Remove Fear from the Sales Conversation, Create Human Connection

Kim Orlesky is Founder and President of KO Advantage Group, one of the fastest-growing sales training organizations, and author of Sell More Faster. KO Advantage Group works with small companies selling high value, premium-priced B2B services and helps them expedite the sales process by focusing on building relationships, getting that first handshake with a potential client faster, connecting with the client in an authentic way, communicating value, and sometimes selling a product idea before the product has even been created. Clients of KO Advantage are passionate about helping their clients.

KO Advantage group has one product: a ten-week online sales training course, which has its own “continuous improvement process.” Alumni of the course can login to review course information at any time and read the updated material Kim has “curated.”

Kim spoke on “AI & Sales: What Will and Never Can Be Replaced by Bots” at HubSpot’s Inbound 2019,” where she discussed how sales professionals, business owners, and entrepreneurs can use AI to improve conversations with potential clients. Artificial Intelligence is already part of the sales process, but companies need to be aware of how critical “the personal touch” is to long term success. AI may help find potential clients faster, but she notes that, in the end, “Sales is about conversations and relationships.

Kim can be reached by email at: or on LinkedIn, which has named her one of the Top Sales Leaders to Follow

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Social Shake-Up Branding

Chris Strub’s goal is simple: to grow his personal brand, to try to use that brand for social good by promoting nonprofits, and to make the world a better place. His I Am Here organization is an “umbrella” over the wide variety of entrepreneurial marketing activities he pursues around the U.S. . . . and the world. He feels the power of personal branding can be assessed through an individual’s use of Twitter and Instagram.

For his “50 States, 100 Days” project (May 15th to August 21st, 2015), Chris, a native New Yorker, traveled clockwise around the United States, starting in Greenville, SC, his adopted hometown, and ending his 4,500 mile journey in Asheville, NC. He traveled alone. In each state, he worked with a different youth-related nonprofit organization, shared all of their stories on iPhone-generated livestreaming video and Snapchat, and earned bragging rights as the first person to live-stream in all fifty states. Chris has a hunch that 50 States, 100 Days will be his keystone project – it has opened thousands of doors for him.

Chris authored the book, 50 States, 100 Days. The Kindle version of this amazing journey through 50 States in 100 Days is available on Amazon at: The print version is at: Oh, and the movie? Chris admits that the quality was not the best, but you can order a screening of that . . . and get tips for nonprofits who need to “up their game” with improved technologies he has since discovered on his website at

In Fall of 2018, Chris launched In this capacity, he partners with “giving days” nationwide, promoting collaborative localized fundraising events, training nonprofit organizations on social media marketing strategies, and live-streaming their stories. These efforts produce a phenomenal financial “harvests” for the nonprofits, donor satisfaction, and strengthened community ties. A win all around.

Chris was interviewed at the 2019 Social Shake-Up in Atlanta, GA, where he spoke on Visual Storytelling. He can be followed @ChrisStrub on Instagram, Snapchat, Twitter and Meerkat at @ChrisStrub, or on his Facebook page at 

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Personalization = Better Market Segmentation

Chris Spears founded Arke Systems in 2005 and, taking advantage of the opportunity to decide “who he was in the organization,” designated himself Chief Marketing Technology Officer. The company offered back-end systems support – web platform, CRM system, and email capability development and integration – for the clients of digital agencies. 

The problem? Arke had no control over design or strategy . . . or over getting dumped when the customer-facing digital agency got dumped for failure to deliver expected outcomes. 

The solution? Five years ago, Arke pivoted and launched a long-view, strategy/results-driven, technologically integrated experience design practice, developing marketing programs with strategies and design work predicated on producing consistent, measured, and predictable desired results. 

The company had to redefine its customer base from the digital agencies that needed back-end services to targeted end users – small to medium-sized companies interested in providing better customer experience. Arke’s new clients, initially, were small companies, which provided proof of concept for the larger companies that came on as clients over the years. These small companies provided proof of concept for the larger companies that came on as clients over time.

Arke had to change the way it thought about and presented its value proposition, where it went to find customers, and how it approached them. The growth process was organic: the company researched what customers wanted, hired the best person with the relevant technical skillset to provide those outcomes, sold results to customers, and grew a team around each technology specialist. 

The company differentiates itself on its technological depth, using only a narrow selection of best-in-class technologies. This focus allows it to provide a more nuanced solution for each client or stage in the “journey,” utilizing back office data “threaded through the website,” to guide the customer and to manage and optimize results. 

Chris was interviewed at Arke’s 4th Annual CX Summit, “Transforming Digital Experiences to Digital Business.” He can be reached on LinkedIn, at Arke Chris, by email at:, or on his company’s website at

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Align with Clients to Impact the World

Chris Yoko is President and CEO of Yoko Co, a digital marketing firm that focuses on working with organizations that have a passion or purpose beyond mere profit. 

Why would a marketing agency choose to work with that “slice” of the business landscape?

In 2014, Chris’s small team questioned why they loved working with some clients . . . and others . . . not so much. Their newly-formed Advisory Board challenged each member of the team with two questions: “What do you want to accomplish with your life?” and “What are you living for?” 

You may ask, “What do personal questions like these have to do with a business’s operations?”

As it turned out in this case . . . Everything.

What Yoko discovered was that each member of his team shared a vision similar to his own: that each, in their individual lives, wanted to make an impact on the world. 

A marketing agency typically has a list of strategies and services designed to promote its client companies’ messages, enhance awareness of its client companies’ capabilities, and improve its client companies’ bottom-line results.

Yoko Co. did not have a world-changing message itself. And, as is the case with most agencies, it did not interface on its own behalf with “Joe Public.” How could the agency channel this newly-identified passion?

Yoko and his team discovered that they could have an “amazing amplifying effect” on the impact the agency’s clients made on the world—but only if the agency and its clients were philosophically aligned. If Yoko Co. wanted to make a difference in the world, the agency had to work with companies that wanted the same thing. 

In order to align the company with its employees “passion,” the 25% of clients that lacked that passion, “to impact the world,” had to be “fired,” but diplomatically – a process that took about 3 months. Yoko handled the “breakups” in such a thoughtful and supportive manner that two of the “dismissed” clients referred new clients that were a good fit for Yoko. Once the “housecleaning” was complete, free time increased 40-50%. For the remaining clients, who were a “good fit”? Yoko has been able to produce industry-leading results.

To find out more about this journey or to contact Chris, check out his company’s website at: or his personal site at:

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Getting that Video Reaction, Working in the Fast-Paced Worlds of Sports and Video

Ryan Pritt, President and Co-Founder of Pritt Entertainment Group (PEG), took a youngster’s avid interest in sports and an adult’s realistic assessment of his own athletic prowess to chart his sports-related career. For the past 11 years, he has run his sports creative agency, which specializes in video production, animation, graphic design, and live events.

Today, PEG serves a roughly 50-50 mix of corporate and sports clients, and prides itself on constantly evolving to meet client needs, generating fresh inspirations, and utilizing state-of-the-art equipment and technologies. The mix of sports and corporate client is challenging. Sports, in particular, results in long hours and crazy timelines, particularly during the playoffs.

Video technology changes rapidly. Ryan notes video’s increasing use of drones and the evolution of virtual reality (VR), and augmented reality (AR) – things that were not available when he started. He finds VR and AR interesting, but adds the caveat that people should not use those technologies just for the novelty of using them . . . that there needs to be a purpose behind their use.

Ryan warns that a company working in video has to be “nimble,” to be dedicated to staying up-to-date with the newest equipment and technologies, to be willing to choose which services it will provide and which services it will not . . . and to decide where it is willing to partner.

Key to solving a client’s problem is asking questions . . . the right questions. “What do you want? When is it due? And What is your budget” are not enough. Ryan believes that it is important to discover more about the business – the client’s motivations, usage plans, and social channel resources – so his agency can recommend ways to expand the use of the marketing piece and optimize value for the client. His agency focuses on the Big Four socials platforms: Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, and LinkedIn.

A tool Ryan has found particularly helpful,, is a program/website where PEG uploads videos for client review and on-screen feedback. integrates with Slack, which notifies PEG of any client activity in the channel.

Ryan observes that some very advanced capabilities have been rapidly moving down market. Today, clients may be able to produce smartphone-videos to meet some of their more day-to-day video production needs . . . such as a warehouse walkthrough . . . and save the agency for higher-end promotional/ showcase pieces that need the higher quality equipment, professional lighting, and precise editing PEG offers. Part of developing a company or organization’s strategy is when the agency should step in.

Ryan can be reached on his company’s website at:, on the subsite for his company’s sports clients:, and on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and LinkedIn.

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Using AI to Create Long-Game Scalable Content . . . FAST

Aki Balogh, Co-Founder and CEO of MarketMuse, a company that works with companies and agencies to transform content marketing into performance marketing, speaks on a topic that is relevant to both agencies and companies – content – and talks about the benefits of long-game strategy vs. the short-term transactional “push.”

Every company needs to create content to build product and brand awareness, drive demand and lead generation, and engage their audience. The problem with content marketing is that the research process can be tedious, the writing process unwieldy . . . and the results can be unpredictable, unscalable, ineffective, and inconsistent—everything is done by hand. Additionally, many companies write generic content, miss the opportunity to specifically answer people’s questions, and fail to describe the “sandbox” they play in.

MarketMuse utilizes a proprietary intelligence and strategy technology to compress the research phase by downloading a million relevant articles from the web and crunching the data to provide a metadata blueprint of how to cover the topic comprehensively, what questions to answer, what subtopics to develop, and what recommended resource links to include.

This work is done at scale, so every article the client writes generates a blueprint and a spec – a foundation that lets the client scale the company’s content channel as effectively as it can scale the ad tech channels and the paid acquisition channels.

MarketMuse’s focus, for the most part, is on long-form (1,000 to 2,000 words) top of the funnel and middle of the funnel informational or comparison content. Aki feels it is important to develop that top of the funnel content first – before talking about the specifics of your company and your product – and to use a branched hub and spoke model—one detailed long-form pillar content item with subsections and then links from those. Links provide content that is shorter but way more targeted. The objective is to provide logically-structured content for every topic (from 2 to 20.000) relevant to the client’s company for every stage of the buyer’s journey.

MarketMuse’s software is also able to do shorter form content at scale. Additionally, MarketMuse’s self-service SaaS platform provides Customer-side strategists at small clients the ability for to perform website content inventory and build content strategy. These smaller clients may be writing 5 to 10 articles a month . . . instead of 250.

How does MarketMuse convince potential clients to go for the long-term win?

In looking at a website on a first contact phone call, MarketMuse’s consultants can show initial or first value within minutes. Even in just looking at a site, MarketMuse experts can identify areas to improve rankings or traffic, then create a content brief, and send it to the potential client. The solution is so data and science-driven that MarketMuse is able to predict the ROI companies can expect to make if they implement recommended website changes. Aki says that their AI-supported process accelerates content analysis and planning very effectively . . . results typically show within the first 3 months.

Aki can be reached by email at Visit the company’s website at, to see the product, the free preview version of the brief and posted blog articles and case studies.

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Be Here First: The Future of Voice-Interface Marketing

Emily Binder is Founder and Voice Marketing Lead of Beetle Moment Marketing, a voice-first marketing agency focused on helping companies develop branding strategies for when voice is the primary interface for interacting with technology . . . a strong trend now and for the future.

Voice-activated devices (Amazon’s Alexa, Google’s Home [which recently gobbled up Nest], Apple’s Siri, Microsoft’s Cortana Home Assistant and Samsung’s Bixby are some of the bigger players in this highly competitive and rapidly growing market) are “new,” but will be increasingly used for making purchases. Emily recommends that companies should have their basic content—website and Amazon listing—optimized for voice search. She encourages companies to optimize for Google if they are only going to do one thing and for Alexa if the company is doing ecommerce on Amazon.

Voice search itself has a lot of kinks that need to be worked out . . . but the abilities of these devices are expanding daily. Voice-assistants (developed primarily by men) need to get better at recognizing and processing women’s speech patterns. Text-based search bar queries rely on key words. Voice search needs to be optimized for natural language patterns.

Emily believes that all brands should at least “play” in Alexa’s ecosystem—and get into the action right now with a flash briefing and a custom skill—a very powerful combination.

Flash briefing provides quick daily news bites, typically hourly or daily, covering “weather, local news, daily motivation, productivity tips, gardening tips.” With 100 million Alexa devices and only 8,600 briefings, there is a great scarcity of content. If companies put out a quality message on a regular basis, they can climb to the top of the rankings for their niche . . . fast.

Flash briefings should be no longer than 10 minutes. Emily would not go over 2 minutes and considers 30 to 60 seconds to be “the sweet spot.” Emily also recommends, “If you skip any day, make it Sunday,” and notes that listenership is highest in the early morning or early evening, at “moments of transition,” when people are getting ready for work, making coffee . . . preparing dinner and their hands are busy.

In the past year, Amazon Developer has simplified its user interface and provided templates, making it easier for people, even those who are not developers, to build custom skills for voice-activated devices. A WYSIWYG free Alexa skill-building and publishing tool, Storyline, was the foundation of up to 60% of early Alexa skills. Storyline pivoted at the end of 2018, changed its name to Invocable, and now provides prototyping for voice UX designers.

Emily also talks about some the leaders in the development of voice technology and the revolutionary developments that could come out of voice interfaced devices—from practical applications to the ability to have cross-generational conversations with people from the past.

Emily can be reached on her company’s website at:, on Twitter @emilybinder or on Instagram @beetlemoment.

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Putting Headlights on the Business

Ben Kunz is Executive Vice President of Media Associates, an independent media planning, buying and analytics agency working with clients with $2 to $30 million advertising budgets. Although the company “does media,” its primary focus is on tactic and channel selection and on predicting, controlling, and maximizing advertising investment results.

Ben explains the structure of advertising as having three prongs: the creative/branding/message piece; the increasingly-fragmented media channel piece (social media, Twitter, mobile devices, over-the-top (cable free) television, satellite radio); and data. Ben feels data is critical to targeting, understanding, and optimizing advertising return.

Ben’s company uses predictive analytics, modeling outcomes before starting an advertising campaign. He says, if you can measure what happened, you can turn it around and forecast what will happen – use data to get ahead and put some headlights on your business so you can see where you are going. He gives this as an example: If you are going to spend $10 million on an ad campaign, is it going to drive $30 million back in sales? If you don’t know, run some predictive models . . . this is the only way to control outcome.

Ben says that barring the time and expense of gathering a lot target audience information, the best way to change or influence consumer behavior is to advertise on 3 very different channels over a period of time. He cites Rex Briggs, author of the book What Sticks, who analyzed billions of dollars of marketing spend and concluded that, if a brand presented advertisements on television, billboards, and digital ads, customers responded much more than if they just saw a bunch of Facebook ads. Digital may be “hot,” but it is not everything. Channels should be selected based on the target audience.

Attending South by Southwest for the 10th year, Ben commented on how fast technology had changed. But, he added, human psychology has not changed. Too often, advertisers or marketers get caught up in the “bright and shiny,” when they need to balance their efforts across all channels.

Ben recommends using the 70/20/10 rule, where 70% of the marketing effort focuses on what you expect will work because it has worked in the past, 20% uses innovative, emerging ideas that you have confidence will work, and the last 10% is “the crazy new stuff.” That “new stuff,” could prove to be the source of the big ideas for your clients. He describes TV as “the James Bond of media right now” – a very powerful, but blunt instrument. He notes that 37 million Americans (a number which is rapidly increasing) have cut the (cable) cord and are using other means to access programming. Ultimately, this will make market segmentation much more granular and facilitate market targeting.

In this interview, Ben also discusses the importance of culture, team-building, empowerment, and motivation. Employees need to know “the next rung on the ladder” and how to get there. They need to feel empowered if they are to be motivated. Invest in ongoing learning opportunities. You have to nurture your employees if you want them to continue to be engaged.

Ben has found it helpful to have non-competing partners who can provide the skills his company does not provide. He also touched on the risks of the Internet of Things, a topic presented by past chess champion, Garry Kasparov, at the South by Southwest conference.

Ben can be reached on Twitter @BenKunz or on his company’s website at (One ‘A’ in the middle)

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Artificial Intelligence: Trust the Machine to Master Marketing Automation

Magnus Unemyr, Marketing Automation Expert, helps companies install and set up website-based marketing automation systems. He recommends using site lead magnets (calls to action, buttons, banner ads), caging some content behind landing pages with registration forms, offering incentives to register information e.g., a PDF that can only be downloaded in exchange for contact information, and adding nurturing sequences with follow-up emails. (He uses Tripwire.) Each piece of content should drive the customer or potential customer one step closer to making the purchase.

In this interview, Magnus clarifies the difference between today’s narrow AI software and strong AI. Narrow AI learns from data and self optimizes over time by iteratively improving its original function. Narrow AI in email application might learn the optimal time to deliver an email to  an individual customer to increase the likelihood of that email being opened. Strong AI has the capability to learn things outside of its originally targeted function . . . to reason on its own, to start to get feelings . . . which is still the stuff of science fiction.

Traditional marketing automation systems; e.g., HubSpot, ActiveCampaign, or Act-On, are fairly basic in autonomous decision-making. Magnus sees a natural progression from using AI-powered algorithms/marketing automation systems to automatically harvest data, eventually moving toward more complex functions – developing “insights,” and, eventually, making autonomous decisions about and triggering individualized marketing outreach initiatives without human intervention.

This future AI will be able to do highly personalized outreach – to send the right content to the right person at the right time, in the right channel, and at the right frequency – improving the customer experience and minimizing the “spamminess” of cookie-cutter automatic responses.

However, when deploying new marketing automation systems, companies need to budget for content production, and each piece of content should send the reader or viewer one step further toward the purchase. Also, major marketing automation tools are not standalone solutions – they need to be integrated with additional specialized smaller marketing automation systems – webinar platforms, proprietary databases, etc.

AI can fail. For instance, AI algorithms are trained by historical data. Without enough historical data, any AI system will not be able to make accurate decisions. If the data is skewed or flawed, the AI algorithm will produce flawed predictions or behavior. The software supplier needs to be able to prove that the software is behaving and producing accurate results.

Magnus describes his book, Data-Driven Marketing with Artificial Intelligence, as the definitive guide to understanding and using AI in marketing. He has also written: Mastering Online Marketing, Internet of Things, Turn your Knowledge and Skills into a Profitable Online Business, and eBooks and Beyond. Links are to Amazon.

Every marketing automation system vendor provides video courses to teach users about their product, but invariably fails to discuss the features that should have been included . . . but weren’t. Magnus created a detailed marketing automation course (about 70 videos) that explains concepts, strategies, use, and what comprises a good marketing automation system – without covering proprietary instructional material. The credit-card accessed course is available on his website at:

Magnus can be reach on LinkedIn or on his website at:, where you can find his blog, his video episodes, and his training courses.

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Why Shoe the Cobbler’s Children

Mike Popowski, CEO of Dagger, is The Marketing Agency Leadership Podcast’s first repeat guest. In this interview, live at the 2019 South by Southwest Interactive Conference in Austin, TX, Mike explores the direction his company, Dagger, a strategic content agency, has taken over the past year.

Dagger’s trademarked statement, “Content at the Speed of Culture,” reflects the company’s focus. Mike describes content as a rallying touchpoint and lists content strategy, brand strategy, analytics, and media as “flanking disciplines.”

Mike notes that modern brands that appeared to be doing very well and staying culturally relevant almost act like media companies. He gave the example of Red Bull, where much of its marketing content is not about selling cans of energy drink, so much as it is focused on the thrill of adrenaline junkie activities that its customers enjoy . . . but have a Red Bull first.

Flat on his back for six weeks after surgery, Mike conceived of the idea of creating a “differentiator.” He and his team loved what Red Bull was doing and decided to launch a media company, dedicated to the culture of Atlanta, and funded through funneling company profits . . . back into the company . . . and into the community. Mike finds Atlanta’s energy dynamic . . . with an exciting influx of talent and brands. @Butter.ATL features articles about topical issues in Atlanta – from emerging artists and restaurants to repeating episodic features such as SneakHer Heads (covering women sneakerheads) or Atlantipedia.

This project has proven to be the differentiator Mike sought. Now, instead of telling clients what Dagger can do for them, @Butter.ATL shows them. Dagger, a cobbler and a cobbler’s child, has a pair of fine shoes! @Butter.ATL has been quite successful, with about 22,000 Instagram followers in the first 6 months and recent recognition at the ADDY awards. Dagger is already reaping ROI results, which Mike did not expect until 2020 – ROI in terms of @Butter.ATL being a door opener. Unlike similar work that Dagger might do for its clients, Dagger is free to say what it likes on @Butter.ATL, and free of the constraints of client agreements and NDAs. Some of the coverage is not laudatory, but Mike places great value on authenticity.

What Dagger does for its clients, it is now doing for itself with @Butter.ATL serving as a learning lab, a “work sample,” an influencer, and a draw for new brands that are now reaching out to Dagger. American rapper, actor, and activist Killer Mike, a big fan of Atlanta, follows Butter.

Mike Popowski can be reached by email at:, or on his company’s website:

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