How well do you know your customers: Mike Birt

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Marketers will tell you the importance of really knowing their customers but how many marketers actually understand their customers inside out?

Long-time marketer Mike Birt talks about the differnet approaches that marketers can take to gain customer insight.

In this episode of Marketing Spark, we talk about the importance of rewarding and nurturing customers rather than simply focusing on customer acquisition.

And Mike offers some suggestions on how to identify customer intentions and signals.

Hi, it's Mark Evans, and you're listening to marketing spark. How customer centric is your marketing and sales? How well do you know your customers and do you know how they feel and behave? And how often do you talk to your customers? Do you know them inside out? You'd be surprised by how much marketing is educated guesses rather than based on customer insight. It's marketing developed for a distant, fuzzy target rather than being laser focused. Maybe it's because marketer are busy, lazy or depending too much on tools and technology. Whatever the reason, it's not a smart way to operate. Your hands are tied behind your back unless you truly know your customers. On today's podcast I'm talking with Mike Burt, a longtime marketer who looks with clients ranging from e commerce brands to PR firms and no profits. In a recent video on Linkedin, Mike Talks about customer intentions and signals and how marketers need to see and understand what customers want and, as important, what they don't want. Welcome to marketing spark, mic hey. Thank you for having me to pleasure be here. First question. Customer one hundred and one. Do you think that most marketers really know their customers and, if not, why not? I think a lot of marketers know their customers fairly well, all right, so it's hard to make a wide generalization on that, but I think that most people try to and think that that is the way to really get ahead. So do they know them inside and out? Probably not. I see a lot of mistakes out there and we are, I always say it, I'm a customer, your customer. We're out there. Even though we do marketing, we are also consumers on the web as well, and we get annoyed and irritated by things some of the brands that we interact with do. So clearly people are not knowing their customers inside and out and they're not listening for intent and signals from people either. I find it really interesting because if you read linkedin post listen to podcasts, there's a constant refrain about knowing your customers and being customer centric and really being in touch with the people that matter. And then, when it push comes to shove, content is produced that doesn't resonate and there seems to be disconnect. There seems to be a disconnect between this vision of what marketing, how marketing you supposed to operate and and what actually happens. And in some cases, I believe the main marketers are making educated guesses. They think they know there not really. Yeah, they are that are going to throw out of the wide fishing net and hope that something that that they made sticks right and then we'll see what happens from there. I think that's exactly right. What you're saying about content and that doesn't resonate, and they make it because they took a guess at what their their customers might like or might want. If you go and look on on a platform, say like Tick Tock, for example, now right this is where everybody's at and everyone's talking about it. When you see the most successful people there, they are not trying to be all things to everyone and hoping something sticks. They found a niche and they found a thing that they're going to do and they hammer that and they hammer away at it and they keep hammering that because they found a thing that's work and it's resonating and they're going to keep doing that. You don't see these people varying outside their nick saying I've done this type of video too much. I should try something else. They don't. They Will Hammer, Hammer, Hammer, until engagement disappears and their customers and fans start telling them we don't like what you're doing anymore. Then they'll...

...switch, but not before that. They listen to their fans and when their fans want more of it, they give them more of it. When their fans tell them we don't like it, they stop and they switch to something else. So you find the most successful people are the ones really out there listening and engaging. Yeah, I think listening is a underrated skill. A lot of marketers like to talk with like to hear our salves talk. Listening sometimes is something they don't do because it takes discipline and it takes being very customer centric. And one of the questions I wanted to ask you is if a company wants to be customer centric, and that term is thrown around a lot, where how do they start? What are the key building blocks so customer intelligence, customer insight, becomes an integral part of a company's operational DNA? Well, the first thing you can look at it, especially if you're an online brand, is you're looking at your customer reviews. Customers are giving you feedback and I often hear brands and people who will say all those are the only the angry people who are going to make those comments, right. So they try to discount feedback that they don't like and it hurts our feelings. Like you know, we're all human. We don't like someone going out. You've worked your butt off for this product and you put it out, you thought of the great and then you get customers like you suck. You know. That hurts, right. We don't like to hear it, but you have to hear it and you have to have a thick skin and and you have to listen to that stuff. Right. That's a good place to start. Right on your customer reviews, on your social media. What kind of comments are you getting? I used to have a brand when I was a CMO and we had over over a million fans on social media. So we had comments constantly and and I kind of color coded or we had kind of a heat map for how Commons we're going and you can know things were going well across the rest of your operation just by how people are commenting on what ever you're posting. Right. So, even if we were not posting something calm content or product related. If people were mad at us and if we were late with shipping or we had missed a deadline or something, they're going to tell us. And even this funny video that had nothing to do with what their man so you can look and see people are out there giving you feedback all the time, right, and that's path and you can get active and just asked how did we do today? You know, send them something. We all have email drift campaigns. Is One of your drifts a customer satisfaction or a customer feedback email? You know you have. We all have post purchase blows, right, or processes that we're doing. Ask People for feedback. People will give you feedback. There's lots of ways to do it, but really it comes from you have to closely monitor what people are saying about you online and then just going directly ask people. They've already bought from you, so they have the experience. Ask them what's happening. One of the interesting things that I find, especially when I'm doing positioning engagements, is that I'll ask an entrepreneur or CEO if I can talk to for five ten of their customers. I want to find out what customers think because obviously an entrepreneur has particular bias and perspective, but you'll get something completely different from customers. And what's interesting when I do that is that many of them will some of them will block because they don't want a third party consultant like myself to be talking to their customers. And then, when they eventually agree, because it's an integral part of how position happens, I'll do the interviews and then report back to the CEO and some of the things I tell them, it's things that they've never heard before. It's things that surprised them sometimes trouble them because they've never taken the time to actually talk to their customers. And I find it really interesting that a company can take its customers for granted. Once you've spent all that time and energy to attract them on board them get...

...them into the fold, then you assume that they're fat and happy, they don't need any tending, they don't need to be nurtured or, you know, have to market to them. Why is that? Why do you companies seemingly ignore their customers? Their customers a lot of shortsightedness and there's a lot of focus on customer acquisition costs. Right. There are some some brands, maybe a SASS be to be brand, might talk about churn, or subscription based companies might talk about their churn, but for the most part everyone's on the front side of marketing, right, because that's the sexy, that's the fun, that's the where all the magic happens, right on the front side, the acquisition side. We're out there acquire new people. were growing sales, AREN'T WE AWESOME? And they spend a lot of time on that and they worry about their customer acquisition costs and then they forget about lifetime value and they forget about churn. Right, it's way harder. I've always found it's far harder to acquire a new customer then it is to keep one you've already acquired. So, yeah, I don't know, I see that mistake in a lot of companies to like you have all these customers, why aren't remarket to them, get them their new products? You're offering new offers to try to acquire a new customer. What are you doing for your current customer base? You need to really take a close look at those folks, because those are your ambassadors, those are your influencers. You know, though, that's your social proof anything any of those other marketing buzz words. We can say your current customer base is all of those things. You know, market to them, keep them. You've already acquired them. You've paid that cost for acquisition. Now get repurchases or keep their subscription stretched out right. If you had a three month goal, get them out to six. If they were repurchasing in six, can you get it to five? You know, what can you do? There's so much you can do in marketing. That's way cheaper, far cheaper to people you already have a relationship with. The it is on the acquisition side, going out and reaching people who don't know you. So I would highly recommend people really spend much more time than I know they do on their current customers. It's a cheaper group and they've already bought from you once. They'll probably buy again. When you were the chief marketing officer at grunt style, you were very the company was very focused on a specific type of customers. That interest me because many companies have customers across the spectrum, different vertical those different sectors, but you were very niche oriented. What was your approach in terms of discovering what those type of customers wanted and how did you deliver marketing that resonated with them and serve their specific needs and interest when it first started, and for the first several years, there are grunstyle. The customer was one tiny niche, a marine infantrymen or an army infantrymen, and that was it. Those are the only people we talked to and it was that way because that's who all of us were within the company. We were primarily all veterans and mostly had served in either marine or army infantry. So it was us. We were speaking to an audience that we knew very well. So we know it was very niche. But then we were in this audience and we knew these customers in a way that other brands who were far bigger than us, who had way more money and could market more, could not speak with that voice that we had because we knew it, because we were part of that audience too. So yeah, we were really very hyper focused on a very small niche. It's less than one percent of the military who are in the infantry. So we knew we were ignoring a lot of other audiences and customer groups, but we could make a good amount of money, and certainly at the size of the company we were. Then by just being very hyper focused because we we couldn't really mess that up because it's who we were. So we knew how to speak to it and...

...we found that it worked and we just kept capturing more and more of that group and it was really successful for us and really being hyper focus. That really helped us learn messaging audience. How do you talk to him? I mean it was just it was great and it worked up because that's who we were. Again, the role on our social media team you had to actually be and if had to have been an infantryman. We weren't hiring people who weren't even so we had three people on social media or for when I first started that. They were all infantryman. One was a silver star recipient. That guy got was great. Nobody with any marketing experience either. No marketing degrees, no experience, but they had experience and the audience we were trying to market to. So it was very authentic. You know, we screwed stuff up, we did stuff wrong, but and we probably didn't follow any Leo Burnett Rules Right, but we knew the audience we were trying to sell to. So they connected with us because it was authentic and it worked. I find the really interesting because you your marketing team was in the shoes of your customers. They'd been there, they had done that, they knew at the experience of being an infantry man was like, and so they could talk the talk they could because they've walked the walk. And that's really interesting because it goes back to our original premise and really knowing your customers. But if you were the customer, then arguably you can talk to them and whatever and you can connect with them a lot easier, and maybe that's the key. From any marketers. Maybe marketers have to sort of not only think like a customer, imagine what it's like to be in a customer shoes, but actually sort of be the customer at the same time, if you know what I'm what I mean. No, I agree so, and I don't think that happens enough. I think marketers just don't have that kind of experience or don't want that kind of experience. It's a shame because I know you know there's a lot of pressure in marketing. Right every month people have metrics, they have to hit. So they kind of get focused on on their goals and their metrics and then they lose that feel. I think marketer sometimes forget that their customers to so put yourself in and no shoes, take off your marketing hat sometimes and just be a customer. Visit your website as a customer and think to yourself, why would somebody buy from us? Why are they buying from us? And if anybody is, why are they doing it? Why are they even visiting us? When they visit us and they leave it? Why did they bounce? You know, why did they click? Why did they not click? Are you asking enough of these whys rather than just saying that piece didn't work, we'll try, try something new, let's get the next thing out and see if that works, and just you're just going to start turn and stuff out and hope for something that hits. But ask yourself these wise and put yourself you're a customer. I always tell my people that work with me you are a customer to there are things you like and things you don't when you're out on the Internet. So if you don't like something and it annoys you, why would you do that to your own customers? And right like a pop up exit intent. Pop ups, for example, just drive me insane. I think that is something that says I hate you as a customer when you do an exit intent, and most people hate it, but then they do it on their own website's like why? I understand. I want to actually ask you about that, because that there's that that video you did about customer intentions and signals that customers are sending. And what was the inspiration for that? What were you thinking? What triggered that, that thesis or that idea? Obviously this is something that obviously has been bugging you for a long time, because it's I suspect you see it over and over again. So maybe you can highlight some of the biggest transgressions when it comes to companies that don't listen to their customers intentions. I see it a lot now on particularly media websites right because display has changed so much and they're they're struggling. They used to be able to make money by just having people visit their websites. Right now you if, and and I'm a marketer,...

...and if this upsets people, but I use ad blocker. I don't know if everybody else does, but I use it. I used to believe in Carmen. I didn't, but I'm like now, I use it okay, and I think at that sends an intense signal to people. If I have ad blocker on. I don't. It's like I'm opting out of your marketing. So you shouldn't want to market to me because I'm telling you I'm not going to do anything you're asking. I found that then just traveling around reading news on websites. You get that that pop up sometimes that says, Hey, we we support ourselves with marketing on our being able to sell ads on our site. Please white list us so we can keep this free. The more I see it, the more I just thought how funny that was, or really just how disingenuous it is, because you know, I had an ad blocker on when I came to your website. Just because I turned it off, it doesn't mean I'm going to do anything for your advertisers on your website, as I'm not now all of a sudden going to become a purchaser. So you're just telling everybody, Hey, look between you and me, just turn off the AD blocker. We need to make our ad revenue. We won't tell anybody, you know, we will tell her our advertisers, and I think it's disingenuous and dishonest honestly. So that pop up that says turn off your ad blocker, to me is just something that's missing the whole intent of what of what? Customer is telling you that. They're giving you a signal and you're just wasting money. You're wasting your advertisers money by allowing that. So that's where that came from. And then the exit intent one. It just annoys me because I'm my mouse is going over. So then you recognize my mouse was about to hit the back Arrow. And now is when you're going to pop up and tell me. Or are you sure you want to leave? Would you like to sign up for email? No, no, I'm leaving. And now you're annoying me even more. I you didn't capture me, I didn't get me to do anything, and now, just as I'm getting ready to walk out the door, you, Oh hey, stop, stops up. I have something cool. I think both of those just really misread people and they miss intent and then they're advertising to people who don't want to be advertised to. And it's always been my thing as a marketer. Please tell me if you don't want to be advertised to, please opt out. Please turn on and add blocker. I only want to reach the people who are open to marketing. I don't want to waste money on a lot of people who have no intent to ever purchase from an online company ever. Right. So that's where that came from. In a nutshell, like I get annoyed by some things marketers do and I tell people the number one role in marketing is don't be annoying. was trying not to be annoying. That's a that's a new technique. I agree with you and and I think part of the problem is that marketers have probably lean to heavily into technology and tools to get them to do their dirty work. Drip Marketing, for example. We're all victims of trying to pound away at people's inboxes. So eventually you'll capitulate. You leave a website, you know, an offer for a newsletter or discount. They're using technology to try to engage, but that's the wrong approach. I mean you, if you really know your customers, then you'll figure out the better ways to engage with them rather than using hacks or cheats. And I think you're on the right track. They're definitely on the right track. Yeah, I agree. I think marketing has really been taken over by like I see this in job posts for marketers now will like some of the coding skills they want. I'm like, you're you're asking for a marketer right, like, I don't night person. I'm like, am I out of touch? You know, like have I loaned something? But yeah, I think tech. Tech should be a tool that helps amplify your message. It should not be a tool that helps you avoid having to do the work. It's not an just a set and forget thing that now...

...we can just will make money. So you, if you tech correctly, it's great, but if you don't, you're going to lose out on a lot of insights and you won't even know why people aren't buying from you or why they're running from you. Many of the guess on this podcast come from relationships that I've developed on Linkedin and you're one of them. Mike has been an active commenter on my posts and it's interesting to look at people's different approaches to linked in. Some people are super serious, some people are super engaged. I would say that your approach is a little offbeat. It would probably reflects your personality and it's a slightly irreverent. I mean, just looking at your title, for example, you describe yourself as two times former Google applicant and three time winner of the mic burt is awesome award for Awesomeness. First, I want to congratulate you for for your willingness to take a different approach to Linkedin and this second it is. Want to ask you about the way that you think about Linkedin, and social media for that matter, how it relates to this overall obsession with personal branding these days. I just want to have fun with it and not take it too seriously. It's social media, I view at the same I know people say, you know Linkedin, if not facebook, it's a business version of facebook. So like on facebook you always see people always it's a highlight reel, right, so it's their personal highlight reel on facebook, and I that's what I think linkedin has become. It's just your business highlight reel. Very little of it feels real to me either when you know it's famous now, like for people to joke about the we hired a homeless person thing, right you know that that went around. Everybody was talking and and you see how fake it can be because all of a sudden everybody all of a sudden was hiring the homeless person, but that they wrote that story to engage the algorithm. Right. So everybody talks about that. I just don't worry about it. If people like me, they like me. If they don't, they don't. If they want to engage, great. I just like to have fun with it and talk about the things that I like and I'm going to be real about it. I'm not going to be fake or, you know, try to do things on purpose to engage any algorithm. I'll test out and do some different things, for sure, but still I just want to remind people to have fun with it and it not take it so seriously and the Algorithm, whatever it is, will change next week and whatever was working for you this week that you spend all that time on Linkedin, I'll change it and now you're back to square one. So just be real from the start and don't worry about it, you know, and see what happens. Before obviously I'm going to probably upset some of the more ardent linkedin engagement folks out there. But when you think about it in the same place, for social media in general, it's a game, like we're playing a game with linkedin. You know, we play against the Algorithm, we play against other people who are saying that things, same things we're doing, competing for this spotlight like we're doing, and I think that's probably especially for independent marketers like you and I, it's probably a healthy approach because you take the platform too seriously, if you lean on it too heavily to be the place where you engage prospects, where you attract business, eventually won't be fun anymore. You know it'll be. It'll be make or break, do or die, and if the platform stops working for you, then you're arguably dead in the water. So I think the my advice, and I think you know you would probably say the same thing, is that to use it to have fun. Using it will also, you know, pulling the different levers every day and hoping they work, and there's really not a lot we can do. So just got to look all alone for the ride. That's pretty much it, right and just make the stuff, keep practicing at it, make your content. You're going to get better at it and anything that you're doing, then, even if it doesn't do well...

...for Linkedin, you're getting better at something that will benefit a client, you're getting knowledge and understanding and you're practicing what you preach. When when you put yourself out there to do these things? Because a lot of us, when we are engaged with a client, one of the first things we're going to tell, or I do anyway, as tell the CEO or the senior leaders, where's your social media presence at? You know, why aren't you doing you know most of us are probably going to tell senior leaders. If you're not out there as an advance evangelist for your company, why should anyone listen to you? So if I'm not out there, at least willing to put myself on camera, and I got to put myself out there too. I think that's what we're all doing. At least it shows we're going to practice what we preach and we can still help people. You know, it'll still help, it's it'll benefit clients one way or another, even if you don't get a thousand likes on something. If you look at the numbers, I think the last numbers or research I saw about Linkedin as that over ninety percent of the content is made them less than by less than ten percent of linked in people. So there's a huge dark market out there watching you that you're unaware of it. Just because somebody might not have liked or commented or shared on one of your posts, it doesn't mean that people aren't aware of you or that your potential clients aren't keeping an eyeball on you. I've gotten clients off of Linkedin who never had engaged with any of my stuff. I just get a message and say I saw you doing x like you did. I had no idea. Even if you feel like you're speaking to the void, keep speaking. People are watching you. Speaking of speaking into the void, I've noticed recently that you started making videos. How's that going for you, because I think, if I, if I you're trying to make a video every day. Is that? Is that the way that you're approaching video? To I'm very country and and very anti authoritarian, even even to myself. So when I set out rules for myself like that, I will inevitably break them because nobody's going to hold me to anything. All right, so I am trying and it's it's going okay. I do I went back and I'm working on TV writing again. I used to be. Ten years ago I started a website for as a hobby where I wrote about TV just because I love watching TV, and that was actually my journey in a marketing I grew that to about a million visitors a month on a website and then I stopped it when I would be got into gun style because I just got too busy to be able to have any hobbies. And so I'm back to that and I'm actually doing on ticktock more so and having fun and again talking about things that I like, finding a nitch. I'm growing a little bit there. So it's fun and it's worked on Linkedin. You know, here's the biggest thing, I think, the benefit to do it, and it's maybe even at my level, your level, guys like us who you know, we've been doing this a while. It gets me back into when was the last time you actually spent a little time working with a video editing tool, you know, because this as a CMO, I wasn't doing any of that. I was managing people doing those things. So it's really it's been nice to get back into the weeds of that kind of production where you're like, well, I'm back to being a rookie at this again, and I look at I hate my video sometimes because I look at them I'm like, Oh man, your production values are just you're awful. You would never approve this. Somebody brought you. If one of your people brought you this video, you would tell them to go back and do it again. You know so, but it I'm having fun with it and just trying to be less rigid about how often and when I have an idea for something, I will make a video and and put one up. One kind of question. Where can people learn more about you? Where can they find you on Linkedin? Where can they find you on tick tock if they're interested in your musings about television?...

Oh Gosh, if they want to follow me on Tick Tock, please get me to the thousand followers, folks, because you need me live, which I used your name on Tick Tock. I am the TV genius on Tick Kay, I know I got the website. So there's the TV genius website. New. I'm just getting it going now, so but please, yeah, there's followers. If you guys like TV, please, I just love it. And then on Linkedin you can find me there. That's where I do really most of my business talk. I don't take people off of their I don't have my own personal website or anything. You can message me like. I'm not trying to be super fancy. I'm just like everybody else like it's been a great conversation. Really enjoyed talking to you about marketing and, obviously, about the importance of knowing your customers. Thanks everybody for listening to another episode of marketing spark. If you enjoyed the conversation, leave a review, subscribe by Apple podcasts or your favorite podcast APP and share via social media. To learn more about how and how BB SASS companies is a fractional cmostrategic advisor coach, send an email to mark at Mark Evans got C A, or connect with me on linked it. I'll talk to you later.

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