Jeffrey Hayzlett: Branding Isn’t Just for Cattle

 Jeffrey-Hayzlett Marketing, sales, branding, influencers, being an entrepreneur: business celebrity Jeffrey Hayzlett shares his wisdom on these crucial topics and more.


Look, there’s an old movie out there, it’s one of the most classic sales movies in the world, “Glengarry Glen Ross.” And the famous line is: “always be closing.” And you better always be selling and you better always be marketing—never stop. The second you stop, the lifeline of your business will be dead.

Related: Marketing the Moon

How Do You Start Marketing?

You can start off as simple as printing a flyer with your product’s name on it and start going door-to-door— it’s really truly that simple to market your company or product.

Have you made a list of your customers? Do you have a database of those customers? Have you taken the database of those customers and taken their e-mail address and cross-referenced it with Facebook in order to build a profile and then run an ad—$10 a day, $10 a week, $10 a month? It’s literally that easy to do this stuff. Look at what you’re going to do to acquire new customers every day.

Related: How to Build Social Media into Your Marketing Mix

What Is Marketing?

Let’s be clear: marketing’s definition isn’t a communications process. Marketing is the inception of the idea all the way through customer satisfaction. And every day I’m sitting here writing letters. Customers will get letters from me at midnight, at 1 o’clock in the morning, at 2 o’clock in the morning. They’re coming from me because as the CEO, as the chairman of the company, I’ve always got to be marketing.

So you can take baby steps or you can take big steps. It’s the same thing, but you’ve got to take steps and that’s the most important piece.

Related: Entrepreneurs Need to Be Salespeople

When You Don’t Have a Marketing Budget

So maybe you don’t have a large marketing budget, or any budget, for that matter.

Can you tweet? Can you post? Can you put something on LinkedIn? Can you write an article? If you’re not as good at doing those things, then you go and interview somebody—maybe the biggest business person you know in the community. Ask them: “what are the 10 most important things that you’ve learned?” Now you have an article and it didn’t cost you any money. Pick up the phone—don’t forget what you can do with that. All these things are easy things that you can do.

But it really truly starts with the questions “what is it that my business is going to solve and whose problems it will best solve?” And you would probably want to go to the best types of customers for that business—the ones who are willing to pay more than the other ones. So definitely start with the list. I’m always building the list, building the groups of customers, always acquiring new potential customers to put in the pipeline. Because you start with lots of them and then you build it down and build it down and then that’s what it really becomes—a sales funnel.

Related: How to Set up Your Ideal Customer Journey

Identify Your Market

You need to ask yourself: what are the attributes of the product and what are the attributes of the people you’re trying to sell it to? How do they match in terms of the value of the products?

I run what’s called the C Suite Network. I also have a group that’s called the Hero Club, a group for entrepreneurial CEOs, or young CEOs who want to make a difference and be with others who want to get together on a regular basis.

Now let’s take a step back and look at C Suite. What’s my market? Well, there are 28 million businesses in North America. Do I want to sell to them all? No. I want to sell to established businesses and established executives. So I look at people ranked VP or above or the C suite, and I look at business at $5 million or greater. Why? Of the 28 million businesses, that’s only 2.5 million businesses, yet they control 95 percent of the spend.

Related: Why a Smaller Target Market Means Bigger Success

So rather than 27.5 million or 27 million, I’m going to focus on 2.5 million to 3 million businesses that control 95 percent of the spend. That’s my target market. Now, more explicitly, it’s VP or above. Now I’ve got to go pull the list, find the list, and find the names. Then I need to find a way to get introduced to them—either a warm or cold call, or I’m going to hit them up from out of the blue, so I have to find them where they’re at. I’ve got to stalk them on Facebook, stalk them on LinkedIn, stalk them here and stalk them there.

Narrow Your Customer List

People ask what I mean by “stalk.” It means I’ve got to be where they’re at. And if I’m not the best of that in terms of knowing that platform—whether it’s Instagram or Snapchat—I have to find a way to deliver content that makes them want to see us and raise their hands and say, “I’m interested.”

Giving them something of value and giving them something that they want, however, is not always easy. Sometimes takes you more than one try to find out what that is, but you’ll get better at it. And sometimes you’ll lose them and never get them back. But you should have gained something in that process.

So you start with 100, you go to 10 and then you get to one and that’s pretty much the rule from a marketing perspective. That’s a pretty doggone good rule. Just as with all things though, you can go all the way back to Festinger’s theory of cognitive dissonance in terms of how you do the messaging—say positive or negative—in order to move action and it moves them off the fence post one way or another.

Related: How to Get Your Customers to Do Your Selling for You

So where do you place your bets? You’ll have to figure it out. Someone may say “that’s too many choices, I don’t like that.” Tell them to get over it. That’s the way the world works and that’s the nature of the game. But it also means you can get really good at it too. So to get good, you keep trying everything. And guess what? You’re going to make a mistake. That’s OK—get over it—no one’s going to die. You’re marketing your business. It isn’t like it’s life or death.

Improve Your Conversion Rate

You want to test—you want to do A/B testing to find out what things work. Some of us are a bit better at that, so we know the audience a little bit better and can really speak to that audience. I spend a great deal of time and resources really trying to understand the audience’s wants and pain points so I don’t have to do a lot of A/B testing. I get right to it and say “let’s go,” and that’s what we go with.

Related: Master Sales by Turning it into a Science

To give you an idea, when I was chief marketing officer back at Eastman Kodak, I used to go to Best Buy and put on a blue shirt and sell the products like a blue shirter so that I could see the experience. That’s the nature of what you need to do. Or go work the tradeshow floor. Or go on sales calls with the print sales guys. And the more you do that, the much more effective and understanding you are. But that’s what you do—you test, and you try.

The Unique Selling Proposition

Right now I’m in the middle of working on my team. We’re selling radio, TV, and content. Guess who’s doing the sales calls? Me. And every call is just a little bit different because I’m refining that message, I’m getting it down, I’m getting to the essence of what we want to sell—the value points. And that’s a unique selling proposition.

So what’s the unique selling proposition? I don’t always know. I think I know. I don’t know what I don’t know and to think I know is usually when I start making mistakes. I have a feeling, now let’s confirm it. You know what confirms it? My sales. My conversions. Customer satisfaction. Or greater ratings on my brand assessments. Those are the things I start to know I’m winning with.

Related: Constructing Your Value Proposition

Focus on Smaller Deals

Focus in on the short poles in the tent because they’re better to put up than the big pole. The big pole’s messy. And if you don’t have the short poles in the tent, then you don’t have the long poles. A lot of people try to go for the big deals. Look, I know I have to have the big whales, the big deals, but I always try to have those short poles in the tent, which means I’m going after ones that I can implement faster because I need the cash.

I watch it all the time because we have partners, I serve on 14 different boards, I’m the director for different companies. And one of the best pieces of advice is: it’s great that you can sell Microsoft, it’s great you can sell Adobe, it’s great you can sell Google—it looks like a huge number, but it’s going to eat up all of your time when you could have done 10 smaller deals. Those 10 smaller deals would have more to do at the end of the time than that big deal. So I do think it’s important to find some channels in the channel development and then you can go and find those partners while you’re knocking off the one-offs, as well.

Related: Why You Should Identify Your Ideal Customer Profile

Only You Are Responsible for Your Business

I’ve owned a lot of businesses—I’ve owned franchises, I’ve owned independent businesses and small businesses. Do I like working in the sales force? No. Do I know how to? Yes. You know why? So when my sales team comes and tells me, “it doesn’t work like that,” I know. When I go into a sales call or when people come back to me from a sales call and say, “well, that’s not what the customer is saying.” And I say, “Really? I was on this other sales call and I heard this …” So it’s important for you to be in touch with that because nobody cares like you do.

I wrote my first book, which is called “The Mirror Test,” and it was my very first bestseller I wrote back in 2010. And it says, “the only person that cares about your business or your sales and the real success of your business is the person looking back at you in the mirror every day.” It’s not your attorney. It’s not your accountant. It’s not your head of sales. The only person responsible for your business is you.

The Ladder of Entrepreneurship

We all start off as a one-man band. That’s the way entrepreneurs start off—we all start off as that one person. Your next phase is you’re going to add devout followers. So as you start moving up the ladder, you’re going to add these devout followers. And you’re going to find that you’re going to put them in spots where they might not fit because later on, you’re going to get to this last stage, which is adding these really highly trained professionals—the people who should be doing the jobs they should be doing.

So those are the three levels, but all the way through, you’d better be doing sales. You’d better be involved in that process because that’s the one that matters, I think, the most.

Related: Do You Have What It Takes to Be an Entrepreneur?

Branding Isn’t Just for Cattle

So what’s a brand? A brand is two things. A brand is something we always put on a cow and occasionally a horse. I’m from South Dakota, so we brand our cattle, we brand our horses so if they get loose, we know who they belong to. And then the word “brand” got transferred into company and new branding.

So what is a brand? What’s the value of a brand? It’s your promise delivered. That’s really the essence of what it is. If you really get into it, it’s your promise of delivery. Let me ask you a question: what’s the promise that you’re delivering to your customer? Focus in on that and that becomes the driving force behind you building the brand and the way in which you build it. And if you’re delivering on your promise, your value goes up. If you’re not delivering on your promise, or you don’t know what the promise is, then your value isn’t going to be very good. And it’s going to change, too.

Related: Build Your Business Brand Without Breaking The Bank

Defining the Elements of the Brand

A lot of people say it’s the colors, it’s this, it’s that. But ithe brand. Look, I have my own personality—I’ve got my own TV shows, my own radio shows in addition to my other businesses. And we talk about me as a brand. So what are the elements of a brand? One of our elements is that I’m a part-time cowboy. And everything you see—you see a lot of black and white, and that’s the brand of me, because there’s no gray in between. I’m going to be very vocal, I’m going to be very much in your face and very direct.

But at the same time, we want it to have the essence and those become brand elements. So, we’ve got pictures of me and Clinton, of me and Conan O’Brien and there’s Trump, too. We want the elements to be that this guy’s connected. He’s a celebrity business person, he’s very highly effective in terms of what he’s done because of his accolades. He’s a part-time cowboy, and he’s wearing cowboy boots. He’s direct.

Related: 3 Powerful Strategies to Differentiate Your Brand

Those are the elements of the brand and not the brand. Quit spending a ton of time on what it looks like and more on what it is and what you’re going to deliver. Then you just start to get a sense of what it should look like and how it should feel and the way in which you talk about it.

Engage with Your Customers

My belief today in terms of PR—you used to want to be on Bloomberg. If you were a business, you want to be on this or that. You wanted to be on the “Today Show.” Those days are done. In my opinion, you want lots of repetition to the right kind of audiences that want to buy your product or have the ability to see who you are to buy your product or to find some interest or to become engaged with your product. When I say buy, I mean engage, because in the end you’re going to extract something, but engagement is very important because you want to build the community.

Related: How Digital Media Impacted PR

Today, PR is done in a way that I can take the content and have conversations about what I do and engage people to then move them to some other level. Would it be great to do the “Today Show”? Yes, that’s cool. But it doesn’t do anything for me. So would it be better to be on a smaller show or lots of smaller shows that are more about my business? Yes! So in my opinion you want to have lots more repetition. Why? Not to bug the hell out of everybody, but to be where they’re at when they’re ready to engage you in the conversation that you’re having.

The Press Release Isn’t Dead

I sold $100 million worth of product in one year through a Twitter campaign alone.

So, can it be done? Yes. Can you get lucky? Yes, but it’s not the lucky who win. It’s the relentless. What you have to learn to do is be relentless. You just have to stick with it and keep going.

I still use press releases. Why? One, that’s how you distribute the information. It’s more than just an SEO embedment. You want to do that and have it for that, but it’s also because somebody might see it. What’s the cost of that? What’s the value of that? It has other digital value for you on your websites and content search.

If I send a press release out over certain wires, Yahoo Finance picks it up, The Wall Street Journal picks it up, Bloomberg picks it up. They just came across my press release and they’re just dumping it in and that’s just one more thing I have toward our credibility. Because now I’m going to take that listing and show that made The Wall Street Journal.

Related: Are Press Releases Dead In The Digital Age?

Influencer Endorsements Must Be Genuine

Talking about brands I like is very good for their business. Because they’re hijacking my audience and they’re hijacking my involvement to get their value propositions across. But if someone just sending a tweet is not going to get the message across. To me, it should be real engagement. It should be other things around that. If you’re going to have influencer marketing or something, it should be genuine. You should be getting people to write about you, getting people to talk about you. It should just be genuine. It should be real.

Imagine if you do a great job—a really great job—and you get these influencers called customers, you get these influencers called followers, you get these influencers who just talk about your product because you’re good.

Related: How to Connect with Influencers

Social Influencers

Uber grew because they had a great product and people loved it because they could just flip their phones open, the app works and, look, a car’s there! And who would’ve thought, say, 10 years ago, you would get into stranger’s car. Or Airbnb—that you’d actually stay in somebody’s house and sleep in their bed while they’re not there or while they’re sleeping in another room. But because people said it was a great experience and other people said it was really cool, you decide to try it.

Related: Get Twitter Influencers to Work for You

That’s pretty cool, that influencers are other customers—that’s why social is so good. Social media is word-of-mouth, it just happens to be more organized.

Rise to the Top

I’m telling people that’s the new way of marketing. It’s not the ads. It’s content! But now you have to make that content stand out—so you have to be good. And you have to be at the places where they’re reading or consuming it.

And that’s where it’s going to get tougher. Because guess what? There’s a million other people doing the same thing, writing the same way—some of them are competitors, some of them are not. There’s only so much time. So how do you rise above? How does cream rise to the top? And there’s only a small amount who does that. That’s what you’ve got to do. I don’t know the answer to that, but my advice to you is keep trying.. If you work hard at it, you get pretty good at it.

About Jeffrey Hayzlett

Jeffrey Hayzlett is a primetime television host of C-Suite with Jeffrey Hayzlett and Executive Perspectives on C-Suite TV, and business podcast host of All Business with Jeffrey Hayzlett on CBS on-demand radio network Play.It. He is a global business celebrity, speaker, best-selling author, and Chairman of C-Suite Network, home of the world’s most trusted network of C-Suite leaders.

Hayzlett appeared as a guest celebrity judge on NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice with Donald Trump for three seasons. He is a turnaround architect of the highest order, a maverick marketer and C-Suite executive who delivers scalable campaigns, embraces traditional modes of customer engagement, and possesses a remarkable cachet of mentorship, corporate governance, and brand building.