Stop with the Marketing Bullsh*t Advice
Episode #031: Louis Grenier, Founder of Everyone Hates Marketers
June 7, 2021
Raise your hand if you’re social media feed is plagued with vague marketing advice. Now, raise your hand if you tired of being fed said advice. 🖐
We’re talking about why you should stop listening to bullsh*t marketing advice, why taking risks is the safest strategy out there, and so much more.
Stephanie's Strong Opinions
- Everyone talks about their successes, not failures. Don’t believe the highlight reel you see on social media.
- Taking risks is one of the safest strategies you can implement in your marketing. Ask forgiveness, not permission.
- To be noticed, you have to be radically different. Create a product-fit so lean, the solution is edgy.
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Stephanie Cox: Welcome to Real Marketers, where we hear from markers who move fast, ask forgiveness, not permission, obsess about driving results, and are filled to the brim with crazy ideas and the guts to implement them. This is not a fireside chat, and there’s absolutely no bullshit allowed here. And I’m your host Stephanie Cox. I have more than 15 years of marketing experience, and I’ve pretty much done about everything in my career. I believe speed is better than perfection. I use the Oxford comma. I love Coca- Cola, have exceptionally high standards, and surround myself with people who get shit done. On this show, my guest and I will push boundaries, share the real truths about marketing, and empower you to become a real marketer. I am so fired up about having you on the show, and I think this is going to be a really fun and interesting conversation. But before we get started, I want to find out from you, what’s one thing that few people know about you?
Louis Grenier: I have seven siblings from three different sets of parents.
Stephanie Cox: That’s a lot of siblings, and that is… Are they close in age? Tell me more about this.
Louis Grenier: So my mom and dad, as soon as they had me pretty much, they split up, right? So I’m the only child from those two. My mom and dad remarried both, and both of them had two kids each. So that four total, right? But then, I grew up with three, I would say, step brothers who were older than me and who were my stepdad’s kids. So not related by blood, but we grew up together. And so if you make the sum of those three sets, you get seven.
Stephanie Cox: Wow. That’s a lot. And did you like having that many siblings and that big extended family?
Louis Grenier: No, it’s been crosstalk.
Stephanie Cox: Does that influence who you are today?
Louis Grenier: It’s been very weird, to be honest, because, I don’t know, for kids who experience divorce and stuff, it felt like I had split personality disorder in a sense, where I was living with my dad a few times a week, behave a certain way, had specific set of expectations. And then, going to my mom’s, expectations were different and I would almost behave differently. So in retrospect now, I’m what, I’m 32 or 33 years, I don’t remember, and I’m super glad I have them all and I’m very, very close to all of them. But I remember when I was a teenager, I was struggling a bit.
Stephanie Cox: No. I had divorced parents as well, and same situation, where rules at mom’s house were different than rules at dad’s house. And sometimes, dad’s house felt like a vacation all the time.
Louis Grenier: I know. Exactly.
Stephanie Cox: But that’s what you can do, right, when you’re just there a couple weekends a month or whatever. So-
Louis Grenier: Yeah. Yep, yep.
Stephanie Cox: It’s like when you go to your grandparents, right? And it feels like, ” Oh, they’re different rules. Grandma lets me do all these cool things.” Well, that’s because grandma doesn’t deal with you 24/7.
Louis Grenier: Exactly. Yeah, but it was beyond just the rules. I think there was a lot of adapting to the past that I could I feel like was going on behind the scenes and different expectation, not just the rules, but different expectations of me all together. I can’t complain. I come from a middle class background. I never struggled from that side of things. But emotionally, it was weird, I have to say.
Stephanie Cox: No, I totally understand that. So let’s talk a little bit about your favorite topic and mine, marketing.
Louis Grenier: Yes. And why I’m so f*cked up that the two crosstalk connected, right?
Stephanie Cox: They are, right? And marketing is screwed up as well, so maybe we start there. Talk to me a little bit about what you think the biggest problem in marketing is today.
Louis Grenier: I would say it’s obscurity, meaning if that you’re a marketer or an entrepreneur founder, the biggest problem you’re facing today is whether or not people are going to notice you, and therefore some of them will trust you enough to buy from you, remember you. And the reason why it’s such a struggle is because we are fed with marketing bullshit advice 24/7. And we feel like crosstalk.
Stephanie Cox: Preach.
Louis Grenier: …marketing is this permanent reinvention of the wheel, where new terms come in and new buzzwords and new ideas, and it seems like you have this massive funnel, because you need to try this new channel, and what about this and what about that? And it seems like this discipline that is constantly trying to reinvent something that shouldn’t be reinvented. Recently in the tech world, in SaaS in particular, marketing is being renamed growth, growth marketing, growth. We even need to say that we are doing product marketing nowadays, because we were so far away from actually influencing the product we were selling as marketers that we had to reinvent a new discipline to come back to the basic foundations of real marketing, which is influencing the product that we’re selling to make it a great f*cking product, find a specific group of people who actually love this product, find channels to promote this product in, and sell this at a right price using the right model, right? The four Ps of marketing. It seems like in the last few years and decades, we’ve forgotten it to only focus on promotion and communication, which is what Mark Ritson would say is only eight percent of a job. And so that’s the problem, obscurity that is created by all this bullshit advice that people are fed.
Stephanie Cox: What do you think causes that bullshit advice? How have we gotten to this point, right, where it feels like… Just go on LinkedIn, right? It’s just people spewing utter nonsense sometimes, and then people latching onto it for a marketing perspective like it’s really the Bible, right, and it’s the way you should be doing things. What got us here?
Louis Grenier: It’s a complex question. I think there’s a lot of different sources and reasons for it. One of the biggest ones is because anyone with a brain and a laptop and any kind of connection can claim to be a marketing or marketing expert or marketing consultant, a founder, an entrepreneur, right? So anyone has a voice now, which is a blessing a curse. It’s a blessing because you don’t to buy TV ads to be seen and heard. It’s a curse because anyone can say anything. So there is that. The second is this aversion for science and facts and edginess, this feeling that everything is changing all the time, that humans, for some reasons, because they’re born after 1990 or 2000 or whatever the f*ck, millennials and Gen X and Gen Z and whatever you want to call them, are born, all of a sudden our brain has fundamentally changed in a cellular level so that every single thing that you know about marketing needs to change. So there’s this aversion to trust the science behind marketing, and there is a lot of it and fundamentals in favor of quick tactics. And honestly, overall, I think the reason behind all of it is the sheer pressure that marketers and folks who are leaning on marketing to generate more sales and grow are under because of today’s reality to fight that it’s getting more and more expensive to live in most countries. And the power to buy stuff has been reduced. Things are a bit more expensive. And there’s so much knowledge that it’s getting to a point where pressure is there and we must fight back, and a lot of people have to resort to those bullshit tactics because they don’t know any better. And so to be clear, I don’t blame any of them. If you’re listening to this and you have to use shady tactics to make ends meet, I don’t blame you. I blame the system behind it that is forcing a lot of us to resort to all of this.
Stephanie Cox: What? It’s hilarious. You’re completely dead on, right? People expect these instant gratification, instant results, and then they see this bullshit, right, on the internet, where it’s like, ” Oh, this company was so successful with insert blank tactic.” What they don’t hear and what they don’t see is the 40 things they tried before that that didn’t work.
Louis Grenier: Correct.
Stephanie Cox: That caused them to get to the one thing, right? Everyone talks about success, but not about failure. And then you create this perpetual ongoing situation where people think marketing is easy and that if you just did these things that are talked about on the internet, you would be rolling in sales.
Louis Grenier: So-
Stephanie Cox: So-
Louis Grenier: Sorry to cut you, but the important thing here that you mentioned, which is critical, is that we only see the very, very tip of the iceberg. And I will argue that beyond what you said, above that, you don’t see what good companies do when it comes to diagnosing the context they are in, to use fundamentals of marketing, market orientation, market research, right? Which is very, very first step of any decent marketing strategy, is to understand the lay of the land, what’s going on around us, why are marketers buying from us, customers buying from us, what do they like about us, where do they hang out, et cetera, et cetera. And so you don’t get to understand what companies use behind closed doors. And the good ones do that all the time, diagnosis, understanding what’s happening, strategy, deciding what to do and what not to do, and tactics, executing the f*ck out of that plan. And you only get to see the communication part of that plan. As marketers, we sometimes forget that we have power over the product we sell. And if you don’t, you must ask for it. And I can share a few tips on that. But that’s exactly what you described. The only, the very, very tip of the iceberg.
Stephanie Cox: So you offered to share tips. You know I’m going to ask about them.
Louis Grenier: Yeah.
Stephanie Cox: Drop some knowledge and some tips here on what you’ve seen work.
Louis Grenier: So the best way to have the higher impact as a marketer is to focus on the market. That’s what marketing is all about. So if you want to be heard, if you want a seat at the leadership table from the marketing perspective, spend time with recent customers, interview them, talk to them, understand the journey that they took all the way from buying from you. What is the very first time… Talk me through the very first time you ever potentially thought about buying a solution like ours. What other solutions did you compare us to? Why did you pick us above the other? What channel do you tend to spend time? Who influenced your buying decision? Who did you ask? Is there anything that almost stopped you from buying from us? Those questions are critical. You need to ask them over calls and surveys. You need to observe what’s going on. You need to talk to customer- facing staff inside your organization as well as the founders, because there is a reason why they created that company. And only that is more than what’s… I don’t want to come up with shitty stats, but probably 99% of marketers are there. You’ll get so much understanding of your market that you’d start having a very clear idea of what to do next. And once you know what to do next, you can start influencing the four Ps of marketing: product, price, promotion, and place. And once you do that, you can get a bit more clarity on what to do. And obviously, you need to execute and test stuff and hypothesize and fail and learn. But with that work, you are going to have guide rails that are going to prevent you from feeling major FOMO in every single second of every day to instead focus on what matters, what you must focus your attention on.
Stephanie Cox: But why are so few marketers doing that work? I feel like crosstalk.
Louis Grenier: Because they’re afraid.
Stephanie Cox: Right? And if they do the work, it’s like they don’t want to listen to it either.
Louis Grenier: Yeah. We’re afraid. I used to think it was coming from a place of feeling above the people, but I think it’s deeper than that. It’s the fear. Fear of being rejected, first of all, by customers who would say, ” I don’t want to talk to you.” Fear of hearing things that you hadn’t heard before, so feeling like an imposter, feeling like you don’t knowing anything. The fear that you will hear bullshit, as a few people would say that you shouldn’t do market research because people tell you what they want to hear, which is bullshit. If you ask the right question, they are never going to tell you what you need to hear. You never ask question about the future. Always ask question about the past. I don’t fight experience. And obviously, you need to do some of the work on top of it, because customers won’t tell you everything. You need a bit of gut feeling, a bit of taste, a bit of experience on top of that. But above all is the fear. And people who listen to my podcast Everyone Hates Marketers, I talk about customer interviews and market research and market orientation all the time. And I have a program that is radical differentiation, which is the best to spot marketing bullshit. And all of the people who are part of this program know that interviewing customer is the basis, yet can you guess what’s the percentage of people who took part in my program who’ve ever done it?
Stephanie Cox: Less than 10%.
Louis Grenier: Zero percent. Zero percent.
Stephanie Cox: Zero. Okay.
Louis Grenier: None of the crosstalk.
Stephanie Cox: I was being optimistic.
Louis Grenier: Exactly. None of the 20 people who took part in my first and second cohort had spent time actually interviewing customers. So it’s a very emotional issue. And if your boss is preventing you, for example, from talking to customers, then you need to fight to talk to them. You must be able-
Stephanie Cox: Or find a new boss.
Louis Grenier: Yes. Which is not as easy for some, right? So I’m always cautious to say that. Some people might be in more difficult situations than others. But overall, you need to first fight for the ability to talk to customers, talk to customer- facing staff, send surveys, observe people in a real environment. Once COVID is over, if you’re selling oranges, then go to the supermarket and look at the way people buy oranges. I can guarantee that they don’t compare 10 f*cking brands. They pick the one they know. And there’s a lot you can make with that. Read everything you can on actual marketing science. How Brands Grow by Byron Sharp is a good start. Anything by Mark Ritson is another. That’s not a book. That’s the guy, Mark Ritson. There is a few books like that that teaches you the fundamentals of marketing. And once you’re able to really lean on them, this is how you get above the bullshit.
Stephanie Cox: So what do you do in the situation, and I think we’ve all been here at some point in our career, where you want to do those customer interviews or maybe you have even and you have this actual data points, feedback from customers, prospects, however you want to look at it, but then you have senior leaders who heard something, saw something on the internet that come in and want to make decisions without using any of that information, because crosstalk it works for someone else supposedly? How do you combat that situation?
Louis Grenier: So the best way that I found throughout my career is as follows. Use the data you’ve gathered to tell the story of your customers. And I hate the word story and storytelling because it’s overused, but the point being do not try to convince your leadership, your boss to listen to you and implement your stuff by sharing a spreadsheet full of numbers. They will not give a shit. What you need to share are two things. One is the actual story of the customers that you’ve learned through the core pieces of feedback they’ve said, quotes, verbatim quotes or videos of people talking to you, summaries of people actually saying things that say, ” I don’t understand anything you say on your website. What the f*ck is that message? I don’t understand the headline. I don’t understand whatever, whatever,” real proof. If you can, bring actual customers inside the building. Make them talk to founders. Be the voice of the customer literally, right? And don’t use data. The second thing is ask for forgiveness and not permission. And that’s tricky sometimes. You feel it’s risky.
Stephanie Cox: But it’s so important.
Louis Grenier: Right. And I know crosstalk you like that, right?
Stephanie Cox: …do that. I do. I love it, because it’s my number one pet peeve with marketers today. They feel like everything needs to be ruled by committee, and I’m just like, ” No good marketing comes out of committees. None.”
Louis Grenier: Exactly. You don’t want to make the curry less spicy. You don’t want to f*cking… And when everyone brings a color, it turns out gray, right? You need some f*cking guts to say, ” This is what we’re going to do. Let’s make the curry as spicy as we can. It’s not for everyone. It’s for that specific group of people. And I know it because I’ve done my research. Let’s test that thing. And if you, whoever your name is, prefer that version, then let’s AB test it and see who wins.” But you need to put some sort of thought into, ” Why did I pay attention to ads in the past? And why did I buy this product?” Chances are, they fought obscurity. They didn’t just decide by committee. Someone took the decision to say, ” You know what? Let’s go for it 100%.” I give this example all the time of… I don’t know if you’ve seen it. There’s a recent ad by Burger King with the moldy burger. Have you seen it?
Stephanie Cox: I love all things Burger King. I’m obsessed with their marketing.
Louis Grenier: So their product, you can argue, is shitty, right? It’s fast food. It’s crosstalk.
Stephanie Cox: Oh, I have not eaten there in 10 years.
Louis Grenier: Right. crosstalk.
Stephanie Cox: I don’t eat their food, but I love their marketing.
Louis Grenier: So the communication part of it at least is brilliant, because the guy behind it, I’m going to forget his name, but is a very accomplished marketer who understands that concept of creativity and why you can’t just make average things. You need to f*cking go all the way in one aspect. And so the campaign of the moldy burger is a brilliant one, and I can guarantee that when you look at this ad, it’s just a picture of a moldy burger. And it basically shows that their burger is not made of shitty preservatives like McDonald’s would be, right? That’s the conversation behind it. How many of you listening to this, how many would have said, ” Mm, I’m not sure. I don’t think we should run it. It’s too risky,” right? The majority, probably. And that’s the lesson.
Stephanie Cox: Well, and that’s the thing is they’d all… What they would do is that’s what they would pitch, right, if you’re in rule by committee, and then everyone would say, ” Oh, we can’t do that. That’s too risky. What are people going to think?” And then it gets watered down to some blah generic version that you could see from any other brand.
Louis Grenier: Exactly. And so that’s the conundrum that you have as a marketer. On one hand, you know that you need to generate results and you know that you really need to generate results or the pressure is on. On the other, the best way to generate results is to take some f*cking risk, or thinking at least that you’re taking some f*cking risk, because actually taking risk is the safe option in today’s world. How many companies are in your space? Every time I talk to marketers, entrepreneurs, they all say the same thing. We are in a saturated market. Spoiler alert. Everyone is in a f*cking saturated market. Even the so- called new categories being created are in a saturated market. People don’t consider many options and they don’t consider you by a competitor likely. They consider Excel or an interim or doing nothing. So choices are everywhere. If you don’t take a stand somewhere in some places, if you don’t take a risk, if it’s not spicy, if you take off the edges, you’re going to face obscurity and you’re going to go to square one, which is, ” Pressure is on. We need to do something. Let’s do another average thing. Let’s be under more pressure,” and you can keep going this way until you get fired.
Stephanie Cox: So how do you help marketers realize that taking a risk, right, and doing something and being different, not just different for the sake of it, but being radically different as you’ve talked about, is actually the smart move, especially when they’re put under so much stress to drive results, that doing the status quo and being like everyone else is not going to get them the results that they actually need in order to be successful? How do you convince them that this is their job?
Louis Grenier: Well, intuitively, they understand. When I talk about it like that, it’s very easy for people to understand. They get it. You don’t need a science degree to understand that everyone with a brain and a laptop and an internet connection can compete with you tomorrow on create content and whatnot. So intuitively, they know it. Scientifically, I can prove to you that, for example, of the 275 companies over 11 years that have our business review analyzed, the one that we’re no different generated 4. 8% more revenue per year and the one that we’re much more bland and average generated a minus, so declined by 4.3%. I can go on and on about stats like that. But intuitively, you’re not stupid. If you listen to this episode right now, you’re not stupid. You get it. People get that, right? So it’s not about how you convince them. It’s more about showing them now how to do it, because books and experts on positioning and branding fall short when it comes to the actual how do you actually do it. They make your creative circuits firing. But when it comes to actual practical stuff, it’s very difficult to find any, because it’s mostly for massive brand with massive advantage. So if you want, I can share with you a few steps to take to actually create something that would radically stand out.
Stephanie Cox: Yes, please do.
Louis Grenier: So the first thing is your mindset, and we talked about that a lot. So challenging your mindset, understanding what you’re afraid of, thinking about that. And I know it’s a bit of a cliché, but it’s so true. You need to understand that taking risk is the safest option out there. Life is short, right? What’s the alternative? Not taking any risk and having yet another campaign that flops? Let’s f*cking go for it. So now, we’re in a better place. The second step is to obsess over your market, going beyond demographics, understanding, talking to people like I’ve mentioned before, asking the right question to understand, ” Are there any differences in the market that I could take advantage of? Is there a small group of people out there that we can own and defend that is still big enough for us to make money, but small enough for us to” dominate”?” even though I hate those f*cking terms. But you get it. That you can take advantage of, that you can really double down on, right? That’s something that we all forget to do, because we want to make sure that we build this billion dollar company, forgetting that the best way to get there is to start small. Start small, dominate that market, move on to a bigger one, a bigger one, and then a bigger one, and then a bigger one. If you study any successful brands out there that have” made it,” they’ve all started the same way. They started small. That’s how you f*cking do it. So that’s about committing to a one portion of the market that you have access to, that has money to pay you, that you enjoy working with, that connects with your proposition. That’s the single biggest mistake I see, because you can’t go and radically stand out when you think your market is everyone.
Stephanie Cox: But I want my market to be everyone, because I want to have this whole addressable market that’s ginormous.
Louis Grenier: Yeah.
Stephanie Cox: That’s what I hear, right? People are like, ” Well, everyone can use my product.” No, they can’t. Pick one.
Louis Grenier: Exactly.
Stephanie Cox: You can’t market to everyone. And it’s okay if some people don’t like you.
Louis Grenier: Exactly. And that’s the conundrum again, which is a very emotional thing. You will be able to have a huge f*cking total addressable market in the future once you do your homework and start step by step. People are afraid that a small market won’t make them enough money. They just need to calculate their market size to understand that it’s false. If you sell a good f*cking product at the right price to people who can’t wait to solve their pain using it, you can make a whole lot of money. Look at the product and services you’ve bought recently. And by the way, just a caveat, I’m not talking about companies that are number one in their market. That’s something that I hear a lot, which is, ” Oh, but Tesco,” like in the UK, or f*cking whatever big f*cking company you can think of, ” Google, they target everyone.” First of all, they don’t. Apple sell to one percent of the world population at maximum for every product launch. One percent. So it’s not everyone. They are playing a different field where their market share and their size is responsible for their growth. The bigger they are, the higher the market share, the more people are going to be slightly more loyal to them, and the more light buyers would be attracted to them, right? So the bigger they are, the more famous they will be. That’s not your position. Very unlikely. And so if you want to grow market share, you need to use what Christopher Lockhead… Not Christopher Lockhead, the guy who wrote… Jeffrey Moore, who wrote Crossing the Chasm, talks about, which is exactly what I’m talking about. Pick the smallest minimum viable market you can find that can guarantee a lot of money. And then once you dominate that niche, move on. Move up. Don’t try to boil the ocean. If you boil the ocean, you’re f*cked because you open up competitors that are way more money with much better product, way more ad power, buying power, reputation. And so you’ve lost already. So be realistic. Don’t try to boil the ocean. You will be a millionaire if you keep pushing. But you need to also use scientifically based marketing meted to grow. You can’t just boil the ocean.
Stephanie Cox: No, I completely agree. And I think your point is so right, right? It doesn’t mean that your market can’t get bigger later, but you can’t go after everyone in the beginning. That’s not what a lot of big brands do today and that’s also not what they did when they were smaller either.
Louis Grenier: But no one-
Stephanie Cox: So it’s-
Louis Grenier: No one targets everyone, right?
Stephanie Cox: No.
Louis Grenier: Unless you invented oxygen, you can’t target everyone, right? So this is a mistake people make because they never talked to a customer in their life. And when you talk to any, to many, you’ll understand there are patterns that are very deep and they go beyond demographics of demographics. They go beyond, ” My customer is aged between 30 and 35. Her name is Sally. She’s an HR manager and she had three kids.” You don’t give a shit about that if you’re selling a car, for example, right? What matters is the psychographics, the reason why people buy from you, what do they believe that make them buy from you, what were the objections, and all of the stuff that explain why people bought from you. Once you have enough psychographic and understand exactly who they are, you can then apply your layer of demographics on top that says, ” Those people tend to be women. They tend to live in the US,” blah, blah. Quick example. I work with a shampoo company that were selling originally to Latinas. We did this work to get to understand, ” Okay. Who are we going to focus on?” We asked ourselves the question after talking to them and doing our research, ” Are there any differences in the market we can take advantage of?” Turns out, the customer, the minimal viable market that they want to serve are actually Latinas with long hair, long frizzy hair, living in California and Florida, because those are the people who have the highest pain when it comes to their hair and getting them under control. Long hair, more frizz. You need warm weather that causes their hair to be even messier. Those people are the ones who love the product the most. And there are literally millions of them. So let’s start with them. Let’s make a killing there. And then, yeah, if you want to boil the ocean later, maybe we can target everyone once you have enough brand and market share. You can start doing huge awareness ads to basically try to talk to everyone who has hair on their head.
Stephanie Cox: So I’ve talked a little bit about how companies and marketers can think about standing out. What is the number one problem that marketers run into when they try this, when they try and be radically different? What are the challenges they’re going to face? Because I think we’ve all probably in our career, at least the ones that also like to push the edginess, forgiveness, not permission, have done things where we’ve launched a campaign, changed the messaging on the website, been more provocative, more aggressive, and we’ve had that person, whether it’s another member of the leadership team, someone on the board have that knee- jerk reaction of, ” What are we doing? Have we lost our mind?” How do you combat that? I know data helps, but how do you get people willing to take a risk in a world that feels like there are companies who take risks, and then there’s the rest of… 90% of us, which are the ones who don’t, who want to grow fast and they want all of these things, but they also aren’t willing to alienate anyone or to say who they sell to and not who they don’t sell to?
Louis Grenier: Well, you ask them, ” Are you happy with the situation right now? Do you want to sell more? Are you happy with how many sells you have right now?” And chances are, they’ll say, ” We’re not happy with it.” Well, then we need to change something. And then you ask them, ” When was the last time… what’s the last ad you remember and what’s the last product you bought?” And unless they understand that in the very core, the fact that they actually need to take some risk in one way, shape, or form, then there’s no point in trying to argue. At the end of the day, you either try a few things and try to do stuff behind their back, but you really don’t connect with it, as you mentioned before, then it’s time to look for another job if you can. Honestly, the one most difficult thing of a marketer for customers and in general is to try to change people’s minds. You can’t change people’s minds. The only thing you can do is try to find people who believe in what you believe. It takes years, right, to do otherwise. So besides sharing story, do a wakeup call, call on Zoom, let’s say, with bringing customers in and sharing actual feedback, there is nothing else. You’re not God. You can’t change people’s mind magically. So once you have people on board and really f*cking go for it, and usually it comes from a founder or the CEO. If you are the marketer pushing back, pushing back, and it doesn’t work, it’s not you. It’s them in a sense. You need to move on to a CEO and founders who understand that. But once you have an understanding, the thing to look into is the fact that radical differentiation is not a different message or better ad. It’s beyond that. It’s much more deep. It touches every aspect of the marketing mix, including the product. So what you need to be willing to do is basically being able to say, ” We are the only whatever in that category that does that thing or that helps do that thing,” which is a value, the pain that you help them solve, the goal that you have them reach, for that group of people, right? The intersection of the three is what makes you radically different. Not one, not just a value, not just the market, not just the category you’re in. The three of them. And so once you’re able to nail that aspect, to say, ” Okay, we are for those people only. We do that thing so well. We’re the only one and we are in that category,” which is the box people put us in. Let’s say your podcast is a marketing podcast. That’s your category. Salesforce is a CRM software. That’s the category. Shampoos for Latina, shampoo would be the category, et cetera, et cetera. So that’s what you seek, this intersection, because then you can really double down on it. And frankly, the thing that people are the most scared in that step is removing stuff. What people are afraid of is that they think that to be radically different, you need to add as much as you can on top of what you currently have. But the opposite is actually true. By removing things, you will shed light on the positive and what is there and people will understand that there isn’t that many other stuff, right? It’s the way specialization and niching down works. That’s the way it is. So you need to compete on brands. By competing on brand, you need to double down on who you seek to serve and all of that. So the intersection of the three is what matters. And then if you want, I can share a few steps on how to arrive at that definition and that intersection.
Stephanie Cox: No, I’d love to hear you share some steps. But I think one thing I’d like to, before we get to that, is we talked a bit about categories. And I think one of the things that sometimes marketers think as a way to stand out is, ” I’m going to create a new category.” What is your take on that?
Louis Grenier: I f*cking hate it in so many ways.
Stephanie Cox: Join the club.
Louis Grenier: So I’m going to tell you why. So give me a second. I’m just going to pull out an article that I wrote recently on this exact topic. So let me tell you. So yeah, you might have read Blue Ocean Strategy or The 22 Laws of Immutable of Marketing, Differential inaudible, and you’ve seen companies like Drift inventing so- called conversational marketing or have spot with inbound marketing and whatever. And apparently, creating new categories like this way of becoming the only product in the new category of the de facto leader, you lead the charge, you inspire everyone, there’s no competition, it’s a blue ocean. Let’s go for it, right? That’s what people think. So it’s bullshit in many aspects. First, most category creation are not category creation case studies. They are not category creation. Most of the time, it’s a subcategory that’s been created. And it’s so important to understand the distinction, because you are leaning on something that already exists. And that’s the matter with the so- called new category. Inventing a category from scratch means that you’re expecting to change the mind and upgrade the mind and locate the mind of millions of people, which takes time, years, and so much resources. But an example in the Blue Ocean Strategy book, they talked about how this air fry maker that was developed by the French company Set created a new category of air fry maker. They used to be fry maker, and now they’ve done air fry maker that uses 80% less fat. And they said it’s a new category of blue ocean. It’s bullshit. It’s not a new category. They’re leaning on what people already know to be fry makers, and they just removed a few things, added a few things to create this new conversation, and then others followed. So that’s the first. And the second one is that requires more time, more inference, more resources that you probably think. It’s so easy to look at those few who” managed to do it,” even though I would argue that they haven’t, most of them, because you try to change people’s mind. And if you really think you can, in the book Play Bigger there’s study mentioned that says it takes on average, listen to this, six to 10 f*cking years for a category to be effectively created and companies to go public, effectively crosstalk.
Stephanie Cox: That’s a long time.
Louis Grenier: Exactly. It is enormous. And one of the poster childs of category creation is Drift with conversational marketing, right? I crosstalk.
Stephanie Cox: You mean chat.
Louis Grenier: Thank you. Exactly. And that’s what you come up against. You arrive at a place where marketers are told that creating a new category is just inventing a new… repeating a new word over and over again until people understand. But it’s artificial, and I would say that this kind of… those categories that stand the test of time haven’t been created out of selfishness for a marketer founder who wanted to invent the wheel, but came out of the passion of a team of people who worked on a problem for so f*cking long that they became the de facto leader and they never claimed to become a new category. They just… That happened as a byproduct of their effort. And Hubspot is the perfect example. They didn’t set to invent inbound marketing as a category. They never say that. I even had the ex- VP of Marketing on the podcast, and she explained that that wasn’t what they tried to do. They only tried to fight against the enemy, which was outbound. But they never claimed, ” Hey, we are raising 200 million to invent a new category.” They never said that.
Stephanie Cox: So then why is there obsession with creating categories right now? I feel like that’s what every marketer I talk to, especially senior marketers in the B2B space, they’re like, ” Oh, we’re creating a new category.” I’m like, ” But are you? Aren’t you just taking a current category and calling it something different and using it as a way to get PR and to crosstalk break through the noise with the same shit?”
Louis Grenier: Well, to me, it’s what you described at the start. It’s quick hacks that we naturally take as humans. If we can achieve an objective in two steps instead of 25, obviously we choose two steps. But that’s not how you arrive there. So the reason why is because there is a massive survivorship by us as well happening, where you remember the ones who’ve succeeded. How many of them, of those people who say, ” We’re going to create a new category,” will succeed in the future? Very, very, very few. Extremely very, very few. Drift, even though I’ve said that they invented a new category, I would argue that they haven’t because it’s not sticking that much anymore. The guy behind it Dave Cancel had so many startups behind his belt, so much influence, so much knowledge and influence in Silicon Valley that they were able to pull it off and so much money, more than 200 million in funding. If you really think you can do it, then be my guest. But I will stick to the core foundations of marketing and I will stick to what people… to Psychology 101 and the fact that you can’t change people’s minds. You can only try to find people who believe what you believe already.
Stephanie Cox: I think that’s a really great. So maybe, to end, what else or is there anything else that you would want to share to help marketers start to think differently and try and be radically different in their efforts?
Louis Grenier: Yeah. So the best thing I can tell you to do very practically is that once you have your market, list down everything that is expected of your category. So let’s say you want to build a new CRM software. Okay, cool. List down everything that is typically being done inside that category. And I don’t mean just the message. I mean the product itself, in term of behavior. What do they do? What don’t they do? What channels are they on? What do they tend to say? What do they tend to offer? List everything down, right? So that you have something to lean on. And then apply that length that you have of this market that you seek to serve and try to find that one thing that you can remove or add that will actually make you the only. And that takes a bit of taste and experience, but that’s the only way to do. That’s from Blue Ocean Strategy. A few books like Purple Car mention the same thing. To be different, you need to lean against something that exists instead of just trying to create something brand new. So say no more than you say yes. Remove, remove, remove so that you have such a lean product market fit, right? Such a product that solved that pain so well, it’s pure, it’s edgy. You can claim it. You can talk about it. You can find ways to say that no one else says. And once you do that, honestly then it becomes very fun to do. And so I’ve done that. I’ve done this process that I’ve described as many… I don’t know how many times now, for content pieces, for my own podcast Everyone Hates Marketers that is more than four years old, for my company now, the program Stand the F*ck Out, every time. And it’s so fun. Once you get through the first hurdle of trying a few time, it becomes easier and easier and you get experience doing it. And then honestly, it’s not rocket science. The biggest mistake, and I will finish on that, is when you obsess over a group of people that is way too big. You can’t achieve differentiation this way. That’s not how it works.
Stephanie Cox: You’ve been listening to Real Marketers. If you love what you’ve heard, make sure to subscribe, rate, and review our podcast. And don’t forget to tell a friend. All of this marketing goodness shouldn’t be kept a secret.