In 16 bars, Ding Zheng can land you a sale.
It’s true. They don’t call him the Sales Rapper for nothing! Turns out, rap music can actually be used to win clients for businesses, often to the tune of hundreds of thousands of dollars or more.
Check out the Weird Marketing Tales website if you haven’t already. If you want to follow Weird Marketing Tales on social media, go to @WeirdMarketing on Facebook, YouTube, and LinkedIn. Go to @WeirdMarketers on Twitter, Instagram, and TikTok.
00:00 How Ding Zheng Can Make A Sale With Rap
00:59 What is sales rap?
02:12 It all started with an earnest love of rap
04:10 How sales rap is a viable B2B service
07:10 The surprising similarities between creative professionals in different industries
10:31 How social media has changed what’s popular
13:39 More than you expected to learn about art history today
16:17 More than you expected to learn about generational theory and media studies today
23:31 What is authenticity online?
29:00 Video works because it’s hard right now
29:44 The rise of AI in creator spaces
37:17 How sales rap has worked out
46:08 A freestyle rap to take us out
Brandon Rollins: And sure enough, sure enough, it gives me a Russian novel about a peanut butter avalanche destroying a town.
My name is Brandon Rollins, and this is the Weird Marketing Tales podcast. On this podcast, I interview small business owners, entrepreneurs, and creative professionals who are making a living doing things that you probably didn’t know were possible.
And today on this podcast, I have Ding Zheng, who is the Sales Rapper. Ding. How’s it going?
Ding Zheng: It’s going so well, man. Thanks for having
Brandon Rollins: me.
So it’s become somewhat of a running gag that I gush to every guest right before we start to get into the good stuff. But I gotta say, I was just checking out your website before this show, trying to get a feel for what you do, and I’m just, I’m utterly fascinated.
So I, I’m, I’m looking forward to this one. I guess to get us started, um, why don’t you tell me in your own words, what exactly is sales rap? What’s the idea behind it?
What is sales rap?
Ding Zheng: At its core, sales rap delivers pattern interruption and creativity and entertainment in a more traditionally dry B2B context to advance revenue generating opportunities. More specifically what that means, is I used to be a rapper and content creator of 15 years, uh, quit at one point cuz it wasn’t financially working out.
Went into B2B sales, was an account executive for a few years. So sales rap is the culmination of those two experiences, and we provide top of funnel content, entertainment-based branding, as well as music account-based marketing. So personalized music video campaigns at the account level as well as in-person activations.
So you might have seen videos of me free styling at trade shows and consulting with companies to, to offer a more engaging in-person activation for their events.
Brandon Rollins: So, yeah, it sounds like whether you’re doing stuff for online advertising or whether you’re doing things in an in-person context, such as a trade show, the whole idea is just to catch people off guard and make them stop and listen to the content, which the raps actually contain a lot of lyrics that are specific to whatever it is your client does.
It all started with an earnest love of rap
Ding Zheng: A thousand percent. And, and that’s one of the reasons I love rap so much, even before sales rap was a thing before I even knew what sales was, was the ability of rap to communicate lyrical but also textual based information. Right? I think rap is uniquely one of the forms of music where the human voice and the word choices dominate.
It’s not like EDM where you’re waiting for the drop and it’s instrumental music. Uh, you can actually convey a lot of information in a rap, and that has a great application, in my opinion, to a B2B context. Where we’re talking about value props, we’re personalizing to buyer personas and we’re educating folks on a problem and a solution.
Brandon Rollins: Mm-hmm. And I think a lot of that’s got to do with, when you really look at rap lyrics, you really just sit down and analyze ’em, on Genius or whatever, you’ll find that they’ve got a poetic structure. I know it sounds obvious like between you and me, but for people who are not into rap, like that’s what’s going on.
It’s like when you read a poem in English class and you analyze the structure of it and then you find the meaning of it. That’s like what rap music does, I think for a lot of people.
Ding Zheng: Absolutely, man. Absolutely. And, and I think the, even compared to a poem, the, the one reason I like rap, cause I used to write poetry in middle school and I even took a college class for poetry, uh, which I enjoy and I still, still read and write poetry to this day. But the reason I like rap more is that the performance aspect is also included, right? You can inject your voice, your emotions, your delivery, uh, and convey more of a human connection versus folks reading words off of a page, in the poetry case.
Brandon Rollins: Yeah, it’s got punch to it. It’s visceral. It actually reaches you on an emotional level in a way that some of the just words on a page can’t reach you.
Ding Zheng: Absolutely, man.
Brandon Rollins: Yeah.
How sales rap is a viable B2B service
Brandon Rollins: So I, I’m curious, how did you find out this was an actual thing that you could do as a, um, as a B2B service?
Ding Zheng: It’s a funny story. So, so it was COVID. I had started a brand new job three days before the lockdowns in New York, and as you might imagine, didn’t last that long at that job.
Brandon Rollins: Yeah.
Ding Zheng: At the time I was unemployed in a pandemic, you know, not really knowing what the market was doing and trying to find another job for myself in sales.
And at that point I knew that the traditional pathways weren’t gonna work, right? It wasn’t recruiter hitting you up city. You know, some of the referrals, uh, in, in network that I had, they were also in precarious situations, not being able to, to be as helpful of a resource in that time. So I actually went on to LinkedIn thinking, “hey, this is the job board. Let me, let me see what’s available. Maybe try to outbound some folks LinkedIn.”
And what I discovered was a world full of content and creators and, you know, to some, some people’s chagrin, influencers on LinkedIn. And I realized that, hey, there’s a big crossover between what folks are doing on here, as well as what I used to do in the past as an artist, as a YouTuber and creator.
So I tapped into the skillset that I had to create content, initially with the goal of building some awareness and branding around myself, so the personal brand aspect, so I could get in front of hiring managers and have interviews for AE jobs. And what happened was I made a couple music videos and raps about selling about B2B SaaS, about tech, and those ended up going viral on LinkedIn.
And as a result of that virality, it had some marketers come to me inbound. “Hello, Ding. We loved your video. It’s really interesting. Wondering what it would look like for us to pay you to do that for us.”
And it actually was, I did not intend sales rap from the get-go to become what it is today. Uh, flesh out the way it was, it was very much a “let’s, let’s get some notoriety and some awareness.” That resulted in inbound, those resulted in some successful projects. And then as a seller, you know, I love to have conversations with the clients, so I learned more about what challenges they were facing on a day-to-day basis, and I’ve refined the business offerings around that.
Brandon Rollins: That’s a really interesting story. I have to imagine it was really scary at the beginning when it’s the pandemic and you have no idea what’s gonna happen next, especially without a job. I mean, I remember March, April 2020, that was a chaotic and difficult time, but man, what a success story to just start putting things on LinkedIn and people catch on to them.
The surprising similarities between creative professionals in different industries
Brandon Rollins: It makes me think of two things. One, it’s amazing how much LinkedIn has changed. It’s not such a stiff platform anymore. Like, you can get away with what you’re doing and people are interested in it. I think that’s a real change from like 2010 or so.
And the second is you are on that same path, I find, that so many oddball creators are on where they just start doing things and then people reach out to them with like hands full of cash saying, “well, I want you to do that for me.” That’s really interesting.
Ding Zheng: Absolutely, man. It’s like the, the chickens for rent.
Brandon Rollins: Yeah. Oh yeah. Yeah. I, I was mentioning this before the podcast, but there is a company out there that rents chickens to people who need them, um, homesteaders and the like, who want fresh eggs, but they don’t want to go to the trouble of actually buying a chicken. Like that’s a thing that you can do. It’s surprising the kind of offers, you can put that out there that, that people, um, will be willing to pay for.
Another classic example on the show that kind of parallels what you did, but is a totally different industry. I know a guy who makes digital adaptations of board games, like on a video game on the Steam store called Tabletop Simulator and board game publishers pay him to digitize their board games so that people can play their physical games on a fake table on the internet.
He didn’t know that was a thing you could do. He just started making a, like posted it on Twitter and Instagram and then people started DMing him. And all of a sudden he’s like, “oh my goodness, I’ve got a business.”
Ding Zheng: Yeah, a thousand percent. It’s, it’s always these, uh, these niche opportunities I find really interesting. Another favorite story of mine is there was a, so I’m, I’m low key into fashion a little bit, and there was this creator called Nicole McLaughlin, who, uh, she would make these art projects in her, in her free time.
Uh, cut together and, and create her own creations that, that are a bit avant garde, a bit tongue in cheek, um, renditions of fashion. So you would see flip flops made out of ketchup packets. Or maybe a bra that was made of translucent pockets, you know, of like a PVC material. So, so because of the fashion, that ended up going viral.
And I think two years ago, Arc’teryx, the, the outerwear brand hired her as a brand and social media and kind of in-house creator, if you will. And then recently just launched a, a collab with Reebok. So it’s, it just goes to show that if you’re do, out there doing cool stuff and, and people are singing it, then there’s always a business interest.
Brandon Rollins: Yeah, and I feel like fashion, which I don’t, I don’t follow it, to tell you the truth, but I, I see little bits and pieces that pop up from time to time when they make it in the New York Times or the Atlantic or some big paper. And it seems like fashion’s always been avant garde. You always see some odd stuff in high fashion, but it seems to be extra avant-garde lately.
I don’t know why that is, but it just does. And one interesting thing for somebody to just kind of make these really strange designs, put ’em online, and then the fashion companies are like, “actually, that’s in right now. That’s, that’s next summer right now.”
Ding Zheng: Yeah, hundred percent.
How social media has changed what’s popular
Ding Zheng: I, I think one, uh, I’m curious your take on this, Brandon. So I, I think one reason for that, not just fashion, but just about any, any type of product development cycle is the way that social media has changed over the past 10, 15 years. Uh, but most notably accelerated in the past five years with the rise of short form vertical video, right?
The TikToks, reels, shorts. Is that because the barrier to creation as well as the process of creation was removed and simplified? So, you know, rather than needing a, a whole video production, crew, lights, camera, audio, editing, post-production, all of that to, to even make content, right? Twenty years ago, that’s what you would, would’ve needed.
Nowadays, turn on your iPhone, use the camera record something, it within the app and the platform that you’re posting on. You have your editing tools there. So that’s democratize the tools of creation and what that’s done. It’s increased the proliferation of total content that exists. And, and as a result of that, you know, there’s more of these micro trend cycles because the, the velocity of the conversation in the past, uh, using, let’s, let’s use fashion as an example, right?
In the past it was the magazines like, you know, um, get Anna Wintour, get Vogue. Get all your, your magazines and then, uh, do your shows, right? Do your fashion shows and your, your runways and whatnot. And that dictated the pace of fashion. But as we’ve seen in the past five years, there’s a lot more independent commentary coming out.
There’s a lot of metacontent reflecting the state of trends in the industry. And as a result, that’s accelerated the trend cycles that we see in fashion. And then you also see this in the new types of companies that pop up, right? Like, uh, in the past we had fast fashion dominated by H&M, uniqlo are a group of these companies.
Uh, but what’s the, the one brand that rose above all of these historic players, was SHEIN, right? Leveraging the power of social media, creating their own trends, paying influencers and sponsors to make microcontent about their brand, and now they’re the biggest fashion retailer in the world.
Brandon Rollins: Oh yeah. Yeah. That makes a lot of sense to me. And I think like you’ve got that, you’ve got also fast fashion going on, which makes the actual manufacturing process quite a bit quicker. So you can actually just throw ideas out there and see how people respond to them. Um, and then there’s also, in addition to having more content on the internet, I think what is now happening, especially with platforms like TikTok and Instagram Reels, you have about a second or two to catch somebody’s attention when you show them something. And that’s all. Like this has been true of the internet to a lesser extent for a while, but it’s video now. So you have to visually catch someone in the first, second or two, or else they swipe up and that you, they never see you again.
So you gotta do something really strange or else you won’t catch their eye.
Ding Zheng: Exactly.
It’s, it’s an interesting time.
More than you expected to learn about art history today
Brandon Rollins: I have a real, a real, a bit more of a stretch, but I think this might also be an element. There was around the time of World War I, an art movement, um, I believe Dadism, I’d have to double check in, which people just kind of did really weird chaotic art styles.
Like for them it was like collages of things that were very, very modern art looking and, and there hadn’t really been much of a precedent for that ever before. And it was supposedly, this is what the art critics say, like, kind of a way for people of coping with what, to them, felt like chaotic technological changes, world’s a mess because we’re going into the Great War and that kind of thing.
And I have to wonder if an our time of chaotic technological changes, in our time of community changes, in our time of, unfortunately, war, if we’re sort of processing it in the same way. But that one, I don’t know cuz how do you even prove something like that?
Ding Zheng: Yeah, I love the World War I Dadaism is an example. So I, I was actually a history major in college, and that was one of my favorite trends or, or, or things that we studied. In my World War I class was: what was the lead up? The, the cultural zeitgeist, uh, as a result of the industrial revolution, uh, the early globalism and, and, uh, neocolonialism happening at the time, or actually at that time, I think it was just colonialism.
Brandon Rollins: Yeah, I guess it would just be plain…
Ding Zheng: yeah.
Brandon Rollins: …colonialism.
Ding Zheng: So at the time, you know, we, we had the, was it the World Expo? Right? Where, uh, Marcel Duchamp had this, the urinal sculpture that, that became very popular. And, and everyone was wondering, well, you know, why, why is everyone at this World Fair gathering around this urinal? Right? And we, we kind of take that for granted.
But at the time, indoor plumbing was new. The urinal was, was a new invention. Right? And, and even up into the mid 20th century, a lot of folks in the west were still using outhouses in the country, right? So, uh, You had the juxtaposition of the Eiffel Tower, this behemoth of modern human engineering and architecture, uh, juxtaposed with the urinal.
And, and I think the fair argument could be had that both of them had, uh, at the time this similar cultural significance, which I, I think is reflected in, in the amount of coverage and uproar about the urinal installation. Um, and that, and that leads to something. I don’t know if you’re familiar with this, Brandon?
Uh, it’s called like the 40 year cycle of cultural change.
More than you expected to learn about generational theory and media studies today
Brandon Rollins: I am familiar with a couple of things that are adjacent to that. I’ve heard the 20 year cycle. I’ve also heard the generational theory that it’s roughly every 80 years.
Ding Zheng: Yeah. Generational theory. I, I think that’s the one. Or they call it like the Fourth Turning.
Brandon Rollins: Yes. Strauss-Howe. That’s what we’re talking about. Strau… How Strauss, how. No…
Ding Zheng: That’s right.
Brandon Rollins: I think we’re talking the same thing, but go on.
Ding Zheng: Yeah, I, I think we’re, we’re in that period of time. If you look at all the stuff that’s been happening around the world in the past two, two and a half, three years, uh, you know, with, with Russia, Ukraine, the stuff going on in China, COVID, uh, and then now a, a reset in the markets. Uh, no, I, I, I think the time is upon us now.
Right? For, for this change. And I’m curious how media continues to evolve in this space as a marketer, because we look at, we look at historical examples. You know, we had, uh, way in the past, we had first Gutenberg with the printing press. Right now you’ve democratized information, uh, you’ve, you’ve taken it from a verbal transmission of ideas to now a asynchronous transmission of ideas with printed paper.
And then, then we had, I mean, you know, developments in that technology like typewriting, et cetera. But then there was the telegraph. So now you’ve can, you’ve shrunk the world, in a sense, right? Now, now you can wire stuff, uh, and have a more instantaneous communication method. Then the radio came in now, now it’s one to many and you can broadcast to the masses.
TV came in, you add another sense to it. Um, the internet was the next change. But I, I think what’s interesting is we’re seeing a change in, uh, internet usage and behavior, right? Like there was the, the saying of Web One to Web Two to Web Three. I think Web Three is a bit of a contentious term at the moment because of, uh, some scandals in crypto
Brandon Rollins: Oh boy. Yeah, the all the FTX stuff, which is gonna be old news by the time this drops. But even still.
Ding Zheng: Which, which I think is interesting because now we’re kind of stuck in this Web 2.5 space where we know that the TikTok and the, the short form content, that’s a different type of creation, it’s a different type of consumption than it was in the blog era, right? 10 years ago. And when I was first getting my feet wet as an online creator, you know, it was all these blogs, these listicles. SEO and, long form video content, right? No one really had a podcast yet, unless your name was Joe Rogan.
Brandon Rollins: Yeah.
Ding Zheng: And then now the meta’s changed what we expect as a consumer, uh, to see in terms of our content, that has changed.
Brandon Rollins: Mm-hmm.
Ding Zheng: So this, and that was a big reason that I do what I do right now, is that, you know, if not me, someone’s gonna do it.
Brandon Rollins: It all comes full circle and I think it’s very interesting right now we, let me back up. I think it makes sense to divide the Internet’s communication style into three distinct eras. We have this era up to about, I’m gonna say ’08, ’09, and that’s basically based on my subjective feeling of a vibe shift.
And that’s it. But basically, it used to be blogs, search engines, websites. You went and you sought something out, and then sometime around ’08, ’09, Facebook started to open up to a larger audience. You’ve got Twitter coming out around that time, or at least starting to become popular. You have Tumblr, before that started to drop off and now it’s making a comeback a little bit. It, it’s strange.
But point is, you start having, instead of people going out to seek individual sites, they start collecting on the same ones with individualized feeds going out to people. But these companies amassed a ton of power. It got kind of messy. Their algorithms are a huge mess for a lot of reasons. They show advertisements. They don’t really show people what they want to see, and when they show them what they want to see, it’s actually quite dark when that happens.
Um, so now people are like, “ugh, I’m really tired of Facebook. I’m tired of all these influencers on Insta.” So they’re going to YouTube and they’re going to TikTok and they’re going to, you know, Spotify and Apple to find podcasts and stuff like that. So now, instead of this kind of social networking thing where it’s friends talking to friends, it’s creators and fans.
Um, it, it’s this kind of hybrid model where the channels are like YouTube, TikTok, it’s a handful of websites where all these folks can be found, but people are, again, getting into silos around personalities in the same way that they used to do with Web One. So, and right now I don’t actually know where the page break is in history.
I don’t know if it’s two years in the future. I don’t know if it’s two years in the past, but I can tell you that Facebook feels like a mall right now. It feels like that, this kind of weird space that used to be important, but now you just, like, get phone accessories at weird stands.
Ding Zheng: The mall analogy is one of the best that I’ve ever heard.
Brandon Rollins: I bit that one from the Atlantic. I will admit to it. I will cop to it, but it’s stuck in my head because it’s so, so vivid to me. You know, it’s such a darn good analogy.
Ding Zheng: Hundred percent. And so that, that brings up an interesting point with, uh, some of these antiquated models, and especially it’s, looking at Twitter right now.
And the advertiser pull out and the restructuring of the, the new rules. And then now, now maybe we have some, some Middle Eastern money coming in and Elon may be on the way out. It’s an interesting.
Brandon Rollins: As of today. Or yesterday Elon Musk. For context guys, cuz this is going up in mid-January. Elon Musk ran a poll last night asking people, should I be CEO of Twitter? I will honor the results. And they said, no by majority. So we don’t know what’s gonna happen. So now people from Snoop Dogg, who would be awesome in that capacity, to the dude who ran MySpace, are jumping in and leaving comments and it’s freaking hilarious.
Ding Zheng: Yeah, MySpace tom, I think he, he did the smart thing. He is like, I built my stuff. I see it. I see Facebook coming in. Zuckerberg’s doing some stuff. Dorsey’s doing some stuff. Let me cash out right now. MySpace Tom has been living the life for over a decade and everyone still loves him. So , I think he actually, you know, he, he, he might have done, done, done the smart move.
Brandon Rollins: He might have, cuz it’s like people, people tend to think of MySpace as a failure, but I’m like, you know, if I built MySpace and then exited and then lived a good life, I would actually love that for myself. You know, build up a 10, 15, 20 million ARR company and then just exit and live a decent life and then maybe build something else? That sounds awesome.
What is authenticity online?
Ding Zheng: Yeah, yeah, the, the ma, machinations of, uh, the tech elite, I guess. Uh, but what’s interesting is, what’s changed in our behaviors as consumers, as a reflection of these platform changes, isn’t it, right? Uh, I think one thing that’s, that’s been interesting is, uh, you know, the rise of the so-called TikTok SEO.
All these Gen Z kids going on TikTok or even YouTube and doing searches, uh, when they research and I think, I think what’s kind of interesting is, you know, everyone’s heard of the, the trope of “SEO marketers have ruined search.” You can’t give, get good search results anymore because, you know, it’s a funnel into a, a lead form now, right? But the, I, I think video content still has this moat of authenticity, whether that’s, that’s real or not.
I think when you see someone’s face or hear someone’s voice, Talking about something, uh, it, it lends, uh, if not credibility, a more sense of this is a human, this isn’t a marketing department. Uh, I think one of the, the challenges of the Web Two model where it was, uh, you know, content exists in repositories online and search engines brought in that traffic and, and was responsible for disseminating that content.
It’s, it’s very hard to optimize any type of content for that paradigm and expect it succeed in, uh, you know, this current meta of algorithm. And, and even algorithms is interesting because you have, you have the, the YouTubes and the TikToks where it’s a more algorithmically driven, uh, graph of the newsfeed.
But then you also have platforms like LinkedIn where I play the most often, where it is still more of a social graph of content. Your stuff gets seen by first and second degree and connections versus third degree, whereas a lot of content I see on, you know, in my short form video feeds, I’ve never followed them.
Uh, maybe not a lot of my, my friends followed them, but, uh, the platform knows that Ding has liked similar style content. And now they feed it to me.
Brandon Rollins: Yeah. I, I will say it’s, it’s interesting with Google that people are starting to, like, they’re starting to add “Reddit” to the end of their searches when they do look up stuff, because they wanna find the human answers and not just the SEO stuff. Because SEO has created an issue, which I call the “medium quality content mill problem,” where it’s, it’s not actual spam and it’s never actual garbage, but it is like a WikiHow article explaining how to do something in an inadequate amount of detail.
It’s Healthline, meekly pro and conning the benefits of caffeine, but not actually telling you if you should drink coffee. It’s that stuff. So people are going to Reddit for this stuff. And LinkedIn is another place where people are going because it’s got a culture of people being helpful to one another.
And as long as they have that, they’re gonna be okay. And it’s like you said with YouTube and TikTok, like good luck trying to be inauthentic on those platforms. You can do it, it’s just a higher barrier because you have to be really good at like, I don’t know, pretending to be useful when you’re not. And thankfully, most folks cannot manage.
Ding Zheng: Yeah. I, I like that last point there. I, I, I’m curious the, to dive a little deeper into that is the, the concept of authenticity online. So I have a bit of a controversial take. I don’t think it’s possible to be authentic online.
Brandon Rollins: I actually agree with you on that, believe it or not. I think it’s a semantics problem.
Ding Zheng: Absolutely. I, I think it’s, there’s a difference between lying to your audience, right? That versus presenting like a, uh, an idealized version of your brand and your personality. Because fundamentally, as humans, we do that in real life as well. We posture, we, we, we act, we embellish. And we play characters and we have a idealized version of what we wanna present.
And we have the reality, and I think everyone wants to get the ladder closer to the former. So the same thing with, with online. Even the, the act itself of posting content of premeditating, this is what I want to talk about, this is how I present it, this is how I’m gonna edit it to ensure I have a strong hook.
I can have the watch time and the viewer retention. And I can, uh, espouse the point that I’m trying to make. Is this clear? Is this understandable? Does this make me and my argument look good? All those is are, are premeditation. And I think that, uh, to have authenticity as a north star metric for content is not conducive to success.
Brandon Rollins: Yeah. And, and to me it’s like, on this podcast, I’m trying to present my business well, I’m trying to present your business well, I’m trying to speak in a way that’s going to keep you happy and like build a rapport and, and, and, uh, you know, so that we like each other. But is that an inauthentic act to deliberately choose words and behaviors that will lead to that?
I don’t think the answer to that is yes. And if it is, it’s like, I mean, it’s like where do you, what is truly authentic, at, at that point anyway?
Video works because it’s hard right now
Brandon Rollins: With video right now, it’s hard. TikTok. It takes like two hours to make a really good 60-second TikTok if you are a talented person, like with a un, unless you’re literally just speaking off the cuff to the mic.
And frankly, I don’t think that works. I think you gotta look it in the eye. I think you gotta read off a teleprompter, to, to stay on script and get everything you need to say all at once. And I think you gotta add the captions to it, and the right audio in the background and all that stuff that takes time.
It knocks out the folks who aren’t willing to spend the time to do it, right. It’s like, why would you go to all the trouble to spend two hours on something and make it mediocre when you could spend two hours and 15 minutes on it, and make it great? Same thing with YouTube.
The rise of AI in creator spaces
Brandon Rollins: It takes like 10, 15 hours to put together a decent 10 minute video. Editing is hard and maybe some AI tools will reduce the trouble with that in the future. That’s a real possibility, but I think it’s going to remain hard for a while. That’s all like, to me, it’s kinda like, that’s why books tend to still be a pretty good repository for information too.
Even the self publication process is hard.
Ding Zheng: I agree, man. It’s, uh, video editing’s definitely not easy. And I think there’s, uh, there’s two, two things I wanna address there. One is the difficulty in the process of editing and, and creating a postal. It’s in viable piece of content. And then two is the, the AI element. So on the first note, I think it’s, it goes beyond just knowing how to edit, uh, knowing how to use the software and developing the competencies to manipulate within the medium that you’re creating in.
It also is important to know what the end result should look like, right? And I think that, Uh, a lot of folks that I work with have the difficulty of how do you know what to edit when you don’t know what good looks like? And that’s something that takes, in my opinion, the most amount of time is developing the sensibilities and the taste to know this video has a higher chance of performing.
Brandon Rollins: It’s brutally difficult and that’s kind of a good thing. You know, it’s that it’s a skill that takes years and years to build up over a lot of time.
Ding Zheng: Yeah, so, so I think this is why the, I, I don’t see the AI revolution disrupting this space in the short term. I think long term, you know, it will get better and, and eventually we’ll get to a place where all human, uh, editors and, and the support infrastructure around creatorship is gonna diminish. And then at that point it becomes, everyone’s a creator, right?
Because, because what? That’s what the iPhone did. Uh, we’re, we’re smartphones. You put a camera in everyone’s hand, everyone’s a photographer now. Instagram blew up, originally. Everyone had a nice camera in their hand.
Brandon Rollins: Yeah. And now the difference is like being good at it. It’s taking the time to do something that like really makes a difference with your camera.
Ding Zheng: Yeah.
Brandon Rollins: And the other stuff gets buried in the noise.
Ding Zheng: Yeah, a hundred percent. And then the other thing that, uh, w with the AI specific, let’s be a quick point. Uh, and then I, then I want to, to hear your thoughts on the next, uh, bit. It’s funny, it’s like, it’s like a two-way interview now. Haha.
Brandon Rollins: No, no, no. This is what I do. I get it to be conversational. That’s the whole thing.
Ding Zheng: Yeah. I love it, man. As, um, Before was sales rep. Like my whole MO is like, I gotta speak less. Right?
Brandon Rollins: Mm-hmm.
Ding Zheng: Um, so, so with the AI earlier, I think before we recorded, we, uh, talked a bit about Descript, and I’ve used that, I’ve used that tool before. And in a sense, that is an AI implementation into video editing, right?
We’re transcribing the audio of a video, putting it in text format, and then you’re editing it of the text also edits the video. But what I found, is that when I have a 45 minute recording and I’m going into Descript and detailing and fine tuning the minutiae, it is still quite time consuming. There is still a unremovable or unsolved for yet problem, uh, of you just need the human expertise and the curation, uh, which, which AI can’t do, just.
Brandon Rollins: Mm-hmm. Yeah, it hasn’t quite figured that out. ChatGPT is a great analogy because so much of what I do is writing. I write and write and write and write a lot. I probably write five or six blog posts a week, honestly, cuz turns like there’s actually still a very big, uh, demand for that. But, um, so I go to ChatGPT sometimes and I’m like, write me this prompt.
And mostly I’m just going for the memes. I’m like, write me a, a, you know, about a peanut butter avalanche destroying a town in the, in the style of Fyodor Dostoevsky, just to see what it does. And sure enough, sure enough, it gives me a Russian novel about a peanut butter avalanche destroying a town. It’s all right, at that.
It doesn’t quite capture the, you know, the, the nuances of Russian literature and that’s fine. I don’t expect it to, it’s good at that. It’s really good at that. It’s good at giving me a list of, like, companies that I should shout out in tweets. It’s really good at me typing in a few sentences that I kind of hate how I wrote them, and asking it to rephrase it to me.
But, if I ask it to write an entire thing, it won’t fact check itself. It won’t come up with a clear thesis. And it will generally write like an undergrad or an intern with, um, really good spell check and grammar. And that’s what I get out of it. And you know, it’s like, that’s good, that’s good. But also that’s not something that, that’s not something that really stands out online.
You know, because mediocre work doesn’t actually get that far. You’ve gotta be poetic or you’ve gotta have some very clear experience that you’re imparting upon people. Or at a very minimum, you have to be giving people accurate information. Computer can’t do that.
Ding Zheng: Yeah. And I think the inherent risk with all of this is, You and I have ChatGPT, but so does everyone else in the world, right? So, so now the, the baseline for what becomes acceptable has elevated. So it gets, it actually gets even harder, I think. Uh, and, and we see that with, with TikTok style videos, right, is, um, yes, that has democratized creation.
Yes, you can go viral with lower production, and in fact, in a specific B2C use case, the, the user generated content that’s a bit rougher around the edges, it appears less corporatized, more authentic. That’s an advantage I, I think, for the early adopters, but now that people have gotten used to that format of content, now, I don’t think it becomes an advantage.
At the same time, you take the current production capabilities on the newest iPhone internally in TikTok, and then you, you take those videos that you can create with that and you, you travel back in time 10 years and post them on YouTube. They would look pretty damn good.
Uh, but, but it’s not, it’s not 2010 anymore.
It’s, it’s 2022. It’s about be 2023. Uh, and the, you know, I keep, I abuse this phrase that meta has changed, right? Shout out to Zuckerberg. Literally, Meta has changed. Um, and right now I’m, I’m actually seeing, uh, a lot of success with, like, overproduced casual content. Like, you know, I have my, my Gimbal and my nice microphones and cameras and whatnot.
I have a video editing team, so, so, because I’ve systemized that process. Now, like my, I’ve been getting some good growth on YouTube shorts producing content that’s a little more polished than, uh, what the TikTokers will tell you to do. But I also know that, uh, and I have tested this, posting some of that rougher around the edges content actually not performing as well for me as the more, uh, you know, production layered stuff.
Brandon Rollins: And you just gotta test this stuff and see what actually works with the real empirical data.
Ding Zheng: Yes, sir. That’s Marketing 101, baby.
How sales rap has worked out
Brandon Rollins: Mm-hmm. It all comes back to the basics. So man, we went off on a lot of tangents, but I’m honestly good with that because this is, this is just fascinating stuff. I think it’s gonna be a good show. Um, so I feel like I should ask you at least one more question about sales rap, at least one big one. How’s it been working out so far?
Ding Zheng: Very well
Brandon Rollins: Yeah, that, that’s, maybe I should ask a, maybe a slightly rephrased question. So it’s been working out very well, it’s like, who’ve you been, what companies have you been working with? How, um, what services are you offering?
Ding Zheng: Yeah, a hundred percent. So, you know, I’m always a fan of storytelling and, and a specific customer use case, right?
So, uh, this is something that’s never been done before, but I collaborate with a company called Mutiny. You might be familiar with, they do AI-based website customization. So let’s say you’re from Salesforce and you’re evaluating Mutiny, you hop onto their site and the Mutiny block within the website, you know, it’ll customize your hero text.
Some of your like, hey, from Salesforce, et cetera, et cetera. Uh, and what they do is they, they improve the conversion on deals, uh, from, from that targeted website. So it’s a very cool tool, very aligned with, with my message. But we, we did this thing, it was 20 songs to 20 of their top accounts that have been an unresponsive historically via the phone and email.
So these are great fit accounts. You know, some. Larger companies, some, some, some prime whales, uh, that the SCR team just hasn’t been able to crack. And what we did was we created personalized music video assets for them, 20 of them, uh, unique and tailored to each account where we’re calling out the names of your major 4 or so stakeholders on that potential deal.
Uh, you’re, and you’re talking about your prospect, right? There’s a saying in sales, show me, you know me. So what we do is we, uh, you know, it’s a 40-second verse, a 16 bar. Uh, we spend maybe the first four bars only talking about the prospect company. Uh, and, and what we found with that was we created this new thing that I’ve termed, uh, internal virality.
It means rather than blowing up on LinkedIn or Facebook, uh, we blow up internally at our prospect organization’s Slack channel and, and this is really interesting because like, like we’ve said earlier in the call, the beauty of a rap is that it’s a lyrical form of music, right?
So, so in your distribution messaging, you remove all sales, any call to action, any value prop, all that BS.
Because that’s the pattern that these, uh, you know, a lot of the decision makers are used to, right? Okay. This is a sales email mental spam filter engage. Click, click, right? Um, but when we’re, we’re reaching out and saying, Hey, we’re fans of you. We made a rap video about your company, and that’s it. All you’re optimizing for is driving that click.
But once that click happens, something really interesting occurs is that these people are pattern interrupted. They’re entertained and delighted. They feel celebrated cuz they get a personalized shout out within the song and, and their LinkedIn profile or their picture flashed on the screen. And they’re like, okay, this is new.
This is a, a novel buying experience for me. Let me send this internally, or, or even, we will, we’ll take these and we will, uh, we’ll send them to, you know, the, the top down and the bottom up approach, right? We send it out to our desired points of contact, but we also send it to their in individual contributors, their subordinates, and then what happens is, “Oh, you, you work at a company, you’re IC, hey, my direct manager or my VP is in this music video. I work with them. I talk to them, you know, three, four times a week. They know who I am.”
So now we’re leveraging internal resources and as distribution points for our sales messaging, and that’s only possible because the format of this messaging is personalized, creative, and entertaining.
So as a result of that 20 account ABM campaign, we sourced a couple hundred thousand in pipeline and they end up closing two deals from it. So, you know, multiple six figures, ARR from a low five figure spend.
Brandon Rollins: That makes a lot of sense. And I mean, you would never think of it, right? Not immediately, not if you haven’t done this for a while, but like. Yeah, just go for the people who already work at the company, get their attention. Don’t even try for the, uh, the outside world because they’re not even really your customer. They’re not the ones you’re trying to get to.
Ding Zheng: Yeah, for the, from a B2B perspective, I, I think that’s the most important shift in entertainment content applied to a B2B context, right? Because it’s, uh, you know, for me for, in terms of just total addressable B2B accounts in general, there’s maybe a max of 40,000 people you can even sell to. Uh, or, or companies you can sell to clients, right?
And, and of those, we know that different buyers or different prospects are in different buying stages of the cycle, right? Th there might only be a small portion in consideration and valuation. Most folks are unaware, so, or, or, or have complete apathy. So why spend a lot of resources and time focusing on those folks when, you know, in a B2B selling context, you have a specific targeted list. You know that’s probably gonna be higher impact and more important for you than creating general awareness where 99% of those eyeballs can’t and will never buy your product in the first place.
Brandon Rollins: Yeah. Right. Yeah, absolutely. You’re not trying to make something for everybody. You’re trying to make someone the perfect mixtape.
Ding Zheng: Yeah, exactly. And, and especially in a modern sales context where it is a more complex decision making process and you have multiple stakeholders with different, sometimes competing interests. One of the challenges of the modern seller is how do we multi-thread and build internal consensus, right?
Is you might have a great champion or advocate for your deal internally, but if they can’t bubble it up and, and make it a priority for the right other people in that organization, your deal’s dead in the water. Um, so, so this also served as a, a really impactful measure for achieving that internal consensus, you’re essentially arming your champion, uh, or your influencer with an additional resource that now they can distribute, right?
Because they’re bought into that deal. They know it’ll improve their job performance, make them look better. Now, how do they share the other value props? You know, how does, how does the CMO, uh, show that case to the CFO? Well, we’ve made a rap video for them. Send that over. Hey, CFO, you got a rap shout out, watch this video.
A minute later. “Oh, okay. I, I got the main gist of this. Yeah, this, this sounds good. Let’s get on a call with them, just so I could ask a couple questions and approve this.”
Brandon Rollins: That’s fantastic. That’s, that’s just a really smart way of going about it. I can just imagine C-level officers of these companies going to one another and saying like, “Hey, somebody did a rap about you, but they actually have a pretty good value prop here.”
Ding Zheng: Exactly. That’s, that’s in, in practice. That’s exactly how it plays out. Because, because the other thing is these C-levels, they’re also humans. They like to be entertained, they like to get shouted out and whatnot. But I think a, a mistake, I see a lot of sellers, especially earlier in their careers, which is most SDRs, is.
You know, you put on your professional voice and, uh, hope this email reaches you well and everything’s doing fine and all that.
Brandon Rollins: I hope this email finds you well.
Ding Zheng: Yeah, right. I’ll just BS and, and look. They, the executives don’t wanna be sold to like that.
It’s like, matter of fact, solve my problem. Don’t waste my time. And if you make me laugh, that’s, that’s even better.
Brandon Rollins: Yeah, absolutely. I mean, just good general advice. We are, we’re, we’re getting away from the eras of being really, really super stiff and professional and keeping people at arm’s length, and we’re getting into an era where frank speech is just really what you need in order to win someone over. Just be frank and direct and honest and show that you know your stuff and that tends to be a better approach these days.
My personal experience, especially when you’re talking about startup culture.
Ding Zheng: Exactly man.
A freestyle rap to take us out
Brandon Rollins: Yeah. So at this point, we’re coming up on time, but I want to ask you one last question before we get into like where people can find you online and that is… What do you wish that you knew when you started this company?
But I want you to tell me in freestyle form.
Ding Zheng: Oh, let’s go.
Brandon Rollins: All right? Yeah. Drop the beat.
Ding Zheng: Yeah, yeah, yeah. What I wish I knew. Um, entertainment, not always interviews. Um, spit the message in the interlude. Let’s just get into it. We might hit a zoom. Um, this is not the sound of doom, listen.
Get the quota. You trying to hit your quotas. Need the wisdom. You might feel like Yoda. Uh, I wish I knew the buyer personas, but I told you steak knives or Toyotas, at the sales conference, it was constant.
All these marketing boosts, they spewing nonsense. Yeah. And it might be so toxic at a little entertainment blast off like a rocket. You couldn’t stop it. Yeah.
I was a novice on LinkedIn, didn’t know what I was thinking. Lost the job. I thought that I was sinking. Yeah. But change the day in a blink, things.
It’s kind of switched up. Yeah. They told you to never give up, huh? I’m working on the core of this issue. Like doing some sit-ups. Yeah, it’s a mix up. Nah. Doing enterprise, look. And they did, decide all these stakeholders. Yeah. Look, all these fake voters, what we ain’t told you, it’s command and mastery all these questions that my prospect’s been asking me.
Yeah. You don’t want your sales efforts to atrophy. So we get the system and do a factory assembly line. Isn’t it fine how I’m gonna spittin’ my rhymes? Yeah. And the lyric bricks will shine clearly. Define, yeah. To close a deal. All these whales get ’em one. You know how it feels. Yeah.
Brandon Rollins: That’s awesome. All right, now it’s my turn. No, actually, I want to keep, no, no, no, no. I wanna keep subscribers. I do. I wanna keep subscribers on the podcast. I want five stars. If I spit a single bar, I’m losing everybody on…
Ding Zheng: if you spit a single bar, it’s six stars, maybe seven…
Brandon Rollins: All right, so at this point, where can people find you online?
Ding Zheng: A hundred percent. So my website is salesrap.io. You can find my list of services and portfolio on there. I’m also very active on LinkedIn and YouTube. Look up the Sales Rapper on both. You’ll find me Ding Zheng on LinkedIn. Connect with me. I don’t bite. I won’t dis you in a rap battle. It’ll be fun.
Brandon Rollins: All right. And at this point, um, to anybody who’s listened to this thing the whole way through, we both really, really appreciate it. This has been the Weird Marketing Tales podcast. You can find us on weirdmarketingtales.com. You can also find us at @WeirdMarketers or @WeirdMarketing on pretty much every social media known to man.
If you have a moment, please leave a five star review on Apple. That helps out more than you know. And don’t forget to subscribe. We really appreciate it. Thank you very much for listening. Stay tuned for another episode in two weeks.