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Ep46 Transcript: Interview with Mark Schaefer
Andrea Vahl: Hey Dreamers, it’s your host, Andrea Vahl. If you think it’s too late to start a blog or write books, then you need to listen to today’s episode. I interview Mark Schaefer, who hadn’t written a blog post until he was 49. Now he has a highly acclaimed award-winning marketing blog. He hadn’t written a book until he was 52, and now he’s just coming out with his 10th book. Many of them have been amazing award-winning bestsellers, translated into lots of different languages. His newest book is Belonging to the Brand. We’ll dive into how he creates content and how he stays relevant in today’s ever-changing marketing landscape.
Intro: Hello Dreamers. Welcome to the Late Starters Club, giving you the inspiration mindset and tools you need to start something midlife and beyond. Remember, it’s never too late to follow your dreams.
Andrea Vahl: Hey, late starters, it’s your host, Andrea Vahl, and today I am joined by the amazing, the fantastic Mark Schaefer. I don’t even know how to describe you, Mark, you are like a Renaissance man. You’re a blogger, an author, a speaker, a painter . You do all kinds of things and so I’m just excited to talk to you today about.
How you got started as a late starter with a lot of this stuff.
Mark Schaefer: I’m excited to talk to you. We’ve been friends for a long time, so it’s always a delight to catch up. I don’t know how to describe me either. Lucky , maybe Lucky.
Andrea Vahl: It’s awesome. Mark, this kind of got started talking about this because I know that you didn’t write a blog post till you were, what? When did you write your first book?
Mark Schaefer: Probably 49 or 50.
Andrea Vahl: 49 or 50. . You wrote your first book at
Mark Schaefer: 52.
Andrea Vahl: 52 and now you have 10 books. 11 books.
Mark Schaefer: I can’t even the 10th book is coming out in very, very soon. Just a few weeks.
Andrea Vahl: Yeah. And your 11th book Will or 10th book will be “Belonging to the Brand”?
Mark Schaefer: “Belonging to the Brand”, why community is the last great marketing strategy.
Andrea Vahl: I love that.
Mark Schaefer: It’s a bold book. It’s a bold, bold idea. I think. Community isn’t new, but people really haven’t looked at it from a brand marketing perspective before. They’re missing, they’re missing most of the value of community.
And if you have community, you don’t need a lot of, traditional marketing that we’ve used before. You’ve got these people who love you. So I’m excited about it. I think it’s a unique and bold take on marketing.
Andrea Vahl: All your books have been fantastic.
I have to say. I haven’t read all of them, but I’ve read a lot of them. I can’t even, I think I’ve maybe missed one or two, but they’re amazing. So I can’t wait for the next book. And I think it’s such a huge topical point these days, especially with NFTs coming out, all that stuff that is about, more about community and I think, fractionalization of all the places we can be online and it’s important to have our own communities, so…
Mark Schaefer: for sure.
Andrea Vahl: Love it. Love it. So tell me a little bit about how you got started as a late starter, what caused you to think about becoming a speaker, becoming a blogger, becoming an author?
Did you even think about that? What was the prompt for starting?
Mark Schaefer: Well, I worked for a big company for many years. I was working for a Fortune 100 company. I was the global director of e-business, so I was going all around the world and I had been doing it for, I had that job for six years and I was just ready for something new and so my company was going to transfer me to Switzerland.
They loved me over there. That was our European headquarters, and so I did that kind of for a while, but then I had met the woman I was going to marry. She had two kids in high school. She wasn’t going to move to Switzerland. And so I just thought, you know what? It’s time to try something else. I was, financially in a good position.
I had done some dabbling in marketing consulting. I was doing that job anyway at this big company, so I thought, let’s give it a try. I always had, an entrepreneurial sort of spirit, but my fear was that I wouldn’t know when to stop working. That’s why I was never, I never took the leap, and in some respects, that became true.
I was consulting. I started teaching and I started writing a blog. And my blog was unusual because I had so much business experience. My age, was a huge advantage because that was a perspective that was different in what, social media marketing’s kind of a young person’s world.
But I had all this experience, I could put the dots together. So my blog became popular and then publishers in New York were interested in me writing a book. So I had never thought about doing that before, even though I originally was a journalism major, I didn’t even know if I could do it.
But I thought let’s try. . It was very, it’s a, it was a very scary proposition. So I wrote this book, it was the first book ever on Influence Marketing back in 2012 before we were even using that word. I just saw how power in our world was shifting from big companies and these big media companies down to the people who were starting to blog and create videos and have podcasts.
And we were gaining power. We had a voice, we were building an audience. I could see how business and the marketing world was going to shift. And of course, I was right. Cuz influence marketing is a big thing right now. The books led to speaking. I didn’t have a dream to be a speaker, but people wanted me to speak because they liked my books.
And then the more I spoke, the bigger clients I got, and now I think I’m considered an influencer or a thought leader in the marketing field, but that was not a goal. I never had that goal. But if you just create content and you’re generous and you’re nice on a consistent basis, good things happened.
Andrea Vahl: Yeah. Yeah, for sure. And an interesting thing that we were talking about beforehand is that you were actually afraid of speaking.
Mark Schaefer: Woo! Alright, this is going to be a world premiere story testimony. I want to tell you something, Andrea, when I started speaking, I was so nervous. My voice would shake.
I would tell people. I was sick.
I was so embarrassed cuz I was so nervous. Now once you get past the first few minutes it’s okay. But I would tell people like it was allergies or something. Cuz I was so nervous. And then I remember, I think one, the breakthrough of starting to calm down. It really, two things I think happened.
One was I was at an event, it was my first big speaking assignment at a pretty significant marketing conference in Cincinnati, which is a big marketing town. And I was pacing, pacing back and forth. This was like three or 400 people and I was so nervous. And finally I just decided, You are going to work.
This is your job, . Why are you nervous going to work, put on your big boy pants and go to work. This is what you’re going to do. And that sort of like got me in this new mindset to say. Don’t be nervous going to work. You’re going to work.
And I think the other part of it was just practice. You just do it over and over and over again, and then little things go wrong and you don’t die. And the technology breaks down and you don’t die and someone falls asleep and you don’t die. And you get over it. And now it’s just, I feel like I’ve everything’s happened to me on a stage and I could handle anything.
And now I just, I’m super, super comfortable getting up on a stage.
Andrea Vahl: Yeah. That’s awesome. And if you haven’t seen Mark speak, he’s amazing. He’s a huge keynoter. Done tons of events. I think my favorite time I’ve seen you speak, I’ve seen you speak a lot, my favorite was at Social Media Marketing World at the keynote where you talked about the chalupa.
I just, I loved it. It was hilarious.
Mark Schaefer: Oh my gosh, people still bring that story up.
Andrea Vahl: I was, I was dying. So good. And an interesting thing is , you also mentioned you hadn’t planned on becoming an influencer. You hadn’t planned on doing any of this stuff, and I love that because you’ve just leaned into that journey and embraced it and kept going.
And now I just saw you were listed as top three digital marketing influencer on the Brand24 list. You’re on tons of lists and everything like that. So it’s incredible what you’ve done and I think it’s.
I’d love to hear what you think is the the key to your success or, as you’ve started this whole endeavor what do you think has really been the most helpful thing for you?
Mark Schaefer: I think, and I’m sure you found the same thing because you’re quite a well-known person in the field yourself, but I think the most important thing, and this is going to sound weird, really, is consistency. I think consistency is more important than genius. You get yourself out there, you produce content, you help people, and you do it every week, every week, every week, every week.
There was a period. I went 650 weeks in a row without missing a blog. And I got COVID, took a little break, and then blogged for another 120 weeks without missing. My podcast has been going for, we’re going into our 10th year. Never missed an episode. I’m ready to launch my 10th book over, about, 12 years.
And so, what I’ve learned, even though I didn’t plan for it, and stumbled into it, this idea of being known of really having the presence and the authority and the reputation. That’s my definition of being known, that’s everything today. . . . . If you’re a small business or a big bus business, increasingly the personal brand is the brand, so I’m glad it happened to me.
I’m glad it happened to you. Because people, they’re not going to go to a website and say, oh, look at this. Sign me up. They want to know who’s behind it. They want to know if I’m going to spend money on this course, on this training, on this consulting. What’s this person like? What do they stand for?
What’s their experience? And the more you’re known, the more you’re trusted and the more opportunities will come your way. I think compared to when I started really, I think I mentioned like it was maybe 2008, 2009. I think this idea of being known and having a personal brand is even more important today than it was back then.
Andrea Vahl: Yeah, yeah, for sure. Because then you’re in control. You control your own brand, you control your own destiny. You can, we were talking about too you can have ups and downs, but you can bring it back and just, continue to serve in a new way, or pivot, pivot things.
Mark Schaefer: And one of the thing that’s happened in the last two weeks is there’s this new, artificial intelligence that’s been introduced. . Everybody can go in there and basically create very good writing. So one of the implications is, is that now everybody on earth is a competent content creator.
So the only thing that’s going to help us stand out now that everybody’s competent or good is do they know us? Do they still want us? That’s the only thing that’s going to save us. When machines can be creating the content, people are still going to want me. They’re still going to want you because they have an emotional connection to you because you’ve been giving of yourself, you’ve been helping people in a generous way, and that’s what great branding is. Creating an emotional connection to your audience. And the ultimate way to do that is to work on your personal brand.
Andrea Vahl: That’s awesome. That is awesome. Speaking of working on your personal brand, we were talking about relevance and staying relevant , especially I think at this age in the digital marketing arena, how do you have, first of all, the energy to stay relevant and how do you think you are staying so relevant and at the top of these lists and at the top of your game or whatever. Maybe even there’s a bigger pinnacle. I don’t even know, how do you navigate all that?
Mark Schaefer: Oh, to answer your first question, I don’t know if I have the energy, like I think at the end of the day last night, I just crawled up in a ball because I’m dealing with all this artificial intelligence stuff now, right? And you have to really understand this. But in the last 18 months, I’ve probably started more new things than I have in the last three or four years, I launched a crypto coin creator crypto coin to just learn about Web3 and experiment.
I created a community on Discord, which is like the Web3 community group. I actually bought a house in the Metaverse.
Andrea Vahl: I see you’ve been having lots of parties in the Metaverse.
Mark Schaefer: Yeah, I’ve seen that. We’ve been having parties there. We all got in the hot tub last night, with our, clothes on.
But it was just so much fun. I had people there from all over the world, but we were there, we could see each other. We were dancing together. We had an art show. People were creating AI art. I’ve been getting into AI art, I’ve been experimenting with, AI content creation.
And I think the key is just keep trying. You don’t have to be an expert in everything. Nobody’s going to be an expert in everything. But to stay relevant. I think there’s two, two big ideas. Number one is that when new things keep coming along, even though it seems just exhausting, do I really need to learn TikTok?
Do I really need to learn this new thing? You need to try it. You do, whatever is relevant in your industry. I know there’s a lot of people listening that aren’t necessarily in marketing, but there’s change happening everywhere. Just dip your toe in. I’m not on TikTok, but you know what?
I watch TikTok. I read about TikTok. I understand enough to talk to my customers about it. So you don’t necessarily have to be an expert. Now, that’s point number one. Point number two. We’re in a world that’s changing so fast, we don’t have time to have a new college career, right? We don’t have time to read a lot of new books.
And I’m not saying that we shouldn’t do that. We always need to keep learning, but we also need another strategy because things are moving so fast. And the analogy I use Andrea, it’s like a surfer. You have great skills and experiences and education. There’s a lot of things you do well, when I say you, I mean everybody listening.
And it is like a surfer. The surfer has a perfectly fine surfboard. You don’t need a new surfboard, you’re just looking for the next wave, and I think that is really how we stay relevant in this fast changing world. Yes, we need to keep learning and experimenting, but you also need to see, okay, this is what I’m good at.
Why does the world need that now? Look at the mega trends happening right now. What’s the fracture in the status quo right now? Everything’s changing. Everything’s being renegotiated with remote work. How we work, where we work, when we work for some people, if we work.
We have a whole new relationship with food. We’ve learned how to cook again. Last year the applications to culinary school like doubled because all the cargo recipes were so good. So there’s so much change going on, and you just had to think, how do I fit now? How do I apply my skills to these new things that are happening? It’s not always about, reinventing yourself.
It’s like how am I newly relevant based on the needs of the world today? We have a lot of people who are lonely and isolated and depressed. If you’re a compassionate person, how do you fit today? If you’re a compassionate writer, if you’re a compassionate fitness expert, that could be a very special skill that makes you newly relevant today.
Andrea Vahl: Yeah and I think that people don’t often take stock of their skills and examine them and say, especially if they are feeling burnt out, or say they are looking for a career shift like you did, or a career shiftout of necessity, or, Hey, I want to finally start that new business I always wanted to start. People don’t, they’ll list like assets they have or think about money or whatever. But they’re not always thinking about what am I truly good at? What are my skills and how can I use those skills in the best manner to, serve, so I think one of my skills is explaining things really well, and that’s where I think it came down to, explaining Facebook Ads really step by step and I think when you break it down to that core skill, you can apply that to something else. Say Facebook were to disappear tomorrow. I could, go explain TikTok ads or whatever. It would be , so I think that that’s a really great point. I love, I love those things.
Mark Schaefer: Exactly. Will happen to me. My business went to Zero during the pandemic, and I had to really reflect on what do I do? In a period of 48 hours, all my bus, I had this built this amazing, rewarding career, and I didn’t fit anywhere. And I had to assess look, everybody knows me as this marketing guru and consultant, but what I’m really good at is I’m a teacher.
Everything I do, I’m a teacher, but the world needs me to teach something else right now at this point in time. And so I pivoted my content at that time actually doubled the traffic to my website during the pandemic because I was relevant in a new way. Teaching people, how do we get through this thing? How do we deal with this disorientation and this anxiety and this uncertainty? One of my best blog posts was how do you sell stuff in a pandemic? And, and, and, and my advice was how do you sell things at a funeral? It’s just because everybody was suffering.
Everybody was grieving. If you don’t have a good sales pitch at a funeral, you probably don’t have a good sales pitch right now, commentary like that made sense to a lot of people.
Andrea Vahl: Yeah. You break it down into such meaningful ways. I think you change people’s thinking so often.
I know you have with mine, I’m like, never thought about it that way. So That’s great. That’s great. So actually, one of the questions that I had for you, which was something that you had never thought about is what is an assumption lots of people have about you that’s wrong?
Mark Schaefer: Yeah. I like, I like that. I, I like getting, questions like that, that made me think. I think something I get a lot is because I do so much. I have the blog, I have the podcast, I write books, and I’m traveling and speaking, and people assume that I’m a workaholic. What I really am, I’m disciplined, there’s a difference. So the reason I can get so much done is because I concentrate on three core things that are fundamental to my business. And if I have an opportunity or if I have a task that doesn’t fall into one of those core three things, then I say no, I get rid of it or I delegate it, but I don’t want to do that cuz it’s taking time away.
And this is so important because that’s where so often people go astray because maybe they’re a nutritionist, but they love dabbling on their website. I’m going to fix this, I’m going to fix this. Maybe even, maybe, even if you love it, it’s still not what you should be doing to really focus on your business.
So I only work four days a week. I generally take the month of January off. I travel on vacation a lot. When the weather’s nice, I’ll go out, I’ll hike, I’ll bike, I’ll kayak. I’m very, very active. So I, I, I’m lazy. , .
Andrea Vahl: I like that distinction though.
Mark Schaefer: But I get a lot done.
I get a lot done cuz I’m focused, when I work, I work on the right things, that are going to, be productive for my business. And I also block out the time that I’m, supposed to be, having fun and getting away from the business.
Andrea Vahl: Even scheduling this interview, I liked that you were very clear about your boundaries in saying, Hey, right now I’m recording the audiobook. That’s all I’m doing. I can’t book anything else until I’m done with that. And then we just scheduled the interview for a time that worked for you. So it’s,
Mark Schaefer: Held my boundaries because I delayed this because I was writing the book, but then I screwed up on the scheduling.
We scheduled it today. Which is my day off. I want to do it, because I’m always going to say yes to you because you’re my friend.
Andrea Vahl: Aw, thanks Mark. That’s awesome. I appreciate that. And another thing that you do that I love is the painting. You just started painting and you paint some beautiful watercolors and what inspired that endeavor?
Mark Schaefer: That was so weird, Andrea. I’ve never had an art class in my life. I didn’t even take an art class in high school. And I was at a resort up in the mountains in the winter and there really wasn’t much to do, cuz the snow was deep and after you, hike around in the snow a little bit.
Okay, you’re ready for something else. So they had a watercolor class a local painter came and just gave the fundamentals of here are the kind of brushes that you need and here’s the kind of paper you should use. And then they, they gave me a little package of stuff to take back with me.
In the class, I made something that, it was like an autumn leaf and it really looked like an autumn leaf. I thought, oh, look at that, like when you played golf and you’re terrible, but you hit one good shot, so you keep doing it cause you know you can hit that one good shot. And what I learned is I just have an an unexplained natural ability.
I could see colors and shapes. Watercolor is really very strategic. It ‘s a very, very challenging form of art because there’s little room for error. You can’t really paint over it like you can with oil. So you gotta plan ahead of time which colors you’re going to do, and the water on the paper can’t be too wet, it can’t be too dry. You’ve gotta do it right now in a certain way, or you’re cooked. So it’s actually. It’s relaxing, but it’s also intellectually challenging. To see someone else’s painting or to see a photograph and just can I do that? Can I figure out a way to make the color do that?
It’s a great it’s a great hobby and if you follow me I post them once in a while on Facebook. If you follow me on Facebook, you can see my pictures once in a while. Only post the good ones.
Andrea Vahl: That’s, it’s perfect. It’s just like social media. We are only posting the good
Mark Schaefer: Great, great.
Andrea Vahl: That’s so awesome. I love that. And yeah, so one of the other questions I wanted to ask cuz it feels like for people who are at the top of their game, I’m always fascinated by who they feel are some of their greatest teachers, influencers, things like that.
I’d love to hear that.
Mark Schaefer: Gosh, that’s a good question. I think, the person who had the biggest influence on me probably was for three years, when I was in graduate school, I got to study under a fellow named Peter Drucker, and he’s probably the most famous business management and marketing author and consultant in history.
He was at the end of his career, they named the business school after him. And he would just sit on his desk and talk about his life and his business and his books. And he just absolutely was the smartest person I’ve ever known. I think in the marketing world today, I get something from everybody.
I get something from you. I get something from people I admire. People like Jay Baer he’s an amazing innovator. I just I’m a sponge. I just take good ideas from everybody, everybody has wonderful abilities and wonderful talents and if you’re out there changing things, innovating, I’ve probably stolen your ideas.
Andrea Vahl: That’s great. Just borrowed.
So the other thing I always ask people is a quote that inspires you or a saying or what gets you inspired?
Mark Schaefer: It’s weird. There’s a quote that means a lot to me, but one of the weird things about creating so much content is that all the time I spend creating content, other people are reading, and consuming content. I wrote a blog post once that said blogging makes you stupid, and in some ways it’s true. So like I spent the last two years writing a new book. So I read and read and read and read and read, but it was all this narrow, narrow focus. And whenever I write a book, it’s like getting a new master’s degree.
Because you write and research and study for two years on a topic. And now I have a new competency. So I don’t like, I don’t see a lot of inspirational quotes out there, but here’s the quote that had a huge impact on my career and my life, and it was from Peter Drucker when I was in graduate school, he would teach in the Harvard case study method. We’d have these complex problems. We’d have to try to figure out, how do we get out of these situations? And he would say ” A great leader doesn’t need to have all the right answers. A great leader needs to have the right questions.” And that has guided me that has completely formed my consulting style.
I think that’s why a lot of people think I’m. I’m humble cuz I honor people. Everybody is an expert in their own way. I don’t tell people what to do, but I listen and I ask the right questions. And what I find is when I ask the right questions, people usually already know the answers.
They’re just not listening to themselves. So that, that has been a powerful influence on my style, on my writing and on my consulting. Just thinking about what are the right questions. That will solve this problem.
Andrea Vahl: I love that. That’s so great. And I think it also speaks to the thing that’s really helped make you a success is your curiosity.
You’re so curious and you’re interested in diving deeper and learning more, and I think that’s a huge piece of staying relevant because you learn and you are excited about things and, it helps you change things up if you need to because you learn, you’re always learning. So
Mark Schaefer: I think you’re, I think that’s true.
I love to learn. I am curious. And last year I got to interview Tom Peters, the famous author. And as I was listening to him, Andrea, I just thought, he’s just, there’s something about him. He just has this presence, and the word that came to mind is bold. He’s just bold. And I think that’s this combination of, of being curious and also having courage.
Being bold is like you’re exploring, but you also have the courage to say what needs to be said, to say what you’re learning and to say the truth. And I think that makes a big difference. If you’re timid and you think everybody’s going to think I’m stupid, when you get out there, you’re going to find no, that’s not true.
If you’re trying to do good work people are cheering for you. They want you to succeed. So I think being curious and also, being bold, taking a step forward and being unafraid to, to do something different is is important.
Andrea Vahl: Yeah. Yeah. So true. I love it, Mark. I love it. This has been so fun.
I have just, I could talk to you all day. Oh, I know. It’s so sad. I literally could talk. I’m like, I could talk to you all day. So this has been great. Maybe when you do something more, your next endeavor, we’ll have you back on the show again cuz this is great. Definitely everyone go out and connect with Mark at businessgrow.com.
Get his new book coming out soon. He’s got a whole section on all of his books on his website. Is there anywhere else we can find you?
Mark Schaefer: No, really. If you go to Businesses Grow, you see my books, my social media, my blog, my podcast, and it’s all free. . No, not the books. They’re three bucks dirt cheap.
Andrea Vahl: Yeah. Yeah. It is so cheap for the amount you get. Yeah. Businesses grow. I didn’t have the extra s in there. Sorry. Yeah. Businesses grow, we’ll have the links in the show notes for everybody and connect it. We’ll have links to all your socials so people can see your beautiful paintings.
Get all your wisdom, all that stuff. So very cool. Thank you so much, Mark, for your time. Thank you. I really appreciate it on your day off, and thank you again.
Mark Schaefer: Yes, thank you.
Andrea Vahl: Bye everyone.
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