Bas van den Beld
State of Digital

About Bas van den Beld

Bas van den Beld is an award winning consultant, trainer and speaker and the founder of State of Digital, one of Europe’s biggest online learning platforms. Bas is also the founder of Speak with Persuasion, a platform that helps marketers be better public speakers. He is a highly sought after marketing and SEO professional speaker, consultant and trainer.

In his Learn Inbound talk, Bas talks about the importance of really connecting with your audience and understanding their needs in order to create successful marketing campaigns. With real life examples and storytelling, Bas shows insights and possibilities you might not have thought about before.

Key Takeaways

  • When creating a digital strategy, it’s all about your audience.  Take the time to get to know your audience and find out how you can connect with them.
  • You need to build up a level of trust with your customers as this will make them more likely to engage with content from you and ultimately will buy into what it is you are offering.
  • Communicate how your audience communicates, and the only way to truly do that is to understand who your audience is.
  • Look beyond the obvious and really focus on who your audience is: where are they and how can you help them? What do they consume and how do they consume it? Analyse their platforms, gather data, and join the dots.

Video Transcription

I've got kids as well. I've got three of them. These three. They're not seven months, they're actually six, eight, and ten years old, although I must admit the youngest one she thinks she's 16 and that's how she acts so I'm a bit worried about when she's actually 16. But these kids are the main reason maybe or one of the big reasons I'm actually on social media. Because when my son wins a football match and he gets elected player of the week, which is a big thing for the little boys, and I take a picture of him and I put it on Facebook. Why do I do that? Because I'm proud. I'm a proud father. But there's another reason for that. That reason is these two people. These two people are the aunt and uncle of my wife and they live in San Jose in the US. Now, I live in the Netherlands, so that's not really a short trip. Ten years ago, when my son was born, we did something that maybe some of you don't even remember. My wife took a ton of pictures of my son, and then she went to the store and she gave the clerk at the store a little roll. The guy in the store said, "You can come back in five days." Five days later my wife would come back and we had pictures, real pictures. She would put those in an envelope, write a nice letter by hand and then mail the letter. Then a week later, these two people would have the pictures of my son, my just newborn son. That's how we kept in touch. A week after, or two weeks after we'd get a letter back from them with pictures of how stuff was going on in San Jose. These days, those guys, especially him, are the first to like a picture of my son. That's how we get in touch these days. That's how they are living our lives as well. So that's why I am on social media.

I'm also on social media for work-related stuff. So I share updates that I see, articles that I read. I read a lot, because I think that my followers would like that article, they can learn something from it. I do read a lot. I mean really a lot. Every day, my day starts with reading about an hour and a half. I have a TweetDeck which is insane. I have all sorts of applications that I use to filter-block posts to find out what is it that I need to read. I do a little bit of different things than most people do. I do follow people but mostly I try to look at topics. If you look at this TweetDeck you can't really properly read it with this screen probably but, I do searches for consumer psychology. I do searches for smart marketing and that one I love most. Marketing fail. It shows me articles and tweets from people saying, "Hey, they screwed up." Which makes great content for me to write about.

I do miss things, though. I missed an update of my brother-in-law going to Berlin. Didn't see it. I also missed an update of John Luca who saw a great post and tweeted it. Didn't see it. I did see this, an update from my wife's cousin in the US. This one I shared because it was a bit funny, kind of useful. The thing is I see a lot of things but I don't see everything, why is that? We see a lot of things online, but we miss more than we see.

Now I'm going to ask something really difficult from you because I know you've already had a couple of beers. I'd like you to pay really close attention to the screen and I'm going to show you a little video. And the video has ping pong balls in it. I want you to put your eye on one ping pong ball and try to keep a hold of it. Try not to lose it. Let's see if we can do that. Ready?

Do you see your ping pong ball? You don't, right? But this is exactly what we're doing as marketers. We're shooting out ping pong balls. There's 1,500 hundred ping pong balls in that bucket, 1,500 imagine. Do you know that 1,500 is the same number, the exact same number that Facebook chooses between the updates it will show you every time you log in. Think about that. Every time you log in, Facebook chooses between 1,500 updates on average so you only see a little part of it.

Yet we as marketers what we're trying to do is get as much content out there. Let's create some more content. You know what, we as marketers have a problem. We've always been talking about Facebook fans right? I think there's a problem with Facebook fans. I think we target the wrong Facebook fans and I'm not talking about the stuff that Wil talked about just now, I think we are the actual fans. We're trying to reach a small group with a big group of marketers. What we're doing is just creating more and more competition for ourselves. It's crazy. We send out all sorts of different stuff just to think "Okay, maybe somebody picks up our great, fantastic content." Checking the box, we create content.

The problem is also that our attention span is actually less than that of a goldfish. Do you know that our attention span is seven seconds so you probably lost me already, because I've been talking for five minutes now.
What is it we do as marketers? We start to dress up the goldfish. We make it funny, we make it different. We create billboards that are funny, that will get people's attention. I'm actually really worried about the people driving by this every day because there have to be more accidents in this part. And then we start doing more great stuff, amazing stuff. We're starting to create
Harry Potter-like advertorials. This kind of stuff. Can you see it properly or not? I'm not sure if you can see it, I can't see it from here.

This is pretty insane. There's a tube running by, and as soon as the tube runs by, the woman's hair blows. It's amazing. What you probably don't see is there are people walking by on the sides who are not paying attention at all. Nobody sees it. We create brilliant content but nobody's looking. Nobody wants to see it. We're just throwing stuff out there.

The problem that we have is that our timing is off. What we are doing is we're looking at consumer journeys, big words, consumer funnels, big word, and then we're looking at the last part of the funnel. The part where people are actually buying. That's where we need to create the content because that's where people are. If they see the content when they're buying, that's when they'll buy from us. But that's the crowded place. The problem is that if you only focus on one part, something else is happening behind your back, and you're not seeing it.

What's the solution for this? It's actually pretty simple. The solution is to get an understanding of who you're targeting and to get in the middle of this circle. You want to be relevant. You want to be exactly there where people have a question about your topic.

I've got some maybe news for you but probably 99% of the people don't give a shit about your content. Not a serious shit, nothing. They don't care about it. The problem however is, is that what we want to say, "It's so much, it's amazing." Oh we want to say so much.

I once had a client; it was a big, Dutch museum. And they gave me the assignment to look at the website, we're going to renew the website, we're going to do all sorts of stuff, and then they said, "Okay, how we going to do that?" I said, "Okay we'll start with a workshop and then we'll figure out all the details after that." And right, oh, great. Workshop. I started preparing the workshop. The day before the workshop I got an email and the email said, "So this is where, where the workshop is going to be tomorrow. These are the attendees of the workshop." So I opened up the list, there's fucking 75 people in that list. I was like, "What? Why are 75 people coming to the workshop about the new website? He said, "Well, everybody has to have their say." Maybe it's a Dutch thing, I don't know, but everybody wanted to have their say about their part of the website. They had curators who said they wanted to have their content on. Out of the 75 people there, 70 people wanted to have their own homepage on the website.

That's how stupid people are and that's how narrow-focused people are. We're looking at our stuff thinking, "We are brilliant." But we're forgetting who we're targeting. We're forgetting that there are people on the other side behind the computer, behind the tablet, behind the phone, who actually have a problem and we might be the ones who can solve that problem. We want to be there in the middle. If you really want to have success when it comes to digital strategy, you need to be relevant and you need to speak the language of your target audience.

That means you really have to understand your audience, and we think we do. Do you understand your audience? I think most of you think you understand your audience. Sometimes I wish I was that guy when it comes to audiences because you could just hear what audiences were saying or actually thinking, not what they were just saying but thinking. That would be awesome, right? We think we know our audiences. We actually don't.

This is the room of my son. Told you he's a 10 year old. What you see on the walls there are pictures of football players. Posters. So he's got Lionel Messi there, he's got Daley Blind there, he's got Suárez there, he's got an Ajax player there. Brilliant. My room looked exactly the same when I was little.

This summer we went on a camping trip and one night we sat down with the family and my daughters, who have their room in the attic, they share a room, they started talking about how they wanted to change their room when they got back from holiday. That's the kind of stuff you talk about when you're on holiday. New stuff, you want to change stuff. So we started chatting about that and it was pretty simple, we just moved the beds, changed the room, that's it. And then my son says, "Yeah, I want to change my room as well." It's like, okay, yeah, we can do that. "So what do you want?" We started chatting a bit and then my wife started talking into the conversation and getting into the conversation as well. My wife's brilliant at this stuff. So she really knows how to decorate a room. She's absolutely brilliant she decorated our whole house and that. In this case, she said, "Okay, so, yeah, we'll do that. I'll paint this wall and then I'll have something for that wall and then you can get rid of those stupid football posters." The face of my son was like, "Haw." I never felt so sorry for him. He said, "But that's the most perfect thing in my room." My wife did not get her audience at that time. She didn't understand his feelings. She couldn't understand his feelings because she's not a little boy of 10 years old who likes football. I got it so, hehe. But hey, I'm a boy, right?

If only my wife would have known my grandma. This is my grandma. My grandma was amazing. She was 92 when she died. She had a great life, she traveled the world. She learned new stuff every day. And she actually taught me about marketing. She taught me the most valuable lesson in marketing. She didn't even know what marketing was. She didn't understand the word "marketing" She had no idea. My grandma had 11 grandchildren. Now like most people, I had two grandma's, the other one, so, not this one, was the type of grandma who if you would visit there she would complain about the weather. It's either too hot or too cold. She would complain about the food, which was either too hot or too cold. The neighbors were either too noisy, or they didn't talk to her that kind of stuff. You didn't really want to go there as a seven and eight-year-old boy. This grandma was different. She said, "I want to get the trust of my grandchildren so they can come to me for everything they want to talk about. Whether it's school, girls, or parents, whatever." So she started thinking, she started thinking about, "How can I really connect with my grandchildren?" And she looked at every grandchild, all 11 of them. She started to figure out what is it where their passion is?

Now, with me, it was pretty simple. You saw my son's room, copy of my room, I like football. I'm an Ajax fan and I was a huge Ajax fan back in the days. My grandma lived in Amsterdam; I lived in Amsterdam as well so for her it was easy. I'm going to talk about Ajax with Bas. Now, I don't know if any of you guys had a passion but if you have a passion and somebody starts talking about that passion to you, you kind of instantly know whether or not that person knows about your passion. When someone starts talking about Ajax to me, I instantly know. My sisters, for example, I've got two sisters, if they talk about Ajax, its crap. They talk about Marco Van Basten who's retired 15, 20 years ago and they're still asking me if he played last week. They don't understand.

So this grandma, my grandma, she started to look at Ajax and when the first time she started talking about Ajax to me, I kind of like automatically thought, "Okay what's happening here?" Because if you have a passion and somebody talks to you about it and you realize they don't know what they're talking about, they kind of back off, right? So if somebody says so to me, "How did Ajax play last night?" And they didn't, I'm just like, "Yeah, no they didn't play." I just, back off. But when my grandma started talking about Ajax, I started to realize, "Like, wait a second; she actually knows what she's talking about." She knew who had played. She knew who was substituted. She knew what the coach had said after the game. She actually understood "offside." Big deal. I was like, "Wow. Okay." So I started to talk to my grandma about football and I started to get closer to her. I trusted her more. It even went that far that one day, I went to my grandma's house. I can still see it, we had dinner and I realized, "Oh wait a minute, Ajax is playing tonight and I can't see that game. Okay, I'll catch the highlights when I get home." And after dinner, we're sitting down, we're having coffee and she has this big brown chair. Big one. She sat down on the chair and we chatted a little bit, we had a coffee and she started moving around a little bit and she started looking really pissed off. I was like, "What the hell's going on?" I seriously thought my grandma's having a heart attack. So I said, "Grandma, are you okay?" She said, "Yeah yeah, no. I'm fine. It's just like, do you mind if I put on the telly? I really want to see the game." I was like, "Yeah, absolutely." At that point, she had embraced my topic so much that she started loving it herself.

The good thing about that is that I trusted her from that point on. I really trusted her. I came to her for advice which I didn't want to go to my parents for. She won my trust by understanding me. That's the most valuable lesson in marketing. If you know who you're talking to, if you really, really understand who you're talking to then you can start creating content that helps, that works. It's about trust.

So you have to understand, first of all, who actually is your audience? Who actually knows who their audience is? You got tools like Wil just talked about which are amazing not just for creating the content but even more amazing for understanding the user, the audience.

The first thing you have to remember when it comes to audiences, there's no such thing as an average user, does not exist. When I do workshops and training sessions, I often ask the question, "What is your target audience?" And then people have to write it down, and this seriously happened about a couple of months ago when I was somewhere in the UK and I'm not saying where, and I asked my group that question and people wrote stuff down. This one girl she gave the answer, "My target audience is women between 16 and 75." Wow. "With two and a half kids." I was like, "Who in the hell has two and a half kids?" You might be pregnant, that might be half but..." Okay, doesn't exist.

You have to understand that the average audience is not there, so you have to start finding a different way of looking at your audiences not just like the demographics that we always use; you have to understand the different types of audiences. Who are they? What are they actually doing?

Now, I usually have four different types of audiences. Let me quickly run you through them. The first group is the Seekers. Those are the people that are just looking for content. They're looking for information. They have a problem and they might go to Google to get an answer on that problem.
You probably don't know those people yet. The Joiners you will know because those are the people who will have seen your content before, and who thought, "Wow, that's great content. I'd like to see more of that." They subscribe to your newsletter for example. The Amplifiers also called Sharers, Influencers; there are different names you can use for that, those are the people that share your content.

Be aware here because when I talk about sharing your content, I'm not talking about clicking on a 'Like' button or sharing it on Twitter. I'm talking about actually sharing your content. Do you know how most processes within businesses go when making a decision? Take an average business about, I don't know. They have a CMO, and they have a CFO, and they make decisions and people start thinking, "Oh we need to talk to the CMO and we need to talk to the CFO because they are the decision-makers."

The problem is, is that they might make the decisions, but they're not doing that simply. They're not doing that themselves. They actually get information from people around them. That's when they start listening to other people within the business. Those are your amplifiers. Those are the people that read your content and then share it.

In my case, for example, with State of Digital, SEOs are my amplifiers. not just because they like the content but also if they want to get training, they have to tell their boss they need training. The fourth group, the buyers, are the ones that actually buy your product. That's where most people target on. That's actually not useful because it's crowded there and those people are all influenced by all the other ones.

For each of these audiences, I create different strategies, different types of content. I have to understand where they are in that buying process. I have to understand if they are aware of the fact that they have a problem or not. I put those different audiences next to all the different phases in the funnel.

Then I start researching the audiences. You have to truly research your audience. The best way to do that is very simple. Data. There's tons of data out there. Did you know when Obama won the elections in the US the first time, people said, "Okay he won it because of social media. Because he got a lot of money off of social media." It's true but that's not the reason why he won it. I spoke to one of the guys who was actually working closely with Obama at the time and he explained to me what they actually did is very similar to what they've always done. They went to neighborhoods and they knocked on doors to talk to people.

However, the big difference was that in this case, instead of knocking on the door and saying, "Hi, we're from the Obama team. What's your problem? Let's talk." They knocked on the door and said, "Hi, we're from the Obama team. We know this is your problem. This is our solution." Because they researched who they were going to target before they actually went in. They actually used the data in the right way. People started to trust them because of that. Because there's a big difference in trust by somebody on the door saying, "Hey, what's your problem?" Or somebody knocking on the door and saying, "Hey, I got your solution." Big difference.

Google's doing the same right. Google actually said, and that's pretty creepy actually, they don't want us to search anymore. They just want us to get the answers. They want Google to tell them what to do next, Eric Shmidt said. Jesus Christ that is something. That's actually happening. If I go to my Google Now, it's showing me tons of stuff. It's showing me when my next trip is. It's showing me what content is available on the websites I've visited recently. I'm not subscribed to those websites. Google just knows that I like reading those websites, so they just give me the content already.

That one is the best. They know when my packages are delivered.
I did not use Google to find the packages, I just ordered them but Google knows and it tells me already in my Google Now that the packages are on their way. That's researching as well, that's data.

So the question is, what do you research? There's tons of stuff to research. You have to find out what they say, what they need, and what they read. Social media plays a big role in that but you have tons of data yourself as well. Your analytics on your website, your own search box on your website tells you a lot. You have industry websites that talk about different topics. There's tons of industry websites also not in the search industry. Really, there are.

There's other data, there's social media and social media is very powerful when it comes to finding out what is it that our audience actually wants. But the only way you can actually find it out if you look beyond the obvious. When I look at a tweet I'm not just looking at what is it that they're sharing, I create lists of people in my target audience, I analyze their tweets and I'll look at what websites are they sharing.

I do the same on LinkedIn. I find a lot of information on LinkedIn about what is the actual problem that people have. And Quora is amazing for that as well. You get questions and answers. This is a search and content marketing. These are just blog posts waiting to be written. So easy.

You analyze the data, you connect the dots and you create content for every part of the cycle. That's where the content goes in. I'm going to give you a quick example. I have to do this quickly because I've been told that I'm almost out of time already. It's about dishwashers. It's pretty strange, right? What? Dishwashers? Yeah dishwashers. I was asked to optimize for a website on dishwashers. There's a problem because if you look at dishwashers and you look at results, there's about 147 million results and there's ads all over the place and overview sites. In the Netherlands, it's even worse. We've got Google shopping results there. I thought, "Okay, let's do this in a different way." So I started at Google. And I started to type in "buying dishwasher." And I realized, "Oh wait a minute, there's other stuff that people are searching for." I started to create a list of topics that people are searching for in relation to dishwashers. I started to understand, "Okay, these are the different phases that people are going through." And then I went to Twitter. I started analyzing keywords there as well. Those keywords I found on Google, I put them into Twitter and saw people tweeting about dishwashers and I realized a couple of things.

There are a couple of really great tweets in here. "Marriage is saying, "The dishwasher is empty, stop putting your dirty dishes in the sink." Every day until I die." Its like, "Okay, that's not a good marriage." "Great, the fucking dishwasher broke, now I have to do everything by hand." Oh yeah, I remember that from the old days. I'm old. This one I like most. "Is there a
German word for when you find the office dishwasher needs emptying, but someone is watching you, so you can't just walk away?" Amazing. Then I realized, "Wait a second. I see emails coming by from people in offices saying that somebody cleaned that dishwasher. People are always having those issues."

So I started to think about stuff, and I started to think about it in a funnel way, as in the different parts of the funnel. And I started brainstorming. For each part of the funnel, I started to create content. And I realized a couple of things. Based on that one tweet, I realized that when I was young, we did all the dishes by hand. With my two sisters, there was always fighting about who would do the dishes. One day my mom she actually created a schedule. On the Monday, I had to do the dishes, on the Tuesday I had to dry the dishes, on the Wednesday I had to clean the dishes, et cetera, et cetera.

So I realized two things, one, my parents actually never did the dishes themselves, and two, schedules work. So we started creating content. Content for each part of the cycle. A free downloadable guide on how to load a dishwasher. That's one people are not aware that they're going to need with a new dishwasher at a certain time. We created basic home maintenance videos about how to troubleshoot your dishwasher. That's when people start to get aware like, "Wait a minute, I have to keep my dishwasher a little bit clean because otherwise, I'll need a new one pretty soon." We created more videos about problems with dishwashers. We created the dishwasher buying guide which is in the buying cycle. So that's the fourth part.

The last thing we did is, we created a course list. What to do with your dishwasher. What to do, how to unload them, how to add soap, all that kind of stuff and one other thing. We created an Excel sheet and in that Excel sheet you could fill in the names of the people in your household or in your office or whatever, and it would give you a list of the days that certain people had to clean the dishwasher. So put it in and put it out. That got downloaded thousands of times. Ten thousands of times. Because people wanted that list. Yes, that is in the early stages of the funnel, but they're friends for life because the logo of that dishwasher was on that list, on that schedule. And we actually made a profit on that.

You have to connect the dots on different content parts. One person who did that really well was Thomas Edison. You might not know this but Thomas Edison when he wanted to get more power in the electricity market when it started off, he created the Edison Electric Light Company bulletin.
He made it confidential for people within the business only. But he leaked it and because he leaked it and because he leaked it he spread it to different parts of the media, people started writing about it. He created awareness about the fact that people wanted electricity because they didn't see the need for it before he created this.

That you can do with your own content as well. So if you create a Webinar, make sure that you follow it up with other content. If you create a blog post, don't just create a blog post, understand what it is that people do next. What is next? You need to think about that.

Finally, there's one thing you need to remember. Not every piece of content actually needs to sell. The final ingredient that I want to show you is from a company that we all know. They created a video which has everything in there. They understood their audience; they still wanted to show their product without actually selling it. Is there any way we can get these lights off? So we can see the video properly or not? Just say no if it's no. Nobody's saying anything. Is it a yes or a no?

I hope you saw it properly. If you didn't get to see it with the lights off Google 'Google India video' and you'll find it. It's a great example of how Google understood what's going on because these two people were separated about 50 years ago and that happened a lot in Pakistan and India at the time. They understood the problem, then made a story out of it and actually had the final secret ingredient. And I think they stole that from my grandma, a little bit of love and understanding for your audience. Thank you very much.

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