A NICHE MARKETING SUCCESS STORY

Tips on how to be a niche marketing success story with James Soto

  • By focusing on the industrial sector niche, really understanding it, we've been able to really build that empathy, knowledge and actually help them grow their businesses.
  • I think the big lesson we learned is that you have to slow down in order to speed up. Further, you have to know that everything starts with strategy.
  • One of my beliefs is I believe you've got to make your way of doing business obsolete before generational technology, market forces, or the competition does.
  • “What do we really know about critical metrics that will either predict the success or failure of our efforts?” And you're willing to call out the fact that maybe there isn't a commitment to the marketing function.

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By focusing on the industrial sector niche, really understanding it, we've been able to really build that empathy, knowledge and actually help them grow their businesses.

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Doug Morneau: Well, welcome back listeners to another episode of Real Marketing Real Fast. Today my guest in studio is James Soto. He is an industrial marketing pioneer. I had a great conversation with him. He left some great tips in terms of strategy and tactics in marketing. I'll think you're really going to enjoy this episode. The big plus I want you to get away … to get from this episode as well as listen to his business model, how he's niched down and he sells his services at a premium and he's in demand. A little bit about James. James is a three-time Inc 5000 fastest growing company leader. He's a keynote speaker and recognized contributor to Fabtech, HubSpot, Modern Machine Shop, Mashable, and LinkedIn events. As well, he is also the host of Industrial Strength Marketing on YouTube where he shares about his marketing insight that helps industrials make marketing the strengths of their business. As the founder and CEO of Industrial, one of North America's top marketing ENCs, James has worked with major B2B brands and industrial brands, such as motion and industry Schneider Electric, ABB, [Bulford 00:01:12], SKF, Coates, Hunter Fan, NIST, PAM Transport, AS&E, and Manufacturing USA.

Doug Morneau: James is also a prolific visionary and he's responsible for branding and co-producing manufacturing day, which was the largest industrial sector promotion in US history. Now, he's the co-founder of Nashville Made. It's a community focused on making way for manufacturers to thrive in Nashville's urban core. Born industrial, raised digital, James shares his point of view as to why leaders, marketers, and sellers must make their way of living and marketing obsolete before generational technology market forces or the competition does. I'd like to welcome James to the Real Marketing Real Fast podcast today. Hey, James, so excited to have you on the show today. Welcome to the Real Marketing Real Fast podcast.

James Soto: Great to be here, Doug.

Doug Morneau: Do you want to take 30 seconds or a minute and just give a high-level view of what you guys are doing and how you're helping your clients move the dial?

James Soto: Yeah. I'd be happy to. I'm the founder and CEO of Industrial. We are a brand business growth consultant. We're focused squarely on the industrial sector. Really what we do and what we ultimately promise is to help our clients be better marketers and sellers of their industrial products and services. Really, we help them with the mindset that they have to be great marketers where they are not. We built a strong business around that growth consultancy in a brand and business positioning strategy. The fully integrated marketing mix, digital marketing TechOps and enablement, and analytics and insights practice. By focusing on the industrial sector, really understanding it, we've been able to really build that empathy, knowledge and actually help them grow their businesses.

Doug Morneau: Well, it's interesting because obviously we all use or touch at some point in our life industrial products, but it's not a topic that we hear a lot of people talking about. Maybe because it's not quite as sexy as the latest Starbucks marketing campaign or the Super Bowl ads, but obviously these guys need to sell their goods and services or they're not going to keep their doors open either.

James Soto: Yeah. I hear that, that the perception really has, to this point, being that it's not sexy. I think what we believe is that the technology that we have today is all because of the industrial revolution. It all started with that. If you really look at any sexy campaign, whether it's Starbucks or Apple, everything that goes into that iPhone, whether it's 100 suppliers, really involves a very challenging, very rewarding need to be great marketers and helping drive preference, specification. There's interdependency. That thing has to work or you got millions of products that are not going to work right. Really selling that promise and all the technical and engineering aspects are really great, because we're not working with some mid-level marketer, we're working with the engineer that literally designed that product and is really betting the business that it's going to perform. We really see in every product the injection molder that made the plastic casing, the circuit board company, the boxes, the production equipment. Everything that goes into designing and manufacturing and really getting to market that product. Honestly, it seems boring to us. Yeah, it looks pretty, it's a great ad campaign and blah, blah, blah.

James Soto: But we're actually really driving a business relationship with a decision-making unit and it really challenges you to be the very best marketer you can be. Advertising's just a part of that. We think we get to do actually the sexiest stuff out there, which is really work at a strategic level and that's really where we believe everything begins.

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By focusing on the industrial sector niche, really understanding it, we've been able to really build that empathy, knowledge and actually help them grow their businesses.

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Doug Morneau: Well, I mean, it's interesting looking at some of the examples on your website. Early on when I got out of school, I went through an apprenticeship as a seal fabricator. I remember the days of working during the day and taking night school courses at night for the marketing and the stock market and that sort of stuff, but seeing how what whole plant ran and the types of projects they were involved in. Hey, they're building this conveyor that's going to move coal from the coalfields to the port or they're building these drill rigs to go into the bogs or they're building … We had Expo 86 before we had the Olympics. They're building all the structures for that. Somebody needs to build all of that. Or they're building Safeco Field for the Seahawks and a local steel company gets the bid for all the industrial steel.

Doug Morneau: I think, as consumers, we drive around and you're right, we pass all these buildings, these structures and we go to watch our favorite football game, a hockey game, whatever we're into and like you said there were thousands of people that were involved in that process that had to sell their products and services so that we can actually sit in the seat that we're sitting in watching the game.

James Soto: Yeah. That's exactly it. When you go a level deeper there, you're actually seeing your clients as an agency like us or as a business of your own. We worked in the cellular industry and like, “Oh, there's another tower.” And all of a sudden, you realize there's one everywhere. When you go into buildings, what's really interesting is one of the things we often do, we're saying, “That's our client, that's our client, that's our client, that's our client.” Everything inside of the four walls of manufacturing and industrial distribution or the industrial logistics and services part of that supply chain. We have clients everywhere and it's super rewarding and powerful to see the context of the things we take for granted as an end product.

Doug Morneau: I like the fact that you guys niche down. So often business owners and entrepreneurs want to serve everybody and you guys have clearly put your stake in this and saying, “Hey, this is what we do.” I read a book years ago by an author named Chet Holmes and he talked about the advantage of doing what you're doing, being the experts in a particular field so you're the go-to and then all of your references and referrals are the same network so you're not trying to recreate 15 different types of business models because you're dealing with a variety of different industries.

James Soto: Yeah, I think just leading into this, I believe there are 47,000 agencies of all shapes and sizes in the US. I look at really 30 and I take seriously 10 and I think I complete against less than that. We are unapologetically industrial and what we found is by really finding the niche, understanding that problem that's unserved in the market that we've found, we are able to command a differentiated premium for that talent and expertise. The number one thing we hear when we get hired is … “Well, why did you hire us?” “Because you're industrial.”

Doug Morneau: Sure.

James Soto: And that is very validating. For us, we believe in the same for any marketer that if there are those key points that differentiate you and you can find niche opportunities. I don't know who said it first, but the riches are in the niches. I think that's an opportunity for us all.

Doug Morneau: When I had Christopher Lochhead on my podcast and if you know who he is or you've listened to him, he clearly talks about being legendary and just being an agency. I just did a quick search while you were sharing there to see how many agencies and according to Statista, according to September 2018, there are 13,000 agencies in the US as of their survey. It was to '17, 8.1 billion dollars in sales.

James Soto: Isn't that amazing? I love it when I say stats and it's super compelling even if I'm more than half wrong.

Doug Morneau: Yeah, but I mean … but like you said-

James Soto: 13,000 in all shapes and sizes.

Doug Morneau: And who knows? That survey was done three years ago and with the internet, everybody can an agency now with a website and a cellphone.

James Soto: Yeah. I think that's where maybe that comes in, the average [crosstalk 00:09:35].

Doug Morneau: We won't go there, because you guys are a lot deeper than that. Do you want to walk us through maybe the process? When you're working with somebody in industrial space … I'm asking this out of ignorance because I have not worked with somebody in the space that you're working in. How's the conversation typically start and what issues are they trying to address first?

James Soto: Well, I think the conversation starts a number of different ways. One you really have to be very intentional about being engaged in the segment and the industry that you're in. That means being present. That's doing this, that's being on the trade show floor, that's being there. The conversation starts in firms and companies. There are folks that never leave the company who walk outside. Really, in our business, you have to be there where they're present. That's one way it starts and we work through what we call the three Rs. Our relationships, we build our reputation and it's a byproduct of that we certainly see those referrals.

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By focusing on the industrial sector niche, really understanding it, we've been able to really build that empathy, knowledge and actually help them grow their businesses.

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Doug Morneau: Sure. That makes sense. I think often and I don't know if our listeners are aware, but I know have done a little bit of work in sales after I left my apprenticeship to learn the business side I was surprised, and I shouldn't have been, that there are foundry associations where you go to meetings with foundrymen who are pouring steel. There are concrete magazines and all the industries that we see and touch. For all the infrastructure and everything that we have as a consumer good, there are magazines and niches and trade shows for all of them.

James Soto: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Yeah, so that's the beauty of the industry is that it's not only that, but these are communities. It allows you to really identify an architect and map and ecosystem. Whether you're a consumer-based focused marketer or more general B2B or even fully industrial, each organization certainly has its tribe. Their legion of fans or people who meet firmographic or demographic or psychographic profiles. I think if you can look for those … where those niches in those communities are, I think you could do a really good job to engage and really activate them.

Doug Morneau: Is there a particular client or a case study that you want to share with us? Like I mentioned to you before, feel free to mention the client or not, it's totally up to, in terms of how you help them and what they looked like when they came out the other side after having some additional success.

James Soto: Yeah. I think, for me, I get often asked about a specific marketing tactic or case study and what was the magic bullet. I'm thinking of one of our clients, Hunter Industrial Fan, Hunter Industrial Commercial Fan and they make industrial scale, the very large high volume, low-speed fans that you see, those really big ones and probably the best-engineered product I've seen in a long time. When we first approached them, they found us for all the reasons I mentioned. We get it, you understand industrial, you understand our channels by which we sell, all of that fun stuff. But when we met them and it wasn't too long ago, they were literally in startup mode. They engineered amazing product and they were just going for it. It was just going do, go do, go do, because it was like game on, you're building the ship as you cross the ocean. I think the big lesson we learned is that you have to slow down in order to speed up. Further, you have to know that everything starts with strategy.

James Soto: As you're really having these parallel paths you need to do that. Fast forward, we're inside of a year, the company's looking at iterating and pivoting. They're like, “Hey, we need to stop,” and literally they stopped. Really, we had to go from doing marketing to really being serious about being a marketing integrated practice. Fast forward literally within weeks ago, we got a callback. This is after about a year and a half hiatus and we said, “Okay, let's do this.” Which, one, was an amazing compliment to what they have accomplished and two, it was a great testament to really knowing that you have to be able to set your goals, have that baseline, so you know where you actually took someone and understand measurably what is really happening to be a better marketer, drive the practice, drive the numbers and so that started with a strategy. Really for us, I don't know about you, but a lot of folks have really struggled with how you build a marketing strategy.

James Soto: We had to really go and dive into that. What was the goal at a high level? What are we trying to accomplish? We need to break it down from an objective standpoint. What're the measurable steps that we must achieve to accomplish our goal? How are we going to start seeing that where we took the hill here? And then when you're working at a strategic level, then you can kind of look ahead and say, okay, what's the approach? What's our annual marketing approach to those goals, those kinds of … How do we take the battlefield? And then once you have that approach then that's where we come in as marketers very … That's where the tactics really come in and that's the argument that starts to form and what we do we need to say in our messaging? What are we trying to persuade people of and to do and deliver value? And then be creative, as the big idea creatively. What do the things we need to say look like?

James Soto: And then finally, as you look at integrated distribution and technology plumbing, like where or how are we going to the floor with our message? What are the tactics we're using? Wherever, whenever, however, they may be looking. And by doing that we've been able to tie in the channels and the sales team and connect them and buy your journeys and do all of those things. Slow down and actually understand your benchmark metrics so that you'll have some context to where you really ended up or are progressing against those strategic goals and objectives. The misses that it's hard, I believe it's a mindset.

Doug Morneau: Yeah. I would agree. I've worked with clients where it's like you said, you're building the ship as you're crossing the ocean, so it's launch this tactic, launch that tactic, launch the next tactic. They often have no benchmarks, no analytics, nothing. It's just they've been running a whole bunch of advertising without really any thought to going back to, hey, who's your avatar? Where are they? Is this the best place to be reaching them? Is this the most cost-effective way? So you're right, no planning, just roar ahead. Good for you guys. Congrats that that client took a break because often as you're making … you think you're making headway, it's tough to say, no, I'm going to slow down and re-evaluate and make sure that I build strong for the future.

James Soto: Yeah, they never slowed down, they were just in crush it mode. They were building channels, getting things going. They were doing all the right things, but then there's this point in time where you think you realize now that you've got to … you do have to slow down. They had that moment and it's a rare thing you see those returns, but it's probably one of the most exciting developments we've had here this year and it's because they're great people with an amazing product with a commitment to truly live to the promise that we offer, which is to really be better marketers and sellers and super excited.

Doug Morneau: One, I would think that industrial is likely to have a larger startup cost. We're not talking about putting up a website, running some Facebook ads and selling an online course. As the company scales, as you said, their float mode, there are a couple of things that could potentially happen in the future. One is they might require more capital, so they need to present an organized plan when they go back to whether it's equity or whether it's debt and prove to the lenders that they have a plan to continue to grow the business that's sustainable.

James Soto: Yup. Yeah. I think when we look at companies that are really betting on the future, they're betting on growth. When you get to that there are a lot of very longstanding, let's say old companies, old brands like Hunter and them. There's a point where they have to strategically invest. One of my beliefs and I think we'll see in companies like that is I believe you've got to make your way of doing business obsolete before generational technology, market forces, or the competition does. Model, pivot, things happen and you've got to invest. I'm a big Drucker fan. The two most distinguishing functions in a business are R&D and marketing, the rest are costs, so to speak. I think if you can do that and center your business on the customer, that plays out the rest of that story. Profit shall be your reward for a satisfied customer.

James Soto: The great thing and what's sexy about your segment, what's sexy about manufacturing, what's sexy about these brands in marketing is that you can … You're literally there with a company that designs and innovates and builds it. The end product is the satisfied customer and that market need, that wow factor, whatever the product's designed to really address. That's what's really cool.

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By focusing on the industrial sector niche, really understanding it, we've been able to really build that empathy, knowledge and actually help them grow their businesses.

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Doug Morneau: Well, I think you may enjoy a book I read called Hunger in Paradise and it was how to … I think the subtitle was something saving success from failure. The examples that he gave were LEGO and re-identifying who their competition was and it wasn't Big Blocks, it was the iPhone. Because they said, “Hey, kid's given a choice for budget, so we're not competing with the other block companies, we're competing with an iPhone.” The other big example he gave was Nokia and Apple come along and Nokia's going, “Hey, we have a better-engineered product. You can drop it, it won't break. The battery life lasts. No one's going to buy an iPhone because if you drop it or it breaks and the battery sucks.” Well, Nokia's gone and iPhone seems to be doing pretty well.

James Soto: Yeah. I think they're okay. Yeah, I think there's a lot of cases like that. There's a term for that called black swan that concerns a CEO, definitely concerns the CFO and black swan means that no CEO or C-suite wants to be … have the business under their reins when they miss the opportunity to catch on in the right time for a major disruption in the market.

Doug Morneau: Right.

James Soto: One of the things that they have to do is really place their bets and really make sure they understand those nomads where you really have to disrupt and innovate and even look within your own business to see is your business even structured to innovate? Is it going to kill it if you try to innovate? I think that the LEGO story could also be saying is it also a battle of digital attention. How are they marketing digitally to get people's attention, while they're at it because we're still human beings? The iPhone did not replace humanity and the fact that kids like to play with tools. When you start to really look at causality there, I think there may be an argument to say maybe they lost people's attention. It wasn't just the commercials on Saturday morning cartoons, which by the way aren't there so much.

Doug Morneau: They integrated, so they gave the kids a chance to build something with LEGO, take a picture of it, load it up into an online program and play with what they created digitally.

James Soto: Yeah. I think you have to do those trials and learnings and, again, for me I have no clue what happened there. But it's not all solved in an app. The LEGO experience, that's an augmentation to it, but I love geeking about the data on that. Last time I have seen, they got some really great innovation. LEGOs ain't what they used to be.

Doug Morneau: They still hurt when you step on them with your bare feet though.

James Soto: That's true.

Doug Morneau: I don't know if you got kids, but I know. I've got grandkids now so LEGOs reappeared. It's like, “Oh yeah, now I remember what that was like, walking in the middle of the night, stepping on a LEGO.”

James Soto: Just to LEGO out a little bit more, do you know that they have an architectural series and they're super complex. It's really architectural buildings and science themes. It's not just for kids anymore. Really cool, cool stuff. Again, you've got to innovate and really start to find ways to question your own model.

Doug Morneau: Absolutely, as you said, make your software before your competition does that for you.

James Soto: Yeah, that's it.

Doug Morneau: In terms of when you're dealing with somebody with strategy, I just want to digress a bit and talk about tactics, just because I'm not familiar with marketing tactics and I often hear things like, “Oh, I can't use that tactic as my audience isn't there.” In my space, where I do a lot of work with venture capital and private equity people go, “Oh, you can't advertise on Facebook because investors aren't there.” Well, surely that's not true and we've raised lots of money running Facebook ads. Are there specific tactics that you guys would use and have the conversation with your client, really going, “Well, I don't know if that's the best place to reach my client.”

James Soto: I think-

Doug Morneau: Would you be heavily invested in social, as an example?

James Soto: Oh, absolutely. I think there's no doubt. We're human beings and I think the big miff about industrial marketing is we're not on Facebook, we're not on Instagram, we're not on LinkedIn, we're not on Twitter. Those are major opportunities if you know how to leverage and as a practitioner of marketing and certainly those tactics and you have the context and the ability to deliver the right message to the right person in the right context and deliver engaging, useful and actionable content. Again, everything starts with strategy. You have to deliver value. You've got to understand the problem in the market you're solving. You have to understand the context that you deliver it. That's where we look at the practitioner's side of the tactic itself or convincing someone of a specific channel or methodology. I think that's just baked into the narrative. We have to be able to articulate that. But there is no one size fits all. It's not just that, but there's a number of different dimensions that you'll encounter, people or businesses on.

James Soto: Well, what are they set up in terms of staffing? Do they have zero resources in marketing and sales enablement or a lot of resources? What are they with their marketing technology stack, right? Do they have the tools of the trade-in sales, CRM, all of that stuff or not? Do they have the attention of the team or not? All these businesses are different places in their journey and some want some things that they do themselves that honestly, they don't need you to do. But when we look at it, it really comes down to one, we look at assessing their marketing readiness. Do we actually look at things like what is the goal? What are we positioning here? Who is the customer? Do you guys know we're also accountable? Because it's not about the tactic, it's about the result.

Doug Morneau: Sure.

James Soto: We can look at, predict what does success looks like, how are we going to measure it? The biggest thing we've actually learned is to actually put a stress test to C-suites, to executives, mid-level, you name it, marketers and sellers and we give them a … We do an assessment with them to know what is the average bookings per customer? Do you know what your lead to close rate is? Do you know the lifetime value of a customer? Do you know customer acquisition costs? Do you actually know why people do business with you? Why do you win? Why do you lose? We look at financial data, we look at brand and positioning, what are your three uniques. They can't articulate it. They don't know their customer acquisition costs. They don't know how long it takes to close a sale. Because B2B and industrial, you have a lot of longer buying cycles.

Doug Morneau: Sure.

James Soto: Basically, a lot of those questions, I don't know if you know this, lifetime value, customer acquisition costs, if you don't know some of those data you can't even calculate return on investment. They're asking you about a tactic, they're asking you to get results and they don't even have a baseline to even convince themselves ultimately to know that they've set nothing but arbitrary, subjective goals. We believe our first job is to get them ready for marketing. We do a marketing assessment for them so that they can understand what they know and don't know, what we can and cannot measure and do we need to set up that measure? Because once they have that baseline context, it gets easier for us as marketers because it's not about the most subjective, overly ambitious goal, now they're actually understanding where they're at. They have that context to know where they're going. Even if it's just the needle moving, we're not debating about what we do or if marketing is viable or not. We're debating how to do it better. We're debating, let's kill that tactic.

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By focusing on the industrial sector niche, really understanding it, we've been able to really build that empathy, knowledge and actually help them grow their businesses.

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Doug Morneau: Yeah. It doesn't work or it's not performing. Yup.

James Soto: Honestly since we've done that, we found that that's actually the number one need we've identified in the market is our first job is to get our clients ready for marketing.

Doug Morneau: That's great. I think that's absolutely great advice for anyone who's going to spend any money in marketing to say if you can't measure it don't spend money on it. What are you trying to achieve before you … like you go tactic. I was just interested in tactics because I want to back up to something you said that I made a note of that I'm going to remember and that is we're humans first.

James Soto: Yes.

Doug Morneau: Before you rule out potential tactics for your industry, whatever your industry is. That's the way I've always thought about it. We get up in the morning, we put our legs in our pants one at a time and most of us have a cup of coffee and we drive to work and listen to the radio or podcast, whatever we do. The idea that hey that tactic won't work because I'm industrial or I'm financial and you come back and say we're humans first. If we deliver value and we know what the need is, we can help them get there.

James Soto: Yeah, absolutely. You got to be brave, right? You got to experiment. Part of that's being trials and learning, fail fast. I think that's what's great about marketing. That's what's great about it. You get to run real controlled and sometimes uncontrolled experiments.

Doug Morneau: Well, I like the stress test because it's really tough to decide after you've come up with a strategy and you're launching various tactics where you would spend more or less money if you don't know what the metrics are if you're not measuring anything at all. It's just really the best guess and at the end of the day how do you justify what you're doing.

James Soto: Yeah, absolutely. To anyone who's in marketing if you can be brave and go to your C-suite, go to your CEO, go to your head of whatever, CFO and say, “What do we really know about critical metrics that will either predict the success or failure of our efforts?” And you're willing to call out the fact that maybe there isn't a commitment to the marketing function. Your values are represented and the very little amount of money that you spend in marketing. We don't have people. We don't have resources. We don't even have a CFO or CMO. We don't even have a chief marketing officer. You know you have an institutional issue. If you're brave enough to call that out and you're brave enough to say these are the things we need to know … I'm a big believer in Kaizen, which means change for the better. It's really the origin of … it's the outcrop of the continuous improvement in [inaudible 00:30:26]. It's like taking one step at a time. What's that one step you can take?

James Soto: For me, when it comes to any advice I'd give to listeners is you've got to take that one step and address really the big issues in the room. Do we believe marketing is a core distinguishing function of our business? Are we committed to making that a strength of our organization, strength over our business? We're launching a podcast property and that's the whole premise, make marketing the strength of your business. We're just going all out and calling out the fact that so many businesses aren't even structured properly for marketing. I think when I meet folks that are in companies especially and they're marketers and there's nothing really above them to support this those are those be brave moments because that's when you become the CMO one day.

Doug Morneau: That's right.

James Soto: Right. That's where you find a need. You hired me because you trusted me. I would tell you and shoot straight with you. You've asked me to have this responsibility. Even if you're just putting brochures for salespeople, be brave. Present something simple, that next … just the one step you can make. I think that is what I would hope to inspire people to do because it's a career changer, it's a life-changer if you have the right audience and there's an open mindset to it.

Doug Morneau: Yeah, I mean, obviously if you're working in an institution or organization that doesn't have that mindset, it's not open about them, it's probably not a longterm career for you anyhow.

James Soto: That's a win too. That's a win.

Doug Morneau: Right.

James Soto: It's time to move on. These guys clearly are just going to give me X number of dollars a year for marketing and not ask me anything and don't care what I do, just spend the budget. Yeah, the other piece of advice I give folks when they're in between jobs, I'm like, “What's your marketing budget?” I can't tell you how many people take a marketing job and they don't even know their budget or lack thereof and so that's also an indicator of it.

Doug Morneau: What's really got you excited this next 12 months? You've shared that you got a podcast coming up. I think you said you're going to launch it in the spring.

James Soto: Yeah.

Doug Morneau: But in your industry, what are you most excited about?

James Soto: I think what I'm interested in and really happy to see … Again, I'm a Kaizen guy. What's that one step? Where's the needle just ticking, right? I just love seeing the move beyond content to true value creation, right? Let's just produce stuff to … Let's really create engaging, useful, and contextually actionable experiences for folks, so that's the first thing. The second thing I've been really thinking about is really an area we're spending a lot of time, which is a technology that frees marketers and sellers from the work that takes no talent to do. You think about the big issue, we hear it today, that robots are going to replace us, right? I think one of the things that it's going to allow us to do is do the highly … it takes high cognitive capability to do. Freedom from repetition. You'll see that in manufacturing if you're in Willy Wonka's factory screwing on caps on toothpaste on something. That's just mind-numbing, soul-stealing work. We're seeing technologies on the horizon that are outperforming humans on writing subject matter lines. That's the most important thing in an email.

James Soto: There are technologies that can really predictively and prescriptively provide the right info at the right time. Machine learning, natural language processing has really evolved where there are actually quickly AIs gaining parity. There are some indices that look at even copywriting for ad copy. When you look at the aspects of ads and multiple groups of ads you're creating and the AB Testing failing and which ones click-through or not, AI is starting to show promise and it's going to do it better than humans. But not the strategic framework, let's say, of the Google campaign that you're building and your AdWords. When I talk tactically, I want to really look at it in the context of performance optimization. I look at it from the view of how does it make our life better as marketers. I think AI should do that work that it can do better for us marketers. Value creation, context, freedom to focus on humanity side of it is where our strengths are and that's what excites me.

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Doug Morneau: Yeah, I'm kind of geeky that way. I love the new tech stuff and I've been trying some AI stuff for the subject lines of my own newsletter. I licensed a tool that uses a database. When I'll create six or seven or eight subject lines it'll rate them all according to the data that it's got. It'll say, “Hey, we looked at 25,000 similar emails that use this and we think you're at par, below, or above for delivery, opens and clicks.”

James Soto: Yeah. I think if you're going to pull the trigger and start to change you've got to be willing to experiment. Being first and early adopters, we tend to go to shiny objects. I think one of the things that we're seeing from some of the places we've been learning and adapting is that you've got to experiment and fail fast. Specifically, AI is still at that space where you need to do small experiments and that's what the experts tell you. I think that one of the things that you've got to do that if you really want to make changes you've got to learn before you act. Sometimes you got to know those moments. You just go to like, okay, figure it out, right? Understand where you are, but generally speaking on the news, try to learn as much before you act. There's a great conference. It's the Marketing Artificial Intelligence Conference MAICON. It happens in Cleveland every year now and I think they have their first one and they're doing it again this year. That's where it's bringing together communities. That's going to be a massive conference pretty soon.

James Soto: We're at one of those states that if you're excited about marketing, you're excited about how I think AI can help us do things better and free humanity, that's my point of view. Definitely check out MAICON. That learning aspect of it, I think there's a great opportunity right now for you.

Doug Morneau: That's a great tip. I've had a few guests on my podcast that have developed brand-new CRM systems that rely on AI and starting to understand conversations and processes from the salesperson side and conversations from the prospect side to help you look at the data and make some decisions on where people are at. As you said, it's early days. I'm not trusting computers are going to do everything as you said, but use them where you can.

James Soto: Yeah. I think it's an adoption curve, right? You want to do things not only the bleeding edge so much, but you certainly don't want to be much past the leading edge to what is the standard and what's comfortable now. That's leading-edge, bleeding edge and the status quo. I think that goes back to that make your way of doing business, living life, obsolete before blah, blah, blah, blah, blah. I think that's what has me looking ahead, but that also competitively what has me looking over my shoulder.

Doug Morneau: Fair enough. I've got a question that I didn't share with you earlier, but it's a Tim Ferriss question and that is what's some of the bad advice that you hear in your industry? You're an agency, but you're a niche agency. Is there anything you can share with the listeners in terms of advice that you hear out there that they shouldn't be ignoring?

James Soto: Gosh. I don't take stock in a lot of things that … maybe I just try to forget. There's nothing wrong with [inaudible 00:38:59]. There's the stuff that I hear that just grates me. It's like, “Serious, you guys? It's bad advice for your clients, I should slap you for doing that.” But I just can't go there right now. I don't know what it is. There's probably something that I'm going to regret not saying, but-

Doug Morneau: No worries.

James Soto: I'll be honest-

Doug Morneau: Send me a note later when you have it.

James Soto: I have no … It's like Mr. T in the Rocky movie. He's like, “I don't get no time for pain.” Do you know what I mean? Maybe there's where we're going with that one.

Doug Morneau: No worries. Well, in terms of podcasts, I mean, you guys are launching a podcast. The bad advice that I hear is that these guys doing blanket pitches. I got a pitch the other day for somebody that works with financial planners. I'm not a financial planner. I had pitched for realtors. Yeah, it's not the … the broadcast stuff's not working. Onto an easier question then. Who's one guest I absolutely have to have on my podcast?

James Soto: Well, I think Paul Roesner with MAICON would be great if you're interested in AI. I'm a big fan of Simon Sinek, obviously, the why is always good. We always think everybody's heard the why and-

Doug Morneau: Yeah, I've heard him speak at a conference a couple of years ago. It was amazing.

James Soto: Yeah, he's amazing and it's one of the things that we take for granted some of the best content that's out there and not realizing that people are at different phases in their career and journeys. We always need to reintroduce the things that are universally just solid in terms of content like that.

Doug Morneau: Now the easiest question and most important question of the day is how can people reach you and learn a bit more about you, your company and what you guys are doing if they want some help?

James Soto: I want to congratulate anyone that's made it this far with me on the line. My name again is James Soto. You can reach me on LinkedIn, S-O-T-O, and obviously my company website industrialstrengthmarketing.com. That's where you can look me up and connect.

Doug Morneau: He's got his handsome looking face on his Twitter account as well, so if you go to James Soto you can see him-

James Soto: Thinner too actually.

Doug Morneau: You can see him there. Well, it depends on the month, right?

James Soto: Yeah.

Doug Morneau: I live that too. Well, super good. Hey, I really appreciate you taking time out of your day today in sharing. I think you left some really solid advice that is good regardless of where people are in their marketing journey that if they heed that, that's a great baseline and a great place to start before they go any further.

James Soto: Yeah, definitely.

Doug Morneau: Well, thanks again, James.

James Soto: Oh, I appreciate it. Thank you, Doug.

Doug Morneau: Thanks listeners for tuning in. I hope you enjoyed this episode. I know there's a ton of information, I've got a half a page of notes here and some followup. I think we are human will be stuck in my mind for a long time as I'm looking at tactics and strategy working with clients. If you liked this episode or you've got some comments or feedback, don't be shy to share it and we'll make sure the show notes are transcribed so you can track down James and you can track down his company [We Are 00:41:59] Industrial and get to know him and a little bit more about what they're doing if they can serve your company. Thanks for tuning in. I look forward to serving you in our next episode.

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