Growth Marketing Camp
Growth Marketing Camp

Episode 73 · 2 weeks ago

Building a Balanced Economic Model That Supports Growth and People with Bryan Karas

ABOUT THIS EPISODE

Welcome to another episode of Growth Marketing Camp’s Founder Stories series, where we interview our favorite founders, pick their brains, and ask them to reveal all of their secrets to our audience.

This week, Bryan Karas, Founder and CEO of Playbook Media (& GrowTal), joins us to share the journey that's led him to start his company and drops some key growth-centered advice for earlier-stage B2C/D2C businesses who’ve hit a plateau.

He’ll answer the questions:

  • How can early-stage startups best approach channel expansion?
  • How can you look outside of media to achieve growth?
  • What the steps needed are to achieve success (& growth) profitably and sustainably

Tune in to learn his plan to build a better economic model!

Welcome to Growth Marketing Camp podcast powered by Open Sense, where we sit down with leaders and founders from diverse backgrounds and marketing, tech and beyond to explore what it takes to build a leading brand that's shaving the world. A B two B. Let's get into it. What's up, ladies and gentlemen. This is Bobby and Nurrage. I am co host of Growth Marketing Camp. I am super excited to be joined by Brian Carris, CEO of Playbook Media. Brian, Welcome to the podcast. Thanks though, thanks for having me excited to be here. Yeah, well, appreciate you join it. I want to start off with you and your company. Tell me a little bit about Playbook Media and maybe in addition to that, and tell me a little bit about the journey that's led you to start this company. So fill fill in the gaps on your background a little bit as well. Sure well, I'm a lifelong career, thanks little marketer. I started marketing in Arizona back in the day when at the Little Clan Valley kind of in the early days that didn't all marketing direct response, and I worked with the company called Quinn Street, which was big in the region. Space and they didn't built the legion model of the University of Bedient's back in the day and kind of earned my strikes. They're doing the generation and learning about dr online digital in all those different things. And then that went on. We're in software where they were the largest energator Google spends for a few years and buy some of their companies on you know, their SCM spends. And then I was at Facebook for four years. I spent two years working with big financial firms liking Wills, Farno and those kent of companies, and then I joined this uh this group at the time which was called Activation and their e commerce vertical, and we worked with venture back startups and helping them build on all the founderations that they needed to really succeed in customer revision US digital channels. And that was the three pursuit of what is now. The disruptors were a slerk and the kind of like all the big yeah, disruptive venture bat clients on any might think that would be Phonals and Pelotons and rotten hoods of the world. But what I found me and working there was that there were so many businesses that were so happy to hear for me, they would be like, well, I think that on anyone at Facebook. I've worked with three agencies and none of them knew what they were doing. And I have you have three million dollars that I've raised, and I want to put a million dollars into platform, but I have no idea what to do with it, right, And so I just found so much I guess fulfilment and helping need somebodies to succeed. And then when Facebook actually moved into the distructions grip, there was a bunch of politics that you know, kind of gotten away and they weren't high a revenue for had you a big company, kind of stuffed, and so they moved those to people whoever is spending online. And I felt that the...

...value was helpab these earlier stage that in the stage understand all of the kind of infrastructure and baseline that they needed before they think think about scaling their advertising. And so I started playing the year focusing on that segment in seventeen the last five years, UM and man, the opportunity for to work with a bunch of really full coffee along lift that's awesome. One of the things that I think stands out is the focus on the earlier stages where they're basically starting with the Queen slate in their strategies and approaches. And you mentioned, um, you know, building the infrastructure, what do you mean by that? So you know, I mean I think early stage been listens. There's a lot of things that need to happen before they can actually scale, a lot of using digital advertising right, So early on you need probably right. And that's like one thing that a lot of people get wrong and they don't have probably work and they raised a bunch of money on and idea, and then they start following money and advertising they wonder why their customers don't stick around, right, and so just make sure you have product where fitted. It's kind of link to since and then you start thinking about, Okay, is there what website set up for success? Do they have been landing leads? Are they converting them well? How their email programs set on? Do they have an offer that they're putting out, do they have a good creative what's the right channel product fit right? Some some businesses that are better off launching on Google, Some are better off launching on Basement. Some are better just doing syah and never doing a digital marketing at all, whether it's unit economist is like, right, so there's so much that needs to happen in early stage before business can really think about scanning and what we found. A lot of companies skip those steps. They get excited about growth, they have investors, were excited about growth, and they try to push too lard to early and so they help them kind of think about what are all the things that I view the bore I can get here, and then once I'm there, how do I execute for properly to nature that weekend or actually do it profitably insistably? Yeah, so, so does that entail like coming up with series there's probably a series of assumptions that you're making based on the company and their product and potentially their market. But then are you also sort of before making big bets, just identifying where the testing is, testing opportunities are, and then what tooling is you're required to understand like what the outcomes are. Is that is that a part of sort of some of the earliest stage approach you, Yeah, exactly. So it's a bit like a consultative model, right where we come in and we actually will map all your data into a centralized dashboard so we can understand the different customer touch points, and then we look at where there's fall off, right, all off on the website is you're full up and email nurture, like what does your turn rate look like? All those tended things, And then we look forward what what's the thing that we...

...think is the most likely to move the needle with the lowest lift, right, we'll start, yeah, and then helped them in the base they create a roadmap of things that they need to be testing and adjusting to where they can get their unit economics in the place that's going to allow them to trying more for customer position like this. So your businesses, from what I understand, predominantly focused on B two C B two C type organizations, which I'm wondering And this is me just thinking out loud because I'm I'm rooted in enterprise as I'm rooted in going to B two B. But it's kind of interesting because there's an assumption I think I'm making work. It's like your audience or your potential customers, the way that they interact with your brand ultimately ends up being potentially your website like as like sort of like the ultimate place where you end up to make a buying decision or understanding the product better and then ultimately making a buying decision. Then there's potentially like the channels where you're meeting the customer, where they are where they're interacting with the brand. But but I guess A is that correct? I mean, you're the right way to think about if firstance like in B two B where I'm a salesperson reaching out to you for a meeting, like it's more of like a I guess I don't know if that's push or pull. But and then the second part of it is what's like the scale which your work it comes really relevant and meaningful, meaning how many people and this it means not understanding scale of of B two BBC, indec how many people are visiting your website like in a given month, or you know, the type of work that you're doing to yield results that are statistically significant or whatever the case might be. Yeah, well that's a good question. So, I mean, I think there's a couple of things that sound there. But yeah, to the last question around the amount of people coming into the website, and you do have to get your poet institutical significance and you're if you if you want to think about it down to that level, right, which in the days directional data can be pretty can be pretty strong and help me make a lot of decisions. Right like you launch your test, you know it's the only new thing you're running, and your sales pick up. You may not be able to get all the data flays to pick up in there. But like if you're only running, if you stay all the day, like you know, okay, this thing is working right and right when as much greater into it. When the numbers are small and the number of variables, yes, but as you grow the number of variables do increase server time and having more stats and a number's face a thrist, you found more and more important. So you know we're working with bigger partners, which we do work with Figger, fargners. I don't want to say we only work with these of course. Just then we're thinking about how we bring something like Nimax model into the table right where we know we're...

...guess it's both significance against the progression that we're gonna be able to determine did this new channel actually ride an inframental impacts your customer accisition or abandon me. And in the world we live in right now, Walt Garden in all the data going away, will proach actually becoming what I think is going to be the only approach in the long run, because they're just not gonna allow us to hound the level of data integration that we're used to. So right right, let's talk about that for a second, because you know, our our business is dabbling into the pricy market. UM on the on the B two B side a little bit, I think it's far more prevalent and UM must solve issue now on on B two C and DBC because of a little level of interaction that individuals have directly with your digital properties. So talk to me a little bit about the evolution here, because you you actually started your career at Quinn Street doing direct response and then obviously you know, things probably changed by the time you are in and and obviously Facebook then becomes a powerhouse for for digital advertising, and now you're sort of on the bleeding edge with the customers that you're working with. The impact of privacy is never probably been stronger on the effectiveness of the strategy. So I don't know if maybe you can spend a minute. You're just talking to me a little about the evolution that you've observed from a capability standpoint, and then sort of how that's maybe being impacted by some of the regulation and privacy requirements that are starting to become more and more prevalent and forced. Well, it's so funny because I actually think, you know, there's this sense of the line on it to the consequences, and I actually privacy regulation viewither forced are going to work against what people actually want. Really, I'll tell you what. So early on, whenever I started out in my career, we didn't have great data integrations, and so quin Street is a lead out of dead right. They were the biggest They may have been the biggest lead out of reader Online. At the time. We were doing about four better million dollars about a year and leads, and we were essentially sending people to websites telling them the best thing for them to do for their career in their futures to go to the university fiends and then we'd have them fill out that lead for him, and then we would sell that lead to sixteen different organizations and their phone would get blown out for two months straight just all day long, emails all day and long, and variable consumer experience. Yeah, I still feel a little dirty, like I mean the shower. This is. This is you know, early in your career idea, you're you're learning marketing and you know, well, if quantum money and staying it seems to work, right, and we're helping people go to school. Little did I realized how much they were eating it and how...

...a little they were getting out of their degree verse and Peace was actually one of the better players in the market. So anyway, you know, as data integration got better and better, marketers got better and better going direct to the consumer, and so you have on the middleman in betweet. That was arbitrage of data. The consumer got that down. And then you take in Facebook and goog role and they did a really good job at masking our data. But then they wouldn't have integration from the back end to you and okay, this person actually converted, and so you do it how this way of anonymizing everything in between, but you would know who converted and you could personalize the ads and you're not getting a leg just fan in this jump, right, So now you fast forward to today, they're degrading all of those integrations, and so the value of the aurgis even drops more and more. It becomes far or harder people to go direct to consumer, which is gonna get rhyme's power on the middleman, who was gonna be the data arbitrage in the middle and they're going to figure out how to beat your first party data and then they're gonna sell it and be an advertiser. And we're gonna be back through a world of data being bought and sold where it wasn't before. People say Facebook was selling your data. It's just total horseship, right, like, yeah, data, they're using your data the drive personalized dads as in fear goal. And when you remove their ability to do that, there's a middle man gonna come in and they're gonna get your data for cheap, and they're gonna sell it to the next time. The more I hear opportunity four hundred million dollars a year. Okay, well, hey, there's no that's clearly like that. That that is interesting. That is very much a like a going back to the future kind of situation here back in time in terms of you know, the way that people will be able to get did to get their their ads in front of us. Anyways, there's this guy I meant from from France and um, we're talking about g dB R and one of the things he told me that that was very instructive was that he views his privacy or he's proud that France is protecting his his privacy, that they've adopted this regulation that keeps his data private, and that if he were to understand the company were violating that in some way, that would have a pretty detrimental impact on how he perceives that that company. But this idea that privacy is something that they're proud of, I mean, I just find that as it is an interesting problem or challenge. But how we go about solving that To your point, like, I don't think we understand like how consumer behavior well to change, how business behavior will have to accommodate that. Yeah.

I think the takeaway here though, is that there's a lot I thinks that yet to be figured out. Although it sounds like you have an approach you actually mentioned like sort of a more statistical approach in order to coumvent that. What do you what do you mean by that? So, I mean there's a couple of things that already bitter developing, right, so to surprise at the first party data, there's conversion API and the region that's kind of brilliant of the wall gardens and that's pretty interesting. And then there's media mixed level and is becoming a much bigger thing, and I don't know how familiar you are with eventually. What it does is that rhymes a statistical regression against all your different marketing efforts to figure out the impact of the marketing on your end sales or side traffic or whatever is you want to measure. Boat Let's say it's their end sales, so that way you can get their understanding of the cross channelman knocks that you're running. You're running you know five ten different channel your TV, your Google, YOURR, Facebook, your connected to display whatever. Yeah, everyone is trying to put together a multi touch attribution for a long time, right, multi touchdown row wide on the ability for us to stitch together all the data in a way that came back to our identity or close to it. But now in the in the the winds of regulation and you know, changes from I was fourteen and all those different things. Multi multi touch attribution, it's basically like out the door, right if it's just not gonna happen. And so as a result, if you take a statistical model on it, you don't need the data institch together. All you need to know is the relevant number of depressions that are out there and the relevant number of span and then you can run a regression it on that against the the change that you see within whatever number you're trying to correlate it too. It sounds like that will then create opportunity around making sure your data is really good like like like that. Even then you have to make sure that all your data and it's it's really good, that it's all it's all the right place and you know it's it becomes a difficult thing. It's more for a larger business too, because you have to not da to get to that statypsical model. And yeah, I think the problem is from a privacy standpoint, is probably in that in between ground, right, the really early ones we sort of know like called the best right as we were saying, yeah, yeah, we're stage you can get a median mixed model in but everywhere in between, which is a lot of businesses have to figure out how to get to customers and hopefully the wall gardens will feel a better things that convertinate the eyes in an automated way, and algorithms if you continue doing list than working. Yeah, but there's another side of it, which is, you know, direct marketers are good. They're gonna go get aggregate personal information and then they're gonna go style it and they're put in the you know, the databasis,...

...and they can figure out other ways to get to you, right, And so I just feel like there could be continue to being more of an arbitrage at d I I from the whereas before, Like, I don't think that he was really I don't think privacy was really a problem for the most part. Like my day's working is a matter Facebook. He was looking at all that I don't we care, Yeah, yeah, yeah, yeah. Algorithms we're gonna be able to operate whether or not and share that stuff. That's true. They can infer enough fire behavior on site browsing or where else where. We're all yeah, yeah, I think a part of that though, Brian, like is a consumer. One of the things that I think about sometimes it's like when you don't know what you don't know that it's all good. But I remember one day just going through like my hed An android for a period of time like insert you know whatever commentary or joke here about that. But I remember going into like my location in history or something. So I just clicking around and finding a report and basically it having like my daily life walk through the city and everywhere I'd gone, and and and I guess once you start seeing that, you're like, what the hell, Like I didn't realize okay, like I understand location, you know, his services are on, but holy crap, like it didn't I didn't realize all that. I mean, that just starts getting the mind things like, well, what the hell else there's is happening here? Right, And then you have to, you know, whether it's real or fake. Like you say the word I don't know bare aspirin out loud, and next thing you know, you're you're you're seeing ads for bare aspirin like on your phone, and it gets you think, like, what the heck, like what's going on here, whether whether or not that that's real or just sort of perception. It is interesting the degradation of the brands that have pioneered some of these advertising capabilities over the last several years. Has been very interesting to see, and again I think it's yielding both challenges, opportunities and unintended consequences, which ultimately is a level of on certainty, I would say, to some extent, but but again opportunity as well. Probably I would be remiss if I didn't try to just sort of get your thoughts on some of the things that you're doing today for your your B two C and DTWOC clientele. I would love to kind of understand if there's a takeaway for B two B brands that might be listening today, because you know, it's interesting. You hear a lot about this concept of the consumerization of the enterprise or consumerization of B two B. You see companies like sales Worth launching like Salesforce Plus, which is like a you know, a content channel like in the same vein of a Disney Plus or whatever the case might be. But are there some parallels or some high level objectives or I guess the strategies that B two B marketers could learn or take away for the B two C and get to see sort of um challenges...

...that your past your heading. Absolutely, I think so, and we do run some baby, but you're right and that we have historically focus more on the B two CDs space, but I think you know there's a lot that's the same and there's some that Steffer I would probably put it right. You always have to every all marketing challenges start with the same sorts of things, right, is there a market need, what's the market size? What's my product or service? And breathing the market? Does that fit that? Right? So you have all those things. I mean, it's like how am I get to position in? And can I position in a way? It's persuasion there, what channels do I use to get the word out and then communicate with a perspective customer? And then what does that sales journey and follow look like you know over time? And then I know I drive repeat, purchase rate, custermal lifetime absolutely yep. So those things that are are are in parallel on both sides of it where you start to see differences and you know, honestly, there's price point, there's markets on and difference in it's V two B you think, get a much larger business by much fewer purchasers, right, So, um, you know that changes in terms of the amount of scale you can put out on law there on different channels, right, so and that means that you have different channel product that right where consumer based businesses we can go will operate on TikTok and Instagram and places like that all day or or for B two B quiets, Yeah, there's some opportunities on on Facebook. They've been making some work there because they have workplace, they have on a base, so they're they're they're getting sure, right. But if you're gonna go with a social channel, obviously lead den is going to be can be better. But you know, and usually for you know B two B businesses, you're gonna see a lot more direct outreach. And then searches is the constant across bow size right absolutely, you people search for it on either way and you're you're looking for that long moving tech and get in front of them. One of the things that I think it's really interesting though, whenever you're thinking about what's making DTC businesses or your BBC business is successful right now is the idea of building community, getting customer light time value out of an out of a hyper loyal customer group, just like in the center of a greater community. And you can see some of it emerging in the B two B streets. I sort of feel like, uh, the you know, the battle between HubSpot and then Salesforce is a little bit like that, Like, yeah, community, that's a good point. They're kind of firing more out of it, right absolutely. You know you go to their conferences for this, and you know, the whole thing becomes of been...

...tribal in some ways. But if you could tap into that and build on it, and I think it it provides this really great baseline of loyal customers that will buy your next thing. You can push customer my time value them. They're going to be product to dangelists, They're going to be a referral source. And so as you're doing your marketing, like starting point is are getting impression for us someone in Poitte. I have productive mandels all the way down the line, right, and so many businesses like get stuck at the transactional point. I got a customer on board, and then I get them the middlemum cost level customer service that I can to make sure I keep the highest profit margin, and then I take all that profit and I put it right back into customer accobition again without thinking about the fact that my current customer race could be my most profitable form of marketing by building and a manage beuny and continuing several them more more for us and services. That's brilliant. That's like so smart. I mean just that that that's such a phenomenal. I think parallel between the life cycle on consumer and B two B because at the end of the day, you're selling to a person like in both circumstances, right, and the experience matters. The value matters, obviously, the experience also very much matters. And you know, as you describe like the battle between salesforce and upspot, whether it's a real one or not, I think definitely upspot is aiming to eat into some of the market share that that sales forces enjoyed and earned doing the CRM side. But even just broadly the brand, there's blue and there's orange, and like you're picking your team color, right, I mean, but I mean to your point, like, and it's just so it's so important in sas in particular because you're on annual contracts and you need to keep your customers happy. You need to keep them fired up about your product, you need to keep them engaged in order for you to keep earning their business year over a year in order stay in your business model. So it's really really, I think a phenomenal parallel. And you know, this idea of community, it's so interesting to me. I've probably done like thirty or four of these podcasts. Community has probably come up, and at least of them like as as something. I'm just hearing it more and more and so activating that on a on A B two B side. I think it is something that's very interesting to be personally brought for our company, But just in general, I think the way that you describe the value of that and the parallel to maybe more direct to consumer type businesses, I think it makes a ton of sense. So, um, I really appreciate you you're diving into that a little bit. It's one of those states, you know, in terms of they'll lay that out like how do you actually do? Yeah? Yeah, conferences is the new content where they did you...

...see things that I think about like being in direct consumer that we haven't seen necessarily come about. Is those the levergy of influencers and yes, here be to be influencerous. It's it's kind of like murmuring in the background, like oh, it's going to come about. But just look at linked bad, I mean linked in my ominion, I feel like it's loged, yes, uh. And the interesting level of conversations and recommendations you get there and all these fer kind of the things. I think LinkedIn it may easily be at the forefront of taking community and creating part and banjoists and helping spread that and howing median. Yeah, yeah, yeah, you're underside right. I definitely noticed behaviors on LinkedIn that are very much ancillary to behavior is huge observing any other social media platform like Instagram, like the people who are posting regularly and and you know, getting the likes and the reactions and the events and it's just another place to engage. Again, though, I think it's just interesting to see, like does the market want to interact with people and brands in the manner that they want to interact with with individuals um through through traditional social media. I think that's that's an interesting thing that to your point, we're definitely observing, Like right now on LinkedIn, it's happening. I mean, this clip will end up on LinkedIn and you know, or never for a reason. Right before we wrap up, I wanted to ask you just to switch gears and go back to playbook UM play the media. And there's another component to your business called grotel UM and I wanted to ask you a little bit about that because there's an element to this that I think it's quite interesting to me. But do you mind just telling your audience a little bit bit about grotel and sort of what it is and its relationship with playbooks. Yeah, no problem. So we started rotel in twenty lay and grotel is a I call it market network, but it's a marketplace wherever we committed freelance marketing experts with businesses that need of the talent. And I followed the network because we are building more and more community aspects of it and with empower back community to provide more and better marketing services to our UM. We saw the need for this before some of our competitors launch. And I'm not going to mean names of our competitors because I have no interest in giving the dublicity. But yeah, but but what we saw it was there is a certain part of the market, uh and all marketers that agencies had trouble servicing, right, and it's usually smaller businesses that don't have a lot of money to put into marketing, and there'd be better putting most of the marketing into a real execution work than the strategy and night level work and an agency my friends table. Right. The other thing that we found was as a small agency, we knew that we needed to tackle whole more components of where clients were doing than...

...we have staff for, and so we needed a bench of talent that we could pap into to bring into different clients when they needed specific services from us, and we didn't want to just quickly try to hire somebody or harder with another agency we needn't know or trust. Yeah, we built out this marketplace that does exactly that. We have a whole bunch of freelance marketing experts that we have that it ourselves, and yeah, bring them into plays clients as well, and thentolis directly to do EXECC instruments. I mean, the way I think it is so fastering about that is that there's so many advantages. This sounds like not just to the business just the ability to quickly scale up as needed for specific needs in the market, but also for freelancers themselves. I mean, it's almost like being like an uber for for freelance work or for some of that that that marketing work. And I think that's just really good for the worker as well because it exposes them to greater amount of opportunity, provides flexibility, and gives them the ability to kind of just pick what they want to do. Um, So that's really neat and and and and is that it sounds like that's like a pretty innovative approach. I mean for freeer agency that but that sounds like a pretty smart way to kind of like manage resources as well. I think. So it definitely loves sense, you know, manage our resources because you know, we're also very friendly. People pay anything than the house. And that's another problem brought into an agency. Are always running in an housing follow But if I have a certain inmount of my staff that is on free land basis, I can allow people to take things in the house and I don't have any way else, which a lot of agencies are up and downward agents wayoffs all the time. Yeah, and the other thing is that it gives their the ability to place that talent directly. They loves working with your free lance or THEYD the option to hire a leap from us, and we're soal we arevad with that because that was the best thing for for everybody in the long run, right Yeah, And so it brings the Alani's kind of like artificial for our rails and are not consumer friendly and they're not worker friendly on our own interested in the profit. I just think we can build a better economic model. One of the other things I was gonna say is that you know a lot of the freelance marketing market places that that's our racist bottom. Right, So if you look at like Upward for example, they're costs definitely pushing down costs, and so you end up going for it. Okay, what's the lowest cast person with the most star ratings? You know? Yeah, and then what that does the three lets marketing marketplaces. It brings down their ballot, right, Its forces really good in experts to work for a lower wage. And it also oftentimes needs to clients being unhappy because it shows somebody that looked good on paper but wasn't able to execute. And so we think by lanomate or model where we're much more our hands on waitless service, right, we know these people can execute,...

...and then we bring them the clients, and it's like, look, they're worth about it, right, Like it's worth yea for you get paid them what they're worth. Don't go up and just hire anybody just looks there on paper, right Awesome. Yeah, it's all about creating value. I mean that's it's really I think interesting model. It makes a ton of sense. I appreciate you sharing a little bit about that, and Brian, I appreciate you joining us on the podcast today. Um, very insightful conversation for me. You know, I think I mentioned you before that my my last decade has been spent in B two B enterprise stats and so having a chance to kind of learn a little bit about your business and your space, and I think some of your insights in the parallels has been very insightful for me and hopefully our audience as well. So I really appreciate you taking some time to join us to that. Yeah. Thanks a lot behind me and then I'm happy to do it all right, Well, we will talk to you all next time. Thank you. All right, Thanks thanks for listening to Growth Marketing Camp. If you enjoyed this episode, we'd love it if you would give it a quick five star rating or share it with a friend or colleague looking to strengthen their skills with tips and inspiration. You want to learn more about the company behind the show, head to open sense dot com. That's O P E N s E N s E dot com. We'll catch you on the next episode.

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