Fighting the decline in value from commoditisation. Talk Marketing 012 - Rik Muscat-Azzopardi

Fighting the decline in value from commoditisation. Talk Marketing 012 – Rik Muscat-Azzopardi

Martin 0:04
Okay, good. Good afternoon, Mr. Muscat Azzopardi. How are you?

Rik 0:08
Good afternoon. I’m doing fine. Thanks. How are you?

Martin Henley 0:12
I’m very well. Thank you just doing fine?

Rik 0:15
Yeah, just doing fine for the moment. It’s Friday after a very long and busy week. So we need a breather.

Martin Henley 0:23
Okay, so that sounds to me like grounds for being good. Not just fine. It’s Friday, you’re at the end of a busy week.

Rik 0:31
Yeah, it’s the grounds for being good.

Martin Henley 0:34
Good. Okay, so let’s upgrade that fine to good, shall we?

Rik 0:37
Let’s negotiate. Yes.

Martin Henley 0:41
Thank you so much for agreeing to, I’ll put my teeth back in and say that with vowels, for agreeing to join me, spend some time with me on this Friday afternoon. We’re here to talk about marketing. This is actually the 12th time I’ve done this and people take offense, you’re probably the 12th most interesting person I’ve met in the last 20 years that I’ve been working in marketing, that’s not true. You are the 12th most difficult person to get hold of and sit down with. So here we are talking about marketing, how do you feel about that?

Rik 1:13
Good. About talking about marketing? Or how do I feel about marketing?

Martin Henley 1:17
We’re gonna come to how you feel about marketing? How do you feel about talking about marketing first?

Rik 1:21
Great, great. I think you have a challenge stopping me.

Martin Henley 1:27
Okay.That’s good. That’s good. So I’ve given you an idea of the format, the format is really quite simple. I’m going to ask you how you’re qualified to talk to us about marketing, how you feel about marketing, what it is that you do, how you offer value to your customers, and then kind of how you feel about the situation that we find ourselves in currently, and what your recommendation is for people who are looking to invest in their marketing. That normally takes about an hour and 15 minutes.

Rik 1:58
Let’s do this. Let’s do it.

Martin Henley 2:01
Okay, good. So tell us, what do I call you in a professional context? I call you Rik, do I call you Richard? Do I call you, Rick?

Rik 2:09
Rick. Rick works?

Martin Henley 2:11
Okay, good. Rick, tell us how are you qualified to talk to us about marketing?

Rik 2:15
A combination of factors, I think there’s some education there, but the education is – I still had hair when I learned stuff, so I don’t think that’s very valid any longer. So I think it’s a question of quite a lot of experience at this stage, using what we have learned. What I learned back at university, that was a pre-digital age, so that it’s, it’s quite, it was quite different at the time and applying it through quite a lot of experience both stuff for ourselves for quite a long time and running Switch now for eight years from a digital point of view, and then the rest of the agency for about five of them. Yeah. So that’s, that’s why I guess, doing a good job with most of the stuff that we work with, or most of the people that we do work with, getting good results, and enjoying doing what we do, which is I think, the biggest player.

Martin Henley 3:25
Okay, cool. So you run an agency called Switch?

Rik 3:29
Yes, I do.

Martin Henley 3:32
And you have been running that agency for the last five years.

Rik 3:36
I’ve been running the agency. Switch started off as a brand agency and I started a digital agency besides Switch eight years ago and then we merged the agencies five years ago, because digital, the digital side became as large as the traditional side. Then we just sort of moved and became much stronger into the digital side of things as time went by. Now we’re, I think, primarily a digital with a good arm for brands, but usually brands and digital still have to work hand in hand so digital is what we lead with.

Martin Henley 4:20
Okay? Because I’ve always thought of you as a quite creative agency, because you’ve got that beautiful studio and Ed obviously is a photographer and kind of very strong brand person. So I’ve always thought of you as more, and when I first came across you guys, that was probably 2014, so that was six, seven years ago; I thought that Switch meant switch to digital. It didn’t mean that?

Rik 4:50
No it didn’t mean that at all, Switch was just Switch. Okay, so now you’re probably explaining why switch exists as well. My background is in publishing, before moving to Switch, I ran my own publishing company for a few years, and then we sold that off. And then I moved into another publishing role where I was an employee at the time. From that publishing role, I moved into a marketing role with a US company that had an office in Malta. So what took me back to digital marketing, and what made me want to move into Switch and start the digital part of things is taking the, I think, the publishing experience and the publisher experience into digital marketing, because at the time, content marketing was everything. So taking the content, my content experience, from publishing into digital marketing seemed like a natural leap. To an extent, If I look at us as a digital agency, or as a creative agency, or as a brand agency, I would say we’re somewhere in between and what what we do is make sense of the three areas to work together to grow brands.

Martin Henley 6:19
Okay, good. Okay. So there’s a few things there that I’m interested in. Firstly, the publishing thing, I also came from publishing, I was in media sales, after I graduated, I was in one of these big media sales shops in a big publishing house in London. And I did that. And then what’s interesting is that when I was running the Effective Marketing Company and running the courses, we’d very often have publishers come along, and they never really got it and I never understood why. Because it seemed to me that digital marketing really was just the same principle as publishing, you build an audience, you entertain, educate that audience, and then you leverage that audience through kind of advertising or content or whatever. So that’s kind of interesting. And then the and then the three areas you’re talking about are content, digital, and brand. Is that what you’re saying? Okay, so it’s about kind of marrying those three or balancing those three. And then the third thing that’s interesting is that you’re doing this exclusively for brands, is that how you think about your customers? What is the difference between a brand and another kind of a business? So there’s three things there.

Rik 7:36
Okay, so let me start from the first one, I think with the first one, you took publishing as an output, and I took publishing as an input. So the way I looked at linking content to publishing or publishing the content, is in terms of how we produce the content. what’s happened over there, sorry about that. So, so what we do over there is we, I, I sort of built the structure and that is, I think, one of our strongest areas from, from an agency point of view at this stage with the content side of things, social media, with creating content for, for sites, working on blogs, and doing all that stuff. What we did was took the publishing side of things, which was, at the end of the day, when you’re running a magazine, you have to have a certain number of pages that are the same, you have to have a certain number of features that are the same and all of that works together to build the magazine at the end of the month. If you had to start the magazine every month, from scratch with no structure, you go crazy, or you just fail at what you’re trying to do. So what we did with at the time, what we still do now is plan content for our clients and for our brands in a way that’s similar to how we used to run magazines. So we create content to a structure that is easy to follow and easy to replicate, and keep it interesting for people for different audiences. If you want more detail about that we will go into in a bit more detail; about how we build our content structures a bit later, but if I start talking about that now it will take up all my time.

Martin Henley 9:43
Let’s talk about that a little bit, what was your role in publishing? What What were you doing?

Rik 9:50
What I was busy doing? Technically, I was editing publications. I was the editor of a couple of magazines, but I also had the role in some cases of a publisher. So both with when it was my brand, I was there as a publisher first and as an editor se cond. When it was, when I was employed, my role was more of a publisher, I was sort of leading, I had p&l responsibility of the business unit in that case, but I also had to look at the editorial process in terms of making sure that it runs well from from a procedure point of view. So I ended up with everything.

Martin Henley 10:35
Okay, and I suppose, because you are coming from editorial, and publisher type roles, and I was in sales, I was just only interested in the commercial aspect, whereas you were into interested more in the content aspect and that makes perfect sense. So I didn’t know that you came from publishing. So that’s interesting. I think you’re absolutely right what I’ ve said to businesses, people for the last 15 years is that now, especially with social media, the opportunity is to become the media company, and to take that step closer to your customer, and not have to go through the media company, kind of middleman. So that’s really interesting. Then the principles of media, consistency, quality, relevance, all of those things are the things that actually make digital marketing work, I think, and content marketing, especially work.

Rik 11:30
I think to build on that, if you use the media analogy, what clients, I think the hardest, the biggest challenges we found early on was that clients couldn’t see that when they’re buying media, when they’re buying space and media, they’re paying for the creation of content, and for the space. So when a client both put 1000 euros into an ad, or a print magazine, they were paying eight euros to the publisher for actually running the publication, employing journalists, writing the content, editing the content, taking photos, getting the photos into the publication, designing the publication and all of that; the the big shift that we saw, and I think the the big challenge we saw early on was that the expectations remain the same from clients, so they expected people to still, so if they came to an agency at the time, and they had 1000 euro budget, they were expecting 800 of those 1000 euros to go to media spend. What I think really changed and what really started clients benefiting was when they started putting 800, that 800 euros into content creation and 20 euros and 200 euros into media spend, because the biggest challenge at the time, and I think the way we managed to get clients to really accelerate their performance was when they realized that I can either put 800 euros to distribute really bad content to a lot of people, or else use 200 euros to distribute 800 euros worth of content to a few people who are already interested. That change its a total, excuse the cliche, it’s a total paradigm shift, it’s changesd how people view their spend or changed how people view their spend at the time and luckily now it’s much less of a problem than it used to be at that time.

Martin Henley 13:50
Okay, and this is interesting to me as well, because I was talking about, I was talking to people about social media, specifically in 2008 and I was saying literally what you’re saying now, I was saying that 80% of the budget used to be for space, now the space is effectively free and it’s all about creativity. Then we saw some amazing companies become amazing brands, like I’m thinking of the what was the company? Will It Blend the blender company. They effectively built a TV studio in their in their factory, because they did so brilliantly well, because they understood this, they produced the brilliant content that was always relevant. It was always about the quality of their products. And and they did fantastically well. Because I was there that early, I saw it come around again, where actually the social media companies just became media companies and now you are expected to pay for the space again but I suppose it’s not 80/20 where it was before maybe it’s 50/50. But yeah, Okay,

Rik 15:02
You still pay for the space, but you still need to provide quality content. So, whereas earlier, you could just pay for the space now, if you just pay for the space, you still have nothing, you still have to have something to say. So you’re still expected to be a publisher, even if you’re a brand.

Martin Henley 15:26
Yes. So, and I think what happened was, it was absolutely you have to pay for the space, all the sudden the space is free, now you have to pay for the space again. You know, I suppose what’s gone on in on that cycle is that the advertisers or the businesses, we’re not necessarily talking about advertising, they’ve got used to the idea that they have to invest in their own content. I suppose, didn’t brands, before the internet, they were investing in decent content anyway, they were investing in their ads and stuff. So it’s interesting. Okay, so that’s interesting, I understand a bit more about you. what was the other thing that we’re talking about you do this to help brands grow was the language that used, what does that mean?

Rik 16:17
I don’t think it was a conscious choice of words, but I’ll let you hold me to it. So what we what that means is, by putting all three of them together, I find it very hard to understand, wait, I do understand specialisation, like hyper specialisation, I do understand if you’re an agency that just focuses on PPC and driving the absolute best value for PPC for a number of clients, because there’s scope for that kind of agency. The the issue with an agency like that is that it should rely on a very strong internal structure within a client. Failing that, then you need someone who can handle the whole channel of communications, because when we look at clients who concentrate on one area, without looking at all the rest, it’s very easy to fall into a trap that the need to focus on on a specific KPI, for example, without following your brand messaging. So if I don’t, if you go out with stuff that’s overly tactical, without looking at the long term effects on your brand, then you’re you might score a win at that particular time, but it’s going to be very hard for you to take that and build upon it. Going back to the to the advertising spent example, I would say that, if you look at how people spend money on advertising the minute something ends, the minute you stop gaining any traction from that particular spend. So if I’ve put 1000 Euros into these ads, driving people to sales on my shop tomorrow, because I have a 20% off everything that is going to bring people and they are going to have those people buying from me, but I haven’t worked on building any loyalty. So the minute they stop spending money, and the minute they stop discounting, I’d stop reaping the benefits. Whereas if we look at it, in an end as a whole thing, if you look at it is a cycle that starts from people looking at the brand, understanding the brand, finding and building an emotional connection with the brand, then, even if I see an ad, and I don’t buy, at least I’m getting some brand value out of that. And at least I’m getting some long term connection with the brand. And I might decide that the brand is not for me, but at least I can form an opinion. It’s not just about it’s not just a transactional process. So when you take all three, when you take the, let’s call it the brand sides, the creative sides, or the content sides, the bit in the middle and the digital side, which is how we get that content to people at what price and for what ROI. If we if we dropped the ball on any one of them, then we’re doing a disservice to the brand as we’re working with. You know, we do all three of them that we’re building the brand over the longer term.

Martin Henley 19:39
Okay, good. Right. So I was thinking, or I was wondering if they, because I know you do work with brands, like Kinny, the Maltese soft drinks brand. You do have done, I don’t know if you continue to do work with Vodafone there in Malta. So you do work with brands. So does that mean they need to be brands before you will engage with them. I think brand for me, it’s about an evolution, a successful evolution in a growing company. At some point a business will realize that they need to invest in brand, and then they will come to an agency like you. Or is it the case that you if somebody comes in? How does that work? How do you qualify them in? Do they have to be a brand before they come? Or not? or something else?

Rik 20:38
Okay, so I don’t think that anything that is not a brand exists, does that make sense? So Martin is a brand, Rik is a brand. So if you come to us, then you somehow, somewhere, have a brand. It’s either a brand that’s waiting to come out and to be articulated and then we’ll work on that. So no, you don’t already have to have a brand to start working with us. You can come to us for specific areas of work if you need specialised services from us, and not the entire brand experience, you can still come to Switch and get good services over there. What we will do time and time again if you have absolutely no brand, and you’re starting off, then we’re going to be happy to help you start that brand. We’ve done it with loads of brands, where we start a brand up from scratch from just an idea taking it to a set of values, a purpose and a vision for that brand that we work with. A lot of brands are either starting or who need that to be articulated sometimes we’ve sat with, with with brands that are 15-20 years old, even even older, and gone through a brand exercise to articulate their values and their vision because they hadn’t done it a long time and they start losing direction. And what we will do, and I think what maybe sets us apart or makes us difficult to work with, because I admit that at some point it does create a bit of issues with clients is that we’re we’re always brand obsessed. So we will not let you do stuff, or we will strongly recommend that you do not do stuff that’s going to damage your brand in the long term. And we will try to find ways around solutions that you need, that will still help your brand in the long term, whether it’s a one man brand, whether it’s a personal brand, or whether it is working with the the giant brands out there, we still need the brand elements to be thought of and cared about.

Martin Henley 23:06
Okay, that makes sense. And that’s the way I understand the value of brands. Because I do understand now the value of brand, whereas for the longest time, I didn’t, in fact, I was probably dismissive of brand. Because before I started my marketing company, I was a salesperson and I was probably only interested in the quick win because it wasn’t ever my business, I was only interested in the commission. But I didn’t really care, I’d like probably what you would say being the brand guy that you are, is that my brand, replaced their brand. You know, I drove my brand, so that they I rely on their brand, necessarily. So that’s interesting. But what I still think now is probably the best way to build your brand, is by selling something to somebody and giving them the experience, like transferring the value from you to them. And giving them a really positive experience so that they feel good about what they bought and come back and buy from you again and refer you to your friends, their friends and all those things. But I’ve never been involved in brand the way you have I’ve never worked for Vodafone or a soft drinks company or those kinds of people. So that’s interesting to me, then how do they measure the success of that?

Rik 24:37
I don’t think that’s the best way, I want to challenge you a bit over there, and I want to ask you, I don’t know where you might have since last time we spoke but I’ve never owned a Ferrari and I don’t think you’ve ever owned the Ferrari. Have you?

Martin Henley 24:54
No, no, no. I have no problem with owning a Ferrari.

Rik 24:59
But you know the brand? Do you have an opinion about the brand? But you’ve never bought?

Martin Henley 25:04
I know that Ferrari’s are available.

Rik 25:06
Yeah. And you know, there’s various surveys there, but you’ve never. So you do have an opinion of the brand and the brand has worked on you, and the brand has affected you and influenced you without ever having a transaction with them. So there’s a lot of ways in which you can grow a brand that does not revolve around the sales process, or the the actual process of someone buying something from you.

Unknown Speaker 25:27
Okay, why? What does it matter, then? If they’re not, because this, for me is kind of the point of sales and marketing is that it’s about, it’s about making sales, it’s about putting food on the table. It’s about all of it’s about those things. So if there is no transaction, then what does it matter?

Rik 25:51
There’s no purchase, there are transactions. So your opinion about the Ferrari is a transaction.

Martin Henley 25:58
But I’m only interested in the in developing in producing profit for my business, because otherwise, why am I going to work?

Rik 26:08
Because, again, let’s say the Ferrari example, because I think it’s a relatively easy one. Because it’s a universal issue. The benefits that someone that owns Ferrari would get out of you knowing about the brand, as Martin, who is never going to buy a Ferrari, or who would never buy a Ferrari because he doesn’t like it or because you sort of build an image in your head of a Ferrari owner. You can only build that image if the brand impacts you in some way or another. If enough people around the world have that image of the Ferrari, and the Ferrari owner, then that is creating a set of Ferrari owners. Nobody would drop $100,000 on a Ferrari, if the other sort of 1000 people one person is going to drop $100,000 on a Ferrari, if the other 999 people did not know what Ferrari meant, and what it cost, and what it’s, what value that Ferrari has, and what it means about the owner, then the brand has no meaning in itself.

Martin Henley 27:24
Okay. So it’s like an exclusivity thing in terms of the….

Rik 27:29
In that case,

Martin Henley 27:30
In that case, and Ferrari is a particular brand, I suppose. But there is a brand at the top of the pile in every market, so being unaffordable, unattainable, exclusive is their brand and so that works.

Rik 27:53
The same can be said about hundreds of other brands, the same can be said about our brands. If i had to look at our brand and look at how people interact with us, and what people think of us I think we build our brand in a way that’s that’s quite careful. Okay, we do want to grow our business, and we do want people to come and work with us, but we also want certain kinds of clients, we also want a certain kind of frame of mind when people approach us. The way we curate our content, we write our content in a particular way that is probably divisive, But if you like it that you will like us, if you don’t, then you won’t. If we just try to set ourselves as a provider of a set of services, that is easily replaceable, then we would be easily replaced.

Martin Henley 28:46
Yes, okay, good. So I think maybe about the value of branding much more practical ways. So you do brand type marketing, because people need to be aware of you, if they’re going to buy something. That’s the customer journey, that’s the first step, then they have to have the right opinion of you, then they have to have the right experience of you. So I think about it in those more practical terms.

Rik 29:13
There has to be a match,

Martin Henley 29:15
There has to be a match. I think the real value of brand is being at the front of people’s minds when they come to buy the products or services that you provide. So, if I’m getting on a flight, I know about British Airways and Singapore Airlines and these other leading airlines, do you know I mean? If I’m gonna buy a car, I know about Audi and Mercedes and Jaguar or whatever they are, so they’re always going to be a consideration. This was a challenge for me when I came to to deliver for the Digital Marketing Institute, because they had a whole thing on advertising, display advertising, previously, it’s been watered down a little bit now. For me, it was really difficult. So that’s when I kind of had to get my head around being an exclusively Digital Marketer. If I can buy a customer for 40 pence on PPC. Why would I buy a click, or why would I buy 1000 views for 40 pence on display advertising. So that’s kind of how I came to it. And I think it’s really interesting. I do this whole schtick now about Adidas, about how, I did this in the last video, no-ones gonna watch both videos. Shall I say to people, I was going out to play tennis and I put on my tennis shoes, I put on my Adidas tennis shorts, my Adidas tennis t shirt, picked up my Adidas tennis bag, and my Adidas tennis cap, put on my Adidas tennis shoes, and then caught myself in the mirror on the way out and realized that Adidas had really done a job on me. It’s not the case that when I go to a sports shop, I’m looking for Adidas but it’s absolutely the case that when I leave Adidas is in my bag, and that’s all those, you might call them transactions, interactions, impressions that Adidas have made over on me over all of those years, so I understand that. I’m a photographer, and I’m a Sony user now, before I was a Nikon user and I absolutely hated Canon for absolutely no reason. I mean, I am coming to understand the value of these things, I think that’s why I think these brands spend so much money. So instead of searching for a digital camera, I’m searching for the Sony digital camera. So I don’t know if what I’m saying is much more kind of transactional or much more direct than what you’re saying. It’s the same. Now I understand it’s the same,

Rik 31:48
I think it’s the same, I think it’s the same there are some transactions and you have to accept it, there are some transactions that are just going to be transactional.

Martin Henley 31:57
I don’t accept anything for free.

You don’t have to accept anything.

I really don’t, that’s what makes these these conversations interesting.

Rik 32:06
No, okay, I have to accept it, I have to accept that some transactions are just going to be transaction and that’s just the way it is. I’m pretty sure that there are a lot of people who would just buy the first phone that’s available to them and the first phone that the provider sends to them and they never think about their phone brand ever. But a really good example that Ed gives is, if you take the most boring thing in the world, or one of the most boring things in the world, it would have to be the stuff that lives inside your phone. So the the bits and pieces, the silicon blobs that that power your phone, the chips in there, and if nobody had ever tried to work on that particular aspects of a brand point of view, then I don’t think anyone would ever know what brands they have inside their computers. But at some point, Intel in the 90s decided to put that little sticker, the little holographic sticker that said Intel Inside. All of a sudden they made that a powerful thing. So all of a sudden there was one out of the 100 chips I had inside my computer that mattered because it was branded. I never knew who made my ram, I never knew who built my hard drive, I never knew who made my, eventually the video cards became something as well, and soundblaster came into it with the sound cards in the 90s. But said but Intel owns that space Intel said listen, you are buying a big chunk of metal with a lot of silicon inside but this one part is what’s going to really change your your life and what’s really going to make your computer much faster and much more powerful than the rest. And they built a business on a brand for something that technically could just as easily go unbranded for ages. I mean, yes, I’m a bit of a geek and I know what bro says in my phone, but 99% of people have no clue what processor runs inside their phone and it’s not something that people really care about.

Martin Henley 34:14
No. So do we want to have a really challenging conversation?

Rik 34:22

Martin Henley 34:24
Because I’m interested about this, because clearly brand has huge value to the brands. But then I would argue that under the guise of brands, no value is delivered. So I’m thinking about perfumes, or I’m thinking about, I’m thinking about perfumes is what I’m thinking. So they put 20 pence of liquid in a thing and they put whatever brand on it and then they send it sell it for hundreds of pounds. Like if they put together, I don’t know, 20 quids worth of rattan and they fashion it into a handbag and then they put their brand on it and then and then they charge 300 pounds for it. Do you know I mean? it’s like, there is no, for the customer other than the brand, and I think this is becoming more and more the case, other than the fact that they’re buying the brand they’re paying 300 pounds to carry around a logo.

Rik 35:34
So you have just answered your own question?

Martin Henley 35:38
No, because I’m talking to you now not as a marketer, I’m talking to you as a revolutionary communist, and I’m just kind of, I’m just feeling like, if you are taking money from people, they should be getting, they should be getting that amount of value in return. And what they’re only getting is the perceived value of having bought that brand. So for example, the Bugatti Veyron, I can imagine that there’s a million dollars of value in that.

Rik 36:12
There’s probably more, I think they lose money that’s the opposite

Martin Henley 36:15
They lose money on that. so thats the opposite, Okay, so they are delivering value. But, yes. So I think that’s the other, that’s the other part of brand that I don’t enjoy. Because for me as a marketer, like I am always about, like, for me, the brand is built in the value proposition, this is the value that we’re going to add to your life, and there doesn’t have to be that amount of value in it. Like if I give you like, it doesn’t have to cost if I give you an hour for 50 pounds, it doesn’t have to cost 50 pounds for you to get – Okay, so I’m kind of talking myself out of this now. But I do think that that’s kind of the unpleasant part of brand is that it is so wasteful, that’s what I think

Rik 37:08
It is. It is also, I think, honestly, I want to stop you here and I want to stop us here because I don’t think that you can have a marketing podcast or a marketing discussion, while approaching the subject from a slightly Communist or let’s go to the more socialist point of view, because it’s very hard to reconcile them. The whole issue with marketing and one of the things you do with marketing and is, I think fighting the decline in value for brands from commoditisation. That is essentially our role as an agency and that is where we have to, I think, where we bring most value and where we can get the most ourselves, when we help the brands that we work with, avoid the trap of commoditisation.

Martin Henley 38:05
Okay, now I’m 100%, with you, 100% with you. And you see commoditisation, commoditisation is the enemy. Yeah. So by the time your price is dictated to you, then you’re in trouble as a business. And, and whatever value you can build around your product or service to prevent it being commoditised. That’s the role of a marketer. I’m 100%. with you. I mean, I’m not telling I’m not telling you that I’m completely

Rik 38:37
That’s the role of a marketer does the role of a marketer from a brand point of view because then there’s the role of a marketer of bringing the product, the right people, and there’s the role of the marketer to make people choose that particular product, but then you’re going back to the monetisation or the lack thereof.

Martin Henley 38:55

Okay. And I think the revolutionary communist in me just thinks that there should be a limit on that is that I suppose the brands that I’ve picked on handbags and handbags and perfume, are the very worst cases of that

Rik 39:16
Yeah, they are extremes, but you could argue the same about app and phones, and you could argue the same about anything in reality, as in any time I pay. If I can buy a T shirt, perfectly good cotton t shirt for $10 but I choose to buy a branded cotton t shirt for $100 then the reason I’m paying for that cotton t shirts is by paying $90 for the brand.

Martin Henley 39:48
Yes. Yes. And this is something…

Rik 39:53
Yes, sorry, unless I’m buying something technical like if I’m buying some specific wicking material that is made, you know, like footballers must play in some materials and fabric that is better at taking sweat away from them or whatever. Then that’s going to add some value because the product is more expensive to produce, and you’re paying for r&d and stuff. But when are buying a regular cotton t shirt, or paying for equal to t shirt?

Martin Henley 40:20
Yes. Okay, and I think it’s so there’s a whole discussion here that could be had about the morality of marketing, I’m going to have this conversation with somebody soon, which is about, are we fuelling the consumption, which is damaging our environment? And, and I think in instances where we are there …. You see I come from it from a different perspective, I come from it. It’s not a different perspective, but from my clients, like, it’s for me, for me to take on a client, they’d need to be adding value in the world, I think, and this is just maybe my screwed up morality. But, yeah.

see, I see commoditization coming from top down. So I see brands, almost as their enemy and we’ve seen this in the UK now where they’ve closed lots of small businesses, but the huge brands are still trading. You know, that’s, I think that’s where I’m coming from. I think you’re right, I don’t think there’s any place for this on a marketing podcast. So let’s move on with their lives. So we’ve kind of got to point number two then, which is, you know, how you add value for your customers. So you are essentially adding value to their proposition, to their brand, to make them more successful? I’m kind of interested in how they measure that if do they are you in the particularly measured end of the market? Or is that not particularly important? How does that work?

Rik 42:03
It is important, I think it’s critical. So how we measure it and how we bring value, I mentioned how we bring value from the brand side of things. But as we discussed a bit earlier, we work in the three areas. So we bring value in all the three areas. So if you start from the brand, side of things that just leave that out, it was with discussed it enough. If you look at the content side of things, where we do bring value is, and I was a bit of a bitch, you want to call it that, but we do bring value is going back to the where we started from a conversation point of view is from publishing and we bring value by creating a model where we create content that makes sense with the rest of the content that it’s going to be working with, in a way that we can replicate relatively quickly and easily. So we try using models to let’s call it churn out videos, for example, for our clients or the way that in a way that brings much more value to them, than if they had to go out and produce series of videos individually. So there, we bring down the price of what they would have had to spend to create a good set of videos, and will bulk produce to create four or five at one go and then charge the rate of two, for example. So it’s not, it’s not a question of being cheaper. It’s a question of bringing more value to the client in terms of more volume over there. And I think by creating, by sort of using that publishing method to create good, good quality content that we can bring value in that way. And that is measured in a traditional content, value point of view. So what we’ll do over there is measure engagement, measure views, measure how long people stay on specific videos, measure what it costs to promote them, because as you definitely know, it is much cheaper to produce to publish, sorry to promote content that works. Facebook pushes your price down as people engage at higher rates with content and it adds value to the brand’s by being quality content rather than going out with product oriented content with altered content that helps add value to brands. Thirdly, there’s the far more direct way of measuring stuff which is the the creative and the digital marketing side of things and then that’s easy to measure to a certain extent. Because there we work to KPIs that we’re working on with the clients themselves. So we’ll have sales KPIs with clients or happening with sales. We do that by, we work with quite a few clients with e commerce and they’re our targets are very ecommerce focused, we actually put a lot of our, our rates on the line over there with e commerce, we actually have models where we get paid based on the number of sales or the volume of sales that the client makes. With with SEO, and sem, you can measure the traffic, you can measure 100 different KPIs over there. So we’re always measuring or at least measuring and the digital marketing in general. So when we’re looking at any form of performance marketing, then there’s all the KPIs that we can measure, wherever we can get the attribution right, then we’re measuring ROI and pushing very hard to get ROI, to levels that make sense for the client. In certain cases, we’ve gone in and we’ve taken clients who had no clue and we’ve sort of educated them and then started working on how to measure and what to measure and then started measuring with them. But yeah, I think we try to measure as much as possible of what we do, because it’s the only way for us to improve our offering and what we do for them.

Martin Henley 46:35
Okay, and you produce that as reports and you feed that back to them. Is that accurate? Yes. Is that?

Rik 46:40
Yes, yes, we produce that as reports and feed that back to them. We, in certain cases, we have a few clients where we work as the sort of, we have model where we offer a fraction of CMO. So so what we do over there is actually take, defind the reports ourselves with the clients based on business goals, and then report back to the client. But also, sort of it would be appointed into the fraction of the CMO, and then we’ll be pushing on behalf of the client internally.

Martin Henley 47:15

Okay, that makes sense, so that, to me is the key to keeping customers is seems to me is that people don’t know what to expect. So I’ve always said that marketing is a little bit like gym membership. It’s like when they buy, they’re really excited, and they’re keen, and they’re prepared to do everything that they possibly can and then three weeks later, they’d rather sit home at home and eat cake. So unless you can demonstrate to them real progress, I think people go off the boil really quickly as well, I think. So that’s cool. So that brings us then to how you feel about marketing.

Rik 47:58
It’s funny, as in asking this question, after we’ve just gone through the whole communism, spiel is a bit of a strange one. But I love marketing, I love the process of marketing, I really find the thrill in working on marketing and working with clients on their marketing. I really find it exciting to teach people about the little aspects, the niches and the areas in which you can improve your marketing and the little areas that are changing. I find it extremely exciting to think about what’s coming next. So that’s something that we’re always looking at both, I say we because we do it as a team, but I also spend a hell of a lot of time, probably far too much time, reading and trying to understand what the next big thing, or the next set of small things because sometimes the next big thing comes in little bits and pieces rather than just one big revolution. I love doing the actual work of marketing. So that’s a bit of a problem because I don’t have that much time to do it because running the business is so time consuming. I enjoy writing, I enjoy researching for content, I enjoy coming up with titles, I enjoy looking at numbers, and yeah, there’s far too much. I think the problem is part of the game that I like it too much. If that makes sense.

Martin Henley 49:29
It does make sense and I also enjoy even though I’ve told you I’m a revolutionary communist. I think that the satisfaction ….

Rik 49:39
I can get it. I can’t get it. So I’m going to interrupt you over here because I think I figured you out because even if you are evolutionary economist or because you are revolutionary communist, I believe you that you like marketing because I am maybe 30% revolutionary communist as well in certain ways. But, but I love the process of marketing so much that it over, it outweighs the revolutionary communism part of things. Does that make sense?

Martin Henley 50:13
It does make sense and I think the only difference for me is that I think that bit that I, the reason I enjoy marketing is because like, you know, I teach, and I like, I kind of like, giving the opportunity to people like, oh, marketing is about opportunities. So you say the next new thing, that’s the next new opportunity to achieve something. I like giving, inspiring p eople to do better. I kind of teach in a conspiratorial sort of a way like, this is the way it’s set up to kick you in the nuts, this is how you win you know, I mean, that’s, and I think you kind of need that as well. So I think I am for the little guy, even in marketing, you know, I’m I might be what’s the word, philosophically communist, but I understand we live in a capitalist society, and that’s not going to change very soon, in fact, it’s probably going to become more capitalist, but then how do you as your small business achieve in this market? And for me, I think that’s why I have an issue with these big brands. Because for me, that is like, we’re kind of anti those big brands, because we are actually delivering value beyond the you get to wear this logo kind of value. I think that’s where I’m coming from. I also think it’s a ridiculous way to make a living. Because,

why do I think this, because I think that people don’t really want to buy it. And I think, like, and that’s why I jumped on you when you said we do this for brands, because by the time an entity is, and identify themselves as a brand, then they get marketing, and they’re investing, you know, so that’s why I jumped on that. Up until that point I don’t think the world really understands what marketing is. And this is why I’m producing all this content to try and, again, give people the inside track. And this is why the brands invest in this is because this is the value of this. I’m kind of on one, you better say something interesting now.

Rik 52:33
No, I agree. I agree completely, I think that a lot of companies, or brands or whatever you want to call them at that stage, don’t get the value of marketing. A or B, they think that marketing is something that is oh lets post on Facebook without thinking of the consequences of each and every post. So there’s, there’s a big distinction between promoting stuff, and marketing, and brand focused marketing, I think as a sort of third, then when you’re doing something in the long term. It’s even worse when someone thinks they know marketing, then when someone doesn’t know marketing at all, because when when people feel that they can just Okay, I’ll just put some posts on Facebook, and it’s going to work and I’m just going to do this and I’m just going to do that and they just go at go along with it haphazardly, then that damages the whole concept of marketing. Then they think that okay, I’ve put $1,000 in Facebook, but I didn’t get a single sale back so Facebook marketing doesn’t work. Whereas it’s no, your marketing doesn’t work. If your idea of Facebook marketing is the, to steal a pun is the frozen lasagna, kind of of doing Facebook marketing, and you’ve all you’ve done is press the boost button from time to time and put budgets behind that boost button, then you’re not going to get the results that you expect. Then you’re going to think that the system is broken or that you didn’t do it right.

Martin Henley 54:19
Okay. What do I think about that? I think, I’m with you entirely. So I am kind of by you know, I teach the entire digital marketing course. So I am kind of a generalist. And I tell people that’s my niche. I think that’s important. I think there are forms of marketing that will stand up entirely on their own. So YouTube, I’ve been convinced you could just do YouTube advertising and be successful. And then pay per click, I think because you’re just buying people at the point of sale. So I think you could just you could specialize in those things and be successful for clients. But beyond that, I think everything kind of needs to be integrated. So you have to do all these different things because for my practical standpoint, I’m looking to reduce the cost of customer acquisition. And I need to know what the cost of customer of cost of customer acquisition is for all of these different platforms, all of these different messages, all these different offers all of these different things. What did I want to say about that? What I wanted to say about that is … people don’t want to do marketing, because they think there’s some dark mysterious thing that they don’t understand. I personally think Facebook is broken, Facebook advertising is broken. And I think it’s gonna get more broken now with the, with the accessibility issues. That’s what I think. I don’t know. So I was going somewhere again, but maybe I’m not. Oh, you said an interesting thing to me the last time we spoke? Am I allowed to say it again now? You said that you’ve been investing much more in your marketing recently, because you’ve had the opportunity to do so. And you said ….

Rik 56:13
As an agency. And

Martin Henley 56:15
I don’t think marketing agencies do enough marketing. That’s what I think. But then what you said to me was, what do you think? Do you think people will think that we need the business more because we’re doing the marketing? Or it was something like that. Which was kind of weird to hear you say that because businesses come to you and say, can you help us with our marketing? Has it ever occurred to you that those businesses, prospective customers might think that they are really needy for the business because they’re doing more marketing or more effective marketing? That just caught me as like an interesting glimpse through the matrix?

Rik 56:56
Yes. Yeah, there is that? Right. I think there’s a distinction because we are a marketing agency. So there’s, we hold ourselves to different standards? Honestly, when I when I look around us and yesterday I met a group of people, and some of them did comment that we are putting out a hell of a lot of content on LinkedIn. Then you start seeing that, okay, last week, somebody saw a post that we posted, and this week, they mentioned it, and then we actually spoke to them. Over the past couple of days, if you want a couple of good examples, one post my brother posted, led us directly to a lead immediately. Because someone hadn’t seen him active on LinkedIn for ages, saw him, remembered him, remembered that we had done an excellent job for them five years earlier, and his previous job five years ago, sorry, in his previous job, and said, Oh, yeah, I have this need at this particular time so let’s talk to these guys.

I was also talking to a potential client over the last couple of weeks. And he works in a larger companies so a company with with a proper C suite, and they have a C suite chat. We are talking, you know, a 500 600 person sized companies so it’s large. And someone shared a post on the C suite chat, which is on Forbes, in which I had been quoted. Yes, so and that guy, the guy, I’m pitching to the CMO shared some of my content or received some of my content from someone else, from a third party, from within his company in the C suite. All of a sudden his opinion of me changed completely chabged. I hope it was already decent. But then I said, Okay, so this guy, that I’m talking to the is a relatively random stranger who, okay, I had an introduction, but it was just a personal introduction, all of a sudden, someone is sending him a Forbes article that’s quoting me. So I might be bugging my my audience a bit but the fact that that content is out there and that it’s floating, and that I’m getting picked under and talking to people to get my name out there has answered my question over the past weeks. I don’t care if people think we’re oversharing and I think, given any choice, I would invest in even more time int LinkedIn at the moment and more time into putting out interesting content, no matter what brand you have, just make sure to not put out content that’s needy, or content that’s you know, over commercial

Martin Henley 1:00:00
Yes, yes. Okay, so this is interesting because it sounds to me like you’re trying to justify marketing to me. And this is what you do for a living and what I do for a living. So we both know it works. And I think marketing agencies don’t market themselves well enough. One thing that I always did was invest in our marketing. And the nice thing about that is, then people will come to us and say, We want marketing that looks like yours. And I think the point of doing marketing in a business to business context, is to give yourself more opportunities to sell. So you can start picking and choosing which opportunities you want to sell based on where you can deliver the most value or have the most success for yourself. So I know, you asked me that question. I think I told you the same thing you should be doing marketing your marketing agency, it’s like me being a cobbler, and refusing to wear shoes, I’m not seeing the value in shoes. It’s like, I don’t know if there’s another market where this goes on, as much as it does in marketing, whether people … I saw a thread recently where somebody, there was a content marketing thread, and somebody was saying, should you do content? It’s like, Well, of course, you should. Of course, if you say I’ll sell houses, should you live in a house? Like if you if you sell, I don’t know, airline flights should you take airline flights? It’s like, of course you should. So I thought that was kind of interesting that that came up. And I’m doing it, you know, I’m not a agency like you are, it’s just me. There’s like two of us now. So I’m starting to do some marketing, like, you know, I want to drive this content. So I’m stirring the pot a little bit, and people are coming back to me from years ago. You know, we know marketing works. We know it works. But I haven’t been interested in it for the last six, seven years, is the reason is my excuse. You’ve been too busy to do it maybe might be your excuse, but the truth is, there is no, there is no excuse for not doing marketing and and marketers especially should be. I’ve always thought, you might not have done the volume, but I’ve always thought your marketing has been, of all the marketing agencies that I look at, your marketing has been the most considered the most likable the most …. you know, that’s what I thought

Rik 1:02:16
It wasn’t the most consistent and my question was not whether we should do marketing ourselves, I have no doubt that we should be marketing ourselves, as you said, everybody should do marketing if they have a business, or if they have a brand, no matter whether it’s a business or not. What I was concerned about was the volume, but now understanding that the volume that we’re putting stuff out that we’re putting out at the moment, is probably the right amount, we are putting out a minimum of three pieces of content a week. It’s helping us with SEO, it’s driven our SEO numbers up. We’re getting traffic, we’re getting random requests from the sites like never before. Yeah, the challenge at the moment is coping with the, with the quotes.

Martin Henley 1:03:03
That’s a nice problem to have.

Rik 1:03:05
Yes, yes.

As long as they’re not ridiculous, but if they’re ridiculous, this is where you do the practical b2b thing, which is where you start qualifying people and say, took, I don’t believe we’re going to be able to help you because you’re not ready, you don’t understand the commitment as required, or you don’t understand the investment required, or you don’t talk our language or we don’t like your product, you know, these are all good grounds for sending people away, I think, and you should be sending people away. So this kind of brings us now but we’re already talking about this situation that we find ourselves in, what is your recommendation for businesses now? The situation is evolving, obviously. We should tell people where are we? It’s April, end of April 2020 so we’ve had a year of huge disruption, lockdowns, pandemic, stuff like that. So that’s the context that I’m asking you this question.

What I would say is, no matter when you’re asking you this question, looking at us and looking at people around us, the answer is always the same. Start. Because if you had started two years before the pandemic, you’d have hit the pandemic at a much more comfortable, in a much more comfortable position than what you were at when you started than if you hit it without having started two years before the pandemic. If you started during the time of the pandemic, to push your brand as a reaction as a sort of panic solution, then continue and don’t stop because Okay, the pandemic might be coming to an end at some point soon or will be coming into a slightly better, we’ll get used to it but something else might come along, both for you as an individual, or for your industry, or for your country, or region, wherever you’re working. So, if you haven’t started at all, then just find someone, find some time and start now. Because people around you aren’t starting. So the quicker you start doing something, the quicker you start building some some goodwill and some spreading your message out there and getting known. So I don’t really care about the situation, whatever we’re in, situations, just a good, the whole pandemic was a good wake up call, I would say, but just start and don’t stop, consistency is key.

Martin Henley 1:05:43
Yes. And I think I’m with you. So I’ve asked 11 different people this thing on in these conversations and I think that I think that the way I define marketing is finding, winning and keeping customers profitably that’s, that’s my practical kind of definition. I think irrespective of, and I think the way you do that is find ways to deliver value for prospective customers, or add value to their lives, so that they’re happy to exchange their money with you for that. I think really now is just you have to be be doing the most effective marketing you possibly can, you have to be doing that, you know, even if that means you couldn’t possibly deliver the value that you were 18 months ago, because the situation’s changed so much, you have to get back to finding how you deliver value. You know, and maybe your business isn’t pandemic proof, you know, maybe your business just doesn’t work at all, but then you’re still maybe as an individual gonna have to go back and think about how am I going to add value to the world, you know, so I think the resolution I’ve come to is now you know, I’m so bored of this situation, it has to get better soon it has to. I think that’s the key is you just have to do the best marketing that you possibly can. You have to be doing your best to find, win and keep customers profitably. That’s kind of what you have to do. Or give up, go get a job.

Rik 1:07:24
There we go.

Martin Henley 1:07:26
There we go. Did we come to the end? Is there anything you wanted to say that you didn’t say?

Rik 1:07:31
No, no. Been a good chat? It’s been a good chat. I’ve found 30% of another revolutionary communist. So that’s good. The revolution will start with you, Rick. Yeah, I think it’s, I think it’s kind of interesting. And what I’m thinking is that in these conversations, because I came from this, like, people don’t want to buy marketing, they don’t like marketing and personally, I think it’s because marketing isn’t particularly good at marketing itself and selling itself because of all this jargon this is why I’m doing the What The series and stuff. But talking to more and more providers it seems that maybe there are more people out there who value this and get this and invest in this then

There are there are it’s just a question of finding the right people at the right time with the right message. Just like anything else in marketing, ironically.

Ironically, just like everything else in marketing. Okay, cool.

Martin Henley 1:08:31
Thank you so much, man.

Rik 1:08:32
I’ve really enjoyed this. I knew it was gonna be cool.


Martin Henley

Martin Henley

Martin has built a reputation for having a no nonsense approach to sales and marketing and for motivating audiences with his wit, energy, enthusiasm and his own brand of audience participation. Martin’s original content is based on his very current experience of running effective marketing initiatives for his customers and the feedback from Effective Marketing’s successful and popular marketing workshops.



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