025: David Meerman Scott on Why Most Marketing Sucks, New Rules of Marketing & the $16M Blog Post | RedPandas Digital

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When David Meerman Scott talks people listen. David was one of the first people to talk about content on the web as a form of marketing at a time in the early 2000’s when it was so radical, traditional PR and marketing people would fight him on it! Today, his book, The New Rules of Marketing in PR – a book that raised such concepts into the mainstream now has sold over 350,000 copies and is printed in over 25 languages.

I had the privilege to talk to the ‘Godfather of Inbound Marketing’ about his book,  why most marketing sucks, real-time marketing, what works in 2016 and his biggest peeves about the industry. Full transcript below.

David Meerman Scott interview with Moby Siddique

Complete Interview transcript:

Moby: How does it feel to be called the godfather of inbound marketing?

David: Haha, the godfather of inbound marketing.. You know it’s interesting, the whole semantic thing is I called it the new rules of marketing and PR with the book I wrote that came out in 2007. Back in 2005, I wrote a book, it’s very dated now because I never updated it, but it’s called Cashing in With Content.

So, the semantics aspect is what is this? Ts it new marketing? Is it inbound marketing? Is it content marketing? There’s lots of different words. I’m proud of the fact that I identified these concepts way before other people did and wrote about them way before other people did. Along with HubSpot, both of us. We would serve in parallel tracks which I’m really excited about. I don’t know about the word godfather, but I’m glad that I was early.

Moby: I like it, I think it’s pretty cool. Just on the book, because I don’t think it is possible to chat to you without referring to The New Rules of Marketing and PR book that you spoke about. Like when you’re saying, when these first came out, you were one of the first. Now it’s common place, but you’re one of the first people to speak about content as a form of marketing.

David: Yeah. When that book came out, it was the first book that did well to talk about content as a form of marketing, but I was talking about it going back to 2002. Talking about for a long time. At that time, it was incredibly radical for people to talk about marketing is now content on the web. Back ’05, ’06, ’07, that was incredibly radical.

I used to have countless traditional public relations people, traditional marketing people who would fight me on it. There’s like, “No way. This isn’t going to happen.” Marketing people at companies would fight me on it and it was not obvious back then. This was kind of an outlier of a strategy. I saw the potential for it because I came out of the real time news business.

My first job was on a bond trading desk and then I worked in the real time news business. I had an unfair advantage that when I started to talk about these ideas in ’02, ’03, ’04, I already had 10 years’ experience with real time content, because I was working for companies like Dow Jones and Reuters and so that was an unfair advantage. I think there are very few people on the planet that could have written a book like that, and I was just lucky … I shouldn’t say lucky. I’m glad I persevered to write it because it was a non-obvious thing to do.

Moby: Well we’re glad you did too because now the authority on marketing as that book is coming known as. Almost 10 years later, five versions and fifth rendition now at the moment.

David: I just signed a deal for the sixth.

Moby: I think you’re doing the two yearly cycles, is that’s what’s happening?

David: It’s every other year, typically. I don’t know whether that’s going to always continue. The two main reason why I update it every other year, one, of course, things change. The biggest thing to me that changed in the last couple of months for example is Facebook Live. Live streaming video on Facebook is really interesting from a marketing perspective.

I’ve always got to update the new tools. The strategy hasn’t changed since 2007. The strategies are always the same. What the changes are the tools. The second reason I need to keep updating it is because the book is used in hundreds of universities around the world as a core text or a supplemental text. Therefore, I need to make sure the book is always current so that the professors continue to use that as a core book for the students.

The first thing they do is look at the copyright. That’s why I’m updating it every two years. It’s going into the sixth edition. The other thing that’s really cool about it is that it’s in 26 different languages. When there’s a new addition, typically there will be some languages that’s already been published in, you know, German, Italian, Vietnamese, Chinese, Japanese.

Some of them will then want to redo the book and republish it in the new edition. Not always, but it’s kind of cool. I have a library with all the different additions of the book, different languages and different versions and it’s pretty cool. One book actually turns into … I think if I count them all up, there’s probably 40 or 50 different editions in different languages, different editions and whatnot. It’s kind of cool.

Moby: That takes re-purposing to a whole new level!

David: It’s kind of neat.

Moby: Apart from the ultimate “I told you so” everyone … You’re right, a lot of things are changing, but what are the core one or two fundamentals that haven’t changed and why these books still stands a test of time and you can keep doing so?

David: A couple of things. Core aspect of the book, which is very important to old marketing is this concept of buyer personas. The concept that most people’s marketing fail. Most company’s marketing fails, because they focus too much on their company’s products and services. If you understand your buyer personas or the groups of people that you’re trying to reach and then you create content especially for those buyer personas, it gets you out of the trap of only writing about your company’s products and services.

That’s fundamental, that’s core to marketing and that hasn’t changed and that is extremely important and not very many people actually do it. The second thing is that once you do know your buyer personas, once you do understand who you’re trying to reach, then you need to create the content that will attract them. It’s video and audio and we’re doing a podcast right now, you’re creating content right now, right?

It’s text-based information, photographs, images, infographics, things like that. Then the third main concept is that you need to engage with your market instantly in real time and be agile. That’s actually something that’s only been in the last four or five editions. It was not in the first edition, because social networking didn’t exist in the first edition.

At the time I was writing the first edition, Facebook was only for students. Twitter didn’t exist. There wasn’t really this concept of real time marketing that there is now. That’s the other core principle that hasn’t changed since I first wrote about it. I think it was probably in the second condition. That has not changed and the idea that you understand your buyer is number one. You create great content that will reach them, number two. Number three, you engage instantly and in real time. That’s done. That’s you’re marketing plan right there.

Moby: Absolutely. I think it’s really good segue to a question I had that I’ll ask you now, the concept of real time marketing. So this year you spoke at the Digital Signage Expo I believe it’s called. You spoke about real-time marketing there and I like that in an offline sense, sort of online sense.

David: Yeah, it’s interesting that there is real time outside of the online sense. Digital Signage is actually really interesting example of that. Digital signage, you see these signs all over the place now, but it can be a digital billboard. A big version. It can be just a small digital signage like in a restaurant or in a shopping mall or whatever it might be.

Once you have a digital sign, it’s possible that that digital sign can be updated instantly in real time. It’s very interesting to be able to tie a physical offline marketing initiative to instant communications because that sign can be updated instantly. It was cool to be able to speak at that event, because that’s a rare example that offline marketing can actually be real time.

Moby: One thing I really like and I think a lot of people really enjoy about your books and your presentations is you do it via a lot of storytelling. I think that’s one of the things that carries across with the new renditions of the book and one that I really, really liked was the one about the CEO of Eloqua. I think you wrote he wrote a million dollar blog post because … Who was it? It was …

David: His name was Joe Payne. Yeah, because Oracle acquired one of his competitors. He wrote about it right away instantly in a couple of hour after the announcement was made. He generated a million dollars with new business and then his company was also acquired by Oracle. I calculated that the value of that million dollars of extra revenue is worth 15 million dollars on the purchase price which means it was a 16 million dollar blog post. I call that my 16 million dollar news jacking blog post.

Moby: It’s gone from a million to 16 now if you think about it. The concept of real time marketing. You speak a little about the mindset and I love if you could elaborate on that a little bit now. What should a brand do if they have no idea where to start? How do they adopt the mindset and how should they commence the adoption of real time marketing?

David: So real time marketing is just the understanding that things are happening right now this second and you need to be prepared to take advantage of situations or be prepared to respond to situations that could potentially be negative to your company.

However, most organizations plan their marketing way ahead of time and they execute on a plan.

There’s nothing wrong with that, but the problem is if you’re only creating content for the future and you’re only executing on a marketing plan that you created in the past, then you’re not focused on real time. What you need to do is just understand what’s going on in the news, what’s going on in the social networks, what are people saying about you or not saying about you. What are they saying about your competitors, what are the things that are going on out there and then be prepared to act when the moment is right.

That’s not something that most marketers are familiar with, most marketers are prepared to do. I actually consider it to be very similar to an exercise program. In other words, if you want to get fit and healthy and develop an exercise program, number one, you need to understand how to do that. You have to build knowledge. The second thing is that you need to have a mindset shift that you’re going to change the way you eat and you’re going to change the way you move your body.

That mindset shift is essential to be able to become fit and healthy. You can’t just dabble and say, “Oh, you know, I’ll eat one less pizza this week. I might go out and jog for a mile next Tuesday.” You can’t dabble with it. You have to make it a mindset shift. I think the same thing is true about this concept of real time communications.

Number one, you need to educate yourself about what it is, so you understand how it works. Very much like an exercise program. Educate yourself on how to eat healthy and to exercise. Then the second thing is then you have to commit to it. You have to make a mindset shift. You have to say, “I’m going to run my business in a real time manner.”

That’s a challenge for a lot of organisations, but that’s what’s required. If you do that, then when there’s an opportunity, like for example in the case of Eloqua, their competitor was acquired. When that happens, if you’ve already developed the knowledge, you’ve already got the mindset that when an opportunity arises, you can act on it, then you’re golden. You have an opportunity to generate a 16 million dollar blog post.

Moby: Awesome. Second last question. When you first started espousing about content such as blogs, videos, form of marketing, it wasn’t as noisy. Definitely it wasn’t as noisy. However, the stories in your books and people have changed and the future books you’ll write, they’ll have new stories. People are still going to break through that clutter somehow. I think a lot of people get quite intimidated. “There’s so much going on. How do I breakthrough? How do I breakthrough?” I guess the question is, what are the characteristics of the people, of the brands who continue to breakthrough the noise and will continue to do so in the future?

David: I think it’s really simple. I think it comes down to the nature of one of the early questions you asked me which is this concept of understanding the people you’re trying to reach. Understanding your buyer personas. There is way too much content. There is content overload of people writing about their company and writing about their products and writing about their services.

You’re not going to breakthrough if you do that. Nobody cares about your company. No one cares about your products, no one cares about your services. Where you can breakthrough and I think where you will breakthrough is when you understand the problems faced by the people who might become a customer of yours. You understand the problems of what I call your buyer personas.

What are the challenges they face? What are the things that keep them up at night? What are the words and phrases they use to articulate their challenges and their problems? Once you understand that, then you’re able to create the kind of content that can breakthrough because it’s not just talking about what your company does, it’s solving a problem for the people that you’re trying to reach and it’s fundamentally different approach to it. I think there’s always room. Always, always, always room for an organisation who can truly understand the people they’re trying to reach and create a content to reach them accordingly.

Moby: This is whether it’s real time or getting in front of everyone else.

David: Yeah.

Moby: Final question. I certainly have not been teaching as long as you have, I’ve only been doing that three years. Being as passionate as you are about your craft, I don’t know if feel this way, but it also means you also get frustrated about by certain things in the industry, also the practitioners. My question is, tell me, as someone who travels well over 150,000 kilometres a year and sees over tens of thousands of people every year. Looking back at all these years, what today frustrates you about the marketing industry or what practitioners are still doing today after all these years?

David: I think the thing that frustrates me the most is that there are a lot of marketers out there who are still practicing the art of trickery. They trick companies into working with them. The agency partner or whatever it is, the advertising medium whatever it is are truly not going to be able to help a company, but they still take that company’s money.

I’m frustrated when somebody is still talking about old forms of marketing and they haven’t changed to understand the new landscape. Yet they’re still selling the things that don’t work as so well to potential customers. I keep coming back to what I’ve done for the last 15 years and what I’ve done in the last 10 years of my books and my speeches is how can I educate people around the possibilities of reaching their potential customers about generating attention for their business.

Everything I do is about that. Everything I do is about how can I make people successful with their business. I don’t make as much money as some other marketers. It may sound weird. The guy who has the number one book and the guy who speaks a lot as much as I do isn’t making as much money as others, because I never decided that I wanted to just pull money out of the marketplace. I decided I’m not going to have a team of people and run an agency and take money from clients.

What I decided instead was that I wanted to provide as much education for people as possible to help them grow their business. I’m remaining true to that and that makes it easier for me to sleep at night than if I were just taking advantage of a company and taking their money from them.

Moby: You can’t buy that peace of mind. David Meerman Scott, thank you so much for your time.

David: My pleasure Moby. It’s great to be here.

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