In today’s world, the impact of social networking is undeniable not only to how people communicate but to businesses as well. It has become the forefront of this new wave of marketing that helps people get their voice and brand out there. Talking about social selling and influencer marketing is CEO of Forward Progress and creator of Social Jack, Dean DeLisle. Dean gives insights about the value accelerators world while sharing his processes when meeting companies. He also distinguishes between client acquisition and branding, ultimately putting forward the importance of humanizing the brand.
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Dean DeLisle Social Selling And Influencer Marketing SVA: Creating The Path To Higher Valuation with CEO/Partner Sean Hutchinson
Our goal is to humanize the brand. In today’s world of business, it’s crazy how everything became about the brand and the logo. Our mission is to make sure that each and every brand has the human aspect to it, so we always say we’re all about the people. We love bringing the people out of the brand and to the forefront and helping them have an amazing digital presence, reputation, build credibility and become the thought leaders that they already are. Externalizing that to the world is our mission.
We’re doing a deep dive continuation of the SVA Value Accelerators podcast: Creating the Path to Higher Valuation with Sean Hutchinson. Our guest is Dean DeLisle. He’s the lead advisor for sales and marketing acceleration, specifically social selling and influencer marketing. He’s the Founder and CEO of Forward Progress, a digital marketing company based in Chicago. He’s also the Creator of Social Jack, a business influencer development platform. They’ve served over 120,000 professionals in over 30 countries. Dean, thanks for taking the time and welcome.
Thanks for having me.
Where do you fit in with the value accelerators world?
Like we all know, some people see sales and marketing depending on the size of the business, type of business, where your market is, who your customer is as either something that’s necessary or unnecessary evil. We try to take the evil out unnecessary when it comes to sales and marketing. We come in in that part when they’re building value within an organization. One of the biggest assets are the customers that are around that business, the context, the network that surrounds that business. In today’s world, a huge part of that is social networks. It’s something that you and I and a lot of the audience haven’t grown up with, but now we’ve adapted to the fact that it’s something that we have to pay attention to. We could spend three or four podcasts on the evolution of marketing. The real fact is that many businesses still don’t understand what they need to do, how to measure what the choices are between traditional marketing, marketing fundamentals and digital marketing.
Not only is it hard to understand, but it’s also a changing landscape. You mentioned our Social Jack platform and we’re constantly dedicated to having our team of coaches literally scour the internet and determine of all the things that are updated. We gauge that about every twelve seconds there’s a new release, a new update, a change, new mobile app, something that hits the marketplace. It’s our job to sift through that and say here we have the mission of driving business value by making this company known in the marketplace by growing a community and a following around this business. Digital is a big piece. What are the best things to do? What are the best tools to use? We take traditional best marketing practices that have been around for decades. I’ve been doing this for over 35 years. As we look at how communication, computers and evolution has changed, it’s funny how now things are changing so fast, but the fundamentals still apply. We help break that down so a business owner, senior executive, understands the most important things to know, understand and manage and that increase the value of their business.
I’m your prototypical business owner and I struggled with the idea between getting a return on investment for my advertising versus branding. When you get involved with the company, what happens after you walk through the front door with the business?
Some people see sales and marketing depending on the size and type of the business, where your market is, and who your customers are.
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I come from the management consulting space, started at Merrill Lynch and then went into an accounting firm. By default, I was the smartest one related to technology, so I became the management advisory services department. That was before those existed and before management consulting existed in its true form. I’m used to doing a discovery analysis. Think back to when you would talk about doing a marketing plan. Some management consulting group would probably charge $35,000 to $50,000. You’d get a book about the size of the Webster’s dictionary and then expect to somehow execute that on behalf of your business. I get frustrated. I did a few of those and I said, “This is hooey.” I’ve never seen anybody execute off of these monster plans, let alone when you have a business plan and now you have this marketing plan that’s growing arms and legs because of all the options.
I came up with a system called the Rapid Launch Plan and then I do a rapid intake and I took all the components that we need to know and discover. Our first piece, which you’re used to because you do business valuations and things like that, you do an intake. You need to know the current status so that you can then tie it to the ideal state, which is why we find out what the business goals are, what revenue areas are they’re trying to achieve, then we map the pathways from that current state to the ideal state. The first thing we do is what’s called an ideal state action plan. We do an intake, we determine what’s so, what’s real, what do they know, what do they believe. We even get down to the behavior part because I’ve studied psychology. The idea is what is the behavior of the company?
I could come in and I could see all day that you could double the size of your business with social media. If you don’t believe it or you don’t have a growth mindset or an open mindset, it’s never going to happen. I’ve been through too many things where I feel like my head is going to start bleeding because I keep beating my head against the wall. I have people who hire us because they believe in what I’m saying and what we’re doing and the minute I come inside the walls, they don’t understand. We do a behavioral intake. We do a company situational analysis intake. We want to know what the goals are of the company and then we determine the reality of what is the budget, what are their costs of sales, what did they know and what do we have to bridge to make things happen. That first part is always a discovery.
The acceleration of the value process and you think about coming in and you do the intake of information and then you come back with an action plan of some description. Presumably, some part of that talks about brand recognition. Some part of that talks about client acquisition. I’m not sure they’re that separate but they’re probably not identical. When you’re talking to a business owner and you’re talking about the difference between a marketing plan to drive customers through the door and/or branding, what type of things do you have as a distinction between client acquisition and branding, if any?
Those things crossover now. I was at a banking client before this and we were talking about how they are going to measure success. They said, “We want our brand to be better known.” We’re going through this exercise and then we’re trying to tie it back to commercial lending and deposits and things like that. In today’s world of digital, it’s so much easier for us to do a little bit of both. We need to understand what’s important because it might be a very well-established brand, it just may not have the transactional data to help the company grow or to increase the value of the company or maybe they’ve lost market share. That’s why that intake is so important. Once we understand what that is, we always balance. We never look at advertising or any type of digital work without making sure we’re increasing brand value. We have some folks who want to just increase brand value. They have a great transactional sales system and they just want better brand recognition and credibility. That’s where social media has taken us so far so fast is that we can accomplish that.
I mentioned about humanizing the brand. Humanizing the brand has probably been one of the biggest movements in the last years in the industry, although some haven’t heard about it. It started at the Fortune 500’s. We have big monster clients like GE, Nationwide, American Family Insurance and other big companies so we get to see what they’re doing. The cool thing is we can bring economies of scale to a smaller midsize business by saying, “We can easily pull this off with a mid market company or a smaller company. How can this apply in scale?” Once we see the people who have big checkbooks making things work, sometimes it will drive me crazy. I’ll be inside of a large $20 billion company. I was training them. They’re in 100 countries and are doing well. Their brand is solid in the industry, but they’re just now at the infancy stages of humanizing the brand. I was working with Microsoft and their whole initiatives were taking engineers from the back room and bringing them to the forefront. One of my best friends is the head storyteller at Microsoft. Would you ever think that would be a position within a Fortune 500 company? Chief storytelling officer. That is somebody that helps the people in the brand tell the story.
You have this whole component where you’re constantly updating the brand and helping with those transitions. You determine based on what the outcome is, the desired outcome, where the focus is. What’s interesting about this is you mentioned advertising and branding, but you didn’t have sales in there. You mentioned it, you hinted at it, but one of the biggest things is the fact that you use the term as you were describing some of what we do as social selling, which is nothing different than building a relationship with your audience. We’ve been doing social selling without social media for centuries. You and I come from the land of building our networks. It’s all about your Rolodex and it’s all about who you know and that whole thing. What we do is we help weave these things together and make it so that it’s achievable and it’s measurable because you mentioned the ROI. We have ROI calculators and we button it down to the amount of time that your team spends on the internet on social media. We have an ROI calculator that shows you what the net outcome should be and measures the outcome to that.
It's funny how things now are changing so fast but yet the fundamentals still apply.
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I think about what you’re talking about from the buyer’s perspective. At some point, the business owner will transition the business. Many companies have a website that looks like an online brochure. That’s about how well it functions. From a buyer’s perspective, when you’re working inside of a company, what’s the reaction of the buyer or maybe the typical approach to brand recognition in social media versus their reaction to what you bring to the table? Does it flow to the bottom line? What do you see on multiple expansion for the potential buyer?
There has to be continuity. You can’t be a slick-looking and sounding machine in social media and then drive them back to a half-painted brick wall. It just doesn’t bode well. Things have to flow. We tell people that whatever is happening at the point of customer acquisition, whether it’s a LinkedIn post or it’s a digital ad or something they click on, it’s the start of a conversation. This whole world, this digital marketing thing is all advertising and marketing. Even if you’re reading an ad, it’s the start of a conversation. When you set an expectation up front and you don’t continue the conversation or the feel on the website, people have a very short attention span in today’s world because of all the digital disruption that we’re in. You may already know this, but the average internet user has an attention span of seven to eight seconds. The idea here is that we don’t have the luxury of doing the full page back of the paper and leaning on that one thing or being in that place in the phone book like we used to do.
We have to be consistent, present, accurate and conversational. That’s why you’ll hear a lot of us focusing on storytelling. Whether it’s about the team or humanizing the brand and telling that story or it’s the brand and the product line that we’re trying to sell, telling that story to that customer at the point of contact. It’s important that we continue the story and don’t make them feel like we’ve led them to the wrong place or made them feel like, “Look at this cool ad with this video. We’ve done this great video and spend all this money on cool video ads,” and when they come to the website it looks like, “Where are all the videos that I was looking at? It looks like it needs a paint job. It’s old and stodgy.” That’s why when we do our analysis, we take it all the way down to the front part of the website and we go under the hood and find all the broken pieces then make some determination of, “Should we be doing some marketing? Should we focus on this or do we have pieces that we need to fix first before we put all of this out of there?” It was a lot to think about around some of this.
The typical timeframe for transition efforts is two, three, four-year timeframe. If you’re brought into the process earlier and you’ve done your due diligence and done your ask and understand where they are, what’s the typical timeframe for you to go through, address the issues and start being able to measure an outcome?
All of our programs,are sprint designs, I mentioned Rapid Launch Plan. Start to finish, from intake to launch is typically 90 days maximum. There’s a launch point and then there’s the point of impact where we’re now running out there and we’ve now changed and added value to the brand, which a lot of times is a one-year piece that we do. There are a lot of times that we could make an impact upfront depending on what we’re starting with and what we’re going to, but realistically that 90 days gets the launch point and then we’re adjusting, shifting and measuring to make sure we get to that. We define that as part of the Rapid Launch Plan. When we’re brought in, we’ll be like, “Our trajectory to increase value in the marketplace, build community and network and increase your multiples by one to two times.” That impact is going to take X number of months or could take a year and a half depending on where we’re trying to get to.
How do people find you on social media if they want to reach out to you?
If you type in my name, Dean DeLisle, or you type in Social Jack, you’ll definitely find our Business Influencer Development Platform and Programs. If you type in Forward Progress, you will find our Influencer Marketing Company. Previously, I owned a company that I was selling that felt stuck and the CFO would be overwhelmed and say, “I don’t know where to go.” Then I would come in straight from listening to more football because I’m a football fanatic and I go, “All I want you to do is move a few inches, make some forward progress.” When we transitioned that company, he goes, “You should call your next company Forward Progress.” Our digital influencer marketing agency is called Forward Progress because sometimes depending on what you start with it is a game of inches to get it moving. Once you get it moving, you can gain some momentum.
For the business owner in the audience, what would be the ideal client that would bring value accelerators onboard and you onboard? What would the ideal client look like?
The leadership in a small to a mid market company, but the most important thing is the mindset. You need to have a growth mindset or what we call a beginner’s mindset. A lot of times we’re coming into engagements and expectations and you know this in the exit planning space of, “I should get 10x for this company because my buddy got 10x for this company or my company should be valued at this because of this.” As humans we come in with judgments and perceptions and sometimes knowing too much or being stuck in our box. What’s important for people to hear is, “Throw out the trash, come in with a clean mindset.” If you have somebody that has an open mindset, they’re open to whatever it takes to grow. They’re on a mission. That’s who we want to work with. I don’t want to say budget doesn’t matter, but I would rather have a growth mindset business owner and leadership team that is ready to do whatever it takes, roll up the sleeves and make it happen than people who are stuck on a hamster wheel of doing things the same way.
The first part is always a discovery.
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Thinking about the business owner and then you’ve got a potential acquisition group and the acquisition group goes, “I’m looking at a business that I can buy and bolt on.” Everything’s written down, all the standards, procedures, policies and so on. When you guys engage in a company to design their branding and their marketing, what types of things do you put in place where an acquiring company can step in and go, “The marketing plan is existing and it’s running well and so on?” What should that acquiring company see?
They should see our Rapid Launch Plan, which is a multipage living document that defines the brand, the inventory of digital assets, the new definition of assets. One of the biggest assets is data in today’s world. We make sure that data is at the forefront, so they should see a great inventory of data. Then making sure that they see a plan that isn’t just something that happened, but something that continues to happen to cause that company to continue to grow. They’re not just buying into the trajectory that’s happened, but they’re buying into what’s next. They should see that. They should enjoy that and love that and both sides should enjoy that part of the transaction.
I am sure there is a multitude of things that I have failed to ask you that you typically get asked when you first step into a business or any of those that are on your mind that I should have asked you about.
There are a lot of companies that are traditional. What I mean by that is I had the pleasure of growing up when computers were becoming affordable for small and medium-size businesses. When I was going in and transitioning people off of mainframes and they were going to peer-to-peer networks, or introducing the new world of computers and automation, I learned a lot. I was first in the graduating class of Novell Network Engineers. That was my opportunity and all of a sudden, I’d be working at a bank, at a law firm, then I was in manufacturing, then I was in distribution. One of the things I can remember is a CEO. I believe it might have been ITW, which was a Chicago at the time. I was working with several companies. He goes, “Our problem is we need to stop thinking like a manufacturing company.” I go, “That is a profound statement.” When somebody asks, “Have you ever worked with this type of company before?” odds are I probably have because I have a short attention span and I love seeing how businesses work.
I’ve had the blessing of that and sometimes the curse. The thing is I’ll walk in and I’ll go, “Maybe you need to stop operating. Maybe you need to stop acting like a distribution company or acting as a construction company and you need to think a little differently and outside the box.” That’s where you start breaking down the things that are a balance between the company being great and effective at being that they are but evolving into the business that they should be or could be.
It’s interesting to think about the online sociology involved with what you’re doing in human behavior. We’re already hardwired for stories anyways and that’s how knowledge was passed until some time ago. I appreciate you taking the time to do this deep dive on what you bring to the table with SVA Value Accelerators. I look forward to maybe reconvening again. I sure appreciate your time.
Thank you so much.
About Dean DeLisle
For over 30 years, Dean has demonstrated his ability to accelerate companies, stimulate business development and make operations more efficient. At Forward Progress, Dean leads his core team to provide integrated marketing solutions using a proven coaching and consulting methodology in driving business growth. Under his leadership Forward Progress has helped over 4,000 clients connect with over 25 million leads and close over a billion dollars in sales by helping make the connections that count. Dean’s team has also trained and coached over 85,000 professionals. Dean provides integrated marketing solutions using a proven coaching and consulting methodology in driving business growth. Committed to delivering both “Lowest Cost per Lead” and “Converting Leads to Sales,” Dean and his team are considered the trailblazers in the optimization of social networking.
As an experienced CEO and business owner, Dean coaches senior executives in publicly and privately held companies, using his proprietary Power Plan System to identify the appropriate strategy, map out a clear direction, structure the team, and execute the plan within an aggressive timeframe. Dean has many milestone projects to attribute to his success, with innovations that grew from his projects still being widely used by companies. As the chief architect on a call center marketing project for Sears, labeled the Call-to-Activate program, Dean spearheaded the revolutionary idea where credit cards were mailed and consumers were required to call in to activate their card. Once they called in, customers were presented with an opportunity to buy a variety of insurance products offered by Sears, Discover, and AllState. Dean and his team were responsible for the technology, data routing, call handling, script, training, and hiring along with conversion of calls to insurance purchases. This was a successful project that ran for over 4 years and Dean and the team saw this grow from a pilot call center of one hundred people to over 4,000 team members with multiple locations and is still used throughout the credit card industry today.
In 2000, Dean launched a very successful online B2B university, LearnUniversity.com, where he raised private equity to launch the school. The valuation drove to over 100 million dollars, securing contracts with the companies Computer Associates and Baxter Laboratories.