My guest today is Priscilla McKinney, President of Little Bird Marketing. Little Bird Marketing is a well-respected, full-service ad agency founded in November 2009. They use design and marketing to showcase clients as experts in their field by making unexpected connections. In 2014, Priscilla started a podcast, Ponderings from the Perch where she covers a variety of topics, including marketing techniques, current events, and thought leadership in our space.
Find Priscilla Online:
Website: LiTTLE Bird Marketing
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Social Media: @happymrxp
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Today’s podcast is sponsored by Schlesinger Quantitative, your trusted provider of global online surveys that drive the best decisions for success in the marketplace. Schlesinger Quantitative has built an entire division of experts with extensive online research experience and an unparalleled understanding of quality drivers across panel, sample, and data.
Hi, I’m Jamin Brazil, and you’re listening to Episode 212 of the Happy Market Research Podcast. My guest today is Priscilla McKinney, President of Little Bird Marketing, but first a word from our sponsor.
Today’s podcast is sponsored by Schlesinger Quantitative, your trusted provider of global online surveys that drive the best decisions for success in the marketplace. Schlesinger Quantitative has built an entire division of experts with extensive online research experience and an unparalleled understanding of quality drivers across panel, sample, and data.
Hi, I’m Jamin Brazil, and you’re listening to the Happy Market Research Podcast. My guest today is Priscilla McKinney, President of Little Bird Marketing. Little Bird Marketing is a well-respected, full-service ad agency founded in November 2009. They use design and marketing to showcase clients as experts in their field by making unexpected connections. In 2014, Priscilla started a podcast, Ponderings from the Perch where she covers a variety of topics, including marketing techniques, current events, and thought leadership in our space. Priscilla, thanks very much for joining me on the Happy Market Research Podcast today.
Oh, I am so just absolutely excited to be on, and we got connected through some very cool people. And so, I only like to know cool people who know cool people. That’s how I work. So here we are.
Ah, that’s awesome, and the world is full of cool people, right? That’s probably one of the neatest things that I, discoveries I guess that I have gone through over the last 20 years, is that every person has a story. The sooner that we can move away from judging and moving towards a place of embracing and understanding, “Gosh, they’ve got a reason why, etc.,” then it all of a sudden creates this concept of inclusion and embracing as opposed to the other direction. I think this is one of pieces I teach a course in the MBA department here at Fresno State on entrepreneurship. And in that course, I actually tell them look around, take note of the people that are in the class because many of them are going to move into high level positions over the next 15 years, right? And the sooner they can recognize and treat each other with that level of respect and operate like who that person going to be in the future, then it’s going to create these shortcuts in their career when that person does get advanced, etc. They’re going to be able to pick up the phone, have the conversation, and Boom! – be right there with that same sort of level of opportunity.
Well, it’s a little bit about also what we go looking for. I mean if we go looking to get offended, we’re going to and, if you go looking to find cool people, guess what? You’re going to find that too.
Totally. And this whole principle of “like produces like”, I think, is just so true. Gosh, the other thing since we’re on this subject… You are the average of the five people that you hang out with the most.
Oooh, that’s interesting.
Yeah, I’m such a believer in that. Like you need to really think about who you’re spending your time with, especially as you get a little bit older, which I just turned 48. So, I’m knocking on the door of 50 here any minute. It’s just terrifying, anyway. So…
No, don’t say that! You mean you’ve just excelled past the door of 40. That’s what you mean to say.
Tap the brakes a little. But still, it’s so true that our time is the one non-renewable resource that we have in our lives; more than anything else it’s the most valuable. And the people that we hang out with are the ones that really inform, I believe, who we wind up becoming and evolving into.
Well, I think it’s also about who ends up sticking around because if you’re completely bent on giving and providing some kind of purpose and adding to the energy, adding to the beauty of what’s going on, I think your people end up being the people who stick around. The other people are like, “No.” They may not even be conscious, in that sense, but they do end up moving on because it just doesn’t fit anymore. You know grumbling doesn’t fit; you know shifting blame doesn’t work, you know whatever it is. You know, “Woe is me in my business.” You know we all go through hard times and that’s amazing. That’s a great time to be able to be with other people but when… The people that will stick around are the people that continue to use your exact same paradigm, which I really believe strongly in leading into a relationship with giving something. Give something great at the beginning. And I’m also a big believer in being very clear about what you need.
You came so highly recommended to me from such great people, and I just came directly out and said, “Jamin, will you have me on your podcast?” I just asked exactly for what I needed. I didn’t try and hide that or make it weird or get you to guess it or anything. I just knew through the excellent people that we know that we would be an immediate connect, and I think that’s trusting those people, trusting your sources. I’m so glad that we’re together.
Yeah, me too. I want to actually… We haven’t gotten to the interview questions. I do actually want to get into this point that you just raised around clarity of your values because I think that’s really important. This whole “misery loves company” is 100% true, and positivity loves company too, right? And this lens that we have on… Gosh, there’s another adage, “Bloom where you’re planted”… You’ve probably heard that, right? We don’t get to control a lot of life, in fact, probably most of it. But we do have the opportunity of controlling how we perceive it and then, subsequently, communicate it, right?
I think what we’re controlling is how we’re showing up.
That’s the only thing that we truly can show up and control. I’ll give a shout-out to a
great friend of mine, a fantastic writer, amazing coach, Anise Cavanaugh. She wrote a book about contagious culture. And I love her work on intentional, energetic presence about it IS the energy, it IS about how you decide to show up on any given day. But I love this part of it, which I think really connects to what we’re talking about, is that you can change it at any moment. It’s not… These are not big value shifts. This is just, “Right now, do you like the way this conversation is going?” If not, if it’s not the impact you want to have, if it’s not the energy level you want to have, just shift it. Just be able to do a hop, skip, and jump to something new and just being able to know how to do that. Of course, that’s based on your values, where you’re coming from, saying, “I know that I can make it through this and, in the end, have the impact I want. I’m willing to go through whatever it is, if it’s hard or if it’s easy.” But I think it’s that sense of ownership that I’m going to show up, and I’m going to bring the kind of energy that I want in order to have the impact that I want.
So, Little Bird Marketing. I have a couple of questions. One is LITTLE is capitalized. I was curious if it’s an acronym…all caps, I guess. And then, started in November of 2009… Maybe you could tell us a little bit of history there.
Yeah, for sure. Little Bird, the way it actual “Little” was kind of written was a happy accident. It was a design accident. And, I can’t remember who the quote is, but I’ll sent it to you for show notes, but it’s about great design is learning when to keep your mistakes. So, a little bit of art editing and design and things like that. It looked different. The idea of Little Bird Marketing really comes a desire to be on the inside, maybe in the know with a particular brand. And we first started wanting to really work with premier brands who wanted to have a more intimate conversation, intimate relationship with their ideal clients. And so, when you have really great news, and you’re on the inside of things, you say, “Oh, a little bird told me, blah, blah, blah.” And it’s always good news; it’s always like… It’s never this is how people show up and complain; that’s how people show up and talk. I have to say for advertising, a lot of people say, “Oh, word of mouth is the best.” But word of mouth… When they open their mouth, what are they going to say? And who’s going to remind them to open their mouth? What’s going to trigger them. So we wanted to create an environment where we brought clients on who we really wanted to get intimately into that puzzle. How do we create a culture and a relationship between our company with our actual clients so that they feel like that they’re in the know and they’re special and they got great news? And, of course, when you get great news, you want to share it.
Now, you guys are actually not based like traditional agencies, which are usually in Chicago or San Francisco, New York, etc. You guys are based in a smaller geography.
Yeah, for sure. We’re based out of Joplin, Missouri. The background of our story is in 2009 we started but in 2011, some people might remember we had the only F5 tornado here in Joplin and it…
I do remember that by the way. It was catastrophic.
It was. In one fell swoop it kind of put us on the map and off of it again. And so, it was a really hard time. Very, very difficult. We lost over 30% of our town within 20 minutes, and lost a lot of friends, lost companies. So just a very difficult time. And three weeks after that tornado, I arrived at my studio to watch it burn to the ground. So we’ve really been through the fire, and that’s not a metaphor. [laughs] So we really had to think long and hard about who we are and how we’re going to come into the market, who are we going to serve, and with what energy, with what purpose, with what drive, with what parts of who we are. What can we bring to bear to really help people and really help their company? So we’ve had to think about it from, I think a very deep place. And I’m actually very appreciative for that time. And that’s when we had changed our name; we changed our name out after that aftermath and went with Little Bird Marketing. And since then, instead of being full service, we have morphed into a very specialized agency. And we specialize in our proprietary system called SOAR, which is Sustainable, Organized, Accountable, and Repeatable, which is an in-bound marketing strategy that actually focuses on actual, predictable lead generation for companies. I don’t care how you market or what you want to do, but in the end, does it actually generate leads?
Alright, so let’s break down SOAR for just a moment. Thinking specifically about strategic, that intuitively to me is what are the objectives of the company.
Yeah, you know what’s interesting is that a lot of people come at marketing, but they don’t lead with their actual goals. They start leading with what are other people doing, looking at other people’s hands, looking at other people’s advertising and feeling the pressure in the market. “Oh, everybody’s doing that.” Once upon a time, it’s like, “We have to get a Facebook account.” At one point, someone’s like “We have to get a phone. We have to get a fax machine. We have to get a website.” It’s never changed. There’s always the new thing that people want to do. If you think about it, the telegraph was social media. It’s just about that next thing, but I don’t care what people use in marketing, what matters is did they start with their specific goals in mind. What is success to them? And then, build a marketing strategy around that. And so, for us, in our SOAR proprietary program, the first foundational block is strategy. What is the strategy that we are going to need to employ to win and basically setting ourselves up so that we can measure it? If we don’t know what the strategy is, then you won’t be able to know what to do to measure at the very end to determine if you’re successful or not. So, that’s the basis.
Do you have frameworks that you’ve seen be successful? I’m thinking about the audience that’s tuning into this right now. Sometimes, if you’re starting out and you’re a small market research company, you might not have the resources to solicit an outside firm in any meaningful way, anyway. So, do you have like a, “Hey, you know what? You should spend… If you had $100,000 this year to spend on marketing, would you have a recommended way of that spend going? Like, in other words, $80,000 on paid ads on LinkedIn versus $20,000 in events or what?
Yeah, that’s interesting, but that kind of comes back to my point. I don’t know. It depends on what that market research firm is looking to do. Are they looking to become a thought leader? Are they looking to get their exec’s on a stage? Are they looking to sell sample online? It just could be so many different things. So, we employ a very, very different strategy. What I think is common for all of them is two things. Number 1 – you have to have a system. I see tons of people not calendarizing, not creating an actual plan for the whole year. And I know that sounds like a tremendous pain in the butt. However, sitting down and really lining out what happens first, what happens next, etc. And then the other thing that anybody can do with just a little time on their hands is to get the vast amount of information out there that’s free about creating an ideal persona, truly honing in on who your audience is and then only taking action and writing content, or creating an ad or marketing message or putting something on the website.
I don’t care what it is. Every marketing effort should be in servitude to the ideal client persona: what are their problems? What are their fears? What are their challenges? What are their questions? What are their aches and pains? And if what you’re writing or doing is not actually keeping them in mind and seeking to serve them, I truly believe that then those marketing efforts eventually will fall flat. And you won’t be looking at any KPI’s to measure. I don’t know if you want to be at events; I don’t know if you want to put most of your budget on ads. I will say the first year you HAVE to develop a system, and I don’t care if it’s our SOAR system or something else. But you need to be able to know what comes first, what comes next. And I will say one last thing: if someone had a $100,000, it doesn’t matter; we have clients that spend less than a $100,000, clients that spend $100,000 (that’s kind of our sweet spot there); and we have clients that spend way more than that. But they all had to pay the piper on the first year of setting up a foundational system. And then, I don’t care, based on their scale, how much they can spend on the different things.
Everybody is totally different. I’ve done something where someone’s spent $300 a month on Google ad words, and we’ve had a client who spent $30,000 in a month on Google ad words. That’s scale, but you still have to actually have the framework of the house, and that costs the same thing, no matter how big you are.
And the nice part about that, and just kind of bookending your acronym on the “R,” thinking about the repeatability, that’s where you start measuring your improvement to both of velocity and outcome, right, by tweaks, changes, etc.
Absolutely, and I like to remind people that more than anything what you’re trying to get out of that repeatability factor is “What can I start saying ‘No’ to?” “No” can be such a powerful thing for your budget. You finally know what to quit doing.
And for your brand. So much brand confusion is caused because the company just says, “Yes” because they’re thinking about short-term wins, but they’re losing track of the actual impact that’s going to have on whether it’s long-term R&D, or confusion in the market in terms of what you’re going to, or (this is one that I see actually pretty frequently) is channel conflict can be injected in that environment as well.
Absolutely, and when you’re trying to measure too many things at once, you really don’t get a good sense of what’s going on. I kind of liken it a bit to people talking A-B testing. I hate using jargon necessarily, but it’s that simple: A or B, A or B. We’re only changing one small thing every time so that we can actually truly understand what thing is emerging as a winner.
I like to think about it like an optometrist. You go there and he says, “1 better or 2? 1 better or 2?” Remember the pressure that you feel? You’re like, “I don’t know. Go back to 1. Is that better?” You almost feel like it’s going to be a wrong answer or something. So, I like to think about how we reflect as humans. But the optometrist, he doesn’t say, “What’s better? 1, 2, 3, 4, 5, or 6?” My gosh, there’s no way your brain could figure that out. But yet we come into marketing, we try to test too many things at one time. And so, for me it’s not about how much money, and it’s not about how many different things you could do. Are you actually able to test the things that you’re doing? I would rather set up a system that’s smaller and is actually functioning to truly understand some experimentation ‘because marketing is on some level some experimentation. But the problem is that a lot people don’t look at their results; they just keep experimenting and keep experimenting. And then, they experiment with the next thing without actually really evaluating what happened. “A? B? A was better. OK, now let’s take A and now let’s shift it. 1? or 2? OK, well, 2 is better. OK, now let’s take 2 and let’s move it back to A, B.” So, you can constantly improve on yourself, not go then go mimic what another competitor is doing.
I’ve never heard the optometrist example before, but I think that is like a 100% spot on. You’re capturing… even the emotional stress. I don’t know why it’s stressful. But I’m like, “I don’t know.”
Right, it’s so funny. Well, if you like that analogy, let me give you another analogy that’s really fresh on my brain because we just published this blog back in November. When our team put it out, I was like, “Oh, my gosh! I want everybody to read this blog.” And it’s about… I refer to our SOAR program many times as the one ring to rule them all, the Fellowship of the Rings analogy. This idea of like everybody has a little bit of marketing here, a little bit of this or they’re testing this; someone else has this; they’re all over, but you need to have one strategy to rule them all. How can you actually use the power of content to reach your goals by putting them all onto that main strategy? And one of my in-house writers cracked me up because he was saying that there was a great analogy to take mine even further. He says, “Well, to actually create that one ring, Priscilla, to rule them all, Sauron had to actually forge it in the hottest fire, but what most people are doing is they don’t go far enough with some of that testing and instead they’re using an Easy-Bake oven they borrowed from their sister. [laughs]
You can’t bear out an actual, full strategy unless you really try and prove some things and put it through the fire. And so, I really like that analogy as well, and I think that goes hand in hand with my optometrist A – B testing type of things. People just like to get into the newfangled thing without really thinking about how they’re connected.
Yeah, we’re going to… This is totally off script, and I’ve talked about this a few different times on the podcast. One of my previous board, Wesley Chan, who did the YouTube acquisition of Google back in, whatever year it was, 2006, I guess. In that transaction, there were over 13, I believe, different product lines that YouTube had. Instead of focusing on all the 13 and growing them, which is pretty normal, especially in the context of an M&A, they decided to focus on a single KPI. And after doing a bunch of research and looking at the product and the use cases, they placed all their bets on one thing, which was number of videos uploaded per day. And from that, it drove all of the R&D, which, of course, you see how the tail wags the dog in the example. I see this; even in my personal life, I struggle with it. For those people that maybe don’t not have that point of reference or that history, it’s even maybe more difficult. A lot of times I think we feel, “Oh, I got to drive all these things especially if I’m a leader in a business or business unit.” But really what you got to do is put it under fire, put the effort in in order to figure out what that one thing is and then place your bet on that number, and then go all in. And that’s where you see the returns.
Yeah, and even one insight, I think, in market research we can understand this as well because, if people get a very, very deep and very well-enunciated insight from massive market research, it in itself probably has the ability to truly fill your innovation pipeline for many years if you just focus on that one truth that was uncovered. But many times they want to focus on eight or nine truths and I’m not saying that’s, like you said maybe that’s standard in M&A to work with 13 and certainly if you have the scale for it, but I think there’s some beauty when you simplify some of the testing and when you simplify what you want to innovate off of, how are you going to rift off of something true that you found out.
So, I’m going to shift gears a little bit. I don’t know, in truth, how accurate this is. I’m just basing this off of the consumption of your podcast and online content blogs that you’ve posted, but it feels like your book of business has a high concentration in the market research space. Is that accurate?
That’s absolutely true. [laughs]
Maybe, you could talk to us about why you decided to have that as the customer base or the focus of the business.
Well, that’s funny ‘cause I’d love to revise history and say that it was a grand master plan, and I’m so smart, but that’s not true. I do have a grand master plan, and I am so smart. But that’s not how that happened. Things just happen to you. I worked very hard on blogging, on podcasting, on practicing what I preach on content. And then I put on to the world I wanted to be a speaker; I want to be on stage; that I was really leading thought in particular areas; and I believed it was of tremendous value. I put it out there. And I got a call, I don’t know, a couple weeks later from GreenBook, and they asked me to speak at an event in New York.
And, as it turns out, it was an add-on to IIEX. So market researchers are there, but for an extra day, they’ll tack on something they call Insights Marketing Day. The truth of the matter is that there are a lot of market research firms who talk about market research all the time but do none for themselves and also spend no time marketing their company. And I find it just almost ironic, but these are companies that are completely paid based on an industry that is checking in with the consumer and driven by consumer opinion, and yet they don’t know their own customer’s opinion. They don’t even know their ideal client. And they haven’t done the persona work. And I think it was a very interesting conundrum that I was dropped into. I will say this: I had a lot of fun; I met very key people. Kristin Luck was one of them, you know, the founder of Women in Research – WIRe, and invited me into WIRe Exec. And I met amazing people, which one of them I can track directly to you. So, this is really interesting. This happened kind of earlier in my career. I do have a background – I actually have a degree in cultural anthropology. So, it’s not like I don’t understand where social scientists are coming from, and I certainly understand looking at data, and I certainly have created my own marketing system based more on research and principles and data. On top of it, we add the crazy creative and the desire for experimentation and then just some nutty stuff on top for fun. But that’s how I actually got there, and then from it, I just did what I said. You know I mentioned to you that I truly believe in this: Start first by giving something great; do favors for people. My podcast is a really great way that I can walk into a very dynamic conversation with a very dynamic person and give them something. “Let me give you space to breath. Let me give you a new audience. Let me give you a chance to talk about your book.” Whatever it is. And from that, I met amazing people.
And it is all about the people. It is funny too. I think the blind spot in marketing research is marketing. I mean it’s funny. What’s even funnier is that – and I don’t mean this in like a “Ha Ha” kind of way, but a lot of it is just predicated on the fact that we understand as an industry the importance of relationship. And if you look at how many of the market research companies have started, the traditional career (I’m going back a ways, 30ish years) is you’re working in a brand like Levi Strauss; you make connections; you do that for ten years, become an expert, well-viewed and connected inside of that brand, and you leave and service the brand.
That has been largely the view, I think, again categorically. You step up when you’re in like an Ipsos or Kantar or what have you. And then that, just that attitude is what has raised or reared the next generation of researchers. So it’s actually an important work that you’re doing.
Well, it’s also interesting, what’s happening in the market research industry right now. And I liken it a little bit to my experience. Once upon a time, if you reach back into “Mad Men” days, people were company men, and they worked at a particular agency. And it was a big mystery what was going on at those agencies. There was no transparency, and people were paying big bucks to have access to this big firm. You know you think about Wieden+Kennedy or Ogilvy or all these kinds of things. Maybe, to your audience, maybe those aren’t names they know. They know Kantar and Toluna and Ipsos and Schlesinger and all those kinds of stuff. But I’m just saying there are trends that happen in any industry. And in my industry, it was the big agency like that was who was important.
And then disruption really brought it to small, boutique firms, looking for very keen and well-honed skills. In that process over the last nine years is where we actually rebranded and said, “You know we don’t want to be full service; we don’t want to be everything to everyone. We want to do our sweet spot, and from that we developed our proprietary system and really have gone to market with that. So because of that, our expertise is in that B2B world, which then also lends itself to market research. But I see that same thing happening right now in the industry. I think that a lot of people in market research probably agree with me. We have companies buying each other out. We have a company laying off 1,000 people only to hire 500 back later, restructuring and buying out of large people. I mean you look at SSI, ResearchNow, acquisitions that are going on. On the top of it, we also have an incredibly tight labor market. And then on top of that, we have a lot of end-clients actually broadening and enlarging their internal market research, their own insights department. So they’re not relying as much on some of the big companies. I’m not saying they’re not using them; I’m just saying this is an interesting trend to really in-source instead of outsource.
So, this is very interesting things that are happening in the industry and so what happens to these people who have worked at the large agencies but now either have gone freelance or independent moderators or maybe they write Python code for some… There’s people now who are able to kind of live on a freelance-type of a gig economy maybe, you might say. But, on the other hand, it’s this dynamic between the big monsters and then the big clients. Is it being in-sourced or outsourced? And then you have all these other people that have a lot of small MR firms and, I mean, think about how many small MR firms (maybe one person, two people, ten people, even fifty). That’s still small compared to some of these monsters. So I think there’s something interesting to note and understand about what’s going on in the market research industry and why we’re feeling certain dilemmas.
As a historian in some ways of this space, started in 1996, I’ve seen this trend happen three times where companies will become very profitable. P/E ratios go up. I’m talking about public-traded type, large firms. And then they wind up spending a lot in the market research space, and they’ll even bolster internal staff. And then what happens is the retraction like what happened in 2001 with dot.com bust or 2007 in the Great Recession. And then all of a sudden there’s this massive contraction, usually short-term freezes on budgets. But then they still are desperate for data; so, that’s when they boost their supplier networks. I feel like what you’re saying is really important because our economy has been in an interesting spot. We haven’t had a major correction like that. I’ve heard… Different economists have different points of view, of course. To me, it feels very reminiscent of one of those two times – not to say that we’re entering into the Dark Ages or something. But I certainly could see a scenario where there is a retraction. The one thing that is different though in today’s world versus those other two points in time is that technology has democratized research so that anybody can do it. Now, maybe not do it well, and maybe shouldn’t do it. But yet the capacity still exists, right?
And trick is now people finding the right people. I find this totally interesting. But I’m good friends with Bob and Brin, who run Trusted Talent MR, and their specific recruiting firm just for the market research industry. Now, I’ve been around the market research industry long enough to know what some of these problems are that people are facing and how now even some of the people who want to in-source, they’re not even sure what kind of person they need in order to do tomorrow’s work. [laughs] So, I get that in the market research world, but I understand what’s on the other side of that in marketing. It is so hard to keep up. Of course, my clients in MR firms, they can’t keep up with what’s going on in marketing. We barely can keep up. We’re on podcasts; we’re on certifications; we’re understanding what’s new in chat pods and how social media is changing. And so, we are constantly inundated with all of these same kinds of industry changes; so, there’s no way that our market research clients can keep up with that. So instead what they want to do is, “Well, I’ll hire a social person; I’ll hire a web person; I’ll hire…” And they go down the list: a writer, a de-de-de. They need like six people. So sometimes when they look at that, when they really understand what’s going on, they need that kind of expertise, you can either hire six people and in-source it or you can outsource it. And so, I understand that dilemma from both the market research side or from marketing.
Yeah, depending on the size of the company you’re talking about, you really start getting into dictating capacity of the organization to get this stuff done. And that’s where I’m seeing sometimes they’’ll overbuy from a marketing perspective. “We can deliver.” But they don’t have the capacity even to review.
Oh, my gosh, that’s exactly it. Jamin, this is exactly it because, for example, if a client comes to us and they’re like, “Yeah, well, we need a social media director; we need a web; and we need a writer.” OK, let’s say just those three; let’s make it really abbreviated. Let’s say you can find them ‘cause you finally figure out what to do, which is a tough order. But let’s say you find them. But, if you don’t know the expertise of a social media person, how are you going to inspect what they do? How do you know what to demand from them? [laughs] So, if you can’t do it yourself, then it is very hard to hire for it and then it’s also very hard to inspect them. So you’re relying on three completely disconnected people. And I’m not saying that they couldn’t connect. But very often they don’t connect; they don’t create one strategy to rule it all. They create their own little micro-strategies, and then you are constantly trying to put it all back together. And that’s where we come in to marketing, saying, “Look, we’re not working against each other. We’re a big team.” You need a video person, yeah; you need a chat pod person; you need a social media person; you need a writer; you need someone who is certified on HubSpot; you need someone who knows how to write a code; you need someone who knows how to actually write; you need someone who understands client personas, who can do strategy; you need all these things. So you can either try and get that from one person for 80 grand (Good Luck), or you can instead invest in an actual system and get a wide range of expertise and get someone to help you along. And it’s so funny because that’s what MR people do for brands!
Right, but market research doesn’t. This is one of the macro-trends that I’ve picked up over the last 49, well 47 published, probably 54 total interviews that I’ve done just on the Happy Market Research side. Storytelling is critical and in order to tell the story in a modern marketplace, so today’s marketplace, not ten years ago but today’s marketplace, you’ve got to understand the context of the insights, both from where the business is and what the implication is or how it’s generating a positive ROI for the business. And so, when you think about marketing that’s exactly what marketing does. But, now again, marketing research is not the cutting of edge of technology; it’s not the place you go to see what’s trending – and nor should we be, right? We are by definition scientists. And so, in that ecosystem, we’re still operating about five past, which is, “Well, gosh, I’m going to own the data; I’m going to run this analysis and give you the results, but it’s your job, Mr. Executive… What is the application of the insight?” That’s where I see a material opportunity for marketing research companies to differentiate themselves by telling their own story and leveraging social media to do that.
Well, I take that even deeper. I was really fortunate enough to meet Christina. She’s the brand insights director of Twitter. I met her two years ago at TMRE; she was on a panel with Kristin Luck, and we were talking. She said something very profound to me, and I was like, “Yes, this is what you need to tell everybody else.” As a market researcher, you can’t go in and take the data and then solve your client’s problem. You can’t say, “Oh, this is the problem you brought to me. Here’s the person who actually contacted you, developed the research and got it done.” No, you have to solve their boss’s, possibly their boss’s boss’s problem. So it can’t be anymore like, “Oh, here’s a deliverable.” It has to be so much deeper than that. It’s like, “This is the problem that was presented to me, and this is what we found. And this is what we know about how you guys are going to use it. And this is how your boss would use it. And this is how your boss’s boss would use it. That is a model.
Oh, my gosh. So accurate.
That is a model that understands the ideal buyer and actually really understands a buyer journey and understands how to meaningfully provide true value to their client.
You should listen to the… Last week I dropped the interview with Kantar’s Chief Digital Officer Stephen DiMarco and EVP Ann Green. In that interview, they actually start talking about this specific subject – really getting to the “why” of the data as opposed to being more data for information sake.
Right, well, everybody is saying that we do have a lot of data, but do we know what the data says? As with anything, in the industry there’s going to be trends: “We need more data.” or “No, you already have the data. You just don’t know it.” So, the insights are there. Can we uncover them? I think this is age-old in that sense, but I think that it’s absolutely meaningful how we continue to discuss it.
Are you seeing Twitter, LinkedIn as a pivotal part of the strategy of some of your customers?
Not some, just say, “Yes, all.” [laughter] Twitter, yeah… Whether someone came to us and they already had a Facebook is six of one, half dozen of the other. Now, it’s incredibly important if they’re actually recruiting in any way. So, we have to really divide and say where is someone recruiting and then where is someone actually going to market as B to B, as a market research firm. There is a good differentiation there, but, as far as professional’s concerned, there is Twitter, there is LinkedIn. And we even have specialized programs that go even deeper. We have done for you programs called Amplify, which is a done-for-you-service, where we take over an exec’s LinkedIn in our SOAR system: different lead magnets, different really valuable downloads that we’ve written specifically to answer your problem, your boss’s problem, your boss’s boss’s problem. So, we help clients actually develop those lead magnets so that they can get predictable and sustainable lead generation. But some of it is how do we get out there authentically, how do we really make the best use and leverage LinkedIn and Twitter. It’s funny; I’m so glad you said that #mr and #mrx. Those are the two that we use all of the time. Obviously, you’re going to add a couple of others, and we do get into a lot of hashtag strategy. But, for sure, we’ve actually explained that to a couple of MR firms, and they were not aware of it. And they have not been really understanding the power of the hashtag and how to really rise above the noise on social. And I find that MR firms, in general – and I don’t want to just completely bash anybody but they’re not very good at social. And the few of them that are fantastic at Twitter, really, I think, very easily soar and take that lead. And so, I think maybe that’s a quick takeaway for one of your listeners. I’ve really been hesitating doing that but that really is where solid conversations are happening in a very quick environment but also, I believe, a very highly professional environment. So I think it’s very noteworthy and I don’t think it’s going away in market research. Now, I was just beginning IIeX Bangkok for their Asia-Pacific one and, of course, as soon as you move into another culture like that, of course, they’re online or they’re on the social platform. They’re on WeChat. They’re on something different. They’re not always on the same thing, but Twitter and LinkedIn gets you pretty close to the global catch-all.
Yeah, for sure. Are you seeing Facebook…? I should actually rephrase the question. How are you seeing Instagram and Facebook play into your customer strategy?
Well, I think Instagram for us – again, I’ll come back to say everybody’s strategy is going to be a bit different, but Instagram may deliver a lot of hits in terms of people understanding cultures; maybe what is it going to be like to work with them. Specifically, when we talk about design and how you actually… what the deliverables are in market research, the people who can really show that visually in Instagram, I believe, win, making something very interesting, displaying the solution to an insight…, driving meaning from that insight in an interesting, very quick infographic. That’s going to win on Instagram. Now, visual and video and everything else obviously is going to win on other profiles. But with Facebook, it really has to do with really where is this company, where did they come from, what’s their story, and what are they trying to reach. But Facebook in my personal opinion, unless there’s a really great other reason, in general, we don’t put a lot of effort into that.
Now, there’s always an exception. I have a translation company that serves the market research firm, G3 Translate, and they have done a very good job because they have transcribers all over the world. And so, Facebook drives for them, and that’s great. So, it’s all about coming back and saying, “I don’t want to choose my channel. I want to choose my strategy and then figure out what channel will help me.” And I liken it this way. You liked my analogy about the optometrist, so I’ll give you another one. I like to do this with a roomful of market researchers. And I’m like, “You guys love data. Here we go. Raise you hand if you like Uber. Raise your hand if like Lyft.” And I do a quick poll. And then I say at the end, “Raise your hand if the last time you got in Uber or Lyft, you said to the driver, ‘Hey, just take me anywhere you want to go.’” Of course, no takers. But that’s what we do with social media. We say, “Oh, yeah, I’m going to get on Facebook.“ And guess what: Facebook is going to drive you where Facebook wants you to go. And if you don’t know your strategy, if you don’t know that address, it’s a waste of time. The analogy extends: you just get lost. So, it’s really about coming back and saying it’s not about choosing the channel; it’s about choosing your strategy and then finding what will support your strategy.
Oh, I love that. It’s just so funny. I just did an article, posted an article on Sunday, yesterday on the difference between LinkedIn posts versus articles and how to understand the statistics that it provides. And, as I went through that period of discovery, I actually have two screenshots: one of the in-article and then one of the normal in-post feed… what that view looks like. And I highlight where the ads are. And what’s interesting is there’s no ads, native ads, inside of the article framework. So, that was a big ah-hah moment for me in terms of, “Holy moly, a big opportunity if I can provide, if I can get people into this part of my funnel. But it’s harder. My number of views are inherently less by a meaningful magnitude.
On the other hand, there are other things to consider as well because LinkedIn is a highly trafficked platform, and it is providing a link if you use the hyperlink back to your site. So, in terms of building authority on search engines, there’s a freebie right there.
Yeah, exactly. That’s a great hack. Gosh, we should do a full… You know what we should do? I’m serious. We should at least twice a year marketing hacks podcast where we do things like just what’s working. I’ll tell you one right now that I’m seeing on Twitter: If you see somebody on MR web, they do their daily… and then inside of that, they’ll have people that have been promoted. So, on Twitter and LinkedIn, if you just give them a shout-out, all of a sudden you create a point of connection that costs you nothing, right, costs you nothing. If I was starting from zero today on my Twitter, I would just have the discipline of 30 minutes a day, doing exactly that. You would blow your Twitter up.
Well, here’s another one. We’ll give one for Facebook and then one for LinkedIn. So LinkedIn, a lot of people are like, “Oh, I can’t reach these people. I don’t want to pay for the Premium. You know they’re trying to find people who they’re not connected with. They’re trying to get introductions and everything. But if they go into an industry and they join a lot of groups, the groups bring everybody directly into level 2 to you. You have access to connect with people who are involved in the other groups. So, you immediately can expand your network very quickly. That’s a great hack there.
That’s a huge one by the way.
But then also like on Facebook, if you are using Facebook and you’re running those ads, a lot has changed, and I’m sure by the time this publishes, this will be out-of-date. Again, I always point back to channels; they love themselves: Facebook loves Facebook. Don’t post a Facebook post and repost it over on Twitter. That doesn’t work. Don’t take YouTube and… embed things. But the point is that, if you’re running ads on Facebook, you run them and you put the money in and they do really well right at the beginning. And everybody’s like “Great, great, OK. I hope we can replicate that.” And then they get worse, and they get worse and worse. So, you have to actually… (I know this is a horrible pain in the butt, but I’m telling you it works) And you have to completely delete the ad and start a new one over; put the new money; put the new stuff and it will perform again at the beginning because that is what Facebook is doing. PS: Facebook is a money maker, and how they make money is they actually get ad sales. These things go out, and they want to really use that budget up at the beginning, but we see the effects of it.
This is such an important hack, two great hacks, the Facebook one. But I want to piggyback on the point that you said, which is pain in the butt, right? The reason… But this is the point is that… You’re right. It is very hard to create a content calendar like you started with to delete and recreate and delete and recreate successful campaigns to maximize your ROI. The reason most people don’t do it is it’s hard, but it gives such a big opportunity, such a big gap. This is why I don’t mind giving away everything in terms of knowledge because it’s about the execution of it systematically over time that generates success, not about just having the knowledge or the idea.
Well, absolutely. Everybody says to me, “Priscilla, we run our own Facebook ads.” “Yeah, OK, good.” [laughter] They’re hard. I didn’t say it was hard. “We started our own Facebook. Yeah, it’s free, you know.” “Good for you.” That’s just one small, just small sliver of the kinds of things that we know that we’ve learned the hard way. And so, the question is “Do you want learn every single thing the hard way?”
Here’s another one about content and blogging. This drives me nuts. It’s not just about the MR industry, but I see it a lot in the MR industry, specifically because you have a lot of thought leaders. They write very good articles like very intense and sometimes long, and it’s a one-off. A whole presentation to go speak at whatever and it’s like a book. They get up, and they speak. They don’t turn the recorder on. Well, every time I speak, I turn the recorder on because you know what? I’m going to go get that transcribed; there’s a blog. Because we all say it differently, we process information and we bring amazing insights sometimes spontaneously because we know what we’re talking about. But when we sit down to write, a different brain happens. And so, it doesn’t always come out that same way. And people always say, “Well, I don’t have the time to write a blog.” I’m like, “Well, you had time to speak.” So, why not turn the recorder on? And then once they do create that blog, so we kind of have to demystify the “Ay-Ay I wrote a blog.” Look, can we make it a little easier here to write a blog and get more long format content. Well, from the long format content, that’s all they get. They post it one time and “Yeah, it didn’t get much traction.” Oh, my gosh, I would not write a blog without putting it on LinkedIn 12 times this year, without making it an article on LinkedIn to your point, without tweeting it once a week for the next year. Of course, I’m going to change my content a little bit; I’m going to write to my personas; I’m going to do a different graphic. And, of course, like what you’re saying, to your point, is that it’s not hard. It’s just a pain in the butt. But our entire system is calendarized to where… When I say, “Write a blog,” what I really mean is “Write a blog and do these 53 checklist items that are on the end.”
Yeah, over a long tail. This is the point that I think people just… If they could execute against it. And this is where I think companies like Little Bird Marketing are so powerful and offer such a material ROI opportunity to your customers. If you invest the time – and market researchers are great at this, at creating pillar content, if you can convert that written word into audio and/or video… Even if you can’t, that’s fine. But, let’s just pretend, you can to one of those other two formats. Now you’ve got a podcast, right? Or now you’ve got a systematic webinar. And then the best part about it is: dissect it, pick. And now you’ve got all this micro-content that feeds up and drives on your two main social platforms, LinkedIn and Twitter, over time. So, that attraction, the value that you add. You know the problem is, I think, a lot of people, they try something once, like they’ll post an article on LinkedIn that’s very thoughtful and in-depth and could even be revolutionary but, because they don’t get the 10,000 views and become the next whatever, they’re disheartened. Like “Oh, screw this. I’m not going to invest in it anymore.” Right?
I always tell everybody if I just keep at this nine more years, I’m going to become an overnight success.
Right. [Laughter] That’s right. Time is… Hey, I got to tell you this one story ‘cause you’re going to appreciate this. So, one of my clients… We’re having this conversation. I’m like, “Listen, man, we just got to start.” So, we created the calendar. We wrote a… we, being him and then some work obviously with the team… created a LinkedIn post. We’re not talking about anything complex, maybe 400 words here with one picture that’s not even a great picture. This is his first one that he does after, I think it was, eight months. 70,000 views, right?
I know. It’s better than anything I’ve done in 2018.
Oh, my gosh!
I’m so upset about this positive outcome because he’s like, “Oh, well, this shit’s easy.”
Oh, my gosh! Well, I wish that were more common, but…
That never happens.
I always tell people, and I truly firmly believe, there’s no one action that’s going to save your company. It’s going to be a million small, little pieces of things, and whether or not they get done. People come to my office all the time. They have great ideas. Honestly, some of the best ideas even for lead magnets or for events or for whatever it is, a great trade show. A lot of it comes out of my customers’ mouth. The problem is it falls out; we’re there to catch it; and then we’re actually able to execute on it. And I think we all agree that in principle, ‘Oh, it’s about executing on the idea.” But few are the companies. I mean you’ve all sat down at strategic meetings. This is going to be the year we blog; this is going to be the year we get speaking gigs; this is going to be the year, you know… But there’s no step-by-step how to get there. And that’s where we take the mystery out of it. Then sometimes it is just employing what you said: “OK, we just have to start.”
After we went through the tornado and after the fire, the first gift that I got from one of my best friends when I opened up my new office… It was sitting on my desk. I opened up the box and pulled it out. And it was just a really beautiful piece of art, but it said on it – it’s kind of making me tear up thinking about – but it said, “Today begin.” And I was like, “You know what? It took that just overwhelming ‘I’ve got to start completely over.’ No, I can’t; I can just begin today.” And that’s what is important about marketing. The problem is that so many people keep talking about ideas and talking about ideas, and in the end, it’s talking about ideas.
My guest today has been Priscilla McKinney, President of Little Bird Marketing. Thank you very much, Priscilla, for joining me today.
You’re so welcome. I loved every minute.
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