The Importance of Personal Branding: A Conversation with Bernie Borges
Digital marketing leader Bernie Borges is the co-founder and Chief Marketing Officer of Vengreso, a best-selling author, an advisory board member at OneMob, and the host of the wildly popular Social Business Engine Podcast.
A former sales representative, Bernie Borges has cemented his role as a B2B thought leader, digital marketing practitioner, and inspirational keynote speaker in the digital and content marketing industry.
With his Vengreso team, he has helped B2B clients win more customers with digital selling training/coaching, personal branding, marketing & sales alignment, content for sales, employee advocacy and marketing/sales technology implementation.
As a podcaster, he has put a much-needed spotlight on and chatted with several marketing practitioners, sharing his and their actionable marketing advice with thousands of listeners.
Bernie has delivered dozens of keynotes at conferences on topics ranging from brand advocacy, social selling, content marketing strategy, personal branding and artificial intelligence for B2B sales.
He has been recognized several times by industry peers, including Marketing Insider’s 60 Best Marketing Speakers, TopRank’s Top 50 Content Marketing Influencers 2018, Cision’s Top 50 Content Marketers on Twitter and Brand Quarterly’s Top 50 over 50 Marketing Thought Leaders.
We were fortunate enough to sit down with Bernie Borges at Content Marketing World 2018 and talk about content humanization, artificial intelligence, podcasting, and the future of Vengreso.
Read on and watch the imbedded clips from our in-person interview to learn more about the man behind Vengreso.
Leave a comment saying what steps you think we should take to make our content more engaging and let us know who you’d like to see us interview next!
You started as a sales rep and then pivoted to content marketing. Why did you make that switch?
I pivoted into a marketing role kind of by accident. I was invited in to head up a new position at the company I was working for at the time. My goal there was to try and integrate marketing and sales more effectively. What we were getting from marketing at the time wasn’t really helpful to the sales team. There was a big disconnect.
I was working out of my employer’s headquarter’s office as a regional sales manager at the time and I started having casual conversations with the marketing leaders about improves integration with sales. I gave them constructive feedback and told them why it wasn’t working.
They listened. In fact, they were appreciative of the feedback and realized that they really needed that bridge between sales and marketing so they created a new position and invited me into that position. That was the first time I got into marketing after about 10 years in B2B sales.
What got me to content marketing was when I started embracing social media around 03’, 04’, the really early days. I quickly realized that in order for social media to succeed at any level, personal or business, it had to have meaningful content.
I’ve always been a B2B guy so I figured if you’re not using social with relevant content, then what’s the point.
How can marketers work to humanize their brand and be more transparent?
Way back in the stone ages of 1997, an article was published in Fast Company by a very famous author by the name of Tom Peters. It was called The Brand Called You. He was writing about how important it is for anyone conducting business to build their personal brand in 1997. Six years later, LinkedIn was launched.
In order for any company to humanize their brand, they’ve got to empower employees to be the face of the company. Nobody buys from a logo, nobody buys from a building, people buy from people. We live in a digital, connected age and even though that article was published back in 1997, he was foretelling what was coming for personal branding.
Regardless of where you’re sharing your content (LinkedIn for business or Facebook for business) it has to be individual.
Companies need to empower their employees, especially their sales people to share content and build their own thought leadership and they need to help them do that by giving them the tools, training, and coaching they need so they can actually be the face of the company. We do business with people, not with a building or a logo.
With AI on the rise, how do you think content marketers should integrate AI while still maintaining that personal, human element of their brand?
That’s a big question *laughs* do we have a few hours? I’m a big believer in harnessing machine learning and AI for the advancement of how we do our work more productively.
I firmly believe that AI is going to create jobs that we don’t even know exist today. We’ve seen jobs today that couldn’t have been predicted 5 or 10 years ago.
In terms of how to use AI and machine learning more productively and how to enable marketers and businesses to be more effective with it, I’ll start with an example.
There’s the whole factory floor thing which isn’t my world, we’re in content marketing, but there’s that aspect of business that makes manufacturing more efficient. Take that same concept and bring that over to content marketing.
It’s really about harnessing technology to do repetitive tasks that eat up a lot of time from an individual. If you can give mundane and repetitive tasks like sending and responding to emails
or identifying content that fits a certain criteria to a machine that’s smart and can learn how to do it and get better at it, people can do more strategic thinking and brain type of work.
How did you successfully bring up that conversation to connect marketing and sales? A lot of content marketers here are frustrated that people don’t see it the way we see it.
It’s not an easy thing for a company to address because in the end, to address it, it comes down to people working together. We can’t throw AI at a problem without people coming together to decide how to throw AI at it.
In the situation I mentioned earlier in my career, I was a sales manager but I worked out of the corporate headquarters so I could interact with the marketing leaders face to face. I saw them on a daily basis so I was able to develop true relationships with them.
What I said in those conversations was that I want to share some feedback that’s representative of the entire sales organization. I told them that what I’m sharing with you isn’t just my individual feedback and opinion. We had constructive conversations around that and they genuinely listened.
Have you ever had a situation where it was hard to bring up constructive criticism and feedback? How did you build a productive conversation around a tough situation?
The short answer is yes and sometimes you do your best and if that works, then great, and if it doesn’t, then you move on.
In the end, it’s not a tech thing, people have to sit down and collaborate and if people are unwilling or uncooperative, then that can be a challenge. There’s no simple formula for it.
Similar to the way we have diplomats in government relations that have to sit down and collaborate, it’s the same thing in business. If people are not willing to be diplomatic in those situations then you can hit roadblocks.
Do you have any advice for younger people who are trying to climb up that corporate ladder and maintain a general level of satisfaction without being overwhelmed with the process of corporate culture?
Find ways that you can help people around you. When a young person early in their career actually latches onto people within the organization and demonstrates value, such as asking coworkers if they need help on a project, then you begin to develop a reputation for yourself as someone who is not just focused on their job but who is helpful and giving.
It’s the servant’s mindset, it’s asking how can I serve you and asking for nothing in return.
Seek out one or two mentors in your career and build strong relationships with those mentors and have each mentor play a different role in a different aspect of your career.
Likewise, be a servant to your mentor so they feel good about the relationship. Even though I’ve been in my career for over 30 years, I get value from relationships with smart, young people.
If a smart, young person wants me to mentor them then I know I can learn from that individual as well so I want that attitude of mutual value in the relationship.
How should a mentee approach a mentor?
Having specific goals that you’ve outlined and ask them to help you achieve one specific goal. Ask them to spend some time once a month or once a quarter on that goal and give me some coaching and advice.
In return, I will be accountable to you and give you feedback and communicate with you and anything that you ask in our relationship I will be accountable to that.
Podcasting, like video, has surged in popularity amongst marketers in recent years. You have one and many other marketing thought leaders do as well. What advice would you give to a company or team looking to start a podcast?
Start with an objective. Defined what you’re trying to accomplish, who your audience is, the format, and what content strategy that you’re gonna use podcasting as a medium for.
Is it going to be two people on the podcast sharing expertise once a month, is it going to be host/guest style, is it just an individual sharing their expertise, or is it a rotational schedule?
Start with a goal and then determine the format. It’s also important for you to decide if it is going to be for public consumption.
Most people assume that it is but you don’t have to create a public podcast. You can create one that’s available only inside your company. Typically only mid-size or big companies do this. For example, you can create a podcast, gate it, and distribute it only for your employees.
The gear and equipment part of podcasting is important, but inconsequential. It’s all about the content strategy, the format, and how you’re gonna measure it. Think about it like any content strategy.
The other big thing I want to mention is to focus on your audience. Who’s your audience and what’s in it for them. Listening to a podcast is what I call windshield time.
People are usually driving, at the gym, or walking their dog; they’re not sitting in front of their computer and tuning everything out and listening to a podcast. You’re vying for their attention so how are you gonna get and keep their attention? Focusing on audiences is paramount.
Podcasting takes some time to get off the ground. If the podcast medium is going to be part of your content strategy and you are able to find your audience, you have to go into with a long term view. I’m gonna define a long term view in general terms of 1 to 2 years.
You can’t have a podcast and then three months later go ‘oh it’s not working.’ Either you didn’t do your strategy right or you’re just being unrealistic to expect it to explode in three months; however you define ‘explode.’ You have to give it a solid year.
Along the way you’ll be measuring and making progress and understanding what’s working and what’s not.
What overused terms or buzzwords should marketers stop saying?
In my world, the business that we’re in, when I describe what we do, someone often comes back and says “oh you train people in social selling?” And I’m not gonna completely disagree with them but we don’t like the word social selling.
It’s a very ‘yesterday’ phrase, meaning it’s very limiting. In B2B sales, you need to be digital and while that includes social, it’s not limited to social. For example, you can decide to text with your buyer. Texting is digital, it’s not social media.
However, you should only reach and engage a buyer through text if you determine that they want to engage that way. If they say, “hey my inbox is crazy, text me,” then go ahead. That’s digital and doesn’t fall under the definition of social selling.
Another example is sending a personalized video through email. That’s digital communication, not necessarily social. You get the idea I’m sure…
What are your long term goals for Vengreso heading into 2019?
I’ll start with a quick summary of what Vengreso is. The company is focused on helping B2B sales organizations create more sales conversations and build more sales pipelines through digital selling strategies.
The way we generally do that is we start with the content strategy for the salesperson and then we address their profiles (most often their LinkedIn profile) then transform it from a resume style and rewrite it through the lens of the buyer.
We then add rich media and make it look really polished and professional. Then we provide training and coaching to equip them with the skills they need to engage with buyers effectively.
Regarding our plans for 2019, we’re working with a lot of midsize companies right now and a few larger companies and we’re scaling our training offerings from both live to on demand and
scaling it across LinkedIn, Twitter, and video. We’ll continue to do on-demand LinkedIn profile makeovers for individuals and for sales teams of 10 or more.
Selling with LinkedIn, Twitter, and video are in high demand so once we get in front of a sales leader and light the bulb goes off for them so that they understand how the buyer is consuming content and how important it is for salespeople to deliver content, they are eager to work with us on transforming their sales team into the modern seller.
A lot of comes down to behavior change. We help sales and marketing teams understand why they need to engage buyers differently. The buyer has gotten better at buying faster than salespeople have gotten better at selling, so there’s a gap to fill.
We live by this saying: “The modern buyer needs a modern seller.”
To sum it up, our goal for 2019 is to help B2B sales organizations transform to become the modern seller to meet the needs of their modern buyer.