Wellspring Digital Chats: Mathew Sweezey, Director of Market Strategy at Salesforce

We’re super excited to take you inside the mind of one of today’s most important marketers. This week’s Wellspring Digital Chat is with Mathew Sweezey, Director of Market Strategy at Salesforce.

He is also the author of a book we love here at Wellspring Digital, The Context Marketing Revolution. We highly recommend you pick it up. It’s a game-changer.

In this interview, Mathew talks about…

  1. The mistrust of advertising
  2. Agile marketing
  3. Getting C-level buy-in for new marketing ventures
  4. Marketing automation
  5. The importance of context during this COVID-19 pandemic

We know you’re going to love this chat with Mathew as much as we did!

Transcription edited for readability:

Jon-Mikel Bailey: Welcome everybody to the Wellspring Digital Marketing chat. We are super lucky to have my buddy Mathew Sweezey with us. He just wrote a book, say hi, Mathew.

Mathew Sweezey: Hey, everybody.

Bailey: He just wrote a book called Context Marketing Revolution, and I think it’s one of the best marketing books out there. I’m not just saying that because he’s on the line. I really feel like people should pick this one up. But we’ll get a little bit more into that in a second. I wanted to give you, Mathew, a chance to introduce yourself and tell people what you’ve been up to and what your background is and whatever else you feel.

Sweezey: Yeah, so I guess what you should know about me is what I do. So I work for a company called Salesforce, probably heard of us. If you haven’t, there you go. I’m the Director of Market Strategy, and what that means is I really focus on a POV. so I own a point of view.

I own the POV for future of marketing. So what that means is, I do a lot of research, work with our research teams, trying to understand what that research is to help analyze what we’re going to look at, and then help bring those insights back out to the marketplace as well as then conversely, working with the marketplace and bring those insights back inside. So that’s really kind of what I focus on.

The Mistrust of Advertising and Marketing Professionals

Bailey: Okay, great. So I just finished your book a little while ago, probably two or three weeks ago. And like I said, I think it’s one of the most important marketing books out there today.

I think anyone that’s in marketing or any business owners out there should really pick this book up. I normally I would ask you a broad range of questions just because I know you have vast marketing knowledge, but I really want to focus on this book because I do think it’s that important.

So I’ll just jump right in. I was lucky enough to get an advance copy, which I printed out. And I was finding myself highlighting, seems like every other paragraph, there’s just so much good stuff in there. One paragraph that I basically just circled was about people’s mistrust of advertising.

Can you speak to that a little further and talk a bit about what’s working instead of just straight advertising?

Sweezey: I mean, to try to kind of give a simple answer is one of the main goals of our profession and the role of advertising and marketing is to build trust with the marketplace.

Right, well, then let’s look at how trusted are those professions. So, Gallup does its Trust Barometer every year. Anyways, the question is what are the most distrusted and most trusted professions? Right?

The number one most trusted profession over the past five years is pretty consistent and that’s nurses. Nurses have been the most trusted profession.

Okay, most trusted profession, then we look at the opposite end of the spectrum where the most distrusted I think a lot of us know probably what the most distrusted. All right, it’s going to be one of three and it usually alternates between Congress, car salespeople, and lawyers.

What’s most interesting is what is only one percentage point difference right? What’s the next most distrusted after those three? It’s advertising and marketing professionals.

So we must ask ourselves if our role is to create things that are trusted, why are we so distrusted as a profession? And so I think that’s one of the Big things. The reason why is because the way that we’ve constructed this game that we play is that we force messages onto people and expect them to do whatever we set.

And as anyone that has children knows, that’s a horrible methodology of how we get people to do things that we want them to do.

So the alternate is this idea that I write about called context marketing, which is essentially two steps:

  1. One is the most core basic concept which is to focus on the goals that people have in specific moments and help them accomplish those goals in those moments, right.
  2. And then the second is to apply that theory across an entire lifecycle of engagements.

So why this is radically different is one, we’re looking at motivation, not in how do I create one thing that motivates you to do the thing I want you to do, but rather breaking the concept down and realizing that motivation is really a string of lots of moments.

And how we motivate people best is we breakthrough by helping them accomplish a goal in one of those points in time, and then we leverage that trust to get them to the next spot. And so we guide them, right?

And if we just think about this from a math problem, we say, “Well, what if they’re just four spots on a journey?” Right? And what if we just simply increase the efficiency of people moving from one to two to three, three to four, by just simply 1%? Across each of those?

That’s a 40% net lift on the back end, right? So if we just think about these things in different ways we get to radically different games and that essentially, that the theory is what I call context marketing.

Agile Marketing

Bailey:  Okay. And so that kind of leads into my next question, which is, we’ve been talking about agile marketing for a while, in our world, but agile development has been around for years.

You talk a lot in your book about agile marketing. My fear with that is that so many people won’t really truly understand what that means. I think that’s why it’s so important to read your book because I think people think they know what agile marketing is.

But maybe they don’t quite have it. I wanted to give you a chance to tell us what agile marketing really is and why you think it’s so important, especially considering what you were talking about hitting people along the journey.

Sweezey: Yes, I’m gonna take one step back and tell you something that I didn’t tell you but probably should have. So a lot of these theories and ideas are founded in research.

It’s not that I say I think we should do these things. It’s I’ve spent the past four years looking at about 16,000 global brands and identifying the key traits of high performers and looked at what they have done right. The number one key trait of a high performing marketing organization is executive buy into a new idea of marketing, right?

And that’s where they shift from where marketing’s role is to simply create messages to force into the marketplace to really focus on crafting and connecting experiences across the journey. So that’s the baseline.

One of the other key traits that high performers all exhibit is they operate in agile methodologies. And it’s critically important for a couple of basic reasons, right? Let’s just take a couple of basic scenarios.

One, we live in a world of infinite content, right? And so for us as brands, and I don’t care what brand you are, you must realize that your customers, their normal pace of content is rapidly unlike anything they’ve ever experienced before.

So we want to think about this from a business standpoint, think about fast fashion. Right? There was a few years ago, there were four seasons. Now there are 52 seasons of fashion.

How many seasons do you have in advertising? Just think about this as your own business. If you were to break your advertising and marketing strategy down, you probably break them out into campaigns and say, we’re going to push this campaign out for these three months. There’s going to be this campaign.

But then we flip the script and looked at it from the consumer side and say, you’re essentially going to say the same thing to me for three months, you’re not even going to realize the fact that my friends say a different thing to me every five minutes.

So that’s not even matching the context or the pace of the environment. So for us to meet that pace, we’re gonna have to change the way that we think about working, right. So the whole underlying premise of my book is not to say, take your idea that you have of marketing and apply context to it. That’s the wrong thing.

What I’m saying is the idea that you have was created for a different time in place, give it up, look at the new environment and embrace something new.

And what that is, from a business standpoint, we talk about digital transformation. That is what digital transformation is from a high-level business strategy. Give us what you think you were supposed to be doing and redo it. Well, this is a marketing transformation.

And a part of that is the way that we do the work. There’s just simply no way for us to create the amount of work that we’re going to have to create without doing agile flows. The other aspect is we’re not going to get it to the level that it’s needed to get if we don’t follow agile methodology as well.

Here’s just a really simple aspect. Agile is an iterative process. A major part of that process is review. So let’s just play this simple game, right? We know asking people is a good thing. We know, revealing and iterating is a good thing. Everyone knows that even if you don’t follow agile practices, but how well do we operationalize that? So you know, we all know those things to be true.

Now, ask yourself this question. When was the last time you picked up the telephone and called somebody who engaged with your content? Watch the video, download a piece of content and ask them this question? Did it meet the expectations that you had of that moment?

Because here’s what we do. We watch we see they watch the video, great. They had a download, great. We assume that’s a positive, but we’re not actually following up and the reality is that I’ve done the research and many of the times it’s out and negative.

If we review those things, this is a review, we don’t review and then iterate and make something new and better, we’re going to be constantly driving other people into an experience that could be a bad one.

And so we know that the two aspects you need to think about agile one is a new way of working to create enough content and two is to create it at a high enough value. And we can only do that through an editing process. And I think there’s a phenomenal story.

I think this was, um, someone shared this story with me. And it’s, I’m sure some of you may have heard this story before. If not, it’s gonna be a new one. But it’s the art teacher in the base.

This art teacher comes in, he takes his class, he says, “I’m gonna divide you in half Group A, you go home, come back tomorrow. Let me give you a task. You go home and you don’t come back until the last day of class. And your only task is to make the perfect vase. So leave here. Go make the perfect base, come back and we’re gonna have a show.

Group B, that’s the next day Group B comes back. And he says, All right, every day, we’re going to make a vase. The goal is not perfection, the goal is production, you’re gonna make a vase every day, at the end of an art show, the best vases come from the people that made a vase every day. It’s the process of constantly working and improving rather than taking all your time and focus to make something perfect and then launching it. It’s the concept of working with the marketplace to create this in the end. So I’m going to stop.

Bailey:  No, that’s great. Because that is how so many marketing, you know, departments handle marketing, you get a budget, when they get an assignment and they go off and do their thing and assume everything’s great. And, and it’s just old, old hat and it’s not working.

So that’s a fantastic story that helps break it down for sure.

Getting Buy-in from Your C-Suite on New Marketing Initiatives

Bailey: Well, let’s let you kind of get a segue here. So let’s talk a little bit about the buy-in from the C suite because yeah, you know what you’re doing. Talking about, you know, a pretty heavy lift.

And it’s a pretty, you know, radical change that people will need to undertake in their organizations. And as we all know, the only way to get those things to happen is to get the buy-in from the leadership.

And I thought the way that you described getting executive buy-in was pretty brilliant. So I wanted to, without, you know, giving away too much of the farm, see if you can kind of describe that a little bit for the viewers.

Sweezey: Yeah. So that essentially there’s, it’s a big complex problem that we have, right, and it’s getting executives to change the way that they really think about marketing. That’s not an easy thing.

Some and we’re all in different points in time on this, right. Like I said, high performers are already there. That’s 16% of businesses are already there. Right. That’s 84% of us left that we’re talking about.

Well, then there’s going to be the laggards. There’s going to be people that are just completely laggards. You’re never going to do what they’re going to do. The sad part is, is they’re not going to be around in five to 10 years. So that’s just, let’s not worry about them.

By then there’s, there’s the middle group of us. And what we need to think about is there are two things going on. One is we’re just simply going to need to take one step forward, we’re not going to fully transcend it and really radicalize, like, undo everything, like those other high performers. We’re just not, it’s just not our operational model.

So there are a couple of things we can do…

One is we can get a high paid consultant, right? If someone if you, your executive, pay somebody, they trust those ideas, right? It’s very rare that they trust ideas from us at this level. And you may have heard the term it’s hard to be a prophet in your own land. And it’s very true.

So outside sources, that’s one of the reasons I wrote the book was to help you have those outside sources that you could provide, right?

Harvard Business Review usually carries a lot of weight with executives. So it’s, you know, it should give you some validation, the other is this concept of a stretch budget, right. It’s this concept of, well, we can test ideas. And if we test ideas, we can improve by data that these things work.

And then we can roll them and scale them up over time. And so that’s what I suggest for most people to think about is to create a stretch budget, which is essentially a small portion of your overall budget, which happened and here’s, here’s the things we need to think about…

One is this is a conversation that has to happen before you need the money, right? And I say if you’ve ever gotten a line of credit from a bank, think about this as the exact same process one, right? You have to have all the terms and conditions and paperwork signed well before you need the money, right?

So you need to go to your bosses today and say, listen, here’s what we’re going to do. We’re going to create a stretch budget program, right? We’re going to set aside an amount of money that doesn’t matter how much and we’re not going to be allowed access to that money unless we hit certain criteria. And those criteria are the following.

We have to hit a stretch goal, right? So you could say I’ve got a webinar and my goal is 500. A stretch goal would be anything that, and you can just make up numbers could be 25% 50%, whatever your goal is, right? That’s part of the conversation that you negotiate.

Once you hit that, you have done something different right there that you didn’t do the same thing to get a new result, you did something different to gets that new result. It may have been a new tool that you use, that may have been a new technique that you may have used that may have been, I would have there was something different, right.

So now what you’ve just done is you’ve opened up a portion of that stretch budget, not the whole thing, just take a small portion of it, and then double down on whatever that thing was. And now you’ve got more money to then reinvest in that thing, and that you can insert it around inside the organization.

So that’s the concept of where the stretch budget is, but the keys are one you negotiated upfront to you’ve got well-defined ways of accessing it. I’m only allowed to access it during the scenario and agree that you don’t take the whole thing at once. And that’s then they’ll give you data points to one say we know what works, we’ve got data that makes it work.

So when you go your larger budgeting meeting,  Your annual however you want to do your budgeting, you’ve now got data to say, listen, we did this, it worked. We double down, it worked again. Now let’s scale this up to the next level, or whatever that may be.

Bailey: Yeah. And plus, you’re also proven the Agile model. If you’re not currently using an agile model, you’ve proven the value of the Agile model by doing that through the stretch. Yeah, I love that.

Sweezey: I’m gonna go back to the word agile. Agile is a massive word. So, you know, people say, I know everyone will say they do agile if we ask. I think half the business that say they do agile, they don’t. The reality is, is they understand the word but there are massive differences.

There’s agile organizational structure, which is a pod-based structure. That’s super radical. Only a few companies are doing that. I know some companies that front who have transitioned their entire marketing organizations to an agile pod structure. And when they did that the biggest result was not like a percentage increase. It was simply the statement.

We now produce the highest amount of work per unit of time. That’s, that’s the foreign. So at the very easiest, anyone can just operate with an agile mentality of getting something out the door quickly testing it and iterating. So it’s like a wide range of what agile actually is. So just wanted to kind of toss it in there.

Marketing Automation

Bailey: Yeah, no, that’s great. So I also wanted to talk about, you know, we preach effective use of marketing automation, we work with a lot of clients and their marketing automation. And, you know, one of the things we see is we see so many organizations just misusing this, or, or really not using it past maybe a 1% potential of what they could get out of it.

So I wanted to see if you could talk a little bit about marketing automation in the context of the contextual marketing revolution.

Sweezey: Sure. So for people that don’t know me, I was employee 13 at one of the premier marketing automation platforms called Pardot, which is now Salesforce’s marketing automation platform.

I wrote a book called Marketing Automation for Dummies, which published seven years ago in 2013. It was the first practical guide to marketing automation there just for context of what I’ve seen in marketing automation for a long time.

And here is the biggest problem. So when I wrote Marketing Automation for Dummies, it was the exact same scenario. People were getting the tool and not knowing what to do with it. And here’s the reason why. Here’s what you need to think about it…

Most people saw the word automation and they think of efficiency. They say, “alright, now I can take the crap I’ve been doing and just simply have it be done automatically.”

That’s the natural next step right, is like alright, remove the manual process from process rather than transcending and saying, what is now possible that wasn’t possible before. That’s the big difference is most brands just simply say I want to automate things without understanding it’s a new reality and a new world of possibilities.

And then rethinking all the different kinds of concepts, right? Like I would have to walk brands back from ideas like this “Well, great. We know that a hot prospect is someone that has read all six of these things, right?” Content, whatever you want to call it, right? Six of these things.

So I want to create a program that sends all six of these things to somebody over a period of time when they engage. I’m like, “alright, that’s really not a great idea. Like, theoretically, I understand where you’re coming from, but just sending just automating sending things to people is not really the highest value of this.”

No, that was the hard part is changing people’s minds to see things differently. All right, so where does automation fit in terms of the context marketing revolution, here’s where it fits. One of the big fundamental shifts that we have to go through is the shift from campaigns to perpetual systems, right? And that’s one of the big things that organizations, that’s one of the doors that automation opened up was perpetual systems.

And really where this kind of thinks about is to say, if I create a campaign, a campaign has a spike. If it’s good, it has a spike. That’s a momentary spike, it is not a perpetual thing, does not continue.

You put a good campaign out in the world, there’s a spike, but then it tails back down. A perpetual system goes up and continues and maintains, okay, so that’s what we need to think about from automation is, in this world of context.

We’re going to have a lot of different personas, who are going to need a lot of very personal experiences, right? The only way to scale this and make it a system of experiences is to use automation, right? And so that’s kind of where these two worlds collide.

So to your point, yes, a lot of people are going to use automation, and they’re going to fail with it. In fact, when you look at the data, most people don’t see any return from marketing automation for a while. It’s like usually two years.

That’s not the technology’s fault. Now the implementation of that technology is at fault. And that’s usually because the people who implement it and implement it with only “this is gonna remove my manual process,” right? They didn’t see the higher possible value.

Bailey: It reminds me of back in 2007 or  2008 when people say, oh yeah, we tried social media. It didn’t really work out. But at the same point, what did they try?

Sweezey: Right. They tried taking the same crap that they were doing and distributing it for free. They only saw it as a one-step, not a new possibility. They didn’t see this as the highest value of direct connection.

They didn’t see those things. They just saw free distribution. And when people didn’t want the crap that they were distributing, then they say that doesn’t work. Rather than saying, “how do we then find a system that works with this,” and the scenario keeps repeating itself through every new shiny object? It comes out as everybody wants to try old stuff on new platforms.

But that’s human nature. I mean, Marshall McLuhan wrote about that, in the 60s, essentially, anytime a new media format comes out, the content of the new media is the format of the old, right? We just simply take it and move it forward.

So a really good example, what was the number one format of social media up until this year? Posts. Now it’s ephemeral content. Now, it’s social. Now we’re looking at a new world of social where it’s not just a publishing platform. It’s a new format to experience it completely right. It took us a while to evolve from just simply publication to a new format of experience

The Importance of Context during this COVID-19 Pandemic

Bailey: Right, right. So speaking of new social experiences, we’re recording this in the time of, we’re in the Covid-era of craziness, and personally, I think your book couldn’t have come at a better time. Because I think it is, it is a lesson for people to learn about how to act in a situation like this.

So I’m wondering if you could talk about, you know if you have any tips for businesses. I don’t want to just get like “how do businesses market in a pandemic,” you know, that’s not what I want to ask. I just want to know, maybe if you could talk about how important context in the process that you lay out in your book is during a time like this, and how it could actually help a lot of organizations really pivot and, and survive something like this.

Sweezey: Yeah. So. I mean, it was really funny, right? You know, I’ve got this big book tour been planning for, you know, it’s all over the world. And that blows up and it’s like, alright, great. What are you doing?

I was like, “well, hey, like, you know, why don’t you tell me about you know, the scenario of this.” And so I’ve been doing a lot of that. And I think the biggest lesson that brands can really learn is a couple of basic things. It’s one is that most of us don’t really understand what the current need of a moment is. And that’s because most brands don’t talk to people at the level in the way that they need to understand.

So most brands essentially have cardboard cutouts of people with sticky notes on the guy. They call it a psychographic and demographic or geographic profile, right? They don’t really talk to their customers on a regular, very continual basis. That’s the number one thing that you can be doing right now.

My biggest needs are changing by the day. And if you are not sitting down talking with your customers on a weekly basis, step one, you’re not going to know what their new needs are and how you fulfill them. Right.

Bailey: Number two keyword there is with talking with customers, instead of talking to your customers.

Sweezey: Yeah, and I think then that’s the next key I was gonna go with which has been… You’ve got to find ways to work with people, not on people. And so I was talking with an organization that does marketing for healthcare.

You guys, do you guys have any health care clients? I think we, this was like their main focus like they just did a lot of hospitals. Okay. Okay.

And the hospitals were saying like, you know, “how do we get our message out to people and relate to them at this current point.” I was like, “well hang on a second, let’s take a step back.” That’s on like, how do I create a message to put on people. That’s, once again, we’re talking about a shift.

So now reverse that and say, “all right, look at your stakeholders, look at your community and see what’s there and see what you have and how to connect those two things together.”

So all communities right now are work from home, everyone’s at home, which means children are at home and parents are going crazy. And so it’s like that is that’s not an exaggeration. You’ve got that going on.

Then you’ve got hospitals which have two populations that are in dire need. One are the workers. Two are the patients, right?

Patients, families can’t come to see them. The staff is overworked. And just their spirits are really down. So let’s find ways to connect those two groups together, right? Be the glue in your community to say, “Alright, listen, let’s create,” I’m just throwing out hypothetical ideas here, let’s create a story-time every day at noon.”

So kids get structure every day at noon, there’s an hour parents can put their kids in front of something positive. And what that thing could be is if there’s 1000, things you could do, you could allow them to tell jokes to the patients, right? It could be simply, you know, you could even do zoom sessions with patients where they can actually look to see other people on the other side.

We do we have kids create cards for soldiers at wartime. We possibly think about doing something like that for the people that are inside the hospitals.

But the point is, is to find ways to work with your audience, not on your audience. Because by doing that, one is they’re engaging their actual community, the actual people who are going to need their hospital in the future. Two, they’re doing the thing that they very well need to do for the patients, right, getting them better, emotionally, not just physically. And then three, taking care have their staff.

So stakeholder theory much more. And it’s a with, not on concept. So I’d say those are the two biggest things I think people really think about. And then I’ll add one more.

The notion of personal not personalized, right? And this goes back to what is the highest benefit that we currently can derive from this connectivity? The internet, the highest value the internet gave us was not free distribution. It was direct connection.

So if we focus on this and say, “all right, how do we don’t just personalize things? How do we make them personal,” right? “How do we deliver them personally?” That means, you know, rethinking how you actually interact, the roles that people have, like, what are the goals?

What is an automation? Isn’t automation to send an email, or is it have this individual reach out to this person. Schedule time on this person’s calendar to actually physically reach out to this person? So I just throw that in there for you.

Bailey: No, that’s great advice. And it’s it’s so important because I’m seeing, you know, a lot of advice out there. I just don’t feel like it’s people really taking full advantage of their team and their connection with their customers. It’s more just, here are different ways to advertise, or here are different ways to kind of pitch to your clients. And we’ll see how it goes.

Sweezey: We shall see.

Bailey: Yeah. Well, again, there will be links to your book in the transcription and on the YouTube post. I really appreciate your time today. I can sit and talk to you for hours because this stuff is always fascinating to me. But the one thing I would tell people is to get this book because it’s good. And it’s relevant. So thank you again, I appreciate it. And that’s all.

Sweezey: Awesome, man. Thanks for having me.

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Jon-Mikel Bailey is the Chief Development and Marketing Officer for Wellspring Digital, a full-service digital marketing firm specializing in SEO, PPC, Marketing Automation, and Content Marketing. He has been published in MarketingProfs, Business2Community, SpinSucks, {Grow}, Social Media Today, and more. He has spoken at the Digital Summit Series, MarketingProfs, ITE, Grant Thornton, and others.

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