B2B marketing is notoriously boring, but it doesn't have to be. I interviewed my friend Ross Brouse, President and COO of Continuous Networks - helping small businesses with their cyber security. He creates TikToks and short-form videos for LinkedIn 3 times a week. He is proof that B2B does not need to be boring. So in this transcript, we go through the following:
Ross Admitting he always wanted to be on the podcast but never told me...
Laura L. Bernhard: Hey, Ross, thank you for being on the marketing bound podcast. So for everyone who doesn't know, Ross and I are good friends, we chat every single month to talk about marketing and stay current with the trends. Talk about content creation. So this is going to be a great episode because it's going to feel like you're part of our monthly conversations. So Ross, thank you so much for being here.
Ross Brouse: No idea what you're talking about. I do not talk to this woman every month. No, I'm just kidding. I do. Yes. I'm happy to be here. Thank you for having me. I'm finally invited onto your podcast.
Laura L. Bernhard: Secretly you've been wanting to be on the podcast, but you never, you never said anything.
It's not fair. You never said anything.
Ross Brouse: I don't invite myself places. I'm just, it's not how I roll.
Laura L. Bernhard: That's, that's fair. That's fair. But I'm super excited for this because I really want to talk about B2B marketing and address something that like scares every B2B marketer. And that is the fear of being boring because so much of B2B marketing is boring and not done properly, but guys Ross owns his own business, a B2B business, and he's also a great marketer.
Current B2B marketing trends that Ross is taking advantage of
Laura L. Bernhard: And so Ross, tell us a little bit of how you used marketing or kind of like current marketing trends to help you with your company.
Ross Brouse: Yeah, great question. And I work in a fabulously, boring business called technology. And who wants to talk about that all day? Right. We just want to yell and scream every time it doesn't work.
And then when it does work, it's just like, I like air, right? It's like air my iPhone doesn't work. It's the end of the world. But if everything's working, it's like breathing. So that's technology and people are bored by it. Cause they, you know, it's only, it's only present when it doesn't work. And it's tough because
people take it for granted. You only call on the IT person when you need something. And then when you don't, I don't want to even pretend that you exist. And that's a difficult topic to, to market your services around. And it usually only works well when somebody is in immediate and present pain and lately that's not happening as much because technology it's getting better, computers are getting better.
Networks are getting better. Cloud services are getting better and people don't need as much help as they used to. And so that clear and present pain that people were having, let's say five, 10 years ago. It's not happening as much today. And so now we talk today a lot about cybersecurity because people are getting hacked and you've got ransomware and you've got other forms of malware and you've got business emails being compromised and phishing attacks and text message scams, and it's all over the place.
And so what I found is that I wanted to leverage kind of the pain we all have in our lives, whether it's the phishing email. Text message scams or the stuff we hear on the news or whatever it is. And I wanted to start to leverage that and bring awareness to it because at the end of the day, I think what attracts people to any kind of a topic is when that topic becomes fascinating to talk about, or it becomes humorous to talk about, or it just becomes damned interesting.
And I think we're starting to get there with this whole concept of cyber security. And so that's why I started talking about cyber security on LinkedIn and making videos. And I talk about it in a way that I think everybody can understand, because if you look back and if you haven't listened to a technology person, talk, they love to use their acronyms.
And you know, we're going to set up the V land and we're going to put it in the DMZ and we're going to take that DMZ. And we're going to, shovel all kinds of traffic through it. And then we're going to reconfigure the firewall and people are like, what are you talking about? I have no idea what any of that means.
And so I wanted to talk about cyber security and technology in a way that anybody could understand it. And that's what my marketing today is all about. It's about connecting with people and in a way that they can understand and doing it in a humorous and fun way, sometimes a little. I mean, I'm not going to say I don't ever, you know, Bush a little, uh, shit, a little fud that it happens sometimes because I I'm a big believer that that risk and fear kind of go hand in hand and that you can't have one without the other.
Laura L. Bernhard: I liked that you touched upon content creation and B2B marketing. And the three things that you mentioned was using simple language. So making sure that no matter what industry you're in, that you're communicating clearly to everyone, that content is for. You also mentioned video, and I know a huge part of video is storytelling.
And because I follow you on TikTok, I know that you've developed that skill of storytelling and especially storytelling for B2B. So, if you can go into a little bit more detail on what that means in B2B, like what topics do you talk about? What I know you said news, but like if you had three pillars for B2B business, what would you be talking about?
How do you communicate that story in a one-minute video? And then how does that help your business overall?
What does Storytelling Mean in Short Form Content in B2B? Like TikTok?
Ross Brouse: Yeah, that's a great question. I think people tend to conceptualize storytelling as beginning and middle and end, and I've got to have a protagonist and he's got to have a pain point and he's got to meet some kind of a guide and he's got to overcome it and either get better or get worse.
Like that's the whole story brand mentality. And I think everybody thinks of storytelling that way. And it is, but you can't wrap that into a 30-second video. Like, you're not going to have all of those components in a 30-second video. So when I think about storytelling in these really short snackable pieces of content, I do it in a way where I present a problem that I know my audience has, or at least part of them is thinking about.
And then I lay it out in plain sight. Here's the problem. Here's what you're potentially thinking about. As an example, I did a video on TikTok a few weeks ago that went viral. And I simply just said, have you ever received a text message that you thought was maybe a scam, but you weren't really sure? Here's how to find out what.
And then I show the audience exactly how they could research that text message scam to determine using one data point, whether or not it was potentially a scam. Now, there are plenty of other ways. And there was a whole outpouring of people that came onto the post, some people to support it. Some people say, thank you other people just to be trolls and telling me how stupid and wrong I was, which I think is fantastic.
And I love all of it. But that's storytelling. That's storytelling right there because I presented a problem that I know my viewer has that pain point and I showed them a potential solution so that they can walk away from it feeling like my life is now a little bit better because I know this and I didn't know it before that storytelling. And that's how you do it in really short content.
Laura L. Bernhard: And I think another way to explain this is, "oh, you have kind of like a, like a bad guy and the bad guy is the pain point. And once you start considering that as a bad guy, you personify the pain point. Then you start thinking of stories the way you and I are, are used to we're used to like the movies or like Disney stories.
And I think that's where there's like a disconnect is I can be to be where like, oh, we're in like a dry industry. And therefore we cannot tell a story because stories are fun and they have beginning, middle and ends, like what you said before. But in reality, that's not necessarily what you need to tell a story.
You kind of just need to bring up- Oh, let's talk about this bad guy and I'm air quoting for everyone listening. Let's bring up this bad guy and how to address this bad guy. And so far, what has storytelling and video content done for your business?
The Outcome Of Leveraging Storytelling for B2B and the Power of Analogies in Storytelling
Ross Brouse: Oh, storytelling is a huge part of our entire process of building a relationship with a prospect and even maintaining a relationship with a client. And technology for me is a is a great example because people don't tend to equate a lot of things in technology to something that they know.
And so we love to use analogies and analogies are great for these types of videos or pieces of content, because it brings it to the mind of the audience of the viewer, where they're now able to relate that to something that they know. One of the things that I talk about is, or I'll, I'll say to somebody is, Hey, have you ever gone on vacation?
And you get maybe like a half a mile away from home and it doesn't matter if you're driving or going to the airport and you're driving trip, whatever something goes through your mind and you go, did I leave that door unlocked? Or I leave that back window open. And when that thought pops into your head, what's the first thing that you do.
You go back and check. You go back and check you, you go back and check. That's what you do. And why do you do that? Because it's your home and you're leaving it unprotected and you're going going somewhere for a period of time and you're worrying about what might happen. And so you want to be able to get peaceful, sleep, relax, things, sleep while you're awake and not have to worry that you didn't do that thing that could potentially leave you exposed.
And so if you're willing to go to that level, with your home. If you're willing to check all of that, because maybe you have 37 windows and doors in your house, I don't know. But you have 37,000 in your business and you're not doing it. You're not doing it. And what's the reason you don't treat your business the same way that you treat your home because doesn't your home depend upon your business and not just yours but what about all the people that work for your company?
Do they not depend upon your business the same way you do? What's the reason that you treat your home this way and not your business this way. So that's a little form of storytelling with an analogy that relates it back to something that your audience can understand and make them go, huh? You're right. I'm not doing that. That's a good question. Maybe I need to start thinking about my business a little bit more personally than I am.
And it doesn't matter. Like it doesn't, I don't care how stuffy your industry is. I don't care if you're in healthcare or pharmaceuticals or law. It doesn't matter.
People are people. We're all the same in some, in some aspects. And we all love a good story and we all love an underdog story. We all love overcoming obstacles. Every one of us has problems in our lives that we want to solve. And so people need to let go of this constant fear that, oh, I don't to say the wrong thing, or they're going to look at me in the wrong way, because they're just holding themselves back from really standing out from the crowd by doing that.
How To Find Your Customer Pain Points using TikTok
Laura L. Bernhard: We have a lot of solo marketers that listen to the marketing bound right now. And as solo marketers, it might be very intimidating to go to the executives and say, I'm going to create TikToks for the business, or I'm going to create one minute videos to talk about our pain points.
So for them, I just want to tell everyone now is like, if you do want to practice storytelling, which I highly recommend everybody does. I would make those videos in private one.
You start really thinking about what are the pain points and things that are very important to our customers? And so for you, I want to talk about now is when you started making these videos, did you already know your pain points? The customer pain points? or did you discover them once you started doing the videos? Cause I think for a lot of listeners, it's kind of two-fold it might happen both ways.
Ross Brouse: Yeah, I would agree. I knew some. I knew some of the pain points. There were other pain points that I thought I knew there were more pain points that I didn't know and I discovered simply by, you know, once I would put the content out there, people would reach out to me and say, could you make a video about this? Or could you make a video about that? I've always wondered. And so, and maybe they weren't necessarily your target market, but it depends upon who is watching your videos and you kind of have to take that and pay attention to who these people are and who's asking the question as well.
So if it is your customer. What are they asking for and what are they responding to? Like, one of the things I realized in my industry was that people love how-to videos. They love it when I show them how to do something that they didn't know how to do. And it took me a while to figure that out. Cause that'd be like, why does this one do so much better than that one?
Well, it's because my industry is so complicated that people are intimidated by technology. And when I make something simple and show them how to do it, they're appreciative of that. And that drives more engagement that drives more desire to consume more of my content and be more interested in my products and services. So, yeah, it's paying attention to those little, those drivers as well.
Laura L. Bernhard: I definitely think that's like the next step. Like first, if you don't have buy-in from the executives, I would still make videos guys. I would still practice that storytelling, understanding those pain points and creating those videos.
Then if you do get buy-in and you can publish it that's even better because what Ross just said, that means you can get feedback and you see what's working and what's not. So let's dig a little deeper here. You're talking about videos. Let's go hard.
Ross Brouse: Yeah. Bernhard.
Laura L. Bernhard: Oh gosh. He's making fun of my name, guys. Don't worry about it.
So people just getting started on video. What are your recommendations? One to get in front of the camera and to in storytelling in general.
How to Get Comfortable on Camera
Ross Brouse: And I'm going to give credit where credit is due here, because this is something that I saw Alex Sheridan post about I think it was just last week on LinkedIn. My god, I think it was. I might be getting it wrong. I might be giving credit to Alex when I shouldn't be. So, Alex, if you said this, if not, yeah.
Laura L. Bernhard: He's great. So I'll tag him anyway. I'll put him in the show notes guys. Let's say it's Alex.
Ross Brouse: Yeah. Let's say it's Alex. Let's say it is. Um, so anyway, what was said was that we're on calls all the time, right? So press record on Zoom, just press record and pay attention to what's being said, because you are already on camera.
You're already used to doing it. And we get intimidated when we're the only ones sitting there and we've written some script. And we want to say something because we're thinking about the future and the future is, is it going to be successful? Are people going to respond to it? Are they going to hate it?
Am I going to have trolls that are going to tell me I'm stupid or I'm wrong? And you can't think about that. You can't worry about what's going to happen in the future. I think you should have a plan. So you've got a good message. But when you get in front of the camera, you just have to own it. And that's what I did.
I just got in front of the camera, I press record and I went nuts and I went, I don't care. Like whatever, let's just, let's just rock and roll this thing. I make really silly, crazy, stupid faces. People are like, oh, I love your facial expressions. I said, listen, if you saw me just talking on this podcast right now in the mannerisms that I'm using, I have to do that multiplied by ten.
And when I get on video, because that's how it translates when you're actually watching it. I feel like an idiot jumping around. I literally looked like a clown jumping around sometimes, but I'm enjoying myself and I'm having fun and people seem to like it. And the fact of the matter is like, people really don't care about you until they they do.
And so you're worried that people are going to not like you, people didn't even watch my first videos. I got a couple of likes and they went nowhere and I've been doing it now for 14, 15 months. And it isn't until just recently that people really started paying attention and went, I love these videos.
Give me more. I need this. I need that. Well, how do we do this? How do we do that? And started reaching out and started asking questions. It takes a long time. It took a long time for me to get comfortable and it took a long time for them to get to know me and what I talked about.
Laura L. Bernhard: I really feel that once you stop caring, how you show up online, you really unlock the doors to like all the potential.
Like that's just when you really like figured it out. And you also said a very key word, the C word. And that is consistency.
Ross Brouse: Did I say that? Wow, kudos to me?
(Note from Laura editing this transcript. He didn't SAY consistency but he implied it...you know the whole doing video for 15 months!)
Laura L. Bernhard: Super important guys. That's that's part of everything. Especially when you're working in content it's consistency. You're not just going to create one story and magically, everyone's going to know who you are. So that was a good tip for like showing up online.
What is your tip for like storytelling? Should they, should people have a list of things before they start? Should they just wing it? Like, what's your advice for them?
Ross' Number One Tip Mastering Storytelling
Ross Brouse: You have to find what works for you. What somebody told me, this was probably about a year ago. Somebody told me you've got a batch of your content. You've got to batch it. You got to batch it, sit down for one day and make like seven videos.
And I tried it and then I had seven videos where I had like five. And I was like, oh great. I've got enough videos for two weeks of content. And the two weeks went by and then I was out of videos cause I didn't want to do it again.
Cause I hated batching content so much. And what I realized was is I have all kinds of ideas and I like just having that light bulb moment going, oh, I've got an idea. And I put together a quick video and it takes me 20 minutes and then I'm done. And so now I do all my videos at about 5:30 in the morning.
I get up at 5:30 in the morning. I write a quick script with an idea I had the night before. I record it. I edit it. I posted on TikTok and then it goes on LinkedIn anywhere from two to four days later. So everything goes on TikTok first because TikTok is like sorta my test bed to, to determine if I want my good clients and prospects on LinkedIn to see it.
(We giggled because creating TikTok videos is about storytelling, learning about your customer and getting their attention with short-form content. He emphasized that he puts them on LinkedIn for his prospects/clients.)
Laura L. Bernhard: That's amazing. That's actually a really good tip, but I actually love what you said there because I had the same revelation and I wrote it on LinkedIn as well. Is that I was so concerned with batching content that I would never create content.
And so when you're creating content, it's important to find your creative process. The one that works for you. That could be working 10 minutes a day, that can be working 20 hours in a row. That is not the same for everybody. An from all the content creators that you see online, they're all doing it differently.
Don't believe there's one way. There are multiple ways. So that was, that was a really great piece of advice.
I can't believe we kind of like let everyone in on our conversation. But before we, before we end this episode, what is one thing that you want every listener to walk away with from this conversation?
What Every Business Needs To Do
Ross Brouse: The one thing I want everybody to walk away with is that every business should be doing some form of video content. You have to be doing video. There were people, there were people that are out there that will tell you that's wrong. They say be a good copy writer - You do need to be a good copywriter, but you, when people can see the face of the business or the face of the department or some face that represents your brand, who you are, the change, the transformation that you're able to provide for your customer. And they're able to get to know you.
That that process of know, like, and trust is going to happen faster. It's going to build you into that subject matter expert that is much harder to establish when they don't know your personality.
And because you've seen me on video and, you're listening to me on this podcast. So if you've ever watched one of my videos, you're like, oh my God, that's the same guy. That's how he acts. This is literally how I act. And you'll, you know this because I act like an idiot every time I jump on a call with you, this is literally just how I am.
And my 16 year old and my 12 year old daughter can't stand it. And they're embarrassed as hell by me. My wife's embarrassed by me and I love every last second of it. So get on video, be who you are and let the world see that, that realness that you have and don't hide that, don't stifle that because you're worried that the corporation is not going to accept you are not going to like it.
They may not at first, they absolutely might not, but they will come around to your way of thinking when they see the way people respond to that.
Laura L. Bernhard: That's great for video content for B2B companies, but also personal branding. So super valuable Ross, thank you so much for being on the Marketing Bound Podcast.
Ross Brouse: Yes. Thank you for finally inviting me.
Laura L. Bernhard: I knew you were going to say that I knew it.
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Helping new B2B marketers look good at work. Tune in to the Marketing Bound Podcast to develop your marketing skills, navigate the corporate world like a pro, boost your confidence in your role and access the greatest minds in B2B marketing. Join Laura L. Bernhard every week to fast-track your career in B2B. Subscribe to the Marketing Bound Podcast on Spotify or on Apple Podcasts.