How to Have Fun with Your Brand w/ Steve Pockross

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

In this episode, Timmy Bauer talks with Steve Pockross, CEO of Verblio, about one of the most underrated B2B tactics: how to have fun with your brand. 

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Yeah. Hey everybody welcome back to be to be growth. I'm timmy Bauer, content strategist. And my guest today is steve Park Rose. He is the ceo of verb leo a company with a team of over what is it? 3000 writers. How many writers do you have? That's my right. Three over 3000 riders uh do on demand, content creation to power, digital marketing and S. E. O. And steve. Welcome to the show. Thanks. It's good to be here. I'm excited to talk to you the last time you and I were talking, I asked you what you think is the most underrated B2B marketing tactic and you had a great answer. You said it's having fun with your brand. I love that answer. Why don't we just start there with like what do you mean that that's the most underrated B2B marketing tactic And what do you mean by having fun with your brand? So a couple of things. So I think so, first of all the B2B space, there's something about it, it just feels like if your company is selling to other companies that you need to be dry and professional the entire time. And I think that most people don't realize that there's people at the B2B company, you are people at the B to B companies selling to people uh and you need to bring that to life that those connections are more and more important, the deeper we get into living at home and the closer this mixture between our work and the life personalities become. And so if you have a choice of being educational or educational and entertaining in your authentic selves, people are going to want to work with you if you can get education and entertainment because they're spending their amount of time online too. Yeah, and I mean it's obvious I just poking around on your website, I'm like, this is a company that is having fun with their brand. I mean it's it's the big stuff which I'm going to want to get into you with you, but it's even little stuff, like, so I'm on your website right now and your little Pop Up is our ghost writers won't ghost you, and then this picture of this cute little ghost, and then it's like one quality content from our pre qualified writers, and this is not an ad for a verb leo, but...

...honestly steve if you sucked at content, we would be talking about something else. But yeah, I love it, and I'm excited to get into some of the like, specific examples of like really bigger things that you've done to have fun with your brand. But let me ask you this, why do you think it's so common? Like why do you think it's so hard For B two B companies to like let loose and just have fun. So, I think a couple of things, I think when you ask that question, it takes me back to business school, so I got a marketing degree at a business school 20 years ago and the whole focus was how do you make your company successful and you're supposed to go in there and they teach these tools? None of it is about being yourself forward. And I think that is all completely evolved with the growth of online businesses over the last 20 years. It's now about having personality, it's now about actually having your personality in front of your company and merging those two things together. And so I think a lot of it for people of my generation who graduated 20 years ago, that's just deeply uncomfortable. It's uncomfortable. Is posting something really personal about yourself on linked in. We would never considering it. Like, you know, half the people graduated with my class right there profile in the third person about themselves, It's their site. So I think part of it is just like a, getting used to what the new business world is. And I think the second is that just how do you have a, you have fun at your company when you've decided that you're one of your company values is to have fun and to be fun and like you want this to be a place that you live and so it has to be a, you have to have that as one of your values and something that you're doing at the company. I think a lot of companies compartmentalize their marketing department and be like, ok, go tell everybody what you do. So it's more about like, here's our glory story and I have one of my, my favorite podcast episodes of all time is there's a, this american life episode, kind of like one of the originals of the podcasting universe. Uh and it's all about there...

...being two types of storytellers and there is one type of, all of their stories are the hero. They end with themselves as the hero and they've done something magnificent and the way that you respond to that, as you say, wow, that's really impressive. And then you have another kind that's all about humor, regardless if it's self deprecating, making fun of themselves. The goal is to entertain your audience and to keep them. And I think about that all the time, if you really want to break down the world into two types of storytellers and I think that be to be in particular has a hard time thinking about, hey, let's poke fun of ourselves. It's okay we can have a world class product and still make it fun. Yes, I mean the simple reality is that as human beings, we keep going back to the things that make us laugh, that is what we are constantly returning to. So if you're a marketer, like you've got to do that and then one of the biggest ways that you can make people laugh is like one of the most accessible forms of humor, I think is self deprecating humor. How did you personally get past that? Like self barrier? Like of insecurity around getting into self deprecating humor and then like how do you get other companies to get through that? For me, it's a pretty opposite problem most people, I think because my, my sense of humor is let's just say at business school with all of the finance classes, My personality type was clearly not the standard consulting investment banker type. So for me, I always found the corporate kind of handcuffs is like, you can't really express yourself, you always have to be a different self, showing up at work, felt very constraining to me. So I was really lucky. I came into this company, I was hired by the founders four years ago to scale the company and the founders were super fun too. So the founding journalist, uh, Ceo, his, you know, his background as a journalist and everything he wrote was fun and goofy. And basically it just gave me a platform to say, I can take this and run with this. I don't have to be anyone stuff. Actually. I would offend the founding Ceo who hired me uh, if I...

...was that type. So I was super lucky to do. So the question is like if you're a B two B market or how do you go to your CFO? How do you go to your um you know to a Ceo who doesn't believe the same values you do and express it. And I think you have to look at all of the marketing trends of like authenticity and the power of it. I look at companies like whiskey as one of our founding lights of like companies leading the way with fun personalities that totally changed B two B marketing and rand Fishkin and what they're right, you gotta find a way to stand out. So whiskey a story I think is a really interesting way to do this, which is when they were into their space. There are 15 companies that were doing B two B video hosting. It is not a very sexy space. Uh and their way that they stood out as they wrote a really goofy and funny viral video that just took off with less funding than everybody else. People want to interact with that brand to make it human. So I think the first step is to gain the permission from your company in order to run with what you want to and just have those fun brainstorming sessions. If we could do anything we wanted and write anything, we could right now, what would we write about? What would, what video do we do? This is kind of how we got to are you might have seen our piece that we right after I just was going to ask you about it. Yeah, so hilarious video that you guys made, its um you're like dressed as a doctor. I loved how it starts, You're like got a lab coat on and you're like, I'm not a doctor, but I do have an amazon prime account is where I got this lab coat and the place I haven't paused on right now is your listing different things that verbal leo can help with? And one of them is like C. B. D. For dog anxiety, M. D. M. A. For human anxiety. I mean you really got edgy in this video. How did the video happen? And uh tell me the story behind it? So first of all, we have, our team is super creative and we're always brainstorming these ideas and our problem is always which ones do we pursue as opposed to how do we come up with anything? Uh and then we have just an absolutely brilliant copywriter who like you need to have somebody on your...

...team who can foster your good ideas. So everyone's got great brainstorming sessions. To me this is like your great copywriter is a combination of the product manager on your dev team, who everybody comes up with a great development ideas that your engineering team should do and then they all get lost in space. Unless there is an amazing person who can handle the vision side and also the organization side. And for me, that's our brilliant copywriter, who can both capture all those ideas. Um curate them, figure out which ones are good and then bring them to life. So how do you get a copywriter like that? What do you look for? Oh man! You find somebody that you completely gel with and like get to you and you say your idea that you thought was funny and then they say it back to you and it's more funny and it's more accurate. Hi dan Sanchez here with a quick break from this episode, sponsor Vidyard. If you haven't started using personal video yet to enhance your marketing campaigns, you're missing out. Having the ability to quickly capture video and record my computer screen or both helps me not only create marketing assets faster, it makes them way more personable. I use personal videos in social media, email blast landing pages and even on our website, Vidyard makes it easy to record host in bed and share videos to more deeply engaged with your ideal buyers prospects have told me repeatedly that they are blown away every time they get one for me. So sign up for Vidyard free today by going to Vidyard dot com slash GDP growth and just like you guys, the team at Vidyard can't keep up with all these promo codes on podcasts, so they are making signing up as easy as possible. So no promo code needed. Just go to Vidyard dot com slash GDP growth. So start using vidyard completely free and as a bonus, get their 2021 B two B video trans guide. I like that. That's a really good just little tidbit. I also want to talk to you about this article...

...that you wrote. I'm going to read some of it and once again like this is not what I would normally do on a podcast episode, but you guys did this article attending burning man or inbound. We are more alike than we are different. 36 of our team attended inbound. In 21 of our team attended burning man this year. We were, this is funny, we were going to make a Venn diagram comparing the two, but then we realized it would look more like a solar eclipse than a Venn diagram. And then just you scroll down and there's um, it's like Burning Man or inbound one. Strange deafening club music at all hours of the day to strangers, keep approaching you and trying to give you things three, you're in a constant detox re tox cycle four after 10 minutes of talking to someone, you're still not sure what they're talking about. Oh man, this is good. How did this happen? So first of all, the concept of this one was mine. I will not say the majority are mine, but this one was just like, I just felt the cult spirit from both sides because I'm obsessed with cults and I like read all sorts of history of culture all the time. Anyway, I'm like, we are both in cults were a business cult. And so when it comes back, the first thing we do is it's not just like a one on one process. We have a slack channel that's all about brainstorm. And so creating a fun brand is not just about what the marketing team does, its about. You were reading off some of the things that we have fun copy even on our sales emails, we have an automated sales email that had a poem on it as a third automated message which was basically you've dropped off. We want to win you back. I can read that one too. But like the way you get that is you have to hire with that, that has to be one of your hiring criteria. So before you build a brand that you can turn into fund, you have to create your vision and then you have to hire the team that believes in the vision and lives it. And so like the step three where you get to have fun with the brand, you had to do a lot of work up front to really define how to get there. And so the story behind the Burning Man post was, we came back then we've created a channel that was pure brainstorming of everybody in our company, of everybody throwing out their ideas and because of...

...that, you know, probably three quarters of them came from everybody else in the company and only a quarter of them, maybe it came from the copywriter herself, but she, she pulls it all together and then we get to edit them. I love it. What I want to do with podcast episodes is try to make them as practical as I can. So the idea here is how to have fun with your brand, What would you tell listeners as like, here's the process, here's how you have fun with your brand. Step one, step two, wow, I don't really think of it as a step by step process. I will say that one of the key steps that we haven't included is the same key is to all good content, which is all good content is not just uh first is understanding your audience. The second is to what do you want to write about, But one of the most critical piece, if not the most critical, is consistency and making sure that you write something consistently produced video consistently, post on linkedin consistently, wherever is your main channel. And so what I'd recommend is you. So what we've started to do with my linkedin post, I try to post three times a week. One is my podcast share one is, you know, something on the hero story side and then my friday post is always going to be fun. And so we try to plan that out in our planning cycle, which is like if we haven't done something that's entertaining to us, that makes us smile and we want to share it with all of our friends every month and a half, then that needs to be part of our cycle. So I would say put it into your content calendar is the only way you'll ever make it a priority. What are some key ways that you try to vet the ideas that your team comes up with to figure out what you're going to go with and what you're not going to go with, especially for the too edgy stuff, which, which comes up too often. I would say that Well, that's probably one thing right? There is. So you've got a whole bunch of stuff coming your way that is too edgy. I mean, I would say that there's probably plenty of companies where they don't have that problem because they haven't encouraged...

...their writers to really swing for it. I think we so, first of all, did it entertain us? And if it entertained us a lot, then it's going to take a lot for us to take it away, even if it is too edgy. And then I think we just have our basic these are the people, each one of us has somebody that we trust, like our circle of like five people that we run it by. So it's pretty damn and formal Because we're we're 3000 writers, but we're like 30 people at our headquarters. We don't have to go through this bureaucracy. We don't have a legal department reviewing our copy any of the stuff that I would have had to do it. Some of the bigger companies that have worked at before. So I think right now, we don't have it very formalized. And until I get into trouble, we'll probably keep it that way. I don't know what your answer would be with this, but this is the question that's bubbling up to my mind. And that is how could you encourage somebody with a much smaller team, uh, with a very small team, maybe they got just a couple of writers to try to emulate the kinds of things that you're doing. I would say one of the things that we've been doing kind of informally is once we really kind of latched onto this idea is we started to try to write down things that we said in informal meetings. Like it doesn't all have to be a brainstorming meeting. Our best ideas are probably going to be with us, like in a normal, like a, you know, a product planning meeting. Somebody says something off the cuff. Oh my God, shouldn't we have a plan that just takes all of those clients and puts them into outer space and you're like, oh yeah, that's funny. But now we're trying to write them down, so it's really to uh make sure that we're thinking about them. My so I was a random history major and I threw out random history references generally about the Mongolian empire all the time. Okay, my marketing guy loves them, but I never do anything with them, and he's like, I'm writing them all down and I'm giving him back to you and those will be your linkedin post on friday. And so I think the key to great content is to take the stuff you've already done and put it out there, as opposed to think so hard about how do you create something that's never been done before? And then follow up question like it is, how do you think a smaller company...

...could be trying to emulate what you guys are doing and get it wrong? Um way number one that comes up to me is like, if you're trying to say, we're trying to have fun with our customer services messaging to, which is the time that, you know, your clients are most tense, they've got a piece of content back that they didn't love or they've been waiting one day extra for it. And like there, you know, at high, high anxiety mode with your company and you're trying to re win, that becomes the friendliest content creation platform in the business as we want as we strive to be. There are moments where you could really screw that up by trying to have too much fun while they're not having fun. And so how do you personally navigate it? We work on that tone multiple times. So what we try to do is we empower everybody in the company to have as much fun as with the brand as possible. So if you're gonna make I give you full license on my team to make the mistakes as possible. If you're trying to live the brand values and have fun and if it's received the wrong way, this is going to happen, but I'd rather have it, be received the wrong way and have somebody to remember us for something that we're doing that was unique than just be to corporate and not not the fun company they want to work with on their free time. And so the way we try to navigate that is to answer the question first, make sure you resolve the clients issue before you, you know, make it more more fun and are taking, Could you give me an example? I know I'm really putting you on the spot here, but do you think you could give me an example of something that you did to make it more fun? I mean, I know we're dealing with like sensitive information so you don't have to tell me like who it was and who messed it up and what they did. But I'm just curious uh as specific as you could get with, like what was the method or what, what did they do to be humorous at the same time as they were trying to make it better. I'm going to give you an example because I don't have one right off the bat, but I do have one of my favorite ones from wisteria that I was just sharing with the company. So they have a, your...

...credits are about to expire, which is, you know, just as painful and B two B as a message can be. And it ends with when you have a moment, could you please visit our building page to update your payment information? It would be much appreciated by the walrus in our building department. Nice. Great. It's just so clever. It's so easy. It's still on target. You're pushing the customer, but you're still like, we realize you're a person and we thought this was funny. Yeah, I love it. Steve, it's been really fun talking to you. How can listeners connect with you a few ways so you can see our site at virgilio dot com. E R E L O dot com. Uh, make sure to check out the publisher's page in the cannabis page if you're looking for most fun, copied, uh, and you can check out my um my podcast verbally O'shea, which comes out at the Wednesday. Love it. Thanks for being on. Thanks so much is your buyer at BB marketer. If so you should think about sponsoring this podcast. BtB Growth gets downloaded over one 130,000 times each month. And our listeners are marketing decision makers. If it sounds interesting, send Logan and email Logan at sweet Fish Media dot com. Yeah.

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