Martin Jones, Sr. Marketing Manager @ Cox Communication
Ascent Conference 2019
[00:00:06] So Martin Jones, I work for Cox Communications, where I manage the content and social media strategy nationally for our company, and I’ve also been an entrepreneur in the past most of my life. So I’ve owned a tanning salon. I owned a dance studio for a while. I also owned a vacuum cleaner shop and the best business I ever had. My wife, who is here somewhere, I don’t see where she went. I’m looking for here somewhere. We started a coffee shop together with a with 500 dollars. This was our best business for the last business we had together. But there’s our best one. We started with five hundred dollars and this is before Starbucks was big and huge. Starbucks had like 12 locations at the time, but we took that five hundred dollars and turned it into three locations in two states and 30 employees and a full roasting facility and all. It was a lot of fun, but in each one of those start ups and all the different start ups that I’ve been involved in and I’ve worked in, I’ve had a lot of failures and I’ve had a lot of successes both. But I’ve always tried to learn from each one. And one of the things that I learned I carried with me throughout each one of those is I always found that if I marketed myself, if I focus on relationships, that everything else take care of itself, the budgets, the funding, all those type of things to care if I really focus on the relationships. And that’s what I’ve continued to do. So I moved on into social media and social media, came along working with Cox a little bit about myself now. And that area is I have close to half a million followers now online on various social media channels. And we’ll talk about that a little bit. I’ve been featured enforcement articles in Forbes and Ink and entrepreneur New York Times, a couple of other places. And so it’s been it’s been a lot of fun. I’ve really enjoyed it. I’ve learned a lot. I’m not sure some of the things with you today. So the first question you might have is, why do I need a personal brand? Well, the first thing is we all have a personal brand. I have a personal brand. You have a personal brand. Everyone has one. Whether you structured it and you’ve built it and you’ve nurtured it, that’s up to you and then will be planned. It’ll be thought out and will be well structured online. But you also have a personal brand, even if you haven’t planned it out, you have a personal brand. And I’m talking about outside of your local circle, your local community, that small social that social circle that you have locally. What is your personal brand outside of that? When people go online and they look for you, what do they see? They’re either going to see something structured and that you’ve built or they’re going to see something maybe, you know, pictures on Instagram from when you were in college. Maybe they’re going to see some tweets from when you were 16 years old. They might see some tick tock videos. That’ll be interesting, but that’s going to be your personal brand. And you have to ask yourself today, when you think about this is what is my personal brand right now and in my personal brand today online, is it exactly what I want it to be? Does it represent me? Is it accurate? Is it reflective of who I want to be? Now, if you have a startup and you’re here and you’re talking different people throughout the day and maybe you’re talking to investors and you’re talking about your business and you might have talked to them this morning, and if they’re out there in the lobby right now with your laptop opened up, they’re probably looking you up online and on Google to find a little bit more about you. And you have to ask yourself, what are they going to find? There’s 400000 startups that launched the United States every single year, that’s over a thousand startups a day, every single day. It’s a very competitive space and all of those startups have one thing in common, each one of them. And that’s what they’re competing for, the same thing. They’re competing for attention and they’re competing for attention from investors. They’re competing for attention from the media, from consumers, from all types of different places. And there’s that’s the one thing they have all in common. But there’s also one thing that they have this not in common that differentiates differentiate themselves from each other. And that one item is the people behind the business, the founder or the founding partners of that business. And investors will tell you a good business and a good investment or two completely different things, it always comes down to the people behind the business. And so essentially, you have to ask yourself when you’re when you’re looking at that. What’s the difference between those and how do people differentiate themselves? What’s essential is that investors and media and consumers are all going to be doing one thing when they’re evaluating your business. They’re also going to be evaluating you on a personal level, on a personal basis. And you’re not always going to be in front of them. It’s not going to be a pitch of where you’re always going to be able to answer their questions. A lot of the times it’s going to be them going online and trying to find out information about you right then in their. So what do you bring to the table, are you when when they look you up online, do they find you to be somebody you might be easy to work with? Do they think it’s going to be somebody they’re going to have to handhold and babysit as they work with you? Are you a thought leader? Are you well thought of in your industry? Are you influential? Are you able to take your vision and your message and inspire other people that and bring them along to your journey? These are all questions that are going to be going through people’s minds, through investors minds. You’ve got to answer by building a strong personal brand. What not to bring to the table is sameness. You don’t want to be the same as everyone else in your nature, in your industry, if you do that, why should someone invest in you over the other 99 people that are also doing the same thing that you’re doing? I work with a lot of different sports athletes, with entertainers, with celebrities, with published authors, and one of the first things I tell them, I’m working with them and helping them to build their personal brand. We’re talking about restructuring their personal brand is the rule of one and the rule of one is this. They may know what the real one is. Anybody familiar with that? OK, good. The rule of one is this is it only takes one person to change your life. It only takes one person to change the course and the destiny of your startup in your business. It only takes one comment from one person to influence hundreds of possibly thousands of people and tell them as you’re building your personal brand out, as you’re creating thought leadership, always have that in the back of your mind that you’re speaking to that one person, that the message is for them, that you want to add value, that you want to differentiate yourself, that you want to provide somehow figure out how can you do something and or add value within the context of their life.
[00:05:46] Now, I want to talk a little bit about the importance of marketing yourself. Social media has leveled the playing field. When you look at social media, anybody now has the ability to connect with, to talk to, to reach and to build relationships with anybody else online. But the thing that you have to remember is this is people want and these people want to connect with people. They don’t want to connect with brands. But you have to do it right if you want to connect with these people. You have to, again, add value to them. You have to be interesting to them. So you have to figure out what are their pain points, what are their challenges, what are the things that you can talk about that you can address, that you can solve for them? That makes you interesting. How can you add value to them? And by adding value, they’re going to look at a lot of different things. They’re going to look at you’re following and say, well, maybe they want maybe they want to follow you. Maybe they want to connect with you, because if you’re following and the people that you’re engaged with, maybe they see a picture of you online with other people that they know and with other influencers within a specific niche they’re focused on. Maybe it’s the content. Maybe you look at things a different way, maybe you’re contrarian or something to different news topics and things of that nature. But you have to figure out what it is. It’s going to interest the people that you want to talk to. Now, for investors, the one thing that I found a great way to capture their attention, the best way to capture their attention are also from the media, too, is to own your niche. Now, if you are in a in an industry or Internet, you say, well, it’s really, really brought my niche is huge is technology. How do I become the person that dominates or own that niche? Well, that’s going to be very difficult. But what you can do is you can look at the sub niche inside that find a segment of that niche that you can attack, that you can own, that you can be the thought leader behind, and then you can slowly chip away and work your way up the ladder up to that that that bigger niche and own that. And that’s going to be important for you. There’s competition in every single niche and every single industry these days. So within the work that I do right now, I write my my writers produce content and they produce media for 10 different verticals. And I won’t tell you all of them. But so a couple of startups, small business, we have education, hospitality and health care and a few others. In every single one of those niches, in every single one of those industries, there’s competition and there’s influencers and people that have risen to the top and the people there recognized throughout those industries. A couple months ago, as with the women’s health care conference, if you’re familiar with that, 30 to 40 thousand health care professionals and they had 20 of their top influencers there. And I got a chance to meet with them and spend time with them. And as we walk through the different halls in different parts of the convention center, people will actually start following them around and wanting to get their pictures taken with them. With these 20 people, they were thought of as the thought leaders, as the innovators, as the people in health care, that if something new change or something came along, they were the ones they were going to look to, to talk about it and look for their ideas and their perspective on these things. And that’s within every industry that I’ve seen in every conference I’ve gone to. There’s these people that have managed to rise up and become the people that dominate those industries and dominate those niches. And how do they do it? Well, one, first of all, they become thought leaders within that niche and then they get really, really good at promoting themselves. And even in the health care field, a lot of times these people aren’t doctors or medical professionals or nurses. There are people that just have a really strong industry interest in that industry and promote it and promote themselves. I think even the last person, the last person mentioned this also discoverability is essential at some point in time, whether it’s media, whether it’s consumers or whether it’s an investor, they’re going to Google your name. If you have a company, if you have a startup company, they’re going to Google you and they’re going to look for you. Now, a couple of things can happen there, and I’ve seen it happen a number of times is the first thing that happens is they don’t find you at all. They put your name into Google and nothing comes up their search and they search. They search again. They search on LinkedIn and elsewhere and nothing comes up for you that raises a red flag. The second thing that happens is they put your name in and your LinkedIn page comes up and it shows the company that you worked for five, six, seven years ago and it hasn’t been updated since. Again, another red flag and you’ll be surprised at how often that happens. We do an event called To Get Started, and it’s a sort of pitch competition that we do across the country. We’re doing it for the last couple of years. We’ve probably done 70 of them, 80 of them across the country. I’ve seen probably three to 400 people. I’ve met the judges and judges and talk to them. And it’s interesting because more often than not, I actually see the judges a lot of times back behind stage. They’re getting ready to go out and they’re looking the people up online while they’re back behind the stage. They want to find out about them before they hear them. They hear the pitch and you always hear, well, I couldn’t even find that guy, couldn’t even find him. I looked. Well, would you look, I didn’t I looked all over. There’s nothing about him. There’s nothing about his startup there or her startup. You have to be discoverable if you want to succeed with a strong personal brand. And you have to make it easy for people to find you, for media to find you. The other thing is discoverability also brings opportunities to you. You have to be the face of your brand, and it’s important to embrace that now, a lot of people say I don’t want to be the face of my brand. I just want to focus on my startup. I want to grow my business. Unfortunately, these days with social media and how things have evolved, if you running a startup, you have to be the face of your brand. Now, why don’t people want to do that? Well, one, there’s a lot of fears. There’s a fear of rejection. There’s a fear of what if things fail? What if I don’t succeed? What if people don’t accept me? I don’t want to speak in front of people. There’s all types of fears and marketing yourself and marketing you as hard. It’s not an easy thing to do because you really have to evaluate yourself and look at yourself and say, well, you know what makes me interesting? What makes me engaging? What makes me actually a marketable product? And that’s not an easy thing to figure out. That takes some time and that takes some self reflection to do. But it’s important to do. We still say, well, I I’d rather focus on my startup. Well, that is focusing on your startup, because as we said earlier, everyone’s evaluating you in much the same way that they’re evaluating your business. You’re a part of that and you can’t separate yourself. So working with the people that I’ve had the opportunity to work with, the different celebrities and sports and athletes and such, I’m always amazed here. Some people I’ve heard from people who are pretty, pretty well known, and I’m always amazed in talking to them. And how many of them these people that you see on TV that you see interview that you see in magazines that are pretty famous, pretty well known, who are introverts and don’t like being in front of people and don’t like talking about themselves. It’s amazing to me, and it’s a it’s a large number of them, but they’ve all learned to overcome that understanding, that part of their business, part of being successful is their visibility and maintaining relevancy in in the eye of the public. And so they learn to overcome that. And each of them has a strategy for doing so. And that strategy brings confidence to them. So it’s important to have a strategy where where you can overcome these things, where you can learn to market yourself and be successful at it. The benefits of a strong personal brand. No one, like we said just a moment ago. It opens up doors. It brings opportunities to you. How does it bring those opportunities if you’re discoverable and people find you if you’re the leader, if you’re the one that dominates your niche, the media will find you. Investors will find you. If you don’t if you don’t build a strong personal brand and you’re not the one that dominates your niche and you’re not doing that and pursuing that in marketing, you promote yourself. Trust me, your competition is and that’s who they’ll find. And so you’re leaving opportunities on the table. You’re missing opportunities simply by not marketing yourself and building your personal brand.
[00:12:56] You want to turn things around, you want to change the paradigm, you want to become the hunted instead of the hunter, you want people to be looking for you. If you’re spending your time, you are going to pitch competitions. If you’re spending your time going through LinkedIn and trying to make connections with people, you can spend a lot of time doing that.
[00:13:10] But if you dominate your niche, if you own it, if you become a strong personal brand, that’s which is that I have an opportunity to get started as a talk to a lot of investors and a lot of the investors actually find the people that they’re investing in themselves. They’re listening to podcasts or watching webcast. They’re are checking news. They’re reading going on the forums. They’re going on to blogs or reading, and they’re finding the people and the businesses that they’re investing in. But again, if you have not invested the time to promote yourself, to build a personal brand, they’re not going to find you. And owning that personal space, owning that space built across, try to cross trust and authority and credibility. And those are all things that you want to build early on in a relationship, in anything you’re doing with your startup. The most important aspect of having a strong personal brand is this is it becomes your greatest asset. I’ll give you a little history about myself. When I first got involved in online digital media, I was a homeland security blogger. I did a lot of blogging on behalf of Homeland Security and the Homeland Security Bloggers Roundtable. Hard to figure out how you go from Homeland Security to marketing. I’m not really sure, but it happened. As I moved over to the marketing side of residential in the cable industry, I got involved in social media. So I started doing tweet ups and I did tweet ups for UFC when they were first starting out and did some things with WWE and Showtime boxing and HBO boxing. And I was in all these different events doing that. But the first group of followers I had when I got involved in social media and I got involved in building a personal brand where all these people that were news reporters and homeland security people and government people. And so I was talking about those kind of things, but I was also talking about building relationships and things that I’m talking about now. But then I moved out of the residential side of cable, started doing all these entertainment type things and doing that. We did the first I just ignore the the very first Country Music Awards. We did the first red carpet live red carpet walk in interview with the country Western stars, country music stars there. But doing those things all of a sudden, I have all these entertainers and different people, and that’s how my network that I’m involved in. Well, I love the residential side of the business jumped over to the VIP side. And now I’m focused on telecom and on on telecom, for business and health care and hospitality and those type of things. And I’ve got this other group. Well, you know what? I still got the same people. Those two are still from Homeland Security and from the entertainment side. They still follow me. I’m still connected to them because I don’t just talk about those type of things. I talk about personal things and I try to engage with them and I build relationships with these folks. So you’re following we’ll continue to follow you. If you’re not building a personal brand, if your personal brand is all tied up around your startup, what happens if you sell your startup? What happens if your startup fails? Then you’ve got to start all over again building a reputation because that goes away with it. If you build a personal brand, that’s something you can continue to grow and you’ll continue to go with. You even know the guy, the singer, the rap, the rapper, Little Nas, or you guys familiar with his story? Who’s familiar with him? Anybody familiar with him? You know, his story. He started out a couple of years ago. He was going to school. He was sleeping on his sister’s couch and he got interested in social media and he wanted to find out what makes things go viral. And so we started spending eight to ten hours a day online trying to figure that out. And he started out with comedy and he was doing comedy routines and things online and building up on YouTube and such and on Twitter and elsewhere.
[00:16:20] And he built that up, but eventually he kind of plateaued out. So he switched and he started building fan sites for people like Khateeb and another and other musicians and started and it continued to grow. And he got more and more followers. Once you did that, then you started working on Meems and building Meems and trying to figure out, OK, if I’ve got this big following, how do I create some kind of content that goes viral? So you create these meetings and try these different things to do that. And he finally figured that out and he put it all together. And he came out with a song at the beginning of this year, used his following and what he knew about creating viral content and put that out became the best selling song of the year so far in one year. It’s amazing what he’s done. But so what I’m trying to tell you with that point is that that that asset, the asset of followers, enough community will go with you wherever you go. So one of the things I do also do it, Kocsis, I manage their employee advocacy program, and so those are all employees who want to build their personal brand, who want to become known locally, who want to grow their reach and things of that nature and also advocate on behalf of the company. So what we’ve done is we’ve worked for the last year and really teaching them how to do this. I’m going to take those 11 months actually of training and try to boil that down to five points in five minutes. So this is interesting, but we will be down to five key steps that we work with them on to say if you want to build your market, if you want to build your thought leadership and your marketability and your personal brand, here’s how we’re going to do it. Number one is you need to be able to define your audience. Who is your who is your audience? Who is you want to know? Who do you want to speak to? The biggest mistake that most people make is they go very broad.
[00:17:51] They treat their personal branding and marketing their personal brand like a banner ad. I’ll put it up out there everywhere. And whoever happens to fall into the net, that’s my audience. But these days with that and all the information that you can gather, you can get pretty defined on who your audience is. You can find out who they are, where they are, what they’re interested in, what their pain points are, all those type of things. So the first thing to do is to figure out who are you trying to reach for, obviously probably investors or a given, but who else are you trying to reach consumers or are you trying to reach the media or are you trying to get their attention? You have to understand what kind of content it’s going to resonate with them to build a strong personal brand and to have thought leadership. It’s going to take content and content that solves problems and answers questions. After you to find your audience, the next thing you want to do is you want to define yourself and there’s five key essential elements to that. First, your brand vision, what is it you want to be known for? What is it that you want to share with others? Mark Shafer has got a great book out called Known. That’s the title that makes it real easy. And he’s got a work permit that goes with it. By noon, we’re not talking about being famous. We’re just talking about being known, known in your center of influence for your business, for the type of things that your core message, what you want to do. Next thing we talk about your brand mission. What is your purpose? What is it you want to achieve? And we’re not talking about just your startup. We’re talking about two or three startups down the line, five years down the line. What is it that you hope to achieve? What do you achieve? What do you want to be known for? When people talk about you and your brand message, was that key message? What do you want to focus on when people talk about you? When they say something about you? What is that? That that key message they’re sharing, your brand persona or personality? What characteristics and traits do you have? Are you funny or are you witty? Are you analytical? Are you smooth or, you know, good at talking? Those kind of things, whatever those characteristics are that defined you, you want to bring them into your brand personality and into your content. And then your brand promise, what is it you’re willing to do to to achieve success and bring people along on your journey? Well, you’ve got once you do that, you define your audience. You define yourself. You’ve also got to start to define your story and what is your story? There’s always the million dollar story I’ve heard. There’s so many different startup pitches and these different events. Is someone the last one of the judges? What is it you want? What are you hoping to do with this startup? And obviously, I want to make a million dollars. I want to make five million dollars. Well, that’s not your story. Simon Sinek says that your story is your why what gets you out of bed each morning? Why do you get out of bed? Why do you sacrifice to make your startup work? Why do you do the things you’re doing to be successful? That’s your story. And what you want people to do is to dig it. What you need to do is dig into your storyline and figure out what is it, what is all of life experiences, all the things that have culminated in your life to bring you to the point where you’re out with your startup, with your personal brand. What are those things? How do you weave them together into your story? Because once you’re able to make a personal connection to people and share that story, then you’re halfway done with your marketing plan and you’re on your way to tremendous success.
[00:20:43] I’ll tell you a quick story. This is a Keith Fixx. Keith was a gentleman that has a company called Retail where I was invited back to Omaha earlier this year and I got a chance to meet him and we were talking to people and helping them. The Chamber of Commerce brought us in to talk to him about their personal brand and help them out with social media and help them set up their personal brands and things of that nature. And Keith was sitting across the table from us. And like most startups, he was talking to us and telling us, giving us a lot of the numbers he was telling us about how he learned that he learned to code that he’d built this Internet devices, that this Iot device that measured retail retail awareness around his place within stores and how he learned how he figured out a way to take the data and move the data across a mobile, across mobile rather than broadband, which saved a lot of money. And he didn’t do a lot. He went into a lot of different facts and figures.
[00:21:30] And then he was asked the question, well, how did you learn to code it just came up out of the blue and all of a sudden we saw his entire demeanor changed. And he said, well. I’ll tell you what happened when I was in middle school, my dad left my mom and I and he just left and it forced us out of our house. It forces on the street. We were homeless. And then we went into a shelter and said, I got a couple of books to pass the time those books were on Cotting. And I got a little computer and I taught myself how to code. And that’s how I passed the time there in the shelter. And ultimately I got a job and I was installing digital signage and I’m doing these displays. And I started wondering, you know, is there any data around these displays? Does this really mean anything? Could you see how many times somebody stops by a display? Does that reflect if they’re going to buy it? The number of times they pass it by, the number of times they pick it up, the number of times they handle it. And it’s like, you know what? I can probably code something that would do this. I could probably build that device. And that’s what he did. And he grew this company called Retail Aware. But we told them, you know, you came in and you told us all your credentials. You told us the story. You told us all the numbers. And those are great. But he was in a pitch event the next night, said that’s a story you need to tell right there. And we went saw him at the pitch event. And that’s the story he did tell. And it moved the entire audience. It was silent as he’s telling that story. It moved the judges and he won the event.
[00:22:45] Well, we learned from that. Identify areas of connect to your audience, tell your story with authenticity and emotion, become a better storyteller than a salesperson and be the real you. You need to define yourself as a thought leader. That’s the first step. I’m going to go kind of quickly. Only got a minute here. So be patient. You’re not going to build thought leadership in 140 characters. You’re not going to build it in thirty days. It takes a little bit of time. Your content’s going to be fine, you make sure that all the content you’re creating directs people back to the path that you want them to be on. Who knows what LPM is? I think everybody here probably right, OPM, other people’s money. There’s also opihi, other people’s influence. And that’s an easy way to gain a thought. Leadership is by using other people’s influence, like their content, shared their content. Find out who the influencers are already within your niche, within your industry, like them, support them, share their content, get to know them, meet them at events like this. And there’s a lot of reciprocity. They’ll start to do the same for you and your value increases of thought leader also an influence within that same niche. And then, of course, your USP unique sales proposition. What makes you different than anyone else? And lastly, I just want to say, once you put these things all together, you find your audience, you defined yourself, you have your story, then you want to promote yourself and you’ve got to promote yourself like a rock star. You’ve got to become your number one fan and do it. There’s you know, a lot of us aren’t taught to do this, but it’s a simple thing. Get on social media, get engaged with people, make creating, creating a publishing content habit. I publish content every single day. I’m not saying you have to do that, but at least every week it’s important to get a blog. That’s the best way to build authority in this space. Get a blog. And if you can’t get a blog right away, get on medium, get on LinkedIn pulse and start writing content and sharing your point of view on things. Always add value, always elevate others become the expert both online and offline. If you’re not familiar with Horrow, help a reporter out. I recommend you get it. Harl comes out with a list twice a day and it’s all the reporters that are looking for people in technology and health care and all these different niches that they can talk to. And they can quote and they can feature on news programs and in magazines and newspaper articles across the country. And you can just kind of comb that list on a daily basis and see what appeals to you. And it’s a great place to build thought leadership and finally speak attending contributor conferences just like this in real life.
[00:24:58] And most importantly, get started, just start doing it, you know, people always that’s the one thing is people tend to procrastinate and do it. Just start doing the start getting on social media, start building thought leadership, start building value in yourself. Now until you have 30 seconds. I’ll go one side here.
[00:25:13] Everybody do this. Did you download LinkedIn and LinkedIn on turn your Bluetooth on? This is going to be funny if you leave with nothing else from this talk today. I want to leave with some great value from this and start to build your personal brand and start to build your network. Everybody got everybody got it on and you got Bluetooth on when you let me walk down here one second, when you’ve got that on, look for these two people right here at the bottom and click on the two. You’re going to see that little blue person pop up right there, click on that and it’s going to say fine people nearby. And what it’s going to do, it’s going to find everybody in this room on LinkedIn and it’s going to start to populate all this. And then you just start connecting with each other. You’ve all got the common interest of being at this event of being involved in startups. And it’s a great place to start if you haven’t started building your personal brand and building and growing your network, that’s a great way to do it. You can leave it on as you’re walking around out there and continue to connect with people. And you can walk away with a conference for probably from this conference with a couple hundred people that you’re connected to on LinkedIn. So thank you very much.
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