Nick Bennett has built an impressive social media presence on LinkedIn, and hosts the Rep Your Brand podcast where he captures stories about how to overcome the challenges marketers face with growing their personal brand. On this episode, Nick shares his perspective on personal branding and how it can be a major force for professionals of all stripes. In this conversation, we cover:
- overview of personal branding, evangelism, and customer marketing
- how to get started with a personal branding program internally
- the power of niching down, and how Nick was challenged to focus on “field marketing” in his posts
- different ways to stay consistent with a posting routine
- Nick’s experience at Alyce and how personal gifting can be a secret weapon in your marketing strategy
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John Tyreman: Hi, gang. Welcome to Episode 49 of the Digital Marketing Troop where we talk with marketing leaders and practitioners to help you learn more about digital marketing. I’m your host, John Tyreman. And today I have the pleasure of speaking with Nick Bennett, Director of Evangelism and Customer Marketing at Alyce. And he is also the host of the Rep Your Brand Podcast. Folks who are listening to this show should definitely check out Nick’s show. And we are here today to talk about personal branding and evangelism on LinkedIn. Nick, how are you doing today?
Nick Bennett: I’m good, man, how are you doing? I appreciate you having me on. This is exciting.
John Tyreman: Absolutely. Ya know, I’m a fan of your show. And I’m really excited to talk to you. You’re a great follow on LinkedIn. But before we dive into our topic today, you’re a baseball fan, right?
Nick Bennett: I am a huge baseball fan. I actually have a Red Sox shirt on right now.
John Tyreman: Very cool. I’m a Nationals fan myself. I’ve got the Dodgers cap on because I’m coaching my son’s baseball team and they’re the Dodgers. But I’ve got a quick question for you. I know it’s controversial. Do you think Major League Baseball should automate the strike zone?
Nick Bennett: I don’t think so. I think there’s other ways to shorten the game. I do agree that the game is getting out of hand with how long these games are. But I don’t think you have to automate the strike zone to make that happen.
John Tyreman: I agree. I like the human element of the umps and everything that’s involved with that. Well, let’s get into our topic at hand today, Nick. So you recently changed roles within Alyce, from Director of Field Community and Partner Marketing, to Director of Evangelism and Customer Marketing. For listeners who might not understand the difference, Can you explain what brand evangelism is and why it’s important?
Nick Bennett: Yeah, absolutely. So, you know, it was something that the more and more I thought about, what do I actually want to do with my career, I feel like everything was around being like a subject matter expert, like I was already doing a lot of these things of being on customer calls, being on prospect calls, like doing events on behalf of Alyce, and I was just like, I knew there was a gap on the customer marketing side. And so I approached my boss, and I was just like, “Hey, like, you know, I know there’s a gap on the customer marketing side, if you want me to do that, I’m happy to do it, but I also want this evangelism piece and I’ll tell you why it’s important to me”. I said, “In martech, and sales tech, I feel like only executives have that type of role. Think of like, you know, Randy from Uberflip or Ethan from BombBomb or Sangram from Terminus, like, every time you think of like an evangelist type role, you think of like an executive. And I’m trying to pave the path for what it looks like for non executives in sales tech, or martech to have a role like this. And it’s funny, because I’ve had so many people DM me, that was like, I want to do exactly what you’re doing, like, how do you do that? And like, I really should write like a blog post or something around it. I just haven’t. I’ve done LinkedIn posts a little bit, but I really need to, like solidify it. But now I just get paid to create content and like, go meet with our customers meet with our prospects, like be that person when someone says, “How do I do XYZ within Alyce?” Like, hey, reach out to Nick, he’ll help you, he’ll hop on a call.
John Tyreman: Yeah. So you mentioned that you saw a gap on the customer marketing side of things. Can we explore that a little bit? Like, what are some customer marketing activities that you’re doing now that maybe you weren’t doing before?
Nick Bennett: Yes, so we actually haven’t really had a customer marketer at Alyce, since probably like last fall, I believe. And so there was such a need for like the case studies, the G2 reviews and other review sites, like making sure that you have customer comms in place so it’s not just all on CSs’ basically, plate to do all these things. And it’s tough. I mean, you really want to create that brand advocacy program, how do you create referrals where customers are just basically, you know, using word of mouth and referring you to other people, and I was just like, I can do all of this stuff. I already know what our customers want, because I was a previous customer of Alyce, like years ago. And so I am the ICP of a product like this, I’ve purchased gifting platforms for the last six years. So like, it just made a lot of sense. And they were like, alright, let’s create a new role for you. Let’s figure it out. And I mapped it out – what I saw on like, the evangelism side, what I saw on the customer marketing side, and I presented it to our leadership team, and they were like, “Yeah, this makes perfect sense. I see the vision, I see the goals, I see how it all aligns the business, let’s make this happen”. And here we are.
John Tyreman: It’s so important. And, you know, if you’re not talking to your customers, then your marketing strategy is set up to fail.
Nick Bennett: It’s so interesting that you say that, too, because it’s like, I talked to a lot of marketers and they’re just like, “Oh, I don’t, you know, I don’t talk to customers. I’m not in customer marketing”. But I’m like your whole marketing strategy is dependent upon not just talking to your customers, but involving them in your conversations. Like, why are you just going to assume this is what they want on the roadmap or the messaging or the positioning or the website. And to not involve them in those conversations or get their input is a huge miss to me.
John Tyreman: Well, especially because you know, you don’t know everything right? You don’t know everyone’s situation or the background or why they’re buying in the first place. And that’s the critical piece. Nick, let me ask you, like, if companies wanted to start a brand evangelism program, let’s just say, or if they want to just get more folks involved in posting to platforms like LinkedIn, like, how do you think they should get started?
Nick Bennett: Yes, so I actually… It was probably about a week ago now. But I led a company wide event on social advocacy from an internal standpoint. Myself and Aleksey, who’s on our sales side, we both have been posting on LinkedIn for a while – her from like the sales aspect, me from the marketing aspect. And so we said, if we could create even a small subset of employees that are posting their own content, not even Alyce content, we don’t want people to just self promote, we want people to talk about things they’re passionate about – if we could get 20 or 30 people within the company to talk and do their own thing, think about how many views that could drive and how many impressions. I mean, that could easily drive 15, 20, 30, 50 million impressions in a year. And then think about what you would pay on ad spend to run those same amount of impressions yet, you’re doing it all organically. So we held this session, and we actually had over 100 people show up to it and ask so many good questions. So we created a Slack channel to, you know, people were just like, I’m afraid to put myself out there or like, what are the mental barriers? Like, you know, I feel like I have impostor syndrome, things like that. And we just, we now have open communication where even our executive team is in there. They’re asking these questions like, “How do I frame something without making it seem like I don’t want to burn bridges or something from past life?” And it’s honestly been really fun collaborating on those types of things. And I’m now measuring it from an analytical standpoint, how many views and impressions and you know, everything that goes along with it, are we driving collectively as a company, so that I can report back and show, even from a self-attribution standpoint, hey, this is actually what’s coming from this.
John Tyreman: I really like the idea of having that conversation and extending it to a Slack channel. And, you know, that was kind of the first thing that popped into my mind is if you’re trying to not necessarily get other people to start posting, but to encourage other people to take that leap of faith, that impostor syndrome, those mental barriers are really big. And so let me ask you, like, how did you get over those? Is it just a matter of just having a conversation? Just showing them that it’s not as hard as maybe they think it is?
Nick Bennett: Yeah, yeah, a little bit of that. Honestly, the whole reason that I started posting back in March of 2020, was because my boss at the time, who was Kyle Coleman, from Clari, who’s very well known on like the SPR and sales side of things, he was like, you should talk about field marketing, like no one talks about that on LinkedIn, like, it would be a no brainer. And I was like, alright, and so he put out a challenge to a few of his team members that said, “Hey, this is the success that I’m seeing, these are the things you’re going to run into, there’s going to be things that you know, you may not like or things may not go your way, but just trust me, consistency pays off”. And so I just stuck with it. And for six months, I had like no engagement, literally, like I would get probably 1,000 views on a post or something like that. And after the six months, it started to slowly trickle up. But I mean, I tell people all the time, you’re going to… as soon as you hit publish on a blog or a social media post, there’s going to be people who don’t like what you say, and that’s fine. Like, my content is not for everyone. And I get that. I can’t please everyone. And I don’t think anyone focuses on that aspect of it. But I think you just have to have that mindset that there’s always going to be people that disagree with you. They may not say it publicly, but they do disagree with you. And they may be people that just, you know, try to challenge you on different aspects of it. But just power through it if you can, and realize that everyone including myself has that impostor syndrome like there’s still days today where like I posted I’m just like, “Hmm, I don’t know if this is gonna go over well. I don’t want to offend anyone”. I’m such a people pleaser where if someone that has been liking my content for so long, just goes missing for weeks, I’m just like, “Did I offend that person?” Like, I know the regular people that like my stuff. And like, when they just go missing it’s like, “Huh, like, Did I do something wrong?” and like that just runs through your head. But for me, the biggest thing was don’t spend more than five minutes crafting your content. I would much rather engage with the community of LinkedIn and like the people that comment versus spending time over analyzing a LinkedIn post. Just send it, try to make it as something of value and then engage with all of the comments, because that’s honestly the best part of LinkedIn is the comment section.
John Tyreman: I totally agree. And, you know, I find that challenging myself to kind of scroll through the feed and find the posts that I want to engage with. There’s a ton of posts in my feed that it doesn’t really make sense to engage with, but like, Twitter has lists, and I use that. And that’s really like an awesome feature on Twitter. But LinkedIn doesn’t really have that. Like, do you have any tips or tricks to share with like how you know which posts to go to?
Nick Bennett: Yes. So I agree, I honestly, I do wish that feature would come over to LinkedIn, because it would be so much easier. For me, like when I turned on creator mode, probably about I think it was probably about a year or so ago now, like I went off and on, is it a good feature to turn on? Is it killing my reach? And then I just kept it on. And so it immediately makes your connect button, a follow button. And I realized, the people that were connecting with me, like I’m only accepting connections if it’s someone that is a marketer, or a salesperson or rev ops or someone that I think could add value to my feed, versus just all these random people that I know I will never engage with. That’s why that follow button’s there. And for me, the people that I really, really want to follow is, I’ll go and like check that bell icon on their profile so that I get notified each time that they post. Or what I’ll do is I’ll just start to unfollow people not remove the connection, but just unfollow them if their content has no relevance to me, and it does do a decent job at like cleaning up the feed. But when you have that many connections or that many followers too, it’s tough to make it exactly what you want without a list feature.
John Tyreman: Those are some really good tips. I like the bell icon, especially for accounts, you know you want to follow. You mentioned like, spend no more than five minutes creating a piece of content. I’ve been in that position where, I think it was like the start of 2020. I challenged myself to post every single day for 90 days. And I got into a groove where it was taking like 5, 10 minutes to write a post, right? But it gets hard to kind of get to that level. How do you stay consistent with posting if someone’s just starting out? What would you recommend they do? Maybe they get like a head start on that level of consistency?
Nick Bennett: Yeah, I mean, I don’t think anyone should… like you should find out what’s best for you and experiment. Like, the five minute thing works for me. And I actually don’t write anything down. I don’t pre write anything. I don’t batch anything. It’s literally the morning of I will think of what to write and if it’s something that I think, “Alright, cool, let’s let’s go with this. Let’s see what happens”. I’ll put it out there. But there are lots of people that, you know, take Justin Welsh, for example, like he’ll sit down on a Saturday for like an hour or two. And he’ll write out like a month’s worth of content for LinkedIn. And that’s just not me, I just don’t have the ability to do it. I’m much more of an on the fly type of person. But I think you have to experiment and see what’s best for you and see how that can evolve over time. At first, I was talking to someone the other day, and they were like, “Yeah, it takes me 45 minutes to write one LinkedIn post.” And I was like, “45 minutes? Are you serious?” And he was like, “Yeah, I just I overanalyze everything. I write it, I look at it, I hit the back button, delete, delete, delete, and then I write it again. And then I’m like, ‘What will people think of this?'” And he’s like, “Before I know it, like 45 minutes have passed. And then I just basically get rid of it, because I’m too overwhelmed”. And I’m like, “Yeah, five minutes may not work. But like 10 or 15 minutes, honestly, for one LinkedIn post, I think is a good amount of time”. What you could do, and I think a lot of people do do this, is just keep like running topics, either in like a Google Doc, or like, you know, a note section or Notion or whatever. And just be like, these are the things that I want to talk about. And then you can add the filler information, you have the hook, but like, what’s the filler information of how to tell that story?
John Tyreman: Yeah, I was gonna ask you about topics. You mentioned, field marketing was what Kyle challenged you to create around. And you just mentioned running topics in a Google Doc. I guess, like, how important is it to have a core topic of focus versus many different topics that you can talk about? How does one balance that?
Nick Bennett: I think, you know, especially with how noisy LinkedIn is today, I think it’s important if you can like niche down into something and for me, it was the field marketing aspect. And so being able to say like, alright, for the first six months, like that’s really all I talked about, just you know, the misconceptions how it plays into a revenue organization. What does a field marketer do in B2B? Because a lot of people just thought I was an event planner, and like, there were so many people that would reach out to me, like, “I want to learn more, like what is this? I see this role everywhere, but I have no clue what it is”. It was really easy to talk about that because that’s what I did for the last nine years and it was just like, “Alright, yeah, like I know that inside and out. I can talk about it”. I definitely then started to branch into like account based marketing, I branched into like the personal branding aspect, I branched into just more of like, even like general life advice or like marketing advice. And now I talk about, you know, I would say that the top thing that I talked about now is probably personal branding. I did a field marketing post last night actually, like, it’s funny, because when I talk about non marketing things, it actually does a lot better than when I talk about marketing specifically.
John Tyreman: Funny how that works, right?
Nick Bennett: It’s so bizarre, like, I literally only have like, 40 people that liked my post. And I was like, this is like value. I was talking about metrics that field marketers should look at when you’re developing your programs. And then I post something like, my mute and unmute game is like, on point, and I have like, 70,000 views of something that is so silly to me. But like, I don’t know, it’s just so interesting. And like I talk about podcasting, a good amount, like, I’m not, you know, I’m not like a Chris Walker, where I’m getting like, all these views, but I still drive a decent amount of views. And I just talk about what that journey has been like for me. And honestly, I just really talk about whatever comes top of mind, now. I have a decent sized audience where they follow me, for me as a person versus me for specific content.
John Tyreman: They call it social media for a reason, right? You got to be social on these platforms.
Nick Bennett: Exactly.
John Tyreman: Yeah. Well, we talked about the importance of engagement. We talked about some posting tips and tricks. How about sending connection requests and growing your network? How important is that as a factor to a personal branding strategy?
Nick Bennett: Yeah, I think it’s definitely important, I can say that I don’t do a great job of it anymore. Like I probably… like you’re limited to, I believe, 100 connection requests per week, right now. I think they implemented that not too long ago. And before, you could just send as many as you wanted and just spam the world. But like, you have to be strategic how you’re going to use those. And I probably use like five connection requests a week now. I don’t do a great job with it, because I’m so engaged with just talking to like the other people that have followed me and like a few like, content creators where like, I just really enjoy their stuff. And I try not to spend as much time on LinkedIn anymore. Like I’m spending like, I would say, an hour to an hour and a half a day in a 24 hour block on there, mostly on my mobile phone, so I can track all of that, and shut me off if I go over. But it’s important… I think the way that you could honestly get started in figuring out how you’re going to target your specific ICP, or whatever your audience is, is finding 10 to 15 other like minded marketers or salespeople or whatever, and clicking that bell icon and like being one of the first people that comment on their stuff every single time they post. And adding something of value, because what’s gonna happen is, say you go post on like, Justin’s stuff, or Chris Walker’s stuff, or Digi or whoever, like, they’re gonna get, like, hundreds of 1000s of views on that. And if you’re one of those first people, so many people are gonna be like, “Oh, John, you know, that was an awesome comment. Let me go see what John does”. They’re gonna click your profile, they’re either going to follow you or send a connection request. And so you’re building kind of like a self-built audience without actually having to post content yourself.
John Tyreman: I’ve experienced that, being among some of those early comments, like I like to call that comment sniping. But yeah, and you know what, honestly, like in, practicing, going through and commenting on posts, a lot of the times gives me some inspiration for some new posts that I want to do. So there’s sort of like this, like little flywheel that happens kind of organically, where you’re going through and commenting. And that provides a little clarity in your own mind for future posts and things like that.
Nick Bennett: Exactly. Yeah. I mean, that’s happened to me a bunch, too. You’re like, you’re engaged in a really good conversation, like people might, like have a different point of view than you and that’s okay. But it opens up your eyes into a way that you could see something that maybe you didn’t see it before, maybe you can talk about it, like that’s a great post. People love stories. Talk about… I’m not saying personal stories aren’t good, but like just stories: How did you do XYZ? What were your failures? What were your wins? Talk about that so that other people can either avoid those things if they were failures, or try to somehow, you know, manipulate them if they were positive so that they could also see if they could have success.
John Tyreman: Yeah, it’s really important to share experiences like that, especially as marketers where, you know, these platforms are changing like every single day, week, month and so some of the tactics that you used maybe last year aren’t working anymore. And so you really need to rely on the networks that you build to be able to know how peers are doing, and what you can swipe from them to help apply it to your craft, too.
Nick Bennett: Yep, exactly. I mean, there was, I mean, to be honest with you, like, there’s a lot of stuff that like the Refine Labs team talks about, and like, I’ve taken like, a lot of those things. One of the things that they always talk about is the demo form, like, get rid of the drop down, go with the open text box for like, how did you hear about us, make it a required question. And we implemented that back in November. And like, literally, the insights have been amazing. It tells us where we should be doubling down. If it’s like community, honestly, organic, LinkedIn, and like calling specific people out has been like, huge, we see all of those things. And so we now know where to double down and like spend our money. And like if I wasn’t following them, like, I mean, I might have figured it out on my own. And other people, I’m sure we’re doing it, but like, I just follow a lot of the people that work there, and like I was just like, oh, that’s really interesting. Let’s see if we can do that. And it was a game changer.
John Tyreman: Yeah, that is a game changer. We recently put that on our contact form. And it’s so cool to look at what they say, what these leads say, versus like their engagement history in Pardot, right? And like what they actually clicked on. And the discrepancy between the two is really interesting. You get to see, like, inside the buyer’s brain, like, “Okay, how did they articulate where they heard about you?” That’s just so fascinating to me.
Nick Bennett: Exactly. Like it was really cool. Like, I saw one come through, I believe yesterday, and it was like, “Went to an event came across…” actually my podcast. And so even though on my podcast has nothing to do with Alyce, they just put two and two together that I work there. And then it was actually like, “Got a gift from another company”, (one of our customers that gifted them) and they were like, “interested in learning more”. And now that’s actually like a really… like, it’s a deal that honestly will probably close quicker than I would imagine are typical deals likely would be.
John Tyreman: Velocity. That’s the benefit of personal branding, for sure. Well, Nick, I want to shift gears just a little bit. And you mentioned personal gifting. And I’m really curious about that. So like, it’s clear that companies need to stand out in their sales and marketing today. And personally, my inbox is so cluttered that it all just blends together. Right?. And Alyce helps companies use personal gifting to build pipeline, extend customer value, increased return on marketing spend. Can you share an example of how your customers use personal gifting and their sales and marketing strategies?
Nick Bennett: Yeah, there’s actually you know, it’s kind of interesting, because a lot of people will think gifting, they’ll think it’s just a way to book meetings. SDR teams, or like sales teams will use it to book meetings. That’s absolutely one of the ways that a lot of people use it. But it shouldn’t be the only way. There’s actually 17 different unique gifting moments across the entire buyer’s journey where you could use gifting to make a difference. And so that’s, you know, the cold opener is definitely one, event is a huge piece… content. So say someone downloads a white paper, if you gate your content, which is another whole story. But like say you do gate content and like someone downloads a white paper or something and like you’re using gifting as a way to kind of get them to say thank you. And you could also use it as a time sensitive thing. Like someone’s looking at downloading a piece of content, you incentivize them with a gift to download that piece of content. So that’s another way. You could use it for like wake the dead type campaigns are like last ops that kind of just went dark, like what can you do to reengage those. And then you’ve got like, the whole customer side of it. Like customer celebrations, churn prevention, like you got the HR side of it. There’s literally so many different use cases. And it’s just, I think people are just starting to touch the iceberg of like, what you can actually do. People only really focus on like, I would say, one to three use cases right now, but there’s so much more. And I think one of the interesting things is you think of gifting as like a nice to have, but it’s not a must have in a lot of people’s eyes. But if you combine that with outbound marketing, everyone does outbound marketing. So how can you take outbound marketing and make role gifting under that so it’s a must have in your outbound marketing strategy? That’s what we’re looking to achieve.
John Tyreman: I can see how that can be really challenging especially with like… so, company physical addresses are readily available, but so many people still work from home, especially within these last few years. I’m curious, that must have been a challenge, right? Are you able to deliver gifts to home addresses? How does Alyce solve for this?
Nick Bennett: Yes, so we’re actually a recipient first platform. So we don’t ask anyone for their address. What we do is we’ll either send a link via email, or you could just create a link, or you can send it out of like Outreach or Salesloft, or Eloqua, or HubSpot, or whatever. And it will basically show someone that you’re looking to send them a gift. What they can do is then have the power of choice to either accept the gift, they can donate the gift to a charity of their choice, or they can exchange the gift for something that they want. No one’s going to want to give like, if you send me another Yeti mug, like it’s just going to go in the trash. But if you send someone a Yeti mug with the option to exchange it for something they want, or donate to a charity of their choice, it makes sense. So then they opt in for one, to receive the gift, they fill out their address on the back end. And then we basically just deliver it. So we never see their address. It’s all just, you know, done on the back end, goes to our vendor, vendor delivers on that. And yeah, it’s honestly been super easy. We actually did a lot better in COVID than people would probably think.
John Tyreman: Well, yeah, I mean, it sounds like it, especially… I love that model, the opt in model and the ability to exchange. That’s really cool. And it’s funny that you mentioned a Yeti mug, because we just, you know, we have that self-attributed field on our form that we just talked about, right? And one of the stories that just recently came through was, “Hey, we got your Yeti mug at this event that was like three years ago”, right? So it’s, it just shows you the power of gifting. And how that etches this, like… there’s a memory in these prospects’ minds and it stands out enough, even three years later.
Nick Bennett: Exactly. And that’s why I think the personalization aspect comes in. One of the good things about us is, what we do is we scrape social profiles that are public facing. So like LinkedIn, Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, blog sites, and so we pull that information into the platform. And then we actually have a human research team that will recommend gifts based on that research that’s done. So as a marketer, or as a sales rep or SDR or BDR. You can then take that information, custom tailor a video or a message to something that you know they already like.
John Tyreman: Wow, that’s really cool. Right on. Well, Nick, I know that we’re coming up on our time, now. This has been really insightful. I took away a bunch of notes on personal branding. I love the personal gifting aspect. I can see how that can be really helpful, especially if you’re combining that with your outbound sales motions. If folks listening to this podcast wanted to connect with you, where should they go?
Nick Bennett: Yeah, absolutely. LinkedIn is probably the best spot. You know, shoot me a DM, shoot me a connection request. I try to reply to every DM that comes in as well. You can also now find me on TikTok. I’ve been trying to dabble in like the B2bB side of TikTok and it’s been interesting for sure. But you know, find me – either place and drop by and say hello.
John Tyreman: Very cool. All right. Well, folks listening to this definitely connect with Nick. Nick, thank you so much for coming on the show.
Nick Bennett: Thanks for having me.