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Benjamin : Welcome back to the MarTech Podcast. This podcast is sponsored by Searchmetrics. Searchmetrics sets the standard for innovation in the content and search engine optimization industries. They support businesses who care about understanding both how to use content as a marketing channel and how to improve their organic rankings in Google. If you're an enterprise level marketer, the Searchmetrics suite of software and services will help you optimize your existing content, understand what topics you need to write about next, and ensure that your writers produce effective posts. There are billions of Google searches happening every day, and Searchmetrics helps get your stories to the top.
Benjamin: Okay, today we're going to hear from an expert in the paid social advertising space. Timothy Brown is the paid customer acquisition lead at Huckberry, an online magazine and men's fashion retailer. Huckberry has gone from a bootstrap startup to become an innovator in the digital commerce space. In this episode, Tim is going to walk us through some of the analysis and advertising strategies that he implements to promote the Huckberry brand. Here's our interview with Timothy Brown from Huckberry. Tim, thanks for joining us.
Timothy: Yeah, thanks for having me.
Benjamin: Of course. Let's start off. Tell us a little bit about what your company does and what's your role.
Timothy: Huckberry is a e-commerce retailer that sells men's apparel and outdoor gear. We sort of describe ourselves as part blog, part magazine. We sell a lot of things that are geared towards the outdoor lifestyle sort of segment, and our primary market is men, but we do carry some women's stuff.
Benjamin: Tell me a little bit about your role at Huckberry.
Timothy: I've been here about two and a half years. When I came in, I was the first paid marketing hire coming on to the team. The goal for me was to really sort of prove out that paid marketing and paid acquisition could be a profitable channel for the company. I came in doing a little bit of Facebook marketing, a little bit of Google, but we found really quickly that Facebook was a big opportunity. It had a lot of sort of low-hanging fruit, so we sort of doubled down there. That's where I spent a lot of my time. Over the past two and a half years, we've started to build a team underneath me. Now I'm overseeing all the performance marketing channels, so everything from Facebook and Instagram to Google Search, Shopping, and Display. I oversee a little bit of the catalog stuff that we do, more so on the logistics and distribution side, as well as the affiliate marketing program that we run here.
Benjamin: Where were the marketing channels before you arrived? How was the company driving growth?
Timothy: The company for four years prior to me coming here really built its name on the affiliate marketing program, which is if you're unfamiliar, affiliate marketing is essentially we work with publishers and small blogs in our space. We work with everybody from Outside Magazine all the way to Conde Nast, GQ, some of the bigger publishers in the space. But four or five years ago when Huckberry was just starting, they had an ambassador program where they would work with influencers in the space, trying to find anybody that was fitting to the outdoor lifestyle brand and just trying to work with them, do collaborations, get photos, send them gear, really get them to put the name out. This is sort of when influencer marketing was really starting to take off, and we were sort of at the forefront of that.
Timothy: We moved into the affiliate game where we work with a publisher. They will review or post products on their site or on their blog. When somebody clicks through, if they make a sale within a certain amount of time, that publisher gets a commission off of that. We started working with small blogs, sort of owning the space of the outdoor lifestyle market, and eventually started moving into other verticals, like fashion, everyday carry, and more recently, we've been doing a lot more home products, so working with affiliates like Dwell and Apartment Therapy.
Benjamin: How do you think about what the company's brand is, and how does that impact what you're doing on the digital advertising side?
Timothy: Our core mission at Huckberry is to inspire and equip more active, adventurous, and stylish lives. We do that in a number of different ways. We do that through content. We do that through not just pushing product at people. Every product that goes on the site is very curated. A lot of different people at the company will test these products before they ever go up on the site. When our editorial team and our buying team is positioning these products, they think about how the Huckberry customer would use this in their everyday life and just sort of how it fits naturally. We don't want to sell you something that you don't need or that you don't want, but we do want to inspire people to take action.
Timothy: Our core market, the way we describe it is people that live in the city, but live for the outdoors. We try to use that in every aspect of the company, so when we're doing discovery for new products, those are the types of products that we're looking for for that type of person. That translates into every piece of our marketing funnel. When we're doing high-level brand campaigns, it's usually more aspirational, inspirational. We're trying to introduce people to the brand and let them know that we are a place for discovery, and a place that they can come and find new products, cool products, the exciting products that would fit naturally into their everyday lives. Then when it gets down to like [inaudible 00:06:21] stuff, we can target people who we know are interested in certain products, certain categories. Maybe they've bought a certain product on our site, and we know that that's sort of the category that they live in and that they're looking for from us. We can start to show them new and exciting products within that same category.
Benjamin: You're describing to us a little bit of the merchandising strategy and that the company is sort of very focused on product curation. It seems like you have a wide breadth of products, and obviously quality is very important. How do you think about customer segmentation?
Timothy: Sure. We actually segment on a lot of different variables. We try to build personas based on the different verticals that we sell. There is sort of the tactical guy that has maybe a military background, and they buy a lot of everyday carry. They buy pocket knives and flashlights and that type of product, whereas the home person is maybe a little less tactical and they're a little more homebody. Maybe they're a little more stylish. They're kind of like the GQ guy. One thing we found that was interesting was there was a lot of overlap when we first started running this analysis a few years ago. As we've gotten bigger, as we've done a little more acquisition outside of our core customer, we've found that there are sort of quintessential products that the outdoor guy will purchase versus the everyday carry, and then there's the different products that are sort of fitting for almost any category.
Benjamin: How do you go about conducting that type of analysis?
Timothy: What we did is we started looking at everybody that activated on a specific category. We looked at everybody that activated on footwear and everybody that activated on everyday carry versus outdoor and home. We looked at, what is the next category that they purchased? Setting it up was pretty simple, but the takeaways were pretty big. What we found was somebody that activates on footwear, there's a 50% chance that they're going to buy footwear again on their second order. The same held true for almost every single category.
Timothy: The reasoning behind that we don't know exactly, but a couple things we've thrown around is if you come to Huckberry and buy a pair of boots, and you get them, and they fit, and everything goes well, the next time you're looking for a pair of boots, your first instinct is to look back to where you bought your last pair of boots. But if you didn't buy a tent from us and you bought boots, you're not going to think instinctively to come for us for outdoor. It's not where your mindset is for the company.
Timothy: That leads us to a whole slew of different strategies that we can implement across the board. Now we can start to say, okay, if somebody activated on footwear and they haven't purchased again within two to three months, we can start to show them footwear ads on Facebook. We can start to put footwear at the top of the emails that they receive. We can start to sort of guide them or show them content towards that specific category. This has implications for personalization on the website. If we ever get to that point, we can start to rearrange products on the site to where recommended products for you are more footwear gear.
Timothy: What we also found was a little even more interesting was over time, it didn't even matter what category you purchased from. By your fifth purchase, everybody was skewed heavily towards clothing. It felt like over time people were starting to buy more staples on the website, which is great, because there's probably better margin there. It leads us to believe that we can use some of these other categories and sort of unique products from footwear or from our outdoor category, we can use those for acquisition and get people sort of ingrained in the Huckberry life cycle, and then over time shift them to the staples that we'll naturally carry more of, which is clothing.
Benjamin: That's interesting. Obviously, e-commerce, clothing, it's a crowded space. There's a variety of other sort of verticalized men's fashion. There's Chubbies for shorts, and there's the Hari Mari, I think, for flip flops. There's these brands that are coming up that are really picking off specific products. Huckberry tends to be very broad and have a collection of outstanding products, but they're pretty diverse. How do you think about differentiation within the men's fashion space?
Timothy: Differentiation is key for any business in general, not just e-commerce, but specifically for us, you bring up Hari Mari or Patagonia or REI. We do have to compete with some of these guys, but more importantly, we are competing with Amazon, as is every retailer. A couple differentiators that we have as a brand, by nature we are storytellers. If you were to ever receive our email or look at the products on the site, one thing we do really well is we tell the stories of these brands. We do not just push product at people. A lot of newsletters that I follow from other e-commerce companies or even websites, including Amazon, when you go there, it's very fact-based information that you receive. It's not really telling you the story. It's not telling you how this fits in your life or why you would actually need this particular product. That's one thing that we do really well.
Timothy: The other sort of big differentiators for us is going to be anything that we can do to be exclusive or have some sort of better deal. Our buying team is working on negotiations for some sort of window to have a discount on a particular product. We collaborate with brands to create exclusive colorways or exclusive products that you can't find anywhere else. That's how we can sort of outrun Amazon, where they will have almost every product we sell at a certain point, but if we can get it first, then we become the exclusive online retailer. We work with brands that are outside of the US, and we try to bring them into the US and become the exclusive US retailer.
Timothy: The other thing is just exclusive in terms of private label. This is something that I think a lot of other retailers are moving into. Target's been doing this for a long time. They have designers that develop clothing for them, and they have exclusive clothes. We're sort of moving into that private label space where, sure, you can get 80% of the products on our site, but 20% of them are exclusive to us. If that proves out to be a successful strategy, it could very well be an easy strategy to shift towards in the future.
Benjamin: Let's shift the conversation a little bit, because we're talking very much about sort of the high-level Huckberry brand. You're a customer acquisition expert. Tell me a little bit about what the strategy is for acquiring customers using paid channel at Huckberry.
Timothy: At a high level, the strategy is to develop the channel into a profitable acquisition machine. What I mean by that is essentially using some sort of data model that proves out that we can acquire customers profitably. The way we do that is we essentially look at our return on this ad spend over a certain amount of time, and make sure that we're returning enough money to not only cover the spend of the ad, but actually the other costs that are required with every sale. This strategy is using content product and a lot of inspirational photos and great content that we put out to get people in the front door and ultimately to convert them as fast as possible. That's the goal for almost any e-commerce company.
Benjamin: Of course. You mentioned that, A, you focus very much on the unit economics of an ad, and you're measuring your ROI almost in real time. How long are you waiting to evaluate whether a campaign is successful? Tell me about the types of ads and what you've learned about the difference between your product listing ads, your content ads. How do you promote your organic feed?
Timothy: There's so many pieces of actual ads that we use. We could start from the beginning, and just sort of run through the process of how we evaluate success and how we determine early success. If we were to watch an ad on Facebook, what we would do is we would want to maybe test a few different images. What we've found is that images is one of the biggest determinants of success. If you find the right image, it's more important than the copy, because the image itself has what we call thumb stopping power. As somebody's scrolling through their feed quickly on their phone, if we can find an image that gets you to stop and take a second look and scroll backwards, that's extremely valuable. The copy and the call to action on there needs to be relevant and entice the click even further, but the image is what we found to be the most important factor.
Timothy: When we're creating a campaign for any particular product, what we'll do is we'll decide on a few different audiences to test. We do a mix of interest-based audiences. We've tested geo-targeting, and we use lookalikes and retargeting as well. We'll use these audiences, and we'll test maybe four or five different images. We'll just let it run for 24 to 48 hours. The very first indicator is click-through rate. If people aren't clicking through, we know that there's something wrong. People aren't stopping. They're not clicking through. We're not creating demand. We're not finding the right people, or it's the wrong imagery, or just something is wrong with the ad itself. We typically see 1.5% click-through rate is pretty decent. Anything over two is really solid, and anything under 1% is something that we'll look at heavily. That's sort of the first determinant. Then we will cull out the images that are underperforming. If there's something with a .5% click-through rate, we will cull it as fast as possible.
Timothy: Then we start looking at which particular ad sets the audiences are working. Which ones have the highest click-through rate? Did we get any orders? Did we have any revenue from this? Are we collecting email signups? The email signup is interesting for us, because we know that we convert a heavy amount of email signups through our newsletter. If we're not making the immediate return on ad spend that we expect from a campaign, if it's still collecting emails pretty cheaply, we'll still run with it as long as we look on the back end and see that those folks are converting within a few weeks.
Benjamin: Essentially, the vast majority of what you're doing is image-driven. What's the balance of promoting content as opposed to promoting product?
Timothy: When I first started, we only promoted products. To this day, it's still heavily, heavily product performance-based marketing, but we are shifting into more content-focused and more high-level brand-focused advertising. We still do a lot of product-focused ads to try and drive acquisition, but we use content heavily as a big retention strategy. Once we have you on our email list, or once we have you as a customer, what we'll do is for a few weeks, we'll show you our organic feed. We'll boost cool images or the journal, which is our blog. We'll boost content to you and just try and keep you engaged in between sales, because we know that people don't buy every day. A lot of people don't even buy every quarter.
Timothy: What we try to do is just keep people engaged in between big sales cycles. Then when we have a big product launch or a big sale or some sort of big opportunity that we really want to chase after, that's when we start to use those retention audiences to push product at them. We've started to take that same concept not just within retention, but we're trying to sort of implement that across that board. That way, by the time somebody sees a product ad from Huckberry on Facebook [inaudible 00:17:50], it's not the first time they've ever heard about us.
Benjamin: Essentially, you're using your content to pre-market products to build a brand impression, and then when you have essentially a event that you want heavy promotion for, you've already sort of warmed the customer up.
Timothy: Right. That allows us to see sort of what type of content, what type of products or categories they'd be interested in. If we show six pieces of content, each one that's focused on a different category or vertical that we carry, and we see the same person always clicking into an everyday carry type of content, we can then start to think about, "Okay, great, let's segment this guy out." He falls into a specific bucket that we can then put him into a flow where we're showing content. We're trying to get him on our Facebook page. We're trying to get these sort of micro buy-ins, right? Just read our blog. Just like us on Facebook. Just follow our email. Sign up for the newsletter. Then eventually as we nurture them, we can eventually convert them into a customer.
Benjamin: Talk to me about your bidding strategy, because I understand the philosophy behind marketing to someone without asking them to buy the physical product. I'm curious to know how you think about investing in building those customer relationships, and how do you evaluate them prior to showing the product promotion ads, which is really your revenue hammer?
Timothy: I feel like a lot of that is going to come down to retargeting. We will do giant acquisition audiences. We'll find big interest-based audiences. We'll find big lookalikes. You can make lookalikes based on anything you want. We can make a lookalike based on every single person that hit a particular boot page, which we do constantly. It's like one of our main strategies. We can also just make a lookalike based on anybody that's read a certain piece of content that we have. If we have an article that's all about minimalist wallets, we can make a lookalike based on everybody that's read that article, cast a wide net, see if other people are interested in that article, see if we can drive a click. If they do, then we can start to sort of retarget them with different content that's either relevant, or try to test other categories to see if they're interested in other verticals. If not, then we can start to show them the products that were maybe featured in that article.
Timothy: There's a couple different ways that we produce content and we distribute it. Some of the content that we have is inspirational, people hiking or doing sort of these really cool, unique adventures. There's usually some sort of product in it. It's never the focus. The focus is sort of the activity or the events that's going on. If somebody's reading all of our travel articles or all of our articles about how to clean your leather boots, well, we know that that type of person is different than the guy watching videos that are about boot camp or something.
Benjamin: My guess is that you're running a bunch of different ad groups, like a ton of them, at a time. Am I right, and if so, how do you keep track of all of that?
Timothy: You are absolutely right. How do we keep track of it is a challenge. That's one of the biggest challenges we've been facing actually over the past couple months. I personally was running all of our Facebook ads for about two years. Late last year, we actually hired somebody to come in and take over Facebook specifically to do just that. They spend, call it, 80% of their time in the Ads Manager. We're still, I think, at a place where we do everything manually. I'm not sure that we're in a place where we would need an automated tool, but we've come up with a couple ideas if we could find a tool that would automate some of these things, would make our lives easier. Facebook does have some of the automation that we would want out of a specific tool or an agency, and it's really more about the tiny optimizations.
Timothy: Running a lot of different ad sets is difficult, only because you have to go in and find which ones are working. You have to go in and cull out images, and you have to go check comments on these ads. You got to make sure that they're performing the way they should be overall, but also diving really granular and seeing, is there an opportunity to cull out a specific age group, or is women performing better than men on this particular ad group, and if so, why and how do we take advantage of that? It's a lot of tiny, tiny tweaks. That's sort of like who you want running a digital channel, is somebody that sort of nerds out on making these tiny optimizations and seeing how it affects the larger picture.
Benjamin: Okay. That wraps up this episode of the MarTech Podcast. Thanks to Timothy Brown for joining us. In part two of this interview, which we'll publish later this week, Tim is going to talk us through what it takes to launch, evaluate, and scale a successful social advertising campaign. If you can't wait until our next episode and you'd like to learn more about Huckberry, you can go to huckberry.com. A special thanks to Searchmetrics for sponsoring this podcast. If you're looking to grow your online presence, go to searchmetrics.com to request your free tour of their platform. If you'd like to read the transcript of this podcast, we've published it on our website, martechpod.com.
Benjamin: If you're a subscriber to the MarTech Podcast, thank you. We want you to feel like a member of our community, so if you have any questions, comments, or if you'd like to be a guest on our show, feel free to reach out to me directly at firstname.lastname@example.org, or on LinkedIn or Twitter. Our handle is @benjshapllc. If you haven't subscribed yet and you want a weekly stream of marketing and technology knowledge in your podcast feed, in addition to part two of our episode with Timothy Brown from Huckberry, we've got some great episodes lined up for you in the next few weeks. If you're interested in learning about product search ads, growth hacking, and B2B marketing, hit that subscribe button in your podcast feed. Okay, that's all for today, but until next time, my advice is to just focus on keeping your customers happy.
Benjamin: Welcome back to the MarTech Podcast. This podcast is sponsored by Searchmetrics. Searchmetrics sets the standard for innovation in the content and search engine optimization industries. They support businesses who care about understanding both how to use content as a marketing channel, and how to improve their organic rankings in Google.
Benjamin: If you're an enterprise level marketer, the Searchmetrics suite of software and services will help you optimize your existing content, understand what topics you need to write about next, and insure that your writers produced effective posts.
Benjamin: There are billions of Google searches happening every day, and Searchmetrics helps get your stories to the top.
Benjamin: Today, we're going to hear part two of our interview with an expert in paid social advertising. Timothy Brown is the customer acquisition lead at Huckberry; an online magazine and men's fashion retailer.
Benjamin: Huckberry has gone from a bootstrap start-up to becoming an innovator in the digital commerce space. And in our last episode, Tim walked us through some of the analysis and advertising strategy that he uses to promote the Huckberry brand. If you missed that episode, I highly recommend that you give it a listen.
Benjamin: That said, in this episode, Tim is gonna walk us through what it takes to launch, evaluate, and scale a successful social advertising campaign. Here is the second part of our interview with Timothy Brown from Huckberry.
Benjamin: Two comments. One, I've always said that paid acquisition is a young man's game. It's a lot of micro optimizations and a lot of variables. So, it's hard to separate yourself from the operational detail level and think about larger strategic things which is why, in my opinion, you see a lot of people who are relatively young that excel at being an operator in these channels. The second thing is, people ask me as part of my consulting business how much do I need to invest to understand whether a paid performance channel works for me and how long does it take?
Benjamin: I have a philosophy; I would love to hear yours. How much budget do they need, how much time should they allocate, and how long do they have to wait to be able to know whether the channel is optimized and effective?
Timothy: I'll definitely comment on your first point here that acquisition and sort of digital marketing is a young man's game. I think it's true. People my age sort of grew up with Facebook and Instagram. And I think it's a lot of contextual sort of knowledge. It's understanding the user psych behind, "Okay, if I'm going to [inaudible 00:03:25], what am I looking for? What placements are gonna work? What imagery is gonna work for this particular audience?" Whereas I think a lot of younger people have a hard time either buying into or understanding why TV, or radio, or billboards are important.
Timothy: So, to get to that point, you look at a company and see; are they doing a lot of high level brand strategy? Or are they really dabbing into digital marketing and sort of these channels that you can optimize and tweak at extreme levels. And it really comes back to the marketer, or sort of whoever is leading the charge on that team, and sort of their background.
Benjamin: Absolutely. And on some level I segment marketing strategy and growth strategy, where people are thinking about data driven micro optimizations, and that leads them to one direction. And that's a growth focus, as opposed to having an identity foundation and building that way and sort of using a top down approach to then drive your growth strategy.
Benjamin: I think that Huckberry actually started off with a great sense of brand identity, and then has shifted towards the digital growth strategy. And I think it's one of the best examples of a company that truly understands who they are, and has a brand mission and message, and that has been able to apply that in a digital marketing driven growth strategy.
Timothy: Yeah, that's interesting. Just going back to the background of the founders. Rich and Andy are founders here. They both came from investment banking backgrounds, so they were both in very similar fields. And when they started Huckberry, Andy decided that he was going to be sort of the creative head. And he started taking a bunch of Photoshop classes, and reading user psych books, and just really trying to get into the mindset of how to build a brand; how to do creative right, and how to sort of understand the customer, and speak to the customer, and not speak at the customer.
Timothy: And over time, when I got here two and a half years ago, I was probably one of the top two or three most analytical people in the entire company. And that's neither good or bad. But the reality was I think over time, over the first four or five years, just by nature of the hiring process and who they brought on to the team, they were heavily over-indexed in creative folks, and there wasn't a lot of people that were forcing others to look at the data and see what their creative decisions were sort of leading to. And I think for a lot of young companies, that works really well up to a certain point.
Timothy: So yes, they developed an amazing brand identity. They knew how to talk to people in a great voice and got the email going, which is still one of our strongest channels. And now the big opportunity is we have to be able to get in front of the right people, and we have to do it at the right time, the right place. And as we get bigger and bigger, that becomes harder and harder when we're talking to people that are really outside the core.
Timothy: But I will say that joining a company who already has an extremely strong brand identity and a real core value prop, it makes my life really easy from a performance marking standpoint, when I can almost put up anything on Facebook and it'll do well just because when they come to the site, they do have a great experience across the entire brand.
Benjamin: At the end of the day, you need both to continue to grow. You can only grow so much and optimize paid channels to an extent and there are only so many ways you can expand to new channels. And on the flip side, a wonderful brand and a well articulated purpose; you know, the rubber doesn't meet the road unless there is a channel that stays in front of the customers with the right message at the right time.
Benjamin: So, I think we're both saying the same thing. I do wanna get your opinion about how to evaluate paid marketing channels. What's the rule of thumb for you when you're starting a new channel?
Timothy: In terms of the budget, when I first started here at Huckberry, we were trying to prove out that any paid channel would work. So, it started with Facebook; you can spend five dollars a day as a minimum. And I know I have friends and influences that I follow who run blogs, and that's what spend; they spend five, ten dollars, twenty dollars a day. And that's all they need to get the growth that they're sort of expecting. The reason they have a smaller budget is because there's probably longer life cycles and they're relying on ad revenue, so it's all about traffic, and there's sort of different goals there.
Timothy: But now that we're starting to dive into other channels, whether it be podcasting, or going deeper into Google, our initial testing budget is much, much bigger. We know that certain strategies will work across both channels, so we've sort of adopted the 'bottoms up' approach for our performance based channels. So, when we dive into Google, the first thing we do is set up bottom of the funnel. So, cart abandonment campaigns, and then maybe people that need products a couple time, and then anybody that's visited the site. And then we start to move further and further up the funnel, starting to do some acquisition and retargeting at a very high level.
Timothy: So, we start by optimizing the bottom. Because I think kind of like the 'leaky bucket' idea. If we don't have our optimization and our funnels sort of tightened up at the bottom, it doesn't matter how much traffic we drive if we're not able to take advantage of the fact that they visited a certain product or a category, and we're not retargeting them or hitting them when we need to; when they're showing high intent.
Timothy: So, in terms of a testing budget, when we run any new campaign on Facebook, and I've talked to other marketing professionals who say they run maybe a thousand or two thousand dollars in the first day or two on a new campaign, and we are not that foolish. We have thousands of products on the site, so we're very conservative in testing a new campaign for products. So we'll spend maybe 30-50 dollars per asset just to test it for a day or two; just to see if we can get some initial traffic, just to get some initial engagement on the post. And as things start to do well and get a couple orders coming in, the return on ad spend is there, it's a profitable campaign, you can start to scale slowly.
Timothy: And eventually, some campaigns have their life cycles where you basically saturate the entire audience that you're talking to, and you have to kill the campaign. You have to [inaudible 00:09:36] find a new audience, you have to put a different creative.
Timothy: So, the other side of that is some campaigns can live for a very long time. So, we've put up a campaign for product called GrowlerWerks, and we used a video. And all we did was talk about the different features of the product; very very basic, but we started to get little bit of engagement on it, and as we got more views and more likes and more comments and more shares, that social proof is there, and people start to feed off each other.
Timothy: So, at that point we were able to scale, and the comments continued to flood, people were tagging each other, saying, "You gotta buy this for Christmas for me. You gotta buy it for your dad, your uncle", whatever it may be, and that's scalable.
Timothy: But again, even that campaign eventually took a downturn. And back to the young man's game; you have to be watching it daily. We like to say, "Digital marketing; it's sorta like day trading attention." And we have to be ready for when people stop paying attention. Because you can scale a campaign to where you're spending two, three thousand dollars a day and things are going well. And overnight something happens, and all of the sudden, you're spending two to three grand a day, and you're getting zero dollars in revenue back.
Benjamin: I love the day trading metaphor, that's brilliant. The rule of thumb that I say is; ten grand for three months, and you'll have the channel as optimized as you're going to get it, as long as you're paying attention.
Timothy: Yeah, no, I completely agree. And that was sort of the way I found my way into Huckberry. They actually gave me a five week trial to come prove myself and prove that we could make a profitable channel out of Facebook. And my second week here was Black Friday. So, it was very hectic, we had no processes in place, I was still trying to learn how to run a Facebook ad at the time.
Timothy: I think something for everybody to know is there's going to be an investment period where you're worrying and you're testing. And no, we were not profitable on the first few months that we were doing this, and it's because we were tying to find our footing. Trying to find what strategies, what tactics, what type of ads work for you. Is it image ads, link ads, carousels, is it video, is it some combination.
Timothy: And one big benefit of joining Huckberry and starting paid acquisition at such a late stage secures into the company was when I got here they already had 200,000 Facebook followers. And it was all organic. They never bought likes, they never did crazy big sweepstakes that were just meant to get Facebook likes. They had organically built a very strong following both on Facebook and on Instagram. Which has a lot to say to social proof; people like this brand and it makes our lives easier when we put up a Facebook ad and somebody wants to click through our page just to see what we're all about. And they see that we have a quarter million followers and forty of their friends like us. That adds a lot of value versus somebody who maybe has a smaller blog or something, and they only have 1,000 likes. Not to say that you can't be successful with Facebook ads, but there's definitely a lot of value to have in that sole consensus.
Benjamin: Makes sense. So talk to me about what's next for you. You've expanded beyond being the individual operator, the individual contributor running paid acquisition. What are the challenges you're facing?
Timothy: One of the biggest challenges is just managing this team. It's easy for me to look at things and say, "Oh I could do it better", or I could jump in there, I should be helping more. I think as a manager my base goal, and the opportunity for the company, is for me to teach them how to fish. I don't want to be the manager that jumps in any time anything is going wrong. But if you think there's big opportunity to lead up a much larger team here at Huckberry.
Timothy: So, we are looking at new channels; we are trying to get into the podcast game where we're advertising on podcasts and looking for different ways to do that, different ways to test, how do we prove that out. We're looking at Google; it's the biggest opportunity we have at this point. It's such a big channel, and there's so many different aspects to it. But what we're tying to figure out with Google is how does it play into the overall ecosystem.
Timothy: So, we know that if we run display ads, we won't see the immediate return on ad spend like we do on Facebook. But what we might see is if we pair a display ad with a search ad, or we watch the organic traffic, and the direct traffic, how display affects those two channels, we might see that there's an immediate or sort of direct correlation to a lift in sales.
Timothy: So, a couple different strategies we have in mind, but we haven't dove into yet, but will be soon, is sort of geo-targeting certain cities, and see what sort of effect that has on those areas over a certain amount of time. Maybe that's a longer test, through six months, to see the effects on organic search and direct traffic, but then pairing that with our performance based channels.
Timothy: So, if we're running a big billboard test and podcast in Austin, we should be running that brand campaign parallel on all of our digital channels to really give it sort of the biggest opportunity for success. And if we find that strategy works, it's not easy to just implement that kind of strategy nationwide considering it's a big investment if you're talking abut the billboards in New York, or San Francisco, or Chicago, or LA. But we can start [inaudible 00:14:38] that notice strong presence of Huckberry customers that maybe aren't getting attention form other big retailers, or the big tech companies that are focused on sort of big urban areas.
Benjamin: You're getting into the multichannel attribution and brand advertising game, which I would say, now you're getting out of the young man's game into the old man's game. But that's a topic for a totally separate podcast. I'd love to hear how it goes.
Benjamin: On a personal level, you mentioned developing managerial expertise, talk to me about your long-term career goals, and what else are you trying to develop? What direction are you tying to head personally.
Timothy: Very, very, very long term, the ultimate goal I think of most marketers, and myself included, is to either be the VP of growth or a CMO; have a high-level role that sort of plays across all the different aspects of marketing. That includes brand marketing, performance marketing, sort of on-site authorization depending on what sort of industry you're working in. That comes really important for growth.
Timothy: So, that's the long-term, high-level goal. Over the next few years, really trying to build out this team. Like you said, build some really solid foundational managerial expertise. I'm very quickly learning that being a manager at corporate setting is a unique challenge, and the way sort of I've been trained at Huckberry is that a leader is really anything he needs to be to be successful. Sometimes I have to jump into trenches. Sometimes it means stepping back and letting people learn on their own, or letting people find the solution and come to you with the answer. And sometimes it means having hard conversations, and other times, it means being a cheerleader; just standing on the sidelines and saying, "Go, go, go."
Benjamin: In that vein, tell me for the people who are listening to this conversation that are aspiring marketers or are early on in their career, you are the youngest person that we've interviewed so far for the podcast. So, I'm interested to hear what advice do you have for someone who's just starting out.
Timothy: One big piece of advice- and I think I sort of just fell into this by accident, but I would encourage everybody to do this, is just try to understand data. Try to be as analytical as possible. When I came into Huckberry, I was one of the most analytical people, and now we have some other people that are here and that can run Sequel, and pull this data for me, and find holes in my analysis. It's all about being able to ask the right questions. Right, like I don't have to do a lot of the same data pulls and really diving as deep as I used to. Because we've been lucky enough to find some really smart people to do that for us. But they have nothing to do unless we're asking the right questions. So, it's understanding; even if you don't know every aspect of Excel, I think having some basic knowledge of the way data works and conserve how it plays into the bigger picture.
Timothy: That's sort of one side of it to digital marketing, and really any marketing. I think that's sort of one misconception a lot of people think; marketing is sales. And it is, but I think a lot of marketing is data driven, especially in 2018. There's a lot of gut involved. And so, that's the other side is understanding brand, understanding the importance of brand. And not thinking that data tells the whole story.
Timothy: I think that understanding it and understanding pull insights from it is a burden but you have to realize that behind every number on that paper, there is a person taking a real action in real life. They're sitting on the bus on their commute, they're looking at our website, and you have to understand the user psychology behind why they decided to come to your site, why you think they should purchase from you, and why they should continue using your product after they've already bought.
Timothy: Those are sort of the two very high-level areas of knowledge that I would focus on; understand the consumer, understand why brand is important, and then understand the data and how to pull insights from it.
Benjamin: I think that's great advice. Last question for you; anybody you're trying to meet? Anything you'd like to promote? If people ar interested in getting in touch with you or learning about Huckberry, how can they do that?
Timothy: So, you can find me on LinkedIn; I basically accept anybody on LinkedIn at this point. I'm always willing to chat, or grab a coffee if you're in San Francisco. I love talking to other marketers and meeting them and just hearing about what their doing. I love, love hearing about people in other industries or other companies and sort of how they're approaching very similar problems. What I've found is talking to other people outside of your industry or just outside of your company is extremely beneficial because a lot of the times, they're facing issues that we've already solved for our company, and vice versa.
Timothy: So, you can find me on LinkedIn, feel free to add me there. In terms of promotion, nothing specific, but please check out Huckberry. Go ahead and sign up, and if you're gonna buy something, make sure you click through a Facebook ad first.
Benjamin: Great. Okay. Tim, thanks so much for the time, it was great to have you here, and thanks for teaching us a little bit about paid acquisition.
Timothy: Yeah, thanks a lot [inaudible 00:19:34] let's do it again soon.
Benjamin: Okay. That wraps up this episode of the MarTech Podcast.
Benjamin: Thanks to Timothy Brown from Huckberry for joining us. If you're interested in connecting with Tim, you can find him on LinkedIn under 'Timothy Brown'. Or if you're interested in learning more about Huckberry, you can go to Huckberry.com.
Benjamin: A special thanks to Searchmetrics for sponsoring this podcast. If you're looking to grow your online presence, go to searchmetrics.com to request your free tour of their platform.
Benjamin: If you'd like to read the transcript of this podcast, we've published it on Martechpod.com.
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Benjamin: Okay. That's it for today, but until next time, my advice is to just focus on keeping your customers happy.