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How to Make Marketing That Matters with Jay Acunzo

As consumers, our attention is constantly being pulled in different directions, and our feeds have become shouting matches between same-y voices promising the same basic things.

Today’s guest, Jay Acunzo, has a motto: Don’t market more. Matter more. So let’s jump in there. Where does that mantra come from, and what does it mean for brands trying to stand out in crowded industries?


Meet The Guest

👤 Name: Jay Acunzo

💪 What They Do: Jay is a speaker, author, showrunner, hosting shows Unthinkable and 3Clips

🌐 Jay on the web: LinkedIn | TwitterWebsite

About The Show

Atomic Media is a Procket original series telling the stories of how content marketers are rethinking the ways they’re telling stories that mean something AND move the needle – without burning out.

Hosted by Stuart Balcombe, scripted and repurposed by the team at Procket.


A short summary of the most actionable takeaways and best advice of the episode.

1:20 — Marketers need to stop shipping “stuff” that doesn’t matter

Jay has seen many marketers throughout his career shipping stuff just for the sake of shipping something.

Here’s the questions he says marketers should be focused on answering with their content instead of creating just another podcast, or listicle:

  • Will it help them think better?
  • Will it make them feel something?
  • Is it fostering deeper understanding?

In a world trending shallow, people are looking for deeper connection.

3:03 — Why brands need to invest in  deepening relationships with their existing customers

Rather than wasting money on inefficient marketing, Jay recommends brands focus on helping people who are already interested in what they sell — and could actually use it.

It’s a lot easier to turn existing customers into fans than to go out to total strangers and shout, ‘Hey, we have a thing over here! Come check it out.’

The whole goal should be to stop marketing more and start trying to matter more. And then the marketing takes care of itself.

5:00 — Before creating anything, look for what’s broken in the status quo

Before you begin creating any product or service, you must first understand: what is the problem this will solve? What pain will it take away?

Before thinking about production or voice try to answer these questions about your audience:

  • What is nagging at you?
  • What are you frustrated by?
  • What is the status quo?
  • And why is that not good enough?

If the status quo is great, your marketing doesn’t need to exist but if you find the frustration then you get to say to your audience:

‘If you believe that we should go there, if you can't stand what's happening now, and this feels frustrating or painful to you, and you'd like to reach that mountain peak, well join us on a journey as we do that.’”

9:09 — Being relevant is table-stakes. Marketers are competing with content everywhere not only their products competitors

Today’s content content consumers have endured too much many sleazy marketing tactics and even when they aren’t assaulted by pop ups and clickbait they have infinite choice of what to consume. To catch their attention, brands need to be relevant, and avoid the hard sell.

"In a world of infinite choice, we don't pay attention to anything that's not relevant to us. We don't spend any time with anything that's not in some ways enjoyable. We have options. Why would we spend time with the least enjoyable?"

12:17 — Spend 0% of time thinking about competition

Looking to your competition is a distraction, when you focus on your customer they will tell you everything you need to know about solving their pain — and growing your business.

19:37 — Look for feedback from people who engage, comment, and share your content on their own

Jay says if you've put out five or 10 episodes of a show, and you haven't heard anything from the audience — you've gotten no qualitative feedback. Chances are you should kill it or radically change it…

  • URR — Unsolicited response rate

Jay says the more you do your work, the more you should have people who respond or reach out or share you publicly with their networks without you asking them to.

"Without me asking you, did I hear from you? Were you so moved to say something, to engage? That's the Holy grail. That's a sign that you have something worth spreading.”

24:24 — Forget about the ego of the big traffic number and do the harder thing, getting a passionate response

You don’t need a million followers like Oprah, says Jay. Keep your head down and focus on amazing the people who already like you — and success will come.

It's amazing what a business can do with a small group of people that react in a big way to everything you do

25:57 — Brands that stand for something can build a “cult” like following

En route to writing his first book Jay discovered Death Wish Coffee and their podcast Fueled by Death Cast.

Their brand is a great example of how to evoke build a strong emotional connection with your audience. Jay documented their approach in his original series for HelpScout Against the Grain

32:44 — Use a simple story structure to power “oh by the way” marketing

Show the consumer you relate to them and are interested in their story and their pain...and by the way, you sell something that can help them, if they want.

The story structure that every brand should try to figure out, I call a one simple story: -

  • Status quo
  • Tension
  • Resolution

What is your customer going through right now? What is a barrier they encounter or frustration or open-ended question or a desire? That's the tension. And then what do you think is the better way?

And oh, by the way, if that's your story, we happen to have a product for that.

39:15 — Marketers can own the premise, but not the topics themselves

Podcasters try so hard to think of topics that haven’t been covered. But the topics aren’t unique, says Jay; what’s unique is your perspective on it. For example:

  • Imbuing a topic that’s often talked about with your unique point of view
  • Layering a unique angle and philosophy and belief system onto a topic

Marketers can stand out by making the experience and journey to understand their chosen topics more enjoyable or different or deeper.

36:25 — Mattering to the audience doesn’t have to break your marketing budget

Instead of starting out with high budget production, Jay instead recommends taking baby steps to incorporate more of the stuff that matters, to ensure you’re on the right path (and prove to your boss that it works).

“It's always about reps. It's never about one simple change — that's just not reality.”

JAY ACUNZO [00:00]: In a world of infinite choice, We don't pay attention to anything that's not relevant to us. 

STUART BALCOMBE [00:00:05] Most content sucks. Let's start there. We live in an era where the barriers to starting a business have dropped enormously, the barriers to running advertising and getting your marketing out there have never been lower.

That's really exciting, but it also means that the web is more crowded than ever before. As consumers and business operators, our attention is constantly being pulled in different directions and our feeds have become shouting matches between samey voices promising the same basic things. Basically we live in an attention based economy and the ways we're trying to capture and hold that attention aren't working.

Today's guest, Jay Acunzo is one of the top voices in content marketing and the creative economy. Jay is a speaker, author and show runner and the host of amazing podcasts, like unthinkable three clips against the grain. And one of my all time, favorite exceptions, his day motto. Don't mock it more matter more. So let's jump in there.

Right? Where does that mantra come from? And what does it mean for Brian and trying to stand out in today's crowded markets? You're listening to atomic media, the show that tells the stories of how content marketers are rethinking the ways that creating content to tell stories that mean something and move the needle all without burning out.

I'm still a Bolcom co-founder of pocket and I'm excited your hair. Don't forget to subscribe and leave it. Review wherever you get your podcasts. Okay. On with the show.

Jay Acunzo: [00:01:46] So I came up in content marketing for tech companies like Google and HubSpot and both jobs I held and industry competitors, and just being in the community at large.

I just see so many people shipping stuff that just does not matter to anybody. Like they're ticking boxes when they created their heart is not in it. And then on the receiving end, it's just yet another, whatever it is yet, another list article yet another podcast yet another whatever. And there's no differentiation, but more importantly, there's no thought to.

What is this doing for the person on the receiving end? Like, is it helping them think better or feel some sort of way? Is it helping them understand something more deeply in a world trending shallow? Like, why are we doing this stuff? It's because, Oh, somebody said it's a best practice. And so I've kind of made it my mission to, to poke at some of these best practices and try and refocus us on like what any of this should be, which is to create things that in some way, serve somebody else.

And when you do that incredibly well, all of our goals are better served, but I think the problem is we just assume we're doing either. We don't think about doing that and that that's a whole other show, but let's assume everybody watching or listening is trying to do that. We assume we've done. So, and when we don't see organic growth, like 15 people consume the podcast and they don't go get 15 more people over the next month, we think, well, now we have to go out cold.

And sort of throw good money after bad. Actually it's a product problem. It's an experience problem. It's the premise that's lacking for the podcast. It's the research you need to shore it up. It's the voice, it's the whatever, making the experience better. So I think we get too clever for ourselves. We think that we have to go run out to total strangers and try to convince them to like us, which is just inefficient, very expensive marketing.

It's far more effective if you're thinking in business terms. It's also far more far more logical. If you're thinking in human, emotional terms to serve more deeply, the people that are already somewhat aware of you, or even like you and turn them into super fans than it is to go out to total strangers and like, shout, Hey, we have a thing over here, come check it out.

So that's why I think the whole goal should be to stop marketing more and start trying to matter more. And the marketing takes care of itself. 

Stuart Balcombe: [00:04:00] The really resonates with me. And I think, especially in, you know, in software and in, in tech where, you know, everybody's selling another widget, the barrier to building products.

And so building software has got lower and lower over time. And that this is an area where if you do it right, you can really stand out because you can do things that nobody else can do, because you can tell you own your own story. And I think that that's, that's why I'm really interested to talk to you about this because for brands that  haven't gone as deep on the, like, let's think, really think through the premise of the show, let's really make sure that this will matter on a deeper level and has really sort of invested the time that whether, because they, you know, it's just, like you say, it's not on the checklist or it's not in their budget or whatever it is. How do you start moving in that direction? 

Jay Acunzo: [00:04:49] We need to understand what problem we're trying to solve in the world or desire. We're trying to fulfill, like why we even exist. Like startups have a wonderful advantage over late stage companies because they haven't lost sight of this cause they just started.

But they started hopefully from a place of trying to solve some kind of pain in the world. So when I develop a show for clients, for example, we start not with. The channel, like, is it a podcast or a video show? We don't start with, uh, maybe the voice of the show who hosts this as it may. Is it somebody at the company?

Do we find someone who's a third-party contractor, we start with frustration and actually putting like good process to this. What is nagging at you? What are you frustrated by? What is the status? Whoa. And why is that? Not good enough because otherwise you and your marketing don't need to exist. If the status quo is great.

Right. So, so there's one version of this where we discover you're actually superfluous. You're actually a commodity and that is your choice. I can't help you. So go ahead and shout at the world because you're trying to compete with somebody else based essentially on price or hoping that you are the first one.

They find not 12 other, other competitors that are exactly the same, but I'm betting that most people are not that I'm betting. Most people are like, you know what. This isn't good enough. And it could be grand like, uh, the way we run our businesses today is entirely broken or it could be something that sounds a little more playful.

Like we just overlook the meaning in superhero movies and actually like they're, they're wonderful forms of art and I'd like people to appreciate them as art and not just a distraction. Or I'd like to help people escape once in a while and have a fun distraction, whatever. Something about the status quo is not working.

You see a mountain peak in the distance. You're like, I think that would be a better way. And then you get to say to your audience, if you believe that we should go there, if you can't stand what's happening now, and this feels frustrating or painful to you, and you'd like to reach that mountain peak, we'll join us on a journey as we do that.

Right. And you're inviting people along with you. And you're getting to say to them, we believe what you believe. We can't stand what you can't stand. We're frustrated by what you're frustrated by. And we want to get to the place in this world that looks like that. Come with us. This is a simple three-part story.

And everyone from B2B tools to D to C companies can tell this story. It's status quo, tension resolution, and Oh, by the way, we're building something to hasten that resolution. We have like 5% of the solution. It's a product it's a brand come with us. 

Stuart Balcombe: [00:07:16] I want to quickly highlight something that Jay sat here when we're looking at status quo, tension resolution. Well, actually talking about a story structure, that's much older than content marketing. This is basically a simplified version of the hero's journey. So let's talk about the original star wars.

Luke exists, an imperfect status quo. He wants adventure and feels trapped with living with Xanax. Tension is introduced when he meets Obi-Wan and is pushed into a quest. The resolution comes when Luke survives his adventure, having grown and changed along the way. Basically the three-part structure that Jay is talking about here, mirrors the three act structure that we see in so many of the stories we interact with David.

Frodo and Walter, the rings, Peter pocket and Spiderman, Diana and wonder woman are all characters that go through this arc in marketing. We almost always start with the end of the journey, the product, the solution. So where do we find the rest of the story?

Jay Acunzo: [00:08:26] Before you have a product, you have a reason the product should exist. Right. And if the reason that products should exist is just, you'd like to build this product for essentially, for funsies.

Good for you. Self-expression and tinkering. And that's a wonderful reward, but that's a side project. That's a hobby. If you're really trying to grow a business, you're really trying to start a movement. If you're really trying to serve a community or have a cause now you're starting with something that precedes the product, which is.

I'd like to help this person or these types of people feel a certain way, achieve a certain thing, get better at something, understand something I'd like to help them solve a problem. Right. And so how do I do that? Well, okay. There's a product or a service that can do that. There's content that can do that.

There's community that can do that. There's all these types of things. And so your content. That's again, the world I came out of should just scratch that same itch. It should just address that same problem or set of desires that your product does, but in slightly different and maybe, maybe even slightly worse ways than the product, right?

Because the product is the paid thing that you're marching people towards.

Stuart Balcombe: [00:09:30] These things that we're talking about, the sort of desired outcome, how you want to make people feel that sort of the things you want to enable people to do. These are not new things, right?

Like these people have always had, are always looking for a better solution or a better, better way to solve the current, uh, the current problem. Why do you think now that seems to be this such a movement among brands. To have an interest in content that is not a direct sales, that is not, uh, Necessarily directly tied, to a revenue outcome.

Jay Acunzo: [00:10:07] Well, on the consumer side, it's, we're tired of it. We've gone, we've endured it too much and we've been lied to and cheated and scammed into clicking and buying for too long. That's the negative side of it. Even on the positive side, we just have infinite choice. So I'll get to you and your product and service when I need you.

I don't need you to tell me how great it is because I can do that research on my own. Um, I can find products and services. No problem. I'm I'm most people in most of their days are not really ready to think about your product or service, but they might be thinking about a certain theme or concept or encountering a certain frustration or carrying around certain ambitions and desires and hopes that, you know, those are ideas that you can own and help March them towards your product eventually.

So in a world of infinite choice, We don't pay attention to anything that's not relevant to us. Right. So being relevant with your brand is table stakes. We don't spend any time with anything. That's not in some ways enjoyable. We have options. Why would we spend time with the least enjoyable? So being relevant, being enjoyable, these are table stakes.

And now what you actually want to do is think about how, how are you refreshing? How are you different in a welcome way? Not different than a stunt, like stand out way. Like even the language we used stand out from the crowd, that's actually not the goal. Uh, how are you serving them in a way that they didn't expect that delights them?

And then how are you personal? How do you feel like you're tapping that personal reason that they're doing something or trying something we're living a certain way, that identity that they have. These are not new things, but we've just lost sight of it. And perhaps it's because of, you know, we can sort of separate from the customer too far using technology, perhaps it's because we can measure a lot more things than we could before.

But for whatever reason, we forgot that this job is to serve other people more deeply than the competitor to make them feel the things that we feel or think a certain way and align with our beliefs and align with our thinking. Like I comes back to subscription for me, which means. Aligning with you not clicking a button, that's the by-product of aligning with you.

So how do you rally people to align with you story experiences? The emotional side of this, not the programmatic placement of an ad, not pumping the world full of alerts that you have something they can buy the world doesn't need more alerts, but the world might need more connection. The world might need a story.

Only you can tell those are the things that actually are effective marketing today, 

Stuart Balcombe: [00:12:30] Let's think about the infinite choice element for a moment here. And just about any vertical consumers are inundated with both products and marketing and it begs the question of how we think about competition. If something works for one of our competitors, should we mimic it, explore it more deeply, respond back to it.

We don't exist in a vacuum. So where do our competitors fit in the story?

Jay Acunzo: [00:13:00] I mean, you have two choices. Do you want to build a business that reacts to the world around you? Or do you want to be proactive?

I mean, we, we overvalue because we think we have to think about the competitor. So we overvalue them. You should spend 0% of your time thinking about the competition, because if you're just laser focused on the customer and the audience you hope to serve, you will find out about the competition through them.

But more importantly, you will find out where the competition is either not being present or falling short. Because the competent, you know, coming out of B2B, this looks like talking to a bunch of say marketers, um, or we can even take it into my world of like podcast and show running consulting, talking to a bunch of marketers who are trying to build podcasts.

And they've dabbled in all this podcast education that exists. And they're so tired of some of the tips and tricks and cheats and hacks and usual BS. What they're looking for is a system that can help them create not a, yet another podcast. But a show, something higher level, something immersive, something worthy of 30 to 45 minutes of someone's time.

Every single week. Oh my goodness. What an investment from the audience. So by talking to the customer, by focusing on your audience, they will show you not what solutions you need to provide. You shouldn't listen to them based on what they're asking for. You should listen to what they're. Pains are what their frustrations are.

And then you go back with your wonderful team or just by yourself and using the skills and imagination and tastes that only you possess and the knowledge you have based on what you do in your craft, provide them a solution they didn't know to ask for. I don't know where the co competition fits into that.

If not, you are so out of touch with the actual customer that now you're just competing with other brands that do what you do. And hoping that when you're put on a spreadsheet, you win. Congratulations. You're a commodity. Like we should not be building commodities. 

Stuart Balcombe: [00:14:44] So that really resonates with me that, you know, building a show and creating a show  like you said, the difference between a show and just another podcast, right?

It's exactly the same process as building a product versus just another widget. Right. You still have to start from that deeper pain, that deeper understanding of why are you doing this in the first place? 

Jay Acunzo: [00:15:06] You know, I've seen so many people panic in the podcast world about clubhouse and about these trends.

And it's just yet another right. It's yet another sexy thing, or at least like a overly discussed thing that people are like worried about. Should I, or shouldn't I, you shouldn't ask those. You should just wait, just wait it out. Let, let someone else be early. And arbitrage and opportunity. And as soon as it gets hard on that channel, in other words, as soon as you have to be decent at it, and you're shouting, it's just you and a bunch of other people shouting, those people leave.

Right. And all that's left are the people that really dug into the fundamentals and you actually have to be good at something. Um, I don't know about you Stuart. I did not get into this career to just laser really pick up a bunch of trends, try to do what's easiest and go home. I want to serve people. I want to help people with what I'm doing.

Like. In what world is that ever easy? Right. So I think we're all looking for the shortcut out here and it doesn't exist. So the rabbit idea comes from my time in high school running cross country. Um, and there would be these people, every race, probably not very seasoned savvy runners, who, as soon as the gun went off, they would sprint out of the gate for a 5k race.

It's unsustainable to do what they were doing. And then they would burn out well in marketing, they're sprinting out of the gate on clubhouse, then they die off from clubhouse, but then they see another race at AK, another channel, and they sprint out of the gate there we're better off ignoring those types of people, the trends, the cheats, the latest flavors of the week, um, and just running our own race and the real problem with all this.

Is we actually usually don't know what we're trying to do. So we're better off thinking more deeply and dedicating more time to think and have a strategy and planning out, like, what is our mission? Who is this for? What is it for? How will we know it's working like the three classic questions of design thinking?

Who is it for? What is it for? How will we know if it's working, we're better off thinking through these things to give ourselves a decision-making filter through which we can view the work, right. Cause when we know what we're trying to do, and a trend comes along, we're not thrown off our game. We can just continue to focus.

And it's like, great. I'm glad I know this thing exists. I can use it if, and when I need to. And if it's the round in three years, maybe I'll dip into it. Like carpenters are not panic asking fellow carpenters. Hey, do hammers work. They're like, it's a tool. If I know what I'm trying to build, I can go get that tool for this specific purpose.

We need more thinking like that in marketing, the job is not to just use stuff because it exists. Or even because people are talking about it existing. The entirety of the job is to serve the audience with what we create in the world and in doing so, everything else gets easier, including knowing if you should be on any of these channels that are hot.

Stuart Balcombe: [00:17:55] It's so refreshing to hear that because I feel like it's so easy to, like you say, get sucked into the clubhouse, try and get sucked 

Jay Acunzo: [00:18:01] into it's fun. It's a game. How many followers can you get? Oh my gosh, you're early. You're gonna get more followers more quickly. None of this stuff matters.

All of this stuff is incremental, right? Like how long should your podcast be? I don't know. What's your podcast about, have you been on a microphone enough that people would listen to you for five minutes? Let alone 50 every single week. Right. Like, we always talk, uh, about the tactics and the Polish and the last mile and the channels, because it's fun.

It's a game. It's also easy to talk about. It's a lot harder to talk about. What's our strategy. Like, what is the show for, for our overall portfolio of projects? What's it for, for the audience? You know, any of these things, they don't feel like some sexy, fun discussion or blog post for a guru to write. So rarely if ever are we focused there, but that's almost 95, if not 99% of the job, we're way better off focusing on that, that kind of stuff.

Stuart Balcombe: [00:18:55] Tactically speaking. There's another side to this. When you build a show that's deeply valuable to your audience, it gives you new opportunities to think about how you connect and how you take the assets you're creating to the next level.

Jay Acunzo: [00:19:09] What you're going for is not conversations. What you're going for is IP. And one way you build the IP is conversations, right? So like IP being like intellectual property, you're building out this thing, this, this kind of collective, uh, sorry, a conceptual idea. And one way you. Manifest it is through a show, but it could extend to a book.

It could extend to virtual events. It could, it's still like the thing that actually you should be extending is not the content from the show so much as the IP. And it might be driven heavily by the content from the show. Um, but you also might need to flesh it out a little bit differently or more depending on the places you put it.

Um, because otherwise it's just, it's just. Now that you were saying this, I know, I know this is not what you were saying, but a lot of marketers out there are just like, I wish I could press a button and chop up my show and put it everywhere. And it's like, that's not really what we're saying. You know?

It's like, that's, that's like, that's the lazy marketer in a lot of us, including me. Um, so it's really about like the IP, you know, when you're a Hollywood studio, that's you think about or Disney or whoever, uh, podcast production companies like here's the IP, it's this concept. We own it. The show is where it comes out.

Most forcefully. But this quickly becomes other types of projects to further own that IP and the unexpanded. Right? 

Stuart Balcombe: [00:20:24] Building up a base of IP and not just content, but unique IP gives brands the space to think innovatively about the content that already. Jay explore two main approaches to working with these assets in new ways. First there's merchandising, that's taking pieces of the original intellectual property, the original content and repurposing, or reselling them in a way that expands the value of the initial conversation.

Think t-shirts coffee, mugs posters for a show or a concert or a movie that you might might be interested in extensions. On the other hand, a new things that we create on top of the existing AP, the biggest podcast we'll host live events, or even go on tour as another way to connect with our biggest fans.

The value here comes from digging into the existing IP and finding new ways to expand the narrative. And the audience, these expansions only work though. If your audience is already invested, no one buys the t-shirt. If they didn't watch the movie, here's the major red flag. The Jay looks for early on to tell if a show will actually grow.

Jay Acunzo: [00:21:42] They should. Yeah. I mean, again, this, this should be coming from your audience. Like if you've put out five to 10 episodes that are, you know, name, name, and number of minutes, it could be five in past marketing is the fact that you'd think somebody would spend five minutes a week with your brand would be bananas.

Cause it was all largely advertising based and push, push marketing. Um, but if it's the standard, say 45 minute episode, If you've put out five or 10 of those, and you haven't heard anything from the audience, you've gotten no qualitative feedback. Chances are you should kill it or radically change it.

It's not a discoverability problem because everybody can reach five to 10 people who are casually interested in you. And then use the show using immersive experience to try and turn those people into super fans. And if they still won't share it with their friends in what world does it make logical sense to try and go out to the people that have not gone through the time that those first five to 10 have to get to know you and try to get them to listen or watch it makes no sense at all.

So that's one major signal is, and because we're in marketing, you have to put an acronym to it for it to make any sense in marketing parlance. So let's call this. You are, are unsolicited response rate. The more you do your work, the more you should have people. Who respond or reach out or share you publicly with their networks without you asking them to write not the YouTuber, like, but what do you guys think?

Did Wanda vision nail their finale this week and on Disney plus like leave your comments? No, cause they're trying to gain the, the algorithm without me asking you. Did I hear from you where you so moved to say something to engage? That's the, that's the Holy grail. That's a sign that you have something worth.

Spreading worth leaning into and investing morning, we overcomplicate things. We get too clever for ourselves. 

Stuart Balcombe: [00:23:34] Let's get into this idea of unsolicited response rate a little bit more after all, if we're invested in creating a sense of community or building a relationship, or even if we're just focused on organic growth, this is exactly the kind of metric we need to be investing in.

Jay Acunzo: [00:23:54] we shy away from data as creative people, but data does not mean numbers.

It, it just means information stored for later use. Right. Very valuable information stored for later use is the qualitative responses of people because you get that emotional sentiment. Um, and you get to see who they are and check their social and see what they're doing and what they post. And, you know, it's like akin to talking to customers as that pithy advice, we get a lot, right?

It's it's powerful stuff, you know, and then you can move on to the other types of data that the statistics, the surveys, you can send the syndication of your content away from a show that's ROI right there. You know, your newsletter is more efficient because of your podcast. The podcast is a positive investment

Stuart Balcombe: [00:24:33] Unsolicited response rate gives us the kind of qualitative information. That's so important to understanding our audience. It also gives us a test group that really responds to the things we create and helps us to better understand what they actually value in our work. And that's really important because as marketers, we're not speaking to the whole world, right?

Well, most of us aren't.

Jay Acunzo: [00:25:01] If you're, if you're PNG, if you're Coca-Cola 10 people is not enough, right.

There's probably a world where 10,000 people as a test group. And I don't mean the, kind of like, you know, one sided mirror type test group. I mean, I don't know what that thing is actually called. Um, I don't mean like the corporate advertising test group. I mean, you've gifted a small group of passionate people.

Something you think is deeply for them and they take it from there. Right? Maybe some brands exist. That's like 0.05% of all brands in the world. Most of us are not building Coca-Cola nor aspired to most of us don't want to be duct tape and do something that is inherently a commodity. Most of us are saying we want to be differentiated.

We want to be specific. We want to be very meaningful to a smaller group of people than the entirety of the world. Coke wants every single human being to drink Coke. I don't want to work with every single individual for my business and help them make shows. I just don't. I have a very set belief system and I want to serve the people that believe what I believe more deeply.

And if you don't believe what I believe about this craft, that it should be about mattering to people more deeply and serving them first. If you think marketing is about talking about your great product more loudly than the competitor. That's fine. High five handshake and hug. I don't begrudge you. You anything personal?

I would disagree with the way you view marketing, but I don't begrudge you the person. Um, and my work is just not for you, but we have to be better at just accepting that instead of saying like, no, they have to like me. I right. Like it starts with beliefs. It starts with beliefs. And if you need a preceding step, Maybe it starts with frustration and asking why, or what if enough, that you arrive at a crystallized set of beliefs and that takes over as the kind of kernel for your whole brand, 

Stuart Balcombe: [00:26:49] Kurt Vonnegut said, right to please just one person. If you open a window and make love to the world, so to speak, your story will get new. This is something that so many startups and earliest stage brands forget. We need to accept the law of averages. The majority of people won't be your audience. And the trick is instead focusing on the audience we can connect to most deeply.

That's true. Even when the audience you connect to best is enormous.

Jay Acunzo: [00:27:21] I forget who I heard say this. I think it was somebody, it was like one of the, you know, the behemoth names in our space. Like, let's say it was Seth Godin talking about his books, you know, 18 best-sellers or 19 or whatever he has all of these businesses and projects that millions of people have engaged with and know.

In just the U S like 99.9% of people don't know who Seth Godin. So like, really think about that. I am under no delusion, even though you asked me to be on the show that I have a platform like South Dakota, but I don't need one. Right. It doesn't need a platform. That's like Tim Ferriss and Tim Ferriss doesn't need a platform.

That's like Oprah and Oprah doesn't need a play. Right. There's always these diminishing returns. When we try to go up the ladder like that. And it's like, just put your head back down and focus on the people that already like you ensure that they love you. Like, it's amazing what a business can do with a small group of people that react in a big way to everything you do.

And then you stop. It's amazing what growth you get, but we don't want to do that because it's scary because what if they don't like us? What if they don't engage? It's harder to get a small group of people to react passionately, then a big group of people to kind of glance your way or click something.

Right. So let's flip that we have to just assuage. We have to just like eat some humble pie, right? Forget about the ego of the big traffic number and the big subscriber number and do the harder thing, which is small people, passionate response. And the rest tends to fall in line. 

Stuart Balcombe: [00:28:50] We can talk about Seth Goden and Coca-Cola and Oprah all day, but there are a lot of smaller scale brands that we can also look to for inspiration. His J one of his favorites.

Jay Acunzo: [00:29:02] I love death, wish coffee and what they're doing. I mean, they have a, an e-commerce company. They sell the world's strongest coffee and I uncovered their story, uh, en route to writing my first book.

And I got to, uh, after. Essentially a year and a half of being on more or less a bookstore to promote the book and telling their story. I finally got to go to their headquarters, uh, which is about two hour drive North of New York city, uh, in a town called Saratoga Springs. And I got to see their humble headquarters and their team of about 65 people.

You would never know it. You would think they were like this giant coffee, empire death, wish coffee has a podcast called fueled by death cast. Now there's a version of their show where they just sort of like cover the news and coffee and talk to successful people. And there's a version of their show, which is the one they actually run, which is about if you are fueled by death, if you are acutely aware, you're going to die someday.

And you're motivated by that. So you pursue your life aggressively and you pursue your passions and you want to leave the world better before you leave it for good. Well, great. We have a show for you where that lens, colors, and interview with everybody, everybody that we talk to, and those people may have appeared on other shows, you know, like MMA.

Uh, athletes and Olympians and entrepreneurs and all these people could appear on other shows, but the angle through which they cover that person's bio and belief system is very much painted by this like dark black and deep red of their like skull and crossbones logo at death. Wish coffee by the name and the word death.

Like these things are very focused on not just the product. But the belief system, driving the whole company to create that product in the first place and then create marketing around it. Right? So they're building their brand and it end to end snaps into place. Cause they're like, we know what we believe.

We know why we exist. You are not reaching for our coffee for some artisinal sit down experience. Like I want to right next to some exposed brick sitting on some old rickety wooden tables, I want to buy my $5 and 50 cent latte. I want to over basically overpay for something that will last me, like not enough time to sip.

And I want to like nurse that baby for three hours. Thank you for the free wifi. I've just written some brilliant, a new chapter of my book that is not the death. Wish coffee customer. Right. They're like, I am a truck driver. I have a 3000 mile month ahead of me. Like give me essentially red bull in coffee forum.

Give me the injection. I want to go after this life hard. Right? I am a tattoo artist. I'm a construction worker and sure. Maybe I'm an entrepreneur or even a writer, but I view this as a sport, right? I'm an athlete I'm getting after it. That's death. Wish coffee. Like they know what they're about. That leads to the story that leads to the content that leads to the sale, right?


Stuart Balcombe: [00:31:55] That's such a great example. Just like the way that you're describing that shows it works, right? Like that's exactly what we're talking about here. That  things that are memorable and  evoke that emotional, reaction, which, you know, they could write a blog about coffee and you know, not have that belief system and yeah.

Yeah, you would not react like that. 

Jay Acunzo: [00:32:17] Everyone thinks it has to be some grand idea. Like, you know, just to show example, everyone's like, well, I don't have a budget to do like a narrative style show with voiceover and music and sound design, and I'm like, you don't need that. You just need to focus.

So rather than have a show all about the creator economy or the passion economy or whatever you're talking about. Um, I partnered with, uh, a tech company several years ago to do a pilot season of a show called I made it. Um, the company is called podia and we decided that if we were going to inspire more people to create creator businesses and Oh, by the way, podia has tools for you.

Then we shouldn't do those generic catch all end to end interviews with successful creators. We should ask successful creators to deconstruct one favorite project. Cause we want it to showcase. That a it's about the pride in the work that you already feel before you've successfully built a business around your craft.

These successful people have not lost that. It really is the driving force and B and probably more importantly. Look at the micro decisions. Look at the, well, look what goes on in reality under the hood, like this is how they built a project that they loved that was central to their business. None of the things they're describing sound like the muse, visiting them or some gift at birth.

They had some practice. They put in the reps, they experienced some doubts, just like you. So what are you waiting for? Go create. Right. You might not have a million followers yet, but we're not talking about their success. We're talking about one project and what they went through to build it. You can do that too.

And if you're ready, Oh, by the way, we have other content for you. We're Podio or we have software for you. We're podia. So to me, that's like, it's an interview show, nothing crazy. It just took some forethought of like, what is the premise? How does that map back to our brand? How do we then ensure that we own this premise outright in the market?

No one else is covering it and they couldn't. Once we do it. And then we just stay home to that focus and now we own it. Right. And it just informed the type of interview, not the edits, not the crazy budget. There was no budget, it's a startup. So we can all do this stuff. It just takes some planning. 

Stuart Balcombe: [00:34:22] The marketing we're discussing here, doesn't depend on high production value or keyword stuffing. It's fundamentally about offering the tools that your audience needs to live better or pursue the things they love. Content then is the initial conversation where you give something for free, whatever it is that you offer here needs to be genuinely valuable to establish the relationship.

Jay Acunzo: [00:34:49] Because it's easier. Yeah. I mean, nobody in their right mind thinks a cold sell or a hard sell is more successful than an upsell. An upsell is always easier.

Or like, so, you know, if you're a friend and I ask you to do something, you're more likely to do it than if you're a stranger, right. If you are being pushed at, or you haven't actually spent any time with somebody, you're probably less likely to say yes. So what content marketing does, what great experiences do what great brands do is they turn every cell into an upsell.

So you can, you know, the story structure I mentioned at the beginning that every brand should try to figure out, I call a one simple story. Status quo, tension resolution. What is your customer going through right now? What is a barrier they encounter or frustration or open-ended question or a desire?

That's the tension. And then what do you think is the better way, right? It doesn't have to be again, a societaly shifting thing. It doesn't even have to be a category. You invent, there's just some philosophy or vision you have for something better for them. And, Oh, by the way, if that's your story, we happen to have a product for that.

That's actually that's marketing one Oh one, right? It's your brand story is actually the product. And the feature is you sell coffee, you sell software, you sell education. And another feature is you have a podcast. And another feature is that you have a blog. And another feature is you have teammates that are out there on social media.

These are all features of the core product that you're building, which is the brand and its story. 

Stuart Balcombe: [00:36:23] It seems so simple when you say it. I think that that's the thing that I want to come across in this episode, right? Is that it doesn't have to be complicated. It doesn't have to be big budget.

You don't need to plan a year ahead and you know, where are we going to be then? Like, what is the thing that you can do today that resonates with those first five people? 

Jay Acunzo: [00:36:45] Right. In the micro, like you may not be able to, if you write a blog for your business, you might not be able to shift your entire writing style right away.

You won't be, uh, or you may need to get permission eventually, or persuade other people that are stakeholders for your marketing. Like maybe you're a marketing manager and you have a boss or the CEO is currently helping sort of act as a CMO. Doesn't understand your world. You've got to write the stuff that ranks on search.

You got to write this stuff that gets shared on social, whatever, continue doing the things that you're approved to do. And inside those paragraphs start nudging in that direction, like open stronger in the first few paragraphs, you know, I got this a lot in, in B2B where people would say like, yeah, these sound like good ideas, Jay.

But you know, my boss wants me to write how to articles. You know, like if you sell a podcasting technology, it's like how to grow your podcast. Seven tips and tricks for growing your podcast. Those get me over type ideas that every competitor has written 700 times before. And it's like, well, I can't convince my boss to let me write narratives or profile individuals with like some feature piece.

Like we're a magazine. That's fine. Can you open with a personal anecdote that reflects the belief system of the brand? Can you, can you tell Stewart's story in a way that's packaged slightly differently than the usual QA QA QA? Is there a way to start nudging towards this or start imbuing existing projects with something new and.

You know, a buddy of mine writes books for a living, his name's Shane snow. And he writes, he's written big concept books, like dream team. It's all about teamwork. And this guy gets to explore big ideas. You know, it's like very Gladwell in the way he goes about it. It's like, there's this big concept and I'm going to investigate it.

I'm going to write about it. It's gonna take years and years and I'm going to talk about it. And that's gonna take years and years. And there's science research and story. And I'm talking to athletes and business owners and artists, and it's like, it's amazing stuff. Well, even he who has total creative freedom, the way he starts to do this is he's like, I got a newsletter that I write once a week.

I talked to friends and family all the time. As my research starts to surface interesting story threads or interesting ideas. I just start to integrate that into the stuff I'm already doing. Right. Like even he with total creative freedom is not like, cool. I'm pivoting a hundred percent right now. He's like, Nope.

The things I'm already doing, I'm going to start to, you know, add a few drops of this new story or this new concept or this new question I have. Into that stuff. And then I'll gauge the reaction and I can hold that up as proof for him it's to himself for you. It might be to your boss that we can do it a little bit more the next time and the next time and the next time.

And the next time, like it's always about reps. It's never about one simple change. That's just not reality. 

Stuart Balcombe: [00:39:26] Yeah. So why are brands so uncomfortable with change?

Jay Acunzo: [00:39:34] I think we went on to remove the art part. We want, when we want to make it as science, we want to make it a process and a deck that we can repeat without updating it ever.

And that's just not what this is for. Like, there is something called programmatic advertising, go do that. I guarantee you, you will not actually grow a business as strongly as you'd like, unless you invest in brand and experience and content and story and all these squishy human things. Like there is this diminishing return.

I think of anything that's automated. Um, and yet we, we prefer it to be like, there are plenty of business owners and marketers out there who, you know, when I held writer jobs or content marketer jobs in house, I could tell, they wished I was a button. They could press and outward pop some content. They saw me as an overhead expense, which is unfortunate.

So I think that's the real, you know, maybe I'm jaded, but I do think a big reason that people. Don't want to go through that exercise of like, well, we're updating this copy or we have a new article now we got to go find a story to write. We can't just say everybody knows the importance of podcasts to marketer today.

So peer six tips for better podcasts. Like, cause it's an art, there is craft involved, but you get better at the craft. 

Stuart Balcombe: [00:40:44] Fundamentally getting better at your craft comes down to understanding both yourself and your customer and finding new ways to tell the same basic story again and again, and again.

Jay Acunzo: [00:40:59] what I want to help people to get away from is just, is just collecting stuff relevant to their business and customer, and to be more focused, like to get like true, if you want that stuff to do real damage in a, in a positive sense, um, you know, it does have to be.

That consistent story. What are you solving? What's the frustration, you know, you and me have a good chat over coffee or tea. Great. But, um, that's probably not going to make for a good podcast because it's a very different context. So giving it that like last little mile of, um, what I call show development is, is going to turn that effort up to 11 and, and not have it be.

You know, more content. That's like six out of 10.

Stuart Balcombe: [00:41:43] So for somebody who is in that position, they've taken the next step. They've convinced their boss. They've decided that this is a path that they want to walk down more strongly and they want to make a show, not a, just the next podcast or, the next video,  what is the first thing that should be on their list, to take that bigger next step. 

Jay Acunzo: [00:42:01] Yeah. I mean, you could put process to this. I think about the missing piece to a lot of shows is the premise.

And the premise is not the topics you explore. That's not differentiating at all. That's not original to you. You don't own the topics. You never will own the topics. And that's why so many marketers are out there trying to create a category by name it's because they're stuck on this idea that you have to own the topics.

You can't, you can take any topic that other people are picking over as well. And imbue that with your unique point of view on it, with your unique angle and philosophy and belief system, with a certain conceit that makes the experience and the journey to understand those topics more enjoyable or different or deeper.

So topics plus what they call a hook equals your premise. Right? So it's, this is a show about these topics. Unlike other shows or content about these topics only we. Insert your hook. So I have a show called unthinkable. It's a show about creativity and business. Unlike other shows about creativity and business only we currently, this is the current iteration.

Only we are zooming into explore. The next rep is this idea that like the reason we stop creating great content, the reason we stop putting in the reps is what I don't know. If you believe that you have to ship a lot of work to be good at something. Then the goal is to build a body of work. And the reason we don't build bodies of work isn't to do with something big.

Actually, if you zoom in the atomic unit of a body of work is just one rep, right? Any project, anything you're building any career is built on lots and lots of tiny little things called the reps. So what if we could get to the next rep consistently, get there faster and get there better? What would that?

I don't know. I have no idea. So join us on a journey as we're trying to figure that out. So that's like the current arc of unthinkable. There's been a past version which had a different hook. Um, we're bad at coming up with the hook. So that's what I'd start with. Pick your topics. That's probably obvious, really think deeply about the hook.

And, you know, there's a lot of education I've been trying to do out there around what are hooks. How do you develop them? There's a bunch of different types. Um, Andrew Davis, who's a great author and speaker in the marketing world. Andrew has a bunch of hooks that he's written out, that I use in my teaching.

Um, you can just search for Andrew Davis and hooks. You'll probably find some stuff. Really great stuff from drew, but yeah, that's that's the beginning point is you probably know the topics you'd like to cover what you need. Next is a hook and there's all kinds of heuristics and process you can put around this process.

I said process twice. That's why, that's why that's how much I believe in processes. Awesome. 

Stuart Balcombe: [00:44:35] I love that as the next step, I'm certainly going to go and try and write some hooks on the back of this episode. But, but for those people who, would like some help with that, or just interested in hearing more I know you have a lot going on and  you're looking to help folks with their shows as well. When should they had to, uh, to connect with you and to, to learn more about your work, 

Jay Acunzo: [00:44:54] just Jay kenzo.com. We just launched a brand new site. I'm super excited about it. It was months in the making and, uh, there's a showcase of a lot of my projects there. Um, there was a client's tab at the top. That people can explore past projects.

You mentioned a show I did with drift, which was like a 20 part docu series called exceptions. That's on that tab. There's other shows I've done and you can see the, sort of the logo soup of who I work with. But, you know, I specialize in very premise led shows because I think the premise is what prompts subscription.

I think the premise is what you own outright in the market that associates you with. Some kind of theme, some kind of concept, some kind of aspiration or the solution to a problem. And that's the thing. People are out there experiencing, and then they think of you and then it's, Oh, by the way, we have a product for that.

Oh, by the way, here's death, wish coffee. Um, again, that putting good process to creativity greatly enhances creativity. It's just, there's so much bad process out there that I think we've a lot of creators reject that I am not one of those people. I've made enough mistakes where I know if you proceed on gut-feel and launched that podcast.

Chances are, unless you're willing to put in a lot of reps, which you should be anyway, you're going to be too far from something good. So my job, when I work with clients is to start you closer to something that's great and say, great, we're going to get you an, a higher odds that this thing will be really, really good.

And we can do that by pressure testing and building your ideas instead of searching for them. 

Stuart Balcombe: [00:46:18] Cool. Well, thank you so much for taking the time to do this has been really, really awesome. There's so much great stuff in here. That's sort of counter to conventional wisdom.

So thank you so much for, for sharing. 

Jay Acunzo: [00:46:31] Thank you. And I hope I wasn't too insufferable. You got me on my soapbox. You, you really got me to rant a lot here, so I don't know if that's a good thing or a bad thing, but I certainly did not hold back what I believe.

Stuart Balcombe: [00:46:40] I want to thank Jay so much for coming on the show. You can connect with him by going to jayacunzo.com or you can find him on Twitter @jayacunzo, both linked in the show notes. Before we close this episode, I want to pull out a few of the most important elements from out of school. First any show worth itself starts from a strong premise for Jay.

The best approach is to think in terms of the broad questions you want to explore the overall topic, as well as the angle you're use to dig into these questions, the hook topic, plus hook equals premise. This is where shows can really differentiate themselves from the core. Consistently coming back to the story that you're telling, where is that tension?

Where is the status quo, failing your audience? Those questions will help you build out your premise and craft consistently engaging narratives in each episode. Not sure if your premise is genuinely working. Look at unprompted responses to the first five to 10 episodes of something new. If your audience isn't organically reacting, you want to consider a serious pivot or cutting the show entirely.

Your unprompted response rate or URI is the best metric you've got beyond page views, downloads clicks, because it tells you what your audience genuinely values. Prioritize that, and don't stress about the competition. As Jay said, run your own race. Finally, remember that content for content's sake, doesn't actually move the needle.

Content is a product offering in its own, right? The needs to establish connection and put forward your brand narrative and provide genuine value to the customer. That's some heavy. So rather than thinking, just in terms of content, Jay recommends building a mindset focused on intellectual property, creating discrete assets that provide new forms of value is the best way to move from being just another podcast into a show with dedicated fans.

It's about building something. Thank you so much for listening and we'll see you next time.

About The Show

Atomic Media is an original series telling the stories of how content marketers are rethinking the ways they’re telling stories that mean something AND move the needle – without burning out.

Hosted by Stuart Balcombe, scripted and repurposed by the team at Procket.