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MB: Till one day it occurred to me that what people really wanted was to spend time talking with me. And so I basically put out an offer to speak with people who are in our demographic. I laid that out very precisely and then I said “this is why I’m willing to give free time to talk to and to solve certain problems with” and for the first time I really started to see LinkedIn generate results.

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AO: Melinda explains how she finally cracked the code on LinkedIn. No, it’s not some hack. She went back to the basics with personalization. She created a single post that offered four hours of her time to anyone that met the target criteria. She said “a high percentage of these calls turned it into deals”, but it wasn’t about that. It was about trying to serve the people that she loved serving and learning from their challenges.

Here’s Melinda Byerley, a founding partner of Timeshare CMO.

MD: Well, I think there’re a lot of misconceptions about growth tactics that they have to be scalable, they have to be fast, they have to be impersonal and really the most recent growth tactic that I’ve used is to actually be very personal with people. So as I thought about who our customers were at Timeshare CMO, they were senior-level marketers and many of them are used to being approached by people all the time all day every day in their LinkedIn invites and I tried the advice that was given to me by many different sources on the internet until one day it occurred to me that what people really wanted was to spend time talking with me.

And so I basically put out an offer to speak with people who are in our demographic. I laid that out very precisely and then I said “this is why I’m willing to give free time to talk to and to solve certain problems with”, and for the first time I really started to see LinkedIn generate results.

So, what’s the takeaway here?

I mean, we’ll talk about some of them but it’s really about being human. I think this is going to be the counter-intuitive narrative, which is really getting clear about who your target audience is and making sure that what you’re offering is uniquely tailored to them.

AO: Oh my gosh, this is going to be fun to talk about because we use LinkedIn all the time. So you’re saying what you basically did was an initial post. Or you had to change your title on LinkedIn? What was the initial thing that you said: “these are the people that I’m trying to talk to”? Could you dive into that?

MB: Well, I was reading Seth Godin’s book “This is Marketing”, which I think is probably the most important book on marketing written in recent memory. It is a slim little knob,

A slim little book, just like most of what Seth writes, but it’s just it’s pure distilled wisdom delivered like mainlining and I kept stopping and making notes. And one of the things he talks so precisely about is when you segment your audience, we spend a lot of time talking about where do they live and how much money do they make, and are they men or the women, and how big is their company. And instead of talking about who they are, what they believe in, who is like them, and why they are like us, and why we seek to serve them and literally in the middle of reading that book I was inspired. And so I logged in to LinkedIn at that moment and I made a post with this offer and it blew my mind like how it was the first time that any tactic I had really tried on LinkedIn seemed to have tangible sort of results.

AO: I love it. Can you tell us the actual post that you wrote or something as close as you can get?

MB: Well you have to know, this is the beauty of it Seth says “if you tell people your tactics they can copy your tactics. If you tell people your strategy they can’t copy your strategy because very few people are willing to put in the time and effort to think through what their audience wants and who they are”. So I could say well I’m not going to tell you that because if I tell you that you’re all going to try and do it. But the fact is that you can’t all do what I did because your customers are not the same as my customers.

So here is the insight for me. Was that my customer from Timeshare CMO is not even a CMO. Every CMO is not my customer. My customer is a particular type of CMO. They have certain things in common. They have certain things that they believe, they have certain ways that they work and act and think and so with that in mind the post that I offered was “four hours of my time to anyone who was new in a CMO role to talk about how to be more successful and how to keep their job.”

And I offered that to only two people in my network or people who were referred by my network. So you couldn’t just call me up on the phone and get this offer or you had to be someone who was known to me directly or known by somebody who knew me.

And it worked gangbusters. I positioned it as a gift. It was like it is a gift because I don’t do this, I don’t give away my time, I’m very protective of my time.

And so it was hey, you know, you’re doing a favor for a friend of yours because they’re getting four hours of free coaching essentially free support with no strings attached.

No sales process. No hassle. Just four hours of time with me to talk about how to keep their job and how to be successful in the role that they’re in and that worked.  

You know people who wanted to refer to their friends. I had people in my network call me. I had people who heard about the offer and begged to be spoken with. Even though they weren’t in my network and I made an exception in a couple of cases because it made sense.

AO: This is so cool. I mean it’s so basic but it’s so insightful at the same time. I’m just already thinking about how we can apply this and just what we’re doing as well. Help me with those actual calls. You obviously weren’t doing a four-hour time thing. This may be like, hey, let’s have an hour a week at least…  

MB: Yes, and this doesn’t work for everybody because not everybody out there has 20 years of marketing experience in Silicon Valley to make the first hour with the top CMO value-added.

The point of this tactic is not that everybody listens to this should go out and do this. Because chances are unless you have had 20 years of experience in Silicon Valley or whatever you’re doing, if CMOs are your target it will ring hollow, it will ring fake.

That’s why I’m able to talk about it or not be possessive about it because you can’t get away with this unless you can deliver. If you get on that phone call with that CMO and you’re not delivering value in that hour you won’t get another phone call or another one.

So the point of all of this, of the growth tactic, is to slow down for a moment and really think about who your customer is and what do they have in common with each other? Not just their demographics, but their what we call psychographics.

It affects their beliefs, their attitudes, what they’re afraid of, what they need, what they want, and how you can be useful to them at that moment. It’s a point of service. It’s really thinking about how to serve your customer well.  

So the tactic may not work for everybody and that’s not the point. The point is the strategy which is really getting at who you seek to serve and trying to make your offer combined with that.

AO: I love it. Yeah. This helps us kind of paint the picture for our listeners. They are trying to ask themselves this question, wow this worked for Melinda. But how do I apply this to what I’m doing? Because I’m not as well known or maybe my company is. But how can I take this same method?

So do you want to talk about creative things that you’ve seen that could be similar? I mean obviously rooted in like I want to serve my customers if you don’t want to serve them then you probably shouldn’t be in that business.

MB: That’s right. That’s exactly right. And that’s where the creativity comes into play. So one of the things that has really sort of concerned me in the sort of growth marketing movement is the sort of like repetition of tactics and that’s what makes them feel like spam.

That’s what makes them feel impersonal because they are impersonal. And you have to be willing to say who is not my customer. So who is not your customer who is not the person you’re seeking to serve and to take a risk with who you seek to serve and be only towards them.

Every time I put out something like we serve some very high-end clients like DVD Netflix, GitHub, Stack Overflow, like if I just put that out there that wasn’t enough because there are lots of great agencies out there that serve top brands.

But the people that want to hire Timeshare CMO, look at the world a little bit differently.

It’s not everybody. Everybody is not your customer and that’s going to feel strange to anybody who’s all about scalable growth tactics. But the first step in this strategy is to accept that not everybody is your customer and to be very clear about who is not your customer so that you can really drill in and talk to the people who are. One way you can do that, for example, is to create a matrix. A 2 by 2 matrix where you plot two attributes, again, this comes straight out of Seth Godin’s book. It’s two attributes that you were thinking you said, it could be your price. It could be your service. It could be all kinds of things with certain features. It could be anything. But figuring out where you are and where you want to be.

You can’t just go out and copy what I wrote on LinkedIn, because, first of all, my customers may not be your customers, there are CMOs that I serve that you may not want to serve and vice versa.

And so go after the customers, see what your customers have now, what do they have in common. It is not just like their companies so many agencies focus on industry. We serve companies in many different Industries because we serve people and people. Look for the commonalities.

AO: I got it. When I ask these questions I know that it’s just a weekend-long to get a categorical answer here. But what was the conversion of the people that you talk to that became business down the road?

MB: Well, it’s another thing, my customers take a long time. This is a relationship business.

So my conversion rate is irrelevant really because it’s been successful for my business and that’s my point.

So I can’t say to anybody that if you go do this your conversion rates are going to be X. I can tell you that it blew me away that a wild idea that I got after reading a book, posting it on LinkedIn at 10 o’clock at night yielded, you know, probably half a dozen or a dozen phone calls with people within 24 hours.

That was unheard of for me up until that point.

I really felt like I hadn’t understood LinkedIn and even though I was very successful on Twitter and I’d gotten a lot of business off Twitter. I hadn’t figured out LinkedIn yet. And this one worked for me. It may not work for everybody but I do think the takeaway is the power of Seth Godin’s book, which is really understood and finally figured out who I served and why I served them and then the people who wanted to be served in that way. They found me.

AO: That is so good. Yeah, could you share some of the learnings that you did learn from those calls that you had?

MB: Well, I mean, I do think that you know, again it reaffirmed there were some calls where it became very obvious after a couple of hours that this person was probably not going to be a client from for us, but that’s okay because they might refer someone else to us, or they might call us when they are at the next job. 

Second of all, I learned about other Industries. So some came out of industries that we had no experience with so that was interesting I could learn about what was going on in a particular field and some became clients quickly, some very quickly converted into clients, some are still in discussion some are you know taking their time and sometimes it’s obvious there’s a perfect fit.

There are some commonalities with dating in the work, I would say one of my biggest learnings is that the thing I spent my whole life learning to be an expert at which was scalable marketing was exactly the opposite of what my company needed at this time.

AO: Wow, that is really interesting.  

MB: So you have to be willing to say, you know, once you have this tool that not, you know if you have a hammer everything starts to look like a nail and you’ve got to be careful about that marketing is service business to top CMOs, consumer packaged goods, B2B, Financial Services like that is not something you do in a scalable way. It is a relationship and it is a completely different approach.

It took me longer than it should have to learn that but the faster you can really grab onto that the faster you’ll be successful 

AO: So good. So, I mean, let’s just say that this is the right approach for someone like in terms of this LinkedIn Outreach just sincerely saying hey, I really just want to talk to people in this category.

What were some of the roadblocks that you found?  

MB: We kept it simple like everything I think again growth marketers tend to over-engineer things, especially if you have an engineering background, the whole point is to be human, the “be human”.

So it was a simple Zoom call. There was nothing to mess up.  

I do have an assistant who helps organize my calendar and most of these people have assistants as well.

So that went pretty easily sure there were people who didn’t show up but usually, it was by accident and so we learn to send out reminders the day before to say “don’t forget you have a call tomorrow”. But nine times out of ten, you know by the second or third call we were talking on cell phones, you know, I would be talking to people while they were walking their dogs or renovating their apartment or you know, cell phone numbers were exchanged and it got casual very quickly.

I think you know there’s real power in the human approach in the and so thinking about you know, even if you are looking for a scalable tactic, I think the extent at which you really can try to be human with it will determine your success.

AO: No doubt. Well, just a final question. Can we talk about the agenda of that call? And I know I’m sure that word may be too structured even considering what you’ve been sharing so far, but could you just kind of discuss like the beginning of how you would start a call?

MB: Well, it’s again, you know, it depends on what you do for a living but in my case, I serve CMOs who are typically new in their role or seeking a change in their company. And as Seth Godin says “marketing is about change”. And so hearing a lot of its listening and I think that’s a good marketer should be a good listener.

So again, who are these people you seek to serve, and what are their problems? How are they solving their problems? What are their pain points? What are their fears? And every conversation I had just kept reinforcing what I was learning about what our customers have in common and what they don’t have in common and it’s made it easier for me to do some of the more classic LinkedIn tactics that were not having success before so if I’m now doing an inmail now I can talk about maybe I don’t use an email maybe I only use second-degree connections and I send something very personal. I like congratulations on your new role and I’m and it’s and it’s a very personalized thing. It is not something that’s done by bots or by a link farm or by some people who don’t even know me or know the customer.

There are just some things that I won’t do at this point.

We’re trying to build relationships with people because they’ve seen it all. These people have seen it all and there’s no fooling them. They know what a bot is. They know it’s a fake spammy automated outreach email, they know and most of them don’t even go on LinkedIn anymore because of that. Because they’ve been overwhelmed by spam. So how do you deal with people who have that mentality you have to be personal and you have to end. You have to be patient and sincere and it’s really about asking questions about the pain points and seeking to solve them the minute you get into this mindset.

Say, if I have to sell something you’re dead. Because you know, I can’t outsell McCann, Erickson, or BBDO, you know, those guys are great. They are the world’s best at selling services to large companies, marketing organizations. They’re great at it.

But that’s not what the people I talk to are looking for. They’re looking for human and real and very supportive marketing services.  

AO: Love it all. I mean at the end of the day, you’re basically just saying like is your purpose genuine like start with your heart there in terms of art. Do you actually want to serve these people and then work from there?
And then we’re not using the words tactics and hacks and do this and do that. It’s like hey, I honestly just want to know these people because I relate with him and I love being able to interact with them and just start from that and the answer becomes a lot more obvious.

MB: Yeah, and then if you start to do it, you can find ways to automate the process you can find ways to save time over time. But until you actually do it you can’t automate it. It and I see so many startups make this problem.

That’s what the founder will say. Oh, I just need to hire a salesperson and then our sales problem will be solved. No,  if the founder can’t sell. no outside salesperson can solve that problem for them.

They have to sell first, they have to learn how to sell it because they know the product better than anyone else and if they don’t know how to sell it they will never be able to teach someone else and that was the way I felt about where we were in the growth of our firm.

I knew that I wanted us to grow but I also felt like our growth has been so organic. We are blessed to have been grown organically over the last five years through word of mouth, through the networks.

And I knew that I couldn’t just hire someone to go fake that.

Otherwise, we’d be moving away from everything we stood for. So it was I have to go out and learn how to sell to people who don’t know me and until I understand how to sell to people who don’t know me how could I ever ask a salesperson to do it for me?

AO: So good. Yeah, this is the ultimate qualitative way of understanding your customer so that you can put things that are more scalable and placed in the right way. Yeah. I love it. This is amazing. I’m going to take these things for myself as well. And I know our listeners going to be able to apply this immediately. So thank you so much, Melinda. This is amazing.

MB: I’m glad I could help have a wonderful day.

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