Founder & CEO of HIVE Strategy, Dustin Brackett, has been a staple in the marketing agency and HubSpot communities for almost ten years. With the wealth of knowledge gained surrounding marketing best practices, he set out to share his knowledge in his first book. On the launch day of Market Like A Human I sat down with Dustin to ask the following questions.
Q: What inspired you to write Market Like A Human?
A: I’ve run HIVE Strategy for over nine years so I have seen several transitions in the industry in that time. Over the course of the last few years, I have seen an uptick in the amount of clients that are only focused on numbers and quantity as opposed to quality. I think that the uncertainty that has surrounded the last few years and now with the economy in limbo, people are getting more cautious and frugal with their dollars. That is causing organizations to put increased pressure on marketing to generate more leads. The problem is that by solely focusing on quantity, we start to lose sight of the fact that those leads are people and that people respond best when we establish trust with them, help them, and support them. Not when we shovel ads and spam in front of them. Market Like A Human was born out of a need for the industry as a whole to look itself in the mirror and find better ways to reach our audience and connect with them. Our audience shouldn’t just be a bunch of numbers.
Q: The title is a phrase I’ve heard used many times within HIVE Strategy. Can you break down exactly what it means?
A: Somewhere along the line we’ve lost sight of the fact that regardless of whether we are a B2B (business to business), B2C (business to consumer), or nonprofit, we are really marketing business to human. These are real life human beings that are looking for answers, education, and support in our marketing campaigns. Instead of finding what they are looking for, with the pressure from sales and leadership, many organizations are pushing sales content in front of them in the hopes that someone, anyone will make a purchase. There is a real need to get back to a human-centric approach with our marketing campaigns. Market Like A Human is all about putting in the effort to connect with our prospects, leads, and customers on a human level through the six pillars of transparency, personality, authenticity, consistency, being helpful, and community.
Q: How does a human-centric approach help you cut through the noise?
A: We as consumers (whether that is for ourselves or our businesses) have trained ourselves to tune out the noise. We are bombarded with spam, manipulative messaging, and a constant barrage of marketing and advertising messages that are only geared towards making a purchase. But that isn’t how we want to buy. We are doing our own research, identifying our own problems, finding solutions to those problems, and comparing options — on our own. We want to be educated. We want to be helped. And the businesses that are willing to help and put out content and resources that help our education process are the organizations that build trust and ultimately stand out and win.
Q: How does HIVE Strategy utilize a human-centric approach in their work with clients?
A: HIVE Strategy is a marketing agency that is focused on education. We believe that the organizations that are willing to share their expertise, have a personality, and provide great content for their prospects and clients at all stages of their buyer’s journey are the organizations that stand out. We work with our clients to develop strategies, processes, and content with their customers in mind, not our client’s bank accounts. We believe that if we can enable our clients to be the businesses that are the most helpful, we will in turn create businesses that grow.
We became a HubSpot Solutions Partner about nine years ago and really bought into the inbound methodology. The premise behind it is that consumers don’t want to be interrupted anymore. They don’t want to see our ads, mail, spam, or flashy gimmicks. They want to be helped when they’re looking for our services. That shift in thinking and methodology has shaped who we are as an agency and was the very first step towards Market Like A Human.
Q: The first chapter is entitled ‘The Problem’, what is the problem with current day marketing practices?
A: Honestly — a lot. The biggest problems that I see with current marketing practices is the focus on quantity over quality, organizations treating marketing like advertising, overly gated content, and treating every lead like they’re ready for a sales conversation.
The quantity over quality focus is an epidemic in the world right now. Businesses seem to only really care about one thing — more. More leads, more website visitors, more followers, more dollars. It doesn’t really matter how qualified those leads are, just that we have more of them. It doesn’t matter how targeted those website visitors are, just that they’re coming to the website. It doesn’t matter if our followers are potential customers or not, just that they’re following us. Our need to see growing numbers and data has turned our attention from finding the right people and the best fits to work with us to a focus on just converting as many leads as possible. It is a major problem that is going to have to be addressed quickly across all sized organizations.
One thing that many businesses do not seem to naturally understand is that marketing is very different than advertising or sales. Marketing is meant to be helpful. At its core, marketing should be focused on building trust, supporting our prospects, creating relationships, and educating our audience. Advertising is a focus on quick sales. Sales is, well, selling. Marketing is not meant to focus on quick sales or do the actual selling. So organizations that are “marketing”, but only have a focus on talking about their business, pushing sales narratives, or pushing their audience to buy are missing the boat.
With the focus on marketing needing to deliver more and more leads to the sales team, many businesses have come to the (obvious) conclusion that in order to convert more leads, we need to get more people to fill out forms. That means that far too many businesses have resorted to gating everything. They hide all of their valuable content and information behind forms just so they can get their audience to fill out a form so that sales can reach out to them. It’s an unfortunate side effect of a quantity over quality focus. It also creates distrust with our audience and “bad” leads for the sales team.
And that leads into “bad leads.” I am not sure how many truly bad leads there are out there at each of our organizations, but I guarantee it is a fraction of what we think it is. The problem with bad leads is that in reality, they’re nearly all just poorly qualified and poorly nurtured leads. Organizations are pushing every lead that comes through over to the sales team to follow up on regardless of whether that lead has actually signaled an intent to purchase or a desire to talk to sales. I truly believe that most of the “bad” leads that sales teams receive from marketing are really just leads that should have been nurtured, educated, and engaged with in order to grow them into becoming sales qualified.
Q: Who can benefit from reading Market Like A Human and what can they expect to take away from it?
A: I hope there are a lot of people that benefit from the book. I believe that marketing is inherently good. We, at some level, are helping our audience find the answers and solutions that they need to solve their problems.
The book is meant to support marketing professionals — from Chief Marketing Officers all the way down to marketing interns — as well as small business owners, managers, and organizational leaders. It is meant to set expectations, give ideas, and reframe the marketing industry and function within our organizations. I hope that by reading Market Like A Human that I can impact a few marketers and organizations to be better for their audiences.
Q: Market Like A Human hits shelves today, what’s next?
A: With Market Like A Human, I am on a mission to support the growth of our industry. I think we can do better and I think that our audience not only wants us to be better, but needs us to be better. That is why I am going to be speaking at conferences, webinars, podcasts, and more to spread the practice and ideas behind Market Like A Human. I am actively looking for speaking opportunities to educate and engage with marketers that are looking to embrace a more human-centric approach to marketing.
Q: Other than your book - what other marketing books/authors are among your favorite reads?
A: Oh man. There are some really great ones out there that I enjoy. I think the ones that have really stuck out to me are They Ask You Answer by Marcus Sheridan, Start With Why by Simon Sinek, Purple Cow by Seth Godin, Sell With Authority by Drew McLellan, Good to Great by Jim Collins, and I’m currently reading This is Marketing by Seth Godin. I think that there are small takeaways from each of them that have impacted not only Market Like A Human, but how I have grown as a marketer and agency owner.
There is no silver bullet to marketing and definitely no simple solution to growth and scale. I think it is an ever changing landscape full of twists and turns, but we have to keep testing, keep trying new things, and keep engaging with our audience in meaningful, human ways.
You can find Market Like A Human on Amazon, available now.