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Ep. 066 – Mark Schaefer “Marketing is sick right now. It’s too tech-centric instead of human-centric… If you don’t have customers, you don’t have a business.”

Mark Schaefer

Mark W. Schaefer Show Notes

Mark W. Schaefer is a globally recognized author, speaker, podcaster, and business consultant who blogs at {grow} — one of the top five marketing blogs of the world.

He teaches graduate marketing classes at Rutgers University and has written six best-selling books, including The Tao of Twitter (the best-selling book on Twitter in the world) and The Content Code, named by INC. magazine as one of the top five marketing books of the year, and his new book KNOWN: The handbook for building and unleashing your personal brand in the digital age.

Mark also wrote the classic first book on influence marketing, Return On Influence. His many global clients include Pfizer, Cisco, Dell, Adidas, and the US Air Force.

He has been a keynote speaker at prestigious events all over the world, including SXSW, Marketing Summit Tokyo, and the Institute for International and European Affairs. He has appeared as a guest on media channels such as CNN, The Wall Street Journal, The New York Times, and CBS News.

Most passionate about

  • I’m a person who is always looks forward, so I’m always in the process of reinvention. I tend to be almost obsessed with the big problems in our business. When I wrote my last book, Known, it was about how creating an effective, powerful personal brand is really the only sustainable, competitive advantage we can have. I was addressing the question: Could anybody become known?
  • The question I’m wrestling with now is that everywhere I go, marketing seems to be stuck. There are a few symptoms:
    1. People are over whelmed by technology in marketing
    2. They are over using technology in marketing
    3. They’re stuck in ineffective patterns
  • Many of the companies today, either big or small have social media departments that were established in 2010 to 2014, and I can assure you that almost none of the outputs these teams are producing have been updated. So much has been changed with social media during the last years.
  • The idea that I have is that marketing is too tech-centric instead of human-centric. We don’t want to talk with our customers anymore; we just want to monitor them on Twitter. We automate everything and we are loosing our hearts, our souls, and our way.
  • Marketing is sick right now!

What is marketing, according to Mark?

  • Get out and talk to customers. The truth is out there.
  • Marketing is finding un-met and under-served needs and creating demand to those needs in a unique way. Hopefully by establishing an emotional connection.
  • I love working with entrepreneurs and startup communities; I love their energy. But the biggest frustration I have is that marketing is almost always overlooked. Startups and entrepreneurs are in love with an idea, or with a business model.
  • They think that marketing is DIY (Do It Yourself), they think that they can read some blog posts and do it. But marketing is about finding and acquiring customers. If you don’t have customers, you don’t have a business.
  • Marketing is HARD! It’s really hard. But you’ve got to address it. And if you aren’t a natural marketer or trained in marketing, you’ve got to get help! Because marketing is really the centerpiece of your business; no matter how good your idea is, no matter how much you are in love with it, if you don’t have customers you are not going to have a business!

Mark’s best advice about approaching customers

  • I asked a young marketer that wanted my advice whether he talked with the company’s customers, or joined their sales people? He was already six months in that position and never talked with a single customer!
  • You should talk with your customers and ask them:
    • What do you love about your business?
    • What do you hate about your business?
    • What keeps you awake at night?
    • How can we serve you better?

Biggest failure with a customer

  • It wasn’t necessarily a failure with my customers; it was a failure with me. I don’t enjoy selling and self-promotion.
  • The sales jobs I have had in my career were enterprise sales. It was relationship development and that’s something I’m good at.
  • The B2B sales process wore me down. There were so many things in my life that were so interesting and so much fun; I couldn’t do it! The lesson is I need help in the sales side.
  • The failure was my own because I didn’t listen to my head and be self aware like I should have been.

Biggest success due to the right customer approach

  • I had a very long career and a lot of stories, but I like to reflect on a more recent one. I have a place on my website where people can sign up for an hour of my time in a very reasonable price. I do that because a lot of people ask to get my advice (for free) and, although I love helping people, if I’ll do that for everyone that asks it would be the only thing I’d be doing, and the only thing I have to sell is my time…
  • The idea was that those who are serious about their business would be willing to pay this basic payment. And surprisingly, a lot of people signed up. So I get to talk to people from all over the world and all kinds of businesses and help them with their problems.
  • One that I specifically remember was a very successful woman that was handling practice insurance for physicians. A regulatory change has destroyed her business.And she was looking for what to do. She told me she was very sick as a child and when she grew up she decided she want to help doctors be doctors by helping them reduce the time they spend on paper work. And I advised her to base her unique place on working with doctors and to go to her clients and listen to them and find out how best she can serve them. Within a month she wrote me an email that she had rebuilt her business.
  • All this woman needed to do is to find an under served need and find a way to serve them better than everybody else.
  • You just have to get out there and ask questions.

Mark’s key success factor

  • For me, a key success factor stands from a wonderful piece of advice I got in graduate school, where I had a life changing opportunity to study under Peter Drucker, who is probably the greatest author and business consultant in history. He said, ‘the key to leadership is not having the right answers, it’s having the right questions.’
  • That is such a great insight about being successful in business today. To be humble and lead the company to success by listening and helping them find what they are missing. By asking those questions, you can find the opportunity.
  • That’s what I’m good at, I can see where all the dots connect; I can see how trends come together.

Mark’s Mountain

Since we believe that the best way for entrepreneurs to get a fast, big, and sustainable success is by leading your (new) market category, and the entire entrepreneurial journey reminds me of mountaineering, or conquering the mountain; I want to ask you if there is a mountain you dream of climbing or a mountain you have already climbed?

  • I grew up in West Virginia, which is called the mountain state. A few years ago I had an opportunity to climb the highest mountain in America outside Alaska. Mount Whitney in California in the Sierra Nevada Mountains. 16000 feet, which is very difficult. When you stand on the top of the mountain, you can look down on planes! I did OK until the last 1000 feet. At that point, I felt I couldn’t continue, but I couldn’t stop either because I was with my friends. So, I just watched the feet of the person in front of me and kept going. I had to find a mental framework to keep going, even when my body was ready to quit.
  • It was one of the most profound lessons I have learned; consistency is more important than genius. I never would of made it if I had quit.
  • You have to find a way to keep going.

The best way to connect with Mark

  • Website – You can find my blog, my podcast, my books, and a lot of free resources.

Mark’s books


The MUST READ guide to personal branding in the digital age

Known workbook

The accompanying workbook to KNOWN with exercises, templates, and bonus material.

The Content Code

The cutting-edge book that shows you what’s NEXT in digital marketing.

Social Media Explained

The best-selling social media book of 2014! — This is the essential guide to succeeding in the complex world of social media

The Tao of Twitter

A beloved guide and the world’s best-selling book on Twitter

Return On Influence

Return On Influence: Winner of the American Library Association’s business book of the year award. We are on the cusp of a marketing revolution.

Born to Blog

The best-selling blogging book on Amazon, this takes you through every aspect of blogging for business success


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