Small Business Marketing Advice With David Meerman Scott

Today we’re speaking with David Meerman Scott... marketing and Sales Strategy Expert and best-selling author of several books, including;


The New Rules of Marketing & PR ...where he explains How to Use Social Media, Online Video, Mobile Apps, Blogs, News Releases, and Viral Marketing to Reach Buyers Directly


World Wide Rave ...which provides insight on How to create triggers that get millions to spread your ideas and share your stories


Real-Time Marketing & PR and Marketing Lessons from the Grateful Dead ...written with HubSpot CEO Brian Halligan


And The New Rules of Sales and Service …with insight on How to Use Agile Selling, Real-Time Customer Engagement, Big Data, Content, and Storytelling to Grow Your Business


A well known speaker, he’s presented at numerous conferences like the National Healthcare Marketing Summit, the Realtors Conference, and for several organizations including PwC, Ford, Google, SAP, the U.S. Marine Corps, and many others.


David - thanks for speaking with us today!



David Meerman Scott:


It’s my pleasure Mark, thanks for having me on.




In your book The New Rules of Marketing & PR you’ve discussed how many apply the wrong mindset and rely on the ‘old playbook’ or the old mentality of advertising.


Could you elaborate on this, and what you think is the right approach?


David Meerman Scott:


I’m not necessarily saying it’s the ‘right approach’ because if the techniques you’re using today are working, that’s great. But the vast majority of people I speak with tell me that the old rules are not working so well anymore. Prior to the ability to reach people directly, the old rules that you had to spend a whole lot of money to advertise in magazines, radio, television, newspapers, billboards, by direct mail lists, to send direct mail out and things like that. You also had the option to spend a lot of money on a public relations agency, to get your ink in the media. Or having an army of sales people to knock on doors or make cold calls.


If all those things are working for you, that’s great. Keep doing them. However, the ways that people buy have significantly changed. We have the web now, so people have the ability to do searches on Google to find answers to problems. They have the ability to reach out to their friends, colleagues and family members through social networks to solve problems.


Those ways of making buying decisions mean that you have to change the way that you’re doing business if you want to reach those particular buyers. The whole idea of the New Rules are that you create the kind of content that will attract people, that you’re active in the social networks that people are active in, so that you’re going to reach them. That you’re engaged in real time communications, reaching people when the moment is right. That generally works great for lots of people, so I call those the New Rules, as opposed to what we used to do in the past before the ability to reach people through the web.





You have to change with the times, right?


David Meerman Scott


David Meerman Scott:


The main reason you have to change with the times is because that’s what buyers have done. The way that buyers make decisions is they’re going to search engines and social networks, so if you want to reach them, and align the way you’re selling and marketing with the ways that people are buying, then you do have to make those changes.




In the past you’ve talked about publishing information to meet the needs of the people you are trying to reach, and attracting them through content.


While most larger businesses understand this, could you clarify for SMBs and share your thoughts on this, along with content strategy and how it can help to reach consumers to grow a business?



David Meerman Scott:


What I like to look at is what I call buyer personas, which help you to understand the market you’re trying to reach. What I’ve noticed is that many organizations, when they get started with this idea of creating content to reach buyers, tend to spend way too much effort talking about themselves, along with their products and services. That’s not so effective anymore because it’s really like advertising.


What works better is to deeply understand the buyers that you’re trying to reach. The only way to do that is if you really do the research to understand them. By that, I mean you actually interview potential buyers. I call them buyer personas. If you’re very clear in understanding those different personas, then you’ll be able to create content that will be interesting to them.


Let me give you an example - the vast majority of hotels in the world generally create the content on their website which is just about their hotel property. It has pictures of the bed, the bedrooms, the restaurant, the swimming pool, but doesn’t really address the needs of the buyers. If you think about what a hotel is doing, it’s providing very different services for different buyers.


For example, the independent business traveler who’s making a decision to travel to, for example, Boston, will make a decision based on their individual needs. Perhaps they want to have a great health facility to workout in. You’ve also got a corporate travel manager of a company located in the Boston area, for example Fidelity Investments, who has lots and lots of people come through the city of Boston, and they’re making the decision for thousands of hotel room nights per year. That’s a very different buyer persona. Or perhaps it’s a family planning to come to Boston for vacation, also a very different buyer persona. Or a company or organization that’s planning an event, and they might have it at a hotel in Boston, also a very different buyer persona. Or how about a couple planning on getting married, and they want to have their wedding reception in a hotel, another very different buyer persona.


The idea of how you create great content for an organization of any size, from 1-2 employees to any size, is that if you understand deeply those individual buyer personas, you can create content for each one of them.


If you’re trying to attract people that might want to use your hotel for a wedding reception, perhaps you could create a wedding blog. You could call it The Boston Wedding Blog and that would allow you to create the sort of content that would attract brides and grooms as they’re planning their wedding, and they might say “Well, shoot, this hotel seems pretty cool. They’re educating and informing me about having a wedding in Boston, maybe I should think about having my wedding in their hotel”.





Sounds like it’s important to be a resource, not just a brochure.

David Meerman Scott:


That’s a really good way to put it. Rather than just talking about your own products and services, you instead anticipate and understand deeply the problems that your buyers face, you understand the language that those buyers use, and that helps you to better be able to sell to them.




If you’re a business that wants to stand out in a local market, what might you suggest?


To provide more context, let’s say it’s a restaurant or retail shop or perhaps a service driven business like a plumber and they’re based in Boston.


What strategies do you suggest for small businesses, local marketing and customer acquisition?

David Meerman Scott:


So the first thing that’s very important, is to make sure you’re properly registered with Google. By that I mean, you have claimed your business on Google local, all of the details about your business is up to date, such as your phone number, address, photographs about your business, and store hours, if you have a physical store. All that kind of information is really valuable. The reason that Google local is incredibly valuable, is because that’s the part of the Google search engine that people will find, if they’re searching from a local market. If you happen to be in California and you do a search for plumbers, you’re not going to get a plumber located in Boston. But if you’re in Boston and you do a search for plumbers, you want to make sure that if you are that plumber, that your business is going to be surfaced.


The second thing that’s really important is to then think about how you can create information that the search engines will like. For example, as we’re recording this right now, it’s incredibly cold in Boston. It has not gone above 20 degrees Fahrenheit in Boston for the last five days, and this weather is going to continue. So right now, we’re in this terrible cold snap, and it’s causing all sorts of problems with plumbing all over Boston.


If you had written some content or created a video about what to do in very cold weather to protect your pipes, perhaps that information would be surfaced as people were doing their research about what to do in such very cold weather. Which is how you can make your organization stand out from other plumbers, because there’s very few plumbers that are doing that today. Very few plumbers that are actually creating these sorts of information that people will find as they’re doing research on issues related to plumbing, and they happen to be in Boston, you will get surfaced.




Almost an example of BrandJacking, which is the title of another one of David’s books..

David Meerman Scott:


It’s actually called NewsJacking




Sorry... NewsJacking.


The way you’re talking about this, it sounds to be about being timely and delivering the right information to the right audience.


David Meerman Scott:


NewsJacking is a little bit different. The idea of NewsJacking is how can you understand what’s going on in the market, and then create valuable information at that moment that will be found not only by your potential customers, but also potentially by the media.


While I did mention the idea that we’re going through this very cold period right now in Boston, and that a plumber, if they had created content that might get surfaced… the difference with NewsJacking is that you create that content right now, when it’s most needed, then push it out using a media that will get found by people as they’re looking for something right now.


What that means is if you’re a plumber and want to create content around the cold weather, there’s a number of things you could do. First of all, you could create a YouTube video. What’s interesting about YouTube is it’s owned by Google, so frequently that content is indexed and surfaced a lot by Google. The other thing you could do is create a tweet with a hashtag. The idea of a hashtag is that it gets surfaced as people are looking for information on this cold weather and plumbing issues. I don’t know what the hashtag is that you would use, but you could do a little research and find it really quickly.


The other thing is you could create a blog post. The cool thing about a blog post is that they’re indexed almost instantly by Google. Therefore, if you do a blog post and the title were something like ‘5 Tips for Making Sure That Your Pipes Don’t Freeze During The Cold Weather in Boston’ or something like that. By getting all those search terms in there, your content may get surfaced when people are looking for information. Maybe when reporters are looking for information or people to quote in their stories.


That’s how you might do NewsJacking. You can also look for local reporters in your marketplace and tag them on a tweet, or even send to them through their email to your content and they may be interested in writing or broadcasting about you.





Business has seen a lot of changes in the last decade for finding customers and the customer buying journey. When it comes to getting in front of consumers, what was once bought is often now earned.


How we buy isn’t like it was.


In your recent talk at Microsoft about Marketing to Modern Customers, you mentioned how consumers with a problem or purchase intent will often go to search engines to research for content that will help them, or speak to their personal network for referrals.


For businesses to address and capitalize on these interests, you’ve stated not only the need to create content people will find, but also being engaged in real-time with social media.


What do you think it takes to develop a strong content strategy to compete, so that you might benefit from additional sharing on social media that’s distributed with further reach than just your personal network?


David Meerman Scott:


I think what it really comes down to is the idea of real time connection. The whole idea of social networking, is that the social networks like Twitter, Facebook, Linkedin, SnapChat and the others, those are just the tools of being able to communicate. What’s really remarkable about social networks is that they allow real time connection between people. On Facebook for example, I can reach people instantly through Facebook and instantly see what they’re saying on Facebook. Same thing is true of Twitter. Same thing is true of Linkedin. What this has done, is it’s taken business that used to be focused on sort of a campaign mentality of ‘I’m going to create information when I’m ready’ to being very different.


Now it’s focused around creating information when the buyer is ready. If somebody is interested in doing business with you, and they reach out and send you a request, you need to respond right away, because perhaps they sent that request to other people as well.


I recently had to move my office, so I reached out to three different moving companies that I found through Google, and I sent them a request for how much it was going to cost to move my office. I gave them an indication of how much stuff I had to be moved, and some pictures of my office. The first company got back to me in two hours with a detailed price quote. The second company got back to me in six hours, and only left a voicemail asking me to respond to them by calling back. The third company got back to me 24 hours later with a price quote, which was cheaper than the first company, but I went with the first company. The one that got back to me most quickly because I figured they were the company that was going to be doing the business better for me. They would be the one to get to my office on time and do the work as they promised. The whole idea of instant communications is really important in today’s world, and that’s what has really changed with this idea of real time content is that social media is not just about a new way to communicate, it’s about a way to communicate instantly.




How do you view reputation management software in terms of importance for businesses, and what do you believe helps to create more digital word of mouth referrals like this?


David Meerman Scott:


Online reviews, especially when you get google reviews, are important for most businesses. In my business, for example, I do a number of things but as you mentioned off the top I write books. I’ve got 10 books so far, and my books are in 29 different languages, so I have tons of people who have reviewed my books in all sorts of different places. There’s well over a thousand reviews of my books on Amazon, and those are very important in helping to sell books. I think you have to make sure that you’re actually creating a great product, whether it’s a restaurant, hairdresser, a landscaper, whatever it is you have to have a great product.


When you do have a great product, and a customer that likes it, see if they would be willing to write a review. A lot of people don’t even think about it. Sometimes if you just prompt them with ‘Hey, it would be really great if you could write a couple sentences on Yelp’ or whatever it might be, that can be a good thing. In some cases, people get really concerned about overly negative reviews.


I actually think that one or two negative reviews, if they’re thoughtful, are not really a bad thing. It shows that real people have written those reviews. When an organization has dozens and dozens of glowing positive reviews that seem fake, many times they are fake. But when an organization has reviews that seem like they’ve been written by real people, and maybe there’s a couple of reviews that aren’t quite as positive, that seems more real to people and they’re more willing to want to buy a product or service that might have that kind of set of reviews.


Reviews are very important, especially for local products.



A number of studies also mention that companies which respond to reviews make a difference in influencing consumer choices as to whether they choose their business.



David Meerman Scott:


That sounds about right.



Also, I wanted to say congrats on making the short list for Oxford Dictionaries word of the year for the term 'Newsjacking', which I believe is one you came up with. I think it’s far better than their final choice "youthquake".



David Meerman Scott:


I would tend to agree, but what can I say, I’m just happy to make the short list. It’s kind of amazing that an idea I pioneered and started to promote a short 5-6 years ago has taken off and not only listed in the dictionary, but was shortlisted for word of the year.




Any thoughts or plans for the year ahead to share?


David Meerman Scott:


I’m focused on where we’re going in the future, and what I’m looking at as being very interesting to me personally is the idea of telling the truth in business is even more important than it’s ever been. With all the different scandals that are going on in the world, with all the polarizing politics, certainly in the United States but I think in other places in the world. With companies constantly focused on how they can deal with the scandals they face, with people who are being put forward as engaging in sexual harassment again and again. I think these things are all pointing to the idea that if you’re honest and truthful in your work that that’s a competitive advantage.





David, thanks for taking the time today, it was great speaking with you.



David Meerman Scott:


My pleasure Mark, thanks a lot.


For more, be sure to visit his

For more, be sure to visit his website, where you can find links to his books along with a number of other resources and David's blog.


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