Inbound Now #4 - Stop Marketing and start engaging with Scott Stratten

Scott Stratten joins us to share some killer insights from his new book.

We chat about:

  • The concept of Platforming
  • Mistakes he made when starting out with social media
  • Maximizing customer touchpoints and closing the experience gap


David: Hey everybody. Welcome to Inbound Now, Episode 4. Today I have with us Scott Stratten at Un-Marketing. Scott is the president of his own agency, Un-Marketing. He just came out with his first book, “UnMarketing:  Stop Marketing, Start Engaging.” He’s a Twitter-holic, a coffee lover, and, dare I say it, social media expert. So, Scott, thanks for coming on the show.

Scott: Ooh. That could be taken many ways, man. Thanks for having me.

David: That’s why “dare I say it,” but I think you’ve earned the chops.

Scott: Thank you.

David: Yeah. I wanted to get you on the show today to kind of dive into some of the concepts from your new book, and then we have a fan question from you, they tweeted @InboundNow. I’ll shoot that at you.

Scott: Sure.

David: Then we’re going to tie some of those concepts from the book back into some real world examples that you also kind of mention throughout the book, which I thought was great.

Scott: Thank you.

David: So let’s dive into it. So why did you write a book, and who is this book for?

Scott: Well, I wrote a book because a publisher was dumb enough to give me a contract to do it, which was awesome. For me, the book is an extension of the thought, and I’ve always known I was going to write one. I actually picked the name Un-Marketing for the company almost a decade ago because I actually thought it would look good on a book cover. I really thought it would stand out, and sure enough, it actually stands out on the shelf now when you go by and see it, which is the coolest thing in the world, by the way.

I know authors get kind of bored with their books or like, “Aw, this is what I do.” I still think it’s the coolest fricking thing in the world to go into a bookstore and see the book with your name on it on the shelf, and then you slowly tell somebody and you make them buy it because you see them looking at business books. But I digress.

So the book, I wanted to reach kind of the masses in a way to say it’s okay not to be a hypocritical marketer. That’s why I started Un-Marketing was we market the way we hate to be marketed to and I didn’t like that. I thought that was kind of crap. I realized that there’s different ways. Sure there are some people in the world who wake up in the morning and they say, “It’s a great day to cold call!” I call those people Satan, but they do it and they go out there. That’s what they can do. That’s like 1 of 1% of people in the world, and you can’t train or learn to be like that. That’s a natural, well, talent, if you want to call it that.

But so many people are good at being their authentic selves, and not in a cheesy way. I’m not talking about let’s hold hands and sing “We Are the World” together. I really mean that. You have a natural skill set. That could be writing. That could be speaking. That could be just conversations or that could be online type of talking and there’s different ways to do it. Or that could be video. Find out what you’re great naturally at. Instead of trying to be good at something you suck at, be great at something you’re already good at. That’s the best marketing tool I think there can be.

David: Right. So, yeah, I noticed that was kind of the overarching theme in the book. What you were trying to hammer into people’s heads in a good way. Why are people marketing to people the way that they hate to be marketed to themselves? It doesn’t make any sense. So with that concept, where do you think people are moving forward?

Scott: Well, I think some people are getting it. The nice thing for the book for me was people thought it was a permission slip to be able to do what they want to do and market the way they thought would be a good way to market to. I think social media has really allowed the natural good people to really start connecting and building relationships, because there used to be a huge barrier to entry to just talk to people in the business world, especially.


David: Slight technical glitch on the recording. Sorry about that, guys. It cut out right in the middle. So basically the segue to this is we’re talking about a Tassimo campaign run by Ogilvy Canada where they gave Scott a free coffee maker with no strings attached. They reached out to influential people and sent them coffee makers and the campaign was a raging success. And here’s Scott talking about it.

Scott: … so I did. I tried it, and the thing about it is I went back and wrote back. I said, “Hey, I love it.” I start tweeting about it. I thought it was great. He wrote me back and said, “I’m glad you like it. Now, we’d like to give you 10 machines to send to 10 other people that you know on Twitter in Canada. Just give us their names.” He didn’t say give us the names of 10 people and we’ll pick one of them as a prize. He said pick 10 and 10 get it.

So now I’m like Bob fricking Barker. I’m Oprah. You get a coffee maker! You get a coffee maker! You get a coffee maker! Everybody gets a coffee marker. So I got to then leverage being myself and saying who wants one and I got to give them away.

So the difference for this was, now, it went from 1 person to 10 other people and the buzz started being talked about. Before the campaign, Tassimo was being mentioned in Canada 0.04% of the time when Canadians were talking about coffee online. That’s a very specific stat. They used Radian6 – a Canadian company as well – to get all the analytics out there about it. What happened was after the campaign, they were mentioned in 14% of the conversation. Look at the difference between those two numbers. That is huge. That led to sales. That led to machines. It also led to me being addicted to the fricking stuff, and I’ve probably spent more on buying the coffee now than the machine would ever have cost me in the first place.

David: Right. And I think that increased brand awareness does drive sales, but there’s not a way to tie it directly through. They’re not going to go … they're buying it in Wal-Mart and they’re not going to say, “Oh, I saw this on Twitter.”

Scott: It does in that people came to me and said, “Hey, I bought one because you talked about it.” You can talk loosely about it, but the thing is, people … I even hesitate to talk about this case sometimes, and I did put it in the book, but it kind of scares me to talk about it because people will think, “Oh, okay. That’s what we have to do.” And the difference was, it wasn’t even the product yet. It was how Duri at Ogilvy, how he approached everybody at first. He’s actually a really great guy. He has a great personality. That’s what opened the door. People forget if your front person, if your main contact screws it up, none of these are getting in the door anyways. There’s so much behind the scenes than just coffee makers for everybody.

David: Right. And he reached out with personal emails. It wasn’t the form email, and that’s what I think it helped it out a lot, the campaign.

Scott: Totally. 100%. Because we get hit all the time, and the bigger the blogger or the bigger the social media person, the more they get hit up all the time.

David: Right. All right. So let’s switch gears a little bit and talk about the concept of platforming. You built up your Twitter following before you launched your blog or did anything else within social media. So elaborate on the concept of platforming.

Scott: For me, business in general, but even online, whether it’s 2.0 or social media, there’s too many choices. There’s too many things where you’ve just got so many places you’ve got to go. You pick it. Quora just came out answering questions online, and Twitter and Facebook and the freaks still on MySpace and blogging. Everything out there. There’s so many things that you have to pick a platform first to grow it.

My background, 15 years ago, I used to manage bands in Toronto, and every band wanted to play to 40,000 fans and I told them they have to play to 40 first. You’ve got to start small. You’ve got to grow the following. You’ve got to build your platform, like standing on a platform.

So, for me, I picked Twitter. I thought Twitter was the lowest barrier to engagement so I could just start talking to people. Facebook you had to approve friendships. LinkedIn you had to approve contacts, usually through multiple people contacts. Twitter you could just start talking, so I said I’m going to use that and I built it. But it was focused. You can’t spread yourself too thin. So I didn’t have a blog. I didn’t have my Facebook page. All I did was January 1, 2009, I decided to live and build a platform on Twitter.

Now I had been on Twitter for eight months before that, and my reaction was the same reaction as most people, which was, this is stupid. Why would I want to know what somebody had for lunch. I don’t care if Jeff just had tuna. It doesn’t matter.

Then I realized, you know what? I’m going to give it a shot. I’m going to try it for 30 days, because in marketing, our biggest sin in marketing is discounting or tossing something away for one of our clients because we don’t like it. It’s not the way it should work. So I said, “I’m going to give Twitter a try. I know there’s something here.” I’ve been online since ‘94. I haven’t logged off since ‘94. I’ve been doing it for a very long time. I said, “I’m going to give it a shot.” I lived on Twitter for 30 days and I tweeted 7,000 times that month. 7,000 times.

David: You’re a madman.

Scott: Hey, if I’m going to do it, I’m going to do it. I went from 1,200 followers to 10,000. See people like the 10,000 follower part. They just don’t like the 7,000 tweet part. They said, “Can’t we just have the 10,000 without the 7,000?” The point is it’s not. Social media does not change the fact that relationships take time. They take time and effort.

So I built the Twitter platform. I got to about 25,000 followers. Then I launched my blog. So my first blog post had a built-in 10,000 people reading it. Instead of launching it all at the same time, if I had 10 followers and I launched a blog, nobody’s there.

David: Right.

Scott: So I built Twitter and then I built the blog and then I built LinkedIn and said, hey, I don’t like it, so I stopped trying to build it. Then I built Facebook. I built Foursquare. You just keep going and going and going. Each platform though was like six months in building. It’s not like, “I’m going to try this for a week.” It takes time. You’ve really got to put the effort and the trust that it’s going to work.

David: Right. And when you spread yourself too thin starting out, it can be overwhelming, you know? Oh, I’ve got to do this on Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn, and a lot of companies don’t have time to do it.

Scott: Especially individuals.

David: So I think focusing on one where your core audience is, is a good idea.

Scott: Especially, I think entrepreneurs too, where especially if you’re a one-person shop and you’re doing literally everything for the company. I can’t just sit there and say, “Go tweet for 30 hours a week.” It just won’t cut it. And I know a lot of people can’t live on Twitter for a month. I know they’ve got to do things, and some people are trying to launch businesses while working for somebody else. But if you only have, maybe let’s say three or four hours a week you could dedicate to social media, and you’re going to use Twitter, say, I’d rather you spend 45 minutes a day or a half hour a day every day than three hours once a week because it’s a continual conversation. If it takes you longer to reply to somebody’s tweet than it would to be mailing them a letter, you’re doing it wrong.

I put it in the book, I had a lady take 79 days to reply to me. 79 days. I asked her a specific question about one of her workshops and I wrote back and I said, “Longest wait for reply ever,” because I was being obnoxious. She wrote back and said, “Yeah, I’ve been busy.” Like what? Are you Ghandi? Are you wandering a continent with no WiFi that you can’t answer me for almost three months?

And that’s the thing, and this is what I really, truly believe. If you don’t have time for Twitter, or you don’t believe in it or you don’t want to use it, don’t have an account. It’s actually worse having an account and not using it than not having one at all, because people think you’re there and they just think you’re ignoring them.

David: Right. So here’s a question from one of our Twitter followers. It’s from @printermanage, Grady and Amanda. I guess they share a Twitter account. That’s pretty cute. So basically they’re asking, when you first started doing all this Internet marketing, inbound marketing stuff, what worked and what didn’t work kind of advice for them starting out.

Scott: When I started, back in the day, I started the company eight, nine years ago, email marketing was a different world. You had open rates of 98% and there was no such thing as confirmation. You simply sent an email somebody subscribed for and they got it. That was it. Nowadays, it’s so hard to even get a newsletter to somebody who wants it. I’m sure you guys understand all this stuff. I’m sure you guys have the stats and the data to show this stuff of bounce rates, return rates, and non-confirming. There’s just so much more headache to deal with now.

But my biggest mistake back then is I built a newsletter of a quarter million people in the motivational industry and I abused the list. I really abused the list. I just pimped out products and affiliates because I was making money. I was. I was making coin. I could send an email out and make $10,000 just in affiliate stuff. So I didn’t even have to touch anything. What I didn’t look at was I was eroding my list, because now the gold isn’t in the list anymore. The gold is in your engagement and your trust with that list.

I’d rather have a list of 5,000 people who are my fans or my evangelists than 100,000 who just ignore me or who want to unsubscribe. That’s the scary part. That’s where my biggest mistake was. I abused my list. I abused the relationship and the following and realized that’s my community, that’s not just readers. That’s the community.

David: Yeah. You definitely don’t want to overwork your list because that’s kind of your bread and butter. If Twitter were to go away tomorrow and Facebook were to vanish, all these social, your in-house list is kind of very important to your business and insulting that list can be a bad thing.

Scott: I think we forget that. We’re so busy talking about how sexy social media is nowadays is we forget how crucial a list is still. That whole kind of send out a newsletter, send out a blog post, send out a white paper, that’s huge. That is still a better return rate, better click-through rates.

Because Twitter, to me, you’re talking about a Twitter addict here, right? The intervention is going to bust through the door at any second now. But it’s horrible for click-through rates. It’s horrible for sales. Tweets last minutes, if not seconds sometimes. It’s very labor intensive. And a list, all you’ve got to do with a list is give them great value. That’s the huge difference there and I think that we forget.

We’re always looking at what’s next in social media and what’s next in marketing.  We suck at now. Let’s get better at now.

David: Yeah. That’s why we’re Inbound Now. We talk about the future too, but you know.

Scott: We suck at 10 years ago still. We still have Geocities sites and AngelFire sites from back in the day. We need to figure out why people still use CompuServe and AOL email addresses. We’ve got to fix these things before we go forward.

David: Right. But going back to the email newsletter, I thought you did something interesting and you mention in your book, every time someone signs up for your newsletter, you send kind of a … it's not a personalized because it’s an auto-responder, but it is, you’re asking them a question. You want them to respond and tell you about their business.

Scott: Yeah. So I see so often when people sign up for newsletters … one of the things I do now, we do what’s called an un-audit for people and we go through their sites and social media and sign up for everything and see what it’s like. Most of the time we get a confirmation, which is, “Thank you for subscribing. 15-572B5D.” And that’s it. It’s crap and you don’t feel warm and fuzzy. Somebody just said, “Hey, I’m interested in you,” and you send back, you’re like, “Thanks” and you do nothing about it. You just walk away.

So when somebody signs up for the Un-Marketing newsletter, go right now. Go to and sign up for the newsletter. You’ll get an email back saying, “Thank you so much for signing up. I really appreciate a spot in your inbox. I know how full they can get. May I ask what line of business you’re in to help me tailor the newsletter to my audience?” That’s what I say and I really mean it when I ask it.

Every single day I get feedback from people. “I’m in this industry.” “Hey, I’m in Brazil.” “I’m a dentist.” “Somebody just mentioned your site at a conference.” “Hey, I’m over here. I’m in Vancouver and I’m actually a chiropractor and this is how I found out about you.”

I’m getting R&D daily from people, plus it starts conversations.

David: Right.

Scott: It’s an amazing thing how it works.

David: And that’s like one of the most important things, starting that initial conversation.

Scott: Right. It’s not scalable. It’s not totally scalable. Like when I did it with my motivational list, they got there because of a motivational movie and I asked them what did they think about the movie. So I couldn’t answer them all. I literally was getting hundreds, if not a thousand or so, a week replies back from it. It allowed me to watch and it allowed people to think that I was listening and that meant a lot. That really bonds you with the list owner much more than anything else.

David: Right. So another concept in the book, you were talking about how companies, they bring people in, they treat their prospects really nicely and do all this stuff for them, but then once they’re a customer, they kind of forget all about them or don’t give them the same service. You talk about it as the experience gap. So what is the experience gap and how have you experienced it?

Scott: The experience gap is the difference and it’s the gap between your worst and your best experience with a company or with a brand, and the bigger that gap gets, the easier a chance of you just walking through it and not being a customer or the easier it is for your competition to reach through the gap and pull a customer out of it.

I gave my example of, again, about coffee. As you said at the intro, I’m a coffee guy, so I’ve got a lot of coffee stories. And the big one here for us was, Tim Horton’s coffee is a religion here. In Southern Ontario and I know a lot of the bordering states as well, Tim Horton’s coffee is a religion here. It’s a coffee chain. Donuts and coffee in Canadian, that’s how it works. I was a coffee customer for Tim Horton’s for almost 20 years and, again, you literally are born into this brand. It’s like being a fan of the Red Sox or the Patriots or something like that where you live and breathe this brand. For here it’s the Leafs and Horton’s coffee, that’s how it works here.

I realized my relationship with them was kind of eroding. The gap was widening. The lid was kind of crappy. It would always spill in the car. My quality was no longer consistent. They didn’t take bank cards or debit cards where I could pay with my bank card. The only time I ever took cash out of the bank was to buy coffee. It was ridiculous. That’s how much I was being abused as a customer, as far as I was concerned.

It kept going, a little bit, a little bit, eroding, eroding and the gap opened up wide enough so McDonald’s comes out and says, “Hey, we want to be the new coffee place for you.” And first you’re like, “That’s ridiculous. It’s McDonalds.” I worked at McDonalds when I was 15. I knew who drank coffee back then. It was old people at six in the morning who wanted free refills. They were the coffee drinkers, not me, because I’m in denial that I’m aging. So I was not going to drink their coffee.

But then they said, “Hey, we’re going to give it away for free too.” I’m like, “Whoa, all right, I’ll give it a shot.” I went to a McDonalds and there was like a half hour lineup for the coffee, which was kind of ridiculous for a $1.50, so I left. But my mind was open to trying it again and that’s a huge part. That’s the biggest part in marketing is to open that gap up and get in there. So I went, and I tried it and I went through the drive-through and I got my first cup. This should be Horton’s or any brand’s biggest fear. One of their biggest evangelists was going to the dark side.

I grabbed the coffee and the lid was awesome. I could pop it with one thumb and stick it in there and it wouldn’t pop back up in my face as I was drinking it. The cup was double-walled so it wasn’t hot. The coffee tasted good and they took bank cards and they had as many drive-throughs for my lazy ass to go through as Tim Horton’s did. And I was switched and that was it. People said, “Wow, one time you switched?” No. It eroded and the gap widened over years.

David: It was the small things that affected that and the lifetime value of you as a customer is $20,000+ so it’s important on every step of your customer touchpoints that those are taken care of. You mention in the book Cirque du Soleil really nails it.

Scott: Cirque du Soleil, for me is … I went and saw them once in Toronto and then I went to Vegas and I went to see KA at the MGM there for my first time. Every step within the show, from the box office person, to the person scanning your ticket, to the bartender, to the ushers, and then the show itself was all at the highest level possible. There actually was no gap. No gap whatsoever, including Twitter.

Cirque du Soleil was the first brand that ever talked to me on Twitter and all I did was I tweeted. All I said was, “I freaking love Cirque du Soleil.” And I said KA and Oaks and I had paid for them. It was all my own dime. And they wrote back and said, “Thanks. We like our shows too.” I was like, come on! How amazing that Cirque du Soleil was talking to me. It was amazing and then I got to meet the person behind the account and she was awesome. It’s continual through it. It’s like a way of living in the company and there’s no gap for me. I literally looked for a gap.

I do the same with Disney World. I went down to Disney World last year. I’m going down next week again. I ran around the park looking for somebody who just didn’t like what they did. I’m like, come on, there’s got to be somebody who hates it, somebody who’s cleaning up one of the banquets or something. I went in and I’m like, “Hey, do you like your job?” She’s like, “Yeah.” “Do you have a bad day?” She’s like, “Not really.” Oh come on.

David: They have to say that.

Scott: Exactly. They’re all brainwashed. The gap wasn’t there. The gap usually doesn’t go because of one major event. Usually epic things don’t happen. It’s the little things that just keep pushing it a little, a little, a little until it’s wide enough for you to leave and the problem with your company is you don’t know they’re leaving. They just go. They won’t tell you they’re upset. 98% of people, I firmly believe, will never say what’s wrong. They will just walk away. To bring it full circle, you have a chance with things like Twitter and Facebook to see the passive peer conversation about people talking with each other about brands, not directly at the brand. You have a chance to step in.

David: Totally. So I think some of the key takeaways there is making sure that every single touchpoint that you deal with a customer is optimized. You don’t want to lose people because of little tiny things that build up over time. Where can people find you online, Scott?

Scott: Obviously Twitter. Unmarketing at Twitter. You can go to, or the Facebook group is UnMarketing there as well. And, of course, on the bookshelves too.

David: Awesome. Well, thanks for coming on the show. I really appreciate it. We want to get you back on the show sometime in the future.

Scott: Sweet. Anytime, man.

David: Cool.

See the full post here: Stop Marketing and Start Engaging with Scott Stratten (@unmarketing)