top of page

Episode 45: 

Mark Schaefer: Speaker, Author, Marketing Consultant, Podcaster 

Show Notes:

About Mark Schaefer

Mark Schaefer is a globally-recognized keynote speaker, educator, business consultant, and author. His blog {grow} is hailed as one of the top marketing blogs in the world.


Mark has worked in global sales, PR, and marketing positions for more than 30 years and provides consulting services as Executive Director of Schaefer Marketing Solutions.


He has advanced degrees in marketing and organizational development; holds seven patents; and is a faculty member of the graduate studies program at Rutgers University. For three years, Mark studied under the late Peter Drucker (a world-renowned consultant and author, hailed as the founder of modern management).


Customized for every audience, Mark’s programs specialize in marketing strategies for content marketing, digital marketing, social media, and personal branding. His clients range from successful start-ups to global brands such as Adidas, Johnson & Johnson, Dell, Pfizer, The U.S. Air Force, and the UK Government.


Mark is the author of eight best-selling marketing books: Lessons, Marketing Rebellion, KNOWN, Social Media Explained, Return on Influence, Born to Blog, The Content Code, and The Tao of Twitter – named the best-selling book on Twitter in the world. Return on Influence was named to the elite list of top academic titles of the year by the American Library Association, which declared it an “essential” and “pathfinding” book. The Content Code was named one of the top five marketing books of 2015 by INC. Magazine. Mark’s books are used as textbooks at more than 50 universities, have been translated into 12 languages, and can be found in more than 750 libraries worldwide.


He is the co-host of The Marketing Companion, one of the top 10 marketing podcasts on iTunes.


Mark is also a popular and entertaining commentator and has appeared on many national television shows and periodicals including the Wall Street Journal, Wired, The New York Times, CNN, National Public Radio, CNBC, the BBC and the CBS NEWS. He is a regular contributing columnist to The Harvard Business Review. 


It’s 2019, the most human year in marketing history to date – we’ve just scratched the surface. How do we go about measuring whether we moved the needle on becoming a more human company?

Measurement is a huge issue in this new environment. One of the things keeping us from progressing is measurement. We are comforted by our dashboard. We can show our likes and mentions to our boss. It’s a tangible or quantifiable way to show we’re adding value.

To move ahead and become a more human company means doing some things that are unfamiliar and not easy to measure. For example, experiential marketing. was Mark's first time event, The Uprising. The power of bringing people together. How do you measure the value of a meeting, an event or creating an experience for people? It may take months or years to see. It might be almost impossible to attribute a sale to something you did differently to be more human.

The enigma, if we keep doing things that are familiar and easy to measure, we are going to miss out. That’s not necessarily what our customers want. We are going to have to find new ways to measure, not obvious ways to measure.

The expectations of a CMO are under fire and their ways are still stuck in the 1980’s. It’s also as a result of their leadership, the CEO, who is also stuck in the 1980’s. The whole idea of expectations and measurement is a big one.

That’s why small businesses are ideally positioned to win. Big companies are in trouble.

A lot of this for small businesses and entrepreneurs it comes naturally. Being friendly, meeting people. It will be easier for them in this new era.


It's also easier for smaller businesses to change and pivot - fewer layers, less politics and less friction. 


The customer is in control of our brands. Two thirds of our marketing is done by the customer. How can companies change what they’re doing NOW to enable an environment like that that allows them to let go of some of that control and let their prospects or customers run with their marketing?

Mark shares the story of being at Radford University in Virginia the week of November 4, 2019. He visited a restaurant with a giant pig in the middle sporting a tie dye shirt. Now why would a restaurant owner do this? It's an example of how the pig IS the marketing. The restaurant owner spent $3,200 on a fiber glass pig. That amount is probably a big portion of a small business's budget. He did that because people are taking a picture of the pig – and talking about it. The customers ARE his marketing. He’s helping them do their job, he’s giving them a reason to take a picture. He also has to deliver with great food – and it is – and the restaurant is filled with his personality. It was a great experience overall. That investment pushes the owner over the edge on the customer being the marketer. He’s doing what he needs to do to become part of the customer’s conversation.



How can businesses take that concept if they have an online service based business (no store front or anything visual for photos)?

This is especially important. You’ve hired a person: not a log, not a jingle, not an ad. This is where that idea of the most human company wins – that is where this is going to show up most of all. If someone wants to hire someone as an attorney, accountant, insurance agent, manager, coach, counselor or marketer – they aren’t going to make a decision based on a deal or on a website. Consumers are going to make a decision based on our voice, our smile, our passion. It could be via our podcast, video, blog post, book, etc.

We need to show up consistently. 

We have this extraordinary opportunity today to use these internet tools to show our personality, to show our passion and our heart and look someone in the eye and tell someone 'Here’s why I’m the best choice for you'.

Mark shared an example of a business owner who handles insurance for doctors. She was struggling with her business. Mark asked why she was doing what she does. She explained that when she was little she almost died 3 times. And she knows the doctors saved her. She’s only there because these doctors saved her life 3 times. It’s so frustrating that doctors are overwhelmed by all the administration and paperwork that they can’t do their jobs. She lives her life to help doctors be doctors. 

Tell that story on your website, show the passion, tell your why (it’s not because you need to pay your mortgage it’s because you almost died 3 times). Her business transformed in a month after telling her her story. Show that heart and show that passion.

She went back to her why. A lot of people forget to share their why, go to a job, start a business, support a cause.


What is your why for doing what you do?

He has the heart of a teacher. Even as a kid. One day his daughter came home from school and didn’t understand her homework. She asked him why he wasn’t a teacher. He explains things in a way that people can understand.

He’s at a point where so many people who have helped him and now it’s time to send the elevator back down to help others.

At least once a week, he receives a message from someone who shares how he changed their life. It would be amazing to hear that once in your lifetime – and he’s hearing it once a week.

It comes down to building your personal brand. Goes back to his book ‘KNOWN’. It all ties together.

The most human company depends on personal brand.


In Marketing Rebellion, you talk about connecting the dots between branding and marketing – how do you make sure you’re connecting the dots between branding, marketing and sales?

One of the things is he trusted the world. If he creates good value to the world, that the world will answer him back.

In the middle of year 2 of his business (he's been in business 11 years), at that point he decided to not have a sales plan or a sales goal at all. The reason: he needed to let the world tell him where he was going to make money. He was consulting, teaching at Rutgers University, creating content for other companies, beginning to speak, beginning to write books…..where is the money going to come from???

He had to not try to force it. He didn’t have a sales goal. He had to step back and say “where is the world finding the value?” You need to be humble and patient – where is the world going to pull you?

It was very uncomfortable for someone who is very organized and grew up in a corporate environment. “I don’t know if I’m connecting the dots or the dots are connecting me.”



What was the pivotal year or moment in your business that you went from struggling to something's changed?

  1. Learning about social media and content – coming out of the corporate world where you had a marketing message where you are going to deliver to personas – starting his business and started creating content on what he thought people needed to hear from him. Nothing happened. And he got bored. Instead of creating scripted content for made up people, he relaxed and said 'Here’s what I’m seeing in the world, this is what’s making me happy, upset, curious, mad in the marketing world'. When he had the courage to add his own story, that changed everything. Instead of him finding his target audience, his target audience found him. And it wasn’t local – it was global. Figuring out that a key difference in marketing success today – is this human element – if people could get to know me and trust me it had infinite potential.

  2. Once his business started to build in that way, he had to make a hard decision to shed a whole bunch of customers. They weren’t just customers, they were friends and that made the decision difficult. He ended up giving someone he knew and was just starting her business in Nashville all his customers. That was a tough decision to hold onto since he was growing. But something he had to do to grow to the next level.

  3. In 2016, he did not have his photo on his website up until then. He finally had to admit that people were hiring him because he was Mark Schaefer not Schaefer Marketing Solutions. All the books he’s written have come from his personal experience. He’s written 8 books and a chronology of Mark’s evolution of his thinking.

    • Return on Influence – 2012, first book written on subject. World is changing. Power is moving from wall street to main street. It’s the voice of the people, markets are going to become conversations, not ads. He predicted in next 2 years, influence would become a mainstream idea. Then, How do you create this power? Blogging.

    • Book on Blogging and book on social media. Creating all this content. Now there’s too much content. How do we forge through all this so we’re heard?

    • Content Code  - this is how content cuts through. How does that work for an individual? Can anyone do this?

    • KNOWN – All those things comes together – the power is with the people, the customers. The customers have the voice, they have the influence. The customers are the marketers of today.

    • Marketing Rebellion. Evolution of his thoughts on marketing.

What’s next? The evolution to this point where the customer is the marketer? What do you see next?

Some ideas in terms of a book but not ready to do another book right now. Has ideas and needs to let them germinate a little bit. Going to spend the next few months testing the water on some things.


This is something he needs to be thinking about – The Uprising.

People vote on what people wanted to talk about at the event. Everyone was a super star, very accomplished. At least average of 15 years of marketing experience. The #1 topic: How do I stay relevant?

That topic took him by surprise because of their experience, companies they represented and who they are as marketers. They see that a lot is changing and need to know how to stay relevant.

At a recent event Mark attended, someone was talking about machine learning. He’s starting to realize that he needs to learn something new. Need to get out of your comfort zone again.

He’s struggling that there’s so much change going on, as humans we aren’t built for that. Think about our ancestors in 1400’s, took a special pill and fell asleep until 1600s or 1700s – everything would look the same. Nothing really changed so that’s what our DNA is use to.

Adjusting to rapid change is not in our DNA. One of the things he’s thinking about is how to cheat. Keeping up is impossible. We can’t win, we have to find a way to cheat the system.

There’s a lot of technology that’s creeping in and already doing some of that. A lot of things are becoming connected while we’re disconnecting ourselves from everything.

We will get to a point where AI will anticipate what you need and get there faster.

Mark had a conversation with a lady who just turned 50 and said she’s giving up. He wrote his first blog post when he was 49.

Overriding theme: We’re going to have to give up control, trust other people with our information, our brand, our message. It’s 100% about control. And as humans having to give that up is going against what we’re use to or in our DNA.

An example: we use to do a 10-year sales plan, then it was a 5-year plan, then 3…now it’s difficult to have a 1 year sales plan. We’re essentially operating on quarterly sales plan and that’s as far in advance as we can plan out. Too much change occurs to plan out longer than 3 months.

Businesses will need to give up control if they want to stay relevant, especially with AI, ML, etc.

The customers rebel, they always win. We have to listen to what our customers are saying right now.

600M phones have an ad blocker on them. 600 M people are saying NO! The ad industry is responding by how can we get around those ad blockers and show them more ads. DUMBEST RESPONSE EVER.

The customers will win. Serve the customers on their terms.


User Generated Content – why aren’t companies using it? They are still stuck in the older paradigm.


Grape lollipops – it’s not grape, it doesn’t taste like a grape, it doesn’t look like a grape, there’s no grape in it. Somehow and some place someone defined it as grape. Now when we see it we think it’s grape even though it’s not. That’s a lot of marketing today – we call it human but it’s company human. It’s grape.


We think we’re being human but we’re not. We’re in this world of this marketing bubble that’s just strange and bizarre and out of touch with reality. It’s like a grape lollipop - it’s not real, it’s our definition of real but it’s not what other humans experience.


Today, we are a guru led industry – it’s not led by reality. Gary Vaynerchuk is an example. His view of the world – grape marketing. He can’t create your strategy. He’s creating a grape flavored view of the world. Instead of looking at data and research to find out how we’re going to be different, people are flocking to the same thing everyone is flocking to.


Where to connect with Mark online:

His blog {grow} via his website 

Brush Stroke

Subscribe & Review 

Thank you for listening to the Connect the Dots podcast!


Are you subscribed? 


Subscribe to my email and receive weekly notifications (one day earlier for those with FOMO!) plus other information I only share with my subscribers.

Also, please give it a rating and review. Your feedback means a lot and is much appreciated!!

To review on iTunes click here then select "Ratings and Reviews" and "Write a Review". Let me know what your favorite part of this episode or the podcast is! THANK YOU!!! 

If you're an Android user and prefer non-Apple platforms, click here to submit your review on Stitcher.

Brush Stroke
Google Podcast Logo.png
stitcher logo.jpg
Spotify Small.png
Apple podcast image.png
bottom of page