Join Rick Wootten for a conversation with marketing leaders to understand more about marketing and the people who are shaping this discipline. What advice do they have for up-and-coming brands? How do they navigate the challenges associated with an increasingly noisy world? What's their superpower?
Learn from the experts on how to build great and enduring brands, engender trust and advocacy, and drive adoption and use of new products and technologies.
So, welcome to Marketing Matters. This is the show where we interview and learn from some of the brightest minds in marketing.
On today's show, I'm stoked. I've got Chris Heuer here.
He's the founder of Remotely. And over the years, Chris has been involved with a number of startups and communities around social media and user-generated content.
He's even a founder of the Social Media Club, the largest community of social media, social media professionals.
Welcome, Chris. It's great to have you on the show today.
Great to see you, Rick. And love to be talking about this as always, learning something new and trying to figure this out together once again.
After two decades, we're still doing it. That's right. You know, you and I met each other a long time ago, like you said, like two decades ago.
And I think it was about the time you were starting Conversal.
I think it literally was right afterwards.
And, you know, you came into Palm and you helped us, you know, kind of build our first PRM solution, Partnership Relationship Management Solution portal, you know, program, the whole thing.
And then, you know, a lot's changed since then.
You've done, you've done a whole bunch of startups, right? So, you had the Social Media Club before you started Ad Hocium.
Then you moved on to consult with Deloitte for some time.
Then you created Aligned, and then the Mentor Bureau, and now Remotely.
You know, this is a crazy journey. Why don't you talk us through it? And how'd you get it?
How'd you get to this place? Oh, man, that's a hard question.
Actually, it's been about the same since I was a kid. I've just always been very curious and systems oriented.
And so when I see something, I just kind of figure it out.
And that's literally like one of my brands is figures stuff out.
I don't use the stuff term, but it's a branded show. So I'll use the word stuff, but figuring stuff out.
And so we just started seeing when the Internet came on, and I first got turned on to that in 94.
I just immediately saw like, okay, the entire world could be transformed for this.
Let's try to figure out how this works.
And how do we adapt our old way of thinking into these new tools and technologies for interacting with each other.
So it really is more about sociology, I think, than anything else.
And, you know, what led me here was a desire to make the world a better place, really, and say, where are the places that we can change the way people think, by applying new systems designs and new kinds of tools to help people behave in different ways, to produce better outcomes.
And a lot of that was built really around knowledge sharing. How do we actually get smarter?
And how can we actually be better together? That's fair. That's fair.
At least remotely now, because people need to figure out how to work remotely, how to lead remote teams.
And actually, people still need to learn how to lead teams, which is really the sad part.
So it's not all just about the remote dynamic, we're coming back to some of the core stuff, like we were talking about before the show, we know so much already, we're just not applying it properly everywhere.
So how do we better distribute the knowledge of what works and get people to actually continually improve upon it?
And it starts with, you know, finding the people who care.
And that's why we're, you know, as with Social Media Club, the new remotely professional development network is also a values driven organization.
Yeah, yeah. So so did remotely start like, did you come up with that idea before this whole pandemic?
Or was it inspired by everything that's going on within our industry right now?
Oh, that's a good question. And it's one that I'm not supposed to answer fully, but I'm going to for you, Rick.
So with Mentor Bureau, we had a really interesting, wide, interesting idea there.
I was actually one of the lead mentors in Google's Launchpad Accelerator program, helping startups in Africa and Asia, basically everywhere outside of the US, so global startups, and bringing them Silicon Valley and the Google way of thinking.
And through that, I interact with other accelerator programs.
And I built this Mentor Bureau as a way to professionalize and improve mentorship, particularly for startups, and provide those services to accelerators and to startup CEOs and founding teams themselves.
And through working with other mentors from around the world and other entrepreneurs and advisors who did this, I realized that, you know, the very fundamental institutions of the world obviously are changing right now, right?
How we're learning is changing.
I'm sure a lot of your audience is familiar with what Austin Allred's doing, right?
With LambdaSchool and how that's working, like a whole new way to learn to code and not have to pay for the degree and all that.
If you haven't, take a look, because it's really important.
And so what I actually saw was in talking with this group, that this next era was going to be the era of the guilds, where individual professionals uphold the standards of their profession.
And it's a lot more apprenticeship and peer to peer learning than it is institutionalized learning.
And therefore, we could better control the quality and we can lift each other up.
And through that process, we can also ensure that the values are also a part of it, from who we bring in, who has good standing, etc.
So we were working on this guild model into the beginning part of this year, when all of a sudden, very similar to what happened with Social Media Club, we were working on this idea of how do we get people to connect outside of their normal disciplines or industries to see each other for who they are and to learn from different industries.
And very much in that same way, you know, when we saw COVID hit, our plans to go to Singapore and tour Asia for the year as no bads ourselves, was kind of cut short or cut off before we could even do it.
And I said, you know what, this is actually that context in which this model should really be applied.
So we've spent the last eight months looking at the different guild models and different professional development models, and really landing on how do we modernize those concepts.
And that's what we've landed on with this professional development network.
The idea where we can support each other, continue to learn and solve for these new challenges we face, and how do we actually build engagement with our team.
I mean, a couple of the leading people that I've talked to who are responsible for remote at their large companies, you know, they now have to hire people who will never visit their campus, when the campus was one of the main selling points that they had, interacting with all these other amazing smart people just randomly, as you know, walking through the hallways.
And so they're now thinking, how do we actually get a new hire excited about working with us connected with their teams.
And so it leads to this whole new challenge of how do we actually really rethink work at a fundamental level, so that we are untethered from any location.
And I think it does come back to a lot of the basics. And that includes things like clarity, which we still don't have a lot of keeping our commitments.
And as we were talking about, as the show started, the life work boundary management, and those boundaries, actually, by the way, are also not only in our physical spaces, like we want to have a, you know, dedicated office space, so that the wife doesn't run in the background shot or things like that from time to time.
But the boundaries are also on our calendars. So like, one of the things that's really been killing me is like, how many people don't show up until 12 minutes after for a one on one zoom meeting?
And what are we doing sitting here waiting, and then then they go over by like 15 minutes.
And that's just disrespectful of all the other people.
So one of the big boundaries we're trying to teach people is meetings remotely need to start on time and end on time, because we've made a commitment to be in that space.
And then outside of that space, we have other commitments to others.
So to be respectful of all of that, we need to respect those boundaries that we've established on the calendar, and keep it as our commitments.
And in fact, it used to even be called our commitment keepers, although we don't talk about calendars in those terms.
Yeah, yeah. You know, and to your point, I think, you know, we generally become less formal as we're doing more zoom meetings.
I mean, normally, I would wear a button up shirt and you know, but but at the same time, I think that's that's fallen into standard practice when it comes to things like meetings, right?
meetings are still valuable.
They're still people's time, they're still like, you think about the number of people on a call and the salaries that go into that and the decisions that are being made, let alone the opportunity costs, you know, they're important.
And I agree with you, I think that it is important that we take a pause in a moment and make sure that we're fully utilizing it and showing up with the respect that we should, you know, showing up on time showing up, you know, with an agenda showing up with, you know, a plan.
Now, I'm also guilty of being late and you know, all those other things.
But, you know, I do recognize that that's an that's an important thing.
Yeah, well, just like, you know, when bootstrapping and you're wearing, you know, 20 hats as an entrepreneur, you know, you're not always going to be perfect on all of it.
But for the important stuff, we need to put out that extra effort.
And I learned that as we were going through this, even back in March, you know, where I was trying to present this dream of consciousness that would have been better, like worked out in a whiteboard.
And, you know, my team, my advisors were like, Chris, what are you talking about?
Like, I need you to give me some structure.
So even with the small team of four remote founders, I found myself needing to switch to actually coming with like, at least an outline, if not slides to be able to walk people through the narrative, keep me on track, and also ensure that everybody knew what it was that we were really talking about, and finding that higher level of clarity so that we could put a fine point on it up front, and let everyone know what was the context of our meeting?
What was I trying to get across?
What did I want as the outcome out of it? And then ultimately, what everyone should be responsible for if we agree, right.
And so it's those sorts of protocols that we're working on in the remote ready training program we're developing, is to create a framework that makes it more of like, actually, it's really interesting.
I've been actually thinking about it, maybe as an employee experience map, in the sense of applying customer experience design to it, but applying it to the collaboration and the interactions we have with one another, which is why the heart of this, like new work that we're doing is really collaborative productivity.
How do we work better together? It's very simple. Yeah, that's fair.
You know, when I was preparing for this, I mentioned to you this earlier, I went ahead and was on your Facebook page.
And there was an interview that was being done with Erica Keswin.
And they were talking about rituals, right, rituals that exist, not only in your own your own lifestyle, but you know, in your work environment.
And you know, talked about different rituals that are good and bad, and those everything in between.
And I thought that was really interesting. I wanted to kind of get your view on that and, and see if you know, you had some examples of what you thought were good, you know, rituals that companies could get established or teams, you know, again, this is a largely to, you know, marketing folks.
So you know, what kind of what kind of rituals should marketing people be thinking about?
Oh, that's, that's a really good question. Well, you know, first of all, what I really like are the ones that are very much tied to our values and our culture and drive it forward.
So the best one of the best ones that I actually think about, in response to that is what Brene Brown talks about.
And I forget which book, one of her books, and she probably talks about it regularly.
But she attended a meeting with an all hands meeting for Costco.
And the CEO was delivering some really bad news for the next quarter.
And after the finished with the presentation, everyone applauded.
And she was like, sounds horrible. Like, why are you guys applauding?
But they have a culture that applauds the truth. And so part of their ritual is like, when we hear the truth, good, bad, indifferent, we applaud.
So that I thought was really important. Because as you know, one of the biggest challenges in large organizations is owning up to failure, and the fear of failure inside of it and making mistakes.
So I thought that was really, really powerful.
For marketing teams, you know, there's the element of brown bag lunches, right?
That's something that we used to do every now and then get people together to share a topic or some insights that were gleaned.
There's all sorts of different ways you can weave that into your work together, where maybe once a week, a different person on the team, somebody maybe who's not normally the creative lead, is supposed to present a new concept or a new idea, or share a new technology that they found, and how it might be applied for the brand or for the products that the team's working with, right?
So any of these things can become rituals. What the ritual becomes, though, is sort of a standard language and a standard set of shared experiences upon which we can connect, on which we have this expectation that every Friday at lunch, you know, the next person is going to come up and share part of what it is that they're thinking about, or something that they discovered.
But another friend of mine, I think you know Marcus Nelson, I'm not sure if you do a fan or not, but Marcus, in one of his startups, used to do this thing where he would bake bread, and one member of the team each week would bake bread from their cultural heritage.
And they would share that bread together and literally break bread and share story time together once a week.
A little bit talking about the bread and about the culture that it came from and the flavor and everything else.
And this was a way that they actually bonded together, not only over the shared meal, but through their cultural histories, so they learned more about one another.
And obviously it became something that people look forward to doing.
That's cool. I like that.
You know, at Cloudflare, I thought about this after the show, and one of the things that I like that Erica said was, you know, these rituals are things that you miss when they're not there, and you look forward to doing them.
And she gave like, you know, for people who drink coffee, and you know I don't drink coffee, but for people who drink coffee, having that first cup of coffee in the morning becomes a ritual, or for me taking the dog for a walk, or whatever it is that kind of gets your day started, or winds your day down, or what have you.
And so I was thinking about that.
And Cloudflare, we've got a few rituals. One of the ones is once a week we have a company-wide meeting, and we do exactly what you were just talking about, which is we have different groups within the organization who have completed projects, who come up and spend just a couple of minutes talking about that project, what they learned, what worked, what didn't work.
It's a neat kind of way to inspire and quickly learn things.
And I thought that was a pretty good one. And you mentioned it before.
I mean, when we were at Palm, you know that part of doing a launch was, you know, we were going to go do something afterwards.
And it would be, you know, we would work ridiculous hours around the clock to get these launches done, sometimes days at a time straight through.
And then we'd get the launch done, and then we would go have a lunch together, or we would go to the movies, or we'd go do something to demark the end of something, you know, a project, and then, you know, to start anew.
And I do think that these types of things are very important.
And, you know, I think they have a big impact. Well, as a team leader or manager, however, somebody might cast themselves, you know, it's in your power to start creating these things.
And it's more than team building. I think one of the things just even about calling it a ritual, is that it's more meaningful language.
And that drives home one of the other really important things we need to be doing right now, which is actually mindfully working.
And I'm not saying that necessarily in terms of meditation and all that, although that's very important and helpful, and I do it, and I find it's incredibly useful and valuable for me.
But I just mean mindfulness as in being present, like not being so reactive to everything, but being able to be proactive, being able to actually be in the moment and make conscious decisions about what's important and what's not.
And I think, as I've said to you many times over the years, we're going way too fast still.
And that's okay, we need to get stuff done and everything. But our bodies, our minds, our souls are not designed to go at this speed and do that all the time.
As you know, after those four or five days, how many days did we take off?
Well, not all that many. But if we could, we would have for sure. Yeah, no, that's true.
So you know, so I think one of the things that's really interesting right now is this is a time where things in the marketing world are changing at an accelerated rate.
I've read an article, I talked about it on my podcast with Rick, that you know, in the first couple of months after the lockdown from COVID, the transition from traditional marketing to digital marketing jumped forward five years, right?
Just the first few months. It may have been like six weeks, eight weeks, whatever the number was.
And it was a very short period of time, which is just insane.
Like that's something we've been trying to do for a decade. And then all of a sudden, you know, this triggering event happened and it jumped forward.
But what that means for marketers is that all those established plans, all those established playbooks, everything that we've kind of come to develop over the last few years, have just gone away.
And so now we're having to, you know, reinvent the wheel. You know, what is an event, right?
It's no longer a physical event, it's a virtual event at best.
You know, it's a digital experience, it's whatever. And so, you know, here you are, you're launching a company right in the middle of all this.
And which means that your tactics are going to be really interesting compared to what they would have been 15 years ago.
Talk to me a little bit about that and how, you know, launching a company at a time like this is really kind of a change.
And what are you learning?
Wow, man, that's a lot. Yeah, it certainly is a change.
I mean, one of the things that helped with Social Media Club so amazingly is that I literally, you know, flew around the world almost.
You know, when the first month I flew to London, New York, DC, Miami, Seattle, Portland, had our first meeting in the Valley.
And I'd love to be doing something like this right now because the concept of getting together in a physical space is something that people plan for and they look forward to and, you know, that human dynamic.
And, you know, it's just not the same in Zoom meetings and stuff.
It just, it will never be the same.
Another reason for having a different approach and mindset to how we work remotely with one another.
But the way that I've been looking at it is really just about applying all traditional digital marketing insights that we've had over the years.
How do we actually find the communities of people who are interested?
How do we talk to them in the language that they understand? How do we demonstrate our trustworthiness?
And how do we actually help them? And that's still at the core of it is by being helpful.
And I'm taking a really organic approach to it right now because we're still working through a bunch of issues and building some of the training products, right?
But as we look at this going forward, content marketing is at the center of it.
But it's also very challenging because we're looking at actually having exclusive member content.
Figuring out the line between our paywall content and the content marketing, that's been an interesting thing so far.
And I don't know that I can share any real lessons on that yet, because I'm still trying to figure it out.
But we know that content marketing is invaluable.
As you saw the live stream, we fed the live stream into Facebook now is something that we're trying to do.
And so we're continuing to experiment with different hypotheses, test what works, realizing that sometimes things don't work because we didn't execute on it properly.
So that doesn't mean that it's a closed opportunity or channel for us.
But we really do need to get into learning from each of the things we do as a test.
And so that's one of the other things that really came from all my time working with Google and all the other startups was this hypothesis-based mentality to starting new companies and getting that engagement and connectivity to the market itself.
It's just a matter of how are we going to find things that resonate?
What does resonating mean? And of course, as with everything, measuring what really matters.
And so we've been playing around with that a little bit.
And even some of the hypotheses on our key metrics are moving around.
But part of that's just due to the timeline. And as I said earlier, one of the other things that I'm doing is I'm just taking it a little bit slower.
I think that's also something about, you know, 25 years as an entrepreneur, where I would be normally, if this was one of my startups from around the time we met, I would have been losing my stuff right now, going, what can we do to do more?
How can we get more people on this?
But right now, what I'm working on is how do we build a better library?
How do we actually build better resources? How do we get the right people involved?
Because part of this idea of a professional development network, much like the Guild, is people learning from one another.
So it's more important to have the right people than it is to have a lot of people at this moment.
And we can get to the lot of people later on.
I want to go back to what you said a minute ago, which was the idea that, you know, that right now is a time of iterational learning.
And, you know, I think about my experience with Cloudflare where, you know, we went into March and we had a full docket of events planned for the rest of the year.
And in Q2, you know, April, May, June, we were like, okay, they're all gone.
So what are we going to do now? And so we went heavy into things like webinars and virtual events.
And we learned a few things really quickly. The first one we learned is, one, that whole space is becoming saturated because we're not the only smart people in the room.
Everybody else went to the same things. Everybody else went digital.
Everybody else went, you know, to these virtual events and these webinars.
And so we saw a tremendous amount of competition and impact.
So, you know, some people would have said, hey, you know what? We're done. Let's move on to something different.
We didn't. We iterated to find a way to make those things effective.
Second thing is we went virtual. And, you know, I will tell you, I won't use names, but some of the events that happened in Q2 were great.
The companies had their stuff together.
They did a great job with creating an environment where people can collaborate and connect within the virtual space.
And then other folks who are more traditional event companies didn't.
And there really was no way for companies to interact with people within the metaphor of this virtual event.
And so those weren't very effective for us. So again, you know, the quick answer to that would be, okay, well, we're going to stop with the virtual events.
We're going to go on to something else.
But we didn't do that. We instead, you know, cut the group in multiple areas.
Here's the ones that are working today. Here are the ones we think are going to figure it out.
And these are the ones where we don't think they're going to figure it out.
We're going to move on. And so we kept iterating on that.
And then, you know, how do we create these executive experiences?
It used to be that, you know, in a field marketing and enterprise, you know, account, you would go and have dinner with them, or you take them to an event, or you would do whatever.
All those are gone. So now what do you do? And so we tried, you know, chef dinners, where we had to hire somebody to come teach them how to make something.
We shipped the food to their house, and they would prep it. You know, we tried a number of things, charcuterie boards, you know, how to make a charcuterie board, pair it with wine.
And we're learning from all that and iterating very, very rapidly.
And the funny thing is, is I was talking with somebody about this.
I said, you know what, this is like the early days of the Internet.
You'll remember this, where, you know, somebody would come up with something cool.
And so you would go to their website and deconstruct how they did it.
And then you would apply the learnings from that to what you could do on your side.
And that's kind of what's happening. I mean, we're looking at all of our peers in the space, we're looking at, you know, non peers, but you know, similar sized companies and what they're doing in the space.
And we're learning from their successes and failures, and trying to iterate very quickly into our environment to, you know, create a different marketing plan that's going to work for us.
And so, so I don't know, for me, this time is a little scary, just because, you know, obviously, high performance numbers we work against.
But then on the flip side, it's also very exciting, because there's not many times where you can say, all the preconceptions are gone, now we get to come up with a new way to do things.
And that's kind of fun.
And I think I think marketing people who embrace it that way, are probably, you know, they're certainly stressed, but I think that they're enjoying what they're what they're doing, and how quickly they're having to learn.
Yeah, I don't know if you remember, but one of my favorite phrases is still there is no box.
And, you know, we just kind of imagine it literally by saying thinking outside the box, you've imagined the box, and therefore you're constrained by it.
And so I do believe that's true. But what the real issue becomes is a return to sociology and psychology.
In fact, I was just talking to john Hegel, the other day, one of the brightest people I've ever met.
And, you know, his books, net worth, net gain, all that stuff back in the late 90s, really turned me on to understanding network effects.
And a lot of the other things were here. And what he's working on now is really exciting.
Relative to looking at society today, and our economy has been largely driven by fear.
And that's inhibited its potential growth quite a bit.
But also recognizing that making this work, psychology trumps strategy.
And I think in marketing more than ever, I mean, we've obviously been looking at behavioral dynamics, and, you know, psychographics, and all sorts of other terms to try to understand people's behavior, right.
But ultimately, that's what's happening right now, because the structure of our society has changed, we need to anticipate in which ways it's changed, and start putting forward hypotheses and new ideas, and figure out what's going to work with these new sets of behaviors.
And, you know, where we would normally in the past, going back to the virtual events or webinars, I'm still calling them webinars, I don't think webinars is a proper term anymore, but whatever, we'll figure that out.
You know, we used to do those kind of midday, because we figured people would come out, you know, over lunch, and they could book some time.
And I'm not finding like high attendance at those times, because people are working now.
And so the way people work, because there's no commute time in the morning or the evening, is, you know, fundamentally changing.
So what we have to do is see those new trends of how people are behaving, and adapt to them.
And I like your the example of doing the chef cooking things, because it's about connecting in meaningful ways beyond the work itself.
And it's about showing that level of engagement. Well, that I've always defined engagement as interaction with intention that goes beyond concern for the transaction.
That's right. Like, I want to get along with you. I don't want to like sell to crappy people.
I want to like, I want to sell my product to people are good.
I want to be able to help people with what we've got. And, you know, some industries don't have the things that will help people right now.
Travel is really hurting.
Unfortunately, I'm sitting in a hotel today, I'm a little bit kind of, you know, not happy about it.
But I have to make a trip finally. And it's our first plane trip tomorrow.
And, you know, I'm just gonna do it mask up and do everything that I have to do.
But, you know, the airlines are obviously hurting right now in a bad way, because people aren't traveling for business.
And then as a result of that, all the restaurants at the airports, and all I mean, economy is in a major shift right now.
And, you know, we knew this was coming. I don't want to get too down this, but you know, we've been talking about disrupting unemployment from AI and climate change and increasing lifespans.
And I hope our lifespans are still increasing despite the current pandemic and the threat that it poses.
But all of these changes in the world that just been accelerated by this crisis, actually two crises, you know, certainly the other element in terms of racial justice, and what's happened here in terms of how that's come to such a head now, that it can't be, you know, brushed aside anymore.
So with both of those crises, you know, interacting here at the same time, it's a real, real challenge.
But we do the things that we always do as marketers, I would hope.
And I know a lot of people still think marketing is the art of selling.
But I still believe the golden rule of marketing is, you know, finding the way to match the value and utilization of my products and services to the needs of individuals inside of a market.
And so it is about that matching process, about understanding what is needed, and how do I provide it?
And then how do I connect with the people who need it? And really, that's the definition of marketing.
And I just, I see so many people think of it in, you know, and not wrongly, necessarily, but you know, we return to our fundamentals.
And I think that's really what's going to guide us through this, you know, next six months to as it changes even more.
Yeah, yeah. All right, we're running down on time.
We got about 30 seconds left. So I'm going to fire through a couple of fun questions.
And thank you for joining. It's always great to talk with you. I'm going to fire through some fun questions.
It's A or B, Coke or Pepsi? Coke. Ford or Chevy? Man, I, you know, Ali Malali was the best CEO.
I loved him at Ford. So I have to go with Ford right now.
Marvel or DC? Oh, Marvel, for sure. Apple or Microsoft? I'm still on my MacBook.
Yes. That's excellent.