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The Clientside Podcast

Influencer Marketing with Neal Schaffer

The Clientside Podcast

43 min Neal Schaffer

Neal Schaffer is the founder of the digital marketing consultancy PDCA Social and the author of four books, including his most recent "The age of influence", a ground-breaking book redefining digital influence.

Neal is a popular keynote speaker and has spoken in more than a dozen countries. He also teaches at Rutgers Business School in Finland and the Irish Management Institute.

In this episode, Andrew and Neal talk about how the power of influencing is rapidly expanding and becoming central to business success. They also discuss the need to change our mindset around how we approach social media and capitalize on the power of the individual and community.

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If they have a social footprint, they can influence other people and therefore they should be treated as influencers. Treat your employees and customers that are really active on social as influencers and things will definitely change. You begin to see things a little bit differently.

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Podcast Transcript

[00:00:15] Andrew

Hi, everyone, welcome back to another episode of the Clientside podcast. I'm your host, Andrew Armitage, and the show is sponsored by the digital agency I founded called A Digital, which is based here in the Northwest of the UK. It's good to be back, as some of you might have noticed, we missed an episode last month, so thanks for taking the time to tune in. I hope you're doing ok. I don't know where the time has gone over recent weeks. And of course, after the Halloween weekend that signals the start of the holiday season for many people in the US. And the countdown seems to be on now to the end of the year and hopefully brighter times in 2022.

As usual, I'm joined today by a special guest to talk about their experience and share their expertise. And today we're going to be talking about influencer marketing. Our last episode around influencer marketing was back in 2019, shortly after the furori that was now the infamous Fyre Festival, which became a Netflix hit for all the wrong reasons. So I'm looking forward to hearing about what's new in the world of influencers and how this approach can support your campaigns and what you should be looking for. If you think influencer marketing fits within your digital strategy. So my guest today is Neal Schaefer, who is a leading authority on helping businesses through their digital transformation with a focus on sales and marketing. Neal works with companies to develop and execute successful social media marketing strategies, influencer led campaigns and social selling initiatives. He's the president of the social media agency PDCA Social, and he also teaches digital media at various institutions universities around the world. It's fluent in Japanese and Mandarin Chinese and is a popular keynote speaker. He's written four books on social media with the most recent book titled The Age of Influence, which covers the why and the how and every business should leverage the potential of influencer marketing. Neal is based in Irvine, California, from where he joins us now. So welcome to the show, Neal. Great to speak with you.

[00:02:12] Neal

Thank you so much for having me, Andrew. I'm psyched to be here.

[00:02:14] Andrew

Neal, just give our listeners a little bit of an introduction. Tell people what you do and what's led you to the work that you're doing today.

[00:02:23] Neal

Sure, well, I am a digital marketing consultant, I've been involved in digital and social media marketing now for more than a decade. I've written a few books. I teach at a few universities. I do a lot of speaking. The way that I help most companies today is through a service that I offer called a fractional CMO service that is a special, you know, digital marketing consultancy. So, yeah, you know, my most recent book, which I published in March of 2020. Perfect timing, right, was called The Age of Influence, and it was all about influencer marketing. But it's really that experience and with post-coronavirus marketing needs, that's driven me into more general digital marketing. So, yeah, you know, two clients that's, I'm sure, you know, clients are like everyone's needs are different. There are certain silos of needs like, you know, SEO and website design and what have you in branding? But yeah, I like to really use the word before we started holistic, I try to treat every one of my clients very, very holistically as to what are the pieces that are missing or what are the pieces that we can improve to help them make impact with their business through digital marketing?

[00:03:30] Andrew

Yeah, great. So it's interesting you launched your book just before the pandemic then. Was it back in March 2020, you said?

[00:03:38] Neal

Yes, I worked with a major publisher, HarperCollins, and the way that major publishers work is you're done with the book like a year in advance. Right, right. And then it goes through this process. So yeah, I mean, it literally came out March 19th, excuse me, March 17th, it was St. Patty's Day of 2020. And that's pretty much that day is when Gov. Newsom here in California announced the lockdown. And you know, I, like any other business, was really challenged. Well, how am I going to promote this book when physically I need to be in my home? And really, that experience drove me to understand that we really need to think, you know, we talk about the digital transformation, but I mean, it's here. We need to be digital first in everything that we do. And I think most businesses understand that some have been doing that. Some are still trying to figure it out and some are just way behind. But yeah, I personally experienced what every business goes through. And, you know, I've definitely grown from it and I know from my own business. And you know, Andrew, I don't know about your business last year, but I have my best year ever financially because there's just such a need now for digital and to really have digital as as the center, you know, the centerpiece of your business that I'm sure you promote all the time you hear customers as well.

[00:04:50] Andrew

Yeah, absolutely. And you know, it's fair to say we are coming out of the pandemic pretty strongly,really from a business point of view, you know, we're seeing in many businesses around the UK now, recruitment can be difficult. Finding those digital skills is a real challenge for many companies. But it's interesting. So your book came out just as lockdown was hitting, it was about the Age of Influence. Have you seen anything changed through the course of the pandemic that has not rendered the contents of the book no longer relevant, but have you seen changes in the behaviors through the pandemic that has sort of demonstrated a shift, shall we say, from what you wrote about pre-pandemic?

[00:05:31] Neal

Yeah, I think that things have only accelerated and I have even been more aggressive with my views since publishing the book that I take a look at influencer marketing purely from a digital marketing perspective. So influencer marketing is a type of paid media you can advertise on. Well, Google is a little bit different. It's based on search intent very, very different than social media, which is not based on search intent, obviously. So you can organically try to get the word out in social media. It's very, very difficult for a lot of reasons that we can go into. What happens is now, you know, over the last few years, companies have spent a lot of money on social media. Advertising, which is all good might be effective, but at the end of the day, it's advertising and the whole idea about social media. Andrew, I don't know if you remember in the early days of Facebook when companies were seen massive, you know, viral content from their Facebook pages, believe it or not, and their content was being seized by friends of fans. Well, the whole idea about social media for business is it's about word of mouth marketing and social media should bring viral word of mouth marketing, and it doesn't happen organically. It doesn't happen through ads. The only way to make that happen is really through influencers. And I redefine influencers, not just people with lots of followers, but people that have somewhat of a footprint in social media, but that also influence their community.

Even if it's a small essay, a thousand followers we call those nano influencers and I redefine influencers don't go after people you don't know, go after people you do know. And I sort of Andrew, you know, wrapped things like employ advocacy and brand advocacy. I sort of rolled all these into one and saying they're all influencers. If they have a social footprint, they can influence other people and therefore they should be treated as influencers. Treat your employees that are really active on social as influencers and things will definitely change. Treat your customers that talk to you on social media as influencers and once again you begin to see things a little bit differently. So, you know, since then I'm really telling companies, look organic social media, something you need to do. But if you really want to have business impact, it's going to come down to influencer marketing inside word of mouth, leveraging user generated content to the point where in an ideal world, your brand should not have to create your own content for social media.You are reposting what other people are saying about your brand or what other people are saying that has value to your followers.

So I think a lot of people look at influencers as these people with millions of followers, they're in these exotic locations. It doesn't look real. And as we know, as we went through COVID, we sort of thrive on the real, the authentic, the raw. My take on influencer market has never been look at those people. It's look at the people around you that already know, like and trust your brand or have some brand affinity and leverage those relationships in social media. So instead of looking at social media as a way to promote and advertise, look at it as a way to connect and collaborate and meet new people, make new friends, make new, you know, brand advocates and really continue the conversation. So that view has not changed. Like I said, I think you understand after going through why my views have only accelerated that. If you want to do organic social media marketing, you really need to be doing influencer marketing if you want to be successful.

[00:08:52] Andrew

Yeah. So that's that's interesting because we've gone from this perception of, as you were saying, people with lots of followers to actually everyone around us is an Influencer, but on a much smaller scale in many ways. And people who we or some companies, in certain cases wouldn't necessarily recognize as influencers, you talk about employees, those are clearly much smaller groups of people. You know, they're not necessarily people with huge followings, but nonetheless, their opinions can be, if not stronger than an outsider influencer, if that makes sense. So they absolutely need to be taken with that level of seriousness.

[00:09:28] Neal

Yeah, I mean, if your brand has a thousand followers in social media and you have five employees that each have a thousand followers on social media, that's potentially 5x more reach and the fact that these are people, not businesses. So inherently they're going to get an even bigger reach. Now I'm not saying you pay them to talk about you, but you find ways to create a collaborative relationship, right? And really, at the heart of influence is content creation is people being able to create content that really resonates with their community.

So, you know, instead of looking at influencers, another thing I talked about in my book that I only accelerated now in terms of the concept is instead of looking at influencers purely for amplification, look at them for content creation because every influencer creates content. And how can we leverage their content instead of us writing about our product? Why don't we hire them to write about our product instead of us doing a really expensive video shoot? Why don't we just, you know, work together with some of these influencers in our, you know, in our sphere of influence that actually have video creation skills or photography skills? I think we're at a point, Andrew, in twenty twenty one going into twenty twenty two, we're social media so mainstream we have, you know, one or two entire generations that have been brought up on it.And they're really savvy. They're savvy with the skills, like creating TikToks that businesses just, you know, they're not high school students that have plenty of time to play around with TikTok's. I mean, it's just not part of their skill set. And more and more, we find that with reels, with YouTube shorts, that it's very, very challenging for businesses to be able to create that type of content that they need to if they want to participate in those platforms that right now get the most visibility.

So I believe by creating this network and influencer network, a brand ambassador program, whatever you want to call it, just creating this type of community of, you know, some of your employees, some of your customers, maybe some industry influencers that are very, very active in social activity, creating content will have many, many benefits for your company.

[00:11:28] Andrew

Yeah, yeah. And you avoid that pay to play mechanism as well, which as you were saying, if because these are people, they're individuals, their content is much more likely to resonate not only with the people that are following them and the communities that they're in, but with the algorithms as well, of course.

[00:11:44] Neal

Oh, absolutely. And that's the thing. We all crave this authenticity. And when it comes from a business, if the content comes from a business, It's really hard. I know a lot of people have theorized about how businesses can be more human. Well, the way you're more human is when you showcase the people all around you in your content. I think that's the most human thing to do. So instead of trying to do it yourself, that others do it for you. And yes, people, you know, the people do well in the algorithms. Brands find it so hard to get any visibility. People do it very easily. So why don't we tap into that fact and begin this, this process of really reimagining? How we look at social media, and that's sort of the message that I've been telling the companies that we don't have to do it all our own, and it's actually quite liberating when you look at social media that way now. You talked about it's not paid media, so we don't have to pay money.

There might be instances, right, where you want to do a, you want to bring people together, you know, for a meeting so you pay for their travel or, you know, there might be smaller fees, you know, Amazon gift cards because everybody is different in terms of what they want.There might be a lot of there's a lot of free product, right? But I would argue this is something that companies have always been doing. They've always given free product to journalists. They pay their employees. It's not this, you know, this expense that they've never had before. That's going to cost them a lot of money. I think it's a very natural extension of everything that they've been doing. But now they see the people around them as influencers, they see the people around them as the new media, in fact, a concept we've been talking about for like a decade. But I think it's becoming more and more real today with how far we've gone with social media and just how mainstream of a medium, you know, not just people using it, but everybody around us using it.

[00:13:30] Andrew

Yeah, no, I agree. All of that makes a lot of sense. I'm interested with your teaching that you do at universities. I don't know if, are they undergrad students or are they sort of mature students? Are they generally younger people?

[00:13:45] Neal

So it's mainly executive education, right? So one of the programs is actually in Ireland. It's called the Irish Management Institute, and it's a digital business program. And we have people from, you know, we've had people from like the Bank of Ireland, you know, government, you know, you know, officials, executive leaders and they come from not just marketing, but, you know, HR and finance and sales really to get immersed into, you know, where we are in terms of leveraging digital for our business today is an example. So, yeah, the teaching is definitely at that, you know, people that have already gone through school, they've already graduated, they already have some work experience and maybe they just haven't had a chance to learn this and they want to learn about it. Maybe they want to get to that next level, or maybe they come from an entirely different discipline and they feel that they need to understand this in executive meetings, you know, board meetings, what have you.

[00:14:39] Andrew

Right.And I'm curious, are you seeing sort of a general shift in views of social media? And I'm thinking not so much in terms of how it's used, that mindset that you've just been talking about. But,you know,I feel there's a real risk, particularly with a lot of the the press about Facebook at the moment. Is there a risk that social media is a risk to itself? You know,are people coming with more of that feeling, particularly where privacy might be concerned and those sorts of things?

[00:15:09] Neal

Yeah, you know, it's funny if you just listen to the news, you would have think Facebook is dead. And the fact is that it's more alive than ever. You would think that Instagram is causing millions of suicides a day to our precious children. It's just not happening. Is it affecting things? Yes. But, you know, growing up, Madonna affected a lot of young teenagers as well, right in good and maybe bad ways. I don't know. We've always had these influences on us in our society, and maybe social media sort of amplifies this. But I do believe that, you know, I don't think Facebook or the meta whatever you want to call it is shutting down per say. I think there might be more regulation. I would argue there should be regulation on Google as well. You know, why just look at social media when there's other players on digital that affect things as well?

So I think we might see more governance. I think as far as privacy goes, we had an entire generation of millennials that at the beginning of social media, maybe they had a lot of issues with privacy. And I had so many people, Andrew, several years ago, say, Neal, how do I just completely, you know, delete my Facebook and start anew because they were embarrassed to what they posted on there like during their college days? I think the newer generation of Gen Z, they're beyond that, and they're savvy enough to have an Instagram profile for their personal branding, where they show a very a small subset of things and then another one that's just with their friends and having conversations offline rather than online. So I think we adapt. And you know, when I talked to a lot more, I'd say, you know, Gen X, baby boomer professionals, there is that privacy concern. But before social media, it was always there. If you've donated to a political party, those records are public. There's a lot of things out there. If you were to Google yourself that you'd be shocked to find, but a lot of people can find out a lot about us, even without social media. So it is a just like I am more than happy to have ads display in my Gmail.

I know at the beginning that a lot of people really opposed to that. I don't know if you remember in the early days of Google Mail, people are like, "Why do I have to see ads in my mail?" Well, it's a give and take right. Google gives us a lot of convenience. I mean, Google Analytics is free. It's an incredible piece of technology, right? So I'm more than happy to give up a little bit of privacy for that. I think after nine eleven, we were all especially Americans okay, giving up a little bit of privacy for security. So I think today with social media, we get way more out of it than our dangers. The people that might feel danger from social media probably never were really active at all on it. So I think it's going to continue. I don't see. I think that these are small little hiccups. It will change over time, as it always does. But I would tend to stop looking at the news and look at your own analytics. And I've seen some clients do really well organically with their Facebook business page over the last few months, while other people may think it's dead. So I always look at the data, ignore what people are talking about. You know, if Facebook is shut down, it's one thing, but if it's not shut down, you still got to deal with it and, you know, use it to your advantage.

[00:18:23] Andrew

Yeah. So I wonder,I wonder whether their name change, I presume there's some sort of corporate structure change around that as well. It's probably too early.Well, is that, is that in preparation for more regulation, that perhaps allows them to break elements off. Certainly, this idea of the Metaverse. You know, they've obviously got grand plans to keep introducing new bits and pieces to Facebook because I think traditionally they've fallen behind and sort of fallen into copying other platforms in some extent.

[00:18:53] Neal

Yeah, I mean, you know, there are some people that don't know that Instagram is owned by Facebook or WhatsApp is owned by it, so they were independent entities that came together. And if they go apart, you know, I think when Google restructured as alphabet, some people might have thought the same. But look, nothing's changed. So I think it's more cosmetic. I think it's more, you know, don't think of us as just social media, AR VR. That's sort of the direction we're going.

We have Oculus and, you know, the whole idea about the meta. So I think that they're sort of thinking ahead rather than being defensive. But yes, they know that more regulation is coming as any other social media should know. And I don't know if that helps them prepare for it. I also think in, you know, it's sort of like when presidents start wars overseas, people stop talking about domestic policy because they're worried about the war. I think also when Facebook makes this move, the focus is on the name and their future, rather than all the issues that they have. So was it a political ploy? Probably. But, you know, over the last decade, I've really avoided all the political things about social media and all the fortune-telling. I really try to focus on the here and now because guess what? It doesn't matter what happens to the Facebook a year from now. What's important is what happens to your business today and tomorrow. All right. So, you know, I don't tend to dwell on those things, and I'd recommend people listening not to either, you know, as long as Facebook is still existing, that nothing changes in the way that you would do your social media marketing, right?

[00:20:21] Andrew

Yeah. Yeah, really good point that these things can change. But ultimately, you've got to look after your own interests, haven't you, in terms of how you are using these platforms for business? So, yeah, we've spoken largely about social media. Of course, that's just one part of the ecosystem for a lot of companies. You know, they'll have their websites, they might have podcasts. There's all sorts of different channels that people are using. Are people in your experience sort of biased towards social media because it has gone mainstream and it's so common now? You know, it's almost a given that people have social media profiles. Are they almost neglecting other channels for the sake of social media?

[00:21:03] Neal

Yeah. So I think I mean, my background is more on the social media marketing than the digital marketing side. So I am a social media marketer turned digital marketer. So people and businesses that come to me tend to come to me because they've seen my books about social media marketing. That's very, very natural. And I think that it's still is in many ways, the shiny new toy. But when I went through this experience with my own book and then with clients coming out to me asking for help around the time of lockdown. I realize, look digitally if you want to be discovered, and after being discovered, you want to nurture people in your funnel, what have you.

Digitally speaking if we were to think in general terms, there's only three main ways that we can get in touch with people digitally. One is through social media, but another one is through search. And another one is through email. And I do believe what is old is new. What is old is sexy because I think a lot of people have neglected the search and email part for a decade, and they've just focused on the social and they put everything else on autopilot and they're missing out on really thinking about it in a very, very new way. Email really took on a new life with coronavirus. I think we all know that all of a sudden we started getting all these emails from companies that we've been doing business with. Like all of a sudden, out of the blue, right? Because when you think about it, the best way to keep in touch with your customers digitally is email. But, if they're not your customer, you can't send them email, although I know people use systems and they, you know, they upload lists and do that, I'm not a big fan of that, but I know what happens.

[00:22:42] Andrew


[00:22:43] Neal

I'm not an advocate, but I know a lot of companies that do that. They've had some success with it. It comes with some risks, but you know, email is the best way to do that. But how do you get customers right? How do you how do you get them or how do you keep in touch with them to get them on your email? The only way to do that is to get them on your website, right? So well, how do you get them on your website? Well, that's where search plays a huge role. That's where social media can play a role as well. So you begin, or I began to look at things in a very, very different way and really crystallize, you know? Yes, within social media, within search, there's a tremendous amount of things you can be doing, but let's simplify it. Do we have all our eggs in one basket or are we doing all these?

And and I don't know about you, but surprisingly, you know, email marketing, marketing, automation, these software have become so sophisticated at such an inexpensive price. Yet so many companies have not yet taken advantage of them. And that, to me, has been the biggest shocker. Oh, well, we haven't really done anything with our email list. I'm like, Are you crazy? That is still the most effective in terms of ROI, the most effective type of digital marketing there is. And Andrew, it's really funny because on the social side, I've helped my clients as well as my own content rank first page. I'm not, you know, this isn't voodoo. I'm a believer, Andrew, that there's a lot of outdated and really, really bad content out there on the internet. And if you are listening to this and in your industry, when you do a search for a keyword that's really relevant to your company and you're wondering not only why you're not on the top page, but also why is this really bad or your relevant content up there? That's where there's tremendous opportunity, and I think for most companies and most industries, there is tremendous opportunity with search engine optimization because there's so much bad content, outdated content or just not useful content.

It's really interesting, Andrew. I see companies that they want to rank, let's say, for influencer marketing, right? A lot of influencer marketplaces and influencer marketing software and tools. The content that makes for influencer marketing is content around what is influencer marketing. Now, some of these companies are smart, and they've written posts like that, but it's allowed people like me to outrank these companies that have much higher SEO and content marketing budgets, right? And that's the whole idea is don't look at, you know, search as a way. Yes, you promote your business, but more importantly, you're building a relationship and you're trying to get people on your website to learn more. And that's where you're naturally going to get them into your funnel. So, you know, I like to look at the old as new and sexy, and hopefully if you're listening, you'll reach out to Andrew because there's plenty of opportunity out there for any business today. And I've seen it happen. I've seen startups go from nowhere, you know, spending, you know, 10, 20, 30 thousand dollars a month on pay per click advertising and outdoing that with their blog content getting more traffic, more leads because the traffic is more relevant and for free, you know, unplugging that ad budget and doing it purely from blogging and content marketing.

[00:25:40] Andrew

Yeah. There's no two ways about it. There are still huge content opportunities and I've always been a real fan of the book by Marcus Sheridan, They ask, you answer. And I think he lays it out in such simpleterms that, you know, as you say, it's not rocket science. You look for the problems, the pain points that people have and you go about answering those, not just in a way that, as you said, the example you gave what is influencer marketing, but actually, you can then start and take that conversation a little bit further and say, Well, this is what influencer marketing is, but this is how you can then adapt it and benefit from it in your particular sector or how you might get started with it so you can lead people through that journey, if you will, into other content areas and that might be other sections of your site. It might be the opportunity to encourage people to sign up for that content, which is then delivered by email. But I think ultimately it's about as much of this working in harmony as possible. You can't just rely on a single channel. You've got to have that element of social content, that element of web content. And as soon as you start and join the dots together between those different channels, that's where you can achieve lift off because you've got email that's coming along, you've got the interaction and engagement over on social, people coming, that organic traffic coming to the website, searching for those challenges, the pain points that they've got. And when you've got all of those in harmony, you can also start to better understand your customers because you can start more conversations with them.

[00:27:14] Neal

Amen. They all work together, and they all affect different people at different stages of the funnel. And once you get all that together, it is an orchestra, right? And you're the conductor. But I also want to say, for those of you listening, this isn't just about getting on to some, you know, oh, I'm just going to outsource, a blog post, what is influence marketing and rank high and get leads. You have to have your own perspective. And that's the important thing is that, you know, I think that companies have so much IP. My background is actually B2B sales before all this, before social media. And I know that when I brought the CEO, the founder out to my clients, the stories were incredible. And I see, you know, you know, Marcus Sheridan talks a little bit about this as well. I think it's just a matter of getting the IP that your company, your own perspective, what makes your perspective on your industry different than your competitors?

Why people, by getting all that out there in your blog content is really, really critical because you don't want people coming and then seeing something bland. I find and when I wrote the age of influence bringing influencer marketing back into this, it's all about creating an emotional connection.And it's very, very hard for brands to do. It's very, very easy for people to do it. But the more brands can do it, at least in their content, to really, I'm not going to say go out on a limb, but talk about things the way if you were talking to a client and be opinionated because I think people really appreciate that part of the problem with content marketing and, you know, blog content is there's a lot of bland content out there on opinionated content, and your company should have an opinion. You want to lead your customers the right way, so use it as a platform and don't, you know, don't just there's a very technical side of SEO, which is, you know, the keyword research, keyword optimization. You've got to have an opinion if you really want to make an impact. And those companies that do is similar to, hey, you sign it from email list, you unsubscribe. Great. We were not the best match. Same thing. But when you when your perfect match comes to your your site, you want to make sure that you grab them. And the only way to do that is through that type of content.

[00:29:17] Andrew

Yeah, I must admit I'm on a few mailing lists with people who do have strong opinions. And you know, it does occur to me on a on a few occasions. Should I unsubscribe? Do I really want to keep seeing this information?But the reality is those strong opinions form a very strong community, don't they? Because for all the people that unsubscribe, those that remain in theory are probably going to be, you know, they've passed the threshold. They're probably twice as engaged as anyone else anyway. So having that opinion not only helps you to stand out as a point of difference, but I think it presents an opportunity for your audience to be, you know, to really double down on the level of engagement rather than just be actively on your list and receiving email, but actually look forward to receiving the email because they want to hear that next part of the story, the next opinion that someone has that that they can either really get behind and think, right, well, that's something I'm going to take away, and I'm going to do that because I really agree with it, or they strongly disagree with it, and they take an opposite course of action. So I think absolutely, I completely agree. Having that opinion is, you know, it delivers benefits in more ways than one.

[00:30:30] Neal

You know, we didn't ask for the iPhone. Steve Jobs delivered the iPhone. We didn't subscribe to the Apple newsletter for the iPhone, right? But leaders lead right. Leaders have opinions and leaders, you know, bring us down a certain path. So even, you know, the iPhone, I might not have been interested at the time, but I was fascinated by the technology. I still would have kept subscribing to that newsletter to see where it went. There's a gentleman I have tremendous respect for. His name is Joe Polizzi, he is the godfather of content marketing. He started a new company called The Tilt, and he talks all about NFTs and tokens for creators. I'm not in that scene, right? But he's branded himself so well that I still am sort of curious. I still get his newsletters. I may not read every one of them, but there may be a time where I may want to go deeper and deepen that relationship, and therefore I remain on that list.

[00:31:22] Andrew

And you know where to go when that point comes.

[00:31:24] Neal

And I know where to go exactly. Because guess what? Your customers also evolve. They may not need you today. They may need you tomorrow or vice versa. So knowing, you know, being top of mind and having a brand be top of mind is part of brand differentiation another part is emotional connection. And you get that when you're opinionated so long as it's relevant, right? So,yeah, you know, I think we're in agreement on that. And I think it's something that's missing. People just say, oh, we've got to get an email. What are we going to write about? Well, think about it a little more strategically. That's how you're developing and ideally deepening your relationship with your current and prospective customers.

[00:32:03] Andrew

Yeah, yeah, Neal, I want to just pick up on something which we touched on briefly before we started recording, whereby we were talking about digital transformation, and you were saying that so many companies have made this transformation or they're on this transformation journey. Let's be clear, transformation is not a start and an end process. It's something that's continually ongoing. But what's really interesting is that that people on the receiving end or those who are subscribing, those who are interested in products and services they're not necessarily on, or at least they're not on the same digital transformation journey is very much different priorities, different directions. How do you think companies can best adapt to that? What's the thing that they need to do to reach those people who digital transformation is not really such a thing, and it's perhaps never even entered their minds?And yet we all want people to behave in a certain way that helps us with our own digital transformation.

[00:33:00] Neal

Yeah. You know, my view on the digital transformation is that people are digital first in how they use technology and companies are obviously trying to play catch up, but sometimes when they enact a digital transformation, it ends up being really, really inefficient and ineffective and not aligned with how people use digital. I'll give you an example yesterday. You know, my daughter has a cold. So we went to a local urgent care and they were, you know, you could schedule everything online. And then we got these texts, please, you know, don't forget your appointments coming up. And then when we get there, we go outside and it says, call this number. And then when we call the number, it doesn't say anything about, we know that you're here right now. And it was just this complete misalignment. Well, in the automated text, couldn't you say when you arrive, stay in your car and call this number? I got 10 texts, three emails. None of them mentioned that.

So this is an example of misalignment of companies trying to do everything digital, but they're only thinking of their own convenience rather than the end customer, the end user. And that's where I think you need to get closer to them. Part of this idea of an influencer program which include your customers is getting closer to them as having regular conversations with them, better understanding how they use your product, what their needs are.I think so many businesses for so long, you know, customer service is a cost center. Once they get the deal, they're sort of done. And I think over the last decade, companies are waking up to the fact that, you know, advocacy and word of mouth and customer experience is critically important. We weren't talking about customer experience a decade ago, were we? I mean, some of the thought leaders like Brian Solis, were publishing books about it, but for ninety nine percent of businesses, they weren't talking about it.

So that's really, really important is, you know, is the cx for the dx of this alignment. And there's no other way you can do that than to really understand your customer. There's it's so critical for so many things, but for the digital transformation, absolutely. From a marketing perspective, I think it's a little bit easier. But when you get to your product and the way that you communicate with your customer, in that example I gave it becomes really critical that you have alignment. Otherwise it could backfire, right? And it could be like, I'm, you know, that was such a weird experience. I'm never going to come back to this urgent care again, right? Very dissatisfied as my daughter was like, this is so weird. I'm like, Exactly, this is not the way it should be.

[00:35:28] Andrew

Yeah, yeah. Because a company or an organization is set out to make something better, but inadvertently they've made something worse. And unfortunately, it's the bad things that sometimes have that greater lasting impression, isn't it?

[00:35:41] Neal

Yeah. Oh, and we'll get you. We'll get you the results, you know, in the next few days. So because she had cold symptoms, she had to take a coronavirus test. Oh, but in order to get the results you need to, you need to create an account here. Well, why coronavirus is life critical? Why are you making me jump through, you know, wires to try to get access to that information? So it's I understand in the medical industry there's in the United States, you have something called HIPAA, there's privacy laws. I understand that, but nevertheless don't force your customers to have to jump through hoops in order to get the information or the product or service that they're looking for. That's really the most important thing because when the when digital works really well from a consumer perspective, they almost want to tell their friends about the experience on the flip side.

[00:36:26] Andrew

Yeah, yeah, absolutely.And you know, there's lots of examples where we've seen that expectation mismatch and and things don't work out. So, yeah, setting expectations.And it amazes me, I think for so many businesses who own websites they don't go back and look through it through the eyes of their customer. You know, they're perhaps focused on what's the process that we're trying to solve here. What do we want our customers to do? But what is the actual experience of that customer? What do they feel? How do they how do they find that and what do they feel at the end of it?I think that's that's one of the most overlooked things. And you talk about customer service, it's never been more needed.

There are so many tools now that allow you whether it's your pop up intercoms or the Zendesk type, help desk type things. You know, so many customer service tools and that expectation is there. And you know, you talk about other books. One of the books that I came across during my research from my own was a title called High Tech High Touch, which was originally coined. That phrase was coined back in the 80s, and the idea of that high tech has to be offset with something that is high touch, and we've got the tools to offer that high touch. We've got the tech that can offer the automation, but that doesn't mean that that customer service element, you know, can be automated entirely. Yes, we can do some great automation there, but ultimately, what is the experience that people have first hand of going through that process? And yes, how customer friendly is it? But I think out of the pandemic, how human friendly is it? How does it work within our emotion and you talked about emotional connection earlier, so I think all of those points really come together and that customer service been really,really key.

[00:38:10] Neal

Yeah, you know, it's funny, you mention that I'm still working on the subtitle for this next book, I'm writing about, you know, digital marketing, but you know, I would argue that analog skills, analog experiences are more important than ever in digital. And that's really the way because at the end of the day, it comes down to people. And I've seen too many companies just go to digital to where they do not have a relationship anymore with the end customer. You know, Amazon is a really interesting company. I have sent an email to Jeff Bezos. I'm sure he doesn't read these emails, but you know, the next day we had a knock on our door of someone actually coming out here from Amazon trying to resolve the issue. That's the sort of, you know, high tech, high touch. You know, I'm going to check out the book as well because I'm a big proponent of that.

It all comes down to relationships. It all comes out at the end of the day of pleasing, people pleasing other companies, if you're B2B and digital, has to help facilitate that, not hinder that. It's all about this natural, holistic the orchestra, right? It should be a natural part of that. So, you know, if you're struggling with that, that's good because you understand that. I think so many companies don't understand it and they just go through it. Well, I have a website, they're checking the boxes, but they haven't done. And if I know a few experts in customer experience, you know, they talk about the first thing you do as a customer experience audit. What is, what do your customers experience when they go through your website, when they become a customer of yours? And most companies don't do that very, very basic thing, and that's something very, very critical as a starting point. When you do that, you're going to find some gaps in that customer experience, and that's going to lead you to some great insight and to really, you know, significantly improve what you're doing as a company with your digital transformation.

[00:39:58] Andrew

Yeah. Yeah, well, really fascinating conversation, Neal really enjoyed that, but we are coming up on time, I'm afraid. And I don't want to keep you. So, Neal, just tell our listeners where people can learn a little bit more about you. You've got books that are out on Amazon.Where's the best place for people to look you up online?

[00:40:17] Neal

Well, my name is Neal Schaefer, I'm the real Neal, so it's spelled n.e.a.l,, last name Schaffer, s.c.h.a.f.f.e.r. Everywhere on social w ith that, my website is You can pick up my book, The Age of Influence wherever you buy books, and I also have a podcast called the Your Digital Marketing Coach podcast. For those of you that want to continue the conversation through your earphones.

[00:40:41] Andrew

Fantastic. Great. Well, it's been a really interesting conversation. Love talking to you. Really appreciate your time, thanks for joining me today.

[00:40:48] Neal

I thank you, and we could have gone through a few pints talking about this stuff, so hopefully next time.

[00:41:04] Andrew

So huge, thanks to Neal. He's had an early start over in California, and as always, we really appreciate the time given up by our guests to appear on the podcast. So do look him up and look out for his next book, as well as his most recent book, The Age of Influence. So in effect, I think Neal is saying we're all influencers now, and the influencers for your next campaign can be found in what you might have thought were unlikely audiences. You just need to change our mindset around how we approach social media and capitalize on the power of the individual and community. Now it's true that digital has massively accelerated through the pandemic. Lloyds Bank here in the UK produced a report called the Consumer Digital Index, which came out earlier this year, and they found that before the onset of coronavirus, it would take until twenty twenty five for fifty eight percent of the population to obtain what is known as a high digital capability. However, here we are in late 2021, and the acceleration of online activity has meant that 60 percent of consumers have achieved this already. Who knows where we'll be by? Twenty twenty five, but I can only imagine this growth will continue to gather pace. It is, in many ways far easier for consumers to make their own personal digital transformations than it is for companies.There are fewer dependencies, less impact on others. Plus individuals can move much more at their own pace. But the example that Neal gave towards the end of our conversation just goes to show how important that alignment is between organisations and their customers to create a positive experience, rather than one that might have the right intentions, but ultimately a second rate delivery.

So we'll wrap up there today, although while we're on the subject of digital transformation, I will remind you of my own book holistic website planning, which focuses on how your website sits at the heart of your digital transformation. The book's website is Go the, where you can learn more about the book. Download a free chapter, as well as a handful of free resources. So thank you for tuning in. Great to have you with me today. Please share the episode on your favourite social media platform, and if you can, we'd love you to leave a quick rating and review. You can contact me on LinkedIn or Twitter, or head across to our agency website at a Have a great week! I'll be back in a couple of weeks time. See you then. Cheers.