On Episode 94 of The Edge of Innovation, we’re talking with entrepreneur Joshua Sturgeon about how to spark growth with digital marketing!

Sections

Introduction – What’s With The Name
Who is EmberTribe?
Making Heroes & Stars
What Can EmberTribe Do For You?
How Channel Fit Marketing Works
Targeting Demographics & Marketing Platforms
Marketing Platforms: An Area of Expertise
How To Target a Specific Product
Marketing New & Innovative Products
You Don’t Know All the Answers Until You Try
More Episodes
Show Notes

How to Spark Growth With Digital Marketing

Introduction – What’s With The Name

Paul: So here today, we’re with Josh Sturgeon of EmberTribe. EmberTribe? Where’d you get that name?

Josh: Well Paul, as you know, domains are hard to come by, so we had to find something that was free.

Paul: That’s true.

Josh: But no, I think it kind of groups together two concepts about kind of what we do, which is one, we’re there doing night growth, so there’s your “Ember”. But two, we really believe it’s about the people that you’re reaching – your audience – and having a deep understanding of what makes them tick, is what helps us bring a different vibe to what we do for our clients.

Paul: Okay cool.

Josh: So Ember Tribe was birthed kind of out of two concepts if you will. Because when you’re starting a business, you’re not sure exactly sure what the vision will be, if it will see through as you planned it. But the concepts there remain the same, which are we want to ignite growth for our clients hence the “ember” or the “spark” and we want to really help people understand who their target audience is. So, in reaching those people how can we help you understand your tribe and spark your growth.

Paul. So, growth. EmberTribe. So, growth for your tribe. Hopefully, if I have a product, I want to identify who my tribe is. Cool idea. And you want to bring my message to them so they can engage me? Is that fair?

Josh: That’s fair. I mean, really, what we’re all about is helping our clients acquire more customers. So, whether that means you have a sales team and you want to fill up the pipeline with leads or if you’re an ecommerce brand and you want to increase your sales, quarter over quarter, we’re very much like a direct response type of marketing company.

Who is EmberTribe?

Paul: Now people don’t know you from anybody right now. They’re listening to us and they’re saying, “Okay. Who’s this guy Josh, and what is it that you actually do?” EmberTribe.

Josh: Yeah, so EmberTribe is a digital marketing agency that is basically focused on customer acquisition. So, marketing is a really big space. There’s your brand agencies, there are people that are focused on aesthetic or market research. We’re really focused on growth and customer acquisition and in service of that, we’ve developed most of our expertise around the page channels. So, those would be like paid ads through Google, through Facebook, a number of page channels.

Paul: Okay, so hold on. Let’s imagine we’re talking to general people out there that aren’t in this space. I want to try and make this a little more accessible to them. Who am I in the organization that might call you? Am I the chief marketing officer? Am I… I mean, I know you deal with a lot of startups and they haven’t even identified all of the roles that have to be there. So, in a little bit more traditional company that’s already been out there, who is it that’s calling you?

Josh: Yeah. It depends on the industry for sure, but some of the job titles that we tend to deal with most frequently would be like a head of growth. Maybe a VP of marketing or, depending on the size of the organization, a founder or co-founder.

Paul: What problem are they sitting there saying, “Okay. I’m a VP of marketing. I’m a founder of a company and I have a problem and I have to call Josh.” What’s that problem?

Josh: Sure. In short, its growth. So at the end of the day what we’re doing is we’re helping these companies find, not really who they’re customer is, because at this point they have product market fit and understand who there ideal customer is and proven that out, but they might not really understand channel fit. And channel fit really is where are you finding these customers? And how can we determine which channels are going to scale for us and give us really a lot of runway to grow our app or business or whatever it might be?

So, I would say we’re talking with whoever is tasked with filling the sales pipeline. Whoever is tasked with crushing their revenue records for that quarter or that year and they know they have a great product but they’re not exactly sure how to deploy a marketing strategy that’s going to allow them to scale over the long time.

Making Heroes & Stars

Paul: Okay so now, I would have thought the VP of marketing would have done that. Do you augment that? Do you make them obsolete? Do you basically make them a hero or a star?

Josh: The answer is yes to the hero and star. You know, what we find in a lot of these organizations is that folks that are in executive roles typically have a great wide background and they are generalists, but what they are looking to do is have specialists execute on specific parts of a strategy. But those folks become more of the ringleaders of making sure that the PNLs intact, making sure that they are distributing budgets appropriately. And what we are able to do is going very very deep into this one area of what we called paid acquisition. So, developing new business through paid traffic.

Paul: Alright.

So, you would say you’re squarely in the marketing space?

Josh: I would, yes. That’s right.

Paul: Are there a lot of companies like you?

Josh: There’s quite a few. There’s quite a few agencies and marketing is a very big space.

Paul: Right.

Josh: In many cases we’ll partner with other marketing agencies in projects. I’d say other folks might be more focused on like a brand or like an aesthetic or even market research, where we find ourselves much more focused on the customer acquisition component of it. So, how is our work? So very much tied into the performance and results aspect of it.

Paul: Okay, that sounds good.

What Can EmberTribe Do For You?

Paul: So, I’m in a company, whether it’s a startup or whatever. I’m a founder let’s say. And I’ve got this gee-whiz product and it’s really is cool. What do you do for me?

Josh: So, we tend to work with founders and founding teams that already have what we would call “product market fit.” So, your product is cool. You’re probably not pre-revenue, probably have at least your first cohort of customers. But what you’re really looking for is, as you’re heading towards maybe that Series A investment from venture capitalist or whatever you choose for funding if you can choose that at all, is you’re trying to find predictability around how to grow that customer base and so what we tend to focus on a lot of times is what we would call “Channel Fit.” And Channel Fit is simply finding the marketing channels as they work together to repeatedly acquire new customers over and over again so you can scale your growth to the next level.

Paul: Okay. Is there – I don’t want to use this word but I’ll use it – is there a real-world analogy for Channel Fit?

Josh: Ohhh. Let me think. I should probably come up with one.

Paul: Well, is it sort of like, well, if I’m advertising to little league players as you go to the little league games, maybe?

Josh: Yeah, I think what it is, is that the reality of digital marketing is that your audience isn’t just spending time in one place but they’re actually spending time in a number of places. Think about your own internet usage in a day. You might check your favorite sports blog in the morning and kind of see what the Red Sox were up to or after that you’ll catch up on some friends on Facebook or do some social networking so there’s a lot of different touch point that the target audience might have with digital media. It’s our job to find out which of those touch points they’re using and how we can go about getting your message in front of them at the right time with the right time of an offer.

Paul: That doesn’t sound trivial.

Josh: No, there’s a lot of work that goes into it. Yeah. There’s a reason people hire us to do this.

How Channel Fit Marketing Works

Paul: So, let’s take an example here. Let’s say you have a company… I’m trying to think of some of the people I’ve heard with small businesses… Here’s one. A woman who is doing a personalized education for small groups. So, for people that are that have kids and they might be homeschooling them or maybe giving them classes to just augment their high school or junior high experience and this woman has this business. Her students love her. Her parents of students love her. How do we… Obviously, I don’t know. This’ll show my ignorance. Someone who’s reading a sports blog isn’t going to react to an ad to get your kids the best tutoring that you can get! She does tutoring basically.

So how do you approach that? It’s like, okay, do I put up billboards? You know?

Josh: Right.

Paul: Tell me how you attack that.

Josh. Yeah, so let me take you towards the start of what an engagement might look like with this woman and her business.

The first thing that we want to do is understand in their own words, what they call themselves – homeschooling moms, you know – How they’re talking about their problem and where are they talking about it.

So initially, what we do for the first few weeks for our client is that we go out and do guerrilla marketing research. We go through and find out what are the communities where the homeschooling moms are spending time online. That could be Sub Reddits on the platform Reddit. It could be Quora and asking questions on Quora. There are a number of places. Niche forums and different places we could go, and then in their own language, understand how homeschooling moms are describing the challenges that they face when trying to find personalized curriculum.

Paul: Okay.

Josh: And what we find, is that it challenges a founder’s assumptions about what makes their audience tick. That’s really really important because as a busy business owner, it can be difficult to stop and smell the flowers about what your customers are saying. You have so many things to do that you can form these rock-solid assumptions about who your audience is and what makes them tick. So, we try to shatter some of those. But we also, in a very practical sense, we want to think about the languages that people are using to describe the problem so that we can use that in our ad creative. Right?

So, let’s say the research indicates that homeschooling moms just feel like all the existing solutions are just too expensive. Maybe we’re taking a price conscious angle and we’re going to frame that value proposition of that business owner along those lines.

So, I think that initial research does a couple things. It helps us identify some of the platforms where we could reach these homeschooling moms, but it also gives us some more language to use in our ad creative to get them to take the action that we would like them to take.

Targeting Demographics & Marketing Platforms

Paul: Okay, so again, I’m not an expert in this. I don’t even play one on TV and certainly our listeners are going to be all over the spectrum. Are there ways in which I can actually target these people by these demographics?

Josh: There sure are. So, every – let’s call it every major platform – and to call those out I would say Facebook and Instagram, Google which would include YouTube, these are massive platforms with billions of users and you and I, we use them every day. And so, you know, the beauty of that for advertisers and business owners is that over time these platforms gain incredible understanding about what makes their users tick. And then they kind of rent that out to advertisers, in a sense.

So, if we wanted to form a campaign for this particular client we would say, “Okay. We’re thinking about moms maybe between the ages of thirty and forty-five. And here’s some other interests that they may have, some things that are a good proxy for us to identify them as a good fit for this product.” And that gives us a really good starting point for how to reach, maybe, that initial audience segment. There are other more advanced ways that can be done as well but that’s a good starting point.

Paul: Do you guys go and create a persona?

Josh: We do. And we try to do that in the first few weeks and we don’t spend too much time dressing it up and calling it Sally, Sue, whatever. Using aliternation. We really do just try to figure out who are the distinct different segments in this audience. Is a it a Mom? Is it a Dad? Is it a single parent? And what are some of the ways that they describe their problem.

But yeah, we do break those up and we kind of have messaging that we would use to reach each of those people and how to describe what we would call the product story to each of those people.

Marketing Platforms: An Area of Expertise

Paul: How easy is it to engage with the different platforms and sort of couple that persona into their platform.? Because shouldn’t that be their problem? Delivering you people to convert?

Josh: Yeah so, the platforms are getting more and more advanced every day really. And that’s actually one of the ways that we add value to our clients, is that you have a business to run. You have a team to lead. You don’t need to be mired in the granular changes of the algorithm on Facebook or this new ad feature. Let us worry about that for you. This is where we’ve kind of carved out our specialty in expertise.

Paul: Oh okay! Cool!

Josh: So, us being able to keep track of that for you and run it on your behalf, frees you up to just actually deal with the new business that’s coming through these campaigns and focus on taking your business to the next level.

Yeah, it’s definitely on some levels, it’s getting easier. On other levels, it’s getting more complex. We can get into that if you want, but it’s definitely changing.

Paul: That’s true.

Josh: That’s the one constant, is that it’s changing every day.

How To Target a Specific Product

Paul: Let’s go down this road a little bit. So, you have the ability to target certain people. I would imagine the more specific the product – I’m looking around and trying to find a product. We have a Canon printer here. How would you go about doing that? That happens to be an 11 by 17 color printer. Is that too specific? Or is it too small of a targeting market? Or…?

Josh: Yeah, so I think we would think about this in a couple different dimensions. So, Canon if you’re listening, this one’s for free. I would think about it in two buckets. One is, who are the types of people who would buy Canon? And then the other is, how are people currently searching for printers like this Canon printer?

And so, let’s start with the first one. We might uncover in our research and in working with a company like Canon, that people who own this also tend to own Dell monitors, and they’re definitely Toshiba PC laptop folks. So, we can search in developing these other affinities they might have for other brands. That would help signal that that person is a good potential buyer for a Canon printer. So that’s where we might start with trying to reach the person.

But the fact is, you know, there are billions of searches happening in search engines like Google, who are also searching for “best desk jet printer” or “inkjet printer” so we want to be able to capture that as well, through what we would call search marketing.” So, this is where we start to unroll what we would call “multichannel strategy.”

Paul: Okay.

Josh: Let’s go directly to the people that could be a good fit for this but let’s also capture the searches where people are already looking for this type of a product.

Marketing New & Innovative Products

Paul: How does that differ when we start to move towards a new hiking boot that’s coming out?

Josh: That’s a great question. I think what would change and actually, what we see often with our startup clients, is that what they’re doing is so new and so innovative that there’s not really a category for it yet. So that kind of immediately eliminates the paid search option because there just isn’t search demand for it because people don’t necessarily have the language to search for it. So, that would leave us to what type of person might be the right fit for this hiking boot? And again, we would go through this exercise of trying to find the other, maybe, affinities, the other interests that they might have in addition to hiking. Maybe they are also avid kayakers. Maybe they are campers. Those other things that would signal that these might be a good fit for the boot that you have.

Paul: Alright. Let’s say it’s a general hiking boot. It’s available in womens and mens, no kids. And do you then test those markets or what? So would you advertise it on Facebook and say, “Gee, Paul’s new hiking boot.”

Josh: Yeah, I think that’s the beauty of the type of marketing that we do. So in the – call it even the 90s – you would have had to have made it a really big bet and you might have had to go and create a very expensive TV spot and buy airtime many quarters in advance and then if your one little campaign slogan didn’t pay off for you, well, that’s really tough to come back from.

But the beauty of this is that we could maybe frame two, three, four five, ten different ways to advertise this boot, and hit on a number of different product benefits or what we call “Value Propositions,” and actually measure which option is getting you the most sales. And so that’s a very interesting distinction between now and then, is that now you don’t have to get it right on the first strike. You can test and iterate and improve.

You Don’t Know All the Answers Until You Try

Paul: So, I know Mark Zuckerberg is famous for saying, “Fail fast.” Is that like just a way to sell more ads?

Josh: It’s probably a way to keep his board happy in the beginning. But no. You know, it’s funny, he does say that, and that’s kind of a very popular Silicon Valley part of the lexicon, to fail fast or to fail forward but it really is in this new era of advertisers, is that you don’t know all the answers until you try.

To give you an example of this, we were helping to market… they’re called whisky stones, so they’re just a way for you to chill your drink without diluting it and the founders were very hyper focused on selling this to men who love Scotch and Whiskey. But what we found in our testing is that women were buying this hand over fist. And they had ignored an entire gifting audience of women buying this for their significant others or for their partners. So that’s one example of where it wasn’t necessarily a failure, but it was a test that really ended up paying off really big because we just were like, we might as well try. It’s not a huge amount of money at stake here to get the answers to this.

Paul: Well we’ve been talking with Josh Sturgeon of EmberTribe. There’ll be ample opportunity for the Show Notes and links for both Josh individually and for EmberTribe. I just want to thank you for coming in!

Josh: Yeah Paul, thanks for having me. It’s been a great conversation.

More Episodes:

This is Part 1 of 3 our interview with Joshua Sturgeon. Stay tuned for Part 2, coming soon! We’ll be talking about digital marketing and knowing your customers!

Show Notes: