What Fred Wilson, Penelope Trunk and Mark Cuban can teach you about vulnerability

Tuesday teardown – In summary:

  • To get leverage from digital marketing, you must build a real human relationship. If you can build trust online, you reduce your reliance on physical sales meetings as a relationship building exercise. Being authentic and vulnerable are critical in building a trusted relationship with potential buyers.
  • Generally, under 50% of what is said by a CEO of a company online is trusted by the reading public.
  • The most important topics for building CEO trust are personal values, obstacles overcome and personal success story.

Transcript of this teardown:

Hi. I’m Steve Pell from TLP. I’m here to do another one of our TLP Tuesday Teardowns, where we look at a popular website to take away some practical lessons, so you can get better results online.

Today I’m going to talk about vulnerability, trust and authenticity – all these topics are critical when we come to online content.

They are critical because they are the foundation of building a real human relationship. That means people trust what you’re talking about, which means they’re more likely to buy online (even in B2B), which reduces your necessity to do physical sales meetings. This can really start to give you some sales leverage and improved sales efficiency right throughout your business.

I’m going to start with a couple of key pieces of data, and and then jump into three very successful CEO blogs – Fred Wilson, Penelope Trunk, and Mark Cuban.

Before we get started, this data I’ve got up here is from Edelman. It looks at how trusted different sources or different people are online.


The sad state of CEO and corporate trust

You can see the general population trust about 80% of what’s said online by “My friends and family“. In contrast, “a company’s CEO” sits at under 50%.

So, under 50% of what is said by a CEO of a company is trusted by the general population online. Now, that’s pretty shocking when you think about that as a flip of a coin.

The key point here is that the general audience that you’re going to be speaking to are very, very sceptical.

So, what does it actually take to build trust in a market that is so sceptical? Let’s just have a look at one more piece of data here. This is another outcome from that same survey, from the Edelman Trust Index in 2016. I encourage you to go and have a look – there is some fascinating data.

Here we’ve got here the percentage of the general population who agree that each type of information is important in building trust:

  • Personal values, 80%
  • The obstacles that they have overcome, 70%
  • Their personal success story, 65%
  • Their education and how it’s shape them, 62%
CEO trust

The percentage of the general population who agree that each type of information is important in building CEO trust

These are all topics that you’re not used to reading in your typical newspaper article, CEO blog, or company website. Because they are not what you typically see, that’s another reason why they are so powerful.

So, to come back here and just recap on this data, the trust of CEOs and businesses online is very low. It takes authenticity to break through and build that one-to-one relationship where you can start to earn the right to sell to someone online.

Fred Wilson

Let’s jump in and have a look at some examples of these done really well. So this is a post by Fred Wilson.

Fred is a venture capitalist out of New York who has a very big following. This blog has played a big part in turning him into a very successful venture capitalist. He has generated large amounts of deal flow from this content. This blog, you could say, is his primary marketing activity.

The blog we’re looking at here is about distraction. It’s a post by Fred about how he struggles to focus. This is not something that goes directly to why his audience are coming to this blog; To find out more about his investments and strategy.

Fred wilson

Fred Wilson, discussing distraction and how he struggles to focus. The post has generated 200+ comments

But you can see that this article has generated 226 comments – a very high level of engagement. It’s very hard to do that unless you’ve got a passionately engaged audience. This is not what you would typically expect to see on a traditional CEO blog, but a great example of building a personal relationship.

Penelope Trunk

Let’s go to another one here which is Penelope Trunk. Penelope is a CEO of a company called Quistic. This blog seems very personal, but is actually a big, big lead generation tool for her businesses. In the article we’re looking at, she is writing about the connection between abortion and careers.

Penelope trunk

Penelope Trunk discussing abortions on her business blog.

Again, this is not a topic you would expect to see CEO commentary on. It again has generated 610 comments – exceptionally high level of engagement with her audience. She’s achieving this because she is so authentic, and she just does not hold back on her personal views. That has generated a really strong connection with her audience that has powered all the business that she’s been involved with. So, again, another example for you to jump into. Not right for everyone, but a very good case study on just how powerful it can be vulnerable and authentic.

Mark Cuban

The last one I’ve got here is Mark Cuban. Now, Mark Cuban, you might have seen from the US version of Shark Tank. You might know him as a Dallas Mavericks owner. He is talking here about his colonoscopy. Now, not a topic that you would expect to see on a CEO’s blog, and he says he doesn’t usually talk about personal issues, but he thought it was “important to share”.

Mark Cuban

Mark Cuban discussing his colonoscopy (it doesn’t get much more vulnerable!)

It goes back to that data that we saw from Edelman on using personal values to build a relationship. Cuban has nearly five million people who follow his blog every time he publishes, so it’s clearly resonating with an audience. He is authentic and he is building a relationship. Again, this is a good example for you to jump into and have a quick look at to see what authenticity looks like when done well.

In conclusion

The key takeaways for today are that being authentic and vulnerable are critical in building a personal relationship online. If you’re going to build a CEO blog that gives you sales leverage, you have to build a personal relationship.

Building trust is so important because it’s what gives you the right to speak to a prospect on a one-to-one basis. Perfection is boring. People don’t want to build a relationship with people who are presented as perfect. They want to build a relationship with other humans (flaws and all). So, look at how you can introduce some elements of your real personality to add depth to whatever it is you’re talking about. You’ll see much better results. You’ll build a one-to-one relationship that then gives you the right to start selling online.

That’s all for me today. We’d love you to jump into the comments and let us know your thoughts.