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EPISODE 76

How Platforms Like Clubhouse and On-Demand CMOs are Democratizing Access to Entrepreneurs

With Erik Huberman, founder and CEO of Hawke Media

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It doesn’t matter how great your product is if no one knows it exists. That’s why marketing matters. But not every company has the resources to go all out on a big-name CMO or to commit a large yearly budget to specific marketing efforts — especially when the digital world is changing so quickly. So what’s an ecommerce brand to do in order to get its message across to the right people?

Erik Huberman founded Hawke Media to answer that question, and for more than seven years he and his team have been making marketing more accessible to businesses of all shapes, sizes and stages. On the episode of Up Next in Commerce, Erik explains how companies should be planning their marketing budgets and what the revenue threshold is that companies need to aim for before they can even think about scaling. Plus, he digs into his entrepreneurial and investor roots to give some advice to those out there who are just getting started, including the hard truth about what it means to be an entrepreneur, and some tips on new and emerging platforms where you can grow your personal and professional brands. (And yes, we are talking about Clubhouse!)

Main Takeaways:

  • Same Problems, Different Speeds: Even the biggest brands in the world face the same key struggles as the new start-up making waves: access to talent. The difference is the speed at which the companies at both ends of the spectrum can move. With more decision-makers involved and more stakeholders to answer to, bigger companies have to be more methodical and intentional about who they bring in to help, whereas smaller companies can make decisions fast, but there is more volatility with every choice.
  • Join The Club: New platforms like Clubhouse are on the rise, and finding a way to capitalize on them is the biggest challenge currently facing businesses competing for market share. Listen in to hear Erik and Stephanie dive into the Clubhouse wormhole and the opportunities that await.
  • I Get So Emotional: Marketing is about eliciting emotion from the person you’re selling to, whether it is B2B or B2C. By establishing an emotional connection and presenting a value proposition that a buyer can clearly see as a solution to a problem, a level of trust is created that will lead to a long-lasting relationship.

For an in-depth look at this episode, check out the full transcript below. Quotes have been edited for clarity and length.

Key Quotes:

“The idea of being direct consumer and not opening up every other distribution channel for your brand is crazy to me. Go omni-channel, open up retail, open up everything else, and build a model that makes sense for all of those, and then see where the least path of resistance is.”

“B2B marketing is actually very similar to B2C, except for the end goal with B2C is a transaction. B2B generally is to drive a qualified lead, but you’re still marketing to an individual. That’s the part that I think people really forget. When I’m marketing to B2B, I’m not marketing to a business. I’m marketing to the decision maker at that business….So, it’s just a different targeting methodology. And then the way you position the company is still a value proposition. You still want to get an emotional reaction….People justify emotion with logic. So, if you can hit the emotional reptilian side of the brain and get with any type of marketing and get them to feel like you’re going to do something for them, that’s the best way to get someone.”

“We saw that it was really hard for most companies to get access to great marketers. We wanted to make a place where we had amazing marketers, amazing talent, people that were top of their game, but it was super easy to work with them. That was a challenge we saw on the market where a solution didn’t exist.” 

“True knowledgeable, experienced talent is what everyone’s struggling with. The way we have to operate is different, because when you’re dealing with a small business, a lot of times you’re dealing with the owner, CEO. They can do whatever they want. There’s no one they’re reporting to, even if they have investors who usually have control. When you’re dealing with bigger companies, you’re dealing with publicly traded companies, a lot more processes, a lot more checkboxes, a lot longer time to make decisions.”

“I am anticipating advertising continuing to get more costly, the13% of big companies that used to be marketing online is now 27%, and they’re going to spend more to capture that market, which means you’re going to compete with them. So if you’re a small or medium business competing, there’s a good chance that the cost to advertise online increases significantly. Companies should be looking ways to increase their ownership of their customers, because if it costs you more to get a customer, the way to combat that is to increase your lifetime value to a customer.”

“My biggest learning in entrepreneurship, in general, is no one’s that smart. It’s just people that went for it and got lucky. I really believe that, including myself….because of the way the world worked, I knew about ecommerce right when the world wanted to build all the ecommerce and I was one of the only free agents in LA with a reputation of being successful.”

Mentions:

Bio:

Erik Huberman is the founder and CEO of Hawke Media, the fastest growing marketing consultancy in the United States. Launched in 2014, Hawke Media has been valued at $75 million and has grown from seven to over 150 employees in three locations (Los Angeles, New York, and Boston). The company has serviced over 2000 brands of all sizes, ranging from startups like Tamara Mellon, SiO Beauty, and Bottlekeeper to household names like Red Bull, Verizon Wireless, and Alibaba. Hawke Media has taken home numerous industry awards including inclusion on the Inc. 5000 2020 list of “Fastest Growing Companies”, Fortune Magazine’s “50 Best Workplaces in Southern California” and Huberman was named The International Business Awards Entrepreneur of the Year in the field of Advertising, Marketing, & Public Relations.

As a serial entrepreneur and marketing expert, Huberman is a sought-after thought leader in the world of digital marketing, entrepreneurship, sales and business. Prior to Hawke, he founded, grew and sold two successful ecommerce companies. Huberman is the recipient of numerous honors and awards including Forbes “30Under30,” CSQ “40Under40”, Inc. Magazine’s “Top 25 Marketing Influencers,” and Best in Biz North America’s “Marketing Executive of the Year.” A regular contributor to major publications like Forbes, Entrepreneur and CSQ, Huberman is also a well-known keynote speaker.

Up Next in Commerce is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. Respond quickly to changing customer needs with flexible Ecommerce connected to marketing, sales, and service. Deliver intelligent commerce experiences your customers can trust, across every channel. Together, we’re ready for what’s next in commerce. Learn more at salesforce.com/commerce

Transcript:

Stephanie:

Hey, everyone. Welcome back to Up Next In Commerce. This is your host, Stephanie Postles, Co-Founder at Mission.org. Today, on the show, we have Erik Huberman, the Founder and CEO at Hawke Media. Erik, welcome to the show.

Erik:

Thanks for having me.

Stephanie:

I am excited to have you on. I was just chatting up a bit before telling you how we are actually a client of Hawke Media, full disclosure to anyone listening. It’s been amazing. But I would love it if you could go through what is Hawke Media for anyone who doesn’t know?

Erik:

Yeah, sure. We’re an outsourced CMO and marketing team to companies. So, what that means is we basically go into companies, identify what the holes are in their marketing, organization, or strategy. And then we can spin up different experts on an ala carte month-to-month basis, whether it’s a Facebook marketer, an email marketer, a fractional CMO, et cetera. We’ve got about almost 200 full time people. We manage marketing for about 500 different companies from small startups to Fortune 100.

Erik:

Our mission, for lack of a better word, is to create accessibility to great marketing. So, the idea is we really saw that it was really hard to, for most companies, get access to great marketers. We wanted to make a place where we had amazing marketers, amazing talent, people that were top of their game, but it was super easy to work with them. That was a challenge we saw on the market that didn’t exist, a solution didn’t exist. That’s how we got started.

Stephanie:

That’s awesome. Yeah, it’s been really fun. We did the CMO thing first. It was cool, because you do get access to people who have been CMOs at big companies before and they have all this expertise. But we had them for three months. And then they transitioned us on to the next stage of implementation of social and other things. It was just really fun to be able to have access to talent like that without actually having to hire them as an FTE or something.

Erik:

Yeah, that’s exactly the model. I came from building and selling a couple ecommerce companies and just wish this existed. My last ecommerce company, we were heavily funded. So, I had a 10-person marketing team of talented people, but they all worked or they could have all worked half time or less and gotten what I needed to be done. So, we had toyed with the idea of, “Could we hire these guys out to other companies? Because they’re a great team, but we don’t need them all full time. But we need all their expertise.” So, that’s part of where it came from, the idea was born.

Stephanie:

Okay, cool. What ecommerce companies did you have before this?

Erik:

I had a company called Fame Wizard first, which was online music business coaching for musicians. Then a company called Swag of the Month. It was a T-shirt subscription company, long before Dollar Shave and all that. And then an activewear brand called Ellie that’s still around, the E-L-L-I-E.

Stephanie:

That’s awesome. So, what things did you learn at those companies that maybe you brought either to Hawke Media or to how you’re maybe advising brands today?

Erik:

Yeah, really quick bullet points. Fame Wizard have a customer that has money. Having independent artists as your customer is really hard to build a business off of. Swag of the Month, the need for working capital and financing, which funny enough, we just launched our financing and working capital arm of Hawke Media a couple months ago. And then the third one, Ellie, don’t overcomplicate it. If it’s working, double down on it. Also, that I don’t like having other people make decisions for me, because that’s when I was working with a committee and I was not the main decision maker. They screwed up a lot.

Stephanie:

I like that you have bullet points. You’re like, “I already got it covered. I already know.”

Erik:

Yeah. I’ve definitely walked away with very specific, “Don’t do that again.”

Stephanie:

Yup. Yeah, that’s great. So, are you able to share some brands that you work with? So, we can get the scope of who-

Erik:

Yeah.

Stephanie:

… that you guys are learning from and working with right now and teaching.

Erik:

Yeah, I mean, it’s the full scale in terms of small startups, most people haven’t heard of, and hopefully, we change that. Tamara Mellon, we started with it when they were a tiny business and skyrocketed them for a couple years. GREATS, the sneaker company, we built for three years with them and they sold to private equity. Incase, the phone case, until they sold to Incipio. It’s ironic. We get a lot of companies to scale and then we get fired, but it’s par for the course.

Erik:

And then we also work with big brands, Nike, Unilever, Estee Lauder, Red Bull, et cetera, as well. And then a lot of small brands that don’t necessarily want to be the next big VC-backed company that are $3-, $4-, $5-, $10-million companies while we’re working with them. That’s what they want to be. They slowly grow and run a lifestyle business that pays them a couple million bucks a year and do great.

Stephanie:

Yup. Do you see the big brands having the same type of struggles as the smaller ones, or is it very separate where you have to put very different skill sets depending on the company size?

Erik:

No, the expertise are similar and the struggle is similar in the sense of access to talent is really one of the biggest… True knowledgeable, experienced talent is what everyone’s struggling with. The way we have to operate is different, because when you’re dealing with a small business, a lot of times you’re dealing with the owner, CEO. They can do whatever they want. There’s no one they’re reporting to, even if they have investors who usually have control. When you’re dealing with bigger companies, you’re dealing with publicly traded companies, a lot more processes, a lot more checkboxes, a lot longer time to make decisions. So, it’s a lot slower. So, that’s why I look at our client base like a distributed portfolio.

Erik:

The startups are super fun, because you can do whatever you want, you can get going quickly, et cetera. But they’re also super volatile on the other end, where they’ll fire you overnight for one small thing. Whereas big companies, they take forever to sign, take forever to make changes, but they also stick with you forever. So, we’ve worked with a lot of these bigger companies for years and years and years, because they’re used to signing three-, four-, five-year contracts, even if we are month to month.

Stephanie:

That’s good. So, what are some challenges you’re hearing right now around either marketing challenges or business challenges that you guys are tackling that’s maybe different than what you were hearing in 2020 or 2019?

Erik:

Yeah, I mean, 2020 was all COVID, but the silver lining was the market share of spending online almost over doubled. So, our clients on average doubled their revenue on what we were operating for them. So, that was really good. What we saw what changed towards the later end of the year and now into this year, so, now that market share hasn’t diminished that much. Instead of 13% of consumer spending, being online pre-COVID, it went up to 30. Now, I think it’s at 27%. So, it’s still massive increase.

Erik:

So, we are seeing that now, all the big CPG companies and all these bigger companies that back to the point can’t make quick decisions, unless the world’s falling apart, cut everything. They usually do that and then they slowly roll back. They’re all really coming back strong into digital, because they’re seeing so much more market share there. So, what happened was the cost to advertise on Facebook and Google during Q2 and part of Q3 dropped about 30%, because there was less competition on it. Q4, October and November were insane, October because of the election and then November, holidays hit. December, they carry over a little bit, but they do lessen.

Erik:

And then I think now, I am anticipating advertising continuing to get more costly, because now, again, 13% of these big companies marketing online is now 27, they’re going to spend more to capture that market, which means you’re going to compete with them. So, if you’re a small or medium business competing, there’s a good chance that cost to advertise online increases significantly. So, not necessary what companies are looking for but what they should be is ways to increase their ownership of their customers, because if it costs you more to get a customer, the way to combat that is to increase your lifetime value to a customer. It’s a math equation. It’s that simple.

Erik:

So, how do you do that? You find ways to increase your lifetime through merchandising, through retention, through customer experience. When I say merchandising, having other products and services you can sell to the same customer. There’s just a lot of things you can do, and then just continuing the communication like email marketing, SMS, chatbots, ongoing content, just all the ways you can create a walled garden around your existing customer base for them to buy more from you. The companies are going to win, which is why you see Amazon just skyrocketing. They were a book company at one point. Now, they sell you anything.

Stephanie:

Yeah, I love The Everything Store talking about how he and his wife are going and dropping off books to try and ship them out. That was a good book for anyone who hasn’t read it yet. So, I mean, I’m thinking about myself as a smaller company right now. We’re talking about ad costs are going up. It’s going to be harder to compete against bigger brands. If you haven’t acquired those customers yet and you don’t have anyone to talk to, it seems like there’s definitely an opportunity to be more strategic of finding new channels, whether it’s the TikToks of the world or the Clubhouse.

Stephanie:

Shout out to Hillary, you just got me onto Clubhouse. But it feels like there’s a bunch of new channels popping up that could help democratize community building a bit more or yeah, finding your audience in different channels that bigger brands maybe won’t hop on as quickly.

Erik:

That’s funny. I just got accused of being addicted to Clubhouse. So, my wife has actually had to say, “When we’re eating, put that thing away.” It’s just the past week, but that platform is taking off. Yeah, it’s always about working for diversifying. The problem is Facebook and Google still perform so much better than these other platforms that they need to catch up. TikTok will absolutely compete as they build out their ad platform.

Erik:

I think it’s a no brainer in the way that the platform’s built, but they need to do a better job of their targeting and everything, which when I say that, no one’s spamming. It’s just too early. Snapchat seems to be getting their legs under on Twitter. Hopefully, we’ll figure it out.

Stephanie:

Yup, yup. I agree. Are there any new places that maybe are lesser known, where you’re like, “We’re trying out this one little thing in the back alley here that no one else knows about”?

Erik:

I mean, your know about Clubhouse. Clubhouse doesn’t plan on monetizing through advertising, but as a community builder, it’s crazy. I’ve been on it one week. I’ve 11,000 followers. I’m not an influencer. Twitter, I have a bunch of followers, but that’s unusual for me.

Stephanie:

What are you doing on Clubhouse then? Because I get on there, and I’m like, “Hi.” For anyone who can’t see this, my awkward waving in Zoom. I don’t know what I’m doing on there.

Erik:

Yeah, I’ve been fortunate enough to spend the past decade building a pretty solid network. So, when I got on there, a bunch of my friends were the people on stage that people want to hear from. So, guys like Daymond John and Lewis Howes and [inaudible] were all pulling me up to talk with them. And then other guys, like Grant Cardone, who I never knew before this now, start pulling me around with them. So, it’s been a week, but all of a sudden, I’ve connected with a bunch of these heavy hitters that I’ve never knew before, that now we’re also jumping on calls offline and connecting. So, for me, basically, I was on two flights a week almost in 2019. So, I spent most of my time traveling to shows and conferences and meeting people. This is scratching that itch.

Erik:

So, for the people that really want to network and build that network and learn from other people, this is the perfect platform for someone like me. It’s not for everyone. So, I’ve gotten on stage. I’ve talked a lot. I mean, there’s millions of people on it. Thankfully, I’ve been very lucky to build what I’ve built. A lot of them are looking for advice on how to build their businesses. So, now at this point, this is my fifth business I built. We’ve bootstrapped it. I’ve invested in, I think, 30 other companies. I’ve had a few exits, had some successes there. So, a lot of times, I can give some quick guidance to someone on there. So, I’ve done a lot of that, which has been fun.

Stephanie:

Yeah. So, since no one else has talked about this, this is why I’m diving even deeper into this. So, someone that can listen and be like, “Okay, I’m going to try that out too,” are you speaking on there when you’re saying you’re on stage? Are you getting invited from someone? Are you just creating a room yourself? Tell me a bit about how that’s working.

Erik:

Yeah. So, I mean, just to recap the platform, basically, it’s super simple. All you see is a person’s headshot, their little icon. It’s all voice. So, you just talk. So, there’s the stage and then there’s the audience. Whoever’s on stage can talk and you can mute your mic and talk. You got as many people on stage as you want, like a panel, and then anyone can come in and listen. So, as mentioned before we started this, I like to talk. So, me sitting in a room and talking and I’ve been in rooms with 20 people on stage, 30 people on stage, where I chime in once every 30 minutes.

Erik:

A lot of the habits that are starting to come on there are just people rotating on the stage asking questions of the panelists and just doing Q&A for hours, but it’s people asking about, “How do I build my business? I’m struggling with this. What do I do here?” And then what I’ve seen is a lot of altruism, which has been fun. I’ve opened up my direct messages on Instagram through that. So, it’s like, “If anyone needs help, just hit me up.” So, making connections to VCs, to funding, to whoever could be a good distributor or a partner, give them advice, trying to help people.

Erik:

What I’ve seen also is a lot of people that aren’t in L.A., New York, Austin, or Silicon Valley, that don’t have access to these networks are all of a sudden… There was a whole world of amazing entrepreneurs I didn’t even know until I got on this thing. It’s a lot of the BIPOC community is getting on there and really helping each other. Not that I am one of them, I tried to help and very passionate about diversity and inclusion. So, we do a lot of charity work around bridging the opportunity gap. So, I’ve seen this as an amazing tool for that, because there’s so many people that don’t have access to… I’ve grown up around entrepreneurs. My dad’s successful frankly. I grew up around people that have started businesses. I had a pretty easy path of role models.

Erik:

Most of these people don’t or a lot of these people don’t and that are coming from inner cities, et cetera. They are now on this. I do get pinged maybe 100 times a day actually on that thing, asking to be their mentor. I’m like, “You don’t have to make anything official here. What can I help with? Let me answer your questions,” that kind of stuff. So, that’s been super rewarding, but I do see this as we’re all stuck at home right now, where you are means nothing.

Erik:

So, this is a way for everyone to be connecting. But without having to be on video, it also makes a lot more people comfortable having a conversation. With voice, people are not as rude, demeaning. Social media has a problem on the tech side. We all know it, where it’s like when you can just text whatever you want… We deal with it all the time with clients. If we have an angry client and we’re on email, we’ll get hate mail. Then I pick up the phone and call them and they’re like, “Hey, how are you?” It’s like, “What?” Same thing, I really think there’s something there.

Erik:

The curiosity I have is as a social media platform… I’m sorry, this is all going to Clubhouse. But just as a social media platform, on Facebook, you might spend 3 minutes, 5 minutes, 10 minutes at a time scrolling through Facebook. Clubhouse, I’m watching people spend 12 straight hours in a day. I’ve never seen a social platform that people just zoom in and go. So, I’m really curious what that turns into. I think they’ll end up monetizing by adding tips to panels, so you can actually tip the panelists or paid speakers, I think that’s what we’re going to see. Because they said they want to make money for their content creators, and they don’t plan on adding ads.

Erik:

So, I think that’s going to be interesting. But for brands to answer your question, I think for personal brands, it’s massive. You’re a CEO or whoever you are, building your brand on there and starting to talk. I mean, we had a channel the other day, where it was a bunch of beauty entrepreneurs from the south, bunch of women that had built beauty brands bringing up young beauty brands to talk to them. There were women coming on stage to talk about their brand and then going, “I’ve made $300 in the past two months on my website. The audience just bought $7,000 worth of items.”

Stephanie:

Wow.

Erik:

That’s happening. It’s an eight-month old platform, but really got popularity two weeks ago. So, it’s interesting to see where that can go.

Stephanie:

Yeah, I mean, that makes sense, especially around the theme too of, I mean, bigger brands too leaning into becoming their own media companies and getting on there and leading not just from their brand perspective but being thought leaders. Their brand is behind the scenes. If you offer value, someone won’t mind if it’s coming from someone at a large company that’s like, “Well, sounds so smart. So, I’m sure they work at whatever big company that is,” but they’re the one on there offering the best tips.

Erik:

Yup. That’s the other thing is there’s no BS-ing it. When you talk enough, people are going to know whether you know what you’re talking about or not. I’ve seen it. The rest of the two people on the stage are like, “Wait, what?” People call each other out, because I think people feel responsible, including myself. The audience is taking this advice. I jumped into a panel yesterday that was talking about Bitcoin. Some guys said, “There’s absolutely no risk in investing in Bitcoin. You just put as much money as you can.” I was like, “Hold on for a fucking second. Excuse me.” Yeah, so there’s that too.

Erik:

And then I do think there’s a whole community and personal aspects that were like 21 Savage is one of the biggest followed people on. He does DJ sets every night with Sir Mix-a-Lot and all sorts of other people. It’s not just business. There is a lot of other fun conversations. Overheard LA did a whole thing where they were saying, “What’s the weirdest story you’ve had in COVID around dating?” There’s comedy shows. There’s all sorts of fun stuff.

Stephanie:

Yeah, that’s awesome. So, when you’re on there giving tips to businesses and people who are trying to learn, what are the top questions that you’re asked or what things do you talk about that resonate most with business owners?

Erik:

So everybody wants funding. These are all early, early businesses. Everybody goes, “How do I get funding? How do I get a grant or a loan or funding?” If you need money to get started, that’s a bad sign. Don’t get me wrong. There’s high tech companies and certain companies that you can’t get around it. But most of the initial funding for businesses comes from friends and family if you need it. If you need a heavy amount of funding and it’s not something high tech, you have to be real if you’re the right person to start that business. That’s one. There’s a lot of people that pitch for that while starting with the hardships story, something that’s like, “This is what I’m struggling with.” I’ve noticed that it doesn’t get the reaction you’d hoped for.

Erik:

Compassion is a big thing. I think for help, people do, but if you lead with that to try to get someone to be part of you in business, it shows the wrong focus. It’s not to diminish what people are going through. A lot of people have had a really hard time recently and in general, but I do notice that when you lead with that versus excitement and optimism, you’re going to attract a lot more people with optimism.

Stephanie:

That’s a good one. Yeah, I’ve definitely seen a lot of people who come with the story where you’re like, “I should feel bad, but also as a businessperson who maybe is either going to invest or partner with you, we’d be in this together. I need to know that you have another reason to want to push this forward. It’s not just this.” So, that’s a good point. All right, give me more.

Erik:

The COVID excuse, I’m not very nice about this one, but I have too many friends that have done well in spite of COVID. Not because they got lucky. Someone came on the other night as like, “I’ve launched my ecommerce company last a year ago, but because of COVID, we’ve had a really hard time.” It was like, “Take a beat. Because of COVID, your ecommerce company has had a tough time.” We just went over the stats of ecommerce. I was like, “Explain that.” It wasn’t ecommerce. It was the person couldn’t get out of their way. So, that’s generally the advice I end up giving to, because again, there’s a lot of people trying to get started. It’s just go.

Erik:

My biggest learning in entrepreneurship in general is no one’s that smart. It’s just people that went for it and got lucky. I really believe that, including myself. I don’t think that I’m not impressive. I think I went for it. I timed it right, meaning I got lucky. Meaning, because of the way the world worked, I knew about ecommerce right when the world wanted to build all the ecommerce and I was one of the only free agents in LA with a reputation of being successful. So, that’s a big one.

Erik:

So, with COVID, I have a friend that owns 20 gyms across Canada that got shut down overnight, done. He’s been doing it for 20 years. He three days later decided to launch a virtual training platform and has done millions in revenue in 2020 as a gym owner and was able to keep his entire staff, pivot, not lose money, and now have a whole new revenue stream that when things do reopen, he’s got both.

Erik:

So, I have a friend that owns a chain of restaurants in L.A. He’s not thriving, but his businesses are all still open. He’s making money. He’s made a living. There’s ways to operate that you can actually get through this. I watch some of our clients, ecommerce brands. They’re like, “Cut everything.” I’m like, “What do you mean cut everything? The numbers are good. I get that the news is scary, but you’re doing well. Do not cut.” The companies that cut, I don’t know if any of them recovered, the companies that I know that cut with us. And then we had a whole bunch of other companies that stuck with us, our average client in Q2 doubled their revenue.

Erik:

So, interesting if you think about what happened in Q2 of 2020. So, yeah, getting back to it, the biggest one is like don’t give yourself excuses, go for it. That’s a lot of what we’re talking about. And then we get into sometimes deeper marketing conversations like, “What do I do to get started in marketing? If I don’t have a budget yet, where should I spend my money? Should I run Facebook ads right away?”, those kind of questions.

Stephanie:

Yeah, I love that. It reminds me too of doing things in haste, there’s a good quote. That was around investing, but it’s like the person who’s scrambling to themselves when the news sounds bad or something, they’re never the ones who do well or find a good ROI. I thought I’d be the person sitting and waiting most times and play the long game, instead of reacting to the news or quickly stopping or starting something really quickly. It’s probably never that necessary to jump on something.

Erik:

Correct. You have to give yourself that luxury, so to speak. So, what I learned myself out of this was I’m keeping more money in the bank going forward, so that I can take a beat. Even if I see my business losing money, I can go, “Deep breath. What’s the right long term plan here?” Not just react because I got to stay in business tomorrow. That’s where a lot of businesses got stuck is we’re in such a great economy. People are just spending all their money on growth. All of a sudden, it cut off. So, you have no money in the bank, that can be a bad situation.

Stephanie:

Yeah, I agree. So, you’re talking about many of them don’t have budgets and they’re trying to start marketing or launched an ecommerce shop or something. How would you go about that? Because I used to read quite a few books that talked about scrappy ways to do it, whether it was just putting up a landing page and then maybe linking to products, reselling them. There’s so many things that we’ve been taught when it comes to being scrappy and starting something without having to invest money, but how would you do it now in 2021?

Erik:

Yeah. Everybody loves to throw around the MVP model, minimum viable product. The problem with it is people go to minimal and not viable. Meaning, you make a product that gets out there, but it’s not really viable. It’s not really what somebody’s going to buy from. It’s a landing page that sends you to a site that says you can check out but you can’t or whatever it is. People think that just getting up and running is good. You got to commit.

Erik:

If you’re just getting started, keep the day job, make money along the way. If you can’t work a day job, then you get started on midnights and weekends, you’re not going to be a good entrepreneur, because welcome to entrepreneurial life. So, that’s actually a good way to get used to it in my opinion.

Erik:

Also, it never happens as fast as you want it to or almost never. So, it buys you time. You’re not under some ultimatum that if this doesn’t work in six months, I can go back to work. It’s like well, just give yourself as much time as you need. Switch over when it can support your lifestyle. So, to get started, I mean, there’s a few ways. If you’re trying to launch a new product, you might need to put in 10, 20, 30, 50 grand to get started. That’s actually a thing. That’s where the friends and family come in if you’re launching a new shoe line or something, but start small. Sell out. It’s okay. Meaning, sell your product, not sell out as a jab or anything. It’s okay to have a small run in the beginning.

Erik:

And then in terms of marketing, I’ve really honed in on this focus, actually, through a lot of answering these questions on Clubhouse is where we invest our investment threshold and where we like to look at companies is 20 grand a month in revenue. Because honestly, that’s when you’ve been able to get over the scrappy period and you started to build a sustainable business. Still small, but there’s something there. That’s traction to us. To me, it’s like get to that point without spending too much money.

Erik:

Partnerships, get someone that has your audience that you’re trying to reach and find a way to make them talk about you to their audience. That could be press. That could be influencers. That could be other brands that collaborate with you. That could be many different ways. But start there, start building that organic reach groups. If you’re selling shoes, not in COVID, but in general, sell them out of your trunk. Don’t make it so it just has to be through your website either.

Erik:

My view is focus on one thing, and don’t narrow yourself in other ways. The idea of being direct consumer and not opening up every other distribution channel for your brand is crazy to me. Go omni-channel, open up retail, open up everything else, and build a model that makes sense for all of those, and then see where the least path of resistance is. Maybe Nordstrom decides you got the coolest sneaker ever and you get a $5-million order. You’re able to ask the right people, so you can protect yourself, because a lot of those big box will return the entire order when they don’t put it on the shelves.

Stephanie:

Oh, wow.

Erik:

So, there’s ways of that-

Stephanie:

[inaudible 00:25:50].

Erik:

That’s why retail is hard. Walmart, they charge you for the products that don’t sell and send it back to you. So, you got to be careful on those agreements and what you take on, but listen, it can also set you up for the rest of your life getting a deal like that. So, open it up to do all those things and be scrappy about it. Instead of throwing other people’s money and trying to grow and hoping it works, find ways to make money right away. As someone that has bootstrapped a business and owns it with my partner, but the two of us, it’s awesome. We tell our team all the time, “Anything you want to do, we can do it. Just ask.” We’re not reporting to anyone. We don’t have people on our board or investors that we have to report to that are going, “I don’t agree. I’m worried about the risk of my money.” Not all investors do that, but some do. So, yeah, if you can keep ownership, it’s a lot of fun. It’s stressful at times too, because there’s no one else backing me up. It all falls on you. But once you get through those hardships and get used to that challenge, because it never ends, it actually becomes pretty fun.

Stephanie:

Yeah, yeah, that’s definitely my viewpoint on investors too. Unless they’re very strategic, they’re going to open up a network for you. They’re going to give you something that you can’t get otherwise. If you’re just going after money, you probably needed to look elsewhere. I mean, my friends and family, not so much. I would have never been able to raise any money from them properly. But, thinking about it more strategically, instead of just, “Here’s some dollars,” because we had a guest on the show, who I forget who they were.

Stephanie:

Maybe Hillary can remind me in our prep doc here, but they’re talking about how they built their company based off a Kickstarter Indiegogo type of thing, because they had this whole quote that was, “Don’t rely on friends and family.” Because if that’s how you think you’re going to fund your product, you’re already going to fail. Account for them to maybe only be 3% of what you need or something like that. Only 3% of your product will be bought from them. The rest, you need to go out and form those email newsletters. Find your audience elsewhere, or else, there’s no point in you trying if that’s your only goal.

Erik:

Yeah, I would say that with smart money, which I agree with, if you’re going to take money, take smart money that knows what they’re doing and can help you. But a lot of times you can get that help without even taking their money. That’s the other part. There’s an anecdote about call someone for advice and they’ll give you money. Call someone for money and they’ll give you advice. So, if you want connections, most people that have been successful, most not all, but most are really willing to pay it forward, I’ve noticed. They want to help. They can’t help everyone, but when you catch them at the right time… And then for anybody, it’s a game of numbers. If you’re looking for help, reach out to as many people as possible. Someone’s going to say yes.

Stephanie:

Yup, I agree. So, the one area that we sometimes neglect on this show is B2B commerce, because of course, everyone’s focused on B2C. But I saw that you put out a list of tips for B2B ecommerce companies. I was hoping you could walk through, what are you guys seeing for B2B companies? Do you work with B2B companies? How are you advising and marketing for them right now?

Erik:

Yeah, I mean, in the nutshell, B2B marketing is actually very similar to B2C, except for the end goal with B2C is a transaction. B2B generally is to drive a qualified lead, but you’re still marketing to an individual. That’s the part that I think people really forget. When I’m marketing to B2B, I’m not marketing to a business. I’m marketing to the decision maker at that business. So, it’s still a person. So, instead of marketing to someone that likes dogs and biking, I’m marketing to someone that has this title at this type of company, who’s a marketing manager at a Fortune 500, whatever it is. So, it’s just a different targeting methodology.

Erik:

And then the way you position the company is still value proposition. You still want to get an emotional reaction. That doesn’t mean like go crazy with it. So, don’t take that too verbatim, but people justify emotion with logic. So, if you can hit the emotional reptilian side of the brain and get with any type of marketing and get them to feel like you’re going to do something for them, that’s the best way to get someone. So, Hawke Media is all B2B obviously. We don’t use it that much now, but we’re about to ramp it back up. Have you seen our commercial with the lemonade stand?

Stephanie:

No.

Erik:

Super fun. We filmed this less than a year into business, I think. I sat with my business partner. Again, we’re marketing to business owners. That was our main target. They were like, “What do people like?” I’m like, “Puppies and kids.” It was just when GoDaddy got banned from the Super Bowl for putting a puppy mill as a joke commercial. I was like, “No, let’s not do that. So, let’s go with kids.” So, we basically created the commercial about a bunch of kids in a really corporate office.

Erik:

But when I say kids, eight, nine year old’s running around, skateboarding, throwing paper airplanes, freaking out. The owner, this little blonde girl going like, “I can’t take this. Who’s handling our Facebook ads? Who’s doing this?”, and just freaking out. And then we come in and we got you. I was in the commercial too. We explained that. It shows them at the end, a bunch of kids making it rain with cash and dancing and having fun.

Stephanie:

That’s cute.

Erik:

It was fun. It got people’s attention, but the whole point was, “We got you. I know you’re freaking out, but we’re not and we got you.” That’s how it came off. That emotional connection, even though we’re talking about B2B, which you’d think is super logical. How much do you cost? How much money you’re going to make me? No. Why people hire us, the logic reason is bandwidth’s our expertise. The emotional reason is, “Please someone just handle this. I don’t know what’s going on here. I just want to grow and I need someone to take it off my plate,” or “I don’t know what I’m doing.” We need someone to just come in calmly and help us.

Erik:

Understanding that in B2B is super important, because then everything you do with positioning yourself is like, “We’re here. We got you. We know what we’re doing.” You can sleep easy at night is our positioning. Now, you change that. And then how you execute on that, same channels, Facebook, search, email marketing, press, all the things we use for our clients, creating your own content is the stuff we use for ourselves.

Erik:

I’d say any marketing is aspirational. Not meaning I aspire to be like something great, but more like, “I’m currently at this state, and I want to be here.” It’s as simple as my socks have holes in them. I want comfortable socks and you go buy socks. This aspiration doesn’t have to be something groundbreaking. So, understanding that you need to position yourself as that aspiration, the solution to getting the person from where they are to where they want to be, no matter what you’re selling, B2C, B2B, is the most important part.

Stephanie:

That’s really good. Yeah, I mean, I think about the ads to B2B and they’re so lame. A lot of times, they make things so corporate. It’s like, “I’m pretty sure any corporate citizen will not want to watch another corporate style ad.” They want something new and different and love to just connect with the person. Even if it’s a title that you’re connecting with, there’s someone behind that title. If you wouldn’t like it, they probably won’t either.

Erik:

Yes, exactly. That’s been the awesome thing about Hawke and its marketing specifically is I’m the customer, literally, who would be buying from us. That’s why I created it. So, I get to make things that I didn’t want to see. You just nailed it. I hate the boring, stodgy, men and women in suits. We’ve been trusted for 25 years. Who cares? That’s not why I’m hiring you.

Stephanie:

It’s like the stock photography, where you go on there. It’s like all these people in offices and business suits. I’m like, “Who’s buying this stock photography? This is horrible.”

Erik:

My favorite, I used it again recently. So, that’s why it reminded me. Remember that photo shoot they did with the baboon doing stock photos in an office. I just found it. My brother-in-law asked me what I was up to this weekend, I sent him the baboon banging on the keyboard. I’m like, “Just working.” That was a great shoot. That was so perfect. Yet so many people did not get the point of that, which is this is ridiculous. Why are we taking office stock photos?

Stephanie:

Yeah, yeah, that’s funny, but I mean, a lot of people use them for a while. I guess it worked for probably a solid week, and then everyone realized it’s not working anymore.

Erik:

No, no, a lot of people still use the office photos. Listen, that’s not going to be the only driver of your business. You don’t have to be perfect in marketing. If you have a good product or service, marketing helps, but it’s not critical. So, a lot of people get away with really bad marketing and still have a really good business.

Stephanie:

Yeah, the one theme that I’ve heard from quite a few people on the show is that the organic videos and natural things are all performing way better than stock photography or anything that seems like it was built out of the box. Are you seeing that as well?

Erik:

It depends. It depends on what type of product it is. If it’s a product that needs a lot of trust, you need production value. Meaning, a supplement or something that people are looking to solve a problem. They don’t want to see that you threw something together. If it’s like fashion or lifestyle products that people aren’t really worried, you can get away with that a lot more.

Stephanie:

Yeah, I like that. So, one other thing, I don’t know how much do you guys experiment with TV, because I was listening to a good episode. I forgot what podcast it was, but I think it was Gary Vaynerchuk, where he was essentially saying, “All TV is dead except for Super Bowl ads.” That’s the only ads that actually work. Every other TV commercial, they don’t work anymore. They’re dead.

Erik:

Gary’s a friend and I think he has nailed what he’s doing. He’s a super bright guy, but I think a lot of times, he speaks in hyperbola. Nobody ever gets held to these big grandiose claims. I called a friend out for claiming that Bitcoin will be at 50 grand by Sunday. And then Sunday came around, I screenshot it and I sent it back. I’m like, “What the hell, man?” He’s like, “Whatever, it’ll happen in the next month.” It’s a habit that a lot of people got into, making these giant claims. I’ll be real, TV does work. You got to buy it, right? Yeah, we do some TV, some radio. It’s not a big part of our business. I’m not trying to hype it up.

Erik:

But once you have an amazing funnel and you really know who your customer is and you’re really good at nurturing leads… Meaning, not just letting them come to your site and hopefully, they buy, but capturing email, capturing their phone number to text them and follow up and really nursing them. Again, you know your audience and you know your messaging. So, you know how to attract your audience and get them to buy. TV is still one of the cheapest places to get a 30-second impression from a massive audience. So, both TV and radio are still very viable options as you scale, but you can do a lot of digital before you have to go there.

Stephanie:

Yeah, yeah. Yeah, I agree. We had one of our podcasts aired on radio. They took it and turned into a one-hour special for Veterans Day. It’s called The Story. Some people were like, “Radio is dead. Why would you want radio?” I’m like, “Do you know how many people still listen to radio?” Actually, it’s still very legit if you can get on radio. I mean, it’s huge.

Erik:

Most people are sitting in their car. They’re not going anywhere. They’re not changing the station either, because, frankly, there’s not that many options. You can get a lot of people that are doing nothing. The hard part is to get them to remember things, but it works. We’ve had a lot of luck, especially event sales. When we’re doing big events like TED and stuff like that and trying to sell tickets, DutyCon was a good one, radio works really well.

Stephanie:

Yup. Yeah, like you said, getting that CTA, where it’s not something that’s distracting or they crash, but seriously, going by what I just talked about.

Erik:

Yeah, exactly.

Stephanie:

All right, only couple minutes left. Let’s move over to the lightning round. The lightning round is brought to you by Salesforce Commerce Cloud. This is where I’m going to ask you a question and you have a minute or less to answer. Are you ready?

Erik:

I’m ready.

Stephanie:

All right. What’s up next on your podcast list?

Erik:

Who is or what?

Stephanie:

Either, who or what? What are you listening to?

Erik:

Oh, well, we have our own. So, who would be Rachel Zoe.

Stephanie:

You have her coming up?

Erik:

Yeah, we’ve worked with her for years. She’s awesome. Yeah, so that’s the next one. And then after that is Rob Dyrdek, I think. I want to get more into How I Built This. He’s awesome. I just think that that’s always an interesting story. My podcast is more about their life story. His is really about how they built their company. So, I like the life story too. My podcast was I wish someone did this. So, I’m just going to do it and hit up cool people and find out how they got where they are. Yeah, so my podcast is Hawke Talk.

Stephanie:

Awesome. Yeah, I will be checking it out. What’s up next on your reading list?

Erik:

Whatever my business partner assigns me. I am not a voracious reader, and my partner is. So, he’s decided-

Stephanie:

He assigns it to you?

Erik:

He’s decided as of last month that he’s going to give the executive team including me a book a month that he wants us to read and be on the same page on. I’m all about it, because I don’t have any motivation on my own to really do it. I’ll pick up a book now and then probably a couple a year. Most of the time, I end up listening to it on Audible. I’ll buy the book. I buy all my friends’ books. My wife rolls her eyes every time. I got to support, but I don’t read any of them. Sorry, guys. We’re coming out with our own book towards the end of the year called The Hawke Method. It’s how we grow companies, basically.

Stephanie:

That’s awesome. I love that. What one thing do you not understand today that you wish you did?

Erik:

I wish I understood the public markets more. I’ve put money in it now and started to try to learn it, but I’ve surface level things I understand. But when we started getting into derivatives and the complicated side of finance, I’m still not completely clear. I’ve also shied away in some ways, but I think when you overcomplicate it, it’s too complicated for everyone. That’s when we get into the housing crisis and things like that, but I also would love to understand it so that I can call bullshit on it sometimes, because I realized in my entire career, no one’s that smart. If it’s complicated, it’s probably a problem.

Stephanie:

Yup, that’s a good one. What favorite piece of tech are you enjoying right now? It can be new or something you’ve used for a long time. It can be an app or anything.

Erik:

Yeah, I will say the one that surprised me the most is the Oculus, because I’ve been a naysayer of VR. I’m like, “VR is too isolating. It’s stupid, blah, blah, blah.” But once I got one and I ended up helping an organization called YPO do an event with Oculus and got one, and I’m like, “Oh, wow, no, this is interesting.” There’s actually something to VR and the experience you can have. Most people can only use it for 45 minutes at a time, but I think it’s really cool. I think there’s something coming down the pike with that that I think will be really cool.

Stephanie:

Yup, yeah, we wrote a 2021 Trends Report. That was something I’m keeping an eye on is how to use that when it comes to not only following influencers, but shopping from feeds and watching live events, but also being able to get it while watching it and stuff. I think there’s a little work to be done, like you said. I know a lot of people especially myself still get dizzy and not feeling very good after, for me, 10 minutes, but it seems like once that gets a bit better, there’s a lot of opportunity, especially for ecommerce companies if they can figure out how to make it an event and something fun that people want to attend.

Stephanie:

Plus, also, it’s like The Container Store in Netflix series. You want to buy with the Netflix series ad, even though they don’t really slap you over the head with Container Store stuff, but you’re like, “But I need that specific box to put my scarves in.”

Erik:

Yes, exactly. No, I think that’s exactly it is. The business model needs to be fixed around the content for VR, because it’s just not good enough yet to track enough content and things to do. But once that turns into a much more prolific platform, I think that you’ll see it hockey stick quick.

Stephanie:

Yup. All right, last one, what is the nicest thing someone has ever done for you?

Erik:

Oh, I have to think of a nice thing, because I feel like if I’m going to say the nicest, it’s going to be…

Stephanie:

Or you can say the meanest too. You’re like, “Oh, this person was really mean to me.”

Erik:

I had a business partner that really screwed me up, but I don’t need to give it any credence. Not my term.

Stephanie:

Nicest then.

Erik:

I’m trying to think of nicest. I mean, the fortunate thing is many, many people have done a lot of nice things for me. A lot of people taking bets on me before I had any reason to deserve them. My parents were always great to me. My wife’s great to me. I’m surrounded by people that do nice things for me. So, I will say a nice thing that stands out that I never give enough credence to is when I graduated college, I went into real estate a week before the whole banking industry collapsed. I made $350 that year.

Erik:

Six months in, a friend of mine’s dad called me. I was a guitarist growing up. My drummer in my band’s dad called me and said, “Hey, I’ve been watching you. You seem to be like a young, aspiring entrepreneur. I like your grind and your spirit here. I want to help people like my son, who is still pursuing music, figure out how to do the business side of things. So, they can actually at least make a living being a musician. I think there’s a thing we could do here.” I spent a couple months putting a business plan together, showed it to him. He not quite disappeared but went MIA for three months.

Erik:

Called me July of 2009 and said, “Hey, I’m putting in a quarter million dollars. I think I can raise this another $750,000. You’re going to run it. Let’s go.” That became my first online company. So, that guy put in his own quarter million dollars, got his friends to put in $750,000 million invested in an online music company in 2009. And then put me in charge of it, gave me 5% of the company and paid me minimum wage, which I was grinding.

Erik:

It was a bet. Don’t be wrong. It could have really worked out for him, but I also think of that as that guy set me up as an entrepreneur in a lot of ways too. I don’t know what I would have been doing without that opportunity. I’d probably still have grinded through real estate unless something else popped up for something. That put me into digital. That did a lot of things for me. I’m still in touch with them, but that was a big one.

Stephanie:

That’s a good story. I’m glad I asked. Yeah, that’s really good. Cool. Well, Erik, this has been a very fun interview. I want to bring you back for another round in the future to hear how 2021 is going. Where can people find out more about you and Hawke Media?

Erik:

Definitely, Clubhouse.

Stephanie:

I’ll see you there.

Erik:

Yeah, [inaudible 00:46:40]/erikhuberman on any social platform’s fine. And then Hawke Media, if you ever want to reach out, is just hawkemedia.com. We do free consultations. Always happy to help.

Stephanie:

Cool. All right. Thanks so much for joining us.

Erik:

Yeah. Thanks for having me.

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