647: How to Become a Super Connector w/ Scott Gerber

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

In this episode we talk to Scott Gerber, CEO of The Community Company and Co-Author of Super Connector.

LinkedIn: https://www.linkedin.com/in/scottdgerber/

Are you struggling to come up with original content weekend and week out? Start a podcast, interview your ideal clients, let them talk about what they care about most and never run out of content ideas again. Learn more at sweetfish MEDIACOM. You're listening to the BETB growth show, a podcast dedicated to helping betb executives achieve explosive growth. Whether you're looking for techniques and strategies or tools and resources, you've come to the right place. I'm James Carberry and I'm Jonathan Green. Let's get into the show. Welcome back to the BB growth show. We are here today with Scott Gerber. He is the CEO of the Community Company. He's also the CO author of the brand new book Super Connector, Scott. How you doing it, Aman? I'm great. Thanks for having me. I'm really excited to chat with you today. Man, I have been told by many people that I that I am a connector, and I'm very proud of that being a thing that people classify me as. It's something I love doing. So when I saw the title of your book, I thought, man, this guy is somebody I want to talk to. So we're going to be talking about for specific things that you, and I think you know bb marketers are are for specific pieces of value from the book that we think Beb marketers are going to get when they read it. But before we dive into that, Scott, I'd love for you to give us a little of it, a context, tell us about what you're in your team are up to at the community company. Absolutely so. The Community Company basically is an organization that builds and manages community driven programs for media companies and brands. So we help brands basically to better engage customers or stakehold to build community driven initiatives, whether that be to foster more meaningful communication among stakeholders or create a contributor network to help them create sort of a brand ethos and message from people that care about the brand versus just the brand itself, to...

...a whole variety of other things. But really we're about really enforcing and driving community engagement beyond, you know, nonsense things like vanity metrics and social media sharing. This is really about engaging people that can really drive influence, value and and, frankly, financial are a lie for your business. All right. So, with that being said, Scott, one of the one of the four things we're going to talk about that you expand on in the book is the power of building community. So obviously, based on what you just said about me having a company called the community company, you clearly know a thing or two about this. I've seen this done by a few companies in the B tob space really, really well. Terminus comes to mind, the flop my funnel movement that they've started, drift comes to mind. With what they're doing was seeking wisdom and their drift road show. I'm sure you've you've got some incredible examples. But can you speak first too, in a BDB context. Why is community building? Why does community building need to be something that to be marketers are thinking about? Absolutely you know, I think we've gotten so down the path in the wrong way. We've gone to this world now of views, clicks, vanity metrics and Kpis that are rapidly becoming irrelevant to the beat of the audience and marketer. You know, we are headed away from views and clicks and to engagement into lifetime value, and the way to create lifetime value is to actually be able to create an environment for your customer or stakeholder that really is not just a warm, pleasant and educational environment, but one that is iterating on the idea of why they originally came to you and helping them to become better, learn more, become more efficient over time in other ways that your brand can play a role. And so I think community, you know, is more than just this amorphous, ambiguous term. It's not just let's go put up a facebook group and have people talk all day. It's this idea of how can you take your brand's ethos and...

...become a sphere of influence in all of the efforts that ultimately are going to allow you to play a role in the conversation and drive the conversation for key stakeholders and customers. And so, you know, I think that we've done this for a number brands like forbs counsels. You know how we basically turn the forms brand into a smart, strong professional organization network for C sweet executives. You know, using the brand's ethos to basically create an environment that it allows for safe space conversation, for contributing thought leadership content of DC suitet leaders into mainstream media outlets via their community voice program just basically finding ways to extend the brand's value proposition extend the revenue drivers and business model and extend, frankly, the way in which it reaches and engages its core influential audience members in all new ways beyond clicks and advertising. So it expands upon the ways in which you can build value for your brand by increasing the value you're giving to those that want to be a part of it. I love it. And so so it's clearly applicable not just to media companies like verbs, but for the software company or for the midsize B Tob Service firm. Any company can and should be thinking about building a community around that is centric around the people that they're ultimately trying to do business with. Is that correct? Absolutely. I mean, think of it this way, right. You know, let's take something totally like abstract that's just seems crazy, like logistics. Right, if you are a company that sells logistics solutions operations back end, you know there's probably a good chance that there's a number of logistics operations professionals or directors or high level stakeholders that are either clients or partners that don't have some professional organization for, you know, seat your level logistics coordinators, right, and so the idea that you can be the curator of those individuals, that you can convene those individuals for smart engagement, conversation, you know, and and industry related trends and so forth, give them a podium to share best practice...

...as and insights. You know, just because your solution might play a small part in the larger overall industry doesn't mean you can't be the convener, the the go to professional organization, the New Age Chamber of Commerce, if you will, for that subject matter. And so it's the same thing. Take take a restaurant, right. It doesn't have to be literal, you know, you're not going to go as a restaurant owner in the Midwest, you know, and go build a food blog right around midwest diner cuisine. Right. What you're going to do? You're going to look at who attends, you know, who comes to your establishment? WHO's the patrons? And maybe those are a lot of neighborhood people. What's going on in the neighborhood? Well, maybe it's a big sports events, right, high school sports, Middle School Sports. Why aren't you the destination then, for in an age where it's almost impossible to get local news right at because of the problems in the local news industries. Why don't you create an authoritative safe space for high school sports of all your stakeholders to talk about that again, you're building a community that shares your brand ethos. It doesn't mean need to be a literal brand marketing message, in fact it should be, but whatever your brand stands for, whatever it means, whatever it wants to convey to an audience about the importance of the industry you're in or the values that you share, that's what your community should be a part of, that's what it should stand for and that's what you should build around all of that. We're trying to do really take what we're doing with this podcasts, gotten in that vein, trying to create a community of of be to be marketers and folks that are leading be to be companies. And one of the things we're doing are these things called be to be growth dinners. And so I'm flying to different parts of the country and we're getting groups of seven to ten folks together and, you know, dinner table or you know, with some I'm doing lunches and and just trying to it's there's no pitches, it's not talking about our service it's solely for building relationships with likeminded folks, and I think that there's so much power in creating those types of communities and and I think that a lot of people just get tripped up and thinking, Oh, well, like you, are the resources to do that, or where do you see people? I...

...guess what is the reason that you see a lot of folks that you're talking to not pull the trigger on building a community? Yeah, I think you just hit on one of the big ones. I don't have the resources. It's too big, you know. In the funny thing is this community should be simple. If it's complex, then you're probably trying to figure out how to tie it into a PNL or a marketing initiation, which is the wrong approach. It's either got to be natural and truly authentic, not just, you know, are quotes authentic, or it's going to fail. And so, you know, I think you start with something very simple. You know, take your dinner. Now, how do you make a dinner or a lunch more effective? You know, if you start with that as the basic construct, okay, I'm going to get ten people together. How do I ensure that this ten person event, it doesn't have to worry about things like scale or hypergrowth or any of that crap. Yet you just literally have to focus on those ten people so that at the end, those ten people not only are going to want to be at the next one, but they're going to want to tell their closest industry peers that they should be involved in this exclusive, invitationally experience as well. So how do you do that? Right? Do you need to spend a million dollars on dinner? No. Do you need to have a keynote speaker in the millions? No. It's about the thoughtfulness of small, little things. Let me, if I may. I don't want to, you might be doing some of this already, but if I may diagnose a couple of things that we know about small, intimate gatherings, right. So, first and foremost, it's it's a three part process. Most people think it's a one part process and that's the event, but they're missing the before and after, which is a two biggest components of any event. So the first thing is is not just the invitation, but it's the idea that you want to set up the event to remove friction. You don't want to go and have people go into a friction based environment. That's where people have to feel like they got to give the Bona Fides, they have to give the linkedin resume, you know, all that nonsense. You want to take all that nonsense out of the equation. So first you're going to ask a couple of questions of your stakeholders that are coming to that event. They don't some basics. You're going to ask them what are they working on right now? You're going to ask them what's the biggest challenge they're experiencing right now? Where do they feel in the past year their biggest strength has lied? And then you're going to a allow them, in one sentence,...

...to some each of those up. You're going to put a linkedin link on it, you're going to put it into an email digest. You're going to send that to all ten participants before the event. Now, all of a sudden, if people want to, you know, remove all that friction, they've got all the information and they may say, Oh, wait, this person's having that problem, I just solve that problem or Oh, I have to make sure I connect with John Because John has a week a strength where I have a weakness. So now you have the actual event. Well, do you just see people around a table? Of course you don't. You should be as the curator of that opportunity, as the connector. You should be the person that is picking the seating arrangements. Who Sits next to you and why? And you don't tell them why they're sitting next to each other. You explain that the seeting is meaningful, that they should figure it out and by the end of the dinner they might be able to figure it out, they might not, but they would have gone on a natural conversation because they know you took time, effort and thought, but you're just teasing the fact that they should be there. The other ideas that you, as the curator, knows the most about everybody at the table, so your ability to sort of shout and accolade versus allowing someone to sort of pitch themselves makes it a much better environment to still show off their high level achievements or Bona Fides, but not sound like a bragger. So this is just some examples of things that you can do. Then there's the post events right critical, which is the follow up process. You know, did John and sue actually meet? Did they talk about the thing you thought they should did you follow up to thank everyone and ask them for feedback and what you can improve next time and remove more friction? Did you ask, you know, people what would be some things that like to see at future events or event types? The point is in the follow up you're actually diagnosing how well you did. You're sort of giving yourself a grade. You're figuring out, from the community that wants to own this process, how you can be of service to them in a bigger way, additional help, more ways in which you can make the event better and bigger or, simply put, just to fall up and say thank you and these simple steps and we go into a lot more detail and how to make a remarkable experience, we call it in the superconnector book.

But these little things are meaningful and that just goes back full circle to the question we start at this point with, which is, you know, why are people not doing this? Because they're lazy, because they feel they have to overthink it, because they try to make it a marketing tactic, because it has to be a quote unquote, networker Lens, meaning what's the Roi Versus? Let's just build a smart, really great, you know, engaged community and allow for the natural connectivity, the natural habitual generosity to go. Then think short terms, that of long term, and they mess the whole thing up, or they put a social media manager versus a community manager in charge of it, and now it's about how many photos, are videos are all these are the media assets, rather than making sure that the actual people that are involved or getting real value. I mean, as you can tell, I'm going on a bit of a tangent here, but you get my points. It's astis got. These are the diagnosed reasons, for my experience, why people don't do it. And the argument for doing all of this is, I will guarantee you all you be to be marketers out there right now. If you find that you are doing events right now. Okay, if you find that you have online engage in activities right now and you yourself. This is my test. I love. I love talking to marketers because you're all very honest when it comes to one thing, and that is would you participate as a patron, a spectator or an actual targeted member of a marketing tactic that you yourself are leading right now right what I find is all these marketers talk about how they're doing this tactic and it converts at this level and so forth. But then when I turn the question and say hey, but if you are the person that's being targeted by that, would you participate nine times out of town, I get no because I know it's a marketing tactic. Well, don't you think? Everybody else does too, like, how stupid do you think people are? But when it comes to authentic community and if you remove all that bullshit, if you get all the clothes and the the masks off, so to speak, if you actually get down to back to human first, what it used to be about, get off...

...that networker, transactional Roi based thinking for just a couple of engagements, I will guarantee you that over time you will see a much stronger value proposition for anything you do, events, facebook, groups, overall community building whatever, because the community will actually provide the habitual generosity that leads to your value creation, rather than you trying to drive value creation from every effort in a short term transactional way. Another point that you guys make in the book, that you spend some time at extrapolating in the book, is its idea of being a connector versus and networker. You just alluded to that just now, but can you expand on that a little bit it so that people have in their head. Okay, what is a connector? This thing that you know? Based on this conversation, folks are should aspire to be a connector instead of a network how do you find both those things? I'm going to give you a simple auditing test that everybody in your audience can do. All right, so everybody. You don't have to give the results to anybody but yourself, but don't lie to yourself about this. Here's my test to determine if you're a networker or connector, and then I'll explain the too. In the next five professional conversations you have with people that you've never met before, I want you to figure out and keep keep track of where your mind is going in the first sixty seconds of each of those conversations. Okay, does it go the direction of I can't wait to ask another question because I'm generally curious, or Oh, I want to follow up on something that person just said, or does it go the other path, which is I do or I do not, see value that this person can bring to me? So I need to figure out how to drive to value or end the conversation. Now, be honest. Okay, most people, I would argue the ladder there that that is the networker Lens. So the networker Lens is the idea that every conversation you have should lead to a transactional event, should lead to a value creation event. It's short term, it's a bit ICKY, none of us like it, but yet we're all guilty of doing it, whether it be...

...from a lazy point of view or whether it be just because it's the traditional, mainstream norm and we follow it like you know, as if it's the water, if you will. The connector lens is different. connectors are generally more empathetic, emotionally intelligent, very curious beings. They put others before themselves, their habitually generous and they're human first. They are not thinking about transactional value. They're thinking of long term community building, long term engagement, long term value, and they're thinking about going very deep with a select few in their inner circle, because they know that by going very deep and building stronger relationships, they can then create more opportunities for making a smart ask or getting a referral, because all of the people in that inner circle also have inner circles and it's the idea that if they show that they are actually authentic human beings versus, again, quote unquote, authentic the the you know that networking spin language, then the reality is that over time they're going to see a much better return on their investment in people versus their investment in an individual event. So that's the difference. I think people should be connectors because long term it's like almost like a venture capitalist. Right. Not every conversation you're going to have is going to be some meaningful, incredible opportunity for you or life changing event conversation for you, but if you talk to enough people and you genuinely care that, over time there's going to be some folks that you know what aren't going to benefit you and who cares, and there's going to be some that will be the first ones to be there for you if you need something, for the first ones to refer you something when they hear it. But it's because you put in the work, it's because you were actually building deeper relationships versus surface level and it's because you're being selective about how you went about building those relationships and with whom you built those relationships. In the very beginning, love it all it's got. So we've talked about the power of building communities, why ybb brand should be doing it. We've talked about what is a connector versus a networker. I think you gave a fantastic test. They're a question to ask ourselves to see what camp we fall into. Next I want to talk about how how do you actually have the right kind of...

...conversations, both personally, is a personal brand, the brand of you, and as a logo? Yeah, I think you know, it's funny. We have become a culture of surface level messaging, where it's amplifying messaging, and it's just so wrong. And I go back to what I just said about the ask nine out of ten marketers, do you read or engage with the things that you yourself or spearheading? The answer would be no, because you know it's a marketing tactic. The same thing in conversations, either through your brand of through yourself, the way you position yourself on twitter or facebook. You know, would you, you know, buy into somebody because they said this on facebook? Answer be no. And so we say that connector lenses are those that are are sort of turning you or your brand into sort of the Sherlock Holmes of discourse, where your job is to gather really good, solid context that you're supposed to go deeper, be more curious in gay find little nuggets that are going to help you actually learn something, and whether that's education for you and information, whether that's learning more about someone to help them in their personal professional endeavors, whether that's better understanding the actual key stakeholders and influencers as a brand that really are driving your word of mouth. If you treat people like people and you genuinely care, you are empathetic, not pretending to be, whether digitally or in person, you're going to find that ultimately you're in a much better place with that individual at the end of said conversation. And you know, again, it doesn't matter if it's a facebook group. Listen, we have in like why? You see one of our communities, we have thousands of people in a facebook group I would argue is one of the most best engaged communities in the world. Why? Because we helped to spearhead conversations. Again, we remove the friction by basically surveying audiences that determine what our big topics, tagging the right people that are the experts in said topics and allowing the conversation to flow. Engaging we are needed to have people expound, but not necessarily driving a conversation based on an agenda or...

...a KPI, but rather just allowing people to do what they do best, because we've got the data, because we understand the people, and I think we're doing we're missing that today. We're getting so stuck on the things that don't matter, again, the sharing in the vanity, that we don't really think about what we're saying or why we're saying it or, frankly, and more importantly, listening to those that are saying the things that matter, so what we can engage based on what we've heard. And so I think that brands can learn a lot from that because, again, I understand the need for scale and advertising. Everything has its place, but there are certain times when really listening and comprehending what people are saying and thinking that could fundamentally change your whole perspective on a product or service or the way you're talking about something or how you're positioning yourself. But we're so stuck in our ways that we are just thinking scale, KPI, quarterly review. How did we do right? What's the top Bottel of the funnel conversion? How did we do? I would argue that brands need to put a much better you know, many brands, I should say. I don't want to put this over every single company, but many brands need to do a much better job about engaging beyond just traditional social media, twitter feeds and and, you know, large scale conference events. I think there are ways to really make a difference in those meaningful conversations, either written or spoken, and we talk a lot about it in the book, but there's a lot of ways you can go about doing that. Are there ways to put kind of tangible measuring sticks? If, for the person listening to this, they are leading a team and and they want this to be baked into the culture of of how they're going to market, they want to be community builders, are there some tangible bench marks or ways that they can measure whether they're on the right path to doing things the way you're you're outlining in the book that they need to be doing them. Yeah, you know, there's no one size fits all sort of methodology here. You know, every company's going to have different KPIS and different goals you know. Look, I think that if you can get evangelists around your brands because they care about the ethos. We go back to the logistics example,...

...but we gave earlier. Okay, if you've created value in that, you have basically created the Professional Organization for logistics professionals. Right, you are basically a center of sphere of influence of a very influential group to your world. That will drive business over time because they'll see the value proposition, so long as you are being thoughtful about being involved in it as a curator of that experiences, in a convener of that experience, whether or not you have to put a buying thing against it or not. I would argue this is a more organic approach here. You look at things like Legos. Okay, Lego has the ideas competition that they do, where basically they have a facebook page and a website where people can put ideas for different Lego sets they have in mind, and then I go looks at that, based on the engagement of determines what they're going to potentially put into a manufacturing right. They don't do that because they're trying to sell that audience or doing it because they understand that creativity as at the core of that audience and they want to basically pull the best natured creativity out of people because they believe that that evangelism of that brand will come as a direct result of them listening to their key stakeholders. So it's not just I sold this many Lego sets, but it's the idea they have hundreds of thousands of people now that are participating in that conversation, which keeps that brand at a very high level, in its exact position where it needs to be. I think it's all about how you look at it. I would not say this is how many units this community should sell. I think it's a very big mistake. I can letely agree. I'm just trying to think through if there were as people are trying to operationalize this. It is a much more organic thing. I think if they can, if they can keep from having the metric that they measure be a transactional unit, and are there ways to say, like what you had said earlier, look at how many evangelists do you have, how many people do you know that are excited about about you and what you're doing, and and using that more as the metric than the transaction of closed deals. Well, I'll give you I'll...

...give you one that's a bit more in line with that, but it's a specific example. So again, this is an example. I wouldn't say this is the end all be all for every single brand or company, but in the book we talked about a gentleman named Derek Kober. Derek was a wealth manager who, basically, if you know anything about the wealth management world, you know it's a very low referral rate because it's a very commoditized, you know business and it's really relationship driven. So referrals or sort of the main driver of that business and Derek was constantly at the top of referral business or his entire you know industry, in by percentage it was, you know, in some cases that I think they said the industry average was like single digit referrals. He was in the the Dutt high double digits. And when people would ask him how, it's because, again, going back to the event strategy at a very simple way, that he drove those referrals in a very meaningful and community based way. Again, we're not trying to say you should be a non off it here. By the way, and I think that there's smarter ways to do it where you're not making people feel like they need to take a shower afterwards. But, you know, like here's an example. So he was a wine connoisseur and obviously his wealth management group of clients these are obviously high net worth individuals who would appreciate the idea of, you know, very expensive wine, rare expensive one. And so what he would do is he basically once, I don't know if it was once a year, once every couple months, he would gather his clients for a very expensive wine tasting on him. And basically the rule was they were allowed to bring one person who they felt was would also enjoy the event. He did not specify they had to potentially be a client. He didn't specify they had to be another high net worth prospect, none of that. They had to fundamentally critically enjoy wine and understand it. But now what did he do? He actually put criteria on the event, which means that he gave sort of people in this I guess, if you were want to talk marketing language, is sort of like the squeeze page effect. Right, he's giving people a certain...

...criteria shore they could bring their wife for their husband. But most people are going to want to impress their professional peers. And if you are at the levels of this kind of wine Connoisseur, chances are if you can afford this kind of wine or afford to buy in restaurants as kind of wine, you probably are also a high net worth individual. So, by definition, he basically created a way in which people would bring peers to his events. Now, do you think that any person that was brought as a guest who was potentially a prospect for Derek had to ask him once what he did? I only that, but do you think that the person that brought that individual didn't give not only the whole cd but how well Derek does for them? So here you are now at this event in this very high end establishment, having, you know, fine wine, you're introducing yourself, you're being, you know, a great host. You come up and the first thing that you're, you know, clients, this is meet mark. I told him how well you've done for us, you know, we were just talking how wonderful the wine is, you know, and then mark's going to say something to the effect of, well, my financial advisor doesn't do this for me. This is great get the point. So you're basically reverse engineering your goals and success, but in a way that you again are creating value for people. He didn't do it with the intention of you must buy, buy a ticket, do something for me, but it's the thoughtfulness, the care of the meaningful impact that the scene, the set up, every part of the chessboard being set up the way it was allows for the natural flow of those referralstly. Yeah, the natural result is the result that he ultimately wanted, but that didn't he didn't have to be didn't have to take a shower. Exactly that. It's that is fantastic. I love that story. This last piece we're going to talk about Scott, this idea of being a curator or a creator. Talk to us about this. Yep. So it's funny. I think there's people that have the ability, lady, to curate individuals and allow for content and other things to surface from that community, and there's a creator...

...where you can engage and create the subject matter and the content that's going to drive the community engagement. I think too many people try to any brands, frankly, try to force content fits right. The idea that again, because it's in the brand speak. When you put something in a forum or on social you know you're trying to sell your brand, you're trying to sell your image, trying to sell your message as sell your product, and sometimes giving into the way in which the community wants to talk about it is more valuable as because you've curated the right people around a content experience rather than trying to drive the content into that experience. So let me give you an example. Let's go back to the logistics company. If your brand kays and logistics, you might see real problems in the logistics industry. Now, that doesn't mean you have to syndicate a white paper about it, but you can at you could begin to ask the community relevant questions for the betterment of everybody learning about it. However, if, for some reason, let's say your logistics company wasn't a software or it was a software but it had special research, that's a different situation. You can ask people to react to very specific research that you're finding, to share it with the community, start a conversation or drive value. But in that case you're bringing value, add content, not just another level of, you know, white paper garbage that is meant to just draw people into your funnel. And so I just urge people, as you think about the way you want of you the connector lens for Your Business or for you personally, that don't waste your time and effort to put together this amazing group of people only a sabotage it by what you are sharing or what you are promoting or what you are, frankly doing. That is anti human, that is pro marketing, because that can root it as quickly as hard as it was to convene it. And so I think that there are moments where you know, and this is going to be scary to some me, to be marketers. You gotta let go. You got to realize that your skill set is in finding the right people to drive conversation and allowing people to see that you are the center's sphere of influence that allowed for them to retain...

...and receive that value because you've been brought behind the wall, if you will buy that, anthy rather than you as the entity trying to drive every single conversation, because sometimes it's great and sometimes it's tumble. weats. That is that is fascinating to me, and I think the self awareness piece, they're really asking yourself and being okay with the answer of I think pride can stop you from coming to the real realization that being a curator is actually better suited for you and how you're wired. There's need for both and to be one is not to be better than the other, it's just different, and so to hone in on that, I think is is really really powerful. Scott, this has been a fantastic conversation. I've really enjoyed you hanging out with our listeners today. If folks want to check out the book, they want to learn more about what you're doing at the community company, what's the best way for them to go about doing that, as well as staying connected with you? Yeah, you can check out the book anywhere books are sold or go to super connector bookcom to us see where you can buy it, learn a bit more about it and so forth. But you can follow me on twitter at Scott Gerber and see what we do at COMMUNITYCO DOT coe. Wonderful, Scott, will thank you so much for your time today. This is again been incredible and I really appreciate it. Thank you for the time. There are lots of ways to build a community and we've chosen to build the BEDB growth community through this podcast. But because of the way podcasts work, it's really hard to engage with our listeners, and without engagement it's tough to build a great community. So here's what we've decided to do. We're organizing small dinners across the country with our listeners and guests. No sales pitches, no agenda, just great conversations with likeminded people. Will Talk Business, we'll talk family, will talk goals and dreams, will build friendships. So if...

...you'd like to be a part of a BB growth dinner in a sitting near you, go to be to be growth dinnerscom. That's be toob growth dinnerscom. Thank you so much for listening. Until next time.

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