Dan Klein of Spoke Marketing: “Be a good corporate citizen”

Stay visible. The old axiom out of sight, out of mind has never been truer. With so many communication avenues available, you need to determine which ones best match the media habits of your customers. Whether you rely exclusively on an online strategy utilizing search, banners, retargeting or include the traditional forms of print, broadcast […]

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Stay visible. The old axiom out of sight, out of mind has never been truer. With so many communication avenues available, you need to determine which ones best match the media habits of your customers. Whether you rely exclusively on an online strategy utilizing search, banners, retargeting or include the traditional forms of print, broadcast and direct mail, the more you keep your name in front of the customers the greater the odds they will think of you prior to purchase decisions.


As part of our series about how to create a trusted, believable, and beloved brand, I had the pleasure to interview Dan Klein.

Dan Klein is the founder and partner of Spoke Marketing. He has decades of sales experience in everything from software and manufacturing to professional services. It’s the kind of knowledge he utilizes to empower sales teams with the right tools to achieve success.


Thank you so much for doing this with us! Can you tell us a story about what brought you to this specific career path?

I took a weird path to get where I am. I started in engineering and construction using Primavera software that ultimately led me to become a sales rep for opening a systems integration company in Chicago. When you become a business owner it’s imperative to learn marketing. The marketing I learned was directly related to sales which is why my firm’s main message is about aligning sales and marketing.

Can you share a story about the funniest marketing mistake you made when you were first starting? Can you tell us what lesson you learned from that?

Funny, sure. Maybe even stupid. I was a keynote speaker at an event where I was talking about the need for a marketing plan. I came up with a clever way to capture the leads in the room. I asked everyone to pull out a business card and write Y/N three times on the back of the card. My first question was do you have a plan Y/N? I ended with now that you have heard me speak, would you do a plan now Y/N? And finally, answer Y/N if you’d like to meet with me and turn in your card. Regardless of the answer, I told them I would draw a winner and give a gift card for lunch. In a room with 50-plus people, everyone returned their cards. Thirty-six wanted to meet. Do you know how many I followed up with? Zero. I think that’s the mistake a lot of companies make even today. Companies spend time and/or money on marketing and don’t follow up.

What do you think makes your company stand out? Can you share a story?

We talk about “It’s not how you want to sell, but how your customer wants to buy.” We’re a marketing firm that asks you about sales and wants to be held accountable for results. We provide fully-integrated marketing and sales programs that define and activate the Customer Buying Journey. Each is grounded in strategy, aligned with the company’s sales process, delivered with strong creative, and designed for the highest possible return on investment.

Are you working on any exciting new projects now? How do you think that will help people?

We work with sales driven product companies mostly in manufacturing and software. Covid-19 has really disrupted the sales approach and cycle for most of these companies. Manufacturers have traditionally relied on face-to-face engagements by either traveling to their distributors or meeting them all at tradeshows. So, the exciting projects we’re working on consist of recommendations on how to transition to online trade shows and marketing that support virtual sales. This typically includes updating websites to better convert the traffic they get.

Ok let’s now jump to the core part of our interview. In a nutshell, how would you define the difference between brand marketing (branding) and product marketing (advertising)? Can you explain?

Let’s begin by using a very simple definition of a brand. A brand symbolizes the promise of performance by a product, service or company. You notice that performance is unqualified as being good, bad or somewhere in between. And that’s an important distinction. For consumers who have positive experiences with a brand over time, the brand stands for a consistent, satisfying relationship. Established branded products and services can command higher price points even when facing competition from similar ingredients or offerings. For consumers who have had negative experiences with a brand, the brand stands for something undesirable. For prospects who have never interacted with a brand, but are interested in buying, hiring or utilizing one of its products, the appeal of interacting with the brand is dependent upon its awareness, reputation (brand equity), personal referrals, public reviews and/or its perceived ability to satisfy a need not currently being met.

Product marketing is the application of specific strategies and tactics to sell the benefits and features of a product within the brand’s portfolio. Brands stand behind the products they sell. A product’s success in the marketplace is dependent upon how well it meets the demands and needs of the consumer. But also, how well it is positioned versus its competition in terms of price, availability and overall value.

Can you explain to our readers why it is important to invest resources and energy into building a brand, in addition to the general marketing and advertising efforts?

The brand serves as the anchor for all of its products. Whether it’s Coca Cola, IBM, Caterpillar or McDonalds, if a consumer has had a satisfactory experience with a product that is offered under the brand name, then it helps provide immediate credibility and acceptance of the other products also offered under that brand name. In addition, established brand names can command higher prices. Just check that out next time you are in a drug store and compare the prices of branded pharmaceuticals vs. the comparable ingredient store brand.

Can you share 5 strategies that a company should be doing to build a trusted and believable brand? Please tell us a story or example for each.

  1. Stay visible. The old axiom out of sight, out of mind has never been truer. With so many communication avenues available, you need to determine which ones best match the media habits of your customers. Whether you rely exclusively on an online strategy utilizing search, banners, retargeting or include the traditional forms of print, broadcast and direct mail, the more you keep your name in front of the customers the greater the odds they will think of you prior to purchase decisions.
  2. Have a dynamic website that is easy to navigate and allows for customer feedback. This is your real storefront today. Reinforce why customers are making the right decision when they buy from you. Update the website regularly and make sure the messages being communicated are timely and consistent with the image you wish to keep.
  3. Promote the unique benefits of the brand and its portfolio of products. What can you say about every product you sell that supports the quality, consistency and performance of your brand promise? if you are selling commodity or parity products, then find a niche and put a stake in the ground and own a piece of real estate your competitors are ignoring. Me too isn’t a compelling reason to buy. Prospects want to know why your brand is worth their time to investigate.
  4. Build a relationship with the customer. Stay in touch with them through a thorough and updated email list. Offer them incentives to give you their addresses. Keep them posted what’s new or what’s changed. Create panels for feedback. Do webinars. Engage them.
  5. Be a good corporate citizen. Today millennials and GenZ are far more interested in environmental concerns than previous generations. They want to do business with someone who is doing their share to help make the world a better place to live.
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