September 12

Matthew Stibbe on Creating Marketing Magic


Matthew Stibbe is a serial entrepreneur, marketing maven, writer, pilot, and wine enthusiast.  But not necessarily in that order.  He created marketing strategies, content and campaigns for clients including Microsoft, Google, LinkedIn and HP and contributed to Wired, Forbes and Popular Science.

Currently, he is CEO at Articulate Marketing, a UK marketing agency specializing in the technology sector.  Also, his geek credentials are strong. Previously, he was founder and CEO at Intelligent Games, a 70-person computer games company where he designed games for LEGO and produced two games based on Dune.

Matthew also has his commercial pilots license and an advanced wine diploma. (Have you seen the film Somm? Like that!)  At some point in the previous millennium, he studied history at Oxford University.  These days, he blogs about modern management at www.geekboss.com, about marketing at www.articulatemarketing.com and wine at www.vincarta.com.

Contact Matthew:

[Podcast Transcript Using Artificial Intelligence]

Umar Hameed 0:01
Are you ready to become awesomer? Hello everyone. My name is Umar Hameed, I'm your host on The no limit selling podcast where industry leaders share their tips, strategies and advice on how you can become better, stronger, faster. Just before we get started, I've got a question for you. Do you have a negative voice inside your head? We all do, right? I'm gonna help you remove that voice and under 30 days guaranteed not only remove it, but transform it. So instead of the voice that sabotages you, there's one that propels you to much higher levels of performance and success. There's a link in the show notes. Click on it to find out more. All right, let's get started.

Umar Hameed 0:40
Hello, everyone. Welcome to another episode of The No Limits Selling Podcast today. I have Matthew Stibbe here today. He's a marketing genius. And we're going to talk marketing. In essence, how you as a human being communicate with other human beings on the other side of our website, social media, or just something they used to call letters, and now we call them emails. It's going to be brilliant. Matthew, welcome to the show.

Matthew Stibbe 1:04
Delighted to be here. Thank you for having me.

Umar Hameed 1:06
Excellent. And of course, you are in the UK and I'm in Canada, most of the time I spent in the US and I really like that. I'm gonna screw up this phrase, it's like two countries separated by a language, the Yanks versus the Brits.

Matthew Stibbe 1:21
Divided by a common language. I don't know who said that one whether it was Churchill or somebody else. There's some classic stories about that. I remember reading Churchill's war memoirs. And in American English when you table something.

Umar Hameed 1:35

Matthew Stibbe 1:36
It means...

Umar Hameed 1:37
Put it in the side. Don't touch it again.

Matthew Stibbe 1:38
Yeah, right. Like, let's park this, we don't want to discuss it. And in English, especially to parliamentarians to table something means to propose it.

Umar Hameed 1:47

Matthew Stibbe 1:47
So the you know, the Joint Chiefs of Staff are having these very kind of complicated conversations. And then they thought they met meant completely different things. Certainly, as a marketer, myself, I've made a living working for American companies over here in England, so Microsoft and Hewlett Packard and Google, LinkedIn has been my clients over the years. And a lot of what I have done for them has been cultural translation. Yes. And I don't mean replacing baseball metaphors with cricket metaphors or changing the spelling, although that's a thing. It's, it's I think, English people. I mean, it's, this is reducing it to a cliche, and it's probably not for, but I think Americans expect a need want a little bit more. selling to an English need a little bit more. If you're if you're selling too hard, and trying too hard, it's off putting and kind of calibrating that between, even though it's the same language can sometimes be hard.

Umar Hameed 2:47
Absolutely. And what's kind of interesting is, if I was talking to a friend, and they kind of twisted my arm and asked me to talk about myself, and you know how fabulous I am, it could happen, I could talk about that. But if there was somebody that I was attracted to, that I really wanted, sometimes you get tongue-tied, and the eloquence you had a moment ago with a friend is gone. And when we look at marketing, oftentimes companies have an internal conversation about what they do. And when they try and take that same conversation to the masses, there's a disconnect, because oftentimes, customers value them and see them differently than they see themselves. So can you talk about one of the clients you had like that, and how you got them to cross the Rubicon and actually see what you're talking about was reality and not craziness.

Matthew Stibbe 3:34
You've put your finger on something quite important. It's true in technology companies, and I'm sure in other sectors, that the thing that got made you successful is knowing your stuff too.

Umar Hameed 3:47

Matthew Stibbe 3:47
Knowing your product, knowing your technology, being proficient at it, and being very, you know. And therefore, you tend to look at the rest of the world and think, "Well, if they understood what I understood and knew how clever I was, or how clever our technology is, they would automatically want to buy it," right? So the tendency is, let's talk about our stuff in our language using...

Umar Hameed 3:47

Matthew Stibbe 3:48
...our jargon. And and, you know, we get a lot of clients who want to do, you know, lots of product literature and lots of feature comparisons, so that then they think, "Well, the next step forward is I'm going to be really careful mindful of my competitors, and how are we talking about our stuff and how does it compare with how they're talking about stuff, like our stuff," right? You know, I'm in a market base, I've got a product and there are 10 other products like it. So let's, let's now talk about features...

Umar Hameed 4:34
Oh, yeah.

Matthew Stibbe 4:34
...and feeds.

Umar Hameed 4:35
We've got this thing here. They got, I mean, the thought about it.

Matthew Stibbe 4:39
Right. And that gets you a little bit further along at least your begin. But the reality is, you know, most people who are buying your product are spending most of their time not thinking about you your product or your competitors. They've got a job to be done. They've got a problem to be solved. They've got a need they have to fill and they will spend it exactly the amount of time it requires to figure out how to solve that, and then move on. So the imaginative leap that marketers help clients take is to start talking about potential customers, their problems, needs ambitions, in their language, as the context for talking about your stuff in your language, right? So invite them in and have a conversation about what you know, we understand your world, we understand the problems you've got with it, here are some ways you can solve it. And by the way, one of the ways you can solve it is with with our product potentially solves it like this, and so on. And so, but that that is the order of the conversation talking about other people's stuff in their language, not about your stuff, and yours. And I call this the man in the mirror problem, right?

Umar Hameed 5:43

Matthew Stibbe 5:44
People, people who are entrepreneurs or techies want to talk about their stuff, because they think the people that are bought is that who are buying it are the same as the man in the mirror, or the woman in the mirror. So getting across that barrier, getting across that bridge is the most exciting, but also the most challenging part of marketing.

Umar Hameed 6:03
What's kind of interesting is when you talk to a client's customers, say, "Hey, you've been dealing with ABC company, what value do they provide you?" And those answers are gold, because number one, they articulate exactly what you provide them. And more importantly, they use the exact language that's meaningful to them. And there's a good chance people that are like them, their men and women in the mirror will respond to that as well. But seems like you know, Common Sense 101 but most companies don't do that. Why do you think that is because marketing is atrocious everywhere, and I know, the worst company in the world for marketing, guilty, like a we really suck at it. And we're trying hard and we still are not getting it.

Matthew Stibbe 6:42
Physician heal thyself. We also...

Umar Hameed 6:44

Matthew Stibbe 6:44
...struggle with marketing ourselves and doing what we say to other people to do. It's not a, um, I think I think businesses need to do exactly what you say a bit of business anthropology. Let's go and find out, you know, who are our happy successful customers? What do they get from us that they like, why did they like it? And and let's talk about that to people like them. I remember years ago, doing a lot of marketing for Microsoft product called Small Business Server 2003, which was an [garbled].

Umar Hameed 7:14
Exciting product. My heart's racing now. It's amazing.

Matthew Stibbe 7:18
It had a whole ton of right, the right the name itself isn't exactly inspiration. But it had a whole ton of technology in it. I mean, it was an amazing thing and it was, you know, the value proposition was really clear, it was a really good price, and so on and so. We did a lot of focus groups on small business owners about some of whom had it, some of whom didn't, what they liked, and what their problems were. And of all this range of technology in the box, I mean, it was an amazing like, it did everything. The thing that came up again, and again and again, for small business owners was backup. That was the thing that they were bothered about having their data protected, secured, if there was a fire or theft in their office, they kept a copy of it. And it backup was like 5% of Small Business Server, but that was the that was the hook. So we started talking about, you know, making, being safe in your business and giving people access to the data and making sure that it you know, you can sleep at night and things like that. That was the thing, one of the things that motivated people, but you have to ask, you have to talk. And we as a marketing agency, turn that conversation that business anthropology into a number of artifacts into marketing personas. So descriptions of the people who are buying your product and their pain points and needs and ambitions. Ideal Client Profile, what companies are buying your technology, if it's b2b. Tone of voice messaging, tone of voice guidelines, like how do we speak? Messaging guidelines, what is it that we're trying to say, you know, we talk about some backup, because small business owners are concerned about sleeping at night, not having losing all their data and their business going up in smoke. Can packaging all of that up in a way that then is delivered consistently across across all the touch points. That's the work that marketers do. And we have this, sometimes we have these conversations with people with potential clients, "I don't want to do all that, can we just get straight to the marketing," we have to persuade them sometimes, you actually need to have this you have to, you have to have the documentation, you have to have the consistency, but you have to do the research. Otherwise, the money you spend on marketing could be spent on all the wrong things and in all the wrong directions. So let's get the strategy right and then the execution will be much more efficient.

Umar Hameed 9:28
So I get all of that, but then you have to sell it within the organization. So talk to me...

Matthew Stibbe 9:34
[Garbled], right?

Umar Hameed 9:35
Yeah. So tell me about the selling, first getting the marketing folks at Microsoft to buy and say, "Okay, we agree with this," but then getting the everybody from the frontline customer support people to the inside salespeople. So how does that work? And how long does it take to actually get them indoctrinated?

Matthew Stibbe 9:53
I make a very big distinction between the multinational clients that we have had do have I'm where they are where we deal with professional marketing managers who are marketing planners and strategists. So we're talking to them about, you know, in their language.

Umar Hameed 10:10

Matthew Stibbe 10:11
We very rarely have to persuade them. Although sometimes we bring insights that they didn't have or perspectives that it didn't have, you know, capabilities they don't have. That that's relatively my experience a relatively easy conversation, the most challenging conversations we have in terms of selling, selling marketing.

Umar Hameed 10:30

Matthew Stibbe 10:30
Marketing marketing, is with owner managers of small and medium sized companies. And very typically, they have built up a business to a certain size and success by being very good at the technology by being good salespeople by having a network of contacts and selling out and whatever, whatever it is that got them to a certain point. And then they hit this ceiling because they can't grow anymore. The thing that got them where they are, won't take them any further. And it that's a very hard conversation to have because you have to say, "Look, everything you've done so far, fantastic," well saying stop that. But you run out of steam. Now you need to go and look at what Microsoft is doing, what Dell is doing, you know, they they are doing strategic marketing, they are doing branding, they are doing positioning, they've got clear messages, they've got tone of voice, they've got stories, they're telling their understanding their customers, they're targeting people. And you know, you need to move in that direction, move towards professional grown up joined up marketing. And sometimes people get it and they go, they very ambitiously embrace that. And sometimes they find that quite hard, because it's it's it's a new area of expertise. And it's a new way of doing things that they haven't done before. The way that if you can persuade them, the way that we persuade them is by saying, "And here are the results if you do this, and here is why it matters. And how here here is how we do it. And here is somebody else we've done it for you can talk to, this is the journey we're going to take you on." I had one of my former clients, we've worked with them for two years.

Umar Hameed 12:00

Matthew Stibbe 12:01
At the end of that they got bought by a multinational so they were very happy. Successful outcome for them. But I took him out for lunch. And at the end of it he said, "Working with you is like doing an MBA in marketing, because we learned so much about marketing on the way," and that they went from one junior marketing person to marketing team and from 20 people to about 100 and something people in the space of two years. It's a very well run successful business, but we...

Umar Hameed 12:26

Matthew Stibbe 12:26
...make the marketing for that.

Umar Hameed 12:27
Brilliant. So when you're dealing with a new client, pretend I'm your client, what are some of the questions you asked to A, figure out what's going on? And B, provide insights to the people that you're talking to? Like, are there any common kind of strategies to unravel what's going on?

Matthew Stibbe 12:43
Yeah, I think we we like to start by understanding successful clients of yours. So you know, who do you sell to? Why do they buy from you? What is different between you and the other things that they might be choosing to do this? What are their alternatives? Yeah, we look at competition, but we also look at the competition of doing nothing. What happens if you know what if they don't buy your product? What's the need? We're really trying to get at their pain points...

Umar Hameed 13:12

Matthew Stibbe 13:12
...and understand that. And, you know, you have the conversation and you say, "Well, why why do people buy from you?" "Oh, well, because we're friendly, we know what we're talking about. We're good at our job. We've, you know, we've got all these certifications," if it's a services company, "Our product has X Y, Zed feature, which makes it better than you know, these other features." And you go, "Okay, fine. Let's keep keep digging into that," you know, five why's you have to keep asking the question...

Umar Hameed 13:39
Oh, yeah.

Matthew Stibbe 13:39
...because it's usually the pat answer is usually trivial, superficial? Because they haven't thought beyond it, that answer has been good enough up to that point. So we tend to have these sort of, typically, for a full strategy onboarding, there are eight to 10 hours of workshops, and we're discussing, you know, all of that about about product customers pain points, but we're also trying to understand the motivations of a business, what their business goals are, what their what their innate tone of voice is. And you said earlier, something, which I think is a nice, true point. When they're talking amongst themselves, they talk differently than when they talk to customers.

Umar Hameed 13:54

Matthew Stibbe 13:54
What's, What do they like when they talk amongst themselves? What is the true voice of the business and we spend quite a lot of time exploring that. And we do then we do quite a lot of analytics modeling, you know, looking at traffic growth and SEO and content planning and some of the more practical marketing things.

Umar Hameed 13:54
Let's talk about SEO. So what is SEO? If you were telling your mom about SEO, explain it like that?

Matthew Stibbe 14:49
Oh, well. Okay. I think at its heart, SEO search engine optimization is about getting your website found on Google for things that potential customers are searching for. Yeah. And things where you have something sensible to say about those questions, right? I mean, anybody can get found for celebrity gossip or something that's, you know, that's not the purpose of SEO. And there's a sort of, I do a little diagram where I map out what perfect SEO is. So you know, the stuff you want to talk about your products and services, mainly, the stuff your customers potential customers want to find out about, some of which is related to what you do. And most of it...

Umar Hameed 15:38

Matthew Stibbe 15:38
...is not the stuff you can actually answer, you know, you can actually write about it or be found for it because there are lots of questions you can't answer you don't know, you literally don't have the data or you don't have the insights. And then the last bit of that kind of Venn diagram is, what do we need to do with our pages with our text that will help Google find them and put us higher up on the first page, if possible, or higher up on its listing for the stuff we want to talk about for the stuff our customers want to read about for the stuff that we have answers for. And there is there is a input into providing good content that comes from understanding how people are searching for it, and understanding how Google ranks pages for it and there's a technical piece. So anyone who says I can make your traffic grow, and you don't have to talk to me is probably selling you snake oil.

Umar Hameed 16:37

Matthew Stibbe 16:37
Fundamentally, SEO is about producing content, information that is ranks well on Google for questions that people are asking, right? So you have to you have to be in Google's words expert, authoritative and trustworthy

Umar Hameed 16:52

Matthew Stibbe 16:55
And then then there's a whole bunch of technical stuff you have to do to make sure your site is searchable, and you know, loads quickly, and various other sort of, kind of housekeeping things. So I've probably mystified your audience and mystified my mother at that point.

Umar Hameed 17:10
So basically, what you're saying is, if a tree falls in the forest, and no one's there to hear it, did it actually fall? It's like, if you wrote a blog article, would somebody read it? And the answer is no, unless you're answering a question that your customers are curious about. And if that answer happens to showcase what you do, and sell all the better. And if you make it easy for Google to figure that shit out, then it's the trifecta and stuff out.

Matthew Stibbe 17:35
Let me give you a really good example of this. We had a client five years ago, that was doing very clever things in Microsoft Visio, they were doing high performance computing in Visio. And they had a product that they had developed called ACE, Advanced Computing Engine, that took a very, very large spreadsheets from Excel and put them up in SEO so you could calculate them quickly. And not the kind of spreadsheets you and I make but I get insurance companies that have spreadsheets, where when you press calculate, it takes eight hours to calculate the spreadsheet. It's got millions of cells and complex formula. And you know, it's doing modeling and stuff, right? So if you're an insurance company, and you've got one of these sort of risk analysis spreadsheets, if you can make that run in 10 minutes, not eight hours, it's a huge competitive advantage. So insurance companies buy bigger and bigger and faster, faster computers to run these Excel models. And they fit so this company moved them up into the cloud. So here's the SEO problem. Nobody knew the name of our client, nobody knew they made this product. And nobody was searching for a super advanced computing engine, because nobody had heard of it, right? There was no SEO traffic, tree falling in an empty forest. So we came along, and we wrote a series of blog articles, like how to improve Excel performance, or how to pimp my Excel was one notable [garbled].

Umar Hameed 18:51

Matthew Stibbe 18:51
And, and various things like that, because we figured the audience they all had Excel, they all had frustrations with making it with it being too slow. So we wrote these articles about how to optimize Excel. of the 10-15 things that we were suggesting. One of them was check out advanced computing engine, because we can put your stuff in the cloud and it will run in 10 minutes. And in the first month of running, that they got 1000s of pageviews on that content, and they got hundreds of signups to a white paper that we had written about it. And we weren't talking about the product at all. We were talking about people's pain points and the things that people were searching for, how do I make Excel faster, but in that subset of their people who are searching for that really, really needed that this product, and that's how they sold it.

Matthew Stibbe 18:52
So let's say like, we're in the business of mindset and confidence and getting rid of anxiety. One of the focus areas are realtors. So realtors have anxiety where they don't do the things they need to do to make money and get more customers. So how does one go looking for the right title for that? Do you use Google to search to try and find what people are looking for? Like what do you recommend?

Matthew Stibbe 19:57
So a number of ways you can get took that. First of all, business anthropology asked people, where do you get when you, when you, you know, real estate agent, realtor, when you've got anxieties about what are those anxiety, how do you express those things? Like, where do you go for information about that? What do you type into Google, you know, you...

Umar Hameed 20:15

Matthew Stibbe 20:15
...will get ideas from that, right? Ask somebody. Second thing. You can ask yourself the obvious questions like if I was a realtor, and I was having a stress about sales, what would I type into Google, you know how to increase realty sales. I don't know if that would be a thing, or you know how to deal with, you know, what happens if the sales pipeline dries up or whatever, whatever, whatever, right? So you start asking those questions. Google will not only give you a list of answers, but it will also show a box that says, "People also ask."

Umar Hameed 20:15

Matthew Stibbe 20:15
Okay? You can start seeing I asked the question like this, but other people who asked this question also asked this, so it's not showing you not what you think, but what other people think. So that's the second thing, that's free. Then there are products like Ahrefs, [garbled] and there's another one I, BuzzSumo, where you can type in key phrases like, I don't know, sales, anxiety or something. And it will give you the top answers the top content for those things. And it will give you related keywords, and you can start to populate this mental database of this is...

Umar Hameed 21:23

Matthew Stibbe 21:23
...the landscape of ideas and how people search. The last thing I would I mean, there's more stuff than this. But the last thing I would recommend, as a tool called, Answer The Public, and you type in something into that, like I know, sales anxiety, and it gives you this sort of lovely diagram of all the questions people are asking Google about that. Oh, one more tip, actually, sites like Quora where you...

Umar Hameed 21:23

Matthew Stibbe 21:23
...ask questions. I was doing SEO for a wine business at one point. And so I went onto Quora, and I just looked in the wine section. And all the questions people asking about wine, like, "Can I send a bottle back?" "What's a good red wine with low tannins?" "How do I choose a good bottle for a date night?" These sort of questions that people are putting out there. And what we did, we just went and wrote for the website, blog, every question that somebody had asked on Quora that had got lots of answers. And we just...

Umar Hameed 22:17

Matthew Stibbe 22:17
...went and wrote the answers on the blog. And that that got that website up from about 2000 sessions a month to about 20-25,000 sessions a month. We probably wrote 20-25 answers for it. So that's, that's a way of...

Umar Hameed 22:31
Actually it's brilliant. People are already looking getting in front of the traffic as opposed to trying to attract them to whatever funky stuff you're doing. So last couple of questions, because you know, we can go on for marketing for like, forever.

Matthew Stibbe 22:42
I've been told I could both England about marketing, so yes.

Umar Hameed 22:46
So two questions. Number one, Matthew, what makes you happy?

Matthew Stibbe 22:51
Ah, well, I am a bit of a nerd, a bit of a geek. So I, I'm very happy when I'm solving a problem with technology. I like tinkering with my computer and finding things out. And that's always been the case. I used to design computer games for Lego.

Umar Hameed 23:08
Oh, wow.

Matthew Stibbe 23:09
And I'm an adult fan of Lego. So I find building Lego models relaxing. I like spending time with my, my wife and my family. I find that relaxing. I don't know. I don't know if that's the usual stuff but...

Umar Hameed 23:23
No, it's, it's the right answer for you. What is one mind hack? One trick that you use to be more productive, sleep better, sell more, bring more joy into your life? What's one thing you'd like to share with the world?

Matthew Stibbe 23:37
We'd all like to bring more joy into our lives. I think, I think there are two and they're both blindingly obvious. I tend to do my best work in the morning. So if I get up and I'm working at 6:30 or seven at my desk, that couple of hours before everybody starts asking me questions is very productive. Other people work best at night or in the afternoon, you know, find your...

Umar Hameed 24:00
Find your time, yeah.

Matthew Stibbe 24:00
...time and protect it, right? If you're, you know, I block out Fridays, and I don't do meetings on a Friday. So I have one day a week when I'm not set by other people's questions. So that's, that's one tip. Another thing that I've always done, and again, this is blindingly obvious, and I think getting things done got there first. But if I have if I have a thing in my mind that like, I must remember to do this or that, I always write it down. And I have a very carefully structured system, I use a little app on my phone and on my computer. So I'm always writing. I don't necessarily do everything I write down but it means I'm not walking around with my head full of jobs...

Umar Hameed 24:01

Matthew Stibbe 24:02
...to do. I can try to keep my mind clear for the thing I'm doing. Now, here's my request, if anyone's watching this or listening to this, and they've got a way of reducing the amount of meetings you have in a day, I would love to know how to do that because all I do is clear space for meetings and then somebody else comes and occupy my time. So that's the problem I'm working on now.

Umar Hameed 25:03
That is a good thing. We'll we'll talk offline about that. Matthew, thank you so much for being on the show. Learned a lot and you're a master of your craft. Thank you.

Matthew Stibbe 25:12
It's been my pleasure. Thank you for having me.

Umar Hameed 25:18
If you enjoyed this episode, please go to iTunes and leave a five-star rating. And if you're looking for more tools, go to my website at nolimitsselling.com. I've got a free mind training course there, that's going to teach you some insights from the world of Neuro-Linguistic Programming and that is the fastest way to get better results.


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