My guest accuses marketing people of being liars, but of course unintentionally. It's because there is one fundamental problem with the way organisations work; people don't communicate meaningfully. In 20 delightful minutes, we talk about how to fix the human communication problem: by figuring out what truly connects us, rather than what pulls us apart.
Gina Balarin is an inspirational TEDx and keynote speaker, storyteller and B2B marketing leader. An FCIM Chartered Marketer with an MEd in management communication, she is the author of The Secret Army: Leadership, Marketing and the Power of People. Gina’s goal is to inspire meaningful communication as part of a larger BHAG – to eliminate human suffering at work!
References will include theory and models of communication, personality profiles including the DISC model, references to the WHY institute (and our 9 WHYs) and how marketing has evolved.
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Okay. Welcome to this episode of the unnoticed. I've got Gina Balarin who is joining me from Australia. Gina, you have written and given a Ted talk saying confessions of a liar, marketing in an era of authenticity. You're going to talk to us today about that on the show. Welcome,Gina Balarin:
It's my pleasure to be here. Thank you for having.Jim James:
Gina. What did you mean when you gave a TedTalk saying we're all liars marketing people are liars and how do you help entrepreneurs to not be liars?Gina Balarin:
Well, the challenge with marketing has been that we have a bit of a bad smell hovering around the name, but it shouldn't be like that. And it doesn't have to be like that. When marketing first started, it was about selling everything we possibly could sell to whomever would buy it. And that was the problem with the distribution method that was used at the time. It's that you put an advert on TV and you yell at everyone. The thing is we live in a completely different world now where it is possible to listen to our customers at scale, we don't just have to pick up a phone and call them or do a survey. We can use the internet to ask them almost any and every single question. And that means that marketers can't afford to lie because they actually just need to understand what their audience. And what ends up happening when marketers do this right from the beginning is that we actually start with the fundamental problem that we're solving for people. And when we are solving a problem, it means that the product or service that we're providing is great. They're happy with it. And that means that by the time comes to connect the information about whether we've done that, right. It's super, super easy to get customer stories, customer references, customer testimonials. Quotes that say, I love this product. And in fact, it's a no brainer and it becomes a circular world of goodness. When you start with an expectation, you meet that expectation you get, Hey, that was great. That was what I expected. And it builds back into the circle of creating the new product or the new service, the new thing, right at the beginning of that wheel. Again.Jim James:
Talk about like that. It makes absolutely, uh, great sense as an entrepreneur, you start something, you get feedback and then you refine the product and put it back out there and it gets better and better. So why is that not happening? Do you think people are liars and it's not just marketing people, right? It's the entrepreneurs that run businesses that have marketing take place.Gina Balarin:
I think there's a lack of confidence in people in their own ability to serve their audience. And let's face it a lot of entrepreneurs when they first start on super clear on the value that they have. And sadly you know, trial and error is required. We don't necessarily all have either the confidence or the capacity to do the audience research that we need to do. Um, depending on whether you look at entrepreneurs, who've kind of designed an intentional product or service in mind, or whether you look at someone who's just fallen out of traditional workplaces and into working for themselves, you see a different and a different approach to work and to your audience. I'm looking at investing in product design at the moment for first time in my life. I'm doing this very intentionally. It means I'm looking at audiences, looking at whether this product has a market looking. There's a service for it, but I've been an entrepreneur for five years, working for myself as a content marketer, someone who helps people understand words, what they mean and how they can use them intentionally. To be honest when starting a job, that was me as an entrepreneur individually, rather than me a corporate borg it was was a very different process. And that's when you start and go, well, I'm not going to lie about what I do because there's no need to, but you aren't really that clear on who you're helping until you know who you're not.Jim James:
Right. And you know, the second, most common reason for a company failing of course, is providing a service or a product that people don't want. Right. Actually, first one is running out of money and the second is not knowing what people want. So how do you help people, Gina, you talk about getting feedback at scale. And I love on this show to talk about technology. Are there some tools that you know, or that you use that can help people to get feedback at scale for their product and services?Gina Balarin:
That's that's a fantastic question. And really, it depends on where your audience is hanging out. So you have a raft of tools that are usable. Everything from a free. Tools, including survey monkey, which actually is quite advanced and sophisticated, nothing like the survey monkey that first originated, you know, is this a yes, no answer. Rate this on a scale of one to five, but there are also paid for tools. And in fact, a lot of product marketers who I know at the moment use Facebook to test hypothesis. It's even possible to use the little polls on LinkedIn to test hypotheses as well. But bear in mind that a lot of your answers depend on who you're asking. One of the great things about using a targeted methodology like Facebook for example, is that you can be very specific about who you want to ask those questions of, and you can do the same thing to a certain extent with Linkedin when you use the paid for tools, they're specifically looking for the audiences that meet those criteria. In other words, the people who is your, who are your target audience in the first place, bear in mind that if you're an entrepreneur and you're doing this on a budget you want to target, or you want to pull the audience that you have to you're going to get a biased sample. So if I reach out to my friends on Facebook, going to tell me what I want to hear, because they are of mine. Which is why it's important to get a less biased perspective on things. my experience less than the research side of things and more in the comms side of things. by the time I get involved or have been involved in a traditional marketing, B2B marketing and content marketing perspective, I am assuming that the people that I write for know and understand their audience. Sadly, and this leads us back to the perception, perception of marketing what marketing is and what it does and what it's supposed to do. Sadly, not everyone knows who they're talking to and why they're talking to them. And you'd expect that entrepreneurs would start being less clear about this and figure it out over time. But you'd also expect that larger organization and enterprise size organizations would know the answer to this. And the sad thing is that they still don't decades later.Jim James:
And this is that you think, because people are focused on what they're building and what they've committed to build rather than what they of have been told by the audience that they, that they want be delivered.Gina Balarin:
Well, let's go back to models of communication. Now, initially, the idea was that you had a sender and receiver and noise. But initially you were only talking about sending messages one way, right? And when you think about the original marketing and advertising mediums of communication, media of communication, they were all shouty media. You know, you've got television, you've got radio. You don't have the opportunity for. If you look at a communications model that has evolved, you've got the sender and the receiver and the noise and the feedback, which then has its own noise. And what ends up happening is that you were able to listen to people more effectively. Social media fundamentally changed the nature of marketing communication so that it was no longer possible or no longer advisable for organizations just to have one way communication. And what happens is often marketers sit in that distribution method. They think about how they want to get their message out there, and they don't necessarily pay as much attention to the information that comes back, which can almost be more important than the message that's getting out there in the first place. And there are in fact, much better ways of listening to audience. One of which is simply testing your marketing campaigns. If you're going to do an AB test, you test one version against another version, see which ones performs better. And ironically, you're actually listening to your audience when you're sharing those messages in the first place.Jim James:
So from a practical point of view, Gina say an AB test for, for an entrepreneur who may not be that familiar. sounds like twice the work from a simple practical point of view. How do you do that? I mean, people will say, you know, I'll do an AB test and then you'll find out, but how different headlines, different pictures do you need to write? two different email newsletters. What do you have to do to do that test?Gina Balarin:
Uh, from a practical perspective, one of the best ways to do it is not to do an AB test before you send out a campaign because more often than not entrepreneurs don't have enormously large databases, which can't necessarily get a meaningful, reasonable sample size. If you split them in half and do a true AB test. Or if you send out 10% on one instance and then 10% on the next, and then 80% of the one that does the best, because we just don't have databases that give us meaningful results. But ponse,we can do is test over time. So for example, if you have a newsletter, you try out a certain format and then the next time you might try it out with images instead of without images. And the next time you might try it out. Well, you found that more people responded to the image version, then you'll try changing the headline format or structure. Look, a lot of it comes down to. Iterative stick wise, refinement, as they say in software terminology, which is basically step by step, get better and better. And isn't to be honest, isn't that what we all do right? As. We learn what to do and what not to do, but I want to come back to the point about failure and fear, which I actually think is something that drives a lot of entrepreneurs, either the, the fear of failure drivers to try and make it perfect the first time or the fear of failure prevents us from actually doing things in the first. So one of the most important lessons I think I can share with anyone who's trying to communicate effectively with their audience is rather try something. Anything, if you get it wrong the first time, that's great because you can learn from it. If you get it wrong the second time, even better, because it means you can test and see, oh, what did I do differently between the first and second time and improve?Jim James:
So Gina this sort of idea of sort of least getting out there and trialing and getting and feedback is really, really powerful. I know that. And thanks for sharing that now, but you think as well that we have a fundamental problem that people can't communicate meaningfully don't you. So what do you mean by that? Because presumably if we keep failing repeatedly, we just end up upsetting people. can you give us some insight into how we fail to communicate at a kind of a basic level? Cause we could solve that right? If people are aware of it and have a mindset change.Gina Balarin:
There's an old phrase that we have twice as many ears as we have mouths. In order that we might listen twice as often as we might speak. And I think people forget that two ears, one mouth, listen, twice, speak once. And part of the problem with that is that when we're communicating more often than not, we're communicating to be heard. We're not communicating to listen. know I've been guilty in the past waiting for a gap in conversation simply so I can put my points in, rather than actually trying to hear and understand what the person is saying. And one of the biggest problems is that we assume that people hear things in the same way are communicating them. I spoke earlier about the problem with noise and communication. Well, noise can be the background noise on a podcast noise could be the stuff that's going on between people's ears that you actually can't And it's much harder. Not face-to-face with someone when you can't see them, when you're relying on cues for example, that's why email can be so misunderstood so often, but it also happens when people have different intentions when they communicate. So I'm going to mention the disc profile. It's quite an old tool, but it's a helpful way of categorizing people into four quadrants. Traditionally, they're thought of, as the bees, the dominant groups, I's are influential. S's are steady people and see a compliant. Now, if you look at these categories, dominant tend to be the CEOs of the world. On the opposite. End of the spectrum are people who are steady, stable, supportive, and sincere when they communicate with each other. The D's who are direct and decisive are in fundamental opposition with the SS who were slow and sensitive/ it means that no matter how well they communicate with each other, the chances are they're looking to get something different out of that interaction. And so D might feel that they've communicated really effectively if they've made a decision. And if it's going ahead and processing something, whereas the SS might feel really, really disconcerted by that conversation because they don't feel like they've been supported. They don't feel like they've been able to have the steady and consistent interaction. They don't they've been heard. And so what ends up happening is a fundamental miscommunication because people don't actually understand that. What they're saying is not necessarily being understood by the person who's listening.Jim James:
Right. Gina. So is that something that with your company, which is Verbalistics if I pronounced It correctly, this time Verballistics you're helping with getting people to understand who they're talking to and what would be then I guess in authentic message, is, is that how you're helping people.Gina Balarin:
It is absolutely fundamental to making communication happen. Verballistics is a content marketing agency, what we do is we make sure that people hear the right words and that the words are in the right context. But the evolution of Verballistics is going to be about how to help people understand what meaning. For them fundamentally, whether I'm talking to people on a TEDx stage or whether I'm listening to people in an interview, or whether I'm turning their words into a case study or using my team to help them build website pages or emails or blog posts, it doesn't really matter because at the end of the day, any marketing is only good when people are able to reach their audience in a way that touches hearts And that can only happen when we listen to what people are not And when we ask our audience what they think the problem with a lot of marketing is that we just don't actually want to listen because we're so busy trying to get messages out that we think are going to influence people. And the lesson I can leave for the people on your show today is actually, don't just listen, but actually listen with your heart. And there's a very big difference between wanting to solve a problem and actually understanding where the people need that small problem solved, whether they even had that problem in the first place. So with verbal Verballistics we tried to help people communicate more meaningfully. Whether you're looking at actual content production for your organization, whether you're looking at trying to speak better, listen better, or build communication skills in your team. That's what Verballistics stands for. Genuinely meaningful communication.Jim James:
Okay. And then presumably that starting to think about the kind of language that your audience is going to be familiar and willing to listen to your messagingGina Balarin:
That's a really important point. You're absolutely right, because it comes into the tone of voice that people use. One of the things that marketing agencies often do when you first bring them on board. Not that entrepreneurs necessarily want to bring a marketing agency and right at the beginning, but they might over time as the business grows is to define who you're talking to and how you want to communicate with them. You might have a tone of voice that is very vibrant and vivacious. You might have a tone of voicethat's very formal and a little bit process oriented. The important thing is to think of your brand as a reflection of who you are and who you want to appear to be. And that really comes down to defining how you want to talk to people. I find that I really enjoy doing ghost writing for a CEO's of organizations, because there's nothing that makes them prouder than to see their own voice in writing and go. Wow. That's amazing. Gina, did you write. And I'm like, well, actually you did all that happened is I was listening as you wrote. And this is really a reflection of you. Your personality, what you believe, who you are. And I think if we come back to the question of honesty, really great entrepreneurs are able to be honest enough about their brand and what it stands for right at the beginning. And that honesty shines through in their marketing. That honesty allows them to touch the hearts and minds of their audience. And as a result, when they ask someone, Hey, what did you think about product or service, they get that honesty reflected back at them in a way that allows them to attract new audiences in exchange.Jim James:
So Gina then if I can say that's about authenticity, right? About being authentic as a person, as a leader, as an entrepreneur and Gina, what about you as an entrepreneur? do you get your own business noticed? Obviously very skillful at that. So how have you, as an entrepreneur gone about getting your business.Gina Balarin:
Well, a lot of entrepreneurs in the software as a service space or in the B2B world. I actually ending up working for organizations where they're part of an extended team or part of an extended marketing team. I'm fortunate in that I have clients across all of the world. And what happens is when they're delighted, they tell other people. So. Is of course a very important way of reaching new audiences, but so are things like newsletters. I use LinkedIn extensively and the book actually the secret army leadership marketing and the power of people is a really great way. People call it sometimes a really thick business card. That's a great way of introducing people to the thoughts of the thought leadership that I tried to put in front of people. And I am regularly p ost on, um, relevant publications, including the content marketing Institute where I have a quarterly column called the content therapist. So all of these are ways that I use to reach out to people and of course podcasts. And so it's a delight to be able to share the knowledge that one accumulates over time to be able to help others feel less afraid sharing their own voice. And I think if there's one thing we could teach entrepreneurs, that is to be brave to realize that who you are and what drives you is going to drive the success of your organization and the world quite frankly, needs to hear more from people about what drives them. What makes them happy? What makes them angry, why they run their businesses, why they create this brand new thing in the first place.Jim James:
Well, what an inspiring and great way to, to follow that up then Gina, Gina Valarin, and joining Australia from Verballistics. Thank you so much for sharing, this idea that one needs to be authentic and to take some risks, but also to be listening as much as speaking, Gina, thank you so much for letting me listen to you today.Gina Balarin:
My pleasure, thank you for having me.