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Killer Strategies To Amplify Your Brand's Voice And Connect With Your Audience

An Interview with Chuck Isaac Aikens

In this episode, Matt Fraser talked to Chuck Isaac Aikens, Founder of Tymoo, a Digital marketing collective of expert freelancers who team up to deliver brands’ desired results. Chuck reveals the secret to developing a brand voice that strikes a chord with clients. For some of the best audience engagement strategies, watch this episode now.

You don’t need more followers. You need to figure out your brand voice and how to communicate and start saying something worthy of engagement.

Chuck Isaac Aikens
Founder of Tymoo

Hello, everyone. Welcome to this episode of E Coffee with Experts. I’m your host, Matt Fraser. And on today’s show, I have a special guest, Chuck Isaac Aikens. Now Chuck is the founder and an advisor to Volume nine, a digital marketing agency headquartered in Denver, Colorado. V9 helps brands with SEO, social media and content marketing. And during the last 15-plus years with Volume nine, he has been assisting brands in connecting with their audience through creative content marketing strategies. Chuck recently sold Volume nine at the end of July. His next chapter involves working directly with brands as a digital marketing executive or a fractional CMO. He works with brands. Brand needs to develop its SOPs, establish IT systems, and find the talent to execute based on the overall marketing strategy. Here’s a search marketing veteran with over 20 years of experience helping companies get found in search. Early in his career, he discovered that helping businesses figure out the Internet was how he could bring value to the world when not on his laptop. Chuck likes to run, hike, or even walk outdoors. It also does a bit of skiing, is a pretend scratch golfer and father of two. When not doing any of these things. You might find him cheering on his favorite team or outing out enjoying the wonderful state of Colorado. Chuck, thank you so much. Welcome to the show.

Yeah, thanks, Matt. Thanks for having me.

It’s a pleasure to have you here. So, we were talking about the episode topic today of Killer Strategies to amplify your Brand’s voice and connect with your audience. In the bio I just described, you’ve had an interesting journey thus far. I’m just curious about who you were as a high school student. For instance, were you always interested in marketing or did it evolve in your career?

Do you know what’s funny about that, Matt? In high school, growing up, and even in college, I never actually took a marketing class. I was good at math, and science, even had scholarships that I had going into college and even spent a year in ROTC before I found out that they wanted me to go on to a nuclear submarine after college. So, I found my way to marketing almost by happenstance. But in high school, I was definitely what I think a little bit of an odd character because, at one moment, I was one of the few kids that were taking calculus.

But on the other hand, I would skip the first period because I realized I could get to Daytona Beach before the first-period bell rang, and the teachers would be waiting for me. So, a little bit of a rebel. A little bit of a nerd. Played some sports and also worked full time. I always had a full sensei time, but I worked a lot as a high schooler and worked full time through college. So, I was always a hustler. But with all those different topics I brought up, you could probably say that I was a little lost and wondered before I found the Internet.

Did you always want to be an entrepreneur?

I didn’t know it then, but I did. In my first job ever, I worked for an entrepreneur. A gentleman, first manager, first exposure to the business. He had a clothing store in an old downtown area. I was 16 years old. He took me to a buyer’s expo where you buy things for the clothing store. And I got brought into this booth and just loved their product. It was the first time Oakley sunglasses had sold the product to a trade show. They had their frogskins there. And I told him, I’m a 16-year-old. I said you got to buy these things. You gotta put it in your store. And he spent a couple of thousand dollars, brought the Oakley frogskins into his store, and a whole new audience showed up to what was kind of an older man’s store if you will. So, all high schoolers and the 20 and 30-year-olds were coming to the store because he was the only one in town with Oakley frogskins. So, you know, that was my first taste of entrepreneurship and how doing something a little more cavalier, an entrepreneur would, you know, can take you down a path you never imagined. And I also started the DJ business in college and spun tunes at weddings, bar mitzvahs, and quinceaneras to pay my way through college.

I think many people I talked to didn’t know it but liked large parts of the paper. I had a paper when I was a kid. I was always hustling, doing something. I had my first job when I was 14 and sometimes skipped school to work. Even as young as grade nine. If that happened today, the business would be fine. A Big-time where I live. But anyway, so that being said, what then motivated you to start your own? You said that you kind of had a chance in the marking. How did you? What motivated you to start your digital marketing agency? Volume nine.

So, prior to the agency, I had two experiences. One, I built a website. I had a sales job coming out of college where I was selling mortgages, doing refi, doing everything. So, I realized people needed to be educated about the mortgage process. I built a website called Mortgage one on one. Taught people all about the mortgage process. Long story short, I sold it after two or three years because the first time I ever came across Google, I typed in the word mortgage, and it was ranked number one, which had interested folks. So, somebody purchased it and bought it. And the company that bought it was a public company.

I went to work for them, eventually working my way up to be a CEO. In charge of product development, sales, marketing, and all kinds of different things. But I was so deep in the mortgage industry that I got a little bored. So much about digital marketing, about how to run a business. I wanted to get back to my community because we work with nationwide banks. I want to get back into my community to help small businesses, which is such a need. So, the genesis of an agency, I didn’t even call it that at the time. The time was just a desire to honestly help friends, families, and people I knew here in Denver, Colorado, with marketing. I’m building websites. There wasn’t such a thing as blogging or social media back there. And that’s what started a company 15 years ago. Classic founder story. I got busy with clients, and then I hired people to help me service those clients. I hired people to train them to do the production work. And before I knew it, I had 10 – 15 employees and started an agency. But it was always rooted in two things. One, helping the Brand, and then two, teaching people how to do digital marketing and letting them advance in their careers and being part of their journey. And an agency was and still is a perfect place to do that. You got the talented experts that want to help and do good work. And you have brands looking for an edge when they go off in and try to compete. So that was the genesis of the agency and at one point got it up to about 40 or 50 people and then decided with the agency that we wanted to focus on SEO. We did that for four or five years, then broadened into social and content over the last four or five years that I was involved with it.

What were some challenges of growing to 40 people, if I might ask?

Honestly, just the fact that there are 40 people is challenging. Having and managing and interacting with so many folks and starting to build what I’d almost consider many agencies are many business lines inside the agency. When agencies get to that size, and as we did, you suddenly have a web team, a social media team, SEO, and client services. One of the challenges that I felt at that stage, and I’m sure every agency owner runs into, is then you have mouths to feed. And when you have the mouths to feed, it’s not so much that I was worried about making payroll work as an owner. That wasn’t our problem. Our solutions were suddenly built in a way that fed the team’s business. And so sometimes it made it challenging to say, what does this company brand need? Because what I have are these four service lines, and I need to sell that to them. But what if they need something else besides those four service signs? Well, then you had to have agency partners, and you had to build in around that.

But first and foremost, you had to sell your services. So, I always ask myself, first and foremost, before we get into pitch mode, what does this Brand need and are we the best agency for that? And that’s hard to do when you need to build a team. So that was a challenge of just almost staying honest to the Brand, to what we represented with the value of Volume nine was and personally, myself and always doing the right thing by a brand, just making sure that I kept that in check with keeping the Web team busy and getting more social media contracts and finding real challenging things for the SEO team to solve. She always had that conflict between what brands needed and what we had to offer.

Did you, therefore, turn away some business before doing the pitch because you realized it wasn’t the right fit and the Brand didn’t need what you were offering to make those tough decisions?

Yes, it’s really hard to do, but you all want to do it. When you see a potential opportunity to sell a service to a brand, maybe, you want to sell it to them, even if they should have something else first. And there was a lot of business they got turned away. One story I love is that I turned away a startup business because they just weren’t ready for what we would do for them. But we had great conversations. It was a business I loved, I would have liked to have them as a client, and sure enough, about two years later, they came back and engaged with us because they had done the foundational work and had grown their operations new to the point where our services made sense for them. A lot of times that rarely happened, but it happened occasionally. But it always was important to be honest, and authentic with folks about whether or not the agency was the right fit for them and it was the right time and that it was going to be a really good engagement. But because of that, there were clients that we kept for years and years and years. Some clients left after three or four months because the guy would have moved on. I relished and was grateful for those folks who came on board at the right time. And then we had a really good long-term relationship with them. I keep relations with the first client we ever signed up as an agency. There’s still someone I see that’s a testament to doing it right. But also, we are always looking out for their interest as well.

As an agency, how do you decide who was the right business to take on and who are the ones to turn away?

It sounds like a simple answer, but the first thing you have to do is something that I’ve heard people call active listening. When you ask questions, I call it discovery, when you’re discovering in the sales process or even if you’re doing it when you start the project or the relationship. But to listen so actively that you’re almost reading into the answer behind the answer to the question behind the question. The why is important, the how is important but to have empathy if I were in this client’s shoes if I were this Brand’s shoes if I were in that shoe. What would I do? And what Volume nine did or what I do even today is a good fit for that. We’re going to figure this out. We’ll find the right retainer. We’ll find the right way to compensate and put together a 3-month or 3-year plan. All of that, we truly get to what it you need and how am I or how will we solve this? It shows itself and when there’s is a good fit there and that you’re going to be able to do things together. And, when it’s maybe you know, it’s a no, I mean, even maybe he’s okay because sometimes maybe he’s the best you can find when you go looking for someone to help you or when you are looking for the right fit, and that can work its way into a great situation later. Still, when it’s a no, you have to say, all right, it’s a great conversation. It’s just not the right time and right strategy for you at the moment. I would almost say you know it in your gut, and it’s an intuition-type thing you must trust.

Besides budget being an issue, are there any other red flags over the years you learned to identify that caused you to know right away whether someone, whether by business, would be a right fit for the agency or not?

Yes, I would say the next thing I would probably look at is when someone comes in and does a self-diagnosis or has zero ideas. They just start with the keys and say, you just do whatever you want. So, it’s either lack of engagement in the conversation. You’re the expert. You just do whatever. I don’t care. Or the other extreme where someone comes in, saying, “hey, I’d already determined that I did my SEO audit, I did my content strategy. Either one of those situations can be a red flag. I know that’s extreme, but I always have a look to say, how are we going to build together the best possible between your team and your resources, your employees, your contractors, your friends and family, my team, me, my resources, and how are we going to match this together to create a team that can accomplish great things, whether you know the one plus one is three kinds of concept that I’m always looking for. So, whenever someone hands the keys, they want you to do everything, or they think they will dictate. But that’s not inside of that spirit of we’re going to do this together. That’s how we do great things. Now, I can lead this orchestration, I can provide leadership and direction. It’s all about trying to pass that buck. But everyone’s involved, that’s what success looks like to me. And so a red flag would be things that get in the way of everybody working together towards that, whatever that strategy is.

Unfortunately, I worked for someone like that who wouldn’t provide me with a budget for content marketing or SEO but then would go and spend five grand on the newspaper and ask me what I thought. You quickly realize that someone micromanaging or doesn’t know what they’re doing but thinks they know what they’re doing is not the right fit to work with. So, thank you for sharing that because those are two really good things. If they’re trying to tell you how to do it because they think they know it all or if they don’t have any idea what they’re doing and just want you to do it, all those are two not very good things. I’ve asked that question before, and the answer you gave for probably the most insightful answer I’ve heard yet to that question. So, I appreciate you sharing that.

I think I was just babbling.

No, not at all.

In your agency, I guess you would focus on helping clients. One of the hardest things I found about running my agency in business was trying to figure out, number one, turning my services into products to scale, figuring out what I could offer the business and what they needed, and making sure that it was the right fit. But I know that one of the things you did was help them to create a brand voice. Can you share the definition of a brand voice?

When you say brand voice, a lot of things pop into my mind, but if we think of a brand as a separate entity, if a brand has a personality, a lot of times a brand will take on the personality of an entrepreneur or a founder, or the creator. And there’s often a creator story that builds the Brand. But as the Brand evolves, it has products and services, brings on employees, has what we would call influencers and partners and then has customers. And all of this is happening. Most brands form a personality, whether it’s intentional or not. So, when I think about the brand voice, I start to think about what the Brand represents. What is its true self, and what is it authentically? And then also, how would you grow that? Just like a person grows over their life, how would that voice evolve into something that the Brand stands for but also allows someone out there in the world to connect with the Brand because it is similar or it has a connection, or it wants to belong or be affiliated with that Brand. It’s almost like if you go to a party or if you go to an event, you’ve never said anything. Why would people find you interesting or want to engage? They wouldn’t. So, a brand needs to communicate authentically through its voice so that people can decide if they like it or not. Because then you’re going to attract people with similar values and attributes who want to be part of the community. What is my voice if your brand voice is reflective and authentic to never spending time with my values? What is it that I want to project to the world? How would a consumer or a partner ever know they want to do business with you? Just like, how would someone know if they wanted to date you?

So, what was your process for helping businesses do that? For instance, Apple is one of the most valuable brands in the world, if not the most valuable. Well, they weren’t always that way. Steve Jobs, before he died, turned them around. The invention of the iPhone changed the entire game. Mobile phones were not what they were until he came up with the iPhone. Kudos to him for that. It was brilliant. But how does a business go from not knowing its brand voice to becoming what Apple or Nike is? Or, in other words, here I’ll put it another way. If you can speak to any of these things I’m seeing, or if you want to speak to the things, I inspire you to say, that’s fine. Hopefully, I do. But for instance, how can someone go from just another plumber.com to a plumber that everybody wants to call?

I appreciate that you went from Apple and Nike down to a plumber because while you have Nike’s inspiration and the Apple fanboy, and you have Coke and Happy, and you have Volvo and safety. So often, when someone gets up to speak or share their information, they often use these brands that are so evolved and complicated that I don’t know if it translates to a plumber or a real estate agent. I have a friend that’s a real estate agent, and he always asks me about marketing, branding, about everything you can do. Every time I talk to Brand, his voice, and how he communicates with his customers, I try to say, what is it that you represent? Who are you? What are you trying to do? Going deep into it, almost like a fair therapist or psychology of the Brand. Digging into it and saying, who are you? How are you? Who you want to be, is the very beginning. It’s hard work, but you must do this self-discovery to say, what are my values? What is my voice? It is the first step. When you mentioned Steve Jobs and Apple, I didn’t have the same story down. But we all know Steve Jobs turned it around because Apple had lost its way. It had lost its brand voice. And his way may not have been the best. Who knows? But it sure was a damn good way. And so, when he came back, he got that Brand back on track because he took it towards a clear direction based on his thoughts, personality, and way of doing things. And it created a subculture that people could relate to without getting into the actual tactics and techniques. So, you can look at these big brands just like if you are a designer, you can look at the incredibly sophisticated yet simple design that Apple does. But when you bring it down to a small brand, a small business usually comes from the creator, founder, or someone who is very represented in building that. It usually starts there. So, for me, I tend to work with small to medium-sized companies, let’s say in a B2B space, between 2 and 10 million in consumer products, probably 25 million and below you usually at the space where brand voice has not been developed. You need to dig for it because it’s starting to get lost. As they become a grown-up business, they lose the brand voice of who they are. So, it’s an internal soul seeking. Who do I want to be? What do I want to represent? And you don’t have to get super. You can get directional and decide, am I funnier or more serious, am I more scientific and elative? Like you can do some brand attributions just to carry stuff on your voice. But it comes down to authenticity and then courage, if you will, to go out and communicate that way, to communicate in your voice and then be consistent in everything you do towards that voice that you’ve decided is representative of your Brand.

Regarding that development, does it start with a word map around emotions to create what the Brand is about and the key founders involved in that? For instance, one of the first words that come to mind when I say Apple is innovation, although some people would argue that that isn’t the case for Apple anymore. But I won’t go there even though I said it. But Steve Jobs invented the iPhone three years before it was even possible for it to operate on the network, he developed it three years before the network was even able to handle the iPhone. That’s how far ahead he saw. So, he was innovative, and Apple was innovative in various ways. The iPhone has changed mobile connectivity in the way we do our lives, which inspired Android. But does it start with the personality of the person and the founders? For instance, I want to hire you to help me develop a company’s brand voice. And I can again come back to Acme Plumbing if you want, or we can pick something else. What would your process be of your starting point, like “okay, this is the first thing we’re going to do to create your brand voice. This is the first exercise we’re going to do”.

You mentioned a really good exercise, which is a world map. I translate that tactic in that technique by putting a list of words in front of one, two, three, four, whoever the standings are, and I just have them circle words that resonate with them. And a lot of them are emotional words. Now, you got to do this twice. Because the first time I did it, I didn’t give them any instruction, but I knew it was aspirational. It’s what they think they should say. And once I have those documented, I go back, and I say, no, I want you to answer this. Authentic to who you are and what you will say and do consistently, and I challenge some of the words like you just did with Apple. Steve Jobs wanted to be innovative. Was he? A lot of times, people will have priorities, but how do they live their life? Hour by hour-by-hour, maybe, they want to spend more time with their kids. That’s aspirational.

Do they, do it? So, the same way you inspirationally might say you want to be innovative, I’m going to look for proof of innovation because that means you’re already doing it. So, I need to assess your aspirational brand voice and the current brand voice of what’s happening, whether you’re communicating it or not. So, once I have those two things, figure it out, and if I can’t get them to do the second one, I might do it myself. And again, I’m not judging simply obsessively. It’s like you would maybe if you were looking at the SEO of a website where you want to be, where are you now? I just need to know so that I can bridge the gap. Where do you want the voice to be from? One, two, three, four people, where are we now? And there’s a set of open-ended questions. I have some standard ones that I do, but then also, depending on what I’m seeing, I might ask some additional questions because. If I’m hired or if someone’s helping you with your brand voice. The duration of these words, the emotions, and the labels you put on them eventually become the pillars and attributes that you need to stay on Brand inside your brand voice. We have to explore each one of these in the end. But if you were to say, Chuck, I think with Matt’s question and now with your answer, is a process there? Yes, a set of words or a word map, both aspirational and then assess where you are today. And then against that, you need open-ended questions and discussion around these words. Start to build your messaging, understand where you would improve, and do things as simple as my ad copy says. What does my website say? How do I communicate in a company meeting? What’s my lead into a webinar like? You get the opportunity to go one way or another in all situations. Funny or serious, innovative or traditional. You start just to have these black and white to figure out where you fall in the spectrum. Even if you haven’t fully developed your brand voice, you’re on your journey toward finding it, towards developing it.

Because what we would do in the beginning, in the first 30 days, is very, very foundational. The guys that we mentioned from Apple to Nike, although this didn’t happen one day. All those have been around, but I don’t think they developed this yesterday. It happened over time. So with that plumber, with that real estate agent, with that B2B software company, with someone selling wigs or eyelashes on Shopify, whatever it might be, we can put the foundation in place. You’re going to develop this over time because there are so many inputs, and how do your customer service reps talk to your clients? What do your influencers say or do? What are your customers say or do you like? Your personality would evolve over the years personally. It’ll evolve inside of a brand and develop. But our foundational work to start is words, emotions, labels, attributes, and almost psychology. From a human perspective, you would do it at a brand.

Does the Brand have to line up with the industry? For instance, I mean by that, let’s take a humorous brand, Absurd and weird Old Spice. A lawyer isn’t able to take on, or maybe they shouldn’t, or should I don’t know. But in your estimation, the brands you work with, is there a certain box that branch and operates in according to their industry and expectations or should they just break the box?

Well, that’s so situational. There are times when a brand should break the box. They want to be a disruptive brand and come out with a unique story, almost as a differentiator in their business plan. But let’s stay inside the box for a second because you need the courage to step outside the box, and you better be right. So, I’ll just say, to begin with, you’re going to take the safer approach to stay inside the box. I don’t know if I would limit it as much by industry. I don’t know if I care what business you are, I don’t know if I care what industry you’re in. I care about your audience who tried to reach. So, for example, if I was in the legal industry. And let’s say I was a copyright lawyer. We know the audience will be very serious and interested in protecting intellectual property. Now let’s go a different route and say, for some reason, you’ve entered into divorce law. We’re in that situation to get outside the box, as divorce is very serious.

In this case, to stand out in the crowd, you need to break the box and maybe even introduce a little humor. There has to be a way to do it, based on what you have to do, you say, okay. If there is a couple out there who is going through a divorce, is humor appropriate here? Is this type of storytelling appropriate? Will they connect with your Brand when you give them this message? That’s what you kind of have to think about. Will this type of messaging work here? Now, if you are just going to be a quirky, funny, humorous brand and you say, that’s how I’m going to do it, but I’m a divorce attorney and this sort of doing.

Then we’re going to come up with a very specific marketing strategy, and you can be successful. But we’ve got to be very clear about who your audience is because there’s only a service in the audience that will respond to that in that situation. So, what you were is 20% industry-based, and it could you’re 0 % audience based. And that’s why there are some brands. When they build their ideal customer, they start segmenting their audience. You get this nice alignment of a quirky, funny, humorous brand that breaks the box. It resonated with the audience you’re trying to market to. So don’t do it for the sake of doing it.

This is very interesting.

Right. Work backward from who’s my audience. What’s the message? What’s my Brand? And can I figure out how to do this? Because if someone challenged me with, “I’m a divorce attorney, but I’m quirky and funny, and I make my clients laugh, and by the time we’re done with the six months, they’re my best friend”, Great! We can work with that, and I can help you set people who don’t take this so seriously. Maybe they’re just looking for a mediator. We can develop a marketing strategy and a tone and voice around that because you’re committed to it, you dare to do it, and it lines up with what you tried. But that’s going to drive all the marketing. You drive brand guidelines. It could change how you write on your website and your blog post. It could change your radio ads. It could change everything about your business if that’s the brand voice you’re going to have. But I’ve got to know how it will resonate with the audience and work backward.

So what I hear you say is very interesting, and I’ve done so many of these interviews, and I’ve had somebody else say this before, but is your brand voice also dictated by your target audience?

Like you, you will get in trouble if you change your personality. Because of the partner, you’re trying to attract, you got to be you, but to get through all the noise and find your audience, the messaging, while representing you, needs to account for who it is you’re trying to attract.

Or perhaps, if you’ve been in business for a little while now, you’re already attracting and making sure you’re not pissing them off with a message they don’t resonate with.

Yes, you’re on the side often by looking at the current customers that are Brand has their true fans, the people that they if I could interview five of your clients, who would they be when I talk to them, I can work backward to the brand voice that is true and authentic, often faster than I can from the founder.

Interview, find clients, we often transcribe it and then word map that to create the brand list and the article, then the creator or the founder goes, “they’re right”. That is what I’ve been trying to say.

Wow. It’s better to start with the interview.

It can be for an established brand because if you’re giving me your best clients, I ask them open-ended questions and talk with them without any direction from the Brand’s leadership or management. The truce that you will find is invaluable. I’ve seen interviews completely alter a brand voice in a new direction, and it’s much easier for a brand to step inside, sometimes it’s just easier to go that path. It’s an advanced strategy. Like, you could start there and go backward, but in many situations, it’s a powerful technique.

You know, Chuck, I tried to do this at the dealership that I worked at the off camera, and I speak about it on camera quite a bit. As a marketing director, I worked in a car dealership and sent out a survey asking them questions. But it’s funny, and the business owner didn’t like the answers to the questions that I got the answers to, and yet he would be selling so many more cars if he had listened to me. It’s absolutely mind-boggling, and this is what I’m saying. One of the questions was that the people wanted to be able to return the car after seven days if it wasn’t to their liking. So, a return policy, a seven-day no-risk guarantee. If you don’t like the car, we’ll give you seven days to try it out the car, and there were other things that I can’t remember what they all were, and he wouldn’t implement them. But the customers, through a survey, told us what they were looking for, and they also told us some of the reasons why they bought from that particular dealership. Another company came along and implemented a message that was 30 days, if 30 days to return the car, after 30 days to link the vehicle or buy it back to me.

Well, CarMax popping into my head is the Brand that did that.

They did that, but he wouldn’t do it. He wanted to be just another cardealer.com. And it was unfortunate. So, I’m glad that you’re sharing some of these things that, you know, the customers will tell you what the brand voice is.

One thing I would say there is for those listening and maybe saying, I want to do this. Yes, you can. Surveying and getting responses via a copy, particularly. You can do it in mass. Very, very powerful. And that will yield a certain specific result. You know, statistically, if you’re trying to figure out something like return policy, just know that particular process does one thing. This concept of spending an hour to 2 hours with one specific person and having a conversation like we’re having right now is also worth the investment. And every word, every question, every answer is just as valuable as collecting in a digital survey. So, there are two ways to do this, which can give you some valuable nuggets.

Probably bringing them all together, for instance, talking to the business owners and the C-level executives and the founders and this, that and the other thing and then talking to the customers and then doing this survey, they probably would work in conjunction with each other to bring that together.

Absolutely. You know, and one other spot, you know, you know, if you’re looking since Dealership technique used frequently, and I’ve seen it to be effective, is to say this is a very, very specific interview with the sales guy. The salesperson who talks to the client, particularly the prospects. Because that’s not just the clients that love you, but the salesperson, particularly an experienced one, also knows the ten reasons he didn’t make the sale. If, as a marketer. And a seeker of truth. Got to be both there. Interviewing the salesperson on the sales team can be just as valuable if you know what you’re looking for because they will tell you what they’ve heard clients say. So if you were to pair a survey with the word map, with interviews, with a feedback loop from the sales team, you’re getting pretty damn close to the inputs you need to build a brand voice guideline.

What about the customer service people? Customer support.

Anyone who’s actively working. So yep, sales prospecting and then customer support as well. If you did extend that in certain industries, let’s say particularly, customer support not only be important in consumer products but, anyone that’s manning the support desk for particularly for a B2B company, or B2B software company, they’re going to know what they’re going to have there. They’re going to have a heartbeat of what the clients are looking for and what resonates with them. You just have to do it because you always have the company line, and that’s important. You gotta have that support. You got to have standard answers. You’ve got to train people to be, you know, regimented in how they service clients. I’m talking about off-the-record conversations. Now, out of the two, I would typically go to a sales guy first because they’re usually used to going a little rogue faster, like customer service people. Absolutely. Once you create a safe environment for them, they know we’re trying to do right by the customer here. They probably have even more data points than a salesperson would.

They say the sales team sells the first car in the car industry, and the service sells every car after that.

There you go.

So they can tell you why people they’ll sell the second and third car. And if the service department does a crappy job, the poor prospect will go to the same Brand but a different dealership because they’ve had a crappy experience.

There you go.

But they can tell you the reasons why they bought the car and this, that and the other thing and why they like it because they just they’re not being sold, they’re more vulnerable because they’ve already bought, and they’ll tell the service person why they love their car so much in that context. So, I was just wondering for validity, for confirmation. That idea. And I heard that one lady Swinton’s lesson in the Bose Customer Support Call center, and listen to all the things customers say to find out that information. But do you think that this is the foundation for developing, for instance, the elevator speech, if you will, or the unique selling proposition? For instance, Geico insurance. 15 minutes. I’ll save you the 15% car insurance. Or I mean Nike says, “just do it”. I don’t even know if they’re using that anymore, but the point of mattering that messaging is that key? And is developing the brand voice the foundation for developing further aspects of the marketing messages, such messages an elevator pitch, if you will?

Oh, absolutely. So, think about your Brand and voice inns and messaging you. It is foundational. Font, Logo. Indifferent design elements that you might have. The brand voice can be applied to many aspects, including the USP you asked about. I can tell you that we practice what we preach as an agency. You know, after the client interviews, at some point in our history, I’m going to say this about five years ago, we repeatedly heard that what our clients loved about our agency work was our interaction with the team we were a part of. Oh, we weren’t separate from the team. It was; we were an extension of them. So just like and again, anyone out with an agency, you have an employee, and then you have an agency and I can give you agents and consultants. And it’s a topic I’m not passionate about, but I’m digging into it. But let’s just say you have people that find people that the company hires. And just like I do when you did at the dealership, I can go to someone in the company and I know I’m going to them. Like they’re going to stay late to get the job done. When we hear clients say it’s like they’re part of the team, that’s what they bear when they have a board presentation, a report to get done, and a big campaign that launch campaign are done. There’s no chance. We are an extension of the team. And we heard that come back in the interviews. That’s what they appreciated the most. So, what do we do? We spun that into a unique selling proposition back to when we were doing Pite extension of what you were doing at what makes us different as an agency. And everybody says extension give you real look at our procedures and how we work, you know what we’re available. The slack like an employee is where we will go in and help you present that report to your higher ups or make you look like a rock higher-up like you would ask the one higher-up or whatever it is. We always acted to like ups of your team, higher became part of the unique selling proposition, we started to change company to ensure that people understood. How would an agency or a contractor act versus how would a team member act? And we tried to say, let’s act more like a team member. And less like an agency because that was important to our Brand. It was a pillar if you will. And we not only said it was part of our voice to be part of your team, but we’re going to act this way. We’re going to talk this way. We’re going to be this way. So, to your point, it can extend in so many different ways once you did what your Brand stands for and will communicate

Absolutely. Communication for me, it’s acting up here, so.

Expect nothing less.

Yeah. So, in regards to the brand voice.

Well, one of the things, Max, but I think one important thing is that having it change your operations, changing to the team takes years changing for the quickest applications for your brand voice, and you may share the content you produce. On Digital marketing. Three forms of content often get affected by a change in brand voice or the development of brand voice the most. First is the website, just in general, that is inclusive of what I would call your evergreen content, but more importantly, your blog, our thought leadership that you put out in, in articles and different pieces. So that’s one. The second thing it should affect tomorrow is your social media because that’s where authenticity and voice show up more than anywhere in personality. And then the third is in your email, whether it’s your transactional emails or your regular communication, I don’t want to call it a newsletter. Is only appropriate in certain industries. But those are the three aspects where if I were going to say, all right, I have some loose brand voice architecture in place, really loose. Right? And I know aspirational verses where you are great. I will look at your website, including your blog, articles and social media. I should do that in a different order. Social media first and followed by the web, and followed by an email to try to figure out why and how well you are doing. Just an assessment, no judgment again, so we can introduce some of the brand voice and become more authentic because when someone says to me, I’m not getting any engagement on social media now this is outside of boosting. Before the paywalls went up, the number one issue was I would look at their social media.

As boring.

When it was boring. But there was no authenticity. There was no brand voice, there was no personality. It’s all stock photography. It’s full of what everybody else does. Inside of your voice or outside of your voice. What is it that you are uniquely qualified to talk about? What is it that you want to say? Who are you? If I can’t see that on your social media, why do it? And what someone would self-diagnose is they’re not getting the engagement. They need more followers. No, you don’t need more followers. You need to figure out your brand voice and how to communicate and start saying something worthy of engagement.

Yeah, right. If you have something worthy to say that is authentic.

Right. And people always want to go viral. They wanted to be the first place to go off to the Super Bowl. But often, the work is consistent, authentic content that does try to engage with the audience. And then, when they engage you, you stay inside your voice and keep doing what you’re doing. Followers will come. So social media is usually the place I can see it first. Because it’s so, so website insightful. Usually, in a blog or their articles, I can get a sense of if they’re on brand voice, and emails are harder. They’re usually hidden in the organization more. The last thing you can click on is oh so powerful when that 1-to-1 email is a group email. Now 1 to 1 communication in the key and the email box shows your personality. Now you’re really seeing you’re going to reap the rewards of the hard work you put in. Three months, six months, a year to get there.

Is there a story you can share of a case study or something, an example of how you implemented this and its impact? Maybe in general terms, you don’t have to reveal the name of the Brand but the industry. If you’re able, I’m just trying to trigger your memory because I’d be very…

I’m thinking through a couple of examples. I don’t know if I would do a specific brand. I know I’m speaking to an advanced audience. I’m going to say something rather simple. But in social media, specifically, when you’re trying to get this voice out, the place to put it is at the top of the funnel. And when I say top of the funnel, I mean that first introduction to your Brand. When I say that and think about the different brands we’ve worked with, I’ll use the business side of Land’s End, and we’ll have a case study at volume nine. I’d like to say we still, even though the agency is sold, had a case study that talked about this. But in that brand awareness space, the first time someone interacts with the Brand is your chance to take that voice and get engagement. So, are you inspirational? Or are you know, that that would be, you know, are you funny telling jokes? This is where your personality can emerge because you’re the only gold type of funny. Top of funnel social media is just to say, “Hey, I’m Chuck, hey I’m a plumber, I’m a real estate agent. I’m a B2B company. I’m just here; I’m not interrupting your day. I’m just sharing something inspirational. A quote, a funny story, a video. I’m just sharing some with you. That’s a chance for your personality to shine. Now, what’s great about Facebook and Instagram is that this was a lot easier in the old days, but you can still do that once you do that top of funnel introduction. And you have an introduction to the Brand. You get a little engagement through something funny, inspirational, quirky, unique, whatever it might be. You can retarget the final product features and then put an offer in front of them. And again, I’m not a funnel click guy, not a Click funnels guy. Yeah. I’m just giving a buyer’s journey of getting introduced to a brand, getting to know somebody and then getting to meet. And we have case studies where we’ve done that with Brand. So, an inspirational quote or a short video clip or maybe it’s a brand that, I can talk about holidays or barbecue in the backyard or something that is just fun in light. Those brands that understand how to have the first conversation be about a personality be about something that engages the user, you know, our audience, before they move into marketing and sales. That’s, you know, that’s not the execution of the brand voice, I’ve made it a couple of times. I make analogies to real life, right? Like, you don’t start with your occupation or your interest in the railroad, you know, trains, you know, the first thing out of your mouth. You get to know somebody a little bit. Who are you? You have a lighthearted joke, you share a story, right? You have a two year or whatever it is, your coffee, your beer, like you kind of wade into it. The case studies we show with the Brand is to be light in that first engagement and then over time, get a little more serious into the conversation. Things like blog post and top of funnel social media allows that to happen. So, there are different things that do it. And then you can get more serious, you get to bring up different brand attributes later in the conversation. It’s not necessarily a case study behind it. Because we showed how what we did in the case studies is that we built an audience and we marketed them cold with cannonballs and then we also warmed them up with engaging content before. And we showed that your return on ad spend once you got down to running ads was eight four, five, six, seven, eight, nine, ten multiples to a warm audience that had been exposed to your Brand through engaging content that was more on your, Top of funnel brand voice before putting an offer in front of them. Like we were able to show across multiple scenarios. Funnel isn’t a sales trick to get someone to buy from you, you don’t put a funnel to email five times to get them to buy. No. Think about this differently. Start the journey with, who am I as a brand? And I hope that resonates with you. And then let me tell you a little bit more about what I’m doing. And if you like that, let me give you an offer. That’s an abstract conceptual funnel. It isn’t a quick funnel, the case studies that we built and when we talked, and been at trade shows and done webinars, that’s the case study that we talk about how to take your brand voice and communicate at the beginning of the journey at the top of the funnel, how you communicate when someone’s in the decision making, not even in the decision-making mode, in the awareness and problem-solving moment. Decision mode, how does your brand voice translate to your messaging in those different phases and that that can be done more, you know, it’s easier to do in social media and then email. It’s little harder on your website, but still possible depending on where they are on the website or the home page or the contact page or on a service page, they are on a blog post, depending on where they are, you might think about the kind of things that you’re messaging and saying from your brand voice because of where they are in their journey.

Yeah. And making sure those things line up.

Exactly. We like to say. Right person, right message, at the right time. That suddenly starts to become your content marketing.

Dan Kane talks about that in his book Delta Marketing Plan, Message, Marketing, Medium. Making sure that all of those three things are in the right time, right place and the right message.

It’s been an absolute pleasure having you here. We’ve been talking for quite some time now, and I’m sure there are other things we could discuss and keep going. And I would love to have you back on the show if you come back again. I’ve enjoyed it, and I’m sure our audience will enjoy it too. How can listeners connect with you online if they want to do so?

Well, up until a couple of weeks ago, they could have gone to Volume nine and found me. What you do right now is. You can go to chuckisaacaikens.com, or you can reach out to a website. There’s a form there. You can connect with me on LinkedIn as well. You know, even with all the spam that goes on, I actively message on LinkedIn or the website. And also have the beginnings of a new business model that I’m putting together called Time move, just a landing page up there. But that’ll be something we’ll be working on in the future. So, chuckissacaikens.com or LinkedIn. It’s a great way to connect, and always happy to talk with folks. If business comes out of it, great. If not, I just appreciate the connection and the relationship and always looking to help someone out.

It has been an absolute pleasure having you here.

Thanks Matt.



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