Content Intel—episode 16: finding the right evangelist for your B2B brand
Laura Dolan (00:00):
Hi everyone and welcome back to the Content Intel podcast brought to you by Optimizely. I am your host, Laura Dolan and today I am joined by our guest, Mark Raffan, the founder and CEO of Content Callout. He also has a couple of renowned podcasts of his own, the Content Callout and Negotiations Ninja, which I got to say, the best title ever. I'm a huge fan of alliterations so I always appreciate that kind of creativity. Mark, thanks so much for coming on. Welcome to the podcast.
Mark Raffan (00:28):
Thank you so much for having me. I really appreciate it.
Laura Dolan (00:30):
Do you want to start out by telling us a little bit about Content Callout and a little bit about your background?
Mark Raffan (00:35):
You bet. Content Callout's a B2B content marketing agency that basically positions your organization for success in any kind of B2B tech SaaS space. What that means is if you're a B2B SaaS company and you're looking for impactful content that separates you from your competition, my agency produces that kind of content. And that could be blogs, white papers, case studies, videos, social media content, anything that you can think of really that is content driven. Started the agency just over two years ago now. Prior to that was running an organization and still am running an organization called Negotiations Ninja, which is a training, coaching and content company for negotiations in sales and procurement. And built that company up through thought leadership content. And we thought, man, if we can do this for one company, I bet we can do it for other companies too so that's why we started Content Callout.
Laura Dolan (01:31):
Very cool. What are the typical industries that you work with?
Mark Raffan (01:36):
Typically, anything that's back office, SaaS related. So if you are HR, accounting, project management, procurement, logistics, marketing, anything that's not customer facing, we work with those types of SaaS companies to help them develop their content for their products.
Laura Dolan (01:57):
Got you. And what got you interested in B2B marketing?
Mark Raffan (02:02):
I suppose it was the lack of really good B2B marketing that I saw out there.
Laura Dolan (02:08):
Mark Raffan (02:08):
Because most... I would say that a lot of B2B companies are fairly conservative when they come to the type of content they produce and what content they produce. And I think there's a big gap that exists with that. And I think for a lot of people they're really worried about what they should or should not say and I think there's a lot of room there for people to take a few risks and make some really impactful content. And it really, it's not even taking risks, it's just making better content.
Laura Dolan (02:37):
Right. I love that you took charge there. You're like, I don't like what I'm seeing. Let's just go ahead and do it ourselves.
Mark Raffan (02:39):
Laura Dolan (02:43):
I love that. Well, obviously a very big trend in the B2C world is social media influencers. We see them all over Instagram and TikTok nowadays. It seems companies are leveraging them in lieu of hiring an agency to raise awareness about their brands. So are you about to tell me that B2B brands are following suit?
Mark Raffan (03:03):
In a big way, in a huge way. I mean, I think it all started really with Gary Vaynerchuk and what he did with VaynerMedia and his presence all over the place. You've seen the impact that he's made and the results of course is that there's multiple companies now under the VaynerMedia umbrella. And it's been super impactful. And we've seen that with a lot of organizations now where their founders and their sales people are taking a significantly more active role in being B2B influencers and being B2B brand ambassadors, so to speak. And taking that message. And as one person put it to me the other day, which I thought was so clever, they said, "Listen, everyone thinks that brand should be centralized but the truth of the matter is that brand lives at the edge of your company."
Mark Raffan (03:51):
I said, "What does that mean?" And that person said, "Well, listen, your people are a representation of your brand. If you don't give them the ability to be able to speak and develop their own personal brand and your brand at the same time, you're missing out." I said, "Well, how much am I missing out?" And he said, "Well, on average, your people's brand, their own personal profiles on LinkedIn get between five and 20 times the reach that your company profile does, organically."
Laura Dolan (04:23):
Mark Raffan (04:24):
So if you're not utilizing that, you're insane.
Mark Raffan (04:28):
Right. And so that's what we do.
Laura Dolan (04:30):
That's brilliant. Because think about it, each individual profile probably does get a lot more engagement than the companies themselves. I've seen it, you've probably seen it, so that does make a lot of sense.
Mark Raffan (04:41):
And when you think about why it makes sense, it's because people trust people. When you're going on and you're consuming content it's not like you're going to go onto the Bain or the McKinsey or the Boston Consulting Group profile of that organization on LinkedIn on a regular basis. You're going to interact with the people from that company. And so when we think about it from that perspective, that makes a ton of sense.
Laura Dolan (05:05):
Absolutely. So what do you think constitutes a good B2B brand evangelist? What qualities should they have that differentiates them from a B2C influencer, if any?
Mark Raffan (05:16):
I think it's very close. It's very similar. And I think the only thing that really differentiates the space is maybe the platform. So if you see great influencers like Kim Kardashian or Charli D'Amelio or people like that on TikTok and Instagram and you think to yourself, well, what makes them attractive to people and why are they [inaudible 00:05:42] so many followers? It's because their content follows three major rules. It's entertaining, number one. It's educational often, especially if they're representing a brand in the process and it's informational. And I think as long as we can follow those same sort of foundations for B2B influencers, we're going to do very well. Entertaining part is the only part where people start to get a little bit scared because they say to me, "Well, Mark, we can't jump on TikTok and dance around like Charli D'Amelio."
Mark Raffan (06:15):
And I say, "I get at it, that makes sense but there's something in between that, that you could do." So we see people like Travis Tyler, for example, from PandaDoc who has a party podcast now, and a bunch of other people who are using entertainment to be able to represent the brand that they are building in the process. And in the process, they're building their own personal brand as well, which helps them out a ton. And sometimes people from sort of the corporate realm get a little bit afraid of that. They're thinking to themselves, well, what if they leave and they develop their personal brand and they leave? Well, they're going to do it for someone else, stop stressing out about it.
Laura Dolan (06:54):
And that is a concern. I don't blame them for having that in the back of your mind where somebody could take their influence elsewhere. So-
Mark Raffan (07:02):
Of course, of course. But if you... The risk, I would say, significantly less than the reward. And if you're worried about people leaving, then that's probably a function of culture and pay than anything else, right? So I would say don't worry about people leaving. If you worry about people leaving, then that should be a good reflection on maybe there's something in HR that we need to fix.
Laura Dolan (07:26):
Absolutely. There's an underlying problem there overall. It has nothing to do with just the evangelist mindset.
Mark Raffan (07:32):
Laura Dolan (07:33):
So why do B2B brands need a brand evangelist? Do you think it's cost effective?
Mark Raffan (07:38):
Yeah. Think it's significantly more cost effective than potentially anything that you're going to do on any kind of pay-per-click or ad platform because it's organic, number one, which makes it seem more sincere and more genuine, plus it's conversational and you're building community. I mean, look at what Chris Walker has done for Refine Labs or Dave Gerhardt now for his organization. These are B2B influencers that have significantly changed the trajectory of their businesses because they've chosen to be an evangelist, because they've chosen to be a brand ambassador, so to speak, of their B2B organization. And that is significantly cheaper than spending the money to be able to go and do it. And it's also longer lasting because you're building the community that keeps going, right? Whereas an ad is a little bit... It's transactional, right? It's very transactional. This is more community building.
Laura Dolan (08:39):
It's building that trust, it's building that relationship with your brand. And I think it improves relationships with customers because it's not somebody that they can't relate to. It's someone who actually believes in their product.
Mark Raffan (08:52):
Right. Exactly. We see this now where people are actually acquiring brand ambassadors, they're actually hiring them. I mean, this happened to a friend of mine recently, her name's Dani Hal, and she got recently approached by an organization to come on and be the brand and marketing person for that organization. And she brings all of her community and all of her following and all of her ability to create buzz online with her. And when you can do that, it's substantial. It's a big impact.
Laura Dolan (09:23):
Definitely. And that actually brings me to my next question, when choosing a brand ambassador, should it be someone within the B2B organization itself or an outside content creator, and how do you best determine that?
Mark Raffan (09:36):
I think you can do both. I'm a big believer in developing internally and developing people who choose, right? Because people get to choose. It is their profiles. People who would like to be a part of that. I think it's super beneficial, not only for the organization, but also for those people. And, I also think that there's an opportunity to hire brand ambassadors who may be working for other companies. So there are people who may have built their profile and their presence up to a point where they've got a lot of buzz and a lot of reach and a lot of impact.
Mark Raffan (10:09):
And they may be working for an organization that doesn't value that and, or doesn't know how to use it. And so when you can find those kinds of people, it is really, really amazing. It's really amazing. I mean, it happened to another woman I know named Katie McEwen who's also a friend of mine. She recently got hired by a tech company because of the impact that she has. And now her role within that organization is a community building role. And if you're able to bring your community with you into those organizations, it makes the organization that's hiring you that much more powerful.
Laura Dolan (10:45):
That's great. So she was hired specifically to be an evangelist then.
Mark Raffan (10:49):
Laura Dolan (10:50):
That's awesome. That's such a fun job. I would love that.
Mark Raffan (10:54):
Yeah, it is. It's a super fun job. It comes with responsibility, right? In terms of, hey, listen, you've always got to be on and you've always got to be with it and generating conversation. But the cool thing I think about what's happening in the B2B world, and I'm sure you've noticed this too, is that we're sort of breaking down the walls of the traditional B2B marketplace where it was like, everything's got to be perfect and everything's got to be on brand and you cannot show any emotion. Now people are being a lot more vulnerable and they're saying, "Hey, look, I'm having struggles. I have stress. There's some mental health challenges that I've been experiencing." Or they're able to crack jokes and enjoy themselves. And I've been really enjoying that lately. And it's been really, really cool to see. So I think we're seeing a dramatic shift that's occurring.
Laura Dolan (11:42):
I agree. I've been seeing a lot of that too. It's almost as if they're putting a little bit more emphasis on everybody's pain points and trying to make it a little more relatable. And I don't know if maybe the pandemic brought that on. It could have a little bit of something to do with it. But I love that that vulnerability has become so universal now. That we can all kind of relate whether it's B2B or B2C as it's just business related in general.
Mark Raffan (12:06):
Yeah, exactly. And it's okay. And you remember that these are actually people, right? And I think for a long time in B2B, we lost that. B2C is really good at that. You remember that these are people behind the brand. And I think in B2B we're just sort waking up to that now and it's really beautiful to see.
Laura Dolan (12:25):
I love that. I agree. I absolutely agree with that. It's not just a product standpoint. It's like they're... It's a living, breathing thing that someone put together, they put their entire soul and all their finances and everything into this product and they created something beautiful. And I love that there are people out there that will help bring that awareness to light.
Mark Raffan (12:47):
Laura Dolan (12:49):
So how should B2Bs go about finding the right brand evangelists?
Mark Raffan (12:54):
That's a really good question. I think you've got to first think about what is the message that I want to send out and what is the brand that I want to be representing. And what I mean by that brand that we're representing, do I want to be approachable? Am I okay with being funny? Is it all right that I crack a joke every now and again, or am a little bit more vulnerable? And I think finding that person that fits those kinds of values is going to be really big. So I would first think about the message and the values that my organization has and then try and find people that have those types of values to be able to be that kind of an influencer.
Mark Raffan (13:33):
I mean, we've seen that recently. There's a sales rapper. His name is Ding Zheng on LinkedIn. And he's been approached by a number of organizations, help them add a little bit more fun to their brands. And he comes on and he sings about their products and he sings about sort of sales communities. And he's a creative collaborator at RevGenius and Dooly and a bunch of other organizations as well. And it's just incredible to see. So I think once you find you're comfortable with the value, you know what kind of values you have it's then it becomes easier to be able to reach out to the people who could represent those values for you.
Laura Dolan (14:14):
Definitely. And I'm sure it'll so has a lot to do with budget. For example, I'm sure you've seen the latest Salesforce ad. They have Matthew McConaughey in their commercial. I was just like, "Okay, Salesforce, slow your roll. Stop showing off." But I was very surprised to see that. First of all, to see an ad for Salesforce at all, but then to see who they were able get to evangelize their brand. I mean, that's pretty cool.
Mark Raffan (14:40):
It's very, very cool. Or you could be like Coinbase and just have a bouncing QR code.
Laura Dolan (14:44):
Yeah. Yeah. It's like whatever works. I mean, the innovation behind it is also something you have to appreciate and just kind of marvel at, that just works. I mean, that got my attention, so-
Mark Raffan (14:58):
Laura Dolan (14:59):
I love it. So, Mark, is there anything we didn't cover that you'd like to speak on, on this subject matter before we wrap up?
Mark Raffan (15:08):
I think, if you decide to go down this route, if you're a B2B tech platform or a B2B company in general, and you're listening to this podcast and you think to yourself, man, this sounds like it's something that I want to go towards, there is a fair bit of strategy and a fair bit of planning that should go into it, especially when it comes to your content marketing strategy. And I would say don't take that task politely. Spend the time to be able to think it through very carefully and think about how you want to approach this. And if folks need help being able to do that, obviously they can feel free to reach out to us at any point in time. But do think very carefully about that before they do that.
Laura Dolan (15:48):
Do you think there are any campaigns out there that would work better than others as far as an omnichannel approach, anything video related or even podcasts related?
Mark Raffan (15:59):
Video's killing right now. So I think if you can be in on video, you do very well. I would say don't sacrifice other forms of content, written or social like traditional text based social or image based social, but video social is killing it.
Laura Dolan (16:18):
How would you integrate an influencer into something written? I'm just curious because I work with blogs at my company, so this is also for me actually.
Mark Raffan (16:26):
So it comes down to whether or not the person has clout, right? So if you've got an influencer and you can help... That person is a part of the writing process and you're bringing on that influencer, having them re-share that stuff is going to be really good for your writing.
Laura Dolan (16:42):
Okay. So basically they're helping you kind of get the word out there, whether it's social media or something like that. Very cool. Awesome, Mark. Well, how can our audience find you?
Mark Raffan (16:52):
Laura Dolan (17:01):
Awesome. Thank you again so much, Mark, for coming on today. And thank you all for tuning in to this episode of Content Intel. I am Laura Dolan and I will see you next time.
Laura Dolan (17:13):
Thank you for listening to this episode of Content Intel. If you'd like to check out more episodes or learn more about how we can take your business to the next level by using our content, commerce, or optimization tools, please visit our website at optimizely.com, or you can contact us directly using the link at the bottom of this podcast blog to hear more about how our products will help you unlock your digital potential.