Marc Gutman: Branding and Value in Your Business
Updated: Aug 4, 2022
with Marc Gutman, Founder - Wildstory
Branding for professional services comes down to one question. Who are you serving? Marc Gutman of Wildstory explains how his branding process helps professional services identify who they are and who they are for. In this interview, Marc shares his content creation secret, key questions to help set apart and niche pro-service companies, as well as the questions created by pandemic trauma for businesses.
Notes from the Show
Marc Gutman is the founder and brand strategist for Wildstory. Today he gets into the power behind content creation, what branding looks like for professional services, and a unique business problem he calls “pandemic trauma”.
Marc shares his secret to content creation: Instagram Carousels. A carousel on Instagram is about 10 slides. For the average person, this could be slides of your family vacation, pictures of your grandkids, etc. But Marc has leaned into his strength in writing and created infographics and blurbs for his clientele. He says he's building a habit for content creation in the easiest most productive way he can. What sets him apart with these carousels, is that he uploads them to LinkedIn and he’s created great traction for his company WildStory through that.
Wildstory is a brand strategy company that helps companies tell stories to fuel growth. I asked Marc, Why do so many professional services companies look the same? He said, it's all about safety. We often conform to the companies and brands around us, even down to content stealing. We think what works, works and we try to replicate that.
So how can companies differentiate themselves? Marc’s branding process involves first,
Internal Clarity. This is the business DNA, values and mission, and what their beliefs are. Second, the focus is External Clarity. What makes them different? What’s going on with the competition? What’s their position in the market? Lastly, add human characteristics to the business, give it personality that reflects who they are and who their ideal customer is.
Both new and old companies are feeling the effects of the pandemic world. They are left with a lot of questions, especially what’s next? Marc calls this “Pandemic Trauma”. Do you expand or contract? Do you invest more or downsize? These are questions not only for his own business, but the businesses he’s working for.
Marc has a view on business and professional services that comes from a place of personal touch and finding your niche. To get an inside look and links to all he has to offer, email him at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Building a content creation & repurposing habit.
How to brand & differentiate yourself in professional services.
How he’s dealing with pandemic trauma.
Transcribed by AI Susan Tatum 0:37
Hello and welcome back to stop the noise. I'm Susan Tatum and today I'm talking with Mark Gutman, who is the founder of Wildstory, but Mark your profile says your Business poet, and I've got to know what that is. Oh, and welcome, by the way,
Marc Gutman 0:51
Welcome, Susan thank you so much for having me. It's a pleasure to be here. You know, we were just talking before we started recording, and I do a lot of writing and content creation on Instagram and, and I refer to that often as business poetry. And so I do think the two can coexist. And that's where the term business poet came from.
Susan Tatum 1:12
So you said you're doing carousels on Instagram? What so what is your objective on business gram? So you, you're the owner of an agency that that specializes in recreational? And Arts?
Marc Gutman 1:27
Yep, so we do a lot of outdoor brands, lifestyle brands, that's kind of a fancy way of saying that when we use the, we specialize in the recreation arts industries, but a lot of like lifestyle and kind of humanistic type brands. And I'm going to share a little secret with your audience that I haven't told a lot of people, I have a secret dream to be a famous YouTuber, but I cannot for the life of me, post consistently on YouTube, because it's a lot of work. And so like, I love to shoot video, actually, well, that's true, I love to shoot video, but I don't like to plan video, I don't like there's a lot of work for good YouTube, you gotta have scripts, you gotta like really get be really thoughtful and fall for behind YouTube, lot of editing, it's just a lot of energy. And I kept starting and stopping and I could never really build a bridge to to YouTube. And what I realized, for those of your listeners that might not be familiar with what a carousel on Instagram is. It's 10 slides. And so Instagram has this feature where you can put 10 slides. And for the longest time, I thought that was just 10 slides worth of vacation photos, 10 slides worth of my food and 10 slides worth of my kids. But what I've been doing is I'm able to write, and my strength is in writing, okay. And so the message here is lean into your strengths leaning to what you're good at. So are all my customers on Instagram? Yeah, I'm not sure. But what it allowed me to do was create content consistently. And I was able to do text based slides, I just create them in Keynote. Or you can use PowerPoint or something like that not a fancy program, I have a template and I write these little, kind of little ideas and thoughts. It's great, because bite size, it's a single thought. But what that allowed me to do was get the momentum and the energy and the engine for content creation. So I was building a discipline, building a habit, showing up regularly, I was unable to take that content, and post it almost verbatim. I know you're not supposed to do that, as a brand professional, you're supposed to edit it to the channel and all this kind of stuff. But I don't have time like, and neither do you probably for listening. And so I would repost it to LinkedIn. And I have a lot of customers there, right, because that's more of a business platform. And then there was there's a little known hack, and we can wrap up this unless you want to know more about Instagram or I would take take those that I export them as PDFs, not as PDFs, I export them and put them up on SlideShare with all the copy. And then I would also help index that that content over Google for SEO and things like that. So
Susan Tatum 3:58
I'm gonna have to go look, Can I Can I see it on LinkedIn? Or do I actually have to go to Instagram?
Marc Gutman 4:04
Ah, I haven't posted in a little bit. They've been working so well. And I've been so overwhelmed with people requests for my time that I haven't been posting as much. You should be able to see it LinkedIn. But if you go to Instagram at Mark Gutman, m-a-r-c-g-u-t-m-a-n and you'll see you'll see a ton of them
Susan Tatum 4:19
Okay, that's cool. So for anybody listening, you can you can do the carousels for LinkedIn too, and Canva pretty easily, or it'll or Canva will take a PDF, I shouldn't have brought this up because I'm not a the tactics of this escaped me. But carousels work really well on LinkedIn as well.
Marc Gutman 4:35
They do. And what I found was that everyone was doing them on Instagram. So they're less special, but not as many people were doing them on LinkedIn. So they stood out and they were grabbing people's attention. And so it was a great way to communicate. And I think really the main takeaway is show up where you can show up like Don't be so all these platforms are great. And there's ways as you build your habit as you build the discipline and the consistency of creating content, that wherever your main, wherever your main platform, you can typically chop that content and make other pieces of content for the other platform. Now, that makes really obvious sense if you think about YouTube, because you can pull the audio, you can strip it, you can pull out, you know, do a transcript, put on your blog, all these things. But I bet you're sayin, Susan. Hey, Mark, how do you do that on Instagram? Like on video? You know, Susan, I'm glad you asked. Because what I did, if you go to our YouTube channel over at wild story media, is I printed out my carousels and large format. And I stood here in this room with an easel. And I would talk about them and flip them. And, and, and there was the same content, but I printed it up at you know, FedEx, a large format printer. And that was just another way to use the carousel, as a strength is a piece of content, super engaging on YouTube, and people really, really liked it.
Susan Tatum 5:52
So I what I think I hear you saying, Mark, is that Instagram, for some reason sparks you and works for you as a platform for creating this content. It's not necessarily about driving traffic with your prospects or getting business out of it.
Marc Gutman 6:09
Yes, and no, I mean, I don't know if it's the number one place, but all these platforms, your prospects are everywhere. Now how you want to contact them? I mean, I'm a firm believer, you're seeing big, huge company show up on tiktok, I don't show up on tiktok. I mean, you're seeing like GE and stuff on tiktok, they know that there are people there that there's consumers there, there's brand building to be done there. I think the question to ask is, how do your customers show up on each platform? And how do they want to be communicated with right, because sometimes we show up at LinkedIn, and we're in our business suit. And sometimes we show up at tiktok, and we're doing funny videos. But you know, your customers are everywhere, right? And so are mine. And so are people's listening. So I got a lot of people and their attention on Instagram, I built a following there. But then I just expanded it to other channels as well, because I was trying to make that content, do double and triple duty for me.
Susan Tatum 6:58
Makes sense. So here's what I want to talk about is how you do branding and differentiate yourself for professional service company. And I think this is an area that you're an expert in. So my first question is, why does so many professional services firms look alike? And act alike and sound alike?
Marc Gutman 7:17
Well, yeah, unfortunately, part of the truth is, is because we are alike, right? We, we, we deliver a lot of the same services, there's, you know, if you're an accountant, it's not like a lot of different process or methodology to accounting, I'm sorry, if your lawyer the same, if you're a branding professional, kind of the same deal, you know, and so I think that's one of the challenges. And then so what do we do, we either work at a big firm and agency, we get some sort of training. And we get taught how to do these things, and we spit out, and then we just replicate it, but we do it for ourselves. And it's just a carbon copy of another big agency. But also, I think, what I see and I know I've done this in my past, is I stay up late at night, and I look at other businesses for inspiration, but what I'm really doing is stealing their content. You know, I'm like, if it worked, if it works for this big agency, that's my idol or my competitor, it's got to work for me, oh, that was a great tagline. If I was like, Whoa, because we don't know who we're really for, or we don't know what makes us special. And so I think that that's why there's so much blending, and we're kind of scared. So there's this weird conflict between our brains, which are hard wired to notice things that are different for both good and positive reasons. The positive reason is like we see a bright apple in the tree, we're like, oh, that looks good. That's different. That's probably good for me. You know, there's also this element of like, Oh, I'm different. I'm going to be ostracized from the clan from the community, I got a fan. And so these things are at odds. And I think a lot of times we we fall back into this, the sense of safety, and we try to be like, like everybody else. But as we know, we're probably attracted more to those products as business pros, pro services firms that are different, you know, and the only thing that you can really do to be different as a professional services firm is lean into who you are, what you believe, your values. Now we can do you know, in branding, we have this idea of positioning, and for those of you that aren't familiar with positioning, it's just the position that you own in somebody's mind, in the mind of a prospect, right within your category. So, if you think about, I like to use products that people are really familiar with, but if you think about automobiles, right, most of the time in a certain category, not that much of a difference in what they do and the function, they get us there, they have four tires, they in a certain category, they have leather, they have futures, but Jeep, they're the outdoor ones, right? Volvo, that's the safe one. Mercedes, that's the excellent sort of, refined one, you know, Jaguar is kind of the British one, and I'm just Tesla's the tech one. And we can go on and on and on, and they own this position. In our minds, the same objective is what we want for our businesses, we want to be known as different things and you can, you know, manufacture that with a position, best way to do it is typically through your own point of view. So you asked me at the beginning of the show, hey, your further recreation and arts industries, we do that specifically, to position ourselves and stand out from our competition. Does that mean if a non business in that I'm trying to think of one off the top of my head if a tech company comes to us that we're not going to listen? No. Because like, we love working with different, you know, businesses and people, and we're more excited about helping them out. But that's not who we're talking to you. That's not who we're advertising to. That's not, you know, the core of our business. And if they've somehow see us as standing out and is an interesting fit for them, we'll listen, but we don't always take that that business. But that's, that's the best way to. So to answer your question, that's why we tend to blend in, like our competitors. That's why we tend to all look the same. And that's the easiest way to stand out is to, is to lean in, who you are, and a lot of times who you serve and position yourself differently.
Susan Tatum 11:07
So are you advocating for professional services firms anyway, their differentiation is about the the personal aspects, and you said who you are, but also who you serve. So you're these are different ways of not not only niching, but also just having a different character and culture and feel two things.
Marc Gutman 11:28
Yeah, I mean, there's a lot of different aspects to how we could find to this. But no, in our branding process, you typically want to work on your internal clarity, which is your DNA, it's your mission, your vision, your values, your purpose, why are you in business, these things are like your worldview. This is like what you believe, you know, and those are, you know, multiple things that that work together to communicate that. And then you have external clarity, which is what makes you different, you know, what's going on with the competition? And what's your position in the market.
Now, lastly, we'd like to add on human characteristics like your personality to a business so that so the business has a human characteristic and feels a certain way. Again, not professional services firms, but I think that insurance companies do a great job at this. They all sell the same product. One person's homeowners insurance really isn't any better than others that you have some insurance companies like GEICO that are trying to appeal to a younger, hipper, more fun audience and their and their commercials are all loose and funny. And they've got the, you know, the gecko and they're, you know, they got, they were the so easy a caveman can do it, right. They're doing the funny stuff. Progressive and StateFarm, they've kind of got this, like, every person persona, you know, and they kind of to me like the gap of the insurance business, then you have like, Prudential, you know, they're like, we're the rock, you know, we're, we're official, and we're sturdy, and, and we're never gonna bend and so everyone's selling the same stuff. I guess they are professional services firms, right. And they're positioning themselves, in a different way through those attributes. But yeah, I mean, who you serve, is gonna, you know, if you're serving solopreneurs versus big corporations, that's gonna have an influence on how you stand out and who you're for, who you are, what your worldview is, hey, we believe that, you know, we only want to work with clients that are working in a sustainability type of environment, whether or not you know, it doesn't matter. Like you could be like, we only work with accountants, that that believe in sustainability, right? And that's a position and that's a worldview and that's a way to stand out from your competition.
Susan Tatum 13:29
I know from from my work with filling pipelines, and having to break through the noise that's out there just on LinkedIn in general, if you can't be differentiated, if you can't, the more that you can focus, the easier it is, or the less difficult it is to, to be relevant to somebody and to get them to engage with you.
Marc Gutman 13:53
100%, and people want to know if they can work with you, or if they should refer you. But if you don't let them know who you're for, or who you work with, that's really hard for them to do so, you know, like, coach a lot of clients that our end goal is, I want you to be at a cocktail party. And when someone says, What do you do I want their response to be well, you know, we work with a very specific kind of client. And immediately when that happens, the other person on the other end of the conversation, their ears perk up. And you might even say something like, you know, well, you know, we work in the financial advice business. Normally, if you're at a cocktail party, and someone tells you they work in the financial advice business, you're like, wow, I got it. I'm out of here. Right. But if they already told you that it's a very specific client. And they might say something like, you know, I only work with clients that are family businesses, and have a net worth of $20 million, or something, right? Instantly the person on the other side of that conversation, it's like, am I family business with a net worth of $20 million. And if so, that cool. That's me, and you have a conversation, Or they think, Hmm, who do I know that has a family business, have a net worth of $20 million I can introduce you to and then they're like, oh, you know, I know, Susan, she's a family business. And she'd probably be a good intro, let me make an intro after this party. And that's, that's one example. But you can think and you can extrapolate that and just to the run ins we have in our lives, and how we, you know, communicate and talk with different people, that that type of stuff happens all the time, if you're able to clearly articulate who you're for and what you do.
Susan Tatum 15:23
You know, I think that also you, you sort of get some credibility by the fact that you're focused as well. Because if it's like, you know, well, Susan, she's the one that specializes in this, this and this, then it does, it does act to separate you. So I think that makes a lot of sense. through there.
Marc Gutman 15:38
Absolutely. And then you're seen as the expert, you know, I mean, one way to focus or differentiate yourself is, is by the services you provide. So you could, for example, you know, we primarily focus on brand strategy, we do design work and things like that, but we, our entry point is like, hey, we help you build a brand platform, I'm not out there, telling everybody that we help them with their paid media, their marketing, their Facebook ads, all this kind of stuff. And so we build discipline, expertise, and we're known as and stand out, like, Hey, we're the brand people, we're the people that really focus on that area of expertise, in addition to being focused on the recreation and arts industries.
Susan Tatum 16:15
So, um, in addition to being an expert in branding, and differentiation, you also have or a founder of a successful agency at professional services firm. And I'd love to talk a little bit about what you've been through in the past now, where this is October 26 2021. And we were just coming off some very interesting years. And you refer to something we were talking earlier, you referred to something about pandemic trauma that you suffered. And I think that's just a great thing to share with people.
Marc Gutman 16:53
Yeah, I wish I remember. Exactly. So correct me
Susan Tatum 16:56
when you're talking about decisions about expanding expand the business or do contract the business?
Marc Gutman 17:02
Yeah. So you know, we were doing you know, just fine and kind of humming along prior to the pandemic and things were good and, and, you know, a lot of our clients work in the outdoor space and you can imagine big clients like, like National climbing gym chains, and things like that, right? And when the pandemic hit, it completely crashed and our people got fearful and typically when, you know, they get fearful and I think this happen every line of business but a lot of times, marketing and branding areas of the business are squeezed because people you know, don't want to spend and don't want to invest although you should be investing in those times. Just to let everybody know. Those companies that did that are now in a really strong position. But you know, kind of got through that like everybody else took our lumps and our bruises and company contracted and and we lost people, lost clients and kind of in this you know, space right now we're feeling a little I'm feeling a little bruised and beat up. And the question is, and I think we're talking about this, like, where do we want this business to go? And there's a little lack of clarity. And do we want to expand it, you know, there's some safety and feeling like a smaller business, and feeling like we're not as not as exposed with employees with other other commitments and things like that. And so I think we're talking about them. And I'm sharing with you that it's just something that we're actively looking at and working through and trying to, to see the other side, it does seem like every time there's a little bit of a step forward, there's two back or one and a half back, or there's something like that. And so trying to actively just work and stay in existence, during this time is kind of a full time job.
Susan Tatum 18:39
So how do you how do you work through that? Do you have a process for doing it or are you like, it's a full time job of keeping the business flowing.
Marc Gutman 18:46
All the above, I mean, it's up and down, I mean, the things that I do to, to handle it, prior to the pandemic, I was always pretty into my own physical fitness and things like that. And for whatever reason, even though more time than ever, during the pandemic, I've heard this from a lot of people, I lost that. So as of recently, I'm back and I'm doing some things I'm, I'm training for a marathon in California for April 2022. And in Big Sur, not a runner, I just decided that I had to have a goal, something to get me out of the office. And so I've been doing that. And I do that more and more. When there's stress and things like that. We also have our own branding processes and our own kind of we have different brainstorming processes called swarming, and we use design thinking. And you can see, I mean, this is all part of this process right here. I've got post it notes and things we're thinking about and things we're looking at, and where do we get joy in the business? Where do we really think there's opportunity? Where do we think, to quote, Wayne Gretzky, one of my favorite quotes is like to skate where the puck is going, not where it's been. And we're looking at that, too. So I would think it's, you know, it's a constant ebb and flow. I mean, we're never sitting here feeling very content and easy. And like, Oh, we've got this thing. They're always working to figure out where's our, our place in in business? And where can we, you know, operate from a place of strength and momentum. And where are we vulnerable?
Susan Tatum 20:10
Do you see any interesting opportunities that you're willing to share?
Marc Gutman 20:14
Oh, I mean, that's the problem. There's too many opportunities. And so some of the things right now that that I'm interested in are the metaverse, I'm interested in virtual reality, you know, there's all these things happening. I think there's also just a lot of opportunities in industries that have nothing to do with what I do. Like, I think there's some real problems that need to be solved, like, how do we have more clean water on this planet? I think space is a trend that personally, I'm trying to get more into. Because I think it's huge, I think there's like going to be a huge opportunity there. And you know, on things that are more realistic, we just continue to believe that, you know, as the world becomes more competitive, is anybody can reverse engineer anybody's process or product, that things like brand, things like culture, things that are more humanistic in the business are going to become more relevant than ever. And so we're continuing to, to, you know, build out those disciplines and practices.
Susan Tatum 21:12
I agree. You know, I often say we've reached a point where being human is a competitive advantage. And one we should take advantage of, I think, Well, Mark, you know, this has been great. Thank you so much for stopping by and sharing your thoughts. And for those that want to follow up and learn more about you, what's the best way to do that?
Marc Gutman 21:28
Yeah. So I would say the easiest way is you're probably in the car, you're probably on a run, you might be at the office to shoot us an email, we have an email setup at email@example.com. Go ahead and either put the name of the podcast or Susan's name in the subject, you don't need to send me an email or anything in the body that'll just go to a general person, and they'll send you links and assets to all sorts of downloads, you'll have access to follow up with me on Instagram, to my LinkedIn, we have free downloads on the site, we have a free health audit, and all these will be delivered to your inbox and it'd be really easy. You can just shoot an email to firstname.lastname@example.org And we'll shoot you the good stuff.
Susan Tatum 22:13
Awesome. Thanks, Mark.
Marc Gutman 22:14
Thanks, Susan. Thanks for having me.
Susan Tatum 22:17
You take care.