Trevor Longino From Indivity and Crowdtamers - Talking To The Pro's #3
I’m delighted to bring you the third installment of Talking To The Pro’s, an interview series designed to shed light on how veteran online marketing professionals move the needle.
Today I’m very fortunate to be talking to Trevor Longino. Trevor built 3 high-achieving international teams from scratch, and generated more than $20MM in revenue.
Chris: Hi Trevor, thank you very much for taking the time to do this interview. Could you start off by introducing yourself and explain how you got into Marketing?
Trevor: I got into marketing kind of by accident; I was working at a small weekly newspaper as a journalist and was asked to help them create their website and their ad layouts, and decided that was more fun than being a journalist. This would have been back in 1994, so website technology back then was...rudimentary at best. :P
Chris: You’ve had an exceptional Marketing career, could you give us an overview of where you’ve worked?
Trevor: I’ve worked largely in the SaaS / startup space for about 20 years. I’ve been lucky enough to grow companies at Nextelligence (a startup incubator), GOG.com (a b2C video game download store), Kontakt.io (a bluetooth hardware manufacturer), and Unito (a B2B SaaS middleware integrations company)
Chris: Could you give a little insight into your role at GOG? It’s a fascinating company that achieved impressive growth while you were there. Could you explain what Marketing measures generated the best returns and how you implemented them?
Trevor: GOG.com was in an odd space when I joined: they only sold games for download that were more than 10 years old. Back then they were known as “Good Old Games”. I focused on a few key things:
- Community - We built up a great community of old-school gamers
- Differentiation from the market - There were many video game storefronts at the time, but very little made them stand out from each other, which is why Steam was so dominant.
- Optimizing new customer value & retention - Over time we built up a list of more than 4 million signups. Using email--both directly and via retargeted ads--was a tremendous way to add value to the company
- PR - As you note below, we did a lot of wacky stuff to generate interest and signups for GOG.com -> free giveaways, getting news headlines with crazy stunts
Chris: In the age of Google Ads and Facebook, I’ve been amazed by the power of news headlines, and have found that they can really move the needle. As someone who often has to resort to cold emailing editors, I’d love to learn some of your best PR strategies - could you recommend any?
Trevor: Think of PR in a similar fashion to ABM: you want to woo that journalist or editor over time. The LTV of a good relationship with a journalist can be immense. I have a few journalists I’ve built relationships with that have lasted a decade and longer; often when I talk to them, it’s about nothing that they would want to cover at all, but just checking in to see how they’re doing and if I could help them.
It can start with cold outreach, but what you’re really doing is trying to build a relationship. As the founder of OvernightPR and as the guy who got GOG.com covered by basically every games journalist out there, it was all about knowing what a given journalist would like to talk about and then help them discover good info about that topic while also engaging with them as humans.
Chris: I think that’s why PR is so difficult. It requires a ton of soft skills and a lot of time. In 2016 you became CEO of Beetrip.io; how was the transition into the new role? What advice would you give to readers who are working towards becoming a CEO?
Trevor: My co-founders and I came together to launch a startup; we decided I’d be the CEO because I had the most direct experience in product, marketing, and growing a business. We grew pretty fast with some personal cash investment from the co-founders, but when our funding fell through the business, sadly, didn’t have enough reserves to find another investor. Being CEO is great in that you can set direction for every element of a company and drive the creation of something that didn’t exist before. But on the down side, when the business doesn’t go as you want it to, man. Those are tough days.
Being a founder, in general, is about being cavalier about the risk--most businesses never get past the starting gate--and being CEO requires that you understand how to balance risk and opportunity successfully. It’s not an easy thing. If you want to be CEO, know that, going into it, you’re going to get most everything wrong and you need to be able to roll with the punches and keep moving.
Chris: Yes, especially for smaller startups it’s often incredible how many tasks the CEO needs to perform, from BD, to HR, accounting, marketing, you name it. It’s an incredibly tough gig. In terms of marketing: You’ve achieved incredible results with content and PR. Could you explain your strategy and how other marketers could replicate the results?
Trevor: I only have 3 good ideas. Everything I’ve done in marketing comes from them. They boil down to this:
- You must understand who you’re selling to. This is fundamental to marketing, and so many people don’t do this. Don’t assume it: go out, find that ideal persona, and figure out the right language and offer to hook them. Do not give up until you have figured that out.
- Don’t build your business on someone else’s property. If you are 100% a Facebook ad acquisition company, you will eventually go broke when Facebook changes their TOS or ups the CPC to where you can’t afford acquisition any more. Own your audience, don’t rent it.
- Never stop testing. Build out your customer journey in stages, figure out what you can realistically test in that journey (acquisition channels, pricing, offer, promotions, etc.) and always have a test running against a champion at every stage. If you learn 3 new things about how to optimize your conversions every week for 1 year, you will be immeasurably more successful than someone who has a set process that worked and never changes it.
Chris: In 2007 you founded Crowdtamers, an international marketing training & consultancy firm; what kind of training do you provide and what mistakes are common among marketers?
Trevor: I work in the branding, content marketing (and content distribution!) space, and general marketing strategy. The most common mistakes I see are:
- building marketing plans that are all tactics and no strategy. “I am going to spend $5k a month on Facebook user acquisition” is not a marketing campaign. It’s an ad-buy strategy.
- Forgetting that there are other kinds of marketing than direct marketing. Facebook, Twitter, Google, Youtube...that’s all just different ways to do direct marketing. It’s no different than physical mail flyers.
- Think constantly of the 7 Ps: product, price, promotion, place, packaging, positioning and people. Make sure you’re considering your channels for marketing: are you direct? Do you have affiliates, wholesalers, retailers? Taking an already existing product and finding a new way to distribute it can be a big business all by itself.
- Thinking that bounced visitors are worthless. Your campaign gets you a 8% conversion rate, and you feel pretty happy about it, but what do you do with the 92% who hit your landing page and then disappeared? Rertarget them and find another use for those people who have some small amount of familiarity with your brand now.
Chris: Yes, I completely agree that retargeting is absolutely crucial for long term success. What marketing channels are you leveraging to grow Crowdtamers and how have the results been?
Trevor: Content. :) I’ve landed two clients in the last 4 weeks who read stuff that I wrote and thought it seems like I know what I’m about. Since I only really re-started my agency back up in mid-june of this year, that’s not too bad.
Social selling can be a really big thing for some businesses (such as mine). I’ve gotten most of my leads in August from Facebook groups and Slack channels. Facebook groups remain a way better way to engage with people than actual Facebook pages are.
Chris: I’ve also found that Facebook Groups are the best way to market something organically on the platform. What kind of tools do you use most often?
Trevor: I love Hubspot; I’ve used them for a decade or more by now. Snov.io is pretty cool for cold email.
Chris: Nice, I hadn’t heard of Snov before but it looks good. I personally like Yesware for cold emails. I think many of my readers are already in a C-level position or are planning on making the jump one day. What skills does a Head of Marketing need to learn in order to make the jump to C-level?
Trevor: The big differences between a head of marketing and a C level, in my experience are:
- C-levels need to understand the business as a whole and be able to fit their needs & their deliverables into that complicated matrix
- C-levels also need to understand that one of the ways they can add value to the company is by helping with company-level problems like culture, goal setting, and building cross-team processes
- A CMO needs to be able to spot a problem, figure out a fix, and execute on it without anyone telling him that it needed to be done or how to do it.
- A C-level needs to be great with people throughout the whole organization. Engineers, sales, bookkeeping, whoever it is, they should feel like the C-level exec is happy to talk with them. The easiest way to do this, by the way, is to be actually happy to talk to them.
You’ll notice that none of this is actually marketing related. That’s because the big difference between a head and a C-level, in my experience, is not about the skills in their field. It’s 100% about the ability to create strategy, explain vision, and lead their team to execute.
Chris: Thank you, that’s great advice. Following on from that, what are the most important lessons you’ve learnt during your career?
Trevor: It is way better to be the kind of person who everyone wants to recommend to other co-workers or companies than it is to be the kind of person who has every skill.
Find what you’re best at and figure out how to eliminate the work you do that’s not that.
Chris: Do you see any emerging trends in online marketing? What should everyone have on their radar for 2020?
Trevor: Some of the old standards keep being called dead and then somehow don’t die off. Email. SEO. Paid search. Learn the fundamentals before you do something crazy like a SNAPAR campaign.
That said, holy heck Google is playing increasingly dirty pool in the organic search space. Brand remains one of the only defensible moats as every clever software idea gets commoditized.
With the continued rise of adblockers and privacy mode browsers, there’s an increasing need for marketers to think of how to reach people for whom ads won’t serve in the traditional browser.
Chris: I completely agree with your point about the importance of branding. Even individuals are increasingly turning themselves into recognizable, commercial brands. Do you feel that certain marketing channels are typically underutilized by other marketers?
Trevor: I feel that chat is *overutilized*. Unless you have a very well documented acquisition funnel that is easy to automate, get that pop-up off your website, unless you can get a human to answer all of the questions.
Post-signup onboarding remains pretty weak for most brands. As I’ve already mentioned, retargeting still seems like a dark art to a lot of marketers. If you build a good system to segment your audiences based on pages visited and when they last came to see you, you can easily find that retargeting is your cheapest acquisition channel
When you’re rolling out to a new audience, another great thing to do is just to show as many display ads as you can to them to warm them up in advance of an actual ad spend actual CTA goals. Paying on a CPM basis can be quite cheap if brand impressions are the actual goal.
Content marketing is both ubiquitous and under used, weirdly. Your buyer journey should be a big part of the content that you create, but so many brands I see create content marketing that is either all bottom of the funnel content or it’s all top of the funnel clickbait content.
Chris: Do you use funnels to acquire customers? Can you describe how your funnel works?
Trevor: I do. One of my main processes I use for acquisition is a 3 stage content funnel whereby I figure out the buyer journey, create content for people who are just about to start looking into solving a pain they have (top of the funnel - discovery) that I advertise broadly to my likely prospects.
Then I retarget them with content that is designed to move them to the middle of the funnel (aka. Defining the problem). Finally, I create 10x content that is email-gated and which is bottom of the funnel content (evaluating solutions). Some brands need a 2-stage funnel, some need a 5-stage funnel. But I start with 3 stages and then figure out what to do based on user acquisition from there.
Chris: What are the best resources to learn more advanced marketing skills? (Blogs, workshops, courses, books etc that can help professionals)
Trevor: Blogs are great. Neil Patel covers a lot of stuff. Backlinko by Brian Dean is fantastic. For most any niche, there’s great content that you can find. In terms of books, I prefer more strategic-level stuff than tactical resources, because the tactics change all of the time. A few favorite books:
- The hard thing about hard things by Ben Horowitz
- Sprint by Jake Knapp
- Blink by Malcom Gladwell
- High Output Management by Andrew Grove
- Radical Focus by Christina Wodtke
Chris: Trevor, thank you very much for taking the time to chat. You shared really valuable insights and I’m sure that reader have learnt a lot - I definitely have. To get in touch with Trevor, make sure to connect on LinkedIn or book an appointment with him on AdvisoryCloud. Thanks for reading.