Bryan Kramer is CEO and president of PureMatter, a San Jose, Calif.-based marketing company. He is also a social media strategist and focuses on brand marketing, including integrated communications and strategic business planning. He is on a wide variety of social media influencer lists and he and his company have won a number of awards.

Your most recent book is called Human to Human. How is that concept different from Business to Business?

Really, the whole approach of Human to Human is how we communicate. When you’re speaking on behalf of your company, the tendency is to think that it’s a different type of communication. That’s wrong. We all speak to each other in the same way. With the advent of social media, we need to be especially careful not to fall into a corporate style of communication and instead ensure that we talk to each other on a human to human basis.  The message is the same. But we have to simplify it to connect with our audience.

We tend to make things overly complex by speaking to each other with things like acronyms. We get so entwined in what we’re talking about that we forget the customer is at the center. Also, when we’re speaking with people on the outside, we’re so used to using “company” dialogue that we forget to unmask it and simplify it. For example, a corporate blog is often detailed and complex because it’s actually—and erroneously—being written for internal readers, rather than the true audience: the customer. People connect with things that are written at a level that everyone can understand. First and foremost, they want to know, “What’s in it for me?” We’re losing touch with that and making things over-acronymized.

Also, we’re giving our communication efforts over to robots. And by that I mean marketing automation, mass communication, advertising, and anything else directed to a mass outbound audience. We’re just going to the masses, thousands of people, with the same messages. And most of those messages are very complex. We need to simplify those messages and start speaking to people one-on-one.

At PureMatter, we got rid of our marketing automation and it hasn’t changed the way we do business—and that’s a good thing.  We still partner with all the major marketing automation companies and can offer their services to our clients. But we realized that our business is a high-touch business and, being an agency that has put a stake in the ground on a human-to-human approach, we wanted to make sure we were doing just that for ourselves.

That said, there is still a place for marketing automation, especially for larger companies that need to scale. The ability to humanize their email efforts is the real challenge when using marketing automation. For instance, rather than one big blast, there needs to be attention to detail in who it’s sent to, what it says and how personalization is being addressed overall.

Some companies are large enough that they need to automate, but maybe they can take a look at how they’re doing it and humanize the approach. Instead of sending to thousands, target a smaller segment of people. Write the message in a tone or a manner that’s a lot more human, rather than just in way that you think will garner the 1 percent open rate or that certain click-through rate. There’s a way to get everyone to pay attention, and that’s by addressing each individual as a human.

You say that the new rule of business is that everyone is a marketer. What does that mean in the context of day-to-day IT operations?

Everyone internally is helping to market a product. No matter who you are, you’re building a product that’s going to be marketed. It doesn’t matter what you do. People look at their jobs with too much of a silo mentality: “My job is IT, I support the infrastructure, I build a server farm, I engineer a product and it goes to marketing and they make it look pretty.” But it should be a much more holistic approach. The best is where siloes are gone and everyone is putting the customer at the center. Everything that happens at the company happens because it makes the customer happy. It goes back to customer care, and that goes back to marketing.

With social media, everyone has a chance to see what the customer is saying. The engineer punches in a hashtag or keyword, and he or she can go online and see what people are saying, immediately getting feedback on his or her work. Or that engineer can dialogue with customers, engage, and gain insight into how to do their job better in order to satisfy the customer. And once they figure that out, it makes them a marketer because they talk with the customer. And when’s the last time an engineer talked to a customer? But by listening to the customer and incorporating what they hear into their processes, those engineers are turning that dialogue into something that can be used by the company.

You’re known for building “influencer programs.” What are those, what value do they provide, and how should a company take steps toward building one?

Influencers are people who understand and are excited by your product. The beautiful thing is that these are built-in followings for companies, and these people are likely already seen as experts in your space. Unless you’re Nike or Apple and have a billion dollars, it’s impossible to grow your influencer network fast. You have to grow it slow and steady. If you’re a startup, that’s even more applicable. How are you going to get your product in a lot of people’s hands and get them shouting from the rooftops? You can use methods such as advertising, demand generation, email marketing, hundreds of things. But you can‘t get lots of people to talk about your product without initiatives like public relations or influencer marketing.

My take on that is to move into more of an influencer program. Start to leverage people with influence who can help broadcast—can help shout from the rooftops. Identify the people who are already in your space. Take 10 people who already interested—uber users, bloggers—who are massively interested in what you have to say. Talk to them, give them insights. You’re giving them something, because they get to say to their audience, “I know something before you do.”

Second, it allows you to get information back—what they have to say, their ideas, and how to incorporate them into the product. It turns into a community. “We released this product. Can you help us launch it?” People trust people. They trust their friends, more than they trust an advertisement, an email, or even the Wall Street Journal. It’s an uber approach. You’re helping people understand, as communicated by someone they trust, why they would want to buy this product or service. Social media is all about friendship, likes, relationships. Leverage that into an influencer program. We make a point of calculating the value of a well-constructed influencer network. It’s a lot higher-value than anything else we can do for our clients. 

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