178: Strategic Marketing: The Inside Track on Smooth Selling


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Stephanie Nivinskus

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Stephanie Nivinskus is the CEO of SizzleForce Marketing, a Fractional CMO agency that services scaling companies. Since 1995 she’s been developing brand-building marketing campaigns that have been used by companies including Starbucks, Quiksilver, The National Football League and Cox Communications along with thousands of privately owned companies. Stephanie has written for Forbes and Entrepreneur magazines and is the author of the international #1 best-seller, Absolutely Unforgettable: The Entrepreneur’s Guide To Creating A Heart-Centered Brand And Standing Out In A Noisy World.

Known for her ability to humanize commerce and market products and services in an authentic & powerful way, she delights audiences with attention-grabbing stories and strategies that connect the dots between people and profit. Her raw, heart-centered approach to creating meaningful conversations gives scaling companies a big voice in the marketplace.

Stephanie speaks nationwide. When she’s not helping brands showcase their sizzle, Stephanie is enjoying time with her husband and three teenagers in San Diego.

This is profit from the inside with Joel Block insights to give your business the inside track. And now here's your host, Joel Block. Is Your Company too small for a full scale in house marketing department, but you're too big to operate without one. What if you could have a fractional team that produced the horsepower of a full team delivering a solid R O I? Is it really possible to make this happen? To answer this, Stephanie navinscus. Stephanie, welcome to the show. Thank you, Joel, so glad to be here. Well, you know, listen, this is uh, there's there's a big promise of delivering. Uh, you know just what you need for just what you want to pay and a lot, I think, a lot of times, a lot of people, that doesn't work out exactly the way they expect. So, before we get into all the great things about it, what are some things that you've seen that work out for people? What happens? I think a lot of people will jump into tactical implementation before actually building out a very well thought out strategy, and that is something that happens over and over again with companies of all sizes. I see that they you know, they have the the overall executive strategy for growing the company and the big goals right, but they don't have the marketing strategy specifically dialed in that aligns with the overall company strategy. And so they oh, sorry, no, my my guess is that large companies have the strategy way under control. They always get the tax the tactics just right. Little companies, uh, they don't. They don't have time to strategize. They just jumped straight into tactics. And these middle sized companies that are that are audience, they to have a hard time figuring out which side that they're on. Correct let's talk about how does a company develop a strategy? What does a marketing strategy look like? And and first of all, I think a lot of people have a hard time separating sales from marketing. First of all, help us separate those two things and then let's talk about what a marketing strategy looks like. Okay, so separating marketing from sales. Marketing is absolutely the art and science of growing awareness engagement, getting people interested in what you have to sell, nurturing them along the path and then building the social proof that you need and the alliances that you need to get other companies or individuals marketing your company with you. Okay, so would it be fair to say that the marketing job is to kind of grease the wheels to make life easier for your sales people? Absolutely, we build the trust, we build the brand recognition we've, we grow the awareness, we we do all of the legwork needed so that your sales reps can go in there and sign the deal quickly, easily and efficiently. Okay, awesome. So how does how does a company go about building marketing strategy? Yeah, so the first step that really needs to happen is they need to have absolute crystal clarity on who they are servicing and how their solution solves the problem that those people have. Right. And a lot of times I see people make this mistake in that they will, you know, they'll have an ideal client. Yeah, yeah, yeah, our client is, you know, a mid level company that is doing x amount and revenue and has this many employees. Right, they'll have something very high level like that, and that's a start, but they're missing what really matters. And the bottom line here is that we're doing we're in a marketplace where all trans actions are human to human. Okay, and so we need to know...

...what the humans behind these decisions believe. What are their hesitations? What are their objections? What are their fears? What are the things that keep them up at night when they think about work and the problems that are happening, when they think about, oh my gosh, I'm gonna have to meet with the board and I'm going to have to explain this. What is it that they are concerned about and how can we come in and say, you know what, we're going to take that concern away, we're going to solve that for them. Okay, so the first step is really they absolutely have to have this level of clarity about their ideal client and how they tick, so that when they write marketing messages and share marketing messages with them, they feel almost like, oh my gosh, is this person inside my head? How do they know all these things? You know, I would I would listen. I love the clarity thing. I'm totally on board with you, but I would I would imagine that if you asked most companies, are you clear, they would say we're pretty clear. Yes, yes. My guess is that your assessment would be that they're not so clear, because that's that's what happens to me. When I talked to companies about vision, about about the kinds of things I discussed, I find that they're not near as clear as they think. Yeah, a lot of people think, Oh, you know, when I first asked that question, Oh yeah, we got that all dialed in right. And then I started to get into the depth of it and I say, okay, so why might they choose your competitors over you? And they'll say, well, they wouldn't, because our competitors are inferior, and I say, well, prove it. What's your what about this one? We don't have any competitors. Oh, that's the worst. I'm like, Oh, good gracious, yes, you do our humble halt for our moment please. You don't remember, some years ago Mark Zuckerberg was in front of Congress, and Congress there they're kind of talked about this whole anti trust thing, that facebook is too big and and they said, you know, you don't have any competitors, and he sort of said right, but the truth is that anybody who does advertising is a competitor facebook, because facebook is not really about posts and social media, it's really about eyeballs and advertising isn't it? Yeah, that's the silliest thing I've ever heard. You don't have any competitors. Zuckerberg has so many competitors on his tail. That's why the man is so stressed out. So there's another step, though, that needs to happen. Actually, there's several steps in the strategic development process, but one of the next ones that's so important is really understanding how you're different and more appealing than your competition, right. And this is another one that when I say, Oh, do you know how you're different, people will say, Oh, yeah, yeah, we know how we're different. We we do x, Y and Z, and they'll say these top level things that again don't get down to what really motivates buying decisions. And so we will do a really in depth competitive analysis from a fresh vantage point. This is another thing. When you're inside the company, it's very difficult to read the jar from inside the label right or, as that was backwards, to read the label from inside the jar right, and that's a lot of times. When you do have internal people doing competitive analysis, their view is slanted, and naturally so. I mean, if I tried to do a competitive analysis on my own company, I would miss a million things because I can't see it the way an outsider can. So you have to have fresh vantage point and fresh eyeballs on everything from what's different from maybe it's your commercials, maybe it's your website, maybe it's your brand promise, maybe it's the way your customer service team interacts of people. Maybe it's your return process or your...

...guarantees, or it could be any number of things. But if you don't know how you different at the deepest level, you're going to be leaving a ton of money on the table. You know, the one of the really funny things is that you know you can go through that whole long list, that you have all these different things that are better or different, whatever they are, and it's probably none of those things, because the truth is that customers don't think about the things that we think about ourselves. So we're thinking about our we're analyzing our website, we're analyzing our social media accounts, we're analyzing this and they might just go. You know, I just think you have a friendly company. I like I like the people who answer the phones and and they call me back pretty fast and and that really works for me. So that customer experience customers are simple. Customers really are not looking for these complicated things that we tend to to do. In my experience, yeah, I think you. I think you can be right in many cases. I also think, however, while you know, a customer is unlikely to be like well, it took too long for your website to load, right, you know, a marketing analyst might be like, Oh, that's a huge problem. And it is a problem, but not for the same reasons. Right. The customer might say something like, you know, I just looked at their website and they just sound like everybody else. I can't tell any difference. Right. So they're just like yeah, I mean, it could be this guy, it could be that guy. Doesn't really make any difference to me. WHO's cheaper, right, and and and that becomes a very slippery slope because then literally you're competing on price. I mean, do you really want your company to be the low price leader? You know, if you do, okay, play big in that sandbox, but a lot of companies don't. Yeah, so, Um. So. So what is the marketing strategy look like? I mean, like, you know, what are the components? are like, what are the you know, what are the things that have to happen for you to say this is a comprehensive marketing strategy. Yeah, okay. You have that clarity on your ideal client. You have clarity on how you're different in the marketplace. You also have a total clarity around your messaging. Right. How are you going to show up in a crowded marketplace? What are you going to say, what are you not going to say and why? Right, Um, you're also going to have a total clarity on your customer journey. Right. So what is going to happen from the moment of potential customer learns you exist to the moment they become a raving fan? And it does not matter if your customer is a, you know, an enterprise level company or your customer is a regular, everyday consumer that's buying a ten dollar product. There is a journey that every customer goes on. They learn you exist, then they start to engage with you, then they decide I might be interested in having a little bit of a two way dialogue here. Then it moves into well, how are you going to get that first conversion with them? And a conversion is not always a sale. Sometimes it's booking a demo sometimes it's booking a sales call right. Then it's moving into the nurturing phase. How are we going to keep in touch with them if they don't make a decision immediately, if it's a long haul sale, right, and it takes, you know, a year, it takes two years, three years, to make the sale, how are we going to stay in front of them and keep them engaged so that when they are ready, they say yes? Right? And then how are we going to maximize every single sale? What are we going to do? What is our entry level offer? What's the next level of from that and the next level up from that, so we can maximize our sales opportunities at every stage. And then how are we going to build social proof? What are we going to do? Because we live like it or lumpit. That's the world we live in, right, and if you don't build your own...

...social proof, the marketplace will build it for you, but it might not be what you want it to be. So you have to control it. You have to have a plan of how you're going to attract that proof and make sure it's the proof you want the world to see. And then that final stage of how are you going to get other people either referring your company's offerings to their own network, Um being an affiliate for you, becoming a referral partner, strategic partner and investor. It can look like a million different things. That a full marketing plan is going to address all of those things. And then the final step is that you're going to have a a calendar laid out that's going to say, okay, knowing that these are our goals, this is our customer journey, these are our differentiators, these are the keys in our messaging right and this is our customer Avatar. What are we going to do now? When are we going to do it, and how are we going to do it, and what metrics are we going to track to make sure it's performing? That's a marketing strategy done well. How many companies have a good one? Not Very many, not very many. How many? How many companies know that they don't have a good plan? I'M gonna say they don't necessarily know they don't have a good plan. They just know there's a problem. Right, so they don't. It's kind of like when you go to the doctor and you say, Doctor, my head hurts, my stomach hurts, I don't know why, right, and the doctor then diagnoses, oh, that's because you have the flu or whatever it might be. Right. So they don't know the marketing plan is the problem, but they know, they absolutely know, that there's a problem. The marketing is not performing, the sales people are having to work too hard to get the sales, there's too any rejections, objections, all that stuff. So so immediately, you know, what I would imagine is they're going, this is not a marketing problem, we have crumby sales people, get all new sales people, or or we have crummy something else, or something is not working, and they just start taking the wrong actions. I mean how do they know? Uh, and narrowed down where the problem is actually coming from. I think it's a process of they tend to try doing lots of different things. It might be clean out the sales force, right, and then they realized they clean the sales force out and then the problem is still there. So then they're like, what the heck, what's the problem? Right? I think it happens almost as either they get in front of the right person who can tell them this is not a sales problem, this is a marketing problem, or they end up tripping on that realization themselves because they try a million different things that don't actually solve the problem and work. So if if a company, uh, let's say, able to call you and and say we need to check and see if our clarity is as clear as we think, or we need to see if our messaging is as clear as we think, Um, how long would it take for them to get feedback from you that they are on the right track or not on the right track? When we get that question, which we actually get quite a lot, people will say we don't know if our message is clear, and the reason why we're getting that question more now than ever is because people are talking about it. There's way more conversation around your messaging being clear. So when we get that question, we actually I I developed an analysis that I do with my team internally and it takes us about four hours to go through this analysis and then we can tell you if your message is clear or not, and if...

...it's not clear, we can tell you exactly why it's not clear and how to fix it and so and and what are some of the typical fixes? Is it not everybody needs a full scale marketing plan. Some people might have two thirds of one and what a little of it's broken. But so what are some of the things that typically come out of that? Yeah, one thing that almost always happens is, you know, like we will go to a company's website and we'll look at what is the very first thing we say, we see when we go to the website, right, and we know that we have all of about three and a half seconds to capture someone's attention or they bail and go to the next location. Right. So what is that very first message? Is it a unique selling proposition that makes me go, Huh, I'm listening, I want to know more, or you caught me, you said something that caught my attention in some way? Right, and those companies don't have it. There are so many mid market companies who all look the same, they say the same thing, they play it safe and they say just some nonsense or it's some fluffy marketing thing that, you know, sounded really pretty when your copywriter was writing it, but it doesn't get to the pain point that your customers really have. Yeah, you know, Um, there there are so many different there. There is advertising, there's marketing. They're selling their there and these things kind of sound like their cousins. They're not exactly cousins, but they're they're kind of similar. Um, the person that writes the Little Jingle of the little headline, and maybe the copywriter, or whoever that person is. Um. Are they on the advertising team? Are they on the marketing team? You know, where do you typically place those people? They can be on both. Really, they can be on both. I was a copywriter. I have written copy for twenty seven years, okay. I have worked advertising departments and I have worked on marketing teams. Both places need them. And so who who gives you, as a copywriter, your marching orders? Is that like the top marketing person who determines the strategy and says, okay, come up with something that works like this. How do you figure that out? Yeah, so that that is the job of the strategists. The strategist job is not to put words to the problem, but it is to clearly identify the problem, the target markets and the desired solution, okay, and then to provide that information to the COPYWRITER, who can in turn create messaging that's clear and compelling and consistent across the board with every part of the business. And again, that goes it extends beyond just marketing. Of course. It includes the copy on your website. It includes, you know, what you're saying in your radio added includes what you're doing and your good lads. It includes all of that. But it also includes what happens when somebody calls your eight hundred number and they try to place in order for your product. Right. Is that message coming across in your call center script? Right, when you have the CEO on stage on a panel speaking about something, is the CEO sharing the same compelling message that makes people want to take action in your social media? Is it the same thing, or is it a bunch of discombobulated messages that are all kind of touching around the same thing but leaving the marketplace more confused than ever? And typically that's what's happening because people don't think. It's like we're all in the same family, but we're not all talking, and that's what we have. Can you give us a little example, for example, of a a company that maybe you didn't have a great marketing play in and then...

...they got a better marketing plan? What happened to them? And like the Pistons all started firing like what did that look like? Yeah, absolutely. Um, yes, I get I can think of several that we've worked with. Um. There's one company that comes to mind. I can tell you that Um. Their FACEBOOK AD budget was cut down by about once their messaging was dialed in and they were getting better results than ever. I can tell you that their revenues went up over a million dollars within three months of working with us. I can tell you other things that have happened for them. I think there's just an overall sense of clarity amongst the executive team as well as everybody else that's on the team. Everyone is focused on the same thing. Everyone has a clear vision of what are we building here, what are we going for and how are we measuring success? So it makes the team work in great alignments. There's a lot of other things. How much more do you want me to tell you? Know, you know what? I would imagine that executive teams that have that experience it must be pretty exhilarating for them. Oh, it's thrilling. It's absolutely beyond thrilling, because most people know that their their teams are not aligned. They're just not. There's there's internal competition and then there's just a lot of there's a lack of clarity right. And when people are not clear, you know, it's kind of like people are shooting darts with a blindfold on, right, and they're like they're trying to hit the target, but then they're hitting a target, but it's not the target that the board wants them to hit, or the executive team or the CEO, whoever it is. Right, they're hitting a target, but it's the wrong target. Well, that that opens. That opens a whole other series of questions. So the board wants them to do x, Y Z. Oftentimes boards change their mind quite a bit. And Uh, when you have a good marketing plan, how often does the plan change? You have to be agile in today's market because things are changing, just you know, whether it be from technology or some other influence, things do change. So Um, how often do they change? I would say it is your marketing strategists job to make sure that they keep the board focused on the price right, knowing that there there isn't an element of agility right, some flexibility. And every time we create a marketing plan we tell them up front, look, you have to be agile, right, but that doesn't mean turning the plan on its head because the shiny object shows up. That means making a slight, two degree tweak because something changes, but then staying focused on the price and testing things long enough to get reliable results which then can be used to determine whether something is working or not. That's one problem that happens all the time as people do these baby tests. They're like, well, we've tried that for thirty days, it didn't work. Well, there's very few things that you can try for thirty days and get accurate test results from. How long does it take? Ninety days, sometimes six months. You know. So, I mean what I'm hearing you say is that you know when you have a good marketing strategy it should last a long time, even though you're doing some fine tuning along the way. I mean fine tuning is not a material change to your strategy. It's just it's a tweak to make the strategy a little better. But a good strategy will last a long time. Absolutely. Yeah, typically, when we're working with the company, we will do their marketing strategy and then we will do um, half year updates, sometimes ninety day tweaks. Okay, but again those are tweaks. They're not essentially it's not redoing the marketing strategy, and we might Redo a...

...marketing strategy every five or ten years. Right, this is something that should last, for when it's done right, it will last. It is an investment that will pay off for years and years to come. Yeah, I would imagine that any company interested in, UH, putting itself for sale to private equity, putting itself, you know, up for for a public offering, for anything that's big. The better these things are under control, the more likely you are to be successful, of course. Yeah, and anybody who wants to buy a company, if they see a dialed in strategy that's performing well, it becomes a whole lot more attractive to buy it. Right. Well, of course they're going to pay a higher price than they're not buying a distress company. I mean so it's a position in a different way, but I I personally think that, uh, it makes the company really look like like a polished up car. Yeah, yeah, who doesn't want a nineteen sixty four, you know, thunderbird than Cherry red? Yeah, for sure. So what you working on? Anything interesting? Any, any interesting products going on for you? I am so fortunate. I always get to work on the most interesting things. So right now one thing that's really got my attention is a company that has created a product for Um people that have neurological challenges with balancing, and that could be the aging population and it could also be a child that was born with a neurological challenge and it struggles to balance, which happens to be my daughter and I got brought on with this company, Um and we the product has already been in market for a few years. It's done very well, but they want to get to a new level and it is so thrilling introducing a product. They primarily have solved the age of population. That's who they've been serving today eight and now expanding into this whole world of children and how that Avatar behaves differently and makes decisions differently, and it's it's really thrilling because Um it is a product that solves a true need and really changes life. So just real quick, what kinds of things are you helping them to do? That's moving the dial. Well, we have been building out their whole strategy. We actually just finished that last month and now we're executing it on a daily basis and I am checking me tricks every single day. I'm like, Oh, you know, just on on Friday, when I saw something that did not make me super excited, I rewrote some copy for them, because I still do get my hands dirty doing copies sometimes. Um, I did it with a team member of mine as well, and I said, Hey, I want to switch this up on the sales page. We're gonna WE'RE gonna test this over the weekend. It's Monday. I haven't heard the results yet. I need to call them right after this podcast and find out what happened. You know, I have to tell you that of all the trades, you know, I think that journalists and professional writers are among the most fantastic and fascinating people because they're they're just the ability towards Smith and like, you know, just be like a carpenter with words. It is like so amazing because it's it's a skill that very, very few people are really very good at. We all know how to write a business letter, but to write a really cool something is pretty magical and it's awesome that you have that skill. Thank you. I love it. Oh my gosh, it's so fun. Yeah, it's pretty amazing. So, if people want to find out if their company is under the weather, not under the weather. If they're doing good, not doing too good. Give a recommendation. What should they do? Yeah, I think a great first step is going to be too actually take quiz that I've...

...developed. You can find it at sizzle, of course, dot com, and what it does is, you know, we all know, there's a million things you could do to market your company and Um, really there are only a few things that you actually should do. The quiz will help you figure out what those things are. Well, we'll, we'll publish the UH, the link to the quiz in the show notes so that people can access that. I'm going to take that as soon as we are done here because I want to see what what has to say about about us and what we're doing. But you know, the promise of the show is to deliver the inside track, the best, smartest, so fastest way to get something done, and you have absolutely delivered. You've really talked a lot about how the whole concept of marketing strategy works and you know what the importance of that is. And when somebody lives up to the promise of the show, we call those people advantage players, and that makes you an advantage player and I appreciate you being on the show and sharing what you know and for you know, being an advantaged player and just kicking those ideas around the audience. Such a pleasure. Thank you so much, Joe. Well, good, well listen. Thanks very much and we hope you'll stay a friend of the show. You've been listening to profit from the inside with Joe Block. For more insights and to learn more, visit Joel Block Dot Com. How about a shout out and a huge thanks to our podcast show producer David Wolf and the team at Auto Vita Studios. Profit from the inside wouldn't be possible without these wonderful professionals. To learn more or to find out how you can launch and produce your own podcast show, reach out to www dot auto vita dot com. That's a U D I v I T A DOT COM.

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