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E13: Becoming Relevant and Staying Relevant with Ardath Albee

 


Show Notes 

Author, speaker, and widely recognized authority on B2B buyer personas, Ardath Albee is talking about relevance: Becoming relevant and staying relevant as an individual or a company. Here is one of our favorite quotes from Ardath from our conversation:
 
"If you write for everybody, you engage nobody."
 
Preach!
 
Ardath also shares:
 
✅ The unexpected project she's working (hint: it's HUGE!)
✅ An enormous personal loss and emerging personal transformation
✅ Thought leadership and predictions from the past coming true today
✅ What it takes to become relevant and stay relevant
 
ABOUT ARDATH ALBEE
Ardath Albee is an author, speaker and the CEO and B2B marketing strategist for her consulting firm, marketing interactions inc where she works with companies like Cisco, Adobe, Autodesk Radius, TransUnion and Demandbase to create and leverage persona driven digital content marketing strategies that contribute to downstream revenues. In this episode, she shares her insights, the best business advice she ever received, and walks us through a relatable challenge, and how she solved it.
 
ARDATH'S FAVORITE BUSINESS RESOURCE
Reading outside of your specialty
Naked Statistics: https://amzn.to/2wWiETx
 
HOW TO REACH ARDATH
www.marketinginteractions.com
Twitter - Ardath421
LinkedIn- Ardath Albee
 

Transcript

Lorin:

The welcome or welcome back to insider insights, timely and relevant insights from B2B insiders. I'm your host Lorin McCann. And today we have special guests Ardath Albee. Ardath is an author, speaker and the CEO and B2B marketing strategist or her consulting firm, marketing interactions inc where she works with companies like Cisco, Adobe, Autodesk Radius, TransUnion and Demandbase to create and leverage persona driven digital content marketing strategies that contribute to downstream revenues. So artists, I am so excited to have you on. Welcome to the show. I've shared just a brief introduction with our audience, but anyone who's not already familiar with your work you know, tell us a little bit more about your current role and the journey that brought you there.

Ardath:

Yeah, so Lorin, thanks for having me. It's great to be here. In my current role, basically I spend most of my day talking to my clients, customers and building personas and then helping them translate all of that information into content marketing strategies. So that's the job and I love it and it's really a lot of fun. But how I came to it is I think, kind of an interesting story because I'm not a marketer by trade. And so I spend a lot of years running companies and used to run country clubs and hotels and what have you. And then my sister called me in 1999 I think and said, I wanna S I've created this new technology, I want to start a company, come to Minneapolis and run the company for me. And I said, yeah, huh, great. Go get financing. And she did.

Ardath:

I had to move from California to Minneapolis and she, we built a company and it was think first ever iteration really of marketing automation. And back in the year 2000, it was all custom install, right? Have lift, no SAS existed then and it was designed to be marketing automation as well as website that marketers could run. So you didn't need it, right? It was kind of a click go with type of, which sounded great except back then marketers weren't really all that hepped up about we want to build our own website and do our own thing. And so what was interesting was back in the year 2000, if you think about what websites look like then almost 20 years ago, it was mostly the corporations had taken their corporate brochure and put it online. And so then when they got the new technology, they took that crappy content and put it into the technology.

Ardath:

And then they said, well, nothing's changed. You know, it's all the same. And as the only non-techie in the company, somebody with an English lit degree has always been a writer. I went out and started and run companies. I went out and started looking at their content and I thought, this is really terrible. And so I started and helping them redo their content and making suggestions and things started to change and they started picking up steam and then they kept asking for more service from me. And so in 2007, I thought, geez, I could make a living doing this and I'd rather live in California. And because winter is not my thing, I'm a wimpy weather person. So I became a consultant and moved back to California. And that's how that all started. But in addition to that, I think what's really interesting is that I write fiction for fun.

Ardath:

And I've actually had some when some contests in novel writing and things like that, but I've also done a lot of retreats with bestselling authors, learning how to build characters that can withstand 100,000 word novel, right? So I took all of that methodology and what I knew about business and that's what created the persona methodology really, that I work with today. And so I'm just kind of interesting, but that's why a lot of my clients are tech clients because that's who we were selling to from the tech company. And that's who I started working with and that's how I jumped to be a consultant. So that's where my background is

Ardath:

So exciting. I love talking to, I think maybe the few of us who do this kind of work and finding out what everyone's background is, but I think that content just is a very natural gateway into persona development and really focusing attention there because it's very hard to create anything Mmm. Compelling or you know, reliable as a foundation for that content. You know, what are you drawing from? And, and in the business world, when you know you're talking about your buyers, it has to be, it can't be fiction. Right. So, I mean, you mentioned having conversations with, with buyers

Ardath:

Actually talking to them. Go figure. Yeah. It's crazy. Totally crazy. I mean, we can't just run a survey. That's not enough. Mmm. My favorite is always when somebody comes to me and says, well, you know, we know who our buyers are. It's the VP of whatever, just create content, create the content strategy. And I'm like, really? What should we talk about? Well, you know, and I'm like, no, I don't. What do they care about? Well, you know, you know, I mean, they can't answer the question. So it's like you have to do the work because what you think, I don't care if you're actually representative in your role of the person you're selling to, your level of knowledge is different. So what you think doesn't matter, right? Yeah. And I've been in meetings where somebody said, well, we can't write a white paper about that cause I had never read it and I'm thinking, but you aren't the buyer.

Ardath:

You know? And so there has to be a level of in, in some ways it's great to stay safe, step into your shoes, but in another way you have to get this distance from yourself and your opinions and your perspective to that of the buyer because you know too much, you have that curse of knowledge, right? You already understand whatever it is you're selling. You know why it's good, why it works, why people should have it, your buyer doesn't necessarily understand that, you know, and so you have to get to that place where they are or you're, you're either too far ahead of them or you're just totally irrelevant anyway. Yeah, a hundred percent. Okay. I am really excited for this conversation. And so we're going to like really dig into this and go deeper. I wanna just, I wanna maybe dispel one myth or make kind of a disclaimer for [inaudible] the audience audience that's going to be watching this because I don't know if you've had this experience, but what I've experienced is as soon as, as soon as the idea of buyer persona is brought up, people kind of just shut down.

Ardath:

There's this association, it's like, no, we've tried that before. It doesn't work. And so, and want to just clarify that I think what we're talking about here is not some made up thing that's happening in, you know, inside of closed doors or the highest paid persons opinion or just made up stuff. So this whole, the basis of the buyer persona is that we're talking about in this conversation is it's coming directly from [inaudible] fire interaction. An actual conversation. Great. Yeah it is. And I'll tell you why. People say personas don't work very simple. They don't use them, they don't understand how to use them. And I'll give you an example. So last year I created isolated personas for a client and we learned a lot of really interesting things. In fact, Kathleen through the project, one of the personas that actually shifted majorly and we had to go back and revisit it and take a really hard look at it because something changed in their industry that required that persona to either adopt a different mindset or fail essentially.

Ardath:

And which is, I've never seen happen that quickly before, but it did. Anyway, we built these personas and they were really invested in this and then this year they came back and they said, okay, we have our personas now help us build our content marketing strategy. We want to create a series of nurture streams we want to do, you know, and then they said, and we'd like to use, we have a ton of content on our site. We'd like to use that. Well, let me just tell you one thing. Random acts of content do not stream full stream together well into a storyline that engages any body. And so I have literally spent months digging through all of their content, listening to webinars, you know, reading white papers, reading blog posts, trying to pick out things that we could match up to personas because they wanted to get more ROI out of the content they already had, which is admirable.

Ardath:

But at some point I had to say, look, we need to go back and edit. You know, we can use what you have rather than creating new, but we need to edit it to shift the perspective it's written in and, and things like that. So it turned into kind of a major undertaking because for some reason they thought now that they had personas, their content, which is magically adapt to the personas, but it doesn't tend, so, you know, it's been a really interesting experience and eye opening for them about what is required to change that. You know, they're on this thing where I think an executive comes up every quarter and says, you know, the theme for this quarter is going to be the co theme. And they write about the theme too, who I don't know, but somebody who's writing a, you know, they just writing about the scene but it's not necessarily relevant to any of their personas, you know?

Ardath:

And so, or there's a piece a bit here in a bit there that's relevant but the rest of it isn't or whatever. And so, you know, the theme thing just doesn't really work. It needs to be like problem to solution or you know, some kind of [inaudible] storyline that that can be told that helps people make progress. And part of the reason for that is because a lot of my clients who are enterprise tech or whatever are selling big, heavy lift stuff. Their sales cycle or buy cycle is, you know, at a minimum six months, but most often 18 months to two years or longer, you have to sustain a story and help them go through all their stuff for that amount of time, you know, and, or whatever it takes to get them through all the stuff that's been taking them that long. Hopefully we can shorten that with the right story.

Ardath:

But you know, so this thing where we're going to run a campaign for a quarter and then they expect to have, you know, how many sales did you close? Well, if your buy cycle is 18 months and you run a campaign for three, why would you expect there would be a bunch of sales at the end of that? You know what I mean? And so, but it depends on where people are of course in the cycle. But it just doesn't make sense that they don't match up buying to selling. You know what I mean? So it's just kind of interesting, but people are not using their personas. The other thing that I find that just irritates the crap out of me is that people are having personas built in are not helpful. So for example, one of my biggest pet peeves is I don't care how much money your persona makes.

Ardath:

I don't care if they live in the suburbs with a German shepherd. I don't care if they drive, I don't care what their shoe size is. What are you going to do with that information? You nothing in a B to B sale, you need to know what they care about professionally. You know, those kinds of, of demographic insights. How long have they been in their career? Are they new and trying to climb the ladder or are they older wanting to leave a legacy to they, you know, know where the bodies are buried so they can get the deal done if they'd been there that long. You know, stuff like that in addition to objectives and you know, goals and what the obstacles are they're up against and things like that. But you know, personas need to be useful. And a lot of times I feel like, you know, some of the people who are building them that have labeled themselves gurus or what have you, are filling out a template and they really don't understand the whole purpose behind it. And I hate to say that, but I'm seeing it more and more. And then people who hire me have to redo their personas because they can't use what they have. And that irritates me. That's not fair. You know,

Ardath:

I 100% know cause they, I mean this is something, this is something that I run into a bunch as well. And actually I was one of those people a long time ago who was trying to execute

Ardath:

Buyer personas with that sort of consumer based

Ardath:

Templates that was just kind of made up or trying to figure things out really ineffective. And to me, I see this, this whole

Ardath:

Sort of practice that's been status quo for companies that

Ardath:

That do actually decide, okay, we're going to do this. It's almost more of like a box that we're going to check off. I think it's kind of a false sense of security, but it's also, you know, B2B is, is kind of a laggard in the sense. I think the consumer side really get the importance and the discipline of doing this kind of work. We can't just pull that template,

Ardath:

You know, from, from the B2C side and expect it to fit. So there's, there's some education that goes around that, right? I mean that's true. But you know what, I see a lot of times too, and I just worked with a client who I actually sat in a room with their marketing team and created their personas themselves without research, without talking to anybody, not even talking to sales or customers, anybody and you. I saw statements like I enjoy buying new technology for my company and I was like, I've never heard a CMO's say that in my life ever. And I've talked to tons of them so exactly where did you come up with that? And they were like, well we, you know, we just put it there and I was like, well if if you give this persona to a writer who thinks then that this persona enjoys buying technology, they're going to approach the content totally differently than if the persona said, I find buying technology a challenge because it changes so quickly and I'm not sure how to evaluate it and how it'll fit in my tech stack and you know what, I have to get it to approve versus, you know, what, we can have marketing ops approved versus, you know, whatever, what the, the real situation is, you would write content differently. Those set of facts. Then I enjoy buying technology for my company. Right? And so we can do ourselves more harm than good. It's like a lot of the conversations now about personalization where it's like everybody is all hepped up to his data. Well, you can use it well and you can use it really badly and you can do more damage than good if you're not applying personalization right either. And so we have to quit looking for the silver, silver bullet and the easy way out and start thinking a little more rationally, you know, like as a human, which would this appeal to you? You know, so, yeah,

Ardath:

100%. Okay. And so we're, I, I think we kind of skipped over the question number one, which is, you know, what are you most excited about right now? But I think, I think we've kind of, we know it's, it's buyer personas, right?

Ardath:

I them, I have some [inaudible] have something else. Okay. Let's talk about that. What do you have excited about right now? Well, actually, as you know, I'd love to write and I love fiction and I actually have a commission to ghostwrite a business story fiction book for one of my clients with a CEO byline that he wants to actually create a character driven story about how is personas, has customers go through the process of buying the tool and solving the problem. So he wants a natural story, a 20,000 word story, and I guess write the book. And I'm so excited about working with him on that and I'm actually getting to create characters and write a real story around the solving business problems that my client's company solves. No. So that's what I really, I did about that was going to be new and different. And so yeah, I think that's really exciting.

Ardath:

That's amazing. I mean, yeah, that's exciting. So this kind of pulls in lots of elements of your background into one project where you can, you can use all of these, the skills and interests that you have. So I mean, let's, let's talk about that more. Let's talk about you know, I think from just maybe this is something that is going to be a business tool, it sounds like, so this client is, so first, I mean, so how, how are they, how is the company or how is the CEO planning on using this, this book, this story?

Ardath:

Well, of course they want to use it for all their prospects, but they'll also as a business tool. So even for existing customers who are still in the journey of getting all the way through this, because it's not like you implement it tomorrow, it's done, you know, nothing ever is. But we're also including some worksheets, some templates, some team discussion guides, you know, almost like a reader's group guide for the book. You know, how to discuss different things. But how do accomplish the different things along the way that get you from having this problem at the beginning to coming through it on the other side? And we're really looking at, and it's interesting because we're using a lot of their customer inputs and things to kind of, you know, pull from different experiences. Some of their different customers have had to try and dispel some of the myths around it and also to address the things that that they're concerned about the risks, you know?

Ardath:

And so one of the things that came up was how do we know it will work? You know, and this comes up in most of my tech customer thing conversations, right? With any client, is how do we know there that they can really implement? How do we know our users are going to adopt it? How do we make that happen? How do we manage the change? How do we, you know, there's all these, what if, what if it doesn't work? What if it doesn't happen? What if it takes longer? What if, you know, and so how do we work through all of those? And of course, 20,000 words is about 80 to a hundred page books. We won't get to everything of course, but we're trying to pick the most relevant things that their clients go through and really show the transitions and how to go about enabling the change based on some of the really creative place.

Ardath:

Some of their clients have done that. And so it's, it's kind of interesting to kind of pull it all back and create these characters representative of, well, they're actually personas. We're going to base them on the personas and you know, but to create a story that weaves all this together and I think it's just going to be incredibly fun and hopefully really helpful and enlightening and more engaging then a regular business book. Right. So, you know, one of the things that was interesting is back when I wrote digital relevance, which came out in 2015, one of my interviews with the press when it came out the reporter says to me, he says, before we get started, I just have to ask you, did Gloria and the VP of sales get together? And I was like, what? In one of my chapters, I had written kind of a dialogue between you know, a CFO and VP of sales and whatever, and in a meeting and to illustrate a point and I had forgotten all about it and this reporter was like, well, what happened to them?

Ardath:

You know? And I thought, really? Okay. You know, so, but it's so it's always been fascinating to me and I have yet to come across a business book that's tried to take or insert characters or story into what that actually does it well, usually it ends up they created a character and now they're going to lecture to you. Or there was this mentor that shows up that knows everything that just, you know, talks them through it and they go do it and it works perfectly, you know, or something, it's like a device instead of a relatable character that actually, you know, storytelling. So, I mean, that's, that's so fascinating. So, even in that book, you were able to create these, these characters maybe, I don't know, that were more compelling and really stood out even in that context of that time that somebody, you know, wanted to follow up with what happened to that.

Ardath:

It's like that was like three pages. So we'll now see if I can create it for across the book. Yeah. But I, I it, this is, I mean it is really exciting. So it sounds like as a book, putting this, this information in these ideas and characters together in a book, it's an education piece. It's sales enablement. It's, it is going to allow, I don't know, their, their internal team, their sales team, their marketing team, any customer facing team to empathize with the experiences that their buyers are having. Mmm. Yeah. And I think it's also going to be a brand builder. Some of the ideas that this company and the CEO in particular has are very provocative and transformational. And so we want to really put a stake in the ground about getting those ideas out in public. And so I think it's going to be a lot of fun.

Ardath:

So we'll see what happens with it. Yeah. Wow. Well that's really exciting. So I guess I have to ask this question is if, if this, depending on how the day goes, I mean it's, would you do this again and again? Would this become kind of another service that you offer? It could be. I would love to do it. I, you know, I mean, for me, writing is really something I love, especially if I get to create story. So, you know, it could be, and I can see where it could provide value for a lot of companies, like for example, just think about AI right now and all the confusion around it. In that case of it could be a way to introduce new concepts that make them approachable and simpler to think about because you can put them into an experience kind of thing rather than just writing about them, you know, and in a flatter way, like a traditional business book would do.

Ardath:

So I think there's all kinds of possibilities for doing it. But I also think that these kinds of books could be useful for college, you know, for educating students, for having them more what is the reality and company Islam, you know? And part of the interesting thing about this is when you're writing true fiction, you can take a lot of license, but you still can't violate your characters, right? You can't have them do something that they wouldn't do because then you break this belief, that suspension of disbelief, right? That keeps people engaged. And so if we do this really well and we're true to what it really is like in business, true to, you know, real business situations as we develop it, then I think it can be an excellent learning tool. You know, and not, and not just for students, but also for people

Ardath:

Who are looking about how do we manage change within our companies, you know, around this kind of a thing. So I think it could be a useful tool. It just depends on which is putting a lot of pressure on me

Ardath:

For how we tell the story. But I think it could be really useful in a lot of different ways. So it'll be interesting to see what happens. You know,

Ardath:

I haven't never done this before, so it'll be fun. So exciting. I mean it's, it's kind of, I think it's a known thing, Mmm. In psychology and business. Every like we know that storytelling works in terms of influencing communication and stickiness and relatability. So I, I'm excited to kind of, you know, follow along. Is it going to be something that you'll be promoting when it comes out or is it, is it just, is it going to be coming out through [inaudible] Mmm. Through this company and through this CEO?

Ardath:

Well, it'll come out through the company and the CEO, but my name will also be on it, so yeah. I'll be promoting and so it'll be fun.

Ardath:

Okay. To see what the reception is and what people have to say about it. Excellent. Cool. Okay. Well that means we can follow along. Well that is definitely an exciting and actually unexpected highlights and something that you're, you know, you're excited about. And I, I was expecting to talk about personas but not in this context. So I'm, I'm kind of stoked that we got the chance to do that. But now kind of shifting gears, let's talk about a recent challenge that you've been through and this could be with a client you know, someone that you're working with or in your own consulting practice and talk us through the challenge and then the journey that you took to actually solve and overcome that challenge.

Ardath:

Mmm. Well this year as you know, I've had a big personal challenge. My husband passed away in November. We had been married for 28 years. And so this year is, is an exploration for me, you know, and, and I thought I'd figured out what I wanted to be when I grew up. I thought I already did that, but finding out that I get to do it again. And so one of the things that really came up for me as I sat back and I looked at my business and what I'm doing, which I love and I thought, you know, I've been doing this for a really long time. I've been in business for yeah they hate to date myself, but probably what, 35 years at least. And so I've been a consultant for a long time and a lot of what I talk about, I've been talking about for a very long time. And, you know, the interesting thing for me for example, is that my first book that I wrote in 2008 came t in 2009 is now selling better then my newer book that I wrote in 2015 and the reason people are finally catching up, that's what I was talking about. And so, which is really interesting to me, but one of the challenges that came up for me is, am I still relevant? And I wrote the book digital relevance. So I better be kind of figure out, you know, I started thinking about it and one of the reasons that came up for me is demand gen report called and said, we'd like to interview you about engagement hubs. And I thought, okay, great, let's talk about engagement hubs. Well before the interview came up I thought, you know, I've been writing about hubs forever. So I went out to my old blog and did a search and I used to call it content hubs. And sure enough I started writing about them in 2011 well now as engagement hubs, they have come to the floor and so what are we now eight years later or what have you and now they're relevant, you know, and probably because we have technology like Uberflip or you know, path factory or whatever that allows you to or follows that allows you to build these content experiences by dragging and dropping.

Ardath:

And you know, you can do it without having to have a web developer build it. Where back in 2011 when I was talking about it, it would have been a heavier lift, you know? But it's interesting to me. I started looking at some of the concepts I've been talking about and you know, it's like ABM, ABM is good marketing. I've been helping clients do it for years. We'd have never called it that. Right? But what do you call it when you have a group of personas and you're going after that group of an account and you're telling the story from problem to solution to all of them and trying to engage the account. Well that's ABM and we've been doing it for years now. It has a name now. There's technology that helps you do it easier, you know? And so I started thinking about it and I started thinking about, well, what's next? What's coming, you know, and what things do I need to be talking about that are extensions of, you know, who my industry persona is and, and those kinds of things. And I'm still working through all of that. But it's just interesting to sit back and finally take a little bit of time and breathing space, which I had to make for myself this year to really think about what are you doing next? And what came out of that of course is this story fiction that we were just talking about and a few other things I'm working on. But you know, it's also going through my website and updating the language, you know, from content hub to engagement from, you know different things where the words have, you know, changed. And so I think, you know, it's interesting, I watched things pick up buzz, you know, and like it's almost a big new thing.

Ardath:

New shiny objects, you know, and I'm kind of like, no, we can talk about that for a long time. But it was actually called this other thing, you know, but it never caught on. And so what's interesting to me is really looking at what makes stuff catch on what, you know, where is that tipping point where I started talking about something in 2011 and so did other people, but yet it took eight years or whatever for it to become a thing. You know, what is, is it technology? What I'm seeing mostly is once the technology comes around that enables something, then it starts taking off because it's actually doable without as much effort. So it's kind of interesting just to sit back and look at everything and think, well, you know, what do you need to do to stay relevant? But also I'm looking at my business and thinking, what do I want to be? Phase two, you know, and discovering I really do love what I do, but there's other ways I can apply it and you know, what are those? And doing some exploration there. So that's been kind of my challenge this year. Just trying to [inaudible] figure out what's next, which I think we all have to do at some point or hopefully repeatedly to keep going forward. Right?

Ardath:

Absolutely. So kind of stepping back and evaluating relevance and looking ahead, an interesting observation, I'm hearing hearing this story and hearing kind of some of your internal thought process about this is it's almost interesting cause I think a challenge that thought leaders have sometimes I'm thinking about relevance is saying, am I relevant today? And a lot of times with new ideas, the answer is no, but it's not that

Ardath:

You're in the past. If that you are way out ahead in the future and you know everyone else has it caught up. So it's kind of flipped [inaudible] does that make sense? You know, so my first book, yeah. And so, you know, I figured by the time my second book

Ardath:

Does that. Yeah. So it might be, well I, I'm, I'm not totally relevant right now, but I'm not behind the times. I'm ahead of the times,

Ardath:

Which is, and interesting,

Ardath:

An exciting challenge I think

Ardath:

It is. But here's, here's what I find to be the bigger challenge. I'm at heart really a teacher, right? And I want people to learn and grow and, and be able to apply the things I'm talking about, which is why I do a lot of speaking at conferences. But there's also, I have clients say to me, you know, we went to such and such conference and they were talking about all this stuff and we're so far behind, we can't do it. We don't have, you know, the resources to do it. We're not, or the foundation or whatever it is. And I'm like, you're not that far behind. Every other client I have is in the same boat. And so part of it for me is thinking about, it's great to be ahead, but how do you help people make the transition to get there? And that's what fascinates me is how do I help people take the steps that are going to set

Ardath:

Them up to be able to do those things. You know, and it's like serious decisions came out with this proclamation a week or two ago or whatever that said, predefined nurtures are dead. AI is now going to source the content and deliver it to your website. Visitor. Just what they need to know based on intent and whatever. And I thought, you know, that would be really wonderful, but what if you don't have the content that the AI is trying to source for them? Enabling the wrong nurture tracks with the right content. You know? But it's like my thing for data, and I got into this discussion when somebody said, you know, you now have all the data you need to build personas. And I kind of came a little unglued and, and went on this rant about Dana is wonderful, but it tells you what somebody did not why they did it, not if it worked, not as they got what they were looking for, what did they do?

Ardath:

You know what I mean? So data is great, but you've got to use it in context, you know, and you need the other information in order to really understand the buying context. And so it's like when I see things like forget the predefined nurture, you don't have to build those anymore. Don't put the effort in because AI is going to deliver just what your audience needs. And I'm like, most of the companies I know don't have just what their audience needs at every step and stage. So then what the heck is AI going to deliver? Right.

Ardath:

Yeah. Yeah. I, I completely agree with you and I'm so glad that you brought that up. And actually, so I, an upcoming guest on the show is a data analyst data expert and we're going to be talking about how, you know, how to combine that qualitative and quantitative data and kind of unpack this idea further because it's you know, I think that that is a huge thing that can kind of confuse people and it, again, it gives a false sense of security or a kind of idolizing this, this data and thinking it's, it's faster, it's more reliable and it's just, it's just not, you need that, you need that contextual feedback and contextual research as I think of it as just like a solid foundation and you know, like a Oh, a rich sort of landing place for all of the rest of that data. Well, it's, I just read a [inaudible], a survey that came out from Econsultancy and 51% of marketers said [inaudible] biggest issue they had was personalization, was that their data was all siloed in different systems. You don't think AI is going to have a problem with that too. So what if AI only sees this much of your buyer information or whatever and they're going to use

Ardath:

That to draw on. What about all this other stuff, right. That it can't see. And so, you know, I think we have to look at, you know, are we doing more harm than good [inaudible] what are the baby steps to get there? You know, different things like that. But I'm interested in that interview. Let me know when that comes out. I will, I definitely will. Okay. So before we kind of move on actually from this topic, this idea of the challenge becoming relevant and making it through, I think, you know, you shared some really amazing personal insights and then also tied it into companies and clients that you work with. Making that, that transition into thinking we're so far behind and how do we keep up? How do we stay relevant? Number one, he said just it's okay. Everyone's kind of in the same boat and I will, I echo that from my experience.

Ardath:

Then I think there's always this kind of sigh of relief. It's not just me, you know, we're all kind of, everyone's in the same place and it's okay. Mmm. You know, from that point what maybe like [inaudible] distilled, just like a couple of points. What do you see that path to transition being? How do you guide clients through those steps? Huh. Well, you know, my favorite answer, it depends, right? Okay. Know where they are. You know what their MarTech stack has, you know, but it also depends on what's the future vision, what do they, you know, one of the problems that we have is this short term ism thing. Like we're only looking at the next campaign or this year's goals or whatever. And part of that's happened because change is so fast. That is taken away that, remember, I don't know if you're old enough to remember, but we used to plan like five years out, you know, and you'd execute to the plan and not that much would change over five years.

Ardath:

Well now it changes in three months, you know, so we've taken, we've gotten our, our vision has gotten shorter and shorter and shorter. Like what can we execute this quarter? Maybe up to a year, but not longer than that. And I think what we need to look at is what's the future vision, you know? And then the path to get there may shift, does other things change? But we have to start looking at that bigger picture and start figuring out what do we need to have in place to get there. Otherwise we're doing what a lot of us are doing now, which is scrambling to buy the next shiny object thinking we're going to get it with that. Well, you're not, you know, but also I look at a lot of my clients are going through digital transformation and everything's changing. And so not only do they have to continue doing their day job of marketing, but everything within their company is also shifting and processes are changing. A new techs coming out and you know, all of those things and they're trying to adjust. Well it's the same for your buyers too. They're all going through these things. But what does it really look like in the future? What do you see is that vision? Who is your, how is your brand going to make that?

Ardath:

What does it adapt to keep continue to build the brand story and what supports that underneath? And then you have to figure out, okay, let's take steps to get there. You can't write the whole thing off obviously at once. But if you don't know where you're going, then what are you doing? You know the ins. And that's a lot of my challenges were just looking at two, four, you know, and we're not thinking about what's next. And so I think we have to start doing that more so interesting. But the other thing that I really think too is I see this transition from customer acquisition to customer retention. And advocacy. And I think we have to start focusing on the entire customer life cycle. And I think that's really what's next for marketing is how are we enabling that entire life cycle? You know, it doesn't just end when, you know, we have this artificial hand off thing that we've created to say, okay, sales, it's all yours now.

Ardath:

You know, that's not the way it works anymore. And so we've got to start looking at how do we enable all of that and what, what can we gain by enabling that that serves the bigger picture down the road. So I don't know if that's helpful or not. Yeah, absolutely. Absolutely. So to recap, it's, it taking, taking a step back and pausing, which I think is uncomfortable, not just in this context, but slowing down. I think any time in our lives when there's this sense of urgency or uncertainty, it's a very uncomfortable, Mmm thing to do. And when you're working with technology, it's, you know, it's almost the opposite is true, but when you're doing the strategic work, you know, that you're talking about when you're thinking about the longterm vision you know, pause, slow down, and I think out more than just a quarter.

Ardath:

Right? So that's the first step that you're talking about, which is amazing. And then it, with everything else, it almost, it almost sounds like reverse engineering instead of just kind of being myopically focused on just the one next thing ahead. Right. What's the big picture and how do we, you know, how do we move toward that goal in a way that's effective? Does that sum it up? Yeah, I think so. Okay. Wonderful, wonderful, wonderful advice. Especially for, you know, for something like this, but I, I think it applies to other contexts as well. So moving on, as we kind of, as we get ready to wrap up what is, what is a resource, like a book or a podcast or a technology that you're getting the most out of right now? Well, I'll tell you what, and as part of my exploration this year what I've started doing is

Ardath:

Reading a [inaudible] fiend of course, but reading books that are not within my specialty. Okay. So for example, just recently I read Malcolm Gladwell's new book. I'm talking to strangers because I was interested in, if you think about it, when we're talking to buyers, we're talking to strangers. But I was interested in the research and what he came up with and the examples that he shared. Another one that I'm reading is naked statistics like Charles Wieland, because I really want to understand the different ways statistics get used. And one of the things he talks about is how you can use statistics to lie, right? Or to make a point that you want to make. But if you looked at the statistics differently, then the result would be different. So for example, I'm trying to remember the examples and he was talking about the way statistics are used in politics. So let's say you could say a bunch of States report higher incomes for their people.

Ardath:

And if you actually look individually at the people, they're not necessarily individually earning higher incomes. Do you know what I mean? Sure. Whether it's shorter. So it's the average, well it's a unit of measurement. If you look at it by state, which is all the income together, it looks different. You're over here income, you know, total income from my state versus by people, by an individual. So by changing the unit of measurement, you can change the point you're trying to make and you know, and so one of them makes it look better and one of them makes it look worse. Which one are you going to pick? You know? And so given all of the data and the AI and everything else, I wanted to really get an understanding about statistics. So I started reading some of these books just to get better insight. But what I'm finding is when I go outside of my area of expertise, I have new ways to think about things. And so, you know, in this quest for being relevant or whatever I'm finding it really interesting too. Read things that I wouldn't normally pick up and read because it's not dialed into something I'm really trying to, you know, tackle for my clients, but I'm just really kind of focused on thinking and thinking differently. And so that's what I've been doing lately.

Ardath:

I love it. Getting an outside perspective, stepping into a different experience, which is I think a really great way to kind of walk the talk of the work that you're doing, which is constantly demanding for us to step outside of our own experiences and step outside of our own [inaudible] and preconceived ideas and constantly reevaluate you know, what's going on in someone else's experience, what's going on outside of our own bubble. There, I'm really glad that you shared those examples. And if someone wants to reach you to learn more about your work or follow you know, what you're doing, what's the best

Ardath:

Way to do that? Well, my website is marketing interactions.com and I'm artists four to one on Twitter and LinkedIn. You can Google me. I show up everywhere. You're not hard to find. Well, wonderful. Okay. So as we wrap up, I am so excited to hear your answer to this, but let's, let's end this interview with the best business advice that you have ever received. Oh, that's easy. Excuse me. When I decided to become a consultant my very good friend Jill Konrath who is known in as extraordinary sales and grew, I guess for lack of my mind coming up with a better word. But anyway, she is a very good friend of mine and she just said to me, pick a niche, pick something that you are going to be the best at that you can absolutely be and just pick that.

Ardath:

And so and so. I did personas, you know, that's what I'm known for really is personas. But I also do tons of other work, right? Personas lead to content marketing strategy, which leads to content, which leads to other things, doing workshops, you know, all kinds of other things. And yet I am known for personas and the best advice I ever got because if I tried to focus on everything, I would be this specialist who wasn't known for anything. Really the best advice ever, I think is to pick the one thing that you are truly passionate about. It makes you want to get out of bed and go to work in the morning and do that and do it as well as you possibly can and other things will also come. And so I also focus on B2B. I got even more specific, not just personas for everybody, just B2B personas.

Ardath:

I get asked all the time to do B-to-C personas and I turned them down because I run interest, right? But it's not what makes me sing in the morning, but I get asked for that because they say, well, certainly if you do B2B, you could do B to C and I probably could. I don't want to. So I turned them down. But if you specialize, people will start asking you to do things that are adjacent, right? Because you're so good at what you do is your specialty in that niche that they think, well why couldn't you do that? You know? And I do a lot of other things besides that. I do a lot of digital content marketing strategy. I do a lot of storytelling. I do nurtures, I do, you know, whatever. But I mostly known for personas and nine times out of 10 a client engagement, we'll start with personas and then so, and that's what keeps me busy and keeps me booked and you know, it's, it's what I love to do.

Ardath:

So pick something you love, be the best at it and go for it. That is fantastic. And it works on an individual level, but it also works on, on a larger level, like, you know, for like a tech company that might be a, you know, client, cause I hear this from clients also. Well we don't want to just get pigeonholed into this one area. [inaudible] So what would you say to someone going through something, something like that? It's just a, you know, sort of stress or anxiety around, no, it's, I've seen so many clients go through it. I've seen friends go through it that are consultants and you know, or whatever. But everybody's afraid to put the stake in the ground because they think they're leaving something else on the table. And the whole thing is, is that it's kind of like content. If you write for everybody, you engage nobody.

Ardath:

Do you know what I mean? So it's the same kind of thing. You need to be known for something and you need to be the best at it. But I go through this, I had a client one time and I had built personas for them when we were then executing a campaign and they had 200,000 people on their email list. And I started looking at who was in an email list and I said, guys, this is not the persona. All these people, they're not, you have maybe 20,000, you know? Well, and the CFO says to me, well, but you know, they could switch jobs in one day. They will be. Yeah. Yeah. So you're gonna just piss off a whole bunch of people, you know, over 100,000 people, you're going to piss off just because one day they could, you know, and I, and I thought, well she want to be relevant, you know, but they were just in the whole executive team, the marketing executive team was convinced that they needed to reach as wide a swath as possible.

Ardath:

You know, even if they weren't interested because maybe someday they would be [inaudible] [inaudible] and so they said, well, you know, we wrote the content for the persona so those people will engage, but why shouldn't we let everybody else have the chance to, and, and I was just kind of like, what is the point? You want to continue showing engagement results at like 0.0008% when actually if you focused on the 20,000 that it's really cool. And then too, you could be seeing engagement rates at 50% you know, or whatever. And you know, but I just, I just shook my head and I thought, okay, how do we get most of the way there and then go backwards. So fast, but you know, so, you know, relevance is really critical, but I think you have to be willing to put a stake in the ground, you know? And how much damage can you cause to yourself and others when you don't, you know, I mean, are you limiting your potential because you're not willing to focus. So, and when somebody comes up to you and says, which unfortunately is a state of our conversational society, what do you do for a living? What are you going to say? Oh, everything. Everything related, right?

Ardath:

No, yeah, yeah. Interesting. Is that as a conversation starter? You know, instead you should be, you should say, you know, I focus on creating personas so my customers get to know their customers is, you know, better than they know themselves. You know? I mean, how much more compelling is that as a statement versus all, you know, I do marketing for everybody about anything, anywhere. Yeah. You know, it's a million times more compelling. But it's the way people identify with you as well. And they say, I want to work with that person. There is a transformational speaker who I'm a huge fan of named Kyle cease. He used to be a comedian and it's had this really interesting career, but something that he says that this piece of advice and stories that you shared brought to mind for me. He says, the mind can see, can identify what you're going to lose, but it can't identify what you're going to gain.

Ardath:

So there's just this like emotional fear. But I guess for anybody who is watching or listening right now you know, we can look at you and we can see that that has been a total success and it hasn't limited your options. It sounds you're turning work down and you are focusing on what you really love and what you're amazingly effective at. So I'm totally inspired the joy of getting to work for yourself as you get to make those choices, you know? Whereas if you work for somebody else, you kind of, can you imagine going to your boss and say, well, I decided I didn't want to work with them so I turned them down.

Ardath:

That's an interesting concept, but I think in small ways we're kind of seeing a shift toward that from a more authentic affective space. Because with all the noise out there, all of us are companies, individuals, we're all kind of just being, you know, what kind of push towards differentiation and specialization and like you described, I think when we don't do that, it just, it's life is a lot harder than it needs to be. So phenomenal, phenomenal advice. Choose a niche, put your stake in the ground. Hmm. And it's going to be okay. Right? Absolutely. It'll be perfectly fine, you know? And so it's, it's also about, and I really kind of believe this, if you put it out there and your intention is, is really passionate and honest about that. I think it comes back to you. I just, I always house for me.

Ardath:

And so I think that there's a lot to that. And I don't know how you do that when you're scattered or you're jumping after every possibility instead of being able to focus on, can really do justice to, yeah. I love it. Awesome. Way to end the episode. Artists, thank you so much for coming on. It was just wonderful hearing your insights and not just hearing about personas, but about some other, you know, what's new, what you're working on. With this storytelling. This new book that is character driven, persona driven, story-driven you know, just this whole concept of staying relevant, whether you're behind the times as a technology company or ahead of the times as a thought leader. We touched on so many fantastic things. So thank you for being on today and I look forward to catching up with you again soon. Yeah, me too. Thanks so much for having me. I hope it was interesting for the audience, at least helpful in some way. I think it absolutely will be. And for anyone who has made it to the end of this episode, if you liked it, give it a thumb. Thumbs up and subscribe for more videos like this that we put out every week. To learn more, you can visit customer intelligence institute.com and we will see you on the next episode of insider insight.

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