Steve has seen the commoditization of implementation services first hand and isn’t going to play that game again. Instead his focus is on injecting creative ideas into his clients’ marketing teams, and he has some fun things to say about the need for creativity, magic, and big ideas in today’s marketing team structure.
“The real money is in the idea work”
-Steve St. Clair
Steve St. Clair, Co-Founder of Trouble Group, has been a restless inventor and creator in two of his own companies for over 12 years. Before that he was a creative leader and marketing strategist for almost two decades at places like Chiat/Day in Toronto as well as Saatchi, Y&R, and Hill Holliday in New York City. Along the way he won some of the world’s most challenging award shows and the respect of his peers for clients like Nissan, Labatts Beer, Fila, Waterford Crystal, Dun & Bradstreet, and more.
Steve relentlessly pursues bigger ideas and pushes them to the absolute limit. He’s often accused of “boiling the ocean” and he actually gets it done. For one client, he invented a multi-media B2B campaign that generated an 800% jump in qualified leads. While working in Toronto he created a commercial that was voted Spot of the Decade.
Max Traylor: Welcome back to another episode of Beers with Max, and congratulations, me ... Wait, I almost... hold on. No, the last time I cracked this beer, it went all over me. If you saw that episode, I did the whole thing sitting in a puddle of beer, so I'm very happy that this Ninja vs. Unicorn Double IPA hasn't gone all over me. But as I was telling my guest, Steve St. Clair, I have brought a lot of towels just in case, and turns out I was over prepared. But enough about me. Steve, how are you?
Steve St. Clair: Very good. Good to see you.
Max Traylor: You have beer on tap at the office.
Steve St. Clair: I do, yup.
Max Traylor: What-
Steve St. Clair: And glasses that say, "Always half full."
Max Traylor: "Always half full."
Steve St. Clair: That's important.
Max Traylor: Well, what are you drinking?
Steve St. Clair: It's an IPA. I'm not sure what kind, but I can smell the hops. I like a good IPA.
Max Traylor: Well, that's the best of them. When you don't know what it is, no label, just toss it in a cup, and keep the glass half full. What do you do professionally?
Steve St. Clair: I am a marketer. I came up on the creative side of the advertising industry. Started in the early '80s in Virginia. I'm from Virginia. You'll probably pick up a bit of that twang. I did get rid of most of it. But I worked my way up to Rochester, and then in Toronto. I got a big break in Toronto, where I joined [Shy Tay 00:01:25]. Then it was called [Shy Tay Mojo 00:01:28], and they were at the peak of their game. They were the number one agency in the world at the time. I worked in their Toronto office, occasionally I was down in LA and New York. Just a great time. Built up my portfolio of ads. I was always an art director then, winning a lot of awards. Traded that up for a job in New York. Asked around the agencies. Became creative director Bill Holiday New York at one point, for like two, three years. Then I saw the writing on the wall that agencies were not embracing the internet or as they called it the interweb.
I just decided to start my own agency at that point. I had already gotten word from our largest client, [OmniPoint 00:02:13], that they were going to move the account. That's an account that we had grown from four million in gross revenue to 12 million in two to three years, at Bill Holiday. So I decided to open my own. Started a company called Planet Central with an office in Richmond, Charlotte, and one in New York where I was, and there were a lot of advantages to that. We moved to work around the web. The clients down there had a New York Creative Director. The clients up here had low cost production down there. There was value on all sides of the equation. But once again, my partners were not embracing the internet.
They still haven't. The company is now closed. Not fully. They never quite got it. But I sold out of that at the peak. We were making a lot of money. I sold out of that at the peak and went and started a content marketing firm, before the phrase content marketing was even out. That was 2009, 2010. Very rapidly I saw the phrase get adopted. I saw clients start to hire us. We had gotten not large, but we had gotten small. We got up to about seven or eight people in my little shop. We were just cranking. Having a lot of fun. Cranking it out. But once again, it was a make something, sell something. Make something, sell something thing. You were never done. And the commoditization had already started to set in. The clients realized at one point that the barriers to entry were so low. They have a keyboard. They have an art director. Now they've got a content marketing firm inside their company. So we started training them how to do that. We started mapping out our next thing, which is now where I am.
Trouble Group. That's TroubleGroup.com and we're a boutique marketing firm that basically partners with marketing departments to feed huge creative ideas into their pipeline, on top of their in house marketing stuff. Because in the rush to content marketing, CMOs are so focused on the tactics, the eBooks, the infographics, the whitepapers, and especially all that data coming out of it. Because they're using HubSpot, Marketo, Pardot, and a whole marketing stack. The beauty of it is you can actually finally ... It's the holy grail. Someone hits a tweet, they arrive at a form, they fill out the form, and eventually become a customer. You can track it all back to that tweet. That's where their attention is.
What's gone out the window is creative ideas that light it up. Because I'm sorry, there's more eBooks, and whitepapers, and infographics, than there are eyeballs to look at it all, out in the world. There's just too much of it. I saw a stat from a company called TrackMaven, that said as you increase content by 35% in any channel, you'll decrease customer engagement by 17%. That's very believable. You just keep pumping it out. I have one client that likes to get on LinkedIn two or three times a day, and blast stuff out. And people started unfriending him, or unfollowing him, on LinkedIn. Because it's spam. That's what this is starting to look like out there.
So we're having a lot of success with Trouble Group because I'm back to doing what I've always loved, which is really, really big idea stuff. And able to sell it into companies because there's a certain psychographic of marketing director out there who still has a fire in their belly, still wants to make a name for themselves, in what is still, can be, a creative industry. They want to light it up. The way to light it up is not with another eBook. You don't win awards on eBooks. Maybe you do. I don't think so. But that's what we do. That's a very long answer. You'll find you get very long answers, Max.
Max Traylor: Well you'll find that I sit back and drink my beer when you're giving really long answers that I like. Not to be biased about it, but you used the word commoditization. I've personally given some presentations to groups of agency owners, and when they hear that word commoditization, the personal defenses go up. How do you know that the industry of marketing services, and by services I mean deliverables, content, website, management of marketing automation systems, like you were saying. What do you mean by that's become commoditized? How do you know that's happening?
Steve St. Clair: I think the biggest single indicator that is happening in your industry is when you're competing on price alone. Then you know you've got a problem. They're not looking at your value, and your past, and saying "Wow, I could get some of that magic from this company." A lot of marketing directors now are people who have been inside ad agencies, and they don't believe there's magic anymore. I think. Yet, we're making lightning strike for our clients because of these ideas that we do. They're not just ideas, they start with strategy, and we dig deeply into the structural issues, and opportunities, and companies, and come out the other side with something that's going to light it up. I'll give you some examples later, they're on our website. But, sorry, go ahead.
Max Traylor: Let me play devil's advocate for you, Steve. Because these experiences have been burned into my psyche, and ultimately realized something was happening in the industry, or else these people wouldn't be getting so upset hearing about the commoditization of the traditionally digital marketing. For me it's traditional, but it's new school for a lot of people with such broad careers like yours. But they would say, "Well wait a minute, no, no, no. It takes a heck of a lot of expertise. And we're the best people in the world to create this kind of content, and nobody can do the websites as well as we can." But what you're saying is that you're breaking up the creation of content into two very different things. Strategy and ideas, which is not becoming commoditized. That's actually a contribution that can not become commoditized. It will always be unique, and unique to your expertise. But separating that from the following of the directions, the writing of content, the pressing of buttons.
Steve St. Clair: Mm-hmm. You can never commoditize this. You bring. If you've got a lot of experience, or not a lot of experience but a lot of bravery, or balls, in other words, to try new things and go for it. That's hard to find out there. I know there are certain marketing directors who are looking for it. The sad part to me, Max, is agencies. Because I've been around through the whole thing, just in the early 80s. They're doing it to themselves. It's a race to the bottom. Who can get their price down the lowest? Who can crank it out the fastest? Who can crank out 37 different iterations of a video to blast it out to all these different markets on LinkedIn? Or whatever. With a different set of words opening and closing it for each one.
Agencies are busy trying to find ways to execute, but they're not necessarily embracing their high market. An agent's to stock in trade for the longest time was the ideal work. Then the thing they were doing though, they would give away the strategic insights just to get the money on the production. That's classic mistake they were making.
The real magic and the real money is in the idea work. You can hire people to ... Hire freelancers and stuff to build it. That's what we do. We try and find the best freelancers we can based on the nature of the ideas we're doing. And clients understand it. The understanding of how that all works now is ... And we're very transparent about it all, and I think that's important too. We still let clients know, this is what it costs, and this is what we're going to charge you, and this is our hourly rate, and we don't budge. The ideas are worth the hourly rate. And once the hourly rate's done, if you need help on execution, we'll help guide it. We'll over see it with a set of freelancers, or we'll oversee it in your shop, in your marketing department. And make sure it matches what we originally thought that idea was supposed to look and feel like.
Max Traylor: This is going to sound like a leading question, because it is, I can help myself. But are you finding that that transparency on the availability of this specialized labor today in the marketplace, via the freelance community, that has received the same exact training as all these other agencies. Are you finding that that gives you a competitive edge or additional trust? Because all the other agencies are saying, "No, no, no. You can only get this in between these four walls." Where you're sitting here going, "Look, we're going to help you leverage the best, fastest, cheapest labor out there. And you know what, it might not be in this country."
Steve St. Clair: Yeah, and very often I put the price of our ... Not just us, in terms of the idea work we're doing, but when we've got the execution. I know a guy, for instance, who's the single best graphic artist in a digital medium, like on a Mac, that I've ever met in the world. He's a brilliant guy. He's worth $200 an hour, and that's what he charges. I will go fight for him to work on this part of this project because it requires that. I'll pull away other parts from him, because I can get that done elsewhere. So definitely helps us. And from an idea point of view, I never have a problem with their hourly rate because ... And very often, sometimes I don't charge hourly. Sometimes I come in on a project basis and say what's this worth to this company? Because this idea is huge. If they get that, they can have it. If they don't, they can't. So that's the way that it works for us. I want to get back to ideas being the driving force of marketing, not execution. Because that's what it looks like now, to me.
Max Traylor: I talk about the services bubble that came about directly after the spike in marketing technology. Marketing technology had a spike, and for a brief moment there was a specialized labor market that you could charge value based pricing. There was a price premium for people who knew how to work this technology. But those technology companies put billions of dollars into educating everybody out there on how to use their technology. So it quickly became commoditized, and I do think we're back into that mode of the true value of an agency. The true value of an innovator in the marketing space is the strategy, the ideas, the expertise, whatever you want to call it, but it's not pushing technology buttons. It's not the creation of content. It's not building of websites. All of those things can be done by people that can follow directions.
Steve St. Clair: Mm-hmm. And they're best done there.
Max Traylor: And they are best done there.
Steve St. Clair: Those portions are best done by those people with direction. When we come up with something, we do typically show a design vision of it. What's this going to look like? How are we going to treat these images? What's going to separate that way? And then we turn it over to someone like my guy, who's a genius at it, and then he turns the other parts of it over to people under him, and it gets done, and very affordably done.
That's the real opportunity of all this digitization, is now you can get the back end done very affordably. Amazingly, video editing, which I never thought could get as unbelievably beautiful as it is ... We use, when we do stuff for our own company, we use Premiere Pro. It's just amazing. That with After Effects. Just amazing what you can do.
It's great that it's democratized to that level but along the way, a lot of the craft has gone out of advertising. Now that's something that's really hard to sell a client on. The fact that your stuff, the fonts are current, perfectly to ... Most people don't even know what that means, turning type anymore. But it used to matter a lot, and that level of craftsmanship, and how photography was created. Now 90% of what we do is stock of some sort. Which is also saving client's money. Not necessarily resulting in the best idea work, but go ahead.
Max Traylor: I want to know more about this idea business. Because that sounds like my crowd. How do you sell ideas? How do you sell your expertise? Is it strategy? Do you find ... Because I'll tell you what, there's people out there that do not believe that their ideas, their expertise, their knowledge, can be packaged and sold separately from implementation. They are convinced that it is without the content, without the website, without doing that themselves physically, that they don't provide any value. But yet, if I ask them, "Okay, hold up your right hand and say everything you've learned over the past 20 years is completely useless." They have trouble saying that. So there's a bit of a disconnect between what they know is valuable and what they are confident in selling. So what do we say to those people? Is it-
Steve St. Clair: I've run into a couple things, Max. One is ... Because we started this company almost a year and a half ago now. We were winding down our content marketing company while we built up Trouble Group. We threw the switch on the content marketing company December 31st. I had this client in there that was the one that I definitely wanted to keep, and about six months before that, we were at a trade show out in Vegas, and I was asking him how it's going, and stuff. And he's like, "Well, I've got to pull another rabbit out of my hat to keep the sales guys happy." Because in the B2B world very often the sales guys, they rule the roost. And marketing is in support of what they do. That's not a bad way to operate, in a B2B world.
He knew that we were developing Trouble Group, because we're friends. He was watching it and finally we sat together in Starbucks, and we talked about this thing, and I said, "Look, here's ..." He's like, "If I do this what do I get?" And I'm like, "I don't know. I don't know what you're going to get. I need to sit down and study the problem, I need to go away and really dig deep into the problem. So tell me what your goals are. Your business goals over the next three years." And he said they want to go from X million, to triple that in sales. And that's a bit of a leap, because it's double digits that they wanted to go up. From like 50, to, I forget, X million. A lot more, million.
So the point is I went away with that knowledge, and I went away having dug deep into their business, because I had worked with him for a while. I came back with an idea, and we bounced it around. And I went away again, and came back. He expected me to take one of those three ideas that we'd shown him, and develop it. And I went away, and came up with another idea. So I did not develop the one that he liked. And I sat in a room with him, he had his whole team there. I told him we didn't develop that idea, we came up with a brand new one. And he was shocked.
That's part of the fun in this. I'm not afraid to do that with clients. I've got a better idea than you thought we had. We came up with it last week, and we've developed it a little bit, we're going to show it to you. They were blown away by it. It's a brilliant idea in their category. That's the hard thing to sell. You have to have a client that gets it. That's why when people ask me, "What's your ideal target? What's the demographic?" I'm like, "It's not a demographic, it's a psychographic." They have to have a fire in their belly and still want to make a difference in marketing. They want to have a great career in marketing. That's what we're after. So that's how we do it.
It's finding them that's the difficult part. But we, for instance, right now, we're sending out mailers to people that are really clever and fun, and they open the door just this far, for me to get my foot through with a phone call. We're starting to get traction on that. I do a lot of networking and networking through friends as well. Because this is not an easy thing for people to get. It requires some ... It's a bit of a leap of faith, frankly, to pull this off and to come up with something brilliant. It's risky on their part to do it. But that's by the way what we've always [inaudible 00:20:49] in the marketing business, is take some risks on this. At least, when I was in good creative shops, we went out of our way to shake it up and come up with really aggressive guerrilla tactics, and crazy ideas for clients. And we're [inaudible 00:21:08]. So, I'm not sure if I answered your question, but maybe.
Max Traylor: Yeah, my takeaway is that when you're selling ideas it's not a demographic ... Well, in some ways it is. If you specialize in a certain method or your experience is within a certain industry type, yes, fine, demographics, industry. But there's always an increased emphasis on mindset. And on the psychographics of who you're talking to. One thing that you kind of mentioned in passing that I want to highlight, is that you were asking this person how it's going. Which implies that they have made an investment in tactics before.
Let me know if you agree with this, but what I find is that there's a direct relationship between the investment and tactics and how long they've been investing in those tactics. There's a direct relationship with their appreciation, and the value they put on strategy and on ideas. It's folks that have not yet invested in those tactics and are victim to the popularized view of marketing today, that you need the latest marketing automation technology, and content's king. In those cases you don't need strategy, you need volume. I need to purchase this software. I need to create the content and the results will come. But it's folks that have been doing that for three years, with four different agencies, that turn around and say, wait a minute, I've got all the ingredients, but maybe I was missing the recipe.
Steve St. Clair: Right. I'm getting thrown out of this room, hang on one second.
Max Traylor: Cheers. Well, look, I'm behind on my beer, so yeah, take five.
Steve St. Clair: Yeah you do a catch up there. All right. Hang on. I need enough height.
Max Traylor: I've got a final question for you, and then we'll wrap up. So I won't put you through the ringer too bad.
Steve St. Clair: Sure. Go for it. All right, I'm parked. We're good.
Max Traylor: Parked. Great. What the hell was I going to say? Oh, so what's next for ... So you're in the idea business, and that's the mindset that I'm trying to contribute to people because ... And for some people the implementation business is just fine. There's always going to be a market for it, but make no mistake, the price premium has disappeared. If you want to win, you're going to win by operational efficiency. Think Walmart, fine. That's fine. But a lot of people have this vision of creating passive income streams. Of creating more freedom in their business and their personal lives. The business model doesn't match up with that. Again, it was this bubble that popped up five years ago, that was like, "Yeah, this is great." And then boom, commoditized immediately. So I do believe that it's this mindset of an idea company. A strategy company. An expertise. Selling your knowledge. But for someone that's already living that, what's next on your list? What is- what are the things that you're working on to expand your contribution without-
Steve St. Clair: Killing myself.
Max Traylor: Yeah, killing yourself.
Steve St. Clair: Exactly.
Max Traylor: I was going to sugar coat it a bit more. But yeah, killing yourself.
Max Traylor: That's what we're talking about.
Steve St. Clair: I plugged my Mac in, it was dying here.
It's a great question. In a creative industry, we often think we have to reinvent everything every time. But, there's a case study video on our website about a company called Gym Source, which is the country's largest retailer of gym equipment. And we did this thing that was really cool. The marketing directors, one of those guys with a fire in his belly, great guy, good friend of mine now, he realized that they have this wall of steel and all they show is like a catalog. Their website is a catalog. There was no real brand to it. It's just page after page after page, of spinning bikes, and treadmills, and all this other stuff. Ellipticals.
What we came up with was, you have to have a brand, and people have to believe that ... Well, first of all, we came up with this whole notion, which he guided very heavily called turning their ... Because they don't sell online. You can buy online, but they have 33 locations I think up and down the east coast. We wanted to turn the guys in the store into Fitness Equipment Experts. So they became the Equipment Experts, and we started positioning them that way. The second part of what we did was we went out and said you've got to have a brand that stands for what your customers want. You've got to be seen as supporting their fitness goals. So we came up with this thing called Victory Moment.
In that, we went out and started collecting people. What I called everyday athletes. They weren't superstars, or no professional athletes, but people who are into fitness. One guy was this 80 some year old guy who just wanted to walk around the block every day. And we told their stories. We dedicated a page on the website to each one of them. An entire, massive, long, page. At the top of that page we had this ... You'll see the video. There's this grid system where we track their progress towards their goal.
I'll tell you one of the stories. There's a guy named Larry [Towner 00:26:43], who's the number one bike guy, 10 speed racer. That's how I knew him, because I used to do that before I realized I'm mortal. Dangerous sport. And Larry, I called him up to see if he would do this for us, to let us feature him. And he said, "Yeah, there's just one problem. I had a heart attack recently." I'm like, "Oh, I'm sorry, then you won't want to do this." He's like "Oh, no, I want to do it. Because I'm going to get back on the podium." He's going to start winning races again after having a heart attack. Like, this is just great drama. And it was. The video was this tearjerker, and he made it. And we tracked every month, he climbed better and better, as did the 30 or 40 other people on the website by that point. We kept adding people. And we would do video of them.
But here's the secret sauce, we would send them graphics that we made featuring them hitting their goals or not with an update sized for Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, all that stuff. And they would gladly push it out to their social media friends. What they didn't realize was they were chosen, in part, because they had a huge social following. We called it Micro Influencer Marketing. For instance, when Larry put up his podium, his first podium that he got back on, the winner's podium, it got a huge number of likes. Now, what's replicable about that is not the stories that we told, and not the people that we told, but the structure of what we did.
Because it was a very sneaky little campaign. You can replicate a structure and still keep the creativity in it, and you can outsource a lot of the management of building that content out. Just like we did. I was there for the video shoots but I wasn't pushing camera buttons. I outsourced that. I directed it, because I like to direct a little and make sure the performance is really good. That's to me a great case of how you come up with a creative idea that you can then repeat. Because I've had four different business meetings, or prospect meetings, where they looked at that video and they were like, "We could do that." I'm like, "Yes you could." And we have one that we're talking to about it right now.
Max Traylor: Favorite quote from my favorite book in agency world, The Business of Expertise, David Baker. "The number one thing holding people back from long term relevance is they spend their best efforts on individual clients, rather than methodologies and processes that would benefit all of their clients." And they fade away into the distance because they become irrelevant. Because they're focusing on individual clients and that's where their value stops. But the mindset that I'm picking up from you, is that every time you do something breakthrough for a client you look at it in two ways. One is the repeatable part, the structure, as you call it. You gave it a name, Micro Influencer Marketing. You separated that thing, which is extremely valuable, repeatable, a unique process in the marketplace. That's innovation right there. And separate that from the thing that is unique to every client, which is the creative application of that structure.
Steve St. Clair: Right.
Max Traylor: Now that is in stark contrast to most people that will say, "No, no, no. What we do is completely ..." And this is part of their value proposition, "It's completely unique for every client."
Steve St. Clair: Yeah. That's tough. It's a tough way to make a living.
Max Traylor: It's a tough way to make a living. Like my dad always said, if you don't protect your quarterback, you're not going to win the game. What he meant was, look, it's got to work for me too. So you're keeping the lights on, you're able to focus on these ... And people often believe that it's the customization that is most valuable. I've heard in a number of interviews with people with similar mindsets that it's actually not the customization. It's not what's different for every client. It's actually what is the same for every client that is most valuable. That idea. The Micro Influencer Marketing. That structure is what is most valuable. And yes, it does take unique expertise to apply that model creatively to a business.
Steve St. Clair: To some degree. But even large parts of that. You can go hire the video company to create the videos then. Follow our formula for it. We might show up as is directed. But we were going way wide, we went down to North Carolina thinking, we didn't ... In other words, you can get other people to do those pieces of it, if you follow the process of it. The bigger, 20,000 foot thinking of it.
Max Traylor: All right, fine I get it. So what's your next step with the Micro Influencer Marketing?
Steve St. Clair: We're actually looking at all sorts of different ways to do it without over inventing too much. Because that's one of the keys.
Max Traylor: Go on.
Steve St. Clair: For instance, how we deploy social in this. So, a lot of B2B. This was a consumer play. In B2B, it's very different. How does a B2B company do this? How does a B2B company make heroes out of the micro influencers who are really their targets? A lot of guys are doing this already where they go out and they interview ... Through a podcast, they'll interview their targets. Their target audience. It's a smart move. Easily replicable. But there's no overarching bigger plan to that that makes it stand out.
Part of what's missing here in marketing is how big can you go? How much attention can you get? Sure, your podcasting. There's only about eight billion other podcasts out there competing for attention. But congratulations, you're podcasting. Do you have any edge in your podcast? Do you have any reason that people will beat a path to your door? Have you figured out a unique story? And that's at the 50,000 foot level. That's where we want to play, and drop it down into B2B companies. Similar, the micro influencer thinking deployed in a lot of ways. The key to it is to find ways that are replicable, to your point.
Max Traylor: Yes.
Steve St. Clair: Across different clients.
Max Traylor: I would point at that Micro Influencer Marketing as a methodology, as a knowledge product. To me the question is, how do you have a business model around that knowledge product that allows you to spend more time with your family, gain more freedom in your business, as you are more successful? I'll give you a hint, it's the opposite of showing up for a client and going, "Hey, let me tell you about this, the great thing that we got." One to one. Manual labor. That's not the way to do it. So, just curious as to what of some of the proven business models out there, maybe from the sales space, maybe from the marketing space, since you've got a bit more experience than my typical audience member whose maybe 10 years into this thing. What kind of business models do you see for that intellectual property? Is it licensing? Is it on demand course material for your clients? Is it [crosstalk 00:33:59].
Steve St. Clair: Yeah, I think it's possibly a lot of the above. It's hard for people to get their head wrapped around that they could create really nice videos. So I've thought about ... I haven't given this too much thought, but I have been thinking about how do I actually do this to set up my retirement, so that I can take it a little easier. Having put two kids through college. Excuse me now. One way to do that, that I see is to make it easier for them ... And video's one of the big stumbling blocks. Everybody loves it but they don't know how to make it look right. They don't know how to source it as a client. So in other words, if I'm selling to a marketing department ... And that's one of my goals, is to sell this into marketing departments. Because, they already have an art director. They already have a writer. They can take a training course from us, that's prebuilt, and understand how to do video. How to light it correctly. How to light an interview. How to get drama from them. So that, there'd be a whole package. So there's paper parts to this that are ... In other words, PDFs that can show you a diagram to light someone properly. But then there's interviews, video interviews, with me, teaching you, literally, here's how I interview people. Here's how I get the real emotion. Do you want real emotion? Do you want them to look like a thought leader expert and be real serious and stuff? There's a way to do that. You keep them from stumbling. How do you keep them from stumbling? You shoot with two or three cameras. All three cameras are running and then you cut. You build in cuts into the stuff and they never say the word "Uh." Because, you cut it out. There's little tactics like that that we can train. And that can be replicable.
Max Traylor: Even that I look at as the lowest hanging fruit. Training people on the tactics. But I still look back at that intellectual property, the process of going into a customer, looking at their challenges, and saying you need a Micro Influencer Marketing strategy. When I'm thinking about the potential for licensing this, it's always under the mindset of how can I contribute to more people with less effort. Because our bodies will fall apart eventually. We will lose the energy to grind it out, day in, day out. So what do we leave behind as our legacy? And a big opportunity right now is the freelance gig network. These people aren't content writers anymore. This is the next generation of entrepreneurs. The majority of millennials are engaging in some kind of freelance labor and their not all tacticians. Some of them are [inaudible 00:36:44]. Some of them have unique industry experience. So what I'm thinking about is training people on how to create the strategy. How to go after customers, and how to create a strategy and achieve the buy in to take a part of their budget and go after this Micro Influencer Marketing strategy, in addition to training people on how to implement it. But I imagine a little horde of strategists out there going, "I am Micro Influencer Marketing certified."
Steve St. Clair: Yeah. Absolutely. I could see that. That makes a lot of sense. I've thought about it a little bit. Part of what I run into is ... And basically you're selling a license for it.
Max Traylor: You're selling your secret sauce. You're selling a license to use your secret sauce, and the relationship with you is you get to spend time as the innovator. You get to focus 100%. I see this all the time in the sales space because they never got bogged down and what is the marketing equivalent of implementation services. It doesn't exist in sales. So they only focus on strategy, and a lot of them have transformed from consultancies to IP companies. If you go to their office, they're all product developers. They're developing methodologies. They're creating training videos. They're not doing any consulting. Yet, the forward face of their website is we're a consulting organization. What have they done? They've certified 1099s across the world to deliver their consulting methodologies, and the financial relationship is passive income. Passive, residual income.
Steve St. Clair: See, here's the way I'm thinking about it. Even above a tactic. Because Micro Influencer is a tactic, not so much a strategy. But what I envision is continually developing things. So here's a Micro Influencer package, here's this other package, here's this next package, here's the next one. Oh, we got a new one, we just thought up a doozy. And you build it out through the network, so they get continual value for which they will continue to pay you. You have across the bottom of your website I believe, four different sections. Very similar to what I'm talking about. Training that you do, right?
Max Traylor: You're talking about me?
Steve St. Clair: Yeah.
Max Traylor: Yeah, four knowledge products. Four strategies. By the way my current website is out of date, but yeah. I've got about 12 different ... Anyway, go on.
Steve St. Clair: No, that's perfect. And you can keep rolling those in. So as Micro Influencer becomes a thing of where it's almost becoming commoditized, don't worry. There's six others we've already developed. Because that's the way we think. We think in terms of how do we break out of the market? How do we help clients break out of the market? Right now, it's Micro Influencer. That one's getting a lot of buzz when we're in meetings and stuff. But I want to come out with the next one. And I don't know what the next one is. It could be anything. It could be based on some new media, some new social media option that comes up. We'll be right there thinking about it.
Max Traylor: That reminds me of Peter Drucker. The only thing that contributes to profit in an entrepreneurial organization is innovation and marketing.
Steve St. Clair: Mm-hmm. That's great.
Max Traylor: They create a unique value that allows you to charge more than your competitors. So a lot of people will say, "Oh, it's this knowledge product, or this concept that's going to lead me to greatness." No, what we're trying to do here is get the most of your time. The most of your effort. The most of your time. The majority of that effort going towards innovations because as we've seen time and time again, the best ideas become commoditized. And it's only accelerating. So it's not necessarily the idea at that given time that creates competitive advantage, it's creating a situation for yourself where you can manufacture new ideas. At a faster rate than your competitors. That's what's going to win you the game of how do I continue to contribute to more people with less effort over time?
And the other thing you said is retirement. And there's two very different concepts of retirement. I happen to believe that that concept won't exist by the technical time, I'm ready for retirement. One definition of ... Is I stop contributing to people. The other is I continue to contribute to people. I love interviewing folks that have just retired in the marketing space. And I ask them, "Okay, so you've stopped contributing to people?" They say, "Well, no, I still have these programs that people go through." And I say "Oh, okay, well you've stopped making money then." And they say "No, well, you know, I still get licensing cheques, I still get revenue shares from the people that are certified."
Steve St. Clair: Well then you're not retired.
Max Traylor: So I said okay, so this is an interesting concept of retirement because it just sounds like you're not going to work anymore. That's the only thing that's changed. You're still contributing to people, you're still making money, you're just not going to work anymore, you decided to spend time with your grandkids. So it's a shift in mindset from I'm making all these decisions today in an effort to do nothing in the future, versus, I'm creating passive residual income streams for myself so that I can contribute to people forever. And make money forever, even when I'm on my deathbed.
Steve St. Clair: Yeah. The thing that gets me lit up is the notion of continuing innovation. And continuing to find ways to pump it out. Not just with us as the factory, but like you say, by licensing it. We've probably right now got about three of those that we could license. Our Micro Influencer approach is unique, and it's an easy one to license that thing. And to have an army of smart people out there delivering it who are looking forward to the next thing that our laboratories invent. And that's the way I think of it. We're going to be a lab. My last company, we had a laboratory and we came out with some crazy stuff. Really cool stuff. And we intend to do that here in an ongoing way.
Max Traylor: Well, the biggest market force is the amount of entrepreneurs, people doing their own thing. Granted, it's a minority. It's a tiny minority. But they're out there. That have the charisma, the energy, the people skills. Thank you millennial generation who can't pick up the phone. But a minority of them have those raw skills. What they lack is the experience. And that's the opportunity that I think people like yourself with 30 years experience have to package that up and say, wait a minute, there's an army out there that doesn't represent me taking on loans to hire them, taking on the risk of paying them every single day despite their productivity. These people want their own businesses. And they behave as employees that pay you. They pay you licensing fees. They pay you revenue share. And it's really shaking up the opportunity in the marketing space. So, brilliant stuff. I'm done with my beer. I know yours is on tap, but I'm sure it was delicious. That's all I ... Okay, so fine, final question, and I know you're a fan of long answers, so for the sake of the listeners on their [inaudible 00:44:13] make it a short answer. Go back three years in time, give yourself one piece of advice.
Steve St. Clair: Wow, that's a good one.
Max Traylor: I got time.
Steve St. Clair: I gave myself that advice and I actually followed it. It was ... I've kind of always been this way, which is never be afraid. Never be afraid of doing something.
Max Traylor: Why?
Steve St. Clair: Action fixes everything. Fail faster is another way to say it. I've always loved that phrase. That's a software phrase. Fail faster.
Max Traylor: What is a software phrase?
Steve St. Clair: Fail.
Max Traylor: It wasn't Apple, I feel like.
Steve St. Clair: I'm not sure where that came from.
Max Traylor: We need more failures.
Max Traylor: We need more epic failures to be more specific. I think it was ... No, I think maybe Google. Anyway, I'm not going to butcher my shattered intelligence after an 8% double IPA. But look, this was brilliant stuff. Thank you so much, Steve. Thanks for shifting around.
Steve St. Clair: My pleasure.
Max Traylor: Thanks for grabbing a draft beer at abnormal hours on the east coast. For those of you listening, drive safe, tip your waitress, see you next time. Don't binge on Beers with Max, all the other fun things that I say, see you next time.