Below is the audio and transcript of the most recent Smartups with our December panel members. Our panel members included:
- Jeb Banner, CEO Smallbox
- Brian Phillips, Co-founder The Basement
- George Evans, Principal, Creative Director Brandwidth
- Doug Karr, CEO DK New Media
- Gail McDaniel, Global Marketing Manager, Digital and Direct, Cook Medical .
I will post this transcript here for now, but in the future we will be posting them on our site, once we get the new one live.
If you are interested in joining Smartups or would like to go to the next one signup at SmartupsIndy.com.
Full Transcript after the jump.
Moderator: So if we could, we’ll just have Brian start out here.
Brian Phillips: I’m Brian Phillips, Executive Creative Director and Co-Founder of The Basement.
Jeb Banner: Jeb Banner, CEO of SmallBox and Founder and, as of today, chair of the SpeakEasy.
Gail McDaniel: Hi. I’m Gail McDaniel. I am Global Marketing Manager for the Aortic Business Unit at Cook Medical. There will be a test on this afterwards, but the thing that I think is really exciting, and I’m so glad that George invited me to come, but many people don’t know about Cook. And one of the things is this company started, this man started his company in his garage or, excuse me, his two-bedroom apartment.
The first marketing piece was drawn by his wife. She took all of the devices and drew line drawings of them and then mimeographed them, if anybody knows what mimeographing is, and they passed them out at meetings. And that little entrepreneurial company in Bloomington has grown to a multi-billion dollar company and we have manufacturing around the world.
We have about 14,000 employees, 3,000 of them in Bloomington where I work at the world headquarters. So it’s really great to be with – I’ve been an entrepreneur myself. I wasn’t very successful. That’s why I’m in corporate world, but I had a great time. One of the neat things about working for Cook is that I also get to explore my entrepreneurial spirit within my own company.
I set up all of the social media programs for Cook. We were one of the first medical device manufacturers in our space to do social media and to really take it on in a regulated environment. So I look forward to talking about that with you all later.
George Evans: I am just George Evans, Founder, Principle, and Creative Director at Brandwidth.
Doug Karr: Doug Karr. I think some of you guys know me. I run the Marketing Tech Blog and have an agency, DK New Media. We do search and social marketing for our clients and then we just launched an e-mail marketing company called CircuPress.
Moderator: So let’s get started. So we got a little bit to know about them here first. So we wanted to start off with something a little easy, kind of just understanding a little bit about your guys’ philosophy and how you guys look at new marketing products, whether it’s a new product line, or a new client that you’re working with, just a new business. How do you take that strategy – so I guess the specific question would be what is your strategy and/or process for taking on a new marketing project for your business or client?
For example, your client requires a [rebrand]. The client or business thinks they need a social media campaign. The client says they want an animation, in the case of maybe Brian, or name your own challenge that you have to deal with. So let’s start off.
Doug Karr: Most of the companies that come to us, they know they’re broken. So they know that they have a website and they have a web presence but it’s not bringing in leads. So the first thing we do from a process standpoint is we do a full audit on our clients, and I should say that the goal of that audit isn’t necessarily to bring them in as our client. It’s to find out what the issues are.
So oftentimes, I love the first question here, is who requires a rebrand. A lot of times clients will come to us and say, “We’re not getting any leads off of website or anything else,” and it’s because their brand sucks. And I can’t do anything with that. So I would pass it along to a branding company in that case, or it’s a company that they’re short on technology so they need a lot more services and they need a lot more development. So I would get Jeb’s company down there to talk to them.
What we do specifically with clients is we fix, we help them fix those strategies but we don’t execute them. So we help guide them and we help push them in the right direction, but it would be finding people at this table that could help them actually execute what they’re trying to do. So our first step is always just a full audit, and it’s on everything. It’s not just on what we do for our clients. It’s basically across the spectrum of their entire marketing needs.
Doug Karr: Well we do it from a web perspective obviously because that’s why they came to us. So they came to us and said that, “We’re not getting any demand.” The first that we do is competitive research and research on their site. We look at how are they ranking on search. What is their share of voice on social? What does their website look like? Is it well constructed?
What are the conversion costs? We look at their analytics. We get access to their analytics and Webmatser data, and that way we can basically crawl all of that and basically find what those missing pieces are.
George Evans: My guess is you’re going to get a lot of alignment from all of us on this question [laughter]. Gail speaks from experience. Gail and I go way back. From our perspective, I like to say that we interrogate the brand until it confesses its weaknesses, and one of the things that if I want us to be known for anything it’s coming in with the right questions, not necessarily coming in the door with the right answers.
And for us we gauge our first meetings with potential partners by how little we have to talk about ourselves. There’s nothing better for us than leaving that very first meeting and the last thing a person says to us is, “Wait a minute. We didn’t really find out a whole lot about you.” And that’s by design. Interrogate the brand until it confesses its weaknesses and really, really get to know the truth behind the brand because a lot of times what folks will say about themselves, about their brand, may not actually be reflective of what it is really portraying to the marketplace.
[One] particular piece of business I guess we were talking nine different agencies we were told, and they said that we were the only people came in asking them questions, that everybody came in and said, “You’ve got to do this with your website. You’ve got to do this with your branding. You’ve got to do this with this. You’ve got to do this with that.” Sure, whatever. And they said, “You guys were the only ones that came in and asked us any questions about us.”
So that’s kind of the way we approach things, and we actually have a process that builds from that, but that’s the heart of it for us.
Moderator: What are those questions? So if I was a new project, what questions would you get?
George Evans: I want to ascertain how much they know about their marketplace. Ultimately the most important conversation, the most important relationship, is what happens between them and their customers, potential customers. Sometimes there’s a difference between the needs of different customers in terms of a mix, a marketing mix for the folks that they’re talking to. So we try to really gauge their customers.
We try to gauge if there’s a unique compelling benefit to the product, the service, whatever it is that they’re offering. Messaging, what are they known for? What do they stand for? Who are they really? We try to look at really ascertaining not what they say but what we interpret from what they’re telling us, and I think Doug hit the nail on the head. You walk in and someone says, “We’ve got problems. We need you to fix our website. We’ve got x amount. We need you to fix our website.”
And a lot of times you just look at it and you go, “Actually your website is fine. It really is fine.” So then we start talking to them about how they appear to their customers, what do their customers think. I actually got into an argument, well I wouldn’t call it an argument, but with the chairman of Farmoor Stores, and we were presenting some concepts to him. And he said, “Well, these are all well and good. We’ve done marketing research and things of that nature. I don’t like it. That’s not what I think.”
And I said, “I don’t care what you think.” And he looked at me like – he looked at me across the desk and, “I care what your customer thinks.” He actually sat back down and he got this knowing look on his face and he said, “All right. We’ll give it a shot.” So it’s really getting to the heart of what are the things that are important to them as potential marketers and whether it’s a new product or an existing product or particularly a product that’s been rebranded.
Gail McDaniel: My situation obviously is a bit different, but in a way it’s very much alike because if the Cook Marketing Department was listed as an advertising agency it probably would more than likely be the largest one in Indiana, and many of us have come from the agency world. I was in the agency business for almost 30 years, and so because I work with colleagues in house that are all advertising people, we all talk the same language.
And the people that we have the biggest problems with are our products managers because they are really our clients. It’s kind of like, I use the analogy of The Little Rascals. “Hey, let’s put on a play.” “Hey, we need a website.” “Okay, so what are you going to do with it when you get it?” “I don’t know.” “Who’s your market?” “I don’t know.”
“Are you going to tell me? Do we need to find out?” “Yeah. We know who it is.” “Do you mind sharing the information with us, please?” “We know. We know who it is.” “Okay.” And this is extremely difficult because we know the right questions to ask, but we don’t get the right information back. We are in the process of rebranding our business unit, and we know the right questions but people don’t understand how to respond back to us.
So it’s a little bit unique. It’s kind of a little bit backwards situation. And then you take it into consideration that we have a longstanding philosophy that we do everything in house. That’s all well and good if you have the talent to do everything in house, and then specifically in the digital world that’s very, very difficult because there’s so many people that are doing so many things that are so exciting like Vision 3 Creative here in Indianapolis. I’ve talked to them many times about doing some really outstanding work, but our philosophy is to do everything in house.
So even though so many of us know what has to be done, the process is extremely slow because we have to go back and train people and get the work on their time schedules. We were building a new website for almost five years and it finally launched last summer.
George Evans: It’s outdated.
Gail McDaniel: Sort of [laughter]. I don’t go in there. I have to live with what I’m given. So consequently you figure out ways to work around all these issues. I’ve had many talks with people in our e-communication team and I said, “Because you guys don’t deliver, we all know [asset]. We all know people that we can go to on the outside to get all the stuff done that we need to get done. And we can do it in half the time that it takes you to do something.”
They hold the keys to the kingdom. We can go out and produce stuff and we can get that side of things created, but they won’t deliver them onto the servers so that it might as well not even happen, and especially with iPads that we have to have for our sales team. So these are some of the special challenges that you get in a world like I’m in.
Jeb Banner: We moved to a discovery process as the doorway to our business about a year-and-a-half ago, and we discovered through that that it started the relationship with the right tone. And then before that we had jumped into tactics, as I think everybody here at this table has probably made the mistake, of, “Yeah. We’ll build the website, or yeah we’ll do the video,” without understanding the context.
So we walk our clients – and we even do this during sales process as well – we walk our clients through a number of exercises, and we’re continuing to build out a suite of exercises. And a lot of the early exercises are built on goal setting and clarity. So who are you? Where are you trying to go? We focus on them first and then we focus on their audiences.
What goals do you have for this organization? We use a lot of rudimentary tools like Post-it notes, and whiteboards, and paper, and whatever we have that’s very tactile and can create immediate engagement with the stakeholders. We try to get people out of those seats, standing up, walking around, moving things around, and collaborating with us.
From the minute we walk in the door, we really try to get them to break that fourth wall, if you would, between the client and the agency and to see us as a unified team. And that’s part of our sales process is we want them to leave that sales meeting feeling like we’re already bonding if you would, and then we continue that throughout. So we really focus on us co-creating together, understanding that the voice of that brand is probably somewhat broken. I think one of you guys said that, and that we’re here in a sense to help them heal it, but really they have to take ownership of that.
And so it’s a gradual wakening that happens with a company as they start to strengthen their voice and they have more authority in that voice. And then we build tools around that voice, that the website and e-mail and all these things are all just tools to amplify voice. It’s just storytelling, right? So they have to know their story.
So the first thing we do in discovery sessions is say, “Tell us your story.” We have different roles assigned in that session and somebody is typing everything down and we’re bolding all the important words and we put those words in a whiteboard. We start to identify what words speak to the passion of that organization, and speak to the values.
A lot of companies don’t know why they exist. Nonprofits tend to be more intentional about that, but most businesses can’t answer that question, and if we can’t get that clarity it’s very difficult for us to market them because if you’re familiar with Simon Sinek – and I believe this to be true – people buy the why and not the what. They buy why you do something, and I think a lot of businesses are still in that transactional period of selling the what, selling the widget, and they need to evolve and elevate themselves out of that mindset.
So we’re instigators. As George was saying, we’re coming in and we’re pushing them to think differently, and we’re okay with an uncomfortable conversation. And we know that there’s no authentic relationship to be had unless they see us as a true partner, and if they don’t we walk away from the relationship. The challenge we’ve had is that our older clients that started the relationship when we were more tactical have trouble evolving their mindset around us, and we often get stuck in a tactical relationship, and I think you can see some nodding down here.
It’s a challenge to update people on how we’ve changed and how do we reintroduce ourselves as who we are now. And that’s something that we’re continuing to struggle with, and this past year we had to shed about a third of our clients which was a challenge, but it was a good thing to do. I kind of wandered there, but that’s sort of our process.
Brian Phillips: I’m fifth down the line here.
Male: You’re first on the other line.
Brian Phillips: It’s dittoish an answer? Can I use that, dittoish? I’m not going to say anything that hasn’t been said to a degree. We as The Basement just really focus on storytelling and developing narratives. So call it what you want, but it is truly about discovering what’s the journey from your client or your consumer. That’s what we’re really interested in, and developing experiences around that, and developing a narrative around that.
So we really look at storytelling as everything from your first impression all the way through to conversion. So every business has a transaction that they have to have to keep their doors open, and that transaction has to be fueled by some type of channel or narrative in our opinion. So that’s kind of our focus and then we can, again, try to avoid the tactical. Let’s not talk about tactics.
So through the lifecycle of our business where we started out in 2006 as a hired gun for agencies where we would work – we worked across the globe on brands from Verizon Wireless to KFC to even local brands. We were brought in to help establish the experience that your clients were going to get. So as our business has morphed and shifted to more of a direct model, we kind of keep that same experience that we’ve got in advertising but then we apply it more towards your narrative product development.
How can we reach new clients to provide experiences that help move them towards that transaction? So, yeah. I think that’s pretty much – everything’s been said. Give me something new.
Moderator: We’ll move on to the next one. I can come back to some of these questions that I have based off of this. So what would you consider some of the newer marketing challenges that you’re faced with? So we talked about – I don’t know what newer marketing challenges for you would be in your business that you’re facing, because I know George likes to talk about things don’t change.
Brian Phillips: In depth, he likes to talk about it [laughter].
Moderator: So what are some of the newer marketing challenges that your clients face today? Because demographics change. To me for certain clients their demographics are changing all the time. The accessibility of data. Media channels, new media channels are hard things that you have to figure out. So what are some of these new marketing challenges that you’re seeing that you’re having to face than an entrepreneur might have to face?
Brian Phillips: I think George once again said it, and I don’t think it’s new. I think it’s getting people to stop looking at the world through your eyes and looking through the eyes of your consumers. That has been a challenge probably since the dawn of business. So I don’t know how new that is. Correct, channels are new. You’ve got different kinds of social media. You’ve got digital.
I think the challenge is to focus and stay focused, especially when you talk about digital, yeah we’re digital, but that’s so broad. I know, kind of piggybacking the previous conversation, is finding clients that are good fits for us because we call ourselves a digital creative partner, but that doesn’t mean we do everything. There are a lot of specialists in digital that we don’t do, and I think as a company it’s maintaining what you don’t do is as important as defining what you do because I think that’s the definition because I think companies often – and I’ve been in startups and different companies where you try to do everything and all you do is nothing really well.
So I think it’s really critical to pick something and be an expert. Not really new.
Jeb Banner: I’m going to say something and hopefully you guys disagree with and we get a little debate going.
Doug Karr: I disagree.
Jeb Banner: You’ve got a troll on this
[comment]. I think there’s been a huge, fundamental change and here’s what it is. It’s not just that brands have lost control of the message. It’s that the brand is now owned not just by the consumer or the customer. It’s owned by the employee, and I think that that top down branding, that Mad Men branding that lived and still does live to some degree, the Coke is it kind of stuff, is being eroded by the voice of the customer.
And I think that that voice was very, very weak in the past and now it’s been amplified to a million degrees by social channels and the web in general. And the impact of this is that you can no longer bullshit people about your stuff. You can’t lie to people. Branding and marketing, now I’m all about authentic storytelling. I know that’s where George and I align and all of us align, and I think that that’s always a powerful thing, but in the past effective marketing, even the recent past, could be done through smokes and mirrors.
And especially in the early days of the web when you could manipulate search to win different traffic and have landing pages and all of that stuff is falling away quickly, as it should, you’re able to essentially trick people into becoming customers. It was a transactional relationship. It was not ongoing because chances are they had an inferior experience with your product, but now that’s near impossible because of the social signals around a brand are so vital to search and to creating customers, so reviews and all that stuff.
This is changing the way businesses work, and this is our message to businesses that unless you’re creating something that your employees can believe in then they’re not going to create an experience that your customers give a shit about. And it’s absolutely critical. You have to have something to believe in. Your product or service has to matter. It has to have meaning.
Otherwise your employees are not going to sell it very well. They’re not going to share it. They’re not going to talk about it. They’re not going to create content and content drives marketing. All that content has to come from people that believe in what they’re doing. External agencies can only create so much content.
If the people that are in that business don’t believe in what they’re doing, they’re not going to shout it from the rooftops. We see the difference between the companies that have true believers, have brand ambassadors. You see the ones that have people that are being pushed and hit and poked to create content, and you can smell it on them and consumers and buyers can smell it on them. That’s the shit.
So, yes, great storytelling is I think where we align a lot and I’m curious what you think about this, George. I’m sure you’re chomping at the bit, but I think that great storytelling has to come from – a story has to come from a meaning and purpose. It has to have something very human beneath it. It can’t be smoke and mirrors. It can’t be a bait and switch.
So I think that’s been the big shift. I embrace it. It’s openness. It’s accountability and transparency, and companies can either walk towards it or they can walk away from it, and that’s changing the way businesses work. So that’s where I stand on that.
Gail McDaniel: I think, just to prove your point, just if anybody knows the case about Zappos and if they’ve heard Tony Hsieh talk about Zappos. That’s just a [inaudible] of what he’s talking about. My challenges are a little bit – once again, I’m a little bit different – but I think that one of the things that’s the biggest challenge that I face over at Cook right now is the fact that much of our early marketing was done very one on one.
We have very, very strong relationships with physicians that would come to us and want us to build their products. At one point I think that we had maybe 30, 40 products that were all named for the people who invented them. What’s happening now is that those people are dying and there’s a new generation of physicians that are coming into the marketplace and these physicians are just like you all. They’re young people. They’re used to social media. They’re used to going to the web for all the information that they need.
They’re very tied into – they still have very strong relationships to the people who trained them, and so our challenge is how do we break through and talk to them on the level that they, in the same channels that they are used to as opposed to the way that we’ve done business for so many years. For example, when I talk about our website, for years it was just a product catalog because there was no reason for us to have any other types of interaction with our customers because the reps and there was the feeling that they knew who we were and they would come to us if they wanted our products.
Well obviously that’s all changing, and then you take health care, and health care reform, and throw that all in the mix, and taxation, a 2.3 tax, and then the most important thing that is the biggest challenge that we face in that world alone is the federal regulations that are affecting medicine. And I say this and in many other places if I was giving the same talk this wouldn’t be relevant, but Indianapolis and Indiana has such a high concentration of life sciences businesses that are affected by the FDA, and they govern what we have to say, and what we can say, and what we can’t say.
So that unto itself is a huge challenge that we have to face and be able to have, I hate to say it, be able to take the risk to do the things that we have to do to talk to the customers in the way that they need to be, in the channels that they need to be talked to.
George Evans: There’s an interesting story. Simon Sinek, you were talking about his book Start with Why, and he gives an example in the book about really he talks about Apple computers. And I say Apple computers specifically because at some point Apple took the word computers out of their message, out of how they presented themselves. Apple didn’t invent the MP3 player. Apple didn’t invent the flat screen.
The flat screen basically was Gateway Computing. MP3 was Texas Instruments. Those guys are no longer around. Apple embraced those technologies. They embraced computing. They embraced the personal computer specifically, and they developed a culture. Their entire company was developed around the idea that it’s not we make great computers. Do you want to buy one?
It was built around the promise we’re going to change the way you interact with your world. Here’s how we do that. We’ve got this that does this. We’ve got this that does this. Here’s how it aligns with you. And this was something that was really infused in their entire operation.
So in that regard the word, Jeb, culture is really important in that regard and in that regard – where I hesitate is to call it change. My guys always roll their eyes when I say that our job is applying oldfangled marketing precepts and applying them in newfangled channels. Things move faster than they used to move. You get feedback faster, but 25 years ago I worked with Jerry Della Femina, and he used to say the fastest way to kill a bad product is to market it well.
So I think that the customer has always been part of the equation. It’s just that now with the channels that we have to adapt to things happen so quickly. Feedback is so immediate, and we get more of it and probably more valuable feedback. I will absolutely say that, but my point of view, and one of the things that I talked about a couple of months ago, was that effectively the more things change the more they really do stay the same.
The same basic premises, the same basic precepts, and as a responsibility as a marketer those necessarily haven’t changed a whole lot. It’s just that how do you take those and apply those into new channels and is that change? I don’t know if that’s a [c][/c]
change, a level change as much as it is just an evolution of something that’s always been. So it may just be syntax that we’re talking about, but I look at the new opportunities. I look at – and there are certain things that we can do today a lot better, a lot faster, but I just don’t know that necessarily it’s necessarily a change from the way things were.
I just put that question out there, but one thing I absolutely agree that everyone has to be on board now in an organization for that organization to succeed. You can’t push from the top down if the people that are working with you, working for you, don’t believe in what you’re doing, and I think that to me that Apple story really is testament to that that you’ve really got to get behind something that everyone embraces at their very core, becoming the soul and the heart of an organization. And that’s what you project, and our job with brands is to find that with partners.
Doug Karr: I’m going to call half BS on all of you. As a first thing I’ll say that I still think that consumers and businesses are easily influenced by marketing. I still think that. I see businesses make bad decisions every single day off of great, glossy marketing material. So I think that it’s a terrible thing when you have a bad product, and you have great marketing, and everybody dives into it, and it definitely causes problems downhill, but the fact is is that it still works.
Manipulation through marketing absolutely works, and if you want to grow your business have an aggressive sales and marketing and hide your support issues. Eventually it will catch up, but who knows? Who knows what international company might buy you?
Male: What are you saying?
Doug Karr: The second thing that I’ll say is that I think that we touched on a couple things here and that’s the two things is consumer and business demand for services. I feel like from a marketing aspect that everybody in here there’s someone on an iPad. There’s somebody on a mobile device. There’s somebody with a laptop, and there’s other people that go home and read the paper still, and there’s people that watch TV.
And so what’s changed is that we have to manage – instead of us managing the mediums, we have to watch how our consumers and how our businesses that we’re doing business with are using the mediums. So things have changed from that perspective. So simple things like making mobile responsive e-mails because 40 percent of people, 50 percent of people are reading their e-mail on a mobile device.
That’s something that you can’t ignore. That’s something that everybody that’s doing e-mail marketing has to go back and have their templates rebuilt and have to optimize those things in order to take advantage of those things. From the marketer aspect, what’s become terribly difficult is managing all of that. The technology – and I’m a tech guy – but the technology across the spectrum is I think virtually impossible.
I think Gail made some great points talking about internal and what it takes internally at Cook to push things through the production line. That’s what we see with companies every single day is that the speed at which they’re moving just isn’t as fast as the demand is from the consumers. And so our job is to help accelerate that and help them cross those bridges faster and faster to look for those areas that there’s a gap and to fill that gap. And what we’re seeing that this might make people really mad, but what we’re seeing is end of the production line aspect of marketing.
Our clients almost don’t care about the strategy anymore. They need help with execution. They don’t have enough resources for execution. Their budgets have been cut. They’re really struggling just with executing. So we used to build these incredible strategies for our clients and talk to them about it all day. That was fine and they were like, “That’s great. Who’s going to help me do this? Who’s going to help me work across all these mediums and everything to get this done?”
And so that’s challenged our company that, we were talking really before the meeting, that what it’s causing us to do now is partner with experts – experts on branding, experts on community, experts on video because what’s happening with our clients is that they trust us. That’s what we’ve done. We’ve built this trust connection with our clients, but we can’t fail that trust.
I’m not going to build an animation series. I’m going to go to The Basement for that because they’re experts at that, but I’m going to go to them because my client trusts me to make the right decision and bring on the right resource. So I often talk to people that what I feel has changed a lot in marketing is we’re becoming like Ford creating cars now and that’s that it’s the engineers at the top, it’s the designers at the top, it’s the creatives at the top that are creating this awesome machine but they’re going everywhere to get the parts.
They’re not going to one place. They’re basically streamlining their processes, and they’re getting pieces from everywhere, and they’re bringing it together faster, and that’s what we’re working with with our clients every single day is how do we get all of these pieces made by the right suppliers? How do we put them in a production line? And how do we get it to market faster so that they can take advantage?
George Evans: I thought of something. When you were talking about Ford an analogy popped into my head. As Tim knows, I like reading the old ad guys and some of the issues like Ogilvy and [Burbach] and those guys. It was interesting because some of the discussions that we’re having today about these channels, about particularly the internet and what that has afforded us as marketers, and what it has afforded basically marketers’ company, but they’re connecting with their consumers are the same kinds of discussion that happened when television came on board, and before that radio, and before that going back to the printing press.
And if you want to call those changes, I think that’s legitimate, but to me it’s an escalation of the same problem. What we’re doing in the digital space is really akin to what they’re doing in the ‘40s, ‘50s when TV was hitting the marketplace.
Gail McDaniel: I just want to follow on that because David Ogilvy is one of my idols and I’m still to this day go back and pick up Ogilvy On Advertising, and if you haven’t read it you must read it, because even today so many of the tenants that he had about our business are absolutely true today whether they’re being delivered on an iPad, they’re being delivered in a print ad. In any medium, if you go back and focus on what he talks about as the very crux, the basis of our business, you can’t go wrong because you’ll just learn so much.
I taught advertising up at IU for a couple semesters, and I always made my class read that book, and it was amazing the takeaways that they had. They could read all of the principles of advertising but what David Ogilvy says is still I just totally 100 percent bought into it.
Moderator: We’ll close out this question and I’ll [inaudible] wants to come back. [Inaudible]
Male: No. It’s all been said.
Moderator: So this is the question. [Inaudible]. So what is one effective and ineffective marketing strategy or [inaudible] that you’ve seen implemented in the last year? So [inaudible] that you could have screwed up or you can see someone else some marketing that you’ve screwed up [inaudible] or marketing that did great. [Inaudible]
Doug Karr: With The Marketing Tech Blog, we have a large audience so I’m constantly experimenting, and I just recently wrote a post a couple days ago talking about this, and Jeb touched on it, that when SEO was king and when it was easy to manipulate rankings I was right there on the top of it. I was right there. I wasn’t back linking, but I was absolutely at my frustrated looking at what could I tweak in my template. What could I write about?
What were my competitors? How can I shove one more keyword in? Alt text in the image, and I was chasing all of this crap, and the bad thing was I had a large enough audience. I had a really, really good audience, and what I was doing was a total disservice to that audience, and that’s what I kept working on acquisition. I kept working on trying to tweak those numbers and everything else, and I forgot to take care of the customers that I had.
And in Facebook we’re seeing this now too. I don’t know if you guys have seen the news, but Facebook basically admitted that they’re slowing down the algorithm as far as corporate page views on your Facebook pages are going down on the wall. So they’re trying to push advertising back up, and what I keep seeing over and over my mistakes, and I think everybody’s, is not owning their media, not owning their strategy.
If your strategy is Facebook advertising and it’s bringing in 90 percent of your clients, get ready to shut your doors [someday] because you’re totally dependent on this other person there, and it was the same with SEO. Luckily I got frustrated myself and I stopped and started to reverse that trend, and we came out really okay from that, but who knows what trouble I would have gotten in if I would have kept going in that direction.
I’ll take a broader base in that a lot of our clients have enough audience, and I’ll say that again. A lot of our clients have enough audience.
Gail McDaniel: Do they have the right audience?
Doug Karr: And that’s a key point, but the audience that they want to do business with let’s say are coming to their site. They are there but they’re not converting. They’re not doing anything, and so what we keep seeing over and over, and that’s a solid point, but we see these clients that they’ve spent this inordinate amount of time and energy and everything else to acquire eyeballs, to keep getting more and more people on the site, keep getting more and more visitors.
And the fact is they’ve got enough of a base of those highly relevant prospects there if they would just work on converting them and taking care of them. So without a shadow of a doubt that’s been our biggest mistake and it’s one that we’re helping our clients with as well.
Jeb Banner: I want to build on that if I can. I think looking back on the last year I think inbound has been oversold and that’s kind of what you’re saying in a nutshell and people are all inbound, inbound. And I go to a conference and it’s just all the chatter is about inbound which is essentially content marketing in a lot of ways, and I’m doing a lot of research on this because I think there’s a spectrum between inbound and outbound, and I think the inbound does work for transactional goods and services.
I think when you’re looking at reviews and other social [inaudible] elements to be able to convert that stranger into a customer essentially, but the more you look at services and the more you look at high dollar items the less inbound is effective. And I think that a lot of service businesses out there have been sold an inbound bill of goods that doesn’t deliver. So they’re saying, “Hey, I’ve got all these leads but these leads are crap. We’ve got this content piece. We’ve got something that’s really driving traffic.” Traffic doesn’t matter. Traffic is worthless unless it actually is the right traffic.
And I think that that’s something we’ve really had to open our eyes to and we’ve recognized that our core client base are service businesses – nonprofits, associations, larger organizations, and most of their business comes through referrals. Most of it comes through community and through leveraging that network, not through cold leads off of search engines. Now I’m not saying it’s bad to show up because you need to have that validity, that legitimacy of being in the mix, and if you are legitimate Google will reward you with that as a byproduct, but if you make that your strategic focus that’s going to be a big waste of time.
And I think that we’ve really had to open our eyes to it. I think it’s a similar transition. Inbound is being oversold.
Brian Phillips: See now I’ve got stage fright. Just to build on that, build of a build, I’ve always said so what about social media. That whole idea of acquisition, acquisition, acquisition. At some point there has to be payoff. There has to be incentive. There has to be some point of to the point of conversion, and I just step back. I say I. We stepped back and we just watched and said okay so you get a – Facebook is perfect because you acquire fans and fans and fans and then Twitter is another one and then you just look at it and all the competition that you’re competing with from an attention standpoint, what are you doing with it?
You have a fan and it goes into your wall and then what? I personally, and, again, I try not to make decisions based on my own interactions, but I’m not going to scroll down through all the clutter that’s going through on my Facebook page and my Twitter account. It’s just too much. It’s overwhelming, and I think that is something that translates outside of social media into mobile, but, again, it’s not a problem that’s happened. This isn’t new.
It’s the reason why there are billboard ads on 465. You’re trying to cut through the clutter. You’re trying to get someone’s attention. You’re competing with somebody doing something else. Mobile is a perfect example where I think marketers and companies have to stop looking so much as their competitors. They have to look at all the other things that somebody could be doing on their phone.
So it’s not so much about – you’re almost competing with Angry Birds to a degree. You’re competing with other things, other attention-grabbing things that someone could be doing besides interacting with your brand or your service, and I think people have to start really thinking and looking at that. So when I look at an effective or ineffective, I’m not here to judge someone’s ineffective marketing.
It’s not my place to the point where somebody made about eventually the consumers in the market will determine what was effective and ineffective. The market doesn’t lie. You can lie to it for so long, but eventually it’s going to purge. So I think just understanding what your true competition is today is much different but very similar.
Gail McDaniel: Which one do I pick? Let me see. I think the biggest challenge, and it’s a business lesson, and I think we all are here to talk about business, the biggest challenge that we have and, again, I’m going to be very specific here. The business unit that I work for, 75 percent of our sales and our products, 72 percent of our total sales are outside of the United States. 75 percent of our products are not sold in the United States. 75 percent. Only one quarter of our total portfolio and our sales are very, very high. So what that means is that 75 percent of our products have no coverage on our website because we only have a US-centric website.
We only post our products sold in the United States. That’s fine if you’ve got a lot of commodity products which the other business units have, but ours we don’t have, and you take and compound that with the fact that the products that my unit sells will always be launched outside the United States first. They will never be here first because of, once again, the FDA. So the business challenge that we had to face is how do we get around the fact that we have a U.S. Centric website when we have 75 percent of our products that aren’t even on there and then you take that and the growing, the biggest population, the biggest areas of growth that we have are outside.
They’re always launching our products outside. That was a very eye-opening moment for me, and I’ve spent the last year actually constructing a way that Cook can, we can take our website and promote our products outside. It’s a very long process and we’re taking baby steps, but I think that realization that we had that many products – and I don’t think anybody ever really knew it until we put the numbers down on paper how much impact that had. That’s 75 percent.
How many companies do you know that 75 percent of their products aren’t on their website? It’s dumbfounding, and I have to acknowledge in transparency that’s my business unit. The other ones are a little bit different than mine and one of my devices is about $10,000 to $15,000. So you can imagine how much revenue that is.
Brian Phillips: You bring up a good point. I don’t need the microphone but it’s something that we – it’s not a struggle. It’s just conversations we have a lot with our clients. As much as we’re talking about digital, when you’re selling a product that sells for $15,000.00, no one’s buying that online.
Gail McDaniel: No.
Brian Phillips: There is a whole other selling process.
Gail McDaniel: You can’t buy it online.
Brian Phillips: Right. So I think people tend to overlook the fact that at some point there is a human factor that comes in, and there’s going to be a face-to-face, and that has to be assessed, and that has to be, again, and I go back to narrative. That narrative has to be explored as much as you’re doing the narrative online. And I think people get caught up in, “Well, it’s digital. It’s digital. It’s digital.” A lot of services and companies don’t do transactions online and there is a whole other selling process that tends to get overlooked.
Gail McDaniel: And I think that’s an excellent point, and I think what we have to look to digital for, yeah. No one’s ever going to go online and look for a flex [inaudible]. They may look about [what] the product numbers are or [inaudible] on how it’s delivered, but no one’s going to go, “I’m going to go buy that today.” But the other way that our products are sold are through our sales, our teams in the field.
And that’s what we’re facing now is to provide digital tools that will support reps in the field because that’s where our sale is actually taking place. And how do we take the standard data sheet that we have and make it into something that’s really exciting for them to show? And we’re working with [inaudible] right now who are just starting to get into that realm. And the opportunities are endless for my business because all of the sudden you can take a product, you can show it, and have the iPad in your hand, and the rep can take it, and he can say here is the basic [inaudible], and here’s an animation, and here’s a procedural video of how the doctor is actually putting it in.
I’ve seen some great things that our competitors are doing. Medtronic, our biggest competitor, had iPads in the field for five years and our reps just got theirs the last couple of months. So just playing catchup in that space alone, that was another big challenge. And I think – I had another big challenge. I forgot which one it was, but being able to provide these tools that the reps need in a way that they can really affect the sale.
And it’s so totally different than what most people think of in all the spaces that you talk about. In our other, I can’t remember what it is. It will come to me in a minute. This is what happens when you get old, but there’s just so many things every day that are happening that have to be digital somehow getting involved, and trying to convince people that an old, static datasheet is not the way to go and what this means is realigning the whole structure of how our marketing communications divisions are set up because they’re used to pumping out print.
I heard this one gentleman talk in a company, and [not very] similar to Cook, and they used to send out sales information, sales pieces to their reps. When they got iPads they had the reps send back all of the materials that they collected in their house because if you don’t know much about the sales process you do one where you have to ship them, drop ship 1,500 brochures to each rep. That’s a huge expense.
They had so many of these materials and they had them shipped back. The cost, they saved $60,000 the first year in just of the cost of having to cut out the FedEx charges and reshipping back all of the materials when the reps left. In one year they were able to recoup the whole sales [inaudible]. Big impact.
Brian Phillips: What’s the value of having consistent data, too? Consistent information versus an outdated [inaudible]?
Gail McDaniel: Updating it because our stuff changes so fast.
Brian Phillips: We have a client and I’ll bring this into a successful story. We developed a sales application for a seed distributor, a very large one, and there was a series of hurdles that we had to overcome. One is consistency of message, consistency of the data, and when you’re dealing with a number of products, a lot of product numbers, and then the sales reps have to know and understand the regions they’re selling in, all of that was managed through the CMS system.
So the rep gets on their iPad. They log in and it pulls down only what’s relevant to them in their region of what they’re assigned. And another challenge was selling outside of a connection. So how do you sell and how do you have access in a corn field? So being able to bring everything local to the iPad and have it hit the database, grab it, and then be able to interact with the consumer, and then push it back up when you get your connection.
One of the biggest challenges, and you talked about it, that we had was the data and the print and giving the client something. So we developed an on-demand print brochure maker that is relevant to that customer in that moment. So then you’re interacting. You’re selling. You customize a brochure and then you send it to them and it dynamically builds it.
So to the point you made, you’re cutting out – it’s good to hear the numbers because it’s one thing to be on the side where you’re developing the app and the concepts. It’s another to hear the financial impact that a company can have just on shipping.
Gail McDaniel: $60,000.
Brian Phillips: $60,000. That’s amazing. So I think as much as we talk about digital, it’s touching so much more than I think people tend to think about digital whereas they think, oh, it’s social. It’s the web. It’s really not. It’s all aspects of consumer touch points.
Gail McDaniel: [Inaudible]
Doug Karr: I agree to some extent with some of that, but some of the problems that we see is people think someone’s going to buy off of a tweet or a Facebook update. No. Obviously that’s something that happens very rarely, but even Jeb was talking about inbound versus outbound sales and the combinations thereof. And so some of the data that we see through folks like Sales View who are here in town who have $100,000. They have clients that are selling $100,000 plus contracts and they’re doing it through a combination of inbound and outbound is what they’re seeing is it takes a very, very long series of inbounds because someone that’s spending at that level is doing a lot of research and they’re doing it online and they’re doing it offline.
But it is important for that client to still have that online presence, to have that brand online, to have some place to research, ask questions. I think the assumption that people do though is they think I’m going to make a $10,000 purchase off a website. No, you’re not, but you might visit that website two or three times. You might ask your social network about that business and whether it’s a business worth trusting or whatever, and then you might do as much research as you can before you call the sales person. And we see it a lot where the person –
Gail McDaniel: That’s the point I forgot to bring up.
Doug Karr: Where the person is fully educated and then comes in and asks the salesperson and they know all the weaknesses. They know all the strengths. They know the pricing. They know everything.
Gail McDaniel: I’m going to throw out a little nugget here of what not to do. Don’t ever call on a company and not know what they make. I can’t tell you how many times I get calls from people. “Hey, Gail. How’s it going there at Cook? What are you doing up there today?” And they have no clue what we do. They have no clue what we make, and they just waste our time.
And there is no quicker way for a salesperson to get shown the door then not know what they’re making, what your company is making. And it drives me crazy, and the other thing not to do is don’t assume that somebody on LinkedIn that has digital in their name handles digital for the whole company.
Male: It’s a big world in digital.
Gail McDaniel: Oh, gosh. I get.
Gail McDaniel: [Inaudible]
George Evans: The [inaudible] has this saying that anything new whether it’s an idea or a technology or anything like that, anything new is grossly overestimated in the short term and grossly underestimated in the long term. And I think that’s kind of what we’re talking about a little bit here and Gail had alluded to the fact when she was talking with Doug about qualified audiences. Tim had asked the question is there anything that’s happened that is successful or unsuccessful.
We’re an anecdote. Locally there’s a marketing director for a local arts organization. Over the span of three years he doubled subscription sales and ticket sales successively each of three years. A new CEO came in, a young whippersnapper came in, fired the guy because in her estimation he wasn’t getting them enough likes on their Facebook page.
Male: That’s important.
George Evans: That’s important, and I think that kind of speaks from in terms of a qualified audience to the traffic. I think, Brian, you were talking about traffic to piggyback on what Brian says. The thing that I pull out a lot when we’re talking about the space is the scene from The Big Lebowski when John Goodman and Lebowski are sitting at the coffee counter and Goodman says, “You want a toe, dude? I could get you a toe.”
I’d do the same thing about eyeballs, and impressions, and likes, and whatever else you want to call them. You can buy them. You can get them. They’re cheap. Anybody can come in and we see it with our existing clients where somebody comes in all sells them a bill of goods and they go, “We’re going to get 1.5 million impressions,” and I just kind of go, “Oh, gosh.”
Again, I think that that speaks to the notion that anything new is overestimated and they’re not thinking about that fundamentally what the job is and it’s a qualified lead, a qualified prospect. And I think a lot of us are speaking to relationships with customers which is something that due to technology [inaudible] really afford is developing a true relationship with the brand. Really, it goes both ways.
Moderator: We’re going to cut out the rest of my questions so that way we can get your questions. So if anyone, right now this is your time to ask all of these people with great experience. I’ve loved it tonight so far. So if any of you have a question for the panel.
Question: I’m going to play devil’s advocate with you a little bit, Jeb, and Doug you touched on this too, everyone did, how easy it is for consumers to let their voice be heard so that brands can’t lie to consumers. So you have to be through and through an authentic brand. Do you worry though that the same tool that makes it easier for consumers voice to be heard makes them much stupider where they’re consuming news in 140 characters? And teenagers actually use Snapchat to communicate, to actually talk to each other in four second vanishing messages.
Do you worry that that might actually make it easier to lie to consumers because of how shortened their attention span is because of those same devices?
Jeb Banner: You’re asking me if people are going to stop lying?
Question: I know the answer to that, but I guess –
Jeb Banner: Yes.
Question: Will they just start lying in different ways and so will lying still be as effective because they’ll find new ways to lie to dumber people?
Jeb Banner: I’m going to say something a little crazy. I think we are moving to, and this speaks to the concept of the singularity as well if you want to go really crazy, but I think we’re moving to a world where we are all going to be forced to live open, transparent lies which means accountability to each other. And we’re going to have to decide whether we want to be good or whether we want to redefine what good means.
So good in the sense of what we believe the golden rule is, do unto others as you would do unto yourselves, using those basic tenants of what good is. And are we going to be good? Because if we’re not going to be good it’s going to be visible and I think that – and I’m talking five, ten years out, and I think that’s where we’re heading.
So human beings are going to have to decide what is good and are we going to hold ourselves accountable to some standard that is good behavior? And how do you go out into the world, and create content, and have conversations, and be artistic, and whatever else it is and have so much of your life be visible? Because I don’t think there’s anything – we’re becoming more transparent by the day.
That’s the nature of the web, and you can walk away from it which some people do intentionally. I had a friend today announce he’s taking six months off of Facebook. I accept and respect that, but I think that in general we’re moving towards our lives being datatized, that’s a new word, but data driven. All this data then is going to become more and more accessible to each other, to all of us.
A lot of us are running towards that. We want to see that data, and so that data is then going to start to be qualified in terms of good and bad behavior.
Doug Karr: Crazy here.
Jeb Banner: So I think that we have to decide do we want to be good, or do we want to hide from the transparency, or do we want to redefine what good is? So I’m going to just push it even farther out and say we’re going to be forced to stop lying.
Doug Karr: Oh my God. Government. I’ll just put it right there. Government. One answer. We keep putting the same idiots back in office. They keep lying to us, and we keep believing them, and the transparency is there. The numbers are there that say that they’re lying. Everything is there and consumers go, “Ah, I want to believe him. I’m going to vote for him.” And we do it over and over and over again.
I’m sorry. Maybe I’m just jaded and old, but people will continue to lie. New mediums will allow them to lie more. It’s consumers’ responsibility to do the research, and they’re going to get ripped off every single day. You and I know. We’re in agencies.
Jeb Banner: Look what’s happening right now with the NSA and Snowden and that data being exposed and the web and everything that’s happening around Wikileaks. Come on. That’s different than what was happening ten years ago.
Doug Karr: What’s different?
Jeb Banner: It’s actually forcing transparency upon our government. There’s actually –
Doug Karr: It is?
Jeb Banner: We’re not going to get into a political conversation. If you want to see some political conversation just go to a Facebook page with Doug and I.
Gail McDaniel: Don’t get him started.
Jeb Banner: I noticed. We’re going to be here all night.
George Evans: One thing to [inaudible] point, and it’s an interesting phenomenon, what is happening with the consumer. And what you were talking about is making them stupid, is making them too reliant on the 140 characters. And this is something that I witnessed not quite a year ago, and then it happened again, and then it happened again. I was interviewing somebody and they answered me – they were staring in their lap and their hands were moving like this. No phone. No mobile device. Nothing.
They’re trying to answer my question. They’re basically doing it in grunts and short declarative bursts, and their hands are moving in their laps. I thought, “Whoa, that’s kind of strange.” Then it happened again and it dawned on me. They were trying to text me. This person was sitting here having a conversation across a – I was asking them questions and the muscle memory, I don’t know what you would call it, but they sat across from me and their hands were moving like this and this happened three times.
Different people, and this just happened to me about three weeks ago. We were interviewing a young woman. She was sitting next to me, and we were sitting around a table. She was sitting next to me, and she was staring in her lap, and her hands were moving like this. And I remember visiting my mom in the hospice years ago smoking a phantom cigarette, and it actually made me stop and think, is there some kind of conditioning process that’s going on with the way people communicate, and how they communicate, and how they think, and how their brains are wired?
These people could not communicate. They could not speak with me, but their hands were going a mile a minute in their laps and they were staring in their laps while they were trying to talk. It was the weirdest thing.
Brian Phillips: We’re reprogramming ourselves.
Question: I have a question, particularly for those in the marketing space in the SaaS space. I’ve seen the market become very volatile. Marketing tactics are very brutal, especially in the SaaS space. Everybody puts the logos on their websites. They’re selling a bill of goods kind of like what you were talking about, Doug, because logos equals VC money and debt doesn’t actually equal profit.
But I actually had a competitor – I won’t say any names – offer a free year of their service to someone today. So how as a marketer do you call them out, tell them they got to – you call a spade a spade or what it is really is without being confrontational in the social media world that we’re in? Because –
Jeb Banner: You [are] confrontational. What’s your brand? What’s your voice? Maybe you should be confrontational. Maybe you should ignore it. I think it’s about knowing yourself, and knowing what your voice is, and deciding how you want to engage the conversations.
Doug Karr: The [inaudible] thing Jeb and I we were just kind of talking where I don’t [inaudible]. He believes in the good of people. I believe those people are dumb. He believes most of them are smart, but in this case I would actually reverse that. I would say when people have a negative experience with a software-as-a-service company oftentimes they don’t put it public and they feel sorry for the people that work there and this and that. And I guess my feeling on it personally is – I wrote a post a while back about the six scams of software-as-a-service.
One is money upfront. Whenever I see money up front I instantly cringe and I go, “Wait a second.” And then the next one was no outs on their contract. If it’s a service-oriented contract that requires a lot of upfront maintenance of the company then I expect a contract to be long term because they’re making a strong investment, but when it’s a software-as-a-service company – I signed up for some SEO software.
I won’t mention the company, but I signed up for the software, never read the fine print, and cancelled it a month later and they said, “No. You’re in it for six months minimum.” And I was like, “You bastards,” because it didn’t take any effort on their part. It was all automated to create an account to take off and everything else.
I think the challenge is to confront but on the edges. What are the numbers that they can’t prove? What are the results that they can’t do? If it’s logos on their homepage then it’s they’ve got logos. We’ve got results. I’m a big fan of not head-on confrontation but definitely trying to find the weaknesses of a competitor and then playing to your strengths.
Jeb Banner: I’m going to speak to this based on something that relates to the company you work for. You’re familiar with this is Compendium when they came out were very aggressive about sales, and I wrote a blog post that basically questioned the business model and said that I think what you’re doing is trickier and it’s going to be exposed by Google. This is way before Compendium became what I consider –
Doug Karr: At which point I told Chris Baggott, “Do not respond to that blog post.” And he didn’t listen to me.
Jeb Banner: So I went straight at it. I went straight into the confrontation, and I was a different person then and I was a different business, but they were so aggressive about selling all of our clients. And I got so tired of having a conversation with Chris Baggott about why he was essentially spamming Google and we had public forum conversations. I wrote a blog about it. I said, “Look, guys. I love you but what you’re doing is not right. This is not the right solution. Google is going to shut this down,” which eventually they did.
And Compendium pivoted to the model they’re at now and then the Oracle acquisition is the right model. I’m not taking credit for that pivot at all. I’m just saying that, but a lot of people –
Doug Karr: But results were responsible for that pivot.
Jeb Banner: – including Doug, but the results started a lag, but for a long time if you typed in Compendium that blog showed up number two or three which was not – I was not a well-liked person around Compendium.
Doug Karr: I like [Jeb].
Jeb Banner: Even though he’s a cofounder.
Doug Karr: I left.
Jeb Banner: So my point is that sometimes going right into the middle of it – I will say something that it did, and I wouldn’t do it this way now. It’s not who I am now. It did establish me in a certain way in this community as someone that has an opinion on things and I think that that paid off. I wouldn’t do it that way now. Does that make sense?
George Evans: Yeah. It’s just one of those things that [inaudible].
Doug Karr: It was pretty easy with the previous example and that’s that customers were leaving left and right because it wasn’t meeting their expectations of the sale. I think, again, it goes back to my previous rant. You’re just going to have to deal with it. I mean it. These companies lie, cheat, and steal to – we were just talking gently before the thing that even in Indianapolis I feel that there’s a bad culture.
I’ve heard it called the crab pot culture and that’s that you’re boiling crabs and one of them is about to escape, it’s about to go, and the rest of the crabs just pull it back into the pot. And I feel like we do a really bad job of – you take a Boston Market let’s say and Boston has a startup that’s well vested and it’s doing a good job and everything else. Everybody is behind it in the community.
Everybody is pushing it. You take a company here that got investment and maybe they’re a good company and the Indianapolis Star does a crap article on them and just buries them basically and destroys their opportunity.
Jeb Banner: I totally disagree with that by the way.
Doug Karr: That’s fine. You’re a big culture guy, and Jeb is helping build I think a good foundation here in Indianapolis of a culture that helps other people, but I think that there’s a layer of those companies that help one another. But I also think there’s a layer of companies that – I’m sorry, if you don’t kiss the ring, if you don’t bow down to the investors and the guys you’re not going to go anywhere.
And we’ve seen Indianapolis lose good software-as-a-service companies to Southern California for that very reason. They couldn’t get a dime here. They couldn’t get attention here. They couldn’t get anything. They moved to Southern California where there’s eight million startups and all of the sudden they get funding.
They get the headline. They get on TechCrunch and they’re taking off and doing well because it was a good idea. Rant over.
Brian Phillips: I can speak just a little bit from experience with my own company. When we first launched I think it was kind of similar. We were part of that not in the circle of trust and we went out of market. The majority of our work for the last, for the first three years was out of market, and we worked in ad markets much larger and much bigger than Indianapolis and did some really good work.
And some of those things, like the politics are out of your control. You can’t control what another company does. You can’t control how they’re going to influence that consumer away from you, but throughout that process as we were just expanding and growing when we started we never wanted to be an Indianapolis-based company. We wanted to be here in Indianapolis, but we never looked at we’re going to be the best in Indianapolis.
We wanted to be the best in the region. We wanted to be a national participant in this industry. So our sights were set differently. So when we lost it wasn’t so much about, “How can I go after that?” It’s what can we learn or, wow, we were at the table. I competed against them. I lost. I’ll take the loss. That’s okay with me, but I know for a fact when we first got started, George, if you don’t mind I’ll tell a story when you and I worked together.
We competed against Saatchi & Saatchi out of New York which is one of the premier, big, big ad agencies and it proved that the best idea can win. And we went in with the best idea, and we won the work, and it was that experience where you go, you know what? There is some good in the world, and in business there’s so many things that are out of your control, especially as an entrepreneur, as a business owner, and every step of the way you can learn a lot.
I’ve taken a lot of punts, and we’ve lost a lot, and I’ve learned a lot. I don’t know if it has to be confrontation. Some of it can just be internalized and you can chalk it up to I know what my value is and I’m going to stick to my value. I’m going to stay focused.
Gail McDaniel: Every business has competitors. Even the corner drugstore, Walgreens has a CVS on the other corner. Everybody has competitors, but it’s incumbent on you or incumbent on your team to figure out what makes you better than your competitors and that’s what your competitive advantage is.
Gail McDaniel: You draw three circles and you have your advantage and your competitor’s advantage are just two circles and then there’s the sweet spot in between and that’s what makes you different and that’s what you have – as marketers that’s what you have to focus on. We have competitors to the point – we have sales reps, our competitor reps that actually were hiding our inventory in the ceilings of the OR so that they couldn’t go to the racks and pull off our products.
This is the way it is in every business. If we didn’t have competitors it wouldn’t be fun. That’s what makes you smarter than them. So you’ve got to go out and figure out what – nothing in this world is going to come easy, and you have to work at it. Every industry, every business – I was in the advertising world in Indianapolis for years. I worked for Pearson Crahan & Fletcher which isn’t in business anymore, but we [inaudible] [our story]. We fought like the devil but it made us better.
That’s what makes you good at what you do. If it all came easy it wouldn’t be worthwhile. That’s the old lady in me.
Brian Phillips: But it’s true. It’s so true. It goes back to Jeb’s point about being good. This is where I disagreed with him. I don’t think the future of being good is relying on digital technology. I think good is something that’s instilled –
Gail McDaniel: It isn’t.
Brian Phillips: It’s kind of your own ethos and personality.
Jeb Banner: To clarify, I’m not saying all of the sudden everybody is going to become good. I think that we’re just going to have to look at ourselves in a mirror in a way we haven’t done yet. That’s going to be interesting.
Brian Phillips: I guess I just don’t know why that is something that is going to happen in the future. I do that every day in every decision that I make. There’s nothing that defines that.
George Evans: I think the question is does everybody? I’m with you.
Brian Phillips: No, they don’t.
George Evans: I’m [inaudible], and I grew up in the advertising business in Pittsburgh. I spent about 26 years working in Pittsburgh, and we used to always lament the fact that as a market why is it – and it was kind of in the heyday when Minneapolis, when Portland, when [Richmond] were coming online as these definitive ad markets and taking the business away from Chicago, the business away from New York. And my point to my esteemed colleagues at the time was the rising tide raises all ships.
These markets decided that they were going to be something, be known for something, and they all worked together to do that. We just lost Mike Hughes. He was a creative director at the Martin Agency who just passed away on Sunday. I had the pleasure of meeting him, one of his writers became Luke Sullivan who came out of the [McElligot] shop back in the’80s, the‘90s. I got to hang out with these guys, and it’s interesting that they worked together, they collaborated together, they worked with different agencies but at night they were at the bars and they were collaborating together on nonprofits.
So you’ve got a creative director from one agency. You’ve got a creative director from another agency. They’re going to the bar having beers and they’re sitting going, “Who can we help today?” And I feel like in this [inaudible], when Doug and I were talking about this, I don’t know that this market’s ever had that and it’s good to hear that it was like that. The thing is there are pockets.
Jeb Banner: That’s so weird to me because I feel like that’s the way it is.
George Evans: That’s the way we are. I don’t know that that’s the way everybody is. That’s what I’m wondering about because that’s exactly what Doug and I were talking about was how we worked together, and how we worked together, and I don’t know. There are people that don’t do that in this place.
Jeb Banner: Maybe. I know there are are. Factually, it’s true. I’m just saying I feel like this is a rising tide mentality in town. I feel like the people that are here want to understand what is your unique ability, what is the talent or thing that you’re bringing to the world, and then how can I bring you opportunities? Doug, you’re that way. You and I talk about this all the time.
We talked about this before that, before we came in. The Basement, you guys have a very unique ability. There’s no way we could do animation like that. So I think that part of it is just making sure that we have awareness around those unique abilities because I think we should champion each other more than we do, but I don’t think the mentality is wrong. I think it’s just we need to be more proactive about champion.
Doug Karr: I agree. I said I think it’s a layer and there’s a layer that’s helping one another, but there’s another layer that it’s the U-Haul layer. They can’t wait to get the hell out of here, and make their billions, and they don’t care who they screw in town to do it. You’re right. So what? And that’s it. You have to work despite that, despite that it’s not fair.
The way investment works in town hasn’t been fair. We all know it. It’s been in the news and everything else. That’s what we have to deal with, and so the great thing, The Basement, they did it. They said we’re not going in town to get our clients. We did the same thing.
We had an e-mail service provider that we helped in Paris, France for the first two years. Paris, France. We had one down the block that wouldn’t talk to us that I worked for for two-and-a-half years, but we had one overseas that was flying us first class over there to help them. It was crazy. It was absolutely nuts. I would have much rather helped the [other] company, but I think you hit it.
You just say, you know what? Despite that, despite those things, that whether it’s unfair, not fair, opportunity, no opportunity, you have to make your mark and fight and fight and fight to get to where you want to be.
Gail McDaniel: I have a Bill Cook story I need to tell because it tells all about the way my company is, and Bill Cook started the company in his apartment, as I said, but he wanted to borrow $15,000 from the bank in Bloomington so he could build his first factory. The bank turned him down. So he went to another bank, a little country bank, and they gave him the $15,000.
He never did business with the Bloomington bank again. In the whole history of our company everything that we’ve ever down has been paid by cash and our whole growth has been based on cash. We have never had venture capital. We have never had any – and I don’t know if you read the obituary. There’s been lots of articles that were written about him, but in The Wall Street Journal they applauded him because he was one of the few men that actually built a company that had products that could be sold, and he did it on his own, and he didn’t depend on venture capitalists.
So it is possible. You can do it. You just have to have guts and you have to work really, really hard. He used to take, the first catheters that he made he went and stood at a table. He took his own booth – this big meeting he had a ten by ten booth and a Bunsen burner that he borrowed from a friend of his and he actually stood in the booth and made catheters and that was the beginning of the company.
The doctors would come to him and say, “Can you bend it a little to the right? Can you bend it a little bit to the left?” And he said, “Absolutely,” and he would do it. And some of those men have been our customers ever since. So venture capitalists, this is a phenomenon. It’s only come about since 1990. If you want to start a business, if you can work hard at it you can do it.
Moderator: I just want to say thank you. That was awesome. Give them a round of applause.