collect qualitative feedback, survey responses, and your own observations through your own intuition. If you're going to be data-driven or better, data-informed, don't limit yourself. Collect all forms of data, not just the stats.

Anyway, that big pet rock aside, how do you measure this stuff? Initially, what you're going for is kind of like you're searching for gold on the beach. The way a lot of marketers search for gold on the beach is they gather their shovels and they run sprinting around the beach through brute force, just stressfully digging every single place they have to dig. It's this thing, it's that tactic, it's this trend. If you stop, because you're digging a hole in dry sand, what happens? The walls cave in on you. It's exhausting. It's reactive, it's stressful. Far better is to calmly pick up a metal detector and look for a beep. Then you go, "I didn't get a beep anywhere else. I got a beep right here. Now with confidence, I can dig down here."

We skip the part where we get a beep and we just start digging. What I mean by that is whether or not you're building something big like a podcast or a book or an event series or your next piece of content, you should be testing your ideas publicly, aerating them, in conversations one-to-one. Do people light up? Have you articulated your core message or a simple idea that you'd like to explore well? On social media, in your personal accounts, even if you can't use the brand accounts, are you getting a small number of people reacting in big ways to what you're saying? If you are, that's the beep. You're not done, but that is a signal of future success, that's a sign that you might resonate.

Now that strongly worded tweet professing your belief about B2B marketing might be able to support an entire podcast, or even just one episode. Why would you create your podcast around this notion that you picked out in a boardroom somewhere when you haven't gone to market to test whether or not that premise is powerful enough to support a whole show's journey? That's something we need to get better at doing is to measure success first, look for a small number of people reacting in a big way, lean into that.

Then, of course, you want to scale. I'll end this metrics rant here. We need to break our metrics into things that can be bought versus things that must be earned. A way to see if you have that gold medal around your neck as a storyteller or a resonant marketer is if you're doing well on the things that must be earned side of the equation.

I can buy traffic to the website. I can't buy repeat visitors. I can buy downloads for my podcast. I can't buy episode completions. I have to earn those things. I can buy emails for my list. I should not, but I could. I cannot buy passionate responses to my latest newsletter. I have to earn that.

Are you measuring what can only be earned? If you are not, you're doing yourself a disservice. You're only focused on who arrives. Real marketers understand it's about who stays. It's not enough to grab attention. They have to walk over, spend some time with you, you have to hold their attention, they have to care. Back to the whole reach versus resonance debate.

I think that's the way we signal to ourselves I'm going to go in my drawer, my kid plays little league, I'm going to take out the trophy he doesn't care about anymore, I'm going to replace the plaque to say, 'World's Best Marketer' and give it to myself because I am doing really well on the metrics that must be earned. That's how you know.

Are you a great storyteller?

Do you have a metal detector? A resonance detector? A story effectiveness detector?

Are your stories powerful? Are you measuring?

Or, are you digging a marketing hole in dry sand?

I know, that is a lot of questions but, you need to start asking those questions and more. Once you do, then you can go deeper on the bought vs Earned topic!

We're going to get some words of wisdom from Jay Acunzo here in a few minutes but right now it's time to turn the spotlight on you, the MarketingProfs community. Yep, time for...

From The #MPB2B Community

We searched far and wide in the #MPB2B universe to find amazing information and conversation to bring to the masses.

So, first, make sure you are using the hashtag, and second, make sure you have fun and add value to the community.

Then, we'll spotlight you or your crew on the show. This week, it's...

Well, us MarketingProfs! Because, on LinkedIn, I saw something that stopped me in my tracks. It went a little something like this!

Do YOU know the ONE WEB PAGE that can fail the "French Test?"

That's what SEO pro Andy Crestodina calls it when a page says "We, We, We."

Your pages shouldn't say "We"—they should talk about the customer!

EXCEPT for this one page...

Before watching Andy's video... do YOU know what page should FAIL the "French Test?"

A) Oui, mon ami, I know!

B) Non, I don't know, please share!

#mpb2b #marketing #b2b #b2bmarketing #SEO #aboutus

But, you need to check out the description and click that link to check out the post and read or learn more!

Marketing Smarts viewer, I have to ask... are you going to be next to get the spotlight?

Remember community, use the hashtag #mpb2b on Facebook, LinkedIn, or Twitter and get the light shined on your awesomeness in the next episode or a future episode of the Marketing Smarts Live show!

Pro tip, it won't hurt if you tag me into your post as well I'm @georgebthomas on LinkedIn and Twitter.

Okay, let's kick it back to Jay Acunzo and some words of wisdom around this topic of A Masterful B2B Marketing, Unthinkable Storytelling Masterclass.

Here is what Jay Acunzo wanted to leave us with:

Jay: The single most transformative idea that has ever been given to me was from a great friend and mentor who has probably been on this show and/or should be again, Andrew Davis, author, speaker, marketing extraordinaire. He frames his work this way and taught me to do the same thing. Ask questions that Google can't answer and then go on a journey or a quest to try to answer them.

Why are we so obsessed with best practices in marketing when so often best practices lead to average work? I have no idea. I don't have the answers, but I'd like to hold up my hand to the community I want to serve and say this frustrates me and I have a lot of questions underneath that big one. I am going on a journey to try to figure this out because I think there's a better way. I think we should trust our intuition over these supposed best practices most of the time. Maybe we're intuition-led and data is used to course correct. I think we should trust our intuition, not these best practices. At very least, I think best practices lead to commodity work. Great. I have no answers. I have questions. I'm going to be an explorer and an investigator. Join me on my newsletter, join me on my social accounts, join me in my podcast as we explore where this goes to try to improve our work and transform ourselves for the better.

I think most of us are trying to out expert each other, out factually correct, out how-to. We're just sitting in the camp that is most crowded and trying to out elbow each other. When you do that, when you create things that are commodified—by the way, expertise and experts are because they're instantly accessible everywhere for free—when you create commodities, the best case scenario is that you reach somebody else that you're trying to reach with your commodity before the competition.

How to run great Instagram ads is how to run great Instagram ads. I don't really care about the source, as long as it feels factually correct. I better rank number one on search if I publish that material, or else it's not worth doing. I better out shout somebody on social media or try to "go viral," because the only recourse I have when I create a commodity is I bully my way into someone's life because I'm not saying anything original, I'm not transforming them, I'm just trying to transact them. Here's a download of information, please be on your way.

Drew taught me how to be a better thinker, a better communicator, a more empathetic marketer, a better storyteller with that one simple idea, which yes, has a lot to unpack underneath it. Ask questions Google can't answer, embark on a journey to answer them, and then invite your audience along with you. For my money, I don't know a better way to build an audience, to earn affinity, to resonate deeply, and to grow a business than that.

Are you asking questions Google can't answer?

Are you allowing best practices to make you mediocre?

Do you trust your intuition? Are you an explorer?

Are you transforming yourself and or your company or, are you both a commodity?

I'll stop with this: Are you saying anything different that anyone really should care about?

Have you enjoyed today's journey? Let us know, use that hashtag #mpb2b on whatever platform you are joining us on.

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image of George B. Thomas

George B. Thomas is a marketer, video Jedi, and HubSpot certified trainer with 25+ years of sales and marketing experience. George is owner and HubSpot Helper at He has a record-breaking 38 HubSpot sales, marketing, service, CRM, and CMS certifications. George harnesses his expertise in graphic design, Web development, video editing, social media marketing, and inbound marketing to partner with, teach, and develop solutions for companies looking to develop their businesses and increase their revenue.

LinkedIn: George B. Thomas

Twitter: @GeorgeBThomas