Hey there! Welcome to the Marketer Of The Month blog!
We recently interviewed Dustin Brackett for our monthly podcast – ‘Marketer of the Month’! We had some amazing insightful conversations with Dustin and here’s what we discussed –
1. Changes in the marketing world with the advent of AI
2. Human oversight of AI processes
3. Sales with a human-centric approach
4. Evaluating the efficacy of your marketing strategies
5. Brand messaging that is truthful and open
6. Sustaining a competitive edge during a recession
About our host:
Dr. Saksham Sharda is the Chief Information Officer at Outgrow.co He specializes in data collection, analysis, filtering, and transfer by the means of widgets and applets. Interactive, cultural, and trending widgets designed by him have been featured on TrendHunter, Alibaba, ProductHunt, New York Marketing Association, FactoryBerlin, Digimarcon Silicon Valley, and at The European Affiliate Summit.
About our guest:
Dustin is the CEO and Founder of HIVE Strategy and HIVE Hub. He leads engaging and educational sessions and keynotes focused on digital marketing, marketing strategy, inbound marketing, and entrepreneurship through a philosophy of marketing and selling like a human.
EPISODE 103: Exploring Marketing in the Age of AI and Measuring Effectiveness
Saksham Sharda: Hi everyone, welcome to another episode of Outgrow’s Marketer of the Month. I’m your host Dr. Saksham Sharda. I’m the creative director at Outgrow.co And for this month we’re going to interview Dustin Brackett who is the CEO and founder of Hive Strategy. Thanks for joining us, Dustin.
Dustin Brackett: Absolutely, thanks for having me.
Don’t have time to read? No problem, just watch the Podcast!
Or you can just listen to it on Spotify!
The Rapid Fire Round!
Saksham Sharda: So Dustin, we’re going to start with a rapid-fire round just to break the ice. You get three passes. In case you don’t want to answer the question. You can just say pass but try to keep your answers to one word, or one sentence only. Okay?
Dustin Brackett: Sounds great.
Saksham Sharda: All right. So the first one is at what age do you want to retire?
Dustin Brackett: Don’t know if I want to retire
Saksham Sharda: Okay. How long does it take you to get ready in the mornings?
Dustin Brackett: 15-20 minutes
Saksham Sharda: The most embarrassing moment of your life?
Dustin Brackett: I’m gonna pass I don’t know.
Saksham Sharda: Okay, favorite color?
Dustin Brackett: Blue.
Saksham Sharda: What time of day are you most inspired?
Dustin Brackett: When I don’t have meetings
Saksham Sharda: How many hours of sleep can you survive on?
Dustin Brackett: Five,
Saksham Sharda: Fill in the blank. An upcoming marketing trend is blank.
Dustin Brackett: Using generative AI more effectively.
Saksham Sharda: The city in which the best kiss of your life happened?
Dustin Brackett: Bailey Colorado.
Saksham Sharda: Pick one Mark Zuckerberg or Jack Dorsey?
Dustin Brackett: Zuckerberg
Saksham Sharda: The biggest mistake of your career?
Dustin Brackett: Not hiring smart people earlier.
Saksham Sharda: How do you relax?
Dustin Brackett: With a glass of wine with my wife.
Saksham Sharda: How many cups of coffee do you drink in a day?
Dustin Brackett: Way too many, probably four.
Saksham Sharda: A habit of yours that you hate?
Dustin Brackett: I’m a perfectionist
Saksham Sharda: The most valuable skill you have learned in life?
Dustin Brackett: To trust my instincts.
Saksham Sharda: And the last one is your favorite Netflix show?
Dustin Brackett: I’m gonna go with that 90 show because it’s the most recent one I’ve watched.
The Big Questions!
Saksham Sharda: Quite well, that’s the end of the rapid-fire round, you answered quite a lot of them with a lot of deep thought. So that was great. Maybe you can elaborate on why you don’t ever want to retire.
Dustin Brackett: I don’t sit still well. So if my wife ends up listening to this, she’ll probably be very upset with that answer. But I enjoy work, and I enjoy what I do. So I mean, I definitely won’t be 80 years old and still working as many hours as I am now. But I think having something to do with a business I own or run or whatever, I think will always be a thing.
Saksham Sharda: And so is there any other Rapid Fire question that you would like to take this moment to elaborate on that you felt needed more than a word or a sentence and an answer?
Dustin Brackett: I think like future of marketing kind of question is interesting. And, you know, its generative AI is such a big topic right now. But I think it’s moving in a direction that it’s going to become like a tool that we don’t even necessarily realize we’re using. And I think that it’s going to empower a lot of industries, but especially the marketing industry to just be more efficient and produce better work faster. You know, I’ve been going deep into the rabbit hole of AI in all the different kinds of realms that it’s touching right now. And I just think it’s very interesting, and I think it’s gonna change how marketers work but also like, I think it’s going to completely transform the marketing agency world. So I think that it’s exciting, but also I think a lot of people are nervous about what that brings.
Saksham Sharda: It’s interesting. So I guess it’s a very exciting time almost paradoxical. It a time to drop a book-like market like a human in the world of AI. Can you tell us more about your upcoming book market like a human?
Dustin Brackett: Yeah. I think with a lot of our clients, like, I’ve had a lot of conversations with prospective clients and current clients, and there’s a lot of talks or a lot of like the process behind like, “Oh, I want to buy this giant list”, and just start blasting everyone on the list because I just need more people in the funnel. And it’s, I think marketing has taken several steps back over the last few years because the focus has moved to like a quantity focus rather than the quality focus. And so market like a human is was kind of born out of frustration with like, what marketing is today. And I don’t think that as marketers, we’re being helpful, or we’re building relationships, or we’re establishing trust as we should be. And instead, we’re just spamming, right? And we’re pushing sales conversations way before we should be even approaching a sales conversation. So the book is realistic? How do we start to realize that whether we’re a business-to-business company, or business-to-consumer company, or a nonprofit company like none of that matters, what we’re looking at is, we’re marketing business to human, like, on the other side of our marketing campaigns are humans getting that messaging, getting that content, getting those ads that we need to connect with, and they don’t need, our audience doesn’t need us like they once did, they don’t need to have a conversation with our sales team, just to figure out what we do and how we do it and how much we cost? Like they are doing their own research on the organizations that are going to win in regardless of like, what the economic climate looks like, the businesses that are going to win are the ones that connect on a human level.
Saksham Sharda: And how does such a human-centric approach to marketing align with broader trends in consumer behavior and expectations? And what implications does this have for businesses in the long term?
Dustin Brackett: I think that as consumers, we’re empowered more than we’ve ever been. And so the intrusive and spammy messages like we can tune those things out, like I go through every morning, and I have probably 50 spam emails in my inbox, telling me how people want to create content for me and want to book meetings for me and like sell neither widgets. And their software’s like, all of it’s tuned out, right, I immediately blocked those things, and moved them to spam. Like, we don’t have to deal with spam and intrusive messaging like we used to. And so, you know, I listened to one of your previous podcasts the other day with Mike Lieberman, and one of the things that he said is that I loved it as we were moving back to inbound marketing, right? Like, we have to earn that audience. And we have to earn that trust and privilege to even like, get in front of these people now. And I think that all of this and like, kind of tuning in, and connecting on a human level is how we do that.
Saksham Sharda: And so, well, I guess, one couldn’t reduce this to a strategy. But if I was to, like, bring you back into the lingo of marketing, or hat strategies can businesses then use to balance the use of, you know, even stuff like technology, including AI with a more human-centric approach?
Dustin Brackett: You know, it’s funny, like, so as I was finishing up the book, I have a leadership team at my agency, and we have a meeting every week to talk about like processes and people and things like that, for the growth of the agency. And one of the like, was when chat GPT was becoming such a huge topic. You know, I was falling down that rabbit hole. And in the directors meeting, I was like, you know, we need to take notice of all the different AI tools out there and see how we can start to use and implement and kind of take advantage of those new resources for our agency as well as our clients and one of my director’s mouth Are you like immediately cut me off? And she’s like, whoa, like, Dude, you just wrote a book called market like a Human. And now you’re telling us we should look at AI? Like, that doesn’t make any sense. You know, and I hadn’t considered that perspective, like, because in. Like, for me, AI is a tool, right? It’s something that we can use to further our mission. It’s just like a HubSpot or a CRM or any of these, like different tools that we use regularly like AI is not a replacement for humans. But I think that it can help us to be better for our audience and help us to be faster, produce better content, and even free us up to do what we need to do to connect with people on a human-to-human level.
Saksham Sharda: So in the sense that AI will leave enough room for the mechanical tasks to be automated so that humans can function by being creative. At a very meta level creative. What would you say?
Dustin Brackett: Yeah, you know, like for the book, I interviewed several people that I like really respect in different areas. And one of them was Paul Racer, who started the Marketing AI Institute. And Paul probably knows more about AI than most humans in the world. And it was a very interesting conversation. But like, one of the questions that I asked him was, how are you using AI to market the marketing AI Institute? You know, he told me the story of well, they have events that they run regularly. And they have huge audiences with AI being such a huge topic right now. Like, I think it’s very easy for him to have big audiences for these events. And he was telling me, Well, they can get up to, you know, 800 people at one of these events. And after the event, they have somebody on their team dedicated to reaching out to every single one of those people on LinkedIn, personally, connecting with them, sending them a message, thanking them for joining, answering questions, and things like that. And he’s telling me the story. And I was like, okay, like Dude, you haven’t mentioned AI once yet, like, how does AI impact this and he’s like, AI for us, has freed us up to do those things. It has taken the menial tasks, the kind of mindless things that we don’t want to do. And that just clogs up, our calendars take up our time. We’re using AI to accomplish those things. So that we can connect in a human-centric way, in a more meaningful way, because we’ve freed up that time. And so like, they’re not using AI to create all their content to automate all of their messaging to like, do these things that we still need the human touch with. Instead, they’re taking things off people’s plates that they don’t want to do anyway. And that AI can do faster and potentially better so that they can touch those people individually, human to human.
Saksham Sharda: And so your idea of human-centric marketing, to what extent do you think is one able to measure the success of you know, marketing efforts, when one has this kind of strategy in mind? What is the way of life, collecting ROI, because that’s already dehumanizing a bit, if you start looking for ROI, I suppose?
Dustin Brackett: Yeah, you know, I’ve dived into this quite a bit in the book. And I think that the way that we measure marketing and the effectiveness of our marketing is completely broken. Like we have turned into a quantity-only focus with our goals and our KPIs. And it’s a result of sales saying we need more leads, it’s a result of C suite saying we need to push more people to the website, we need more followers on social media, we need more contacts in our database, and the top of our funnel, and it’s always like this more and more and more focus, right. And so that’s pushed our marketing efforts and our focus on our KPIs and goals to be a quantity-only focus like our what we’re measured by are how many leads did you generate? How many website visits did you create? And not as much on How much revenue? Are we influencing how many contacts? Are we helping to move through our funnel or flywheel whatever you want to call it there? How many of those people are we successfully moving through that process to get to the point where they’re ready for a sales conversation? And instead, with the quantity-only kind of goals and KPIs, what we’re doing, and what we’ve had to resort to as marketers are, we have to, we have to check this box, right, we have to fulfill these unrealistic quantity goals. So we’re getting all of our content where make we’re getting as many leads as we possibly can, to just throw at sales that are just not good, like, or they’re not ready for a sales conversation. And, I mean, I don’t know how many times I’ve seen it, but like, there are companies that somebody subscribes to a blog, and they’re immediately being pushed to sales, or they download a basic piece of content and fill out a quick form. And then sales is calling them. And like, there’s a terrible disconnect there. That this audience is not ready or looking for or expecting a sales conversation. But because we’re being measured by how many leads we can generate, just to like, push the sales desk. That’s what we’re resorting to. And so I think, taking a more human-centric approach with our marketing like it’s going to take a shift in how we measure effectiveness, and how impactful our marketing can be. And that’s going to take buy-in from sales, and it’s going to take buy-in from the C suite. And we’re going to have to educate internally to say, “Hey, me throwing 1000 leads at you that don’t want to talk to sales, and you end up with a few of them that you maybe have a good conversation with like that’s not a good use of sales time.” And that’s not a good experience for our audience. And instead, like we we need to get back to really qualifying and nurturing and being measured by how many quality conversations can we produce for sales. And how many? How can we connect with our audience so that we nurture them and educate them to get them to the point where they’re ready for a sales conversation or a demo call or whatever the case may be? And I think we have to take a step back and make our KPIs and our goals for the marketing team, regardless of what your organization is in, make those quality-focused goals instead of quantity-focused goals.
Saksham Sharda: And to what extent I can’t help but think, is the concept of human-centric marketing that you have kind of overlapping with the trends around authenticity-driven marketing?
Dustin Brackett: I mean, it’s funny. Yeah, I think that it’s very connected, like authenticity is one of the main pillars in my book that we as a society, like we’re reevaluating things, right, we’re looking at organizations to be transparent, and be authentic in their messaging and who they are and how they’re communicating with us and what they’re producing. That those are the organizations that we connect with. And those are the organizations that even if we go into recession, or like the climate ends up being, continuing to get worse, like, those are still the organizations that we’re going to gravitate to, and that we’re going to want to do business with. I think that one of the things that we fall into as organizations are we want to be perfect all the time. And we want to only say and do and portray this perfect image. But that’s not real. And so I think, starting to push our people in front and showing who we are authentic like that is what connects that is what builds rapport with our audience. And those are the organizations that people want to do business with. It’s not any more of this, like, we’re just going to push our sales messaging or we’re going to portray this perfect image, like, embrace who you are, and embrace who your people are internally and that’s going to build that trust.
Saksham Sharda: So keeping everything that you’ve said in terms now, how would you say this affects, you know, consumers or the market in the uncertain recession-driven times that we are facing? So how do people marketers keep ahead of like changing demands of consumers in these times?
Dustin Brackett: You know, I, unfortunately, don’t think there’s a silver bullet, right? Like, no one answers like, Oh, we’re in a poor economic climate or going into one, like, do these three things and you’re going to be great. That’s not realistic. I think that it’s an opportunity, though, for organizations to reevaluate how they’re doing things. And my concern. And my Inkling is that businesses are naturally going to take the route of, we’ve always focused on more like the goals more, but now it’s going to be even more than that, right? Like, so they’re going to look at like, things are taking a downturn, we need marketing to produce even more leads, and we need even more website visitors in instead, it is an opportunity for us to like rethink how we’re doing things. And I think that the businesses that take that opportunity to say, “Okay, we’re not going to just put the pressure on marketing and sales.” For more, we’re going to look at, how are we engaging with our audience, those website visitors, those people that are already in our database. How can we enable them? Because they’re dealing with the same economy, right, like they’re dealing with in their businesses and their lives? They’re dealing with this as well? How can we help? Like how can we produce content and produce messaging that supports them in an uncertain time? And that’s how we’re going to move the needle there. And it’s, I hope that it as we start to figure out, like what this economic climate looks like over the next year, so I hope that people understand our business and start to understand that the helpful businesses are still going to be the ones that rise to the top.
Saksham Sharda: So you would say it’s even more of an opportunity to do human-centric marketing?
Dustin Brackett: Absolutely. Like we’re all whether it’s like, Dustin as a consumer, or Dustin as a business owner, like, we’re all paying very close attention to, where our dollars going. And they’re gonna go to the businesses and organizations that are helpful, and that are helping us to achieve our goals, not just the ones that have the best fancy images or ads or clever messaging like it’s going to be the helpful ones that connect with me on a human level.
Saksham Sharda: And which kind of social network or channel you’d say, is, at this point at the forefront of human-centric marketing, if one wants to do that, like? Where does one go?
Dustin Brackett: You know, I don’t know that there’s a direct answer to that. Like, I think that part of connecting with our audience is spending our time and our resources in the places where they want to spend their time. So I think from a b2b perspective, like, LinkedIn has done a great job of enabling businesses to connect with messages and in new ways, like, you know, I’m having a lot of fun with polls and things like that on LinkedIn that give us new opportunities. I think that every social network has an opportunity to do that. Some of them have like a very limited organic reach. But I think the point is, if you’re truly connecting with your audience, those messages will grow. And they’ll get seen by the people that you want them to be seen by. So I would just say, take stock of who your audience is, where they want to see your messaging, and how they want to consume that. And that’s how you can connect.
Saksham Sharda: And why do you think short-form video is one of the things that’s risen in these times? Is it because a short form video is more authentic and it’s like a presentation? How would you feel about that?
Dustin Brackett: Yeah. I think that a short-form video is just an opportunity for us to show our human side it right and you have to get your message across quickly. And it’s not always perfect. And honestly, the videos that we have the most fun with and the ones that we resonate with are the ones that maybe even have a mistake or they’re not 100% professionally produced videos, and they just show a human side. And like with them being so digestible, they fit in so well to like our fast-paced lives.
Saksham Sharda: So the last question for you is more of a personal kind that is, what would you be doing in your life if not this right now?
Dustin Brackett: So I have two answers. One is the unrealistic version. So played 10 years of semi-professional football. I love the game of football. My unrealistic answer is playing in the NFL. That was always like the dream growing up as a kid, a completely unattainable dream. But that would be the ultimate answer. I think realistically, I’ve been away from football for a little while. I’ve been retired for six or seven years now. And I would love to get into coaching. So looking at eventually, I think that’s a path that I take off, you know, coaching high school or something like that. I love the strategy and tactical nature of football. And so, if I wasn’t doing this, I would love to be on a coaching staff somewhere and teaching the game of football.
Saksham Sharda: So in another universe, I’m interviewing you as a football, NBA star.
Dustin Brackett: Right.
Saksham Sharda: Okay, well, that’s the end of the interview. Thanks, everyone for joining us for this month’s episode of Outgrow’s Marketer of the Month. That was Dustin Brackett. Thanks for joining us, Dustin.
Dustin Brackett: Absolutely. Thanks for having me.
Saksham Sharda: Check out their website for more details, and we’ll see you once again next month with another marketer of the month.