Episode #30: David Meerman Scott on Leveraging Slideshare and the New Rules of Sales

Put your best content out there and let that generate awareness and ultimately sales. That is the message author David Meerman Scott shared on episode 30 of FIR on Higher Education. Case in point is how Scott has marketed his latest book The New Rules of Sales and Service. Rather than direct prospective customers to Amazon for example, Scott is instead sending people to his New Rules of Sales and Service Slideshare presentation, which features 158 different slides.The results: the presentation has been viewed over 172,000 times and has been shared extensively on social channels. It has also led to strong sales results. Scott shares practical application from this experience for a higher education audience.About David Meerman Scott

David Meerman Scott is an internationally acclaimed strategist whose books and blog are must-reads for professionals seeking to generate attention in ways that grow their business. Scott’s advice and insights help people, products and organizations stand out, get noticed and capture hearts and minds. He is author or co-author of ten books – three are international bestsellers. The New Rules of Marketing & PR, now in its 4th edition, has been translated into 26 languages and is used as a text in hundreds of universities and business schools worldwide. It is a modern business classic with over 300,000 copies sold so far. Scott also authored Real-Time Marketing & PR, a Wall Street Journal bestseller, Newsjacking, World Wide Rave, and the new hit book The New Rules of Sales & Service. He co-authored Marketing the Moon (now in pre-production as a feature-length film titled The Men Who Sold the Moon) and Marketing Lessons from The Grateful Dead.

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Kevin: So I am absolutely thrilled to be joined by David Meerman Scott. David, how are you? And can you tell us a little bit about your background and what you do?David: Hey, Kevin. It’s great to be here. Thanks for having me on. So I was a marketer at various technology companies. I was vice president of marketing most recently in a division of Thompson Reuters. For the last twelve years, I’ve been on my own, writing books, giving speeches. I’ve got ten books. Three of them are international best sellers. I’m probably best known for a book called, “The New Rules of Marketing and PR.” That’s now in 26 different languages. It’s sold about 350,000 copies in English. I travel the world, delivering speeches about sales and marketing. I’ve presented in 41 countries and all seven continents.Kevin: Yeah. I know I’ve heard you talk about that on different podcasts. I am one of the many hundreds of thousands of individuals who have purchased “The New Rules of Marketing and PR.”

David: I appreciate that, Kevin.

Kevin: One out of many! That’s really been a book that really has helped me tremendously throughout my career. I recommend everybody listening, to take a look at that book, as well as your latest book about the new rules of sales and service. I was really impressed by what you’ve been able to accomplish on SlideShare.

David: Thank you.

Kevin: You wrote about that in the Huffington Post. I think there’s a lot of learning for my audience here in higher education, obviously, a lot of book authors. And think about a lecture, obviously, a lecture is a perfect place to transform into a SlideShare presentation. You just had incredible results. We’ll get into that in a second, but maybe can you start out by just talking a little bit about the new rules of sales and service, and what led you to write this book?

David: Sure. The New Rules of Sales and Service is how selling and customer service has changed as a result of everybody, all individuals, and companies, being able to create content on the web to generate interest among the people who might want to do business with their company. So it used to be that you had to hire really aggressive sales people and get them to go knock on doors, or call people up and bother them at their office, or at their house, or stock your retail outlet or your auto dealership with aggressive salespeople in order to drive business. But today, it’s really different because buyers are in charge. Because they can do independent research on the web. They can look at independent blogs to see what people are saying. Review sites, depending on what industry it is, Trip Advisor, Yelp, or Rotten Tomatoes, or whatever review site, Amazon, and they can make up their own mind. Various statistics suggest that 80% of a sale is done before sales people even get involved. At the same time, on the service side, we’re sick of being dropped in the phone tree hell. We’re sick of not being able to have responses if we email a company, or we reach out to them on Twitter or whatever. So I think that sales and service needs to change and that’s really what I wrote about.

Kevin: In the SlideShare presentation, you have a number of brilliant examples. We’re going to link, obviously, to that presentation in the show notes. But you talk a little bit about the old ways of selling and the new ways of selling. Can you talk a little bit about what that might look like for someone? I realize you’re not an expert in higher education, per se, but can you talk a little bit on some general principles in terms of if you’re in higher education and you’re focused on working admissions, drawing attention to a four year liberal arts experience, or working corporate development selling executive education program? Can you talk a little bit about what the cool old school way of thinking, in terms of sales in the new rules of sales, what advice would you give to our audience that’s doing this kind of work?

David: Well, I can actually give you a real practical example. My daughter, Allison, when she was in high school a couple years ago, really took control of her experience of choosing a college that she wanted to go to. We didn’t push her. My wife and I didn’t push her. Starting when she was a freshman -so way back in ninth grade. I guess she would have been about fourteen years old – she started doing independent research on her own, about what college she might want to go to. She did that 100% on the web. She visited college websites. She looked at review sites. She read blogs. She really dug in deep. She was actually getting to the point and she knew she wanted to be a neuro science major. She was actually getting to the point that she was actually reading the blog, independent blogs, of professors of neuroscience in some of the schools that she was considering going to. What she told us that was really interesting is that there were very few schools that created the sort of content that would lure her in and educate her about their institution.

Primarily what they were trying to do as she got a little bit older – this is into her junior year – is they were just mailing her through the postal mail, as well as email, these huge brochures, you know, glossy, 100 page magazines, and all this stuff that meant nothing to her. They went immediately into the recycle bin if they came in the mail, the postal service mail. They went completely into the delete button if they came in through email. Now, Allison got extremely good grades on the PSAT’s, so that meant that she got over a thousand emails from schools, and hundreds of print pieces that came through the mail. She settled at age sixteen. So this was before all these schools tried to sell to her. At age sixteen, she settled on Columbia College as being her first choice. My wife and I were like, “You know, it sounds pretty good. Why not choose one of the top five schools in the country, Allison?” Also, by the way, I wanted her to choose the second most expensive school in the country. Thank you very much.

She applied early decision. She got in. Now, they got our business, my $65,000 a year and Alison’s smart mind, for four years because she learned about Colombia from the content that she consumed on the Colombia website. She learned about their core curriculum, which very few schools had. She learned about the different professors. She spent a lot of time learning about Dr. Oliver Sacks, the professor of neuroscience at Columbia, by looking at his YouTube videos, reading his books, reading his blog. She did independent research, which was 100% responsible for her choice of which college to attend. All of the probably tens of thousands of dollars that were spent on trying to market to her by all the other institutions, were completely and totally wasted.

Kevin: Awesome example, and highlights the importance of university communicators mobilizing those ambassadors, the faculties. So that way, they’re creating the types of YouTube videos that are going to attract the students like your daughter.

David: That’s exactly right. That’s exactly right. If you’re going to spend $5 each to produce these incredible slick, full color, 150 page magazine like brochures and ship them to tens of thousands of students throughout the country, I don’t know how important that is when you can spend the same amount of money and hire two or three people to create content on the web that will help people when they’re doing their independent research to learn more about your school.

Kevin: So you talk about the new rules of selling. Two of the main principles that you highlight are authentic storytelling that sets the tone, and content that is linked between companies and customers. You seem to be brilliantly demonstrating and practicing what you’re preaching, based on what you’ve done through SlideShare. Actually, I don’t think many in our audience, and I for one – I don’t know if you’ve seen this, David – in terms of someone who has a book and has basically put that book out there in the form of 158 slides.

David: Oh, yeah. That sounds right.

Kevin: The results are absolutely amazing, 172,000 views last I checked and a ton of social engagement. What was your strategy? What made you decide to put a whole chunk of your book content in the form of a SlideShare?

David: Well, first of all, I’m under pretty intense personal pressure every time I create a new book, to actually market and sell the book in the ways that I describe in the book. I mean, I can’t tell you how many times, Kevin, I read these. I’ve seen these books that are published, you know, “How to do this on social media” or “This is the great new marketing book out there.” They use traditional ways to try to sell the book. How good could your advice be if you don’t even use it yourself? So what I do whenever I have a new book is I use the tools and techniques that I describe, to get that book into the marketplace. So I wrote a book called, “World Wide Rave” a couple years ago. It’s about viral marketing. I used viral marketing in trying to get the book out there. I wrote a book called “Marketing lessons from the Grateful Dead.” Used some Grateful Dead style marketing to market that book, just a couple examples. So with “The New Rules of Sales and Service,” one of the things that I say in the book is that content is critically important. You mentioned it just a moment ago. Content is the link between a company and its existing and potential customers. So I knew I needed to get some free, no registration required content out there that would describe my ideas and would actually be something that was extremely valuable.

It wasn’t sort of a bait and switch. I wasn’t trying to get people’s email addresses to get them to register for the content. It wasn’t like giving them a little bit of a peek and then I would expect them to buy something later. I laid it all out. I gave 158 slides away, completely for free, with no registration required on SlideShare. By the way, the SlideShare is called “The New Rules of Selling.” It is all the best ideas in the book for free. So anyone who’s listening in and wants to learn about the new rules of sales and service, which is the book I wrote, go to the SlideShare. It’s all there for free. But as you rightly said, it’s got 172,000 downloads at the moment. Eleven hundred people have liked the SlideShare. I’ve had 2,291 people share it on LinkedIn, 600 people share it on Facebook, over 1,000 people Tweet about it. Over 165 people talk about it on Google Plus. Now we’re talking about it here on your podcast. I’ve done it on other podcasts. So the point is that if you create something that truly has value, people talk about it. People share it. It’s a bit of a leap of faith, but I’m here to tell you that it absolutely and totally works. Then, there will be a subset of those people. So there’s a subset of 172,000 people who read this thing, who say, “You know what? I might want to do more. I think I should buy this guy’s book.”

They’ll make the leap to spend $24 retail, or whatever it is – cheaper than that, like twenty bucks on Amazon – to buy the book. Then, the way that I make most of my money is paid speaking engagements. Some number of those people who check out the SlideShare and/or check out the book will say, “Well, maybe I should hire this guy to give a speech.” I charge $22,000 to give a speech. So putting all my best work out there for free, generates people who ultimately want to hire me to speak. The book’s only been out since September. I can trace between six and eight people who have booked me to speak, as a result of this technique. So we’re talking between $150,000 and $200,000 worth of business as a result of putting your stuff out there for free. I think that anybody can use this technique. I think a university itself can use this technique. I think a professor can use this technique. A department can use this technique. A sports team for recruiting can use this technique. Totally useful in higher education world.

Kevin: So you’re talking about the number of sales that you’ve been able to trace, that go back to your sales and speaking. In terms of the book itself, you kind of make this point that you might lose a few customers along the way. Has that been the case or do you feel that as a result of this incredible visibility that you’ve received by using SlideShare, that you’ve actually been able to surpass some of your book sale totals?

David: Well, it’s really hard to compare book to book. That’s not something that I actually really do because each one is like a child. They’re their own unique personalities that come out at a certain point, but I can say with absolute certainty I’m selling more books than I would otherwise. I think there’s very few people who would say, “I’m going to spend twenty minutes or half an hour with the SlideShare” and say, “I’m going to do that instead of spend a few dollars on the book.” I think that there probably are a few people who would say, “You know, I was going to buy the book. I saw the SlideShare, now I don’t need to buy the book.” Either because they didn’t like it, or they don’t like my ideas, or they felt like they got the gist of the book and therefore they don’t need to read it. But I think there are thousands and thousands of people who never would have been exposed to the ideas at all, who then did buy the book because they were exposed to it through the free content, as well as through things like we’re doing right now that have gotten exposure to it.

Kevin: Was there any concern from your publisher, in terms of you putting out so much of your content out there for free?

David: They are used widely. They’re the largest business book publisher in the world. They’re very active in the higher education world. My books are used, actually, especially the New Rules of Marketing and PR, in hundreds and hundreds of universities around the world. Wiley is incredibly supportive of my techniques, so much so that we made one of my books, which is called World wide Rave, completely and totally free on all of the eBook platforms. Sure, Wiley is losing out on some book sales because we’ve made that book free. Some people who might have paid for it are not paying for it because they’re getting it for free. But at the same time, then we have thousands and thousands of people who are exposed to my ideas, who may not have been exposed to them before. Some number of those will talk me up or maybe buy other books or whatever it is. So they’re very supportive.

Kevin: The presentation itself, it’s really slick, incredibly well designed. You talked a little bit about that in the Huffington Post piece. Can you share a little bit about best practice for individuals who are thinking of doing the same, and whether that’s in the form of a lecture, or book, or presentation that they may be doing? Can you talk a little bit about the time and effort that goes into the design? I know you said that you outsource that, but I can still imagine it must have taken a lot of time and thought.

David: Yeah, first a couple of thoughts just on – I don’t know if I’d call it best practice – things that worked for me. Number one is put your best stuff out there. I can’t emphasize that enough. So many people that I know will do a SlideShare or an info-graphic or something like that, and they’ll hold back something. They’ll say, “Oh, this is really my secret stuff. I’m not going to put it out there. People have to buy it from me.” I suggest put it all out there for free. Get yourself exposure. That’s ultimately more valuable than a few dollars in your pocket. The second thing, as you rightly said, is I did spend a lot of time and money on the design. I’m not a designer myself. I work with a guy called Doug Eymer, who’s great for Eymer design, E-Y-M-E-R. Doug and I have worked together for almost twenty years. He’s done all of my design work. I just gave him sort of my thoughts on I wanted this thing to be sharp and crystal clear. I wanted it to be very easy on the eyes. I wanted it to flow really smoothly. I didn’t want people to have to think. I didn’t want people to have to scrunch up their eyes to see tiny font or anything. So we spent a good amount of time. It took about a month, I think six or eight different iterations, but Doug did a great job on the design.

Another thing that is my personal style is a lot of slides. You mentioned earlier, it’s 158 slides, which is like a factor of six or eight times more slides than – anybody will tell you – is best practice for something like SlideShare. Anybody you ask, including SlideShare themselves, any sort of blog post you read about creating a presentation will tell you 20 or 30 slides is the right spot to be. In my mind, I don’t think that’s right because what that forces people to do is to create multiple bullet points with lots and lots of stuff on each slide. What I do, which is quite different than a lot of other people’s, I have only one thought per slide. Many of my slides would just have an image and two or three words. You can quite literally toggle through it in two seconds. To me, that style works better. That’s also, by the way, how I present live. I present about 170 slides in a one hour keynote presentation, which is like 150 slides more than [inaudible 00:18:43]. Anyway, that’s just a personal style. It’s worked for me.

And the other thing, just in general, that worked for me is that when I launched my book back in September, I didn’t talk so much about the book itself. I talked mostly about the SlideShare. So my goal was not to sell books directly by trying to sell books, which is what all of those universities were trying to do when they were trying to sell my daughter. I did something very different. I launched my book by trying to get people interested in the SlideShare, which I then assumed would mean that some percentage of them would end up buying the book, which is exactly what happened, which is what I suggest that an admissions officer would do to generate more students. Is to spend all of their time talking up the content on their sites and use that to generate interest among high school students, rather than just trying to sell them using those old techniques.

Kevin: Yeah. So I’m kind of out of time. I just wanted to add one last question.

David: Sure.

Kevin: You know, the social sharing which you talk about a little bit, those are astronomical numbers, specifically LinkedIn. I think a lot of people don’t necessarily equate SlideShare as having this dynamic social media capability. You’ve obviously proven that to be the case. Can you talk a little bit about the social components? I wasn’t aware about this until I actually read your piece about the SlideShare being owned by LinkedIn. Obviously, there’s a correlation, I would say, between the 2,300 LinkedIn shares that you received.

David: There is a very definite correlation, as you rightly say. SlideShare is now owned by LinkedIn. That means that there’s some very nice integrations between LinkedIn and SlideShare. If you put a SlideShare out through your LinkedIn profile, it makes it extremely easy for the people you’re connected to to then share your SlideShare. But then, what’s really cool is that the people that are connected to you can share it. So you end up exposing your ideas to people well beyond your own personal network. That’s exactly what happened to me. It’s really great when your work extends well beyond your own personal network. That’s exactly what’s happened in my case with the SlideShare. So wow! I have had incredible exposure of this on Twitter, on Facebook, on Google Plus, through blogs, through podcasts. I think a lot of the views – I would guess about half the views – have probably come directly from LinkedIn. I think in particular with any professor out there who’s listening in, who’s thinking about getting exposure to their ideas, having a good Linkedin presence and being connected to people who are in your same area of expertise, and then you create something that’s got immense value, if they start to share it, now you’re reaching their audiences as well. If you’re connected to 1,000 people on LinkedIn and each of them are connected to 1,000 people on LinkedIn – I mean, sure there’s some overlap – but you’re all of a sudden reaching hundreds of thousands of people. So it’s pretty powerful stuff.

Kevin: And last question: where can people find out more about you and more about the book?

David: Well, first of all, you can go to Google and type in the New Rules of Selling, and pop up my SlideShare. That’s a great place to start. On Twitter, I’m @dmscott. That’s D-M-S-C-O-T-T. The book we were talking about is called The New Rules of Sales and Service.

Kevin: Great. David, thank you so much. I really appreciate you taking some time out of your busy schedule to join us.

David: My pleasure, Kevin. Thank you very much.