Colt Briner, Marketing Consultant, Keynote Speaker, Architect of Influence, Creativity Coach, and Founder of Scrappy AF Solutions, joins our host, Camela Thompson, in this episode of the Revenue Marketing Report. Colt shares his insights on the new marketing strategy he is pioneering, an example of one of his most successful thought followship campaigns, and why your company’s mission statement ought to tie back to the problems you are trying to address.
Colt has been working as a marketing executive for nearly 20 years now, with an emphasis on early to mid-stage B2B companies. At the beginning of this chat, Colt talked at length about the marketing strategy he has pioneered and already accrued some significant success with.
What is the new strategy you are pioneering and seeing a bit of success with?
“What I am working with here is kind of flipping the script on thought leadership. Thought leadership, of course, being that you’re leveraging your internal experts and not some writer off the streets to come up with content that reflects the strengthening of your innovation or what new ideas you have or how you’re being disruptive or that type of thing. I do like that kind of leadership. I think it is a strong strategy.
“However, what we have done here is we have sort of flipped that script. So rather than showcasing the expertise of your own organization, what you’re doing is creating a platform through which you can showcase the expertise of your targets. These are people generally if you are in a circumstance where you have a complex enterprise-selling kind of context and it’s relationship-based. You need to build relationships in order to close deals when you’ve got high-ticket sales items or solutions. It’s very valuable to build relationships with your prospects. I’ve found this thought followship concept to be a really effective way to do that. Therefore, instead of reaching out and saying, ‘can we get you on a demo for the next hour’, it is ‘we really want to add your voice to this critical dialogue that we are hosting in this industry’, to move it forward in some significant way.”
There’s much to love about what Colt said about attracting people vs. the sales pitch. This is really tapping into human nature. We all love to be told we are experts and very good at something. This is a great foray into establishing a relationship with somebody. Colt finds that the flattery definitely works.
“Yeah, it does. So you have to approach it correctly. The outreach has to be oriented around we want to add your voice and all the same rules apply. If you can customize, you find that they were quoted in an article, they’ve got smart things that they have said before or posted or you saw them in a webinar or they did a keynote or conference session. Anything that you can tie back to say, hey! We really think you have got some sharp things to add to this conversation. Yeah, the exaltation approach, certainly human nature plays into that. And it’s been said before me, everyone’s favorite topic is themselves.”
This is so smart because we see a lot of resistance to engaging in anything that smells like a sales call.
“That’s right! So here are some of the things that help make this work better. For example, doing it in partnership with a conference in your sector, in your industry. You have got either a major publisher which tends to be the major conference host in your area and creating a partnership with them. So that you can have a neutral channel for creating visibility for this content. They are the publishers. They will publish the recordings in this series, whatever you want to call it. This way, you can say we have created a series in partnership with X, Y, or Z and hopefully it’s a well-recognized name in your industry to bring visibility to this topic. Or to move our sector forward in the following way, to have this critical dialogue or to foster a mindshare between CEOs, CFOs, or CTOs, whoever they are in your industry. That you’re basically acting as the ‘brought to you’ by brand, that it’s facilitating this critical dialogue in your industry. And you are able to say we are in partnership with X, Y, or Z. that’s that publisher, that conference host to foster this critical dialogue. We have already got a few big names in the series. We would really like to include you in the next round of interviews.
“That creates that neutrality which eliminates the smell of a sales pitch. Now, of course, it’s still sales. But it’s sales that is productive in the first place. Therefore, if you can get that person in that conversation, you are definitely producing valuable content. This is where the magic of converting a meaningful relationship that you were able to build because of the conversation you had with this person into a dialogue that can evolve into, well, we should probably talk about X, Y, or Z, that we have been working on with other people in this space. So when they get into that interview, that thought leadership interview with you, you’re going to be ferociously taking notes. Afterward, it can be when you said this, it made me think of a couple of things we are doing. However, you want to convert that dialogue and that’s the magic of sales. The point is you can’t really put the magic of sales into effect until you have a relationship going.”
To make this really effective for the company that’s doing the reaching out, it would be wise to focus not only on these experts, but focusing on addressing a problem your product solves to make sure everything’s moving in the right direction. Colt agrees.
“Totally agree with that. It’s actually like a central critical point. A lot of people may have some difficulty imagining what they should center their conversation around. But it doesn’t get hard when you look at some of the major themes out there. This includes driving innovation, eliminating waste, building alliances, leading with purpose, mitigating risk, fostering collaboration in the industry, diversity, and inclusion. Any one of these slightly tweaked to your specific area becomes a really compelling dialogue to have with experts in your industry.”
What is an example of one of your most successful campaigns?
Colt went into detail about one of his most successful thought leadership campaigns.
“Well, the first conversion rate is really email. So the outreach goes from your typical 3% – 5% to much higher. I’ve seen as high as 23% in the different outreach campaigns I have done. People are very eager to respond and it’s mostly, I’m responding because yes I would like to add my voice to that very important conversation.”
To be clear, that 23% is the response rate, not the open rate.
“Those two have been strong subject lines for getting the kind of response rate I am talking about. As far as conversion rates go, getting that first response and then getting that person to schedule an interview, what we focus on is opportunities to have a lot of interviews happening in a row. We find that that’s the easiest thing to do when you do it at a conference event. If you have the sort of national scale events in your industry that we set up for clients, we recommend a 20 by 20 space at a minimum. I know some people go huge at conferences, but if we have a 20 by 20 space, we need about two-thirds of that space. The other third can be your sales side, where you’ve got your table setup for a four-camera shoot, two chairs, the sort of setup with the interview style going on. So you bring the folks in, you mic them up, you sit them down, and have an important conversation.
“Use that opportunity to draw from that individual, that expert. Draw from them their actual expertise and do it on the topic you promised to do it on so that other industry leaders can hear this person. How are they tackling this important challenge? What are their views on this important issue? Because you’re really trying to get two things out of a thought leadership campaign: one is a great relationship with your prospects. Two is a lot of strong content being delivered to your industry; brought to that industry by your brand.
“If you even do like a 2-day conference and you’re doing 30-minute slots, you aren’t going to pack in thousands, right? If you are in a B2B context where you need to be closing hundreds or thousands of deals in a quarter or in a year, you will need to approach this in a different way than I’ve been talking about. For the people who have high-ticket items, closing a new client that’s worth anywhere from $500,000 on up, and if you get 50 new contracts in a year, you are gold, right? That’s exactly the sweet spot that you want to be in. There are certainly elements of the strategy that work in a whole variety of circumstances, but since it’s labor-intensive and it’s low volume, at least the way I’m describing it, you tend to need to have high-ticket items.
“As far as conversion rates go, I’ve got what I call a CQL; which is a campaign qualified lead, meaning someone who is an appropriate target to go after for this. Yes, they would fit all your potential buyers. They have something about them that you can count on them to bring value to the conversation. What I have found is a CQL conversion rate of about 15% is pretty good. You can certainly do better but I think you can rely on a conservative estimate of 15% converting. Therefore, let’s say you have a 2-day conference, you’re going to have half-hour windows all through the day.
“That will give you, let’s say, 14 windows to sit down and interview and you’re going to have two days of that. So somewhere around 30 are going to convert 15% of that 30.
For the case study I have recently published, we have a client whose total expenditure was around $550,000. That’s for all the conference sponsorship, all the videography work, all the visibility for that content, etc. and they are going to bring in somewhere between $12 to $16 million in total contract value, lifetime value of the contracts. Plus they did actually sit some of the folks that they’re in contract conversations with because they have a 12-month sales cycle. They’re looking to accelerate and expand since they are building stronger relationships. They also included a handful of folks that were existing clients and they just wanted to have a deeper relationship and look to expand. So their total projected revenue coming in from that $550,000 spin, like I said, was between $12 to $16 million.”
Why is it essential to align your mission statement with the problems you are trying to solve?
I keep harping on the mission statement for whatever you are trying to do and how it needs to tie to your problem. That’s a pretty common gap in this space and Colt concurs.
“It’s true. This idea of being a purpose-driven organization does play into this. So what impact are you seeking to create in the world? What’s your vision of the future that you’re going to accomplish? Having a sense of the impact the organization seeks to create upon the world has massive benefits internally and externally, employee engagement, and shareholder returns. The data that comes back on the value of being purpose-driven is very compelling. Therefore, if you haven’t done that work first, I’m totally aligned with you. Do that first because you won’t get as much power out of a thought followship campaign if you haven’t come up with your company’s own purpose.
“Because that really needs to be if you think about a Venn diagram of overlap. What you are aiming to accomplish with the dialogue that you’re hosting through a thought leadership campaign and your company’s purpose that overlap, needs to be almost completely overlapped. We were talking about the importance of being purpose-driven in the campaign. That has to align with the product or service or solution you are putting in the marketplace. If you make them unrelated or somehow too tangential, the whole magic of sales becomes a heavy, heavy lift. How do I convert the fact that this guy sat down and talked about diversity and inclusion and our company’s not about that at all? Don’t do that. Don’t create a huge disconnect between your company’s purpose and your thought followship campaign.”
For more expert interviews and advice, listen to the full Revenue Marketing Report episode at the top of the article or anywhere you podcast.