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How to Create Digital Brand Experiences That Systematically Accelerate Growth

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The Digital Utopia Podcast Episode #7

How to Win More Sales with Stories of Transformation

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About the podcast

The Digital Utopia Podcast is for SMB Marketers and Business Leaders looking to align their Marketing, Sales, and Service departments so they’re part of one powerhouse growth team.

Each episode will dive into the strategies, philosophies, and tools that will change your approach to organizational growth, give you renewed focus and clarity, and allow you to build a brand that not only helps you stand out—but win.

The Digital Utopia Podcast is produced by Digitopia and hosted by Frank Cowell and Joseph Freeman.

Episode transcription

Frank
It's been said that marketing is a tax you pay for not being remarkable. Now let that sink in. I'm a marketing guy. And I'm telling you marketing as a tax you pay for not being remarkable.

Joe
You were listening to the digital utopia podcast, a resource dedicated to helping b2b leadership and executives gain clarity and focus in a chaotic marketplace.

Frank
Hey, gang, welcome to episode seven of the digital utopia podcast. I'm your host, Frank Cowell, and I'm joined by my co-host,

Joe
Joseph Freeman,

Frank
Joey. Joey.

Joe
All right. So Frank, we've been talking about the five core philosophies in the last few episodes. And since we've covered those, we're going to start moving into some more

Frank
interesting, scintillating

Joe
not more interesting

Frank
No, not more

Joe
traditionally, oh, interest

Frank
got it got it. Just trying to topics you words,

Joe
at topics that that span, marketing, sales and service. So today, we are going to be talking about transformation, transformational change, that you can help your buyers kind of envision and ultimately experience as part of their interaction with your company. So in the words of marketing genius, Ryan Deiss, who, you know, we hold in high esteem. He says people don't buy products or services, nor do they buy features or benefits. People buy transformation. So today, we're going to talk about increasing the efficacy of your sales and marketing programs. But how do we do that? We're going to talk about telling stories of transformation that will leave your prospects totally inspired, you know, and really convincing them that they are ready to work with you. So what we want to accomplish here is we want to, we want to talk about why stories of transformation is likely the biggest missing link in most of small businesses, medium sized businesses grow strategy, and even enterprise level businesses. We want to talk about how emotion influences b2b buying decisions. And finally, how you can operationalize story storytelling across your marketing, sales and service teams. And we do that using the digital utopia methodology. So let's dive in.

Frank
Let's do it.

Joe
Let's do it. So to set the stage, let's start with just a few facts and stats. So first, when you think of b2b selling, you probably think of it as rational and reasoned and measured. And it's businesses talking to businesses. So let's be just as professional as we possibly can, in our language. And in our messaging, right?

Frank
Yeah.

Joe
No, it's wrong. No, it's wrong.

Frank
You know, here's the thing that's interesting that I've seen it's changed in b2b buying over the years, is the sales cycles have become longer. And HubSpot has actually has some stats on this. It's increased by like 22%, the length of a b2b sales cycle, right? In my view, what's happening is, this idea of collaboration is, is a good thing. But it's also a bad thing. And so what we have oftentimes in b2b scenarios is we have collaborative decision making, which does does not do a whole lot for helping the situation to become more logical and methodical in the process. Because everyone's got an agenda, everyone's got an emotion. And, you know, people are afraid to make decisions. And so I think, you know, what's lacking, there is a number of things going on, but one of the things lacking is just leadership. You know, we, unfortunately, a lot of businesses today, people are just scared to make a decision, you know, they want to ask 16 people before they make the decision, and, you know, that's playing into this. So know, the b2b buying process right now, is, is not very rational. It's not very logical, there is a lot of emotion wrapped up in it, especially as you add more and more people to the mix.

Joe
Right. And we've mentioned this before, but no business sells to another business. It's still humans selling to humans, right? These are humans that work at businesses, and they have, you know, company's agendas, to talk and to pitch. But at the end of the day, it's one person talking to another. So there is emotion involved in that, right.

Frank
Yeah. And it's no different than any other relationship. You know, if you want to advance a relationship, they have to like you, and they have to trust you,

Joe
right.

Frank
And this is a really basic,

Joe
right. And so even though there is a baseline understanding that the product needs to do what you say it does, and it has to solve a problem for somebody, you know, at the end of the day, it's really all about what transformation it brings to that person, how it takes them from being, you know, unequipped to get the job done or, you know, feeling like they're not doing a good job and how it takes them to the other side of that story where they now have the tools right that they need, they now feel like they are are accomplished and their status changes. They go from being potentially like a firefighter to a fire chief in some ways, right? So we're helping them move emotionally from one side of a line to another, and in our marketing messaging in our sales pitches, and even in the delivery of our products, it's super important to make sure that we are telling that story, correct?

Frank
Yeah, I mean, if you just look at that, saying that's been around for a long time in business, I remember hearing this, you know, when he 25 years ago in which is, you know, are you selling drills? Are you selling holes? And so the idea behind that simple phrase, that simple, you know, couple of questions is, you know, what are you focusing on when you're selling? are you focusing on the features benefits? Are you are you focusing on the outcome that your client wants, because people don't buy the drill, because they want to drill, they buy what the drill can do for them, which is the hole, they need to hole somewhere,

Joe
right?

Frank
And they need to be a certain size, and they need to be a certain accuracy. So that's ultimately what people are after. And so in your business, what you have to constantly ask yourself is not what's the best way we can arrange this product? And how can we make the product sexier? And how can we make our offering priced? Right? And how can we make the terms better? Those are all good things to look at. But ultimately, the best question is, what is my client after?

Joe
Yeah,

Frank
because they ultimately don't want to buy from you. They don't if they if they could avoid buying from you and get what they want, they would not buy from you. Let's make that really clear. If there was a magic pig, they could go rub, right? Turn it over, tickle and rub its belly and get what they want. They would not buy from you. Okay,

Joe
right,

Frank
let's be very clear, nobody wants your offering at all. Because you're offering, especially in a b2b scenario means you got to talk to people, you got to get on conference calls, you've got to join zoom meetings, right? You have to sit in multi, our multi day strategy sessions and discovery sessions, you have to do audits, and you have to do all this stuff. Nobody wants to do that. Okay, people just want the stuff, they just want the outcome. And so that's the thing you have to keep in mind is, ultimately, what is my client after? What do they want? What do they they don't want what I'm gonna put on the invoice, they want the outcome of what's on that invoice, right? And that's the thing as businesses, as b2b is we have to obsess over.

Joe
Yeah. And I think as we talk about this, I would imagine that this resonates with most, if not all of our listeners, again, we are all humans, right? And so we all feel the same emotions. And even though this makes sense, we still see you know, I've got a stat here from executive board comm where they say that only 31% of prospective customers think b2b brands provide any personal value at all. And so if we feel like this is the right way to go get the entire business world, not the entire, but you know, close to 70% of the business world is not actually picking up on this, there's actually a huge advantage here for those that do tap into this psychology, right?

Frank
Yeah, that's because, you know, in a lot of b2b situations, the emphasis is on selling, rather than servicing,

Joe
right,

Frank
which by the way, there's a very funny video out there, if you just Google selling this service and services selling just Google it, you can pause this, pause it, Google, it, may give you a few seconds,

Joe
it's a great song.

Frank
Okay, now you're back and you're laughing your butt off, because that video is hilarious. But that the idea is that the idea is that, you know, when you when you, when you're obsessed about selling, then you your your, your buyer is not going to feel a personalized experience, your buyers going to feel like you don't really get what I want. Right, instead of thinking of your marketing and selling as customer service, you're thinking of it as this thing that you need to get out of the client and out of the marketplace, you need to extract something rather than giving something right.

Joe
Another stat here from executive board, comm 14% of people see a real difference between b2b supplier offering so that means that there's a huge percentage of people who see no difference in your product versus your competitors product. And what we've seen a lot as we work with different companies is the reason for that is because everybody is pitching the features of their product. And at the end of the day, especially in b2b world, a lot of times the features aren't really that different. There might be you know, different colored buttons or there might be a different levels you can take certain settings to but really, at the end of the day, they all kind of deliver the same outcome, at least on paper. So if we can switch the narrative and if we can start to talk about not what the actual product does. But how it changes lives makes a huge difference, we could probably be not in that, you know, large percentage of companies that are not hitting the mark, we could be in that 14%, where people see there's a real difference between our company and the next

Frank
What that also means is that this, this offering that you're just so in love with, is probably going to have to change. And you're going to have to think about the entire client, right? The entire client, which means not just the thing that they bought from you, but how do you round out their entire experience? Do you offer support? Do you offer community? Do you offer continuing education? Do you offer networking for your clients? Like what are the things you're doing to address the whole customer, the whole client, and that's when you'll start to become transformational. And oh, by the way, when you do that, selling and marketing become a lot easier. You know, it's been said that marketing is a tax you pay for not being remarkable, hmm, now, let that sink in. I'm a marketing guy. And I'm telling you marketing as a tax you pay for not being remarkable. And when you're not remarkable, that means you're not creating transformation, you're not creating change in the lives of your customers. You know, in in my book, building your digital utopia, I spoke with a gentleman named Ron corte, who leads an organization called sekisui. And they're a manufacturer. And so Ron said something really interesting. He said, their business radically changed when they realized their job wasn't to sell their clients, the machinery and the products and the materials and the things that they would sell them. But instead, their job was to change the way their clients did business. Now think about that. This is a company selling materials and machines and whatever else they sell. It's a very old industry. There's, there's not a lot of innovation in this industry, there's not a whole lot of need for it, right? And their competitors are all kind of doing the same thing. But they felt that, wow, if we could actually change the way our clients do business. And as a result of doing business with us, they're going to achieve that, then we think we could win. And lo and behold, they set out on a record setting tear, and they started growing like crazy. That's what we're talking about.

Joe
Yeah. You know, I'd love to hear a couple examples here. And I think it might be worth using a b2c example, because we all know b2c is sexier. And it's more tangible. But also, if we were to use, you know, for instance, like apple, right, we would use an example there, everybody in the world understands what Apple for the world, right? Apple has brought transformational change to many lives. So can we talk about that just a little bit?

Frank
Yeah. And, you know, we can debate, you know, whether that change is meaningful or not. But it's definitely been a huge change in terms of the fact that people now have an identity association with their products, right. I believe Malcolm Gladwell talks about this in his book, The Tipping Point, which is, I think you told the story, it was it was believed jobs, was walking around, and he was someone who was jobs or himself were walking around downtown area, and they started to notice, like all these white headphones, and they stood out. They really stood out. And that's when he realized, Oh, that was the tipping point. for Apple is like when it started to become a thing that was related to identity. You can identify customers. That's when you know, things start change. That's a transformation.

Joe
So they weren't selling headphones. They weren't selling earbuds he know, they're selling lifestyle and lifestyle change. lifestyle. Yeah.

Frank
And if you remember back in the early, I don't say early, the campaigns during that era, you know, that's when they really started to go all in on that identity kind of offering is really what they had remember the commercials with Justin Long and he was Mac and PC was always some like, out of shape doofus, right? And they were really pushing on this idea that when you buy our products, it's about you expressing your individuality, and not being part of the machine.

Joe
Yeah, and they did a great job because we all know, I mean, Apple products are fantastic, but we all know that there are superior products out for sure. You can find them and you can find them for cheaper.

Frank
Oh, yeah, totally. I mean, they're there. If you talk about just the computers alone, are there plenty of computers that are way more powerful and that you know, a much lower price,

Joe
right, but you've got Apple fans who will fight you to the death over the fact that a Mac and Apple right is is better than anything else. So now if we shift back to b2b, let's talk about a company that's actually doing this well in the b2b space.

Frank
Yeah, I love HubSpot as an example. And you'll hear me referenced them a lot on this show. In full transparency, my company as a partner, and affiliated partner to HubSpot, that's why I know so much about them

Joe
before we were a partner, you were just a fan, you consume so much of their free information.

Frank
Yeah. And that's how I became a client of theirs, right a partner of theirs, because they won me over as, you know, a fan before we started giving them any money,

Joe
right.

Frank
And so what I think a great example of transformation they bring is if you look at their offering, have they got a product that will address marketing, sales and service all in one platform. And the reason this is transformational is because it allows organizations who have previously been operating as independent siloed, marketing, sales and service departments to now operate as one growth team. And when you are able to make that paradigm shift in how you look at how you're going to grow your business, that you have a growth team, not individual marketing, sales and service teams, then you start to become better aligned as an organization, you start to say the same things, you start to breed confidence among your team, you achieve your growth goals. And that's happening. Because you're creating a better experience for your client along the entire journey. It's now not a disconnected journey. It's one that's hyper focused in it's one that's specific, it's one that's relevant. And because you're doing that, you're you're you're gaining fans, and you're growing.

Joe
Yeah,

Frank
so that's a massive, transformational change that takes place. It's not just now, oh, the sales team needs a CRM. And the marketing team needs an automation platform. And the service team, they need, you know, some sort of knowledge base platform and ticketing system and whatnot. Like, if you can bring that all together, and get everybody on the same page. And know that history about your customer. And you can see it, and you can respond to it accordingly. That's powerful, you become you become a unified team. That's that's what HubSpot knows about what they're selling. That's why they do so well. That's why their interface is now surpassing almost everybody in the marketplace, because they're not letting the engineers rule the offering.

Joe
Hmm.

Frank
They're letting the customer rule the offering.

Joe
That's pretty interesting. That's a whole shift right there. You know, if our listeners are anything like the countless companies that we work with day in and day out, I guarantee you at least one, if not all of them are asking the question, What if my product is boring? What if it's not sexy? Because again, we're talking about b2b here. And most of those products aren't really sexy, they serve a wonderful purpose, but they're not sexy. And so there's this inherent idea that it's hard to market that so what would you say to the listener? Who is asking that question right now?

Frank
First and foremost, if if you're not fired up about what you're offering does for your clients? Then change it or get out?

Joe
Huh? That's a bold statement.

Frank
We don't live in a world where we have room for people who aren't servicing their clients with passion and servicing their clients with this obsessiveness to bring value. Because there are too many options. There's too much competition. So if you think like, you can just set up a set up shop and, and kind of just skate by those days are like coming to an end. And yes, you may sell something that are, you know, rivets and fasteners and whatnot. And there's not a whole lot you can do there. But I would challenge you on that thinking. Right? What do rivets and fasteners get attached to? What are those people trying to do with their offerings? You know, once worked with a company that sold electronic components, they actually didn't sell any end products at all, no finished products, they sold components that would go into other people's products. Sexy, super sexy, right? It was kind of the boring stuff, right? But what they did was they realized that if we want to be relevant, if we want to really serve our clients, well, we want to drive passion to this and separate ourselves from our competitors. We're going to find out what our clients are doing with our products. We're going to find out what they care about. And then we're going to tell stories about how our products enable those kinds of transformations all the way down the line. And so they would tell stories about how people in hospitals would now have a lower rate of misapplication of medicine. Right they would talk about how people would be able to To be notified at the right time, they would talk about stories about how a business would have a vending route. And instead of wasting all this gas time and energy going and checking every vending machine, they would now know the status of every vending machine in their network. And they would only go where they're needed, making better use of human capital, right, making better use of their resources. And so they would tell these stories. And these stories were inspiring, because they gave a damn, because they cared about what their products were being used in. And so then they're able to gather their clients and facilitate those conversations. And now provide consulting and services, instead of just selling the widget.

Joe
Hmm. Yeah.

Frank
So anything that you do, you have to look at where your product goes, like, if this is, you know, we're gonna, like take our b2b offering here, and like, we're gonna, like, make it a physical thing. I've got my glass of water here, if we go and like, just set this here, right? And there it is. It's now out of our hands. It's with our client. Now, where does that exist? What's happening around that that product? Right, even if it's a service, like what's happening? Look at that scenario, what's the context? Why was it brought in? What are they trying to accomplish above and beyond? You know, your offering? And so those are the kinds of questions you need to ask. And that's how you need to look at your offering. Because in there, there are ways for you to, to round out your offering so that we it is transformational. And I got to tell you, if you're not doing that, it's not long before someone's going to come in behind you and just beat you on price.

Joe
Right? Well, so let's swing it to the opposite end of that spectrum. So we talked about, what if it's not sexy? What if it's boring? What if our to tell a story around it? What about products that actually are kind of sexy, even in the b2b world, so not b2b, but Tesla, right? Tesla makes cars but they don't make cars. Their features are actually way above and beyond any other feature you can get in a car, right? I mean, it drives itself. So if you have a feature that is hands down, blowing the competition away, does that negate what we're saying here? Do you not need to speak about transformation? Do you just talk about the feature,

Frank
the features are created, the ones that people rave about and talk about, they're created by people who care about the transformation, not the other way around. You don't like set out to to create some sort of raizy whiz bang feature. And then, you know, hope it's transformational. It's the other way around, if you set out with the transformation in mind, as you're driving passion, and then you feature engineer from there, then you'll have better features. I mean, Tesla is a great example. Right? I mean, that that company, and the automobile is built around what customers actually want, first and foremost, when the entire auto industry was happy to sit on their laurels and just do what they were doing making incremental improvements, just incremental improvements, that no, we can't do that. That's not the way we've always done it. We can't can't be radical in our next iteration. When they were happy to do that, Musk came in said, No, I'm going to build something people want. When a bill. Like if we can have this kind of convenience in all other aspects of our life, why can't we have it in our automobiles, right. And so you'll see that there's a book called never lose a customer, again by Joey Coleman. And he talks a lot about this, that if you if you make your offering, frictionless, if you make it around what the customer truly, truly wants, instead of the way you've always done it, then you'll start to create things that are on the level of a Tesla. I mean, anybody who's ever gotten in a Tesla knows that. It's hard to describe to someone who hasn't been in one. It's a car, but it's not a car. You get in and you drive it and you're like, oh, wow, I get it. And it's something that you can't actually explain all that wealth through words. You have to experience it. Same way when you first used an iPhone. Like Yes, it's just another phone. But it wasn't just another phone. And that's what Tesla did. Tesla was the iPhone of automobiles. Meaning the experience was something altogether different. And on in so different, that once you've got in it and sat down, you're you had this lightbulb moment and you went like oh my god, wow. That it's not that it's just nicer leather. It's not that it's just, you know, faster. The entire experience was something completely different. That's because they obsessed about the customer. The product you obsess about the customer first Then you innovate from there.

Joe
Yeah,

Frank
in too many companies let the engineering mentality drive the product,

Joe
right? They create a product, and then they go try to sell it to people rather than finding what people need and create a product to fill the gap, or

Frank
one of my favorite marketing gurus guy named Dan Kennedy, you know, said, you know, he asked the question, would you have rather have an amazing, hot product? Would you and be the one who owns that? Or would you rather have a rabid thirsty audience that that you control that you have is, you know, that are you influence? Right? And his point is you, you would rather have the audience all day long, because going and getting the audience is the hardest thing, right? Not the product,

Joe
figuring out what to sell to them is, is almost you can do that overnight,

Frank
right? Because you can just talk to them, you can ask them, you can examine them, you can figure out, what do they want to accomplish, you can go get product, you can go figure things out, and then make it transformational for what they actually want is to start with what they want. Again, they don't want your services, they don't want what's on your invoice. Okay? Keep in mind, like if you're here today, go look at your invoice. Your clients aren't buying that. Right? They're paying you for that. That's not what they're buying.

Joe
And we're referring to the buyer as evey, as if it's an individual, but we know in b2b Actually, that's not really true, right? There's a cohort we're selling to, in many cases, in some cases, it's not just one person making the final decision, right? There are a couple or a few people that need to be spoken to. So when we talk about a cohort, who are you talking to? What transformation? Are you promising? Is it to the cohort as a group it to the final buyer to everybody who has to have a weigh in? Who are we talking to here?

Frank
Yeah, obviously, you have your your primary buyer, right. And your primary buyer could be, it could be a researcher, it might be the ultimate decision maker, it really depends on your scenario. But ultimately, what I believe is, whoever is going to end up using your offering whoever is going to end up having to install you're offering having to deal with your project manager who, whoever is, whoever is being directly affected, I think you have to create transformation there first. Because if the people that are directly affected by your offering, aren't happy, and they're not rabid fans, and their lives aren't changing, then how on earth can they make things better for the organization at large. So you have to think about who act like it's really easy, real easy to get caught up in optimizing for the CEO. But that's BS. Of course, you have to have materials that that address what the CEO wants, and you have to, you know, make sure that the CEO is going to have the visibility and the transparency they want into the project to the service to the whatever. But you have to create transformation, for the people that actually engage with your offering, whatever level that is, right. Because again, organizations won't change, if the people engaging with your offering aren't transformed themselves.

Joe
It's pretty powerful. So we've talked about transformation, and how it's likely the biggest missing link in a lot of company's growth strategies, right? We've talked about how emotion actually does go into the buying process, even in the b2b world, where it's a company selling to another company, it's, again, humans selling to humans. So as a final step here, I want to leave our listeners with some actionable next steps. So how can somebody listening who's excited about you know, taking the first step towards towards transforming, or you know, towards towards putting out a message of transformation? Where can they get started? How can they get started? And where should this message be distributed?

Frank
Well, I think at first, you have to become obsessed with your customers. And you have to hyper focus in on who your target buyer personas are, and start very narrow. And you have to build a relationship driven approach across the entire journey. So that way, from the very beginning, when they interact with your brand, all the way to the end, that you're the brand that is assisting them on that journey to create the transformation they're after. Right, whatever it is that they're after the outcome that they truly want. Build the entire journey of your brand, such that it facilitates that, that that's its purpose. That's its mission, the purpose of marketing. The mission of marketing is to facilitate the transformation that that buyer persona is after. The purpose of sales is to facilitate the transformation that that person is after. And the purpose of your service of your core offering is to help them achieve the transformation that they're After. And so employing a hyper specific relationship driven methodology, an approach, in my opinion, is how you do this and everybody on the team needs to be aligned on this. Everyone has to agree everyone has to be bought in. Because if not, you're going to continue to operate in silos, you're going to continue to succumb to marketplace noise, and you'll lack the differentiation you need to create that growth that you're after. And so I'd highly recommend you go check out the book that I wrote building your digital utopia, you can find out more about it at buildingyourdigitalutopia.com. We have information on the book, some templates and tools and resources there is podcast, obviously, buildingyourdigitalutopia.com, I highly suggest you go there. There's, again, some free stuff to get started. But But again, a relationship driven approach that hyper focuses on specific buyer personas to help them achieve the transformation that they're after. Cross that in your experience. Yeah. Well,

Joe
thank you for that. This has been, you know, truly enlightening, and I think it it's a question that needs to be asked and answered for a lot of companies out there. And so we'll leave you with this. Ryan deiss says when it comes to your organization, remember your product doesn't have to be exciting for it to be life changing. And that's that's so true. We see that all the time when we work with b2b is, you know, if anybody who's read the story, brand new, anybody knows Donald Miller, he says, tell a story that people want to live. So I think, you know, we want to charge you with going out working with your team and telling that story that people actually want to live.

Frank
Absolutely. So until next time, this is a fun show.

Joe
Always fun show.

Frank
I really enjoyed this one. So folks, be sure to subscribe, tell a friend, like share. Until next time, have an amazing day.

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