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Leading From Purpose: Connecting with Your Customers

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Everyone’s got data. A lot of it. How do you take that data and turn it into something coveted like a connection with your customer? Try some of these on for size:


Product Managers: Why You Should Include Customer Success Milestones in Your User Flows – Medium
Connecting with your customer is all about perspective. One of the largest fails that many companies make is identifying their own success gaps vs. those of their actual customers. Understanding your customer’s success gaps is a partnership between product management and customer success teams working together to co-create a user flow. This adds to better product function and connection with your customer. Read the article

UX: Creating Proto-Personas – Medium
Many companies think they’re connecting with and talking to their customers but digital surveys, psychographic, and demographic data doesn’t tell you where your customer is stuck or what they think or feel. If your organization is still making assumptions about your customers and you have not yet invested the time to speak with them face-to-face about their roadblocks, try creating a proto-persona and then further check those assumptions against real data. Read the article

B2B Personas: Targeting Audiences – SalesForce
This persona study conducted by Sales Force, LinkedIn, and provides an incredible amount of data that will help you better understand B2B persona audiences and the trends within them. Definitely worth a read, and also remember that data is only an inference made about your customer until you speak with them 1:1. Make sure you’re bridging the gap between your purpose and then validate against a larger audience. Read the article

Why Your Organization is Getting Sales and Marketing Wrong – Mack Fogelson
The key to connection with customers, employees, and, well, people, is purpose. The successful integration and implementation of purpose, both inside and outside your organization, is directly related to your company’s ability to grow and compete in the digital age. Because your sales, marketing, and customer experience teams are the most outwardly facing humans in your organization, they need to understand how to apply purpose to their daily efforts. Read the article

Other good stuff
Come see Mack in Denver at Digital Summit on June 27-28. She’ll take the big stage with Evolve or Die: How Purpose and Authenticity are the Future of Brands.

Did you miss the last newsletter? You can access previous issues here.


Leading From Purpose: What It Takes to Win

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From tenacity and industry-disrupting customer experience to grit and living your company’s purpose, here are some resources that will help your organization with some inspiration to push through the hard stuff, stand out, increase your team’s happiness, and achieve even more growth.

Lessons in Tenacity from the Co-Founder of Foursquare – First Round
In his recollection of Foursquare’s early days, Dennis Crowley narrates the game-changing moments for the company that weren’t so easy to come by. His tenacity as a founder — through his personal identity, confidence, focus, culture, grit, and telling his company’s story — has evolved greatly over the years. Crowley’s ability to stay the path and trust the process has brought great success to the company Read the article

PlanGrid’s Playbook for Startups to Crack Big, Established Industries – First Round Review
PlanGrid brilliantly used a minimum viable product to connect with their ideal customer and learn how to evolve to better serve them—a shining example of how to build a durable company in the digital age. Their approach toward mapping their customer’s journey and remove their roadblocks was so effective, they disrupted an entire industry Read the article

How to Foster Psychological Safety in Remote Teams – NOBL
When you spend your work day online rather than physically in an office,  there’s a different set of rules and ways of working that apply. NOBL walks through how working remote goes deeper than using Slack and Google docs. Read the article


Why Your Organization is Getting Sales and Marketing Wrong – Mack Fogelson
In Mack’s latest post, she details a formula for integrating purpose into the efforts of your most externally facing teams like sales, marketing, and customer experience, and how that impacts growth in your organization. Read the article


Grit: A Complete Guide on Being Mentally Tough – James Clear
This is a great read by James Clear with a ton of resources on what grit really is and how to develop it. Grit is committing to the hard stuff that comes with the day-to-day after many, many months or years. It’s built through failing, getting things really wrong, and having the passion and perseverance to start over and continue iterating to make what you really want a reality. Read the article

Other good stuff
Are you a nonprofit organization? Mack is giving a NextAfter webinar on Tuesday, April 18th at 11am PT on how to achieve greater results through authentic fundraising.

Did you miss the last newsletter? You can access previous issues here.


Leading From Purpose: Customer Experience

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Experience is a loaded term these days and requires the continuous optimization of, well, everything. Unparalleled interactions with your customers are expected through any method and on any channel. Here’s a few things we’ve been reading on how you can bake a better experience into your DNA.

Customer Experience by Design – Carla Johnson
For better or worse, customers no longer believe your advertising alone. You must earn (and keep) your customers by fighting for and exhibiting your purpose through your actions and the experiences you provide. Read the article

The Rise of Consumer Activism in an Era of Distrust – Edelman PR

A recommended read from Jeff Pundyk (@jpundyk) at The Economist, we love the model for consumer activism where the strength in relationship with a brand can go from indifferent to committed — all depending on how well the brand is articulating and living their values and purpose. Read the article

Making Design Core to the Agile Process – Salesforce
“Too often teams jump into building before developing a clear definition of the problem. To innovate, we needed to pause and ask ourselves the why.” Read the article


Evolve or Die: How Purpose and Authenticity are the Future of Brands – Mack Fogelson
The way purpose shows itself inside your organization is inextricably linked to how your company is perceived on the outside. Note slides 104 – 138 in Mack’s most recent talk on evolving your approach to growth. Read the article


How to Optimize for a Mobile Experience that Converts – Talia Wolf
Being responsive — in the digital sense — is no longer enough. The value of your customer experience diminishes greatly with poor execution of your mobile strategy. Read the article

Evolve or Die: How Purpose and Authenticity are the Future of Brands

By | Building Community, Mack's Musings, Social Media, Web Marketing | No Comments

Mack has had the honor of presenting Evolve or Die: How Purpose and Authenticity are the Future of Brands all over the world— from Boston, Massachusetts to Vancouver, Canada; from Dublin, Ireland to Raleigh, North Carolina. What follows are the highlights of her talk that explores how companies need to evolve their marketing and what’s required to build a successful and durable brand in the digital age.

Imagine your company is competing in a fairly saturated and competitive industry like fast food. You’ve been around for a little while but you’re really just getting started. You have something new and different and you’re ready to take the world by storm.

Taking on the world

Now imagine that you’re up against companies like McDonald’s who spent $800 million on their advertising in 2013. Or Panera Bread who spent $55 million on their marketing efforts in that same year.

Imagine this is your competition and these are their marketing budgets. What would your marketing strategy be? How would your company contend?

How would your company compete?

Chipotle did. In 2013 they spent a fraction of what their competitors did — less than $10 million — on their advertising and marketing efforts and they had a much greater impact because they were doing things like this:

  • Creating videos like the Scarecrow that takes a stand and challenges how the fast food industry typically operates and sources its food.
  • Holding free festivals like Cultivate where people celebrate good food, music, ideas, and connect with each other.
  • Sponsoring a “Food for Thought” column on the Huffington Post that is dedicated to creating awareness about how food is grown and the effects this system has on our world.
  • Investing in better ways of working that gives their employees more authority and empowers them to be better leaders.

All of these things that Chipotle has been doing aren’t just marketing campaigns. This is what they believe in as a company and this is authentically how they operate.

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And that is what has contributed to their durability and growth over the last decade.  From 2006 to 2015, Chipotle has grown revenue from $820 million to more than $4.5 billion.

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So how did Chipotle’s approach bring this much growth? Even as Chipotle has been faced with food safety challenges in their restaurants, what has helped them to endure?

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There’s no doubt that if you want to compete in the digital age, you must have a stellar product or service, and you have to provide a cross-channel experience that is unparalleled.

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Ultimately, these things must be baked into your DNA; this is the new status quo.

But competing today—for time, attention, and market share— is not about how much money you spend on your marketing.


If you want your company to be durable and surpass the competition, your organization must be building from purpose and authenticity. 


And here’s why:

More than 63% of consumers would rather buy from a company they consider to be authentic over the competition.
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In that same Cohn & Wolfe study, the #1 behavior that people expect of brands is the fact that they communicate openly and honestly about their products and services. They don’t let their customers down, and that they act with integrity at all times. Because people want to relate to you, they want trust you and know you’re going to do what you say.

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Additionally, a BBMG study shows that when people are trying to figure out who to buy from, 73% of people care about the company, not just the product when they’re making purchasing decisions.

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And when people care about your company, they tell their friends. And word of mouth is responsible for more than 50% of all purchasing decisions.

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The fact of the matter is, if you want to earn and keep your customers and employees, and build a community of advocates who will support you and tell their friends about you, you can’t just focus your efforts on how your company is packaged. You must also focus your efforts on who your company is.

If your organization wants to experience growth, you need to focus on three very important things: 

  1. You need to clarify your purpose that so that you can effectively position strategy around it, rally your employees around it, and communicate it to your customers.
  2. You need to better understand your people so that you can connect with your customers and remove their roadblocks.
  3. You need to use strategy and action to prove you’re worth your customers’ time and attention; showing them you are willing to keep your promise to them.

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Chances are, your company or the company you work for is in business because you want to make some money. You want to grow. So how will building a purpose-driven, authentic brand help you do that?

Because your product is not what connects people to your brand or your company. It’s your purpose and that’s the key to growth.

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The thing is, our world is changing so quickly, and that means businesses must continually iterate and adapt to stay relevant and ahead of the competition. This has changed the way businesses operate because consumer behavior has changed tremendously.

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Consumers know that they have the upper hand. They know they have a choice. So the bar has been set a lot higher for companies because consumers expect businesses to play a larger role in changing society. You can’t just make a product anymore.

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Not only that, but as far as employees go, people want meaning in their work and they want to work for better companies.

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Purpose is something that can help companies hurdle each of these challenges. It also helps them stay relevant in their customer’s lives.

In a Harvard Business Review study they found that companies with purpose make more money and have more involved employees, all because they’re operating from purpose.

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Purpose drives everything and it’s not just the emotional sell in your marketing. Purpose drives your products and services, the people you hire, your culture, and your marketing. Most importantly, it gives focus that drives the whole business.

Once you have purpose and focus, you can develop a much more effective and powerful growth strategy that will connect with the right customers and employees. When you’re talking to the right people and removing their roadblocks, those customers want to become part of your community, tell their friends, and drive your growth.

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The first step in building a purpose-driven, authentic brand is positioning your organization around that purpose. One of the ways we do this is by using an exercise from Ogilvy & Mather’s called the Big Ideal.

Essentially, your Big Ideal is the soul of your company. It’s also your point of view of how the world should be.

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It can take some time to figure out your Big Ideal (we’ll use Dove as an example from Arielle Jackson’s work on First Round), but essentially it works like this: combine two things: your cultural tension—which is the problem in the world that you’re looking to address:

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with your brand’s best self—what your company actually does when you are at your best:

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Dove’s Big Ideal is: The world would be a better place if women were allowed to feel good about their bodies. This purpose drives the focus for everything they do. Their job is not just to sell soap; it’s to create products that help women feel good about their bodies.

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This purpose and focus then comes out loud and proud in everything they do inside their operations and also in their marketing strategy. Dove has been running the Real Beauty campaign for over a decade now and it’s still relevant because it matters in our world and it’s rooted in their purpose.

And from 2004 to 2014, Dove saw a $1.5 billion dollar jump in sales as a result of focusing on purpose to drive their business. This isn’t just a marketing ploy. Dove eats, lives, and breathes this purpose throughout their organization. Just like Chipotle does.

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And that’s the thing about authenticity and a purpose-driven approach. Often times companies will disregard its power because they think it’s only applicable to environmentally or socially responsible companies like Patagonia or Tom’s Shoes. 

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But a purpose-driven approach is not solely an environmental responsibility thing. It’s not a give-one-get-one thing. It’s not a non-profit thing. It’s not a corporate responsibility thing. It’s not a B2B or a B2C thing. This approach is about integrating purpose into your business model. 

It’s about building a company that people care about, want to work for, and do business with. That’s what brings durability and growth in the digital age.

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When you’re building a purpose-driven, authentic brand, how do people fit into the equation? Every day it seems that there’s some new marketing tactic to try; a new piece of technology that will magically help you earn customers faster. But technology will not earn customers. Having a great product, building a great company, being authentic, and doing the work to connect with your people will.

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The biggest thing to remember about growth and building your community of customers is that you’re not looking for everyone and you’re not just looking to raise vanity metrics. You’re working towards loyalty, word of mouth, and repeat customers. That’s connection.

So if you want that connection with your customers, don’t just focus on selling your product. Your job is to figure out how to bridge the gap between the purpose of your company and the people who want to be part of it.

Let’s look at an example.

Traveling Vineyard

Traveling Vineyard is a direct sales company. They have several thousand people, or Wine Guides as they call them, who are mostly women selling wine for them at in-home wine tastings.


Before we met Traveling Vineyard, that’s exactly what they were doing. Selling wine. And they were struggling to connect with their people; their customers.

We worked with Traveling Vineyard to discover they actually don’t exist to sell wine. Their purpose is to change lives by providing fulfilling (and flexible) work.

This change in their focus from their product to their purpose made it a whole lot easier to drive their growth because instead of pushing a product, they were connecting their purpose with the right people.

Let’s take a look at how we did this with customer journey mapping.

This is an exercise that we borrowed and evolved from a company called Adaptive Path. Here’s how it works:

We selected the three audience groups who had the largest effect on Traveling Vineyard’s revenue. At this stage, they are essentially stereotypes.

With Traveling Vineyard, their top 3 customer groups were 3 different types of moms: a SAHM who loves her family but could use a little extra income without a lot of commitment. An empty-nester who’s looking for something new to consume her life now that her kids are gone. And an achiever – someone who is tired of just being a mom and wants something that’s just for her.

But when we were building their persona, we didn’t just stop here by identifying these stereotypes.
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We wanted to make sure we were talking to the right people, so we took the step of matching these persona to real, actual people.

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Once we mapped the characteristics of the stereotypes to REAL people in their community, we honored them as ambassadors. This allowed us to build better relationships with their existing community and leverage that community to find more people outside of their community who are like them.

This requires more than just looking at audience, psychographic, or demographic data. We spoke with their customers FACE-TO-FACE in order to map their journey and understand the desires, roadblocks, and fears that these women had and were keeping them from converting to wine guides.

We started by identifying the challenges and goals for each one of their persona groups, starting with those who are most like Kirby, their stay-at-home-mom audience segment who represents nearly 60% of their customer base.

Through many conversations, group meetings, face-to-face interviews, and digital surveys, we identified Kirby’s biggest challenges and goals.


Once we knew Kirby’s greatest challenge and most important goals, we could begin understanding behaviors.

We began to break down what she is thinking, feeling, and doing at each stage in her journey in the lifecycle of becoming a Wine Guide for Traveling Vineyard.

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When we analyze what customers like Kirby are thinking, we look at the common questions that are holding them back. Stuff like: Is the company legit? Will I make money doing this? Do I have to be a wine expert?

Then we move onto how they may be feeling in each stage of their journey. These are the emotions that they are having that could also pose potential roadblocks like if they’re nervous about trusting the company, anxious to tell their friends they may do this, or even just excited to get started.

And then lastly, in the doing stage, we analyze their actions; the actions that the potential wine guides may take before they convert. Things like investigating other companies, talking to their friends and family, and watching videos or reading content on the website.

And even though Kirby won’t be thinking/feeling/and doing these things in a linear fashion, deconstructing her customer journey this way helps us understand what her overall experience must be like across channels and both on-and-offlinecustomer-journey

Now once we understood all of these things about Kirby, we can address all of her thoughts/concerns/fears/challenges through a content strategy that helps Kirby reach her goals and connect with the purpose of the company.


For example, let’s say we’re breaking down the CONSIDER phase in the funnel and identify roadblocks for potential Wine Guides who have been comparing Traveling Vineyard with other direct selling job opportunities.

So for example, let’s say we wanted to address Kirby’s fear of whether Traveling Vineyard is a legitimate company:


We created some content around the concern of pyramid schemes and how Traveling Vineyard isn’t one.


We asked their existing Wine Guides (who Kirby can relate to) in order to help us create content so that they could tell potential Wine Guides about how Traveling Vineyard’s business model actually works and isn’t a scam.


We even asked direct selling experts to provide an unbiased view on direct selling to address this roadblock.


Then we built content to address Kirby’s ‘feeling’ behaviors; being unsure that this job will add stress to her family:


We interviewed Jonelle, an existing Wine Guide who someone like Kirby would resonate with, to talk about what a day in the life is like with Traveling Vineyard and how she balances it all.


In this video, Jonelle shows talks about her schedule and how she fits Traveling Vineyard into her family routine. Again, more real people (and user generated content) from the Traveling Vineyard community addressing these common roadblocks.


Finally, we addressed Kirby’s ‘doing’ behaviors — the actions that someone like Kirby might want to take in order to become a Wine Guide.


Each week, Traveling Vineyard provides a webinar which is an opportunity for potential Wine Guides like Kirby to better understand the business. It’s also a chance to ask questions about what it’s really like to work for Traveling Vineyard and learn that it is in fact possible to be a Wine Guide and keep your family in tact. 


Doing this work to understand Kirby (and the other persona segments) and give her what she needs throughout her customer journey with Traveling Vineyard has brought tremendous growth to the company. Since they shifted the conversation from product to purpose, they’ve experienced a 365% compound annual growth rate over a 3 year period.

It’s important to note that none of this content went viral. What it did was connect with Traveling Vineyard’s specific customer because they were doing the work — face-to-face — to understand and remove their roadblocks. They were not pushing their product, they were having a conversation about their purpose. And that has been the key to connection and growth.


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Over the many months, Chipotle has been having a rough go of it. And for a brand that is supposed to be synonymous with “FOOD WITH INTEGRITY” being associated with words like Norovirus, E.coli, and Salmonella is pretty bad news. Even worse, when people are talking on social media about puking and pooping and going to the hospital because they’ve eaten your food, it is not so good for business.

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But in true authentic style, Chipotle has spent the last year reacting to this stuff from authenticity and purpose. They’ve not only been telling their customers that they’ve blown it, but they’re doing what it takes to make it right.

Chipotle has been transparent about how the outbreaks most likely happened. They’ve taken apart their current food safety systems and put them back together. They’ve provided their customers with a plan for action to pioneer and become a leader in food safety. Chipotle wants to make sure that this not only doesn’t happen again in their restaurants, but also inspire other fast food restaurants to operate the same.

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But had Chipotle not built such trust with their customers over the last 10 years — if they hadn’t operated from their purpose from the inside, and not just in their marketing — something like this could have ruined them.

And that’s what’s kind of remarkable about Chipotle’s community is that their customers were willing to give them a second chance. Even as their stock prices fell and the media chewed them up, their customers were still with them.

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And even though Chipotle projected a 65% earnings loss in 2016 due to the outbreaks, earnings have been projected to jump 125%. And even over the next many years, Chipotle is still projected to have a higher growth in earnings than McDonald’s and their big ol’ marketing budgets.

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So here’s the thing about living your promise and leading from purpose. It is a parallel path. Because the way purpose shows itself inside your organization is inextricably linked to how your company is perceived on the outside.

If your company wants sustainable, durable growth, your sales, marketing, and customer experience strategies must start with 4 simple steps.

The first step in living your promise and leading from purpose is clarifying the purpose of your organization.

Just like we talked about with Dove and Traveling Vineyard, look at the cultural tension you want to address in our world and combine that with your best self. This is what will make you relevant. It’s also the key to connection with your customers and your employees.

Which is why it’s really important that you’re clear with your team about what purpose actually is and what it isn’t.

Purpose is aspirational and belief-driven. It’s way bigger than your what you sell or what you make. It’s fully integrated into your business model and it’s the long-game of how you’re going to improve your customers and your employees lives.

Purpose is NOT your vision, mission, or values statement. It’s not solely focused on internal activities. It’s not making a bunch of money so that you can give it away (that’s great, but that’s not purpose). It’s not your brand guidelines or PR. It’s not a tagline or a trend. Purpose is connection and your teams need to understand what purpose truly is so that they can apply it effectively in their strategies.

The second step to living your promise is connecting your purpose to your people. Once you know your purpose, you’ve got to look at how you connect that with your customer.

Look at the journey of your customer and what they’re thinking/feeling/and doing at every stage. Remember, it’s not just assessing audience data, demographic data, or psychographic data; that data is plentiful but it doesn’t tell you about their fears, desires, or what’s truly on their minds.

The good stuff is when you participate in actual conversations with your customers in real life (not just through digital surveys but with 1:1 interviews) so that you can understand how to bridge the gap between the purpose of the company and the people who align with it. Your job is to understand and remove their roadblocks so that you can connect and be part of their lives.

The third part of living your promise is to connect your team’s purpose to the purpose of the organization. You can do this by asking 2 questions:

What does the organization that you work for exist to achieve as a whole, in addition to making money? In other words, what is the purpose of the entire company? And the second question, what role does your team play in achieving that purpose (other than to make money)? Your teams need to understand how their daily contributions matter to the overarching purpose of the company. Especially when they’re pushing hard on things that seem meaningless; understanding how purpose relates to their day-to-day can go a long way for efficiency, output, morale, and retention.

And the fourth and final step to living your promise is to effectively communicate who your company is on the inside to the people on the outside.

Especially in your sales, marketing, and customer experience teams, they need to understand that the conversation is not only about your product, it’s also about your purpose.

What that means is that rather than only focusing the conversation with your customers about your product (like Dove when they were just selling soap, or Traveling Vineyard when they were failing to connect with their customers)…

You can have a much more meaningful conversation about things that matter.

Like women feeling good about their bodies:

Like women working on their self-esteem:

Like having the body image conversation with young girls so that they learn to love their bodies from a young age, too:

The thing is, there are thousands of ways to talk about Dove’s purpose of helping women feel better about their bodies, but there’s only a handful of ways to talk about soap.

The same thing with Chipotle, there are thousands of ways to talk about food with integrity and its impact on our world, but there’s only a handful of ways to talk about a burritos. I’m not saying that you shouldn’t talk about or advertise your product. What I am saying is when you change the conversation from product to purpose, you open up the opportunity to exponentially connect with more people.

Look at all of these organizations, people, media outlets, communities, influencers who want to be a part of Dove’s purpose-conversation vs. the amount of people who want to talk about soap.

When you lead from purpose and live your promise, you have a competitive advantage.

In a Harvard Business Review study, 85% of purpose-led companies experienced positive growth of at least 10% annually.

An EY study shows that 72% of global consumers would recommend a company with a purpose.

Not only that, but keeping your employees is an significant factor in contributing to your profits. The employees at purpose-driven organizations are 3 times more likely to stay. 

And the time is now. Only 37% of executives believe that their own business model and operations are aligned with their company’s purpose. Which means there are A LOT OF COMPANIES who are struggling to connect with their customers. 

It’s time for you to get ahead of the other 63%.

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If you’re considering building an authentic, purpose-driven brand, remember these things:

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Building your company from purpose gives people something to connect to and believe in. Even more, building from purpose gives your business focus. Focus that will bring growth.

If you want to earn the right customers who will support you and stand by you through the good and the bad, you’ve got to bust your ass, hustle and do the work to connect with people. In real life. The people who align with your purpose: both your employees and your customers.

You don’t have to be perfect, but you do have to be genuine, authentic, and human. For better or worse, customers no longer believe your advertising and marketing alone. You must earn your customers by fighting for and exhibiting your purpose through your actions and the experiences you provide.

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When it comes down to it, building and marketing an organization and brand in today’s world requires a different path than traditional marketing, advertising, and quick-fix tactical approaches.

It’s not about how much money you spend on your marketing.

Our world is different. Your customers are different. Your employees are different. The path to growth is different.

Purpose is not the only component to an organization’s success, but it’s a big one. It’s time to evolve and lead from purpose.

Nuggets of Knowledge: Connection

By | Nuggets of Knowledge | No Comments

Nuggets of Knowledge

These reads–fresh picked for you from the Genuinely team–focus on connection. Whether it’s finding your tribe, cultivating self-awareness and a positive attitude, using stories to bond, or practicing courageous vulnerability, these posts will provide additional insight on how to find and foster connection with your people.

bookreviewbecomingwise.wideaBecoming Wise

by Krista Tippett

In this 10-min. podcast, Krista Tippett and Seth Godin explore how the internet allows us to find and connect with “our tribes,” and the vast potential the internet offers us as a way to bring together community. “The digital world hands us a power to create our own tribes bound by passion and service, quite apart from bloodline or geography.”

62fuGWQNRxeD2xT3iDGy_140302_katia0682The Remarkable Advantage of Abundant Thinking

by First Round and  Katia Verresen

Does the drudgery of doing business get you down? Here’s a good article – and a practical one, too – about abundant thinking. Though this is a good read for anyone, because we can all use techniques to get out of pessimism and into abundance, these are particularly important lessons for leaders as they are the ones motivating and driving, and relying on, their teams. Through self mastery, neutrality, priming, self compassion, generosity, and gratitude, Verresen says you can move into abundant thinking. And, make a significant impact on your team. “When you build a tribe of people you support, you’re building a tribe that will support you.”

diary-968603_960_720Tough News: We’ve Made 10 Layoffs. How We Got Here, the Financial Details, and How We’re Moving Forward

by Joel Gascoigne

Joel Gascoigne, Co-Founder of Buffer provides a transparent account of the current state of the company, the reason for their recent layoffs, and the changes they’re making to recover. Having the courage to communicate and connect with their community on this level is the ultimate display of vulnerability and authenticity.

U.S. Deputy Defense Secretary William J. Lynn III trip to CaliforniaThe Pivotal Stories Every Startup Leader Should be Able to Tell

by First Round

A long(er) read about how powerful stories can be for the leader who is looking to foster connection and build more fulfilling relationships with the people on his or her team.


8 Rules for Creating Passionate Work Culture

by Paul Alofs

You’ll see it everywhere: employees want more than a paycheck. They want passion, connection, and a goal. Cultivating that work culture where employees feel comfortable enough to do that is an essential step, and Paul Alofs has eight easy tips to do it.

4 jonathan-mcintosh-flickr-1725x810_26899Extreme Habits of Highly Successful Teams

by Jeff Haden

Just because your team is spread out across the country doesn’t mean you can’t cultivate your own workplace culture and forge essential working connections. Jeff Haden has four tips on how to do just that.

Nuggets of Knowledge: May 2016

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Nuggets of Knowledge - GenuinelyThis month’s NOK list is all about social media, a timely topic given those new Twitter changes that were just announced. (We’d like to deem it prescience on our part, but alas.) These articles all focus on something that remains constant amongst the frequent and inevitable changes to individual social platforms and their functionality: the importance of being human on social media. As automation and bots become more prevalent, establishing genuine human connections remains a smart and ultimately necessary strategy. These articles discuss how to build that strategy into your social efforts.

6 ReasoColourful cloud shaped speech bubblesns to Make Your Business Human on Social Media

by Brett Relander

If you’re wondering why your social media isn’t getting the kind of engagement you’d like, or if you want to know how to build relationships with customers and future customers, Relander offer six great, simple reasons. Ultimately, you’ll build trust and loyalty with your customers if you approach social media from a human perspective.

customer-service-smileThe Trick to Mastering Social Media? Remember You’re a Human

by Jake Cain

A human approach on social media is never more important than when your company is dealing with customer service issues. The author mentions examples of companies who have incorporated an offline effort with their online effort, resulting in a big win in regards to customers trust and loyalty.

robot and manA More Human Than Human Agency

by Scott Schneider

Technology continues to advance and amaze us with the rise of bots. Where we have been working diligently to help companies understand how to be more human, especially on social media, Schneider reminds us of a coming challenge:

How will agencies [and companies] maintain human authenticity in an automated, bot-led world?”

It comes down to the fact that agencies (and companies) must learn to embrace technology and understand how it will continually challenge us to re-shape what we do. But at the end of the day, we have to find a way to be human and connect with people.

thumb_ico-audienceThe Ethical Guide to Growing Your Audience

by Jason Zook

This Crew post is a great reminder that growing your audience (whether it’s on social, through an email newsletter, or on your blog) is one of those things you can’t really find a shortcut for. It also speaks to the importance of being human when you’re trying to build the right audience from scratch. Those quality, passionate people you’re going after want value, consistency, inspiration, and the knowledge that someone cares. So ditch the superficial, short-lived hacks and start making human connections.

Why Content Strategy Isn’t Enough

By | Building Community, Mack's Musings, Social Media, Web Marketing | One Comment

Mack recently had the honor of speaking at SearchLove Boston 2016 where she presented on Why Content Strategy Isn’t Enough. What follows is a recap of her talk about how companies need to evolve their approach to marketing in order to survive in our ever-changing world.

Technology has changed our world

There’s no doubt that technological advances have made our world faster, smarter, and more connected. Where it took the phone companies 89 years to connect 150 million people, it took Facebook only 8 years to connect 8 billion.


The problem is, even with all of the remarkable technology that we have, companies are failing to make authentic connections with their customers. Although our world, business, and consumer behavior has evolved, there is an approach to marketing that’s fundamentally broken and it’s not helping companies earn the relationships they need with their customers.



Competing on content and experience alone won’t do it anymore. Great brands and companies already have these things baked into their DNA.


Being stellar at every touchpoint is the new status quo. And yet this, alone, is not enough for companies to weather the relentless evolution of technology, earn customers, and experience growth.

Earning customers and experiencing growth has to come from something bigger and deeper than content marketing or content strategy; it comes from building a company from purpose and earning the trust of your customers through authenticity.

Building an authentic brand is not a social cause thing. It’s not a non-profit thing. It’s not a B2B or a B2C thing. It’s a people connecting with people thing. And it’s about building a company that people care about and want to do business with.

In order for your company to succeed, you have to continually strive to build a better one. And from that, comes your marketing.

Over the next 5 years, authenticity will win

Every day it seems that there’s some new marketing tactic to try: a new piece of technology that will magically help you earn customers faster. But technology will not earn customers. If your company wants to make it through the next 5 years of content saturation, noise, and technological advances, you must build an authentic, human brand.


Here are the facts:

  • More than 63% of consumers would rather buy from a company they consider to be authentic over the competition.
  • That same Cohn & Wolfe study shows that the number one behavior that people expect of brands is open and honest communication about their products and services. The second behavior is that they don’t let their customers down, and the third behavior is that they act with integrity at all times.
  • A BBMG study shows that when people are trying to figure out who to buy from, 73% of people care about the company, not just the product, when they’re making purchasing decisions.
  • When people care about your company, they tell their friends. Word of mouth is responsible for more than 50% of all purchasing decisions.

In today’s face-paced, digital world, it’s not about how your company is packaged. It’s about who your company is.



How to evolve your marketing

How does your company evolve in this digital age so that you can experience sustainable growth?

Start from purpose

Building an authentic brand starts from purpose, and from purpose comes growth.


Purpose is also what solves these common challenges in our world:

  • Businesses are challenged with unrelenting change. And because our world is changing so quickly, that has changed consumer behavior and how quickly businesses must react.
  • Consumers expect businesses to play a larger role in changing society. They know they have the upper hand. They know they have a choice. So the bar has been set a lot higher. Consumers want companies to do more than just make money.
  • Employees want more meaning in their work. And they want to work for better companies.

Purpose helps companies hurdle each of these problems and also helps them stay relevant in their customer’s lives. Even more, “purpose-driven companies make more money, have more engaged employees, and are better at innovation and transformational change.”


Building an authentic brand comes from purpose and that purpose drives everything.


Purpose drives your products and services, the people you hire, your culture, your marketing. Most importantly, it gives focus that drives the whole business.

Once you have purpose and focus, you can develop a much more effective and powerful marketing strategy that will connect with the right customers. When you have a great product or offer great services, and you’ve done your diligence to learn about your customers and how they align with your purpose, those customers want to become part of your community and support your growth.

Positioning around your company’s purpose can be done through an exercise called the Big Ideal from Ogilvy & Mather.


Your Big Ideal is the soul of your company. It’s also your point of view on how the world should be. Identifying your company’s purpose comes from the combination of two things: your cultural tension—which is the problem in the world that you’re looking to address, and your brand’s best self—what your company actually does when you are at your best.


One of our clients, the Traveling Vineyard, addresses the cultural tension that people are looking for more meaning in their work and also in their lives.


At their best self, Traveling Vineyard provides the resources and training necessary to build a successful career in direct sales.


Traveling Vineyard believes that the world would be a better place if people could change their lives with a fulfilling job. This is their Big Ideal.


Traveling Vineyard’s Big Ideal then drives their purpose. Traveling Vineyard exists as a company so that they can change lives by providing fulfilling work.


This purpose then powers Traveling Vineyard’s marketing strategy that is centered around the theme of living a richer, fuller life. Any content that is generated addresses the questions, concerns, thoughts, and feelings that their customers have at every stage in their journey with Traveling Vineyard.


Build an ecosystem

Once your company has clearly identified its purpose, that will drive everything. Essentially, your marketing strategy will be born out of this ecosystem:


  • Identifying and understanding the people who align with your purpose so that you can talk to them
  • Developing the strategy that will help you use the right channels to reach that audience
  • Creating the right content that will connect with that audience, taking care to solve their problems
  • Getting that personal and customized content in front of the right people with customized outreach
  • Assessing data (and intuition) to determine whether what you’re doing throughout this cycle is bringing growth.
  • Finally, showing your purpose through action: having that stellar experience; having that stellar content; following through at every touchpoint and simply being human

Ultimately, your marketing strategy is only powerful when it’s connected to the purpose of your business as a whole. Your marketing efforts then become an iterative cycle of getting to know the right people, understanding them, figuring out what they need, and helping them solve their challenges. This is a slow build of trust. You must work to be authentic and personal in order to earn a community and grow your business.


Why isn’t content strategy enough?

There are two reasons that content strategy isn’t enough to build a sustainable company and brand:


 1) Content strategy alone won’t build a durable brand
If you want to earn the right customers who will support you, tell their friends about you, and stand by you in good and bad, you’ve got to do the work to connect with people. Yes, you need to create 10x content and provide a stellar experience across channels, but growth goes deeper than that. It’s not about how your company is packaged; it’s about who your company is.


2) We need to build brands that transcend technology
Remember that technology can’t build relationships with your customers. That’s what humans are for. Building an authentic brand will help you weather technology, the saturation of mediocre content, competition, and Google. So no matter what the trend is, or how the algorithm is changing, you will have built a brand so durable that people will talk about you, they will hear about you, and they will come looking for you.


It’s time to evolve our approach for durability and growth

Just like building a business, a purpose-driven and authentic approach to marketing is hard. It takes a lot of time and effort and care. Perhaps it’s time to assess whether what you’re doing now in your marketing is really working. Maybe you’re feeling stuck. Maybe you’re not getting results from what you’ve been doing for many years. Maybe your audience growth has plateaued. And maybe all the tactics you try don’t seem to get traction.

It’s time to do things a little differently. It’s time to build from purpose and build authentic, human relationships with customers.

Nuggets of Knowledge: April 2016

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Nuggets of Knowledge - Genuinely

We’ve all been involved in the development and/or execution of a strategy, and we understand how wrenches get thrown that stop the wheels and get us off track.

This month’s NOK picks speak to those challenges: how should a company create a strategy? Why do companies not execute on their strategies? What constitutes a good strategy?

Marketing mix wheel

Creating the Right Marketing Mix

by Rand Fishkin (Moz)

There’s no right way to stack all the different marketing tactics, but you must understand your objectives before building a strategy. Once you know your objectives, you can then determine what part of the funnel will help you reach your goal most effectively.

Rand provides a great example on retargeting and making sure your goals are clear. Are you trying to get people to come back and engage with a new piece of content OR are you trying to convert more people? These two very different objectives need to be defined before activating a specific channel. Lastly, don’t forget to test and analyze. All the channels need to work together and the strategy may need to change over time as different parts of the funnel get optimized.

Brains and Hearts imageMaking Empathy Central to Your Customer Development Strategy

by Brian Barela (Loyal)

We know you already factor data into your strategic decision making, but do you also factor in empathy? In this article, Loyal explains why engaging both the minds and feelings of customers is critical for customer development.

In this actionable and specific article, Loyal provides activities, articles, and frameworks that explain exactly how to get to know (and share!) the feelings of your customers and use that knowledge to create meaningful brand experiences.

Harvard Business Review image

Why Strategy Execution Unravels and What to Do About It

by Donald Sull, Rebecca Homkes, and Charles Sull (HBR)

The authors counter some myths about why strategy isn’t executed based on a survey/study of 8,000 managers in more than 250 companies. Below are the myths they tackle and the issue or solution in parentheses after:

  1. Execution equals alignment.
    (It’s a cross-function, cross-unit thing.)
  2. Execution means sticking to the plan.
    (One must adapt to the problems and opportunities that pop up along the way. P.S. Being agile is easier said than done.)
  3. Communication equals understanding.
    (Strategic objectives are often unrelated to one another and to the overall business strategy. Add in corporate priorities, core competencies, core values and you’ve got a muddy mess.)
  4. Performance culture drives execution.
    (Performance measurements lead to “playing it safe.” Other things must be recognized, too: agility, teamwork, ambition, and experimentation.)
  5. Execution should be driven from the top.
    (What happens when the top brass leave? Distributed leaders from the “middle” should drive execution and be guided by the top.)

Good Strategy Bad Strategy: The Difference and Why it Matters
Good Strategy Bad Strategy book cover

by Richard Rumelt (Amazon)

Our final pick for this month’s NOK list is a book that came highly recommended from Aaron Dignan. Good Strategy Bad Strategy dives into the reasons that strategies either fail or don’t even qualify as a proper strategy in the first place. Through many historical and real-world examples, Rumelt illustrates how good strategy must be void of fluffy jargon, effectively assess the critical challenge at hand, and, most importantly, include a plan for action. The book serves as a stellar guide on what is necessary to be successful with strategy.

Nuggets of Knowledge: March 2016

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Nuggets of Knowledge - Genuinely

This month’s NOK list is a compendium of videos: videos that strike a chord with us emotionally, targeting our personal values and beliefs about core human issues. In order to be relevant to today’s consumers, brands are using emotional storytelling as part of their content strategy, tapping into our emotions to send a message and make a human connection. And, video is a great way to make that human connection.

International Women’s Day on March 8 was a great opportunity for many brands to make that human connection with their audiences by communicating the brand’s values about the lives, achievements, and struggles of women around the world. Rather than focusing on a product, these brands focus on important issues that elicit strong emotions in their audiences.

Brands embrace ‘fempowerment’ campaigns to appeal to women

by T.L. Stanley (Mashable)
In addition to advertising their product, brands today are advertising their values as a way to communicate and connect with their audiences on another level. In this article, Mashable offers a variety of brands – from the more masculine Brawny paper towels to a new Always #LikeaGirl campaign about emojis – that are honing in on women’s empowerment, and the emotions associated with being a girl/woman.

A detergent commercial makes a simple, powerful point about inequality 

by Frida Garza (Quartz)
Soap maker Ariel India (a Procter & Gamble brand), takes on gender inequality with an incredibly powerful video about how it’s not just up to mom to manage the heavy load of home, kids, and career. This purpose-driven campaign is an authentic and emotional way for Ariel to connect with their audience and show them that they’re not afraid to take a stand on something that also matters to their customers.

Why emotional storytelling is the future of branding

by Patrick Hong (Momentology)
There are so many great examples in this article that showcase the power of emotional storytelling. When asked why emotional marketing is important, Andy Maslen says, “Because information leads to analysis, but emotion leads to action.”

This is beating the odds

by Western Union (YouTube)
This short video, created by Western Union for International Women’s Day, tells the story of Siba, who aims to become one of the first female commercial pilots in South Africa. It is the most inspiring thing we’ve seen in a long time.

Make a New Friend (Literally)

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Llama Wall

Mack Web is now Genuinely. Learn more.

– –

Welcome to Stop 2 of MISSION: Authentic

Our new office has a lot of walls and our wall-llama needs some friends. We’re turning to you, our favorite people, to help make that happen.

It’s pretty easy:

1) Color your llama.

2) Tell us about him or her.

3) Take a picture and tweet or email it back to us.

4) Check the mission’s progress and be on alert for your next orders.

Win a thing! Our team will be voting on our favorite llama of those submitted by February 7th. Winner gets a llama of their VERY OWN! (No, not a real one.) Read More