What Consumers Want
Episode #005: Mathew Sweezey, Director of Market Strategy at Salesforce
September 21, 2020
Focus on the customer. How many times have you heard that phrase uttered in your career? Probably a million. As marketers, we all know we’re supposed to put the customer at the center of what we do, but are we really keeping up with what they want? How often do we actually take a step back and start thinking about how to market to them differently because their needs and the world have changed? If you’re honest with yourself, it’s probably not as often as you would like to believe. You may not even remember the last time you spoke to a customer.
That’s got to change starting right now. What consumers want has drastically changed and we need to think about marketing to them differently than we have in the past.
In this episode, we chat with Mathew Sweezey, Director of Market Strategy at Salesforce, author, podcast host, multiple award-winning marketers, pioneer of the marketing automation space, and regarded as one of the top minds on the future of Marketing.
Stephanie's Strong Opinions
- Marketing is no longer about how to get a consumer’s attention – context is the new foundation of our environment.
- You can’t be a prophet in your own land. Test your ideas in small ways to start a change.
- Marketers, you need to start asking consumers what they think of your brand.
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Stephanie Cox: Welcome to REAL MARKETERS where we hear from marketers 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 bullsh*t 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 sh*t done. On this show. My guests and I will push boundaries and share the real truths about marketing and empower you to become a real marketer. So Elon Musk may be temperamental, and a little bit unpredictable, but he’s done what few other marketers have. He’s created phenomenal demand for product he hasn’t even yet built with what he’s done with Tesla. Think about that for a minute. When was the last time you gave a company thousands of dollars to be on a waiting list for product that doesn’t even exist yet. It’s honestly mind blowing, but it also highlights at the same time how much has changed in the world of marketing and the disparity between what used to work and what customers and consumers really want today. And that’s exactly what I’m chatting about with today’s guest. Mathew Sweezey is the director of market strategy at Salesforce, author of the Context Revolution, podcast host, multiple award- winning marketer, pioneer of the marketing automation space and regarded as one of the top minds of the future of marketing. And we’re talking all about the Context Revolution, why you can’t be a prophet in your own land, the value of co- creating content and so much more. It is really exciting to talk to you about your new book, which is the Context Marketing Revolution. And I emphasize context. Because I swear to you, no matter how many times I looked at the cover, my brain wanted to say content, content content. And I noticed that throughout the book, but I’d love to get started and really talk to you about what at a high level is the context marketing revolution and what do you even mean by context and how is that different than maybe what I might think the definition is?
Mathew Sweezey: Oh yeah. Geez. So that’s a lot of big stuff. So let’s kind of break this down into a couple of basic things, right? So kind of what I focus on is really the future of marketing and do a lot of research around that. So I started asking the question, what is it going to cost to break through the noise in the future? And to do that, I first had to chart this thing that we’re going to break through, noise. And so I started mapping out noise and I started at 1900 and projected all the way to 2030, just to have a clear picture of what we’re doing. And when I really realized is that we often lump this word noise into one thing. We just think that more noise is more noise. And what I was actually able to prove, and kind of one of the fundamental theories of this book was that it’s not. Actually, we have a radically different type of noise now coming from a radically different creator and it operates completely differently and breaking through it isn’t anything like we’ve ever done before. And so essentially that in itself is called media theory, understanding that this media environment and how things affect and change. So that’s kind of like the underlying aspect. Now what I then prove is that we entered the infinite media era and left the limited media era. Now that’s kind of cool and we’re like, yeah, we know there’s a lot more noise, but really what we need to think about is marketing and business strategy are games, right? They are not truths, right. They change over time and they change, what dictates the change is the environment around it. When the environments change those games that we think about have to change. So let’s think about a couple of basic marketing games that we used to believe, right. And they were founded in the limited era. Right. And we’ll talk about that in just a second, but just think about limited, right? When information and media is limited, consumers operate in specific ways and we play specific marketing games in those environments. Right? So think about this basic idea such as top of mind, the goal to be top of mind used to be, and still many people believe that it is a great game that we should be playing and in a limited media environment, right, that is a true thing. Because when information is hard to come by, how would a human make a decision? Well, they would rack their brain and they would say, okay, I remember these things, but now just ask a basic question to the modern human. Do you know your spouse’s telephone number? Most people don’t. If your spouse got a new phone number in the past three years, the odds are, you don’t remember it. The second question is how many phone numbers do you remember? And if people remember any, it is only their spouse’s phone number, right? So it’s maybe one and maybe your spouse. So in the world of infinite access and infinite media, we operate differently as humans, right? So we offload memory to digital devices. So the game of being top of mind is no longer what we need to be playing. Now what supersedes top of mind is share of journey. And this is really where things start to get crazy and different. Now that we have infinite access and infinite media, people ask questions about everything because they can. And it’s not just that they ask questions is that they are receiving trusted answers, right? So we’ve always known about this concept of word of mouth. We need to think about this in a radically different way, right? Because consumers are now the largest creators of content and media and the world. Second to them are their digital devices. And what that creates is a radically new ground, where context is now the foundation of this new environment. So that’s like a large kind of macro idea, right? But we have essentially left the world where we need to focus on games of attention. And we’ve entered a world where we must focus on games of context. And here’s really the two key reasons why. One, when we entered this world of infinite media, there’s so much content that it’s impossible for humans to make use of it. So what happens? Well, we now enter a world where I call we are all post AI consumers. Every digital thing that we touch is managed by artificial intelligence. And that artificial intelligence is attuned to my needs, the individual. It is not attuned to the business’s needs. So it is there to help me find the most engaging thing at the moment. And what is the most engaging thing in the moment is in context. So look at anything in the digital space and you’ll notice this word context abound everywhere, right? A Google search, everyone in the world can ask the same question. We all receive different answers in context to us in the moment and where we are in the world. Look at any social media feed. Every social media feed is not a chronological feed. They were when they started, but now there’s too much content. Now there are contextual feeds. Look at the timestamps. They’re all different and new mediums that are just being created, like Tik Tok don’t even have timestamps so the AI can resort and filter and you never know when that post was created. So it’s all contextual.
Stephanie Cox: Do you think the average consumer is understanding that now? Do you think that on average-
Mathew Sweezey: They don’t have to.
Stephanie Cox: And I wonder like how much of that, it plays into this whole idea, right? I don’t even know. I think what I’m seeing is just the only information that’s out there.
Mathew Sweezey: And what you see is curated for you by artificial intelligence and that artificial intelligence is focused on the context. So that’s the whole point of the post AI consumer. They didn’t ask for artificial intelligence. They were just given it and what they receive is a better experience in any digital format anywhere. So that is now what their expectations are because that’s what’s being delivered to them and that’s now what they expect from us. So that’s kind of the whole idea and do they know? Do they, it doesn’t matter. They just, that’s what they expect. That’s the world they operate in and that’s the rule we must deliver. And when you really kind of look at the data on what consumers want, consumers want better experiences. That’s just the simple fact of the nature. We’ve got the statistics to show that 84% of consumers now say the experience a brand creates is just as important as the product or service. And then if we start to break that down, that’s when we start to get into this concept of revolution versus iteration.
Stephanie Cox: So one of the things that was really interesting when you talked about noise, I hear from so many other marketers, it’s so hard to break through the noise and they think the noise, I think a lot of times is just other companies, other competitors in this space. And I wonder from your perspective, if you were to answer the question of how do you break through the noise? What do you feel like is the best way for marketers one, to be thinking about what noise really is kind of with the discussion that we just had, but then also how the tactics need to change because consumer behaviors have changed so much in what they’re expecting.
Mathew Sweezey: So this is pretty simple in two formats. One is that’s the whole point of understanding that the noise is different. So when people say noise, they traditionally, like you say, think of the traditional definition, which would be noise created by other brands, which for most of our time was true. Now the largest creator of noise are individuals. And second are their devices. Very, very far down our brands in terms of how much noise that we actually create and put out in the marketplace. So it’s a radically different thing that we have to break through. Second is then how do we break through that? And the traditional definition and how we thought about breaking through noise is all founded in attention seeking games, right? We would seek to write the best copy, we would look to create the most creative campaign to get somebody to stop and take note. Think about traditional marketing games, such as sex sells, right. It no longer sells. In fact, what you find are major brands who invested in that as a marketing tactic, Carl’s Jr, they’re a great example. Everyone’s familiar with Paris Hilton and that’s kind of where Paris Hilton kind of got her start was she was in a Carl’s Jr ad, which was like she was scantily clad on the top of a car with hamburger juice dripping all over her. They’ve now said that they want to be known for food, not boobs, right? Anheuser Busch, another one, they gave up this concept and they said, it’s no longer working for us. And when we look at large scale research on this, we can find that people may have stopped and looked at an ad that was of that genre of sexy, but there was really no connection made to the brand. And so now when you start thinking about how do we break through this? We’ve got to give up those ideas that it’s all about attention. It’s really about context. And the definition of context is what we must be clear on. The definition is, I call context is helping somebody achieve a goal at a moment. And that’s really what context is because when we think about it, no consumer ever said,” I want content.” It’s not something we say. We engage with something to solve a specific goal, right? If it’s an answer, if it’s a Google search. We were asking a question, so we are seeking an answer. If it’s on social media, we are there for one of four basic fundamental reasons. Most likely there to escape our jobs or engage with other people. So once we can understand the context of the goal that somebody is trying to accomplish, we can then create an experience to help them accomplish that. And only when we do that, will we break through and then we will engage and drive the awareness and all the other amazing things that we’re supposed to be doing.
Stephanie Cox: As a marketer, to some extent, this makes complete sense, especially after reading your book. But it also is overwhelming to think about how, and to some extent, maybe you, I think you agree, we kind of need to flip upside down how we’ve thought about marketing to consumers, both in B2C, right? Because we’re marketing to humans and go about it differently.
Mathew Sweezey: Yeah. You’re correct. I mean, we’ve always been marketing to humans. I think that the idea is we have to radically change this definition of what marketing is. And that’s the problem. Right? Because it was a game we created and we simply iterated upon this idea. The foundational elements of the media environment never changed. So the foundational theories that marketing operated upon didn’t have to change. So simple iterations worked for a very long time, but that’s the whole point of the infinite media era, the media environment radically flipped. In fact, I actually prove out that it happened on June 24th, 2009, right? That’s the actual day we entered a new media environment. And with that, a new idea of marketing must exist now. So this is kind of high up there. Let’s talk about some tactical things really quickly. Let’s just talk about the difference between Mercedes- Benz and Tesla and the marketing games they play and what a new idea of marketing means and how it’s effective. So Mercedes- Benz, we’re all familiar with the brand. Up until two years ago, they were known as the number one luxury car manufacturer in the world. They’re 94 years old, current market cap is$ 50 billion. And if we were to compare the most comparable unit of a Mercedes- Benz, would be the C class to the Tesla model three, we see the following breakdown, right?$ 926 is spent on advertising per car, sold from Mercedes- Benz and they follow a business model of the following. They build a car, they then pass it to marketing. Marketing then markets this car, they then sell that car. Marketing is a byproduct of production, right? That’s the way that the brands thinks about the role of marketing is to tell the world about the thing that we’ve created. Now look at Tesla. Tesla is I think 13 or 14 years old. Market cap of$ 150 billion. And when they launched the model three, their advertising cost per car was$6. That’s 1/ 150th of Mercedes- Benz. They sold three times as many cars, right? The most surprising thing is the car didn’t exist. Right?
Stephanie Cox: That’s my favorite part. It didn’t exist.
Mathew Sweezey: It didn’t exist. And then if you look at the underlying business model, it’s a radically different idea marketing factor. Business model looks like the following. They market, they work with their marketplace to cocreate a car. They then get them to invest in this idea. They pre- sell the car. Then they build the car and then they continue to market through an amazing customer experience, unlike anything else in the car industry. So it’s a radically different business model with a different idea of marketing. And we would say, that’s a transcended idea of marketing. That’s that’s the far off future where we’ve got to go. The reality is most brands aren’t going to be able to change the underlying structure of their business model overnight. They’re going to have to evolve into that over time, but that’s really what this new idea or new definition of marketing means. Now, when I look at this from a research perspective, right, I’ve worked with the research team here at Salesforce and kind of really try to identify what are the key differences between high performing marketing organizations and everyone else. The number one key trait of all high- performing marketing organizations is they have full executive buy- in to a new idea of marketing and simply put, that means their idea of marketing has moved from the department who tells the world about the things we make to the owner and sustainer of all experiences across the customer journey. It’s really that simple.
Stephanie Cox: Don’t you find that that’s really hard for a lot of organizations to grasp for a lot of executive teams to fundamentally shift how they think about not just like how marketing is measured, but how marketing should be overall?
Mathew Sweezey: Completely.
Stephanie Cox: To me, that’s the biggest challenge, right? If you go to your boss, your CEO today and say,” I want to emulate more of the Elon Musk marketing style he’s done with Tesla.” Which isn’t applicable for every business, but that concept, they’re going to look at you like you’re crazy.
Mathew Sweezey: Yeah. And so, I mean, and that’s totally right. You may be crazy, but you also are right. The hard part is that we have to realize that we have over 100 years have invested in our own personal educations and our own business models, our own tools and technologies into this idea. But the rate of change that we’re experiencing… My favorite quote is today’s rate of change is the slowest it’s going to be in the rest of your lifetime. It may be changing fast and that’s the whole point. The CEO or the head of the world economic forum famously said,” It’s not the biggest fish. It’s the fastest fish.” We’ve got to be agile and change our businesses and radical times of change. And every statistic you look at, how many of the Fortune 500 are still in the Fortune 500, a decade later in this radical time of change? There’s very few of them. Because those that can change and meet the modern demands of the modern era survive. Those that don’t fall off into obscurity and are replaced by disruptors. So we have to really kind of keep that in mind, if we want to succeed in the future, we just can’t take that idea that we have of marketing and iterate upon it. Because if we do that, we’re playing a game that’s made for a different period of time and it’s not going to work in this new era. So we really have to embrace this new idea of experiences. And it’s not just any experience, it’s an experience that helps a person achieve their goal at the moment. And when we can focus on doing those things, that’s when we win. And then you say, yeah, it’s difficult. But yeah, that’s the problem, right? If stuff was easy, we’d all be millionaires. But it’s not. It’s those that are able to do these things. Those that do have the ability to transition quickly are going to be able to transition into this idea and succeed where others won’t.
Stephanie Cox: So talk to me about how you would go about convincing the C suite to head in this idea of the context marketing revolution and thinking about everything so differently. Obviously like there’s a ton of data out there and you’ve kind of laid out a really great argument in your book, but how do I convince people to see this kind of new world and give it a try? When a lot of times I feel like executives are willing to test stuff, as long as it doesn’t impact bottom line KPIs. And as long as that’s… stuff stays the same. So how do you tell them that those don’t necessarily matter anymore? Because the goal line that we’re trying to hit is totally different.
Mathew Sweezey: It’s still a… There’s a thing that I like that’s so true, that you can’t be a prophet in your own land. It’s very difficult to walk into the C suite and say,” Hey, listen, we need to change at a fundamental level. And here’s why.” Very few executives are going to listen to that from someone that’s below them. They’re only going to listen to that in a couple of a couple of ways. One, it comes from a high paid consultant. They’ve given a significant sum of money and are expecting an answer. So when that answer comes, they’re willing to receive it rather than when it’s unsolicited coming from an employee. Or two, it comes from a peer where they’ve seen it. Now, inside organizations, we do see organizations changing. And when they change, it’s usually because of one of the two things happened. Usually one, it’s different departments have found that this operates better and are working together to move in this direction. So you’ve got two different departments coming at it from the same angle and saying,” Hey, we are seeing a better improvements by doing these things. We want to start continuing to do this. And that means we need to change X, Y, or Z.” So inaudible bottom up. And the other is simply testing, right? If you were able to test ideas. And so if you follow agile formats or agile methodologies, doing lots of small tests and being able to test in comparison with what they want. So saying,” Hey, this was your idea that we tried. Here’s another idea that we tried. This outperforms. If we are a data driven organization, we should do what the data says, right?” So that’s kind of really the scope, right? So you can either get someone to tell your executives that this is the right way to do it. Or you can work and start to test these ideas in small ways and start to change. There’s the other aspect of this conversation. What happens if your executives don’t want to change? Then you need to realize-
Stephanie Cox: That happened in some organizations.
Mathew Sweezey: Yeah. So move on, find a better company to work for. That company is obviously not progressive. And if you want to be progressive, you’re not a good fit, you know? So we need you to think about that as well. So find a better place to go.
Stephanie Cox: What do you think is going to happen to organizations like that that don’t start to really evolve and they continue just to slowly iterate on what they’ve been doing and don’t make these big leaps forward. What happens 10 years from now?
Mathew Sweezey: They don’t exist. They’re not around five years, they won’t make it to 10. I mean, like I said, this is a radical, rapid change and the companies that are doing… So let’s just look at Adidas. Adidas is a great example, right? Adidas is one of the largest sportswear, if not the largest sportswear company on the planet. They have completely stopped advertising on television. Just let that one statement sink in. The largest sports wear company on the planet has stopped advertising on television. And what have they given it up in exchange for? They’ve given it up in exchange for omni- channel customer experiences across the entire journey. They’ve invested heavily in every aspect, right? We talk about omni- channel and usually most people think omni- channel is just like making sure our messages are consistent. They take Omni channel to the entire customer experience, right? So every aspect from awareness consideration, they’ve got personal media feeds. Each individual has an app that’s personal media. It’s got bots that help out with customer experience. They nail it and they’ve been able to grow by giving up television advertising and investing in this concept of omni- channel journey. It’s experiences across the entire customer journey that create a better and more holistic business and grow businesses better than the traditional idea that we have.
Stephanie Cox: Well, and what’s so interesting about hearing you say that the first thought that popped in my head is that old saying about your brand. Your brand isn’t what you say it is, it’s what people say about you when you’re not in the room and it’s so true that experiences drive that more, not just through your actions and your words, but through your actual actions.
Mathew Sweezey: And we’ve never, and that’s always been the case, but brands, when we lived in the limited media era, we had the monopoly, right? So we had the big club that we could use to kind of bypass tha. t we no longer have control of the media environment. And that’s kind of why this idea is so critical, right? We have to find new ways and new games to play. So if we start to then expand this out and say,”All right, what are new tactics that we have to think about, we have to start with this concept of with, not on. All traditional marketing is based on how do we create something and force it onto a marketplace. But if we realize the highest value of the internet is not distribution of content, it’s human connectivity in between each individual across the globe, now what we must work with is how do we work with our marketplaces to co- create stuff, everything from the content, right? Daniel Wellington, great example. They’re a startup watch brand, no longer a startup watch brand, they sell a hundred million dollars of watches, but 99.5% of all content about them online is not created about, is not from them. Right. They did not create it. So if you go to this concept of, yeah, we need to have content. And I would say moving forward and looking at the future, we don’t even realize how much content we’re going to have to have, but that doesn’t mean that we, the brand are going to be the sole creator of all that content. In fact, if you try to do that, I think you will fail for two reasons. One is consumers trust content created by other consumers, much more than they trust content by us. Two, it’s just really, really difficult to create that much content, right? So there’s lots of games that we can play and figuring out ways to work with our audience to one, create the content two, to create human connections between each other. Look at any aspect of modern marketing than we talk about. Influencer marketing, advocacy, employee advocacy. These are all human to human methodologies, right? We’ve got to find ways to work with our audience, to cocreate everything from the marketing, if possible, the products all the way through to better experiences across the entire life cycle. And this goes all the way across the life cycle. I love the example of Trailhead, the trailblazer community that we have at Salesforce, right? It’s a community of our customers and anyone else in the ecosystem that can join. It does two main things. One is it allows people to ask and answer each other’s questions. And that does have something very big for an individual. It allows them to grow and create a personal brand, right? So that’s one aspect of this is the interconnectivity of each other. Then the other aspect is education, right? Then we create this educational platform where they can upscale and that then allows them to improve not only their personal career opportunities, but also then improve their business that they’re currently in by better utilizing tools by having better techniques, all of the above. Now, here’s the outcomes. So we create the platform. People use the platform, right, and interconnect. People have changed their LinkedIn job title to their status in the community. One quarter of all people inside of that platform have found a new job. You want to talk about brand affinity, helping somebody find a new job is some pretty serious brand affinity for the lifetime of however long, I mean, I don’t know of anything cooler than that, that you can do for an individual. And then our actual business metrics, customers that are inside that community spend twice as much and stay four times as long. There’s no traditional marketing campaign that could say we’re going to double the person’s purchase volume and then keep them four times as long with a single thing. But by creating, by working with the audience, and by the way, this is a purpose driven initiative, right? That’s the outcome. That’s a totally radically new idea of marketing, but accomplishes all the same goals that we would expect marketing to accomplish, but in a radically new way.
Stephanie Cox: So how do you think consumers are going to react to this? I mean, obviously it’s worked really well for Adidas, Tesla and other brands, but if you’ve had a company that’s been more iterative and more old school and their marketing and really just overall customer experience efforts, and you start fundamentally shifting it and kind of like turning it upside down, how will consumers react? Are they going to be with open arms? Is it going to feel a little bit jaded? I know that’s one thing a lot of people in marketing have said for so long,” It’s got to feel like my brand and my brand voice,” which I feel like sometimes it’s an excuse to not change it. But I’d love to get your perspective on that.
Mathew Sweezey: My brand and my brand voice, anyone that says that I would ask the question was the last time you sat down and asked your customers what they think of your brand. When we sit down from a marketing perspective, most brands have a very different view of what they’re creating than what their actual business, than what the actual customers believe and feel, right? Every research you look at in terms of ask a business what they believe, and then ask the consumers what they feel that they’re receiving. Radical difference in numbers. My favorite is the new research from Bane. And this research I believe is titled the delivery gap. And they asked a significant group of businesses how they feel about their ability to deliver this idea of positive experiences and the 80% of them said they are great at doing this. Then they actually asked those companies, direct customers, like they asked their customers. They said, how well do you feel these companies are at delivering a good experience? And it was a 72% delta between the two answers, 72% delta, 8% of their consumers would agree. When 80% of brands said we were excellent at this, only 8% of their actual customers would agree. So this concept that people have of what is their brand most businesses and most marketers just don’t talk to their consumers. Let me give you a very specific use case in point on this, right? And it’s this concept of, we look at, we look at metrics and when we see what we want, we stop and don’t go any further. So I asked a group of, is this a specific to B2B buyers, but I asked a group of 400 B2B buyers. Have you ever been disappointed with the content that you’ve downloaded from a brand? 71% of people said yes. And I said to what extent? And 25% of them said to the extent that we would never engage that brand ever again, but now if you were looking at this from the marketing standpoint, every one of those was a download. So your metrics are great, right? This was a positive experience. My follow up question to this is how many marketers ever actually follow up with somebody and ask them, did we deliver on the experience that you were expecting in this moment? And I asked this question all over the globe, and less than 1% of marketers have ever picked up the phone to call somebody to ask them how was that experience? If marketing is a product and the experience is a product, we must treat it like a product. We would fire any product manager that doesn’t call and ask how that product is doing for the customer. We must think about marketing in that way as well, and reach out and actually ask people what they are thinking. And when we do, I think a lot of those businesses and brands will find out that their belief of what they are, or their belief of their brand is really totally inconsequential. It’s totally different than the actual individual’s person’s mind. And so I think that would one, I would challenge that and say, most businesses probably think they’re doing well, but the reality is they probably just don’t ask the right questions to the right people to find out that they’re probably just not really doing all that well.
Stephanie Cox: The stats Matthew shared on how rarely marketers actually ask customers how they’re doing or their perception of the brand is absolutely staggering. We all know the importance of customer feedback, and most marketers are focused on data, but why are so few of us actually picking up the phone and talking to our customers? Well, it’s time to start. What if we all took 10 to 15 minutes a week to call one customer, just pick one, ask them to direct feedback. Now what you hear, not what someone else tells you that they heard, or what you see in data. What if you actually pick up a phone, call a customer, ask them questions and hear their responses? Think about how much you can learn about consumer perception of your brand and your overall experience in only a few minutes. So what are you waiting for? Pick up the phone. Start calling today. You’ve been listening to Real Marketers. If you love what you’ve heard, make sure to subscribe, rate, and review our podcast. Don’t forget to tell a friend, all this marketing goodness, shouldn’t be kept a secret.