This week we feature Derwyn Harris, Co-founder and CMO at Talkoot. Talkoot is a collaborative, cloud-based content production system where small teams can come together to produce huge volumes of digital product content.
In this interview, you can read more about his work at Talkoot, favorite marketing tools, productivity tips as well as his advice for budding marketers.
Your location: Portland, Oregon (Inner southeast along the waterfront).
Your favorite gadget: Headphones.
You start your day with: Feeding my dog, Olive, and my cat, Leona.
Your favorite time-saving trick: Accepting and embracing the power of daydreaming and procrastination. Trust me on this one.
Your top 3 blogs you read daily: I don’t have blogs I read daily. I use Flipboard to scan the news and I subscribe to the print edition of The Economist. Productivity and marketing-wise, I tend to set time aside for research. I’ll start with a question and work through relevant blog posts or articles that provide answers or guidelines.
A picture of your workstation: This picture highlights the desk which is made of recycled bowling alley lanes. The skeleton was inherited when I sat down at my desk.
My desk. Not very exciting. It’s an open environment and I work different offices so it’s just enough to be home base.
Describe an average day at Talkoot.
My day usually starts with coffee and my computer, on my couch. It’s my quiet time to review emails, to-dos, and think through any big tasks I have. A couple days a week I mix it up and spend this time learning Spanish. It gives my brain a chance to rewire at a critical time of freshness, versus always trying to cram in personal goals in the evening.
A 15-minute bike commute gets me to the office, where some days we have a 9:30 company standup. As you can imagine, each day varies quite a bit, but I always try to strike that fine balance between devoting energy to future strategic work and reacting to in-the-moment needs.
As a founder/ marketer, what are some of your favorite productivity hacks?
Music, shutting down all outside communication, working from home, and strategic procrastination. I’m a daydreamer and a procrastinator. To me, procrastination doesn’t equal lazy or inactive, it is time before a deadline to mull over ideas, let them bounce around and steep in my brain. I’ve come to accept and embrace that I get my best work done during crunch time. I guess you could say I’ve hacked my perceived limitations (daydreaming and procrastination) to work together in my favor.
One trick is that I end my day with a short journal entry. I learned this technique from my bike racing days. We get so caught up in our day to day that weeks can go by before realizing we have not set time aside for specific work. It gives me a quick glance if reactionary stuff might be taking over. If I’m working on a big initiative I tag each day with #progressforward or #progressdud to indicate if progress was made or if I got pulled into too many other things. It’s like an early warning system.
As a person who is well-versed with online marketing/ inbound, I’m sure you rely on a few marketing tools to automate your efforts. What are the top 3–5 tools you use?
We have a clearly defined target and an existing network of customers and contacts. This allows us to be focused more on the later phase of the funnel where demos, messaging and infographics go a long way. Meanwhile, most of the inbound work is about creating a flow and voice of content that resonates. Tools for me are things like a marketing calendar, a good task management system (Things), and a shared place to work from such as google docs.
Your company has a growing community of users. How do you use this treasure trove of customer insight to power your marketing efforts?
The obvious things are case studies, quotes, references, and webinars. These alone can go a long way. The trickiest thing about early-stage growth is being careful not to rely too heavily on a select group of customer champions. Some people have a more passionate way of relaying how our product helped them. As a result they get tapped often. I try to consolidate these efforts to minimize fatigue. One way of doing this is by conducting targeted UX sessions that focus on market segment pain points and product direction. These sessions results in a deeper understanding of our customers, some great quotes, and increased goodwill.
What is your strategy for getting people to your site and then converting them to customers?
The thing I’ve learned over the years is that while terms like sales funnel, user onboarding, and marketing automation all represent different aspects of strategy, what’s most important is getting really good at face-to-face (or voice-to-voice) interaction. Once you have someone talking to you, the conversion is all about how you interact and work with the customer. My philosophy is that the sooner we are talking to a potential client, the greater chance we have of converting that person. As far as getting people to our site, that continues to feel more like fairy dust and magic wands. We are constantly working through all the known channels such as media outreach for press, producing valuable content, and attending events. Beyond that, I’m always seeking creative unknowns.
Is there any advice you’d like to give to budding marketers to help them work smart and stay productive?
Be a taskmaster, but allow yourself time for daydreaming. Early stage company marketing is hard because it requires project management and a creative mindset — not a typical combination. Larger companies can separate the marketing operations from creative, but smaller companies must rely on a few adaptable individuals. For example I’m a classic “shiny new object” type of personality. I like to move from one idea to another. And because everyone loves to chime in with exciting new marketing ideas I have to be very cognizant of my tendencies to say “yes” and run with it. Instead I have to rely on well orchestrated task management to provide me a clear path forward. It’s easy to get caught up in the more reactionary work and the immediate gratification it gives. I always remind myself that productivity is not about being busy but about executing an idea completely.
How do teams at Talkoot have fun at work/ make work fun?
At this point our customers are primarily in the outdoor industry. There’s no secret to why this is the case: we love the outdoors. Across the board, our team runs, surfs, kite boards, snowboards, skis, hikes, etc. It’s important to us to create a company that believes in the benefits of experiencing sport for the pure and simple joy of movement and experience. We are debating going beyond unlimited employee vacation time and implementing a mandatory vacation policy. It’s not enough to simply say vacation is unlimited. You must create a culture that promotes utilizing it. Everyone benefits. We thrive on the stories people come back with. This policy is not just about individual rejuvenation, but about an overall culture that removes silos of work by creating an “I’ve got your back” mentality.
A big thanks to Derwyn for taking the time out to answer these questions! If you haven’t already, we highly recommend that you check out Talkoot.
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