Employee Engagement, Being Happy And Productive with Kevin Kruse and Attracting The Market With Educational Content with Michael Brenner

Every employee wants to feel appreciated with the work they do for their company. This is one way that Kevin Kruse defines employee engagement. But more than being happy in work, you need to be productive as well. More than feeling satisfied, you need grow competitive and go the extra mile. When you create content that people want, it educates them about the product or the service. Michael Brenner attracts people in this way because instead of making it sound like selling, it sounds like you are already serving.

TTL 146 | Employee Engagement

We have Kevin Kruse and Michael Brenner. Kevin’s written several New York Times bestselling books and Michael Brenner is named Top Business Speaker by Huffington Post and Top CMO Influencer by Forbes. We’re going to talk about engagement, culture, sales, marketing and time management.

Listen to the podcast here:

Employee Engagement, Being Happy And Productive with Kevin Kruse

I am with Kevin Kruse who’s on a mission to make over the next ten years 100 million leaders. With that goal in mind, he founded LEADx, a next generation online learning company that offers free leadership training and professional development to everyone, everywhere, at any time. He also continues to make time to personally work with leaders around the world, including Marine Corps officers in the Pentagon, non-profit leaders in Pakistan, and entrepreneurs in Kenya. His previous companies have won Inc. 500 and Best Place to Work awards, and he’s a New York Times bestselling author of six books. It’s so nice to have you here, Kevin.

Thanks for the invitation.

One of the few people’s books that I’ve bought are yours. I love your work because you get right to the point and you say exactly what I want to hear and there is no fluff.

I wish some of the traditional publishers could think the same way. I’ve done both traditionally published books and independent books. My natural style is get rid of the fluff, get right to the point. Yet the publishers I’ve worked with, the first thing they tell me is, “Kevin, we need a big book so it’ll feel heavy in their hand and they’ll want to pay a lot of money for it.” I’m like, “No, readers don’t want big fat books with a lot of fluff. Boil it down.” It’s crazy, so I’m glad you and I think alike. Great minds think alike.

TTL 146 | Employee Engagement
Employee Engagement 2.0: How to Motivate Your Team for High Performance (A Real-World Guide for Busy Managers)

I actually get your books on audio, so I don’t even get to see how big they are, but I do get to see how long they take. I can’t say I’ve read all of them, but I have read several of them. I want to read the Text Me! Snap Me! Ask Me Anything! I love that you put your phone number and your email right on the cover. I loved Employee Engagement and your 15 Secrets People Know About Time Management. It’s the kinds of things I like to read because it’s so practical. You’ve done a lot of work with amazing people. You share some really good stories. I thought it might be nice to start with engagement because it’s such a hot topic. You definitely have written a lot about engagement and you have had successful companies. People hear a lot about engagement that they don’t know exactly what it is or what it isn’t. Can you explain what it is or what it isn’t?

It is a hot topic and yet so many companies are getting it wrong. It’s got a lot of naysayers because I think there’s a debate or disagreement on the definition. I’m not going to say I’m the only one with the right definition, but to me, employee engagement is not about being happy at work. You can be happy and unproductive. It’s not about being satisfied because I can be satisfied at work and I’ll still take that head hunter phone call, I’ll still go to the competition for a 10% raise.

To me, employee engagement is our emotional commitment to our organization and its goals. It basically means we care about our work and the company. If I truly care, then I’m going to give you discretionary effort. Employee engagement isn’t the same as discretionary effort. Employee engagement is the caring part, but the magic is that when we care, we give extra effort. A salesperson will sell just as hard on a Friday afternoon as she will on a Monday afternoon. A customer service person, if he’s engaged, is going to be just as patient at 5:00 PM with an angry customer as he would be at, at 9:00 AM. People on the factory floor make fewer mistakes, have fewer safety problems.

All of these things, when you sell a little more, when you’re a little more productive, when you make fewer mistakes, inevitably it leads to the bottom line, and we know really clearly now that companies that have an engaged workforce outperform disengaged companies by fivefold on the stock market. The soft stuff called engagement, leading people from employee engagement, it leads to hard business results, but it all starts with understanding. We’re not just trying to make people happy. It’s not about doing more employee satisfaction surveys. It’s all about how do you create a culture where people can then care about the work they’re doing in the company they’re in.

There’s so many companies where they give those surveys. I worked for a company and almost twenty years where they surveyed us every year and we never heard anything about it. I don’t know if they used the information, if they looked at it, nothing.

That’s a cardinal sin, because that disengages you. You’re like, “Here’s another time wasting survey again.” Rather than helping, it’ll actually make things worse.

I almost wished there were fill in the blanks so you can put sarcastic comments or something just to see if somebody was reading the survey. Where is this thing going? Usually they do it like a scale type of thing. You give a lot of examples of what people should put into a survey if they can’t afford to get an outside company to help look at them. People don’t do that. That’s another reason I love your books because you go, “This is what you need to do, A, B, C,” and you give all these things.

You give seven questions or all these questions of what you need to do to put in to a survey to get an idea if people are engaged. To me, that is what I like to see people do when they write. I don’t think I’m unique in that. You said that profits, it’s a secret to better returns if you can understand that with engagement. I noticed you quoted the Campbell Soup Company, Doug Conant, his story. You can share that one if you want or do you have any others that you think are really important stories, positive or negative, of where engagement was a problem?

The reason why I like to share the Campbell Soup story is because it’s certainly not the only time it’s happened, but it’s the most dramatic, big company example of how you can change engagement. There are naysayers that say, “You can’t do anything about engagement.”Briefly way back, Campbell Soup, this iconic,100-year old company brand, thousands of employees, a lot of people thought they were going to go out of business or get acquired, they were in bad times. They recruited Doug Conant from Nabisco to be a turnaround CEO. I’ve gotten to know Doug, we’re both from Philadelphia. He told me that the board recruited him and said, “You just got to pretty this thing up and sell it.” His marching orders weren’t to really turn it around for the long haul. He was told that they had the worst engagement scores in the Fortune 500. They’re working with Gallup at the time.

Doug told everybody, “One of our core strategies is going to be employee engagement. To win in the marketplace, you must first win in the workplace.”People thought he was crazy, yet year by year, bit by bit, he turned it around. As he got the talent right and the engagement right, they went literally from the worst performing Fortune 500 company when it comes to engagement to the best. In that same ten-year time period, they went from one of the worst performing stocks to one of the best, and they’re still independent to this day. He really saved that company and who knows how many jobs, and an iconic brand. It wasn’t the only thing he did, he’ll be the first to say that, but engagement was one of the four cornerstones that he used and I believe they are still using today.

There’s certain things that drive engagement or improve engagement. He definitely is a representative of a guy that did those things. You said there’s four things that you think improve engagement. What are those four things?

When I was doing this work, I partnered up with an old business partner and we used their research, 10 million workers in 150 countries. It was filtered with my own experience. I won a Best Place to Work award for culture, but we’ve really looked at this research pool. The researchers came back and said, “There’s twelve drivers of engagement.” They’re all excited, and I said, “That’s too many. I’m a busy manager. I’m not going to remember twelve things. Boil it down.” They went back and said, “Most of what drives engagement, the biggest correlations are growth, recognition and trust.” We all want to be growing, learning, and challenging our work.

Recognition, we want to feel appreciated for what we do. Trust isn’t so much about the ethics. I trusted that the future is bright, I trust that our leadership has a plan for a bright future. Four, it’s a distant fourth, but an important one is communication. Communication never means people want to hear more from the CEO, it means they want more two way communication. They want their ideas to count, things like that. I just say, great leaders focus on growth, recognition and trust. The word grace, it is an acronym for growth, recognition and trust. Great leaders focus on growth, recognition and trust, and then communication is how you get it all done.

TTL 146 | Employee Engagement
Employee Engagement: Great leaders focus on growth, recognition and trust, and then communication is how you get it all done.

Some of the stuff you’ve put in the book about how to get the results of you get a baseline and then you get results in how you share it. You share the results without trying to focus in on any individuals, so they don’t feel uncomfortable when they find out how everything’s going, you give it an overall thing. Your questions at the end that you say people ask you a lot about, “How can they do this if they’re so busy?” How do you find time? What do you tell them?

The good news is it takes minutes, not days. We’re talking about an individual manager and individual team leader. If you want to trigger that growth button in your team members, it’s two real easy ways to do it. Every six months, sit down and have a career path conversations. That’s 30 minutes, twice a year, where you say, “Diane, it’s been a while since we spoke. Where are you looking to be in five years? What do you need to know to achieve that? Who do you need to know? How can I help you?” Just having this career path conversation goes a long way, but day to day, all it takes is giving people feedback. People like managers do a horrible job of feedback that they withhold it, or they deliver it in a really horrible, awkward, soul crushing way.

Feedback, all it means is it happens in the moment. I would say focus on the behavior, talk about the impact, and then get agreement for future change. If you use this model of catching people doing things right and catching people when they’re doing something that they should stop and give them the feedback, you become their coach and they will feel like they’re growing. It could literally take you 30 seconds in a day to say to someone, “Dorothy, I just want to grab you for a second. Today in the meeting, you rolled your eyes at that suggestion the CEO made, and I’m not sure if you know you did that or not, but I think the impact is that other people saw you do that and they think you’re being disrespectful or not open to new ideas. You might want to verbalize any reaction you have in the future. Do you agree with that?”That took fifteen seconds and yet that’s going to make her better, it’s going to grow her.

Recognition, it’s just saying thank you. It takes twenty seconds to write a thank you note to somebody. It’ll make not just their day, it’ll make their month, their quarter. When it talks about future vision at your weekly staff meeting, on the bulletin boards, remind people what are the goals for the year, the quarter, the month. Give people measurable goals and they’re going to feel like there’s a plan for the future. This is not complicated or time consuming, but if you do those things, if you do weekly or bi-weekly one-on-one meetings where it’s really the employer and employees meeting, not yours, to just say, “What’s on your mind?” That can be about work, it could be their personal life, it could be their suggestions.

What’s on your mind? What are you working on this week? How can I help? Some meetings might last five minutes, some might go for 25 minutes, but that will go a long way to triggering that communication button. These things don’t take a lot of time, they don’t take any money, and you’ll drive engagement and all of a sudden, your best people are going to stay and you’re going to save time having to recruit replacements. Problems are going to go away and you’re going to save time by not having to put out fires and solve problems. All of this stuff, your life gets a lot better and productivity improves, so these are really time savers rather than time wasters.

You had mentioned in your writing about how different people like different things, like some people like public praise, but then other people don’t. Some people like you wouldn’t like to be in that setting. You’d want growth recognition or different things. How do you find out what motivates people?

I’ve known managers who’ve had success with just asking people, “What gets you excited? Tell me about the best boss you ever had, and how did she motivate you? What was the best way you’ve ever been recognized at work?” It can just be a good, honest conversation. You can also start to look for clues when people light up or when they shrink back. This is really your expertise, not mine, but as I’ve gotten to become an old dog in business and have a few decades under my belt, I am appreciating more and more the value of understanding personality and personality differences. Not just that in an abstract, but truly as a leader, taking the time to understand what is an MBTI all about if that’s the system your company uses? What is DISC all about? What is the big five factor model if that’s what your company uses?

Everybody needs a language and a model, and most big companies have picked one. Whatever one that is, don’t just like, “I did that in orientation or I did that on our off site three years ago, and I’m a red or whatever the system is.” Own it, understand it, and day to day remember like, “This is my personality, these are my different team members personalities, therefore I can infer Diane’s a driver and I’m really amiable, and so I need to remember that as I have this coaching conversation with her.” I was aware of the value of that and I went through all those things in years past. It’s really only been recently that I’m realizing, I think understanding personality and personality differences is really an undervalued resource today.

I used to work for a company and they made us post our results on our cubicles. You knew exactly what everybody’s personality type was on every cubicle. It was an interesting thing to me and that was before I wrote my dissertation on emotional intelligence and got into the MBTI and all the different things I write about. It is interesting to focus on people, because you think so much in terms of what you like, as compared to what they like, and I think that’s so important.

In your Time Management book, you’ve researched what makes people successful, routines, and things that people do. The part that fascinated me the most was when you said you found out what other people do to get into their day, what their routines are like, and what makes them be successful. What was the most interesting things you found out about the really successful people in what they do to get themselves going in the morning? Are there anything like Tony Robbins dumping ice on his head or something?

When I was young and dumb, I was horrible at productivity and time. I was working 100 hours a week and not getting any results. Then I learned some stuff and I was able to work four days a week and get amazing results. When I set off to write the book, I didn’t want to just record what I was doing. I wanted to continue to learn and say, “What are all these other Olympians, straight A students, self-made millionaires, self-made billionaires, what are they doing?” All I did was I ask everybody a single question, open ended, “Give me your number one secret to productivity.” They could have said anything, and I just wrote it all down, would ask a couple of follow-ups, and then I coded it. That’s how I ended up with fifteen most common things.

To my surprise, I never would’ve guessed this, but one of the most common fifteen things, I said, “What’s your number one secret to productivity?” People would say something like, “How I spend the first hour of my day,” or “What I do the first hour after I wake up.”I never would have guessed that was a big secret. That, in itself, was a big a-ha to me. No two people were really doing the exact same thing. Most of these people, they were doing something for their body. It might be a twenty minute session on the treadmill, or they’d go for a walk, or they would do yoga stretches, it was different but it would be doing something for their body.

Then they would be doing something usually for spiritual or for their mind. For a lot of people it was meditating, a lot of people it was praying, a lot of people it was journaling, sometimes with their intentions are or with their goals. This did change my own practice where I would try to do my workouts in the morning. I would try to review goals and intents in the morning, but I was not a consistent. After doing this research and writing the book, I got real consistent where I might not do a one-hour workout every morning, but I’m doing my yoga stretches. I’m doing some box breathing meditation for a few minutes. Part of my own ritual is just reciting in my head what’s my personal mission statement, my purpose statement, what am I grateful for. I do a little gratitude practice.

Then in these areas that are important to me, my values, I keep it simple so there’s only three. What are my intents for the day to live the life I intend in these areas? Not only did it make such an amazing difference to my quality of life and I think improvement in a lot of areas, in this last year, I enjoyed it so much where I end up repeating that last part a couple times in the day. When I got a free minute instead of jumping on Facebook on my phone, I’ll just sit there and reflect on those things again. If I’m feeling stressed out and the day’s gone to hell, I’ll say, “That’s coming from somewhere else. That’s not really the reality. Let me go back into my purpose and gratitude.” It’s weird, but it all does impact productivity and quality of life.

I’ve spoken to hundreds of people from this show. Every time you get a little bit of perspective you go, “I’ll try that.” Some things work and sometimes they don’t. We pick and choose the things that work for us. I’m working on something about curiosity. What’s your level of curiosity and what do you do to develop it? Do you think that you can develop it in other people?

For myself, I’m very curious, always have been to the point where I’ve embarrassed a girlfriend when we’re out to dinner with her friends because she says I’m acting like a news reporter, interviewing everybody at the table. “Stop asking everybody so many questions.” I know a lot of people say you can develop your growth mindset and there’s all that Carol Dweck stuff going on, but I thought growth mindset would map to openness on a big five personality test and that it’s part of our personality.

TTL 146 | Employee Engagement
Employee Engagement: Recite in your head what’s your personal mission statement, your purpose statement, what you’re grateful for. Do a little gratitude practice.

That’s the stuff I’m looking into and there’s no right or wrong answer. Usually, the people I talk to are successful and usually they’re curious. What makes me curious are the people who aren’t curious and why they’re not. Why don’t you ask why about everything? I was that kid that asks, “Why?” That’s why I asked you this because I’d like to get different people’s perspectives.

There really isn’t a good answer and that’s why I’m writing about it. There’s so much we can learn from other people and I’d like to see more people push the boundaries a little bit. You give a lot of great advice of how to do that. I’ve loved reading your books. I have to admit I haven’t read the Text Me! Snap Me! Ask Me Anything!.

Nobody else has either. It’s one of those classic artist’s things, the thing that you think is the most personal, soul wrenching everything else. Nobody else cares about it, l don’t think it’s horrible.

There’s only one reason I haven’t. You don’t have an audio version.

There will be one soon.

When I saw the cover, I was like, “That’s so funny. That is just great.” I wanted to read it. I actually looked for it, but there wasn’t an audio book and I tend to multitask so I’m not supposed to, and I do it when I exercise so I thought that would be such a great one. I can’t wait for that to come out. Please let me know when it does because I really wanted to know more about it. You are somebody that I follow, and I don’t follow a lot of people. I really find that you would be a great guy to work for and I could see why you would have won all those recognition awards. A lot of people could benefit from finding out more about what you do. I was wondering if you could share your website or how they can reach you.

After I had started and sold a few different companies in the corporate training space, HR space, and the last one was about ten years ago. At that point I said, “I got three kids at home, I’m going to focus on being a dad until they’re a little bit older.” I did another startup. It’s LEADx.The rest of my life is just to fulfill this mission of sparking 100 million intentional leaders around the world in ten years. The way we’re doing that is by providing free online training in the areas of leadership, management, productivity, communication to anybody, anytime around the world. That’s LEADx.org. You can reach me via email at Kevin@LEADx.org. We have a podcast, The LEADx Show, it’s on iTunes and Stitcher. Everything is about trying to create multiple ways to spread what’s working. What can we learn from successful people, what can we share, and how can we make sure it can get to anybody who’s curious, whether their company wants to send them to it or not, whether they have any money or not.

Do you still have the Extreme Productivity Podcast?

It’s there but I can’t remember how many episodes. It’s no longer live. Season one lasted for 50 shows for about a year. If people search up the Extreme Productivity Show, or just my name Kevin Kruse, then you can find that podcast as well and it’s these short bites on time management and productivity.

Kevin, this has been so great. I really appreciate you being my guest and this was wonderful.

It’s a lot of fun, Diane. Thanks.

You’re welcome.

Attracting The Market With Educational Content with Michael Brenner

I am with Michael Brenner, who is the CEO of Marketing Inside Group and a globally recognized keynote speaker on leadership, culture and marketing. Author of the bestselling book, The Content Formula, Michael’s work has been featured by The Economist, The Guardian and Entrepreneur magazine. In 2017, Michael was named Top Business Speaker by The Huffington Post and Top CMO Influencer by Forbes. Welcome, Michael.

Thanks. It’s great to be here.

I worked on a brand publishing course when I worked in the Forbes School of Business and I worked with Bruce Rogers from Forbes, so I’m very interested in everything you do. Can you give a little background to get us up to speed about how you became a marketing expert?

I started my career in sales. If you’d asked me when I was fifteen, “Do you think you’re going to get into sales and marketing?” I would have thought you were crazy, but that’s where life led me and I found that I was pretty good at it. When I first started in my career, I did what I thought salespeople were supposed to do. I tried to talk about all the crap that we were selling and how great it was. I quickly found that maybe that works for some people, but it wasn’t working for me. Interestingly, when I chilled out, I decided, “I’m going to try to help these folks that I had a set of key accounts. I’m going to try and get to know these guys and gals and figure out what their challenges are and see if there’s a way I can help them. If I can, maybe I’ll sell some stuff.”

Within a few weeks of making that change, I quickly ratcheted up to become one of the top sales people in the entire company around the world and won an award. I was Rookie of the Year in the sales awards conference that we had in a nice sunny location. I was the top salesperson for the next three or four years. I thought that every moment like this is really interesting. Sales isn’t what I thought it was, it’s about helping people. While I was successful, I didn’t really love what I was doing as much as I thought I could. I looked at marketing and I thought I’m frustrated with the support I’m getting from our marketing organization. They’re creating brochures and ads that I don’t think are helping anyone. Maybe I could actually help our customers at scale in a marketing capacity and function.

Five years into my career, I moved into marketing at one company and I stayed there and moved my way up into a couple different positions. Then I became head of marketing for two companies where I always tell people I learn how to do marketing without a budget. It’s a pretty big challenge when you’re a department of one with no budget and you’ve got to figure out how to meet the sales goals of the organization. In that process, I found that if you create content that people want that educates them, that isn’t necessarily about products or services, or doesn’t have that icky feeling of trying to be sold to, it works.

You can attract people, you can grow the traffic of your website, you can get leads, and all this kind of stuff clicked for me. I got hired by SAP as their first head of digital marketing and then was named their first Head of content marketing. Moved to a content marketing technology company where adults have a strategy practice. From there two years ago, launched my own business, found my speaking was in demand. I was getting asked directly by companies to advise them on marketing strategy and so I took the leap and have been doing that ever since.

I was in sales and all the things that you were saying I can totally relate to. Some types of sales are more high pressure, I’ve been in subprime sales and then I’ve also been in pharmaceutical sales, which is more relationship-based. It depends on the type of sales, but a lot of it is relationships and what you can do for other people. Having a sales background definitely helps you with a lot of things and it gives you a lot of interpersonal skills that gives you an idea of how to connect with people.

Some of the things I found when I attended the Forbes CMO Summit was there was a common thread that the CMOs were freaked out about in general was trying to create personalized content at scale. How do you do that? No one really has a good answer, that’s a trick question, but what’s the best way to do that?

I talk to CMOs all the time and I hear similar things to what you just mentioned. The first word out of most CMOs mouth when I asked them like, “What are you struggling with? What’s keeping you up at night?” “It’s the relationship with the CEO. We need to show, demonstrate, and report on increases in sales or brand awareness that drive sales directly to the CEO. If we don’t, we’re out.” This is why I wrote the book The Content Formula because I thought it was the answer. I thought, all these CMOs are struggling to show ROI and the marketing function overall is really at a high pressure situation and all these CMOs are feeling it, and so I wrote the book to answer that question. What I found when I talked to CMOs afterwards was it’s not really the answer because what they were looking was to try to figure out how do they develop personalized content experiences across the buyer customer journey.

When I speak on stage, I always say, “When you ask CMOs, they’ll tell you their biggest challenge is ROI,” but when you actually get into it, what they’re feeling every day is the pain of trying to figure out how to address the customer journey with content that feels like it’s the right person, the right time, the right place, and the right format. It’s a little bit the ‘why; and the ‘how’ I’m getting mixed up together. The ‘why’ is we need to show ROI, but the ‘how’ is really the important question. That’s why customer experiences are really coming to the forefront. I talked to CMOs every day about this problem and what I tell them is, “It’s not as hard as you think. Technology’s not the answer. There is no magic button that you can push,” but there is a simple answer. The simple answer is that it’s right under your noses.

The people that sit inside organizations, not just in marketing but even more so outside of marketing, they already have the content that buyers and customers are looking for. They just need to activate those. A lot of times CMOs turn their head and they look at me like I’m crazy, and I’m like, “You have all the expertise and the passion that you ever need inside your company. We live in an over marketed world.” People don’t want another ad. They want to hear from somebody like them. Guess who’s somebody just like your customer? One of your employees. Your employees are connected to your potential customers in real ways on Facebook and at kid’s birthday parties. Have your employees just start talking about what they know and encourage them to share the kinds of things that they know and the things that they love, and they’re going to attract customers just like them. That’s the magic bullet that I’m trying to evangelize to as many CMOs and CEOs as I can.

I saw you talk on another video on internet about to Ann Handley‘s book. Is it like that where everybody can write? If you could get people to find what they are able to do that we can get them to express it if we can just figure out what everybody’s expertise is?

TTL 146 | Employee Engagement
Employee Engagement: The secret to engaging new audiences and growing a business today is in activating the expertise inside your company.

Ann’s a good friend and we come at it from somewhat different perspectives. Mine is essentially the secret to engaging new audiences and growing a business today is in activating the expertise inside your company. It’s more of a theoretical strategy. Ann’s talking to the creators in the world who doubt themselves and who want to become writers, want to become creators. They’re budding YouTube stars. They know that they want to do it. They feel that they have something to say and something unique, but they’re afraid to take that first step, to write that first article, or to do the creation that they want. Ann’s speaking very tactically and practically, and Ann is such a smart person.

On Everybody Writes, my daughter is a real creative person. I told Ann that I gave her the book Everybody Writes and she read it in like two nights. Ann sent her all this great stuff like these notepads that really made it fun for my daughter, and now, my twelve-year old daughter’s the biggest Ann Hadley fan in the world. It’s really cool, but the point is Ann can speak to a twelve-year old as much as to a 60-year old professional, because we all understand and we all know the fear of taking that first step to creating something.

A lot of people don’t know what to create or how to create or how to connect what you have created. There’s all these different vendors out there and maybe they don’t all communicate together and it gets really confusing for the big companies. Are you dealing with more big companies, small companies, what’s your range?

I deal with every size and it’s interesting because the problem isn’t size. The problem is that most people who are in positions of leadership think that their job is to tell the people that report to them what to do. Isn’t that what the job of a manager is, to tell their team what to do? It’s the opposite and that’s what I’m trying to help companies of all sizes to understanding. In smaller companies, it’s almost even worse because that politics or that art of human interaction is amplified by the personalities of the people in them. Having worked in small companies, it was one of the biggest lessons I learned when I first started was that politics exist in just as much in a small company and it’s amplified by the personalities of the people there, so sometimes it’s even more cringey as my fourteen-year old would say.

I try to tell organizations of all sizes, “Your job as a leader is to tap into the power, the innovation, the ideas that already exists on your team, and to actually take a step back, not tell your people what to do but ask them what you think they should do, or ask them what they think you should do.”Either way, essentially it’s tapping into this innovative culture that every company wants to be a part of. Every employee wants to feel like they’re a valuable part of a winning team. The only way for people to feel that way is if they actually have input. It’s a simple thing, it’s like, “Just let people feel like their ideas are valued and they’re going to work three times harder for you than they ever would if you just told them what to do.”

I have a lot of people in the audience who are entrepreneurs. Maybe they’re small business owners or they maybe want to get recognized and they’re building their brand right now. I know you like BuzzSumo, and I use Meet Edgar and there’s a lot of software packages out there that the small company can use at that level. What’s your favorite tools for that group?

My favorite tool is Google. It’s like the thing that we’re all using every single day. Google auto fill is probably the easiest, coolest tool that everybody doesn’t realize is awesome. For example, I’m a content marketing strategy consultant, if I type ‘content marketing strategy’ into Google, it’ll tell me what everyone else in the world is looking for after they type ‘content marketing strategy.’ It’ll say content marketing strategy templates, content marketing strategy tools, content marketing strategy agencies, vendors, frameworks. It tells me exactly what I should be writing about. Because I’m talking about topics that I really know and I’m passionate about, it simply tells me exactly what directions to go. If you type in content marketing strategy into BuzzSumo, it tells you what’s already been successful. It takes an additional thought, you have to reverse engineer why was this piece of content successful.

If people don’t know BuzzSumo, it tells you the most shared content on a topic. I type ‘content marketing strategy’ into there and it says the most popular article of 2017 was Content Marketing Strategy Trends You Need to Know in 2017. It tells me, “Should I write an article about content marketing strategy trends in 2018 that you need to know?” Maybe it’s over done but at least it tells me, “That’s interesting because that’s what people share, people opted in to share that kind of content.” That’s what people are hungry for and therefore it informs them. You can reverse engineer it. It’s not a direct insight, because I don’t think copying what’s already been successful is directly at least all the time is the right approach all the time. I certainly do it, but not directly. It’s like, “I look at twenty different pieces of particular content and try to inform myself and the plans that I’m making as to what I should create.”

You gave some ideas of brands who you thought were going to be hot in the year that you were talking to on this other podcast. It made me interested to see what you think is going to be the hot company brand, what we’re going to see this year that’s going to stand out.

It depends. On almost any level and in almost any topic in almost any industry, there’s one trend that I think is going to dominate 2018. It really rose to the top in 2017. It caught some people by surprise, but the topic is AI. Probably not as surprised because even the average Joe and Jane consumer seeing articles about Elon Musk predicting that the world will be ended by AI robots. I don’t have the pessimistic view that some of those smart folks have. From a practical point of view in 2018, AI is going to start to touch us in everything that we do.

If I talk about a business owner, entrepreneur, especially in marketing, I think AI tools are going to be something that every business is going to want to look at in 2018.Especially when we’re talking about customer experiences and how to create content that meets the specific needs of their buyers. I was talking about personalization, which is like a baby form of artificial intelligence. For example, I subscribed to the Business Insider newsletter and they use a company called Sailthru, which attracts everything that I click on when they send me a newsletter every day. Over time, they send me more and more of the stuff that I typically click on. It’s an intelligent engine delivering content that they know I’m going to be interested in.

It’s like Retargeting was ahead of its time and FetchBack. Those companies started a lot of that and we’re getting this data. Do you think we’re getting too much data? Some people feel uncomfortable when they’ve shopped for an engagement ring and then all of a sudden, the ring pops up on the screen later and the surprise is ruined. Do you think that there are ways that you can block that? Other than the cookies of erasing them, are there ways of blocking things completely? Is there any way we can address those at all?

A lot of people are using ad blocker technology and the agencies and advertisers are angry about that. We live in an over-marketed world. Consumers, no matter what, whether it’s a personalized ad or it’s just a regular ad, nobody wants it. Nobody wants them. There are some instances actually in my personal life, I’m like, “I’m actually happy that I saw this ad.” That happens every once in a while. There was an AT&T TV ad, so it was really a public service announcement about texting and driving. They did a great job of almost ripping your heart out by showing you what can happen when you’re texting and driving. There was another one on CNN that showed how awesome the Soup Kitchens are during the holidays. They showed the Soup Kitchen with kids running around and all these homeless people being fed and being happy. Then they showed it two weeks later after the holidays where there was like three people there and no one was there to support them. It was really sad, and it gives me chills. It’s like I want to rush out and volunteer at the Soup Kitchen.

There are times when we’re happy for it, but it’s very few and far between. It’s very unlikely to be a product. If you survey most consumers, they’ll say, “When Amazon tells me because I bought this, I might also like that, I’m happy about that.” When Netflix seems to recommend a show based on the other watching history, we’re happy about that. When it’s in the form of a recommendation that matches things that we’ve already done, it’s okay. When it’s purely in the context of advertising, you have to start with the basic premise that nobody wants anymore ads. Nobody wants ads in the first place, we certainly don’t want more of them, and we probably don’t even want them if they’re personalized.

TTL 146 | Employee Engagement
Employee Engagement: Put your best asset in front of the camera and that’s your face. Use the thing that’s going to attract people to you.

I teach a lot of marketing courses where we can go through ads and look at what’s good and what’s bad. I was listening to you discussing the Casper’s mattress you bought for your daughter. It is fun to look at the different videos and what people create. I had JP Sears on my show, and he’s an internet comedian. He does videos for Poo~Pourri which are five minutes long, but he’s so funny that you’ll sit there and watch them for five minutes. A lot of companies are facing having to create videos. Let’s go back to the small business owner and those individuals that are trying to get known, they’re trying to create videos. What advice do you give?

Just speak with passion to the problem that you’re solving. There’s plenty of commercials. There’s one that my family and I when we see it, we laugh every time and then we say, “What’s this commercial for?” Every time it comes on, I forget. It’s one of the insurance company commercials. We’re all trying to one up each other and being funny. It’s like, “What was this one about again?” It doesn’t have any relevance. The Advertising Research Foundation found that after 40 ad impressions, sales of that product start to decline. 40 sounds like a lot, but if you watch an NFL football game, you’ll see the Chevy, real people, not actors commercials, at least 40 times in one single NFL football game. It’s easy to see how that repetition, even if it’s considered somewhat “authentic”, I hate those commercials. Even if millennials think that they’re targeted at them in their authentic, after 40, they get sick of it, so sales start to decline.

There’s a video that I did about this whole leadership culture topic and basically, I spoke from the heart. I talked about the problem that I think the world is facing. From a company perspective, it’s lack of innovation. Here’s the big idea that I’ve come to as to what I think the simple solution might be. It’s activate your employees’ passionate expertise, give them an opportunity to express their ideas and you’ll find rapid culture change inside your company. The third thing is I talk about why I care about this, and I talked about how I had 53 jobs in my career. Most of the times, I didn’t love my managers, even though I had managers that I didn’t like, but who were great managers and I had managers who were terrible managers but who I liked. It wasn’t about liking them. It was about the managers that supported the ideas that I wanted to pursue. When I looked back, those were the people who made massive differences in my career trajectory.

The reason I point almost to my whole career success on the platform that those folks gave me. They didn’t tell me what to do. They asked me what I thought I should do, and it was just amazing for me. In the video, I said, “I had 53 jobs.”I made it my life’s goal to answer this question, to solve this problem, and then I give a few examples and it’s three minutes. That’s my advice. Put your best asset in front of the camera and that’s your face. Use the thing that’s going to attract people to you. The problem you want to solve and the passion that got for it. Talk about the problem, the solution, and why it matters to you. That’s the best way to attract the right kinds of success that entrepreneurs need.

I would like to know about that video you mentioned, how can people find that? How can they find you? Can you share all your information?

My company website is Marketing Insider Group. Largely, the content I share there are around the marketing functions generally around content and customer experience and marketing ROI. You can find me on Twitter @BrennerMichael. I do share a little bit more broadly about leadership and culture and this new idea that I’m trying to put forth into the world about what I call Champion Leadership, which is basically let your team decide what’s the best thing for your company. I’m also on Facebook and LinkedIn. If you just look for Michael Brenner YouTube, you’ll find it’s a Champion Leader trailer. That’s the three-minute video that I put together that puts forth this idea and why I’m passionate about it.

Thank you so much, Michael.

Thanks. It’s been a pleasure and great talking to you.

Thank you so much to Kevin Kruse and Michael Brenner. If you’ve missed any past episodes, please go to DrDianeHamiltonRadio.Com and you can find them all there. I hope you join us for the next episode of Take The Lead Radio.

About Kevin Kruse

TTL 146 | Employee EngagementKevin Kruse is on a mission to make, over the next ten years, 100 million leaders. With that goal in mind, he founded LEADx, a next generation online learning company that offers free leadership training and professional development to everyone, everywhere, at any time. He also continues to make time to personally work with leaders around the world including Marine Corps officers in the Pentagon, non-profit leaders in Pakistan, and entrepreneurs in Kenya. His previous companies have won Inc 500 and Best Place to Workawards, and he is a New York Times bestselling author of six books.

About Michael Brenner

TTL 146 | Employee EngagementMichael Brenner is the CEO of Marketing Inside Group, and a globally-recognized keynote speaker on leadership, culture, and marketing. Author of the bestselling book The Content Formula, Michael’s work has been featured by The Economist, The Guardian, and Entrepreneur Magazine. In 2017, Michael was named a Top Business Speaker by The Huffington Post and a top CMO Influencer by Forbes.


Important Links:



Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *