Nathan runs Conductive Consulting which focuses on helping eCommerce and SaaS companies win customers, and he has recently been named the Marketing Director of Koombea, a high end design and development shop.
→ His background in Conductive Consulting
→ What is exciting about e-commerce and SAS, and growth
→ His focus on bringing offline businesses online
→ His approach to evaluating and structuring marketing efforts for sustainable, long-term growth
→ He emphasizes the importance of focusing on a few key strategies or channels for acquiring and developing customers
→ It allows companies to better understand their target audience
→ The importance of understanding sociology in marketing and customer acquisition
→ His thoughts on Sociology
→ Understanding a target audience before building a product or launching marketing efforts
→ Starting small and thinking about money from the outset
→ And a whole lot more
Bronson: Welcome to another episode of Growth Hacker TV. I’m Bronson Taylor and today I have Nathan Zuru with us. Nathan, thanks for coming on the program.
Nathan: Absolutely. Thanks for having me. Bronson And great pronunciation of my last name, by the way.
Bronson: Was it really any kind of cast?
Nathan: It was right on.
Bronson: That’s awesome. I had no idea. That’s perfect. So, Nathan, to give the audience a little background here, you run Conductive Consulting, which focuses on helping e-commerce and SaaS companies win customers. And you’ve also recently been named the marketing director of Cumbia, which is a high end design and development shop that also has some of their own products. So we’ll get to cumbia in a minute. But let’s start with conductive consulting and kind of your experience with companies helping them grow like that. So you say that you’re drawn to e-commerce and SaaS companies. Why are you drawn to those kinds of companies? What excites you about e-commerce and SAS and growth?
Nathan: Sure. Actually, specifically e-commerce and SAS is what I do because I have always been interested in bringing the offline online. And for me, what that is, is what the businesses do offline. They sell things to stay in business. So I’m interested in bringing that first and foremost online, but also realizing that it has to happen in a new and compelling and unique way online. It can’t just be the same analog. So that’s what I focus on. And that’s what I specialize in, definitely.
Bronson: Yeah, that’s great. Now, so let’s say you have a new client. You know, they hire you. You know, they come in, be a consultant, they’re a SAS or they’re an e-commerce company. How do you kind of begin the process? You kind of you know, you know, kind of look and see where things are at right now with the current strategy. What does it look like on day one when you enter a company? Kind of give us a virtual consulting here.
Nathan: Great question. A lot of people, when they hire my type of marketing help, they typically don’t have too much marketing. Or if they do have marketing, it’s different from the business. People within the organization are necessarily marketers. Mm hmm. I like to bring structure and methods to everything, because ultimately it’s all about sustainable, long term growth. Nothing should be piecemeal. So for me, I do a realistic evaluation of really what’s happening. And then ultimately, more times than not, I focus in on only one or two or three key strategies or channels to get customers or customer development. And stick with those because it’s easy to read on TechCrunch about the ten or 20 or 30 different things you can do. Really, it’s about any any company that’s not mature about really only about one or two or three acquisition channels and development channels.
Bronson: Yeah, if you go beyond that, most people don’t have the resources to focus on more than a couple of channels. Is that right?
Nathan: That’s actually a really good point. And often I’ll have clients coming to me saying, you know, how much money, how much money do you need? And if it’s a newer company, if it’s a newer startup, I would actually recommend some of the best marketing you might I give you is actually don’t use money. How far can you get without using buying attention? Basically because you can’t buy it, you have to earn it. And that fundamentally kind of switches the interaction of every communication. How can I earn attention? What products can I build for my customers to actually build a great brand here?
Bronson: Yeah. You know, looking at the different companies you’ve consulted with, how different are those acquisition channels and those strategies? Do they all can end up looking sort of the same because they have the same needs or is it just totally different? They all got their own unique kind of things put in place to acquire customers.
Nathan: It’s a good question. It definitely depends on what you’re selling. If if you’re selling hard digital goods via ecommerce, you’re going to see some similarities. Patterns suggest a little different. What? Actually, I’m actually I come from a quantitative background, but I’m actually a big fan of sociology. And because sociology studies different groups of people and how they interact, what you’re going to see and least what I see is that often the the successful opportunities are, are specific or unique to the sociological patterns within the group of the customer you’re looking at.
Nathan: It’s kind of a broad answer. What I’m saying is there’s never one answer all together, but they’re certainly like if you identify a certain person, certain, a certain demographic, then often what’s successful for that demographic will be successful again for a different type of company.
Bronson: Gotcha. So that’s the view that psychology matters is applied to all of them. But the particular psychology is very different from subculture to subculture, and it’s really tapping into that. That’s sociology.
Nathan: No doubt. And I’m no psychologist, I’m not a sociologist. I’m not trained in it. But generally speaking, sociology would be the study of groups because how they react and how they behave together, especially as they’re behaving simultaneously, i.e. group influence. Very important from our very important.
Bronson: How do you kind of get your head around that? Are you going to have those groups are and studying what they’re saying? Are you just interacting with them one on one? Well, it’s kind of your process to get inside of the sociology of a group that you don’t belong to yourself.
Nathan: Absolutely. And I think that’s actually great. We’re talking about this early in the review because I deal with I work with so many engineers, founders, technical people. So my technical but not fully technical. And so often companies are built for I. This is the problem. I understand this is the solution I’m going to build for the problem. I understand. Right. And that’s great. That’s how the best companies are made. But how is a marketer? Can you hop into all these different types of groups, companies, problem solutions and make make sense of it all? And that’s key number one step for me. No matter what I no matter where I go, no matter where I go, no matter what I do, it’s empathy. And you’ve put yourself in the shoes of the end customer, the person using the solution. We are the thing. What do they do? How do they act? Remove all of your biases and filters, which is hard with all of your biases and filters really understand who they are, what they do. What I like to say is, where’s the where’s the where’s the online watering hole? So in full force, in jungles and wildlife, it’s start in nature. Animals are very different. But the one thing amazing together is a need for water. And so sure enough, they all too often all congregate competitors, predators, prey. They’ll congregate on the same watering hole. Right. And the reason is because they sit there, they share that geographic locale in nature. What is it about your customers? What do they share? Where’s their online watering holes, blogs, forums, whatever it might be, stores, you know, where do they hang out? That’s why that’s typically where I start.
Bronson: Yeah. And you know, if you can’t find a watering hole that probably tells you something about the size of the group you’re trying to, you know, market to or about their connectedness. If there’s no watering hole, they either don’t exist or they’re not connected, which are both really bad things when you’re trying to build a product for them.
Nathan: So, so true. So true. I’m a big fan of the Seth Godin School of Thought. He’s talking a lot nowadays about like companies and organizations and how to do work in our new economy, which is great, but it’s also a marketer 100%. And I think one of the things he wrote one of his books a few years ago was he advocates before you start a company, before you build a product, figure out who your customers are, figure out who you or your hive is first before you can build anything.
Nathan: I couldn’t agree more.
Bronson: Oh, absolutely. I read his book Tribes, and it’s great, you know, or you know, it talks about that like there’s people that are waiting for you to, you know, serve them, lead them, be a part of them. But if there’s no them, then there’s no you to go and serve them, you know? So you got to find the tribe first. Absolutely. As you talk to all these different companies, is there certain advice that you just kind of feel like you’ve given them over and over? Kind of like a broken record? Like every company needs to hear this, so few companies get it and you just, you know, have to say it over and over.
Nathan: So as a consultant, so I’m in the Bay Area in San Francisco. I’m in the center of technology, for better or worse. And I deal with a lot of companies, both professionally and just tangentially, just meeting companies here and there. And and no matter where it is, I’m paying for it or not. I end up getting giving them the same advice, at least the startup type crowd. And that is all there’s two pieces of advice. Number one is you have to you have to think small now to grow big later. And what I mean is you definitely want to build a $1,000,000,000 company at some point. Right. And it’s important to remember that’s the goal. But you know what you’re going to conquer. Interesting. There’s no we’re going to be able to win or capture a big market until you capture small markets first, right? Yes. To figure out how to get it done for the smaller groups of people first before you scale it up to how many millions are millions of dollars in revenue or $100 million, whatever everyone is saying, I’m going to go build the next Facebook or whatever. Right? And that’s great. But few people, a few companies actually have the privilege of being the next Facebook. So you really have to be very strategic about how you grow by one group at a time, taking it slow and making your process out of it. And a second piece actually tangential is think about your business model. Think about money. Because because, as I said, companies get the privilege to be Facebook or Google, and that’s the reality. Yet everyone is shooting for that unrealistic opportunity. I’m not saying don’t shoot for the opportunity, but once you realize that maybe I don’t have $100 billion business, I have $1,000,000,000 business or $100 million business. Still great, right? You need a business money to figure it out. And this is why I mentioned this, because at least in my area where I see it done the most, I see very smart, intellectual founders and executives who would otherwise be pursuing a business. But I think it’s because of the very strong investor influences. They say all that thinking about business model right now. I’m not thinking about money right now. Yeah, well, you just you’re just deferring a very, very hard conversation and plan you have to do later. So why aren’t you doing it now?
Nathan: It’s silly. And I think I think thinking about money right now, whether or not you implement it is fine. Thinking about it now is very, very important.
Bronson: No, I think that’s great advice. And, you know, it’s interesting when you say it that there’s very smart people that are not building businesses. It’s like it’s almost like we’re categorizing, like, look, you’re building something, but it’s not a business. So let’s don’t call it a business because there’s no revenue model, there’s no customers, there’s no Visa cards on file.
Nathan: This is the thing. This is the thing. You hear a lot of people say, hey, I want to go do a startup. I want to go to a startup. I’ve been a startup since I was 17, almost ten years. So I’m the poster child, for better or worse. But the point the problem with that is so I’ve been I’ve been to all sorts of startups. And the problem with saying I want to go to a startup is if you look at think Steve Blanks definition of startup, it is a company, it is an organization in search of a business model, i.e. people. It’s a bunch of people don’t know what they’re doing. So you want to actually iterate out of a startup? That’s right. You want to get out of the startup. You don’t want to be this. I want to be in a business. And so as a consultant, I actually I don’t work with companies that don’t have business models. Actually, I want I mean, I’ll talk to you a little bit. I’m not going work professionally with you unless you have a business model that I can actually say, you’re here. You want to go here? No problem. I’ll do that for you.
Bronson: You couldn’t even measure your own success until they had a business model.
Bronson: Their own success. So everything’s nebulous.
Nathan: Absolutely right. You might be a firehose of great creativity and talent, but whether you’re not doing yourself or I have to help you get to point it in a direction and you have to know where you’re going. You have to know how you might want to get there. And even if you’re wrong, you’re testing it in your career, proving a model, you know, whether or not first is.
Bronson: One in some direction you’re learning going in no direction. There’s no learning. You know, you’re not building the system and and building the business. You know, I have to read your blog. Certain kind of themes emerge. You know, as I was looking through the post that you’ve written over the years, one of the themes it kind of emerged was using social media for growth taught us a little bit about that. What are your views on using social media and maybe specifically even how you do it a little bit?
Nathan: Sure. Sure. You know, I guess just because my the particular time in the history where I came came up and social media was, you know, but when I first started with social media, it wasn’t called social media, it was called buzz marketing. I remember I wrote 27 like a two page manual on buzz marketing for like this like three, two person company because I was the young guy is the young. I do it. I don’t know if you know how that works. At the time it was Facebook and I was everything else in and I spent a lot of time working on social media marketing for big and small companies. And in particular, I actually worked with the social media marketing agency. I’ve worked actually with eBay and Amazon to name others. So I’ve worked on the big and small scale and this is the important thing, and I think it’s actually kind of only old news now. But we were I was saying years ago, that is it’s not about followers, it’s not about, you know, likes, you know, it’s not about it’s not about just engaging your customer. By the way, engaging is a word that has multiple definitions and typically has a the primary definition is that of warfare to engage your enemy. All right. Engaging is I never like the word engaging.
Bronson: That’s a lot of the marketing is let me let me come beat you up.
Nathan: To a certain extent.
Bronson: But it was done poorly, I should say.
Nathan: Sure, sure. It’s not about engagements, not about followers. It’s not about likes. And the best companies. Some companies have two followers, some nothing. Companies have a million followers. You can’t you cannot bother with correlating the likes and followers with with success. You can’t do that. What you got to do is understand your perspective. So. I can’t put that kind of a metaphor recently to help one of my clients to explain how you should act as a social media marketing manager or as anyone doing community management. And that is to say, the person interacting with the communities needs to be a team captain. So think back to the Little League soccer or baseball. There was always a team captain where where he, he or she represented the team in the major decisions with the coaches versus the other team. But he also he or she also led the team himself or herself because he was he or she was the most skilled player that was that.
Bronson: They’re the link.
Nathan: They don’t look exactly right. So you as even if you have a formal community manager or not, you need to be the team leader, the team captain. And so once you think about it, that lends all the perspective makes sense. The team never tries to sell crap to their teammates. And you try to inform and they try and teach, right? So what? You see the team at the heart, coach, i.e., part of the company, but also part player, i.e., part of your customer base. Mm hmm. So. So if you want to grow, used to have someone who fundamentally understands your customers. Here’s a hint. A great way to find a community manager is to hire your best customers.
Bronson: No, absolutely. They’re the ones that have risen up the ranks to almost be a part of the management.
Nathan: I’ve done it before. And then. So once you realize that you have to be in the point of in the position of of team captain, everything else kind of flows out of there. So, you know, giving them relevant offers, but you’re also talking about the industry and the category and the interests in general. And that is the manager right there. And that and that’s social media. Right. And of course, you can talk about like using different technologies to really create engaging experiences, which is what I was would do a couple of years ago. Great. Engaging experience is totally fine. But you’re never going to sell to your teammates.
Bronson: Yeah, no, I like that because it’s a mindset shift. It’s not just here’s the tactic, go do it. It’s I’m sure that that informs a thousand tactics. And so it makes a lot of sense at all level. Now.
Nathan: There can never be an exact playbook for social media because everything’s you can’t predict anything. And social media is it’s like throwing someone in a crowd of people, here’s what you’re going to do. If you see someone like this, it’s just impossible.
Bronson: Absolutely. Well, it’s like you said earlier, you know, it’s groups of people, it’s society, it’s, you know, subcultures. And so the playbook that works for one won’t work for the other anyway. So you get into it. It’s a thousand year playbooks, which is why you need a team captain, because they get that community, even though they may not get any other community in the world.
Nathan: Besides their team captain. It is.
Bronson: Yes, absolutely. Now, on your blog, you also talk a lot about quantitative marketing strategies. Explain to us what you mean by that and kind of how you put those into place a little bit.
Nathan: Sure. I actually come from a quantitative background. In school, I was younger. I was taking advanced math classes when I was younger. And I’m no match guys. Yes. Oh, that’s the thing. I went to college thinking I was hot. It turns out I wasn’t. I actually majored in math and economics in college. And some people say that’s crazy. How are you a marketer now? I disagree. I wasn’t necessarily hundred percent marketing when I first started, but nothing could set me a better. In my opinion, math teaches you how to think really well and analytically, and econ teaches us things pretty well. And in my opinion, that’s what a lot of marketing needs needs to be.
Bronson: So toward more and more is analytics and testing. I mean, that’s absolutely what you said. Yeah.
Nathan: Yeah. So I’ve technically started, I guess, as I’ve done the marketing analyst track as well before. Mm hmm. You know, quantitative marketing, this is the important thing of a quantitative marketing can never dictate new ideas for new strategies, but it sure as hell can measure efficacy and how stuff works.
Bronson: You still need creative.
Nathan: You need to be creative. Exactly. And to be creative you to have someone who understands people marketing fundamentally about people, but evaluating what works and what doesn’t and knowing what to do next, being strategic about it. That’s where the math comes in and I’m not going to bother with all the details. But there’s you know, I’ll tell you about the math, the math, the stats of all the marketing. And that’s kind of where my background is in now.
Bronson: That’s great. You also talk a lot about sales optimization. What do you mean when you use the phrase sales optimization? Are we talking about the opposite, optimizing the funnel or something else?
Nathan: It means that among other other things. So when you’re working with technology companies in particular, but also SAS companies, but also e-commerce companies, we’re selling in software or in e-commerce, something that came out of the founder’s head. And then they made it right. Mm hmm. So it is. It is when you’re dealing with a technology company or a startup. It’s frequently founders names and non marketing executives making the decision. What goes on the website I’m talking about? I’m talking about the marketing website. I what what what that what website you use to get the sale. It’s fundamentally these people making a decision what goes on the website. But the problem with that is they’re inside the company. They’re probably technical they want and they really do product people. They want to say, this is the product. I need all this stuff because this is exactly what the product needs to be the probably. Right? So therefore you, Mr. Customer, I’m going to show you all this stuff and you’re just going to make the decision. Oh, of course I’ll buy this. It should. I may I show you the good shit? You’ll buy it. The problem is it doesn’t work.
Bronson: Okay. What do you do with that? And what does work? What do you. What do you suggest that now?
Nathan: Marketing is fundamentally about people and people act on emotion. So it’s your job as a marketer, as a growth packer, making any kind of marketing website to get people excited about your products. I mean, the case studies Apple. I mean, Apple doesn’t list the features and like the specifications 100% was Windows or Apple or Windows does. And so that’s kind of what I’m talking about, but more on a fundamental level. And so what you can do is start with kind of like just the tip that’s going to start with just the tip, right? Give them what they need to get excited and have everything on the website that they actually need to make the purchase decision. Right. But, but the website should be designed around virgin customers and new customers who who maybe already understand the problems but understand your product, get it. So like take you from outside in perspective. Apparently MBAs are supposed to be trained in this type of thing, but as far as I can tell, they’re not trained in sales. You need to show the customer what it’s important for them when they first interact with your brand. Yeah. What isn’t it for an industry expert? Need to make a decision.
Bronson: No, that’s great. And use the example of Apple. And that one makes a lot of sense because you go to the Apple homepage and here’s the new device. Here’s the word that describes it. You know, here’s the awesome video to get into it. And then when you’re five pages into the site, you get the specs, the width of dimension, the height, the resolution. They don’t lead with all the details. Even though they spent years perfecting those details, they didn’t feel the need to put them in the homepage because they had restraint, give you what you need, bring you in, and then kind of sell from there. So it makes a lot of sense.
Nathan: I have a booklet for you, actually, if you don’t mind me having it.
Nathan: We’re not in the business of selling software or selling hard goods. It’s it’s it’s easy to get to think too abstract about it. But look at any like new media company, like a vice TV or something like that or any, any, any company that produces original content. You go to their home page, go to their home page. I don’t even know you can make them an example, but any home page of any media company and they’re going to show you the newest, most coolest video or story that they have. Mm hmm. That’s what they’re going to show you. And then. Oh, this is really cool. Let me let me look at this. Let me consume this content and let me dove deeper. That’s the how the funnel interaction should go when you’re selling something. Yeah. Show them renewed. Cool. Shit. Don’t worry about me. You’re basically putting a barrier. All those details and specifications. Don’t worry about all that. Give them the newest cool shit, right? Yeah. Whatever your customer, let them say that’s really cool. And then let them dove deeper.
Bronson: Now that that example even makes more sense because I never thought about it. So it’s kind of a new thing because, you know, if you went to CBS.com and they were like, Look, here’s how many people we have on staff, here’s how much money we spend on original, you know, shows and programing. Here’s some awards we won. And then if I go to NBC and they’re like, Hey, here’s 30 Rock, watch it. I’m going to get NBC. I mean, it’s going to catch me. You know.
Nathan: It it’s it’s not you’re exactly right. I actually use the example HBO with my clients. But yeah, you’re totally, totally know.
Bronson: Absolutely. And I’m not saying either of us do it that way, but, you know, they probably both do it the way you’re saying, which is, yeah. Michelle Yeah.
Nathan: You think so? Exactly.
Bronson: Yeah. A few months back you wrote a really interesting blog article and I want to kind of dove into this one a little bit more because I think it’s just so relevant to people in our audience that are building SAS products. You talked about the pricing structure and I think you just gave some really good tips on that. First, tell us what most kind of pricing tiers look like that you don’t like. Describe them to us just kind of briefly.
Nathan: So this is a good call. Nice job finding this article. It was it’s I’m not a blogger by any means. I just I just talk about the importance that I learned on my blog and I show it to my clients when I when I work with them. So it’s like kind of a reference guide. So yes, so SAS pricing is totally broken. It’s just, it’s, it’s is built and this is where the technical thing comes into place to technical people saying this is a technical product, I’m going to give you technical specifications decide upon. And the best example of actually this working is Heroku go to Heroku dot com. But this is the key thing here. Roku is for technical people. So the pricing on this stuff, the pricing page is exactly what it needs to be. It’s a beautiful Google pricing page. But guess what? What if you’re not a technical. People are engineers, right? Then what do you do? You have to. And especially for selling marketing software, which a lot of people are doing nowadays. Right. You so so back to the SAS pricing, it looks like just bark on the page. Yeah, it looks like they want to get everything out and then have to root for the bar on the page with all their stuff and they have tears because everybody’s ABC Oh, you got to tear your software because that’s what that’s what enterprise software companies do to your process. And it’s all these arbitrary tiers and stuff like that. It doesn’t work. And so what you got to do a couple of different things. Simplicity, obviously, but simplicity by using one metric. Not ten. Okay. And the one metric that everyone understands. Everyone. The person you’re selling to all the way up to the CEO and all the C-level executives in the organization.
Bronson: So give us an example of one of those kinds of metrics to make sure everybody is on the same page here.
Nathan: I’m going to use a very solid example, a company I love, RJ metrics dot com. Mm hmm. They’re basically data data warehousing as a service. I’ve done it the hard way before with e-commerce companies. It sucks. They make it easy and they don’t work with them. I talked to the founder a couple of times. Is it really they’re really cool people. I’ve never worked with them. They used to have in the pricing structure, rows of data in a row is for every there’s one row for every unique data you want to capture. So name, address, location, number of products by type of sex, male or female. And there’s still can be 20, 30, 40 rose per customer easily. Right. And so then if you’re saying I want to buy RJ metrics. How many rows on a ship? I have 10,000 customers and I have on average 3.5 rows per customer. So I’m in the 50,000 range, maybe hundred thousand. I don’t know how much it is and it could fluctuate by that. If you buy that software, you fundamentally don’t know what you’re being charged for and actually you’re disincentivized to use it because if you hook up more channels of data for each customer, you’re going to think just recently I talked to them recently about some stuff. They changed it and sure enough to change it to out of number of customers. Mm hmm. So all the arbitrary stuff about customers before, which no one on a sea level team would understand, by the way, is just based on customers. So eight or 10,000 customers, it is less than 50,000 customers. And so anyone can understand the person buying it on up to the CEO. I have 50,000 customers. The pricing page boom, there are no surprises.
Bronson: Instead of having to do math or try to read what bullet point is on what’s plan and how that compares to the other plan. Exactly right. We know what you should buy. And if you’re overpaying or underpaying and you’re confused. Instead, if you say, look, this is the structure for if you have 10,000 customers, I can’t go wrong. That’s the only two for me. And so there’s no buyer’s remorse and all that kind of stuff.
Nathan: Absolutely. And the other thing is they tied it to customers, which if you’re an e-commerce business app, is fundamentally tied to your success. So is how you get something that makes you successful. So the more customers you have, it’s not a problem development. And the other thing is, if you can avoid it, avoid tiers altogether. Just check out intercom that IO and AI, A.R. SEO and that IO. They just have a $50 a month user software. $50 a month is great. And if I were to compare, I used to I used to. I am a big fan of nightlife, clubbing and promotions. I used to do some promotions when I was younger. It was fun stuff. Think about your especially if this is software success, especially only this is software. Mm hmm. Think about it. Like a club, like a party. Don’t worry about the different types of tickets that you can sell. Just make sure it’s a great party for everybody. And even better if you can give them a great way to tell their friends about it. Yeah.
Bronson: There you go. That makes a lot of sense. So tell us, what have been some of your big wins for clients? What are some of the things in point of view like, you know, you may not be able to name the company and all that kind of stuff, but I mean, what’s going to happen from these sort of efforts that you put in with your consulting?
Nathan: Sure. I mean, I can’t.
Nathan: Yeah, I can’t I can’t name companies too much, obviously. But for us, there’s one e-commerce company that was selling men’s apparel and they didn’t. They did not. They had a great product. They had no idea who they were selling to and made some tweaks. They did a little bit of research, not formal industry research, but more like me screwing out numbers. And I don’t like an issue, which I don’t really believe, Richard, by the way. Mm hmm. Yeah. Immediate numbers. They found their customer. I found them a couple of really good acquisition sources. And, you know, there are a lot of customers right now doing pretty well. Another customer of mine is sell vitamins. A former customer of my client of mine, they sell vitamins and they did a really good job making the product. And that’s a good job presenting it. Mm hmm. Right. You need to have some and even vitamins. It’s kind of boring, right? But guess what? Vitamins are tied to your health. If you’re going to make vitamins, awesome. If you can make the experience and make taking vitamins awesome, thinking that you’re becoming healthier, that’s gonna be really strong value as a company. You have to help them improve their packaging, their messaging. Now it’s like all their customers are sold on the company and and do really well, which is.
Bronson: Great. You know, right now you’re the marketing director at Columbia. So tell us just briefly, what is cumbia?
Nathan: Yeah. So I should mention I was doing conductive consulting and one of my clients was Columbia dot com.
Bronson: So we’re kind of ramped up and went almost in full time.
Nathan: Over to them for a little bit and was really great. Really, really great company. So you’re in a band now full time? Cumbia. I’m in the director of marketing. Cumbia is is a higher end design and development digital agency. So if you’re your startup is your company is your technology company of any sort that you need a website, you need a mobile app, we do it for you. So we’re an agency and we focus a lot on the design. Obviously, we’re Ruby on Rails, you know, and technically, if you’re interested in this kind of thing, we’re Scrum Certified have all this really cool, Lean Agile certifications, stuff like that. We’re about a hundred people big.
Bronson: Yeah, that’s that’s big for a development shop. How long have you been? There is just a few months or.
Nathan: Yeah, a few months I think. Since November, December or something like that.
Bronson: Okay. So you’re still kind of, you know, getting a flow down for sure. You’ve been doing there, I’m sure. No doubt. You know, you probably have a lot of details for the questions going to ask about the marketing there, but you might have some ideas of what you’re going to be trying to do. So it seems like in talking to you, part of your role there is going to be to acquire new customers to the agency site itself, the design and development and the the, you know, those kind of things. And then the other side is they have their own products. Let’s talk about the agency itself first. What plans do you have to kind of grow the agency side of things?
Nathan: Yeah, so I’ve done some work with agencies before. I’ve worked in an agency. I was employee number one for a social media marketing agency a few years ago. And agencies are are really interesting animals. And they have different financial operations than typical technology companies. But. Come yet as designers and developers like crazy. And we do really, really great work. But what I and our clients love it. What I’m excited to do, actually, is take our marketing to take the brand to the next level because we’re kind of like that silent, stealthy, shut up that no one, not two people have heard of yet. But the fact of the matter is, we’ve worked with a lot of companies you might know around this area, and that’s just.
Bronson: Not what I was thinking when I went to their site. I’ve never heard of them and their work is spectacular. I don’t know why I haven’t heard of them.
Nathan: Honestly. Exactly. Exactly right. Exactly right. And that’s what and I love it because it makes my job easier as a marketer, but it’s actually really great to get the type of operations down and to figure out how to make these beautiful applications that we do before it suddenly becomes so me coming in, it’s going to be just a very fluid process to the brand and I have some really good things planned. I can’t tell you too much yet, but if anyone lives in the San Francisco Bay Area starting here, you’re going to see some of the stuff.
Bronson: Okay. So it might be some local stuff, maybe even some off stuff, huh?
Nathan: To start with. To start with. All right, all right.
Bronson: That’s good.
Nathan: But you got to focus. I’m going to take my own advice. I tell technology companies to focus. Yeah, well, we work with technology companies, and I live around 10,000 or 20,000 tech companies within my market.
Bronson: Your watering hole is the city you live in by chance. So.
Bronson: You can do things to take your own advice. And you don’t need to use digital distribution channels yet. And you can stay busy right in the San Francisco area.
Nathan: And that’s the funny thing then I’m a digital marketer, but because my watering hole is exactly as you said right here, I don’t have to use too much digital right now.
Nathan: I’ll give you a hint. What we’re using for our upcoming. Yeah.
Bronson: Give us a little song called Give US Something.
Nathan: A DeLorean, time machine, exact replica.
Bronson: Not all I can say. You know, I’ll give you a little story. The is it the McLaren is that the company that makes it?
Nathan: Is the DeLorean close to the glory?
Bronson: Yeah. The company that still works on them and repairs them is right down the road from my house. So when I drive, really, I see the the back to the Future cars, like, parked all over the place.
Nathan: No way.
Bronson: How could you not?
Bronson: Yeah. So, yeah, do something with that. That’d be awesome.
Nathan: Yeah, it’s pretty cool.
Bronson: I know you’re also tasked with marketing the products themselves that the cumbia has produced. So tell us, first of all, what are the two main products I believe that cumbia has right now?
Nathan: Yeah, so we have a few different ones and we’ve recently launched some newer ones we like a lot. The main one is there’s two. The first one was Zillow.com, which is actually a website. It’s a software product to get small businesses online, small service based businesses, SMB online in general. By the way, besides before cumbia, I’m a big believer in SMB. If you look at the economic trends over the past 50 years or so. Irrefutably, people are moving from big corporations to SMB, just small, medium business, but also startups, technology companies have all that right. So anything you can do to reinforce and bring up SMEs, in my opinion, will make you successful in the future, because no longer are we necessarily tied to corporations because it’s kind of a capitalist invention. I’m a big capitalist myself, but a corporation is a capitalistic invention from many years ago that’s kind of kind of beating it. Anyways, right now, help small and medium businesses get online. It’s actually a product for South America because South America has been disturbed, unserved by these types of companies that we see all the time in the U.S. but they don’t have it in South America. So we’re building something natively for south South America, are growing from there.
Bronson: You know, at the other end real quick, in Japan, when I went to the website for Milo doing research for this interview, it came up and it was in Spanish and I thought, genius, I love it. Like that is so genius that you’re marketing to something to South America because, you know, we have Squarespace here. We have, you know, so many different options here. But to give some BS in South America, that opportunity I thought instantly was such a good place. So I totally agree.
Nathan: They’re not. It’s actually Colombia. Colombia is our we’re actually based in Colombia when we had the company. So it made sense for us and the richest man in the world made his money in South America. So I’ll just say that. Carlos Lima Yeah. So I should mention that the other important company, the other important product for us is Mashable.com. So it’s definitely a for us biased kind of product. We’re a 100 person agency. And if you know anything about the agency business, there’s a lot of headaches with regard to billing, accounting, invoicing, time tracking. And if you and if you’re an independent consultant or freelancer, if you ever worked hourly, you’ve experienced the same problems. And so time tracking time sheets are other than being on a screen, the technology hasn’t changed since your grandparents use them. So yeah, it’s like, oh, 8 to 5 one hour lunch, you know, it’s, it’s boring, it’s tedious and it never gets done properly. It’s not very efficient. It doesn’t give the stakeholders, like managers and clients the accountability and transparency they need. So we’re actually taking the old model and throwing it out. Yeah, we have totally new idea of concept, the time tracking, time tracking from the future as what I’m calling it.
Bronson: Yeah. Now the the time, the time trial comes, so I’m putting it together.
Nathan: All right. All right. No doubt. And so those are our two main products. We have some other cool ones. But, you know, we work, we have kind of like a rule. It’s not exactly Google 20% time, but it’s more like could be 10 to 20, whatever time it is. We have so many great engineers and designers and we have great products we want to make our own. And so we have a few out. We’re coming out with more in the future as well.
Bronson: That makes sense. So right now, as you kind of ramp up and try to grow these products, how are you spending your days of Columbia right now? Are you are you being that team captain on social media? Are you looking for acquisition channels to see what possibilities might be out there? Like, what do you do when you show up in the morning after you get a cup of coffee?
Nathan: The question, I’m not the team captain all the way. I just hired a team captain, which is pretty exciting. Yes. You just graduated from University of Illinois is perfect, by the way. Great way to get into marketing. If you’re a recent graduate as just community management, that’s just that’s a great way to do it. And by the way, I should mention my other biased community managers should be part marketing, part customer service always. But that’s good.
Bronson: So it makes sense. That’s what I.
Nathan: Do. Yeah. So what do I do? We assign price, but I try to equal half. Have I to be the agency of my time with the products spending most my time on the products. I have a dashboard. It’s a newer product. It’s product that it’s in. It’s an industry that is well-established for all the all the a lot of the solutions are solving the wrong problem, the problem of timesheets. So right now, I’m building up dashboard acquisition channels, finding the watering holes to figure out the messaging that resonates with with our customers right on the to the side of things I’m helping. I can’t talk too much about the commerce side of things, but I guess it’s like there’s really enormous, really strong brands you never heard of. So what do you do to leverage that the best way possible? And the answer is set up some really, really fraught partnerships. They come in deals both direct and distribution deals to get our to get our brand out a while. Because I’m a marketer first and foremost, and digital marketing first and foremost, but an agnostic as to where success can come from as long as it’s reliable and repeatable.
Bronson: So yeah. As you should be.
Nathan: Yeah, exactly. I am a sucker for I go I go with the successes. So so I don’t I don’t strictly say the only problem with like with sticking a quantitative only approach is it becomes about spreadsheets and numbers, which is where my background is. But the problem with that is marketing is about people and feelings and so so for cumbia. And like I said, my watering hole is here. I, I’m thinking about how can I make people feel the best I can? Yeah.
Bronson: Yeah. No, I think it’s a. Great insight into just marketing and how it fits with the analytics side of things as well. Well, Nathan, this has been a great interview. Let me ask you one last question. Kind of a high level where you can take it any direction you want here. What’s the best advice that you can give to any startup that’s just attempting to acquire new users? What would you tell them?
Nathan: Yeah. So if we’re talking about startups. Mm hmm. You have to realize that. First off, you’re shit. Isn’t that cool? Unless you make it really, really cool. And not every company can take that. I’m a really cool company approach. You’re selling like you’re selling it software that you keep. You can’t be that cool. Like a skateboard with a backward baseball hat. Can’t do that, right? Oh, shit. Is really. Isn’t that cool? I like Peter Thiel’s advice, actually. And Peter Thiel is the pretty, pretty best early investor in Facebook. About a year ago, he says companies companies need to focus on three on on creating creative monopolies so a monopoly on and I’m going to juxtapose that with my own biases as the say marketing is about ideas. Hmm. So what? How can you create a monopoly on an idea? Mm hmm. Right. It’s easy to say this is my product. Those are my competitors.
Bronson: Mm hmm.
Nathan: I’m going to put my product next to those competitors so that everyone can understand what’s happening, right? Mm hmm. So I kind of like them. Kind of like them. I’ll be right there in the middle. That’s the easy thing to do, because that’s actually the same thing to do. The dangerous thing to do is say, these are my competitors. I’m over there. Even though I solve a different even though I solve a similar problem, it’s a dangerous proposition to go over there. Gotcha. Right. And and maybe you should not yet in your cycle, but if your competitors are here, they’re doing it because that’s the way it’s always been done. Yeah. And even my life personally, professionally, is if you can’t expect to get outstanding results, if you keep doing things the same way they’ve always been done. Yeah.
Bronson: So kind of like what I did with the timesheets. It’s like you’re in the same ballgame, but it’s almost a different sport.
Nathan: Yeah, exactly. Right, exactly. And it’s different for all together. So you got to go over there. You know, it’s hard to get people to look over there, but if you can do it properly, then you’re going to have.
Bronson: To do now is try to get people to look over there with, you know, what you’re doing with somebody there. That makes a lot of sense. Well, Nathan, thank you so much for taking the time to come on this program and just share insights with the consulting side of things and also with Columbia. And so people should go check out cumbia. They do some really beautiful design work. And I’m a tough critic, so I don’t say that about too many things. And I think their stuff is top notch, so definitely check them out. Thanks again, Nathan.
Nathan: Our guys. Thank you.
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