Building in Public with Evan Patterson

Lauren Volpi's headshot on a blue background

Evan Patterson is the Head of Content & Community at trender.ai. Outside of that, he is a brand ambassador for a variety of B2B brands, a content creator, podcast host, and an advisor for other startups like Chili Piper and scaleMatters.

Here are a few of the topics we’ll discuss on this episode of Long Story Short:

 

  • What it means to build in public as a startup
  • Why B2B marketers need to lean in more heavily to the untapped value of influencer marketing
  • The parallels between personal branding and marketing a startup company 
  • Making social selling easier, more fun, and more approachable.
  • Refining your tone and messaging through experience, realtime feedback, and conversations with customers 
  • Creating a startup culture that is collaborative and fosters active listening

 

Resources:

Zoë Hartsfield

Jorge Soto

Meryoli Arias

Violating Community Guidelines: Brand Content

Violating Community Guidelines: LinkedIn Influencers

The Financial Diet

The Bald and the Beautiful Podcast

 

Connect with Evan:

Evan’s Linktree

Connect with the Host:

Jeff Sirkin on LinkedIn

 

Connect with Sirkin Research:

Website

Twitter

Instagram

LinkedIn

Jeff Sirkin:
Hello and welcome back to another episode of Long Story Short, the podcast about storytelling and connection. I’m your host, Jeff Sirkin. On this show, we talk to people making a difference as marketers, entrepreneurs, and social impact advocates. We dig into actionable strategies and tactics to help you connect with your audience and keep your finger on the pulse of your market. My guest this week is Evan Patterson. He’s the head of content and community at trender.ai. Outside of that, he’s a brand ambassador for a variety of B2B brands, a content creator, podcast host, and an advisor for other startups like Chili Piper and Scale Matters. Evan’s amazing. We had a great conversation around startup culture and the importance of building a public. We talk about social selling and why Evan believes that B2B marketers should be leaning in more heavily to influencer marketing. So without further ado, please enjoy my conversation with Evan Patterson.

Jeff Sirkin:
Hi Evan. Thanks for coming on Long Story Short.

Evan Patterson:
Thank you so much for having me. I appreciate it.

Jeff Sirkin:
Yeah, so I want to start with what your world looks like today. And so I’m curious specifically, what’s the brand story that you tell at Trender?

Evan Patterson:
Oh, that’s a good question. When it comes to Trender’s brand story, since we are so early, we’re pre-launch, we’re still figuring out what exactly that means. But the leading example for us right now is focusing on social selling and making that more of a tangible, easy to approach conversation. Everything out there about social selling is usually not written for somebody who’s not social media savvy. They’re skipping that step. So when it comes to talking about how can we make this helpful and educational, but also approachable and easy to consume, we’re kind of marrying the tonality of somebody who is that the best friend that’s great to party with the club, but that exact same person’s also there for you in your darkest day. There are very few people in the world that apply to both of those scenarios, but that person that is in your life is usually your friend for life.

Evan Patterson:
So that is how we convey the message is let’s make it fun, let’s make it approachable, let’s make it easily conceivable to the person who never touched social media or just dabbles in it in their personal life, but also without alienating that person like me who’s been doing it since they were 13 years old professionally. You know, it’s those things.

Jeff Sirkin:
So I love that and I want to just kind of call out a couple things that you just said. Obviously, being pre-launch, one thing is I get the sense that so many pre-launch companies, they feel like they need to have everything kind of set in stone and I really love the perspective of we want to make sure we have the tone and we kind of have the vision of what it needs to be, but the exact pieces of it we’ll kind of figure out over time. I think that’s a really refreshing approach to how to deal with it.

Evan Patterson:
A lot of companies always pick their content. They have to have content posts, we have to content posts. Yeah, you need to have content posts, but you can’t just pick them. Sometimes you need to have like 19 different things and throw it at the wall and see what sticks and we’re in that stage. And there’s nothing wrong with admitting that. And I think a lot of companies are afraid to acknowledge that. You have to be able to get things wrong. You have to be comfortable with getting it wrong. And sometimes it’s not even about getting it wrong. It’s like, we got it good, but what if we can get it great? There’s also that, and right now we’re in that stage. We know what not to do. We’ve crossed that hurdle months and months ago before I even started working here.

Evan Patterson:
But now it’s how do we do it the best way in terms of the medium, whether that’s video, whether that’s picture, whether that’s leaning on events more, whether we need to feel more in the paid sense of things, which is why I mentioned before we started recording I’m excited that we’re going to have somebody who’s focused more on demand gen and the well-oiled machine part of marketing, the behind the scenes stuff, because I focus on the organic side. I work with the influencers, the PR, the content community. If it wasn’t for the paid ads and the email blasts, what I do kind of fizzles real quick.

Jeff Sirkin:
The idea though that, and I’ve said this a lot, there’s really just no replacement for experience, for saying we have, and to your point and what I really love the approach you guys are taking where it’s, we have a hypothesis of what the story is, and to your point, we’ve learned what not to do, we know it’s good, but let’s kind of continue to put it out there and let’s continue to refine it. But honestly, I think it’s so much about the mindset of not seeing it as a finished product, not seeing that there is probably maybe even ever a time where it will be “perfect,” but the idea that it will continue to get refined by getting real-time feedback because I think there’s really no replacement for that.

Evan Patterson:
We’re a big believer in building a public and I think where companies get that wrong, to your point, is they only talk about building the product in public. We’re also talking about building the marketing in public. We’re talking about building the sales motion in public. We’re talking about building how we hire in public. We’re talking about how we build literally any part of the business in public, and especially since we’re going after that younger millennial/Gen Z audience. That’s usually who uses our product. They care about trust and I fit right in that demographic as somebody who’s like a year off of Gen Z demographic myself.

Evan Patterson:
We care about that trust and that transparency. I’d rather have a brand tell me we’re not the expert on this yet. I’d rather hear that than pretend to be the expert and then I find out you’re not, because you can’t repair that. There’s no take two there. I would rather tell somebody we’re working on this and we want your feedback, but we also want your money at the same time. Nobody says no to that. People love that. I would rather have somebody tell me that. We’re not selling a pacemaker here so it doesn’t have to be perfect from the get go. It just needs to get the job done.

Jeff Sirkin:
We’re not saving lives.

Evan Patterson:
Yeah, we’re not curing cancer here at Trender. We’re creating the world’s first social media recommendation engine. Lives will be changed, but I don’t think lives will be saved.

Jeff Sirkin:
Right. And again, it’s just so refreshing because I get the sense, and again, I hope everybody out there listening sort of similarly, it’s just the idea that you don’t have to have it all figured out and frankly that you should be honest about that. Because I think, again, to your point, I think trust is such a big component of any kind of brand equity and the fact that so many brands want to come out and either be everything to everyone or the last thing they ever want to do is admit that they don’t know something. There’s a lot of conversation in social today about how as individuals we need to be thinking about that, and especially people in leadership positions, and saying I don’t know is the most powerful thing that’s probably underused.

Jeff Sirkin:
But I think to your point, I think companies and brands really need to think of the same way and almost help their customers to know that no, we’re actually not for you, or to your point, we haven’t figured this out yet, but we’re on the path and we’d love your help. And to me, I think it’s that building in public that’s so valuable.

Evan Patterson:
Yeah, especially since we’re in that trying to get that first 100 customers phase. We need those early adopters and how do you attract early adopters? You make it safe to be an early adopter. You let them know we’re building something for you. No, it’s not complete, but it’s enough for you to use and give us feedback so we can keep making it for you. We’re building this for you, but we just need to have the you’s there to build it for. So, you’re kind of stuck between a rock and a hard place. I want to build it for you, but I need to attract the you.

Jeff Sirkin:
Yes.

Evan Patterson:
So how do you do that? You just lay all your cards out on the table.

Jeff Sirkin:
Yeah. Yeah. But I mean, again, I think so much of it, and why I really love frankly where it sounds like you guys are in terms of your own company branding is really very aligned with what so much of the conversation is today around personal brands. But the idea and the thing for me that I think is a really underused tactic for almost anybody, especially in corporate jobs, is under promise and over deliver. Just be very of what expectations you’re setting, whether intentionally or not, but to your point, make it very clear. Don’t let the customers think that this is some final version because they’re going to find these bugs and if they have the expectation going into it that any one of these bugs is going to ruin their experience because they’re expecting this perfectly well-formed thing that can solve all their problems today, then they’re going to leave and they’re going to have a bad taste in their mouth.

Jeff Sirkin:
Whereas, if you’re very upfront about this part’s nailed, we know we have this and we’re trying to build this out and we want your input to be part of that. Again, setting the expectation with those early customers is critical in setting up what their experience is going to be like.

Evan Patterson:
Yeah, and a big part of it too is the nature of what we’re doing in social media is there’s a balancing act of we have to do new things. We are building the world’s first of what we’re doing, patent pending. So there’s not a whole lot of comparison factors, which is a good thing and a bad thing. You don’t have a blueprint to follow. On the flip side though, there are blueprints for us to follow in the interface. If we’re making a tool that’s supposed to help you use social media better for social selling so you can get your customers, it should feel like you’re on social media still. It shouldn’t feel like a separate tool. It should feel natural. You shouldn’t have to learn how to use it from a technical standpoint. That should be intuitive.

Evan Patterson:
So it’s like how do we make this app look and feel like every other social media app while achieving something no other app does. Props to our entire design and development team because that is not the part of the house that I sit on, but I can only imagine how much that makes it very complicated. We can’t reinvent the wheel too much. Its something a lot of startups have, but I think when it’s something that everyone uses in and out of work, its just that much easier to piss somebody off. It’s that much easier to annoy somebody because they’re not just comparing it to themselves at work, they’re comparing it to themselves out of work.

Jeff Sirkin:
That’s right.

Evan Patterson:
When you start comparing your tool to your whole self, people either love you or they hate you. There is no gray area. So the way we can pad the extremes down a little bit, because if they love you too much, then the expectations get too high and we can’t keep up. That’s the alternative, right? The way you pad it down is letting them know about the roadmap and being honest and saying this is when we’d like to get this done. I never say we’re going to release this by then. I say, assuming things go as planned, this is when this will come out. I have been telling people when TikTok is going to be coming out on Trenders since December and I can tell you the date has changed more times than I have fingers. And every time I say if things go as planned, this is when it should be coming out.

Evan Patterson:
I’ve noticed the bar is so low, I’m tripping over it. Every other brand just says this is when it’s coming out. Oh, it had to get pushed due to (insert made up corporate reason here). And I’m like, when you’re building something that’s dependent on somebody else’s API and it’s changing faster than you can blink and breathe, you’re going to get curve balls.

Jeff Sirkin:
Absolutely.

Evan Patterson:
So I let people know listen, this is when it should come out based on how it’s currently functioning and these are some potential curve balls that we may experience because we’ve experienced them already before in other platforms. So I’m not just setting expectations, I’m also explaining why those expectations are there. And so setting expectations, half the battle, it’s making sure that they understand why those expectations are there. Luckily, most of our people that have been beta testing our tool are social media savvy so they get that without the explanation. But you also have to be able to read the room and know when you need to spoon feed them the answer.

Jeff Sirkin:
Absolutely.

Evan Patterson:
That’s tricky.

Jeff Sirkin:
So I want to come back to those beta users in a minute, but first I want to sort of clarify and set expectations here. You said you don’t sit on the design and development side of the house, but can you clarify a little bit of what is your role at Trender?

Evan Patterson:
I wish I knew. So my job title is Head of Content Community and I know anybody who’s worked at a startup knows why I started with the words my job title is.

Jeff Sirkin:
Yeah.

Evan Patterson:
My day-to-day is spent focusing on content creation, content strategy, the content distribution, and the weight between those three things is changing all the time. It’s a lot of co-marketing sourcing. We have a lot of really exciting collaborations coming up post-launch. That’s where the community part of my role really starts to kick in. I spend a lot of my day like reaching out to the beta users and the trial users. Thankfully, that part’s less and less on my plate with our new customer enablement team.

Jeff Sirkin:
Right.

Evan Patterson:
But I’m now more taking what they’re saying and translating that to the community strategy, whether that is in the form of content, events, resources, enablement, both internally and externally to current customers, current users, past users that have given up on us, and future. So also trying to figure out through the community, I’m also learning what people want the tool to do. I’m not on the design development team. I am not a product manager in the slightest bit, but I am also our ICP. I am our demographic. So there’s a beauty there where I can go, that’s great feedback and it doesn’t stop there. I also see why you’re saying that because I’m eating our own dog food. So I just translate that to the people on our team.

Evan Patterson:
So a lot of my day is also collecting the feedback and translating it from how does the ICP speak to how our design team speaks and our development team speaks, because what I’ve noticed is a lot of developers don’t speak the lingo of our ICP. We’ve done a really good job of hiring though because our team really does thankfully, but there’s still some moments where I have to explain the theory behind things. They get it technically, they don’t get the why though. It’s that. So a lot of my day is spent doing that and drawing up plans for our inevitable affiliate program, our referral program, which are two different things. Some people don’t realize they are, but they are. Our influencer strategy, creating content on how to make all those three things happen by using Trender, so I’m also double dipping everything I just said. And I could go on it for hours, but that’s about half of my job is what I just explained. And that’s just at Trender, that’s not including all my other jobs.

Jeff Sirkin:
We talked about beta users a little bit and the thing I want to kind of dig into a little bit there and one of the big themes that we have on this show is around how do you keep your finger on the pulse of your market. And so I’m really especially interested that, obviously at this point it sounds like you have, to your point, you’re not even yet at 100 current customers, so it’s really a manageable thing. And frankly, even as the organization grows, once you get post-launch, how are you going to be sort of intentional of marketing keeping a finger on the pulse of those users. To your point, I think it’s so great the perspective you have and I think you almost have the benefit in this particular case of it being so small and kind of like you can kind of fit it in the palm of your hand right now. But what are some of those things that you’re trying to be intentional about going forward of how you’ll kind of maintain that as it continues to grow.

Evan Patterson:
Well, we’ve lucked out because Betsy, one of our co-founders, Betsy Billhorn, has been working in the technology space for over 30 years and it’s her first time founding a company like this. So she’s been able to watch other people found and drop the ball. She’s developed products from the ground up within the larger companies, so she’s had the experience. So with that in mind, Trender did the right thing and it was this, how do we keep the pulse and how do we make it possible to keep the pulse, which is a step a lot of companies forget. So it was okay, we have people that are interested in becoming beta users, then we have beta users, then we have active beta users, then we have the beta users that are roaring fans of us. Then we have trial users that came out of the beta. Then we have trial users that dropped off, trial users that became customers.

Evan Patterson:
So a lot of companies just go fans, that’s it. We just got fans. I’m like, well you got to break it down. And then I could go on more. I could do a Ted talk on the lie of each category and the subcategories. So we’ve done a really good job of creating the ability to scalably measure. That was the first step. The second step was executed on that and that is giving access, before I started working here in December, Betsy was the person as the founder of the company, she was also the person that people were talking to when they say, “Hey, the tool’s not working and I need help setting it up.” She was the person doing the outbound. She was the person doing the customer service. She was the person doing the product management. She was doing everything.

Evan Patterson:
So where a lot of companies, they try to have that barrier and they only want to talk to other founders and other executives. But it’s like, I don’t care if you’re the janitor that’s doing this for a hobby. I don’t care if you’re the person who runs the company of 1000 people that are going to be using this or anywhere in between. She welcomed the conversation and created that time. That top-down approach made it easy for me to come in and do that too. It also made it easy for now me to help Avery and Javen, our customer enablement reps, to be able to do that themselves because we’ve now seen how to execute this. And it’s really simple.

Evan Patterson:
It’s just make it easy to be accessed, whether that is the use of technology to allow for the inbound access or going outbound to these people, and it’s also about showing with action when people say they want something or need something. People are falling off. One thing we’ve been working on is people have been falling off the bandwagon, for lack of a better term, when they start the trial but they have to link their accounts to make the app do what it has to do. Come to find out, it looks more daunting than it actually is. So we have to make the process look easier because people are giving up before they even start. So, that’s a design feature that came from listening to people.

Evan Patterson:
Then the next problem was now that you made it easier, I still don’t fully get it. There’s some people like that. So now, Javen and Avery, you talk to people all the time, make a video about how to do it because you keep answering the same questions so you obviously know how to answer it. I’ll make it look pretty and then Betsy will get the design team to make it on our website and pop up when it needs to pop up. So it’s also all about collaboration and active listening.

Jeff Sirkin:
Yeah. But again, I think it starts with the mindset of letting the customer sort of drive the conversation and saying that we don’t have all the answers internally, that most of the answers we’re going to have are out there. And so we need to do a good job of kind of corralling that to some extent and really cultivating those users and giving them the platform and the ability and making sure they know that you want their feedback. But to your point, and even then, because so many organizations, especially when they get larger, so much of this stuff gets siloed. And so many marketers I talk to that are at larger companies, they have literally no direct contact with any kind of current or future customers and almost very little insight even into sort of the customer success organization. You know, again, sometimes its housed in a completely different place, and so you have sales, customer support.

Evan Patterson:
They literally sit under marketing currently at Trender.

Jeff Sirkin:
There you go.

Evan Patterson:
Yeah.

Jeff Sirkin:
But in so many of these organizations, to your point, product too, product will live in its own organization and so everybody’s kind of moving off of these different scripts and I think so much of it is choosing to be really… Not just saying we’re customer first, I think everybody likes to say that, but actually doing it. Show me, don’t tell me. But allowing that to really drive, to your point, even the way that the organization is structured.

Evan Patterson:
It stems down to our day-to-day functionality. Betsy is a big believer in compassionate hiring and talent hiring. She loves to hire people with atypical on paper backgrounds that have a passion or natural knack for things, which comes with pros and cons. One of the cons being, and I’m a poster child of this one because this is my first time being in a head of role, is how do I make my idea or response to something make sense to somebody who’s not on my level in this category. They’re not dumber than me, but if you’re an engineer, obviously you specialize in a very different role than I specialize in. But you understanding and knowing everything that I know in real time with ease is incredibly important for both our success and for the company and for the customer. So Betsy does a really good job of actively coaching people on not just how to do this, but also how to do this in front of other people so they can also learn themselves.

Evan Patterson:
So the better I get at it, the people that are under me are now going to get better at it as well. So she’s a master when it comes to creating the trickle-down effect when it comes to best practices on exactly what you mentioned. So it’s not just something we do with the customers. It’s not just something we do internally, but this is also how we work of hiring and HR. We take everything that we just explained in this podcast so far and we apply it to the workplace culture, we apply it to how we hire, we apply it to how we attract talent. I’ve said in interviews to Javen and Avery, if you’re listening, comment on the post to let people know that I actually said it. I said, if I am being an a-hole, tell me. Our culture is if something’s wrong, we’re creating a space where you’re free to say it.

Evan Patterson:
And if your intentions are good, but you’re tripping up on how you say it, I’ll still listen to you. I’ll tell you how you should say it going forward. I’m not going to crucify you. We’re creating a safe space to trip while trying so to speak. If that’s what we’re going to do with our customers and that’s what we’re going to do with our product, why can’t we do that with our employees? So this all starts with Betsy and Les, the founders, creating this trickle-down culture effect, so I’m very excited to see what’s going to happen when we grow. The company’s doubled in head count since I started, which doesn’t say much when you’re doubling from like four or five, but I’m excited to see at this pace what it will be in a year or so as we keep growing because most of us came to this company, and I’ve been doing employee shout out content lately, and by accident I’ve also been serving why people work at Trender.

Evan Patterson:
And everyone’s saying the exact same thing. They love how the product’s innovative and they love how the culture is equally, if not more, innovative than the product.

Jeff Sirkin:
Well, and so much again that you see, and with companies, they can kind of put on all the gloss they want, but you’ll know internally. And so the best companies, they don’t just market their products well, but to your point, they actually have the real culture that fits that and as a result, they’re able to attract the best talent. And the other thing is, at Sirkin Research, we talk about how understanding your buyers is really the unlock to growth and removing the guesswork of marketing, but so much of that for us always comes down to three things. We talk pain points, priorities, and the language of the market.

Jeff Sirkin:
But the fact to recognize, and one of the reasons I love doing what I do is recognizing how many different places that applies to. And so sure that applies to marketing and how are you going to actually sort of talk about Trender to a potential buyer, but to your point, how can you, specifically in your role, talk to somebody in engineering? You need to speak their language. You can’t speak your language because they don’t have the inherent knowledge of your function [crosstalk 00:22:45].

Evan Patterson:
And vice versa too. They translate engineering to me all the time. Otarv and Ken and Allyssa have had to translate their world to me regularly.

Jeff Sirkin:
No, right, and of course it goes both ways. It’s not that marketing is the only one that’s hard to understand, but it’s just the idea, and again, I think this is just for us as humans to remember that so often you need to be thinking about what does the person you are trying to can connect with, what do they know, what do they not know, but you need to speak it in their language. And if you kind of, to your point around like where you have to explain the why to some of the people internally that maybe aren’t in the ICP for Trender, you need to kind of give them the background so they can understand what that comment actually means. But it’s kind of the same thing, you just need to understand what expectations that person has, what they understand, what they don’t, and you need to speak it in their language.

Evan Patterson:
Yeah, because if you get any of these things wrong, you can get the first bit right, the market. You can get we just said right, but if you don’t get all the other things also right, the first thing doesn’t matter if you got it right.

Jeff Sirkin:
That’s it. I think about that with content too. If the quality of the content isn’t good, it doesn’t matter where you distribute it. If the content’s not good enough, it’s not good enough. It’s the same idea. It doesn’t matter how and where you distribute it. You can put it in front of everybody, its still not going to resonate. And companies, if the culture isn’t good, it really won’t matter.

Evan Patterson:
Yeah. I did a video to attract applicants for our customer enablement role before Javen and Avery came on board and I literally am lip syncing to a Ru Paul song in the video. And as much as people thought it was hysterical and they loved it, there was a science behind the madness. And I did tell Betsy I’m going to do something extremely flamboyant in this. And the whole point was like… A lot of companies are like, if you’re like this, don’t apply. This was the opposite. If you are like this, please.

Jeff Sirkin:
Yes. Yes.

Evan Patterson:
I am a gay poly man. That’s on my LinkedIn where I announce that regularly, attaching my personal brand in 15,000 followers. So I’m taking some stake here. Lip syncing to a drag queen, black gay man song. If you have a problem with anything I just did in this video, this is not going to be the fit.

Jeff Sirkin:
This is probably not going to be the place for you, yeah.

Evan Patterson:
Exactly. I don’t need to say that, but that was the reason why I did it. I didn’t do it to attract people, which is what people say I did. I did it to freak out the people that I don’t want to apply, which made the interviews much higher quality in terms of culture fit and culture addition. We look for addition, not just fit here. It did obviously get some applications that were like way off the mark because they loved the culture so much they didn’t even care about the job, which is a good problem to have I guess. But at the end of the day, it’s those little tiny things that make a big difference in the marketing on content for employer branding. Using our product marketing strategies even involve keeping DI in mind. If I’m going to make examples of a product and let’s be honest, every company does this, they make mock-ups instead of the real thing.

Jeff Sirkin:
Right.

Evan Patterson:
I make sure it’s not the same three cisgender straight white guys in the photos. I have to keep variety there because that’s how you show not to say from a marketing standpoint. There’s also how we pay people. We’ve made it very publicly known that no full-time role here will ever be less than 75,000 US dollars a year. And for a CSA startup for entry-level roles, that’s really good. Because I just saw somebody hiring for an SDR role where the OTE is under that.

Jeff Sirkin:
Yeah, of course.

Evan Patterson:
And they’re a series A company. So benefits starting on day one, not day one of first month, but like the day you started. Open time off and the reason we don’t call it unlimited PTO is because I will literally be the first person to tell my boss or my coworkers or my employees please go home. I mean, you’re working from home, but please log off. I don’t care when you’re working, just get your shit done. So all those things help with the marketing.

Jeff Sirkin:
I love that. And again, really embodying who you want to be, but just one quick thing on the unlimited time off, and there have been studies that have proven this, that people that have unlimited time off use less than those who don’t.

Evan Patterson:
Yeah, we’re trying to combat that.

Jeff Sirkin:
Yeah.

Evan Patterson:
We don’t have a formal standard of minimum PTO usage, but I know for a fact, because I’ve seen it and I’ve been on the receiving end, I’ve also been on the delivery end, we have told people, please go take a break, please log off, please go on vacation. I can’t tell you how many times Betsy and I have jokingly said I need to log off and it’s like 2:00 PM, I’m done. I burnt out. I don’t like to see my boss do this, so I feel safe to do it both directions. That’s mainly because of the company culture. I was off for emergency surgery and no boss or any employee here was like, “When are you coming back? When are you coming back?” It was, “Is there anything you need me to do while you’re gone so when you come back it’s not a shit show for you?”

Jeff Sirkin:
Yeah. Yeah.

Evan Patterson:
Which is way nicer than I hope you’re okay. It was, what can I take off your plate while you’re gone? And if you’re not able to answer now, that’s fine too. That was how the message was from Betsy and from Les and Joe. So I really loved the way that we think critically about those things. And that actually just makes it easier to focus on marketing because I’m less stressed about my job and more focused on doing a good one.

Jeff Sirkin:
Well, and I think again, I think that goes along with remote work and there are so many companies that are sort of fearful of having their employees work remotely full-time and what’s going to happen and no one’s watching the shop.

Evan Patterson:
I’m hundreds of miles away from my closest coworker.

Jeff Sirkin:
Right. But I think the biggest thing, the companies that will continue to win are the companies that hire the right people and trust them to do a good job because they’ve developed a culture that people are bought into and that they care about. Because you care about marketing because you care about the success of the company, but not because you must be sort of near your desk for 40 hours or 50 hours a week.

Evan Patterson:
Yeah. No, there’s weeks I work 60, there’s weeks I work 20.

Jeff Sirkin:
Exactly. But that’s normalized.

Evan Patterson:
I get my stuff done.

Jeff Sirkin:
Yeah. I mean, and what you were saying just reminded me of the meme that I’ve seen a bunch of times, I’m sure you have too, of like the European sort of out of office thing is like, “Oh, I’m out on holiday this entire month. Sorry, I’ll get back to you.” And then the US version is, “Sorry, I’m having emergency kidney surgery for the next two hours, but I have my cell phone on me in case you need me.” That’s so ingrained in our corporate system. It just is.

Evan Patterson:
Yeah, and it also allows for freedom of personality when it comes to handling life scenarios. You don’t have to ask me when I’m coming back, but I will still voluntarily say, “Listen, I’m in the emergency hospital. You don’t have to start planning for a replacement. I’m not dead.” Because you know every boss wants to ask are you dying, but they don’t want to ask are you dying. So I volunteered that information.

Jeff Sirkin:
Absolutely.

Evan Patterson:
And that could be an American thing. It could just be a me thing, but I never once felt pressured by anybody here to do that. And conveying that in our marketing material is incredibly important, not just for the employer side, but I have bought products based on someone’s employer branding.

Jeff Sirkin:
Absolutely.

Evan Patterson:
We all have, subconsciously or not. If you hear a company is mistreating their employees and you have an alternative, you’re more than likely, especially if you’re a millennial or younger, you’re going to buy the alternative, statistically speaking.

Jeff Sirkin:
Yeah. I mean, and it really calls to me about the term, which I kind of hate the term, authentic. The idea of authentic branding and every company is trying to find-

Evan Patterson:
That word is used so much that it doesn’t mean to feel authentic anymore.

Jeff Sirkin:
Right? But ultimately again, it’s sort of the idea kind of like we talked about of setting appropriate expectations because people will find out, so you may as well just be upfront about it. And so the idea that these companies want to kind of put on this great glossy show, but then when you get in there, it’s kind of like oh, this isn’t… but the same is true to your point, employer branding and product branding are almost getting to the point that they’re one and the same. I mean, I’m not really how they’re different at all these days.

Evan Patterson:
In the eyes of millennials and Gen Z specifically, and just even more so, a brand is a human being in their eyes now. It has an identity, it has a personality. It’s being described in the same words. If you can say [inaudible 00:31:16] is savage, which you can also say a person might be too, you’re using the same words for two very different things, which means those two very different things are not as different as they used to be. And the old marketing strategy was like, how do I make it known that our product solves the problem better than everybody else and listening to the customer on what they need to do that. Now it’s like, I’m still listening to the customer, but how do I formulate an identity? It’s no different than creating a character for a TV show.

Jeff Sirkin:
Yeah. Yeah. And again, and obviously one that resonates with them because obviously, as you said, it sounds like you have a very intentional kind of tone and theme to a lot of your content, but it’s just like you talked about for employees as well. It’s not going to resonate with some people and that has to be okay. You just can’t be everything to everyone.

Evan Patterson:
Yeah. One of my biggest inspirations for my marketing strategies is how to market a pop star, especially like a child star. Because you look at Hannah Montana, the character, not Miley Cyrus. That’s a brand that was invented that had to have an identity created, pun intended of course here, but you had to have a personality that wasn’t actually Miley. It was a character’s personality. And you also had to have a product, which was the songs, the movies, the TV shows, the merch, so on and so forth that had to meet the customer’s needs. So take that exact same logic of manufacturing pop stars and apply it to your marketing strategy. Same thing. And I know I’m not the first person to think of this because one of my favorite podcasts called Violating Community Guidelines, which is not suitable for work by the way. Please don’t watch it while you’re in an office.

Evan Patterson:
But it’s Brittany Broski, who is kombucha girl if you know that meme, and Sarah Schauer, who was big on Vine back in the day. Sarah Schauer used to be a copywriter for brands like Dunkin Donuts and other brands for their social media handles, and Brittany Broski just became an accidental influencer who just came with it. They have a recent episode about cringy brands and how not to be one and it’s based off the perspective of a millennial, Sarah, and Gen Z person, Brittany Broski, who have made a career off merely existing, and it says the exact same thing I just said. You have to have an identity. That means the good, the bad, the ugly, the great. You have to be a full well-rounded person, but person just equals brand.

Jeff Sirkin:
That’s it.

Evan Patterson:
They say it a lot more eloquently than I just did, but that’s the whole point.

Jeff Sirkin:
But I think to your point, I think the more we think about that and the more we’re intentional about building that, and it’s okay to even lean into the things that you’re not so great at, the things that are your weak spots, and that’s okay. Just like we all need to be doing more of as humans, and I think again, I think a lot of this is coming around to us recognizing as humans, but I think we’re not close to that on the brand side yet.

Evan Patterson:
Yeah, no. Feel free to get messy.

Jeff Sirkin:
Yeah. So are you up for a couple rapid fire questions?

Evan Patterson:
Sure. Fire away.

Jeff Sirkin:
Okay. So in general, what would you say is the most overrated marketing activity that a company could do?

Evan Patterson:
Oh God. Whew. Where do I begin? There’s a lot. Yeah. My biggest gripe is white papers and eBooks. I have never in my entire life seen one be successful and I know it’s going to happen after this releases because it happens every time I say this on anything, somebody sends me one that was successful and I’m like your definition of success and the actual definition of success are two very different definitions honey. This is not good. You think this is good? Oh, sweet summer child, please go get a new profession. I’ve never met somebody, and if anybody who listens is offended, please tell me because I’ll just say it again to you in your DMs. Cancel me. I make enough already. I don’t care.

Jeff Sirkin:
That’s great. No, and I think with a lot of this is you have to think about what are you trying to achieve. And obviously, as with a lot of things that we see today-

Evan Patterson:
Who asked for these white papers? I’ve never seen somebody go, “You all were asking for this.” And I’m like, who? Who was asking? It’s like those influencers on YouTube that are like, “Well, I get asked all the time what toilet paper I use.” I’m like, “Honey, you’re a makeup influencer. No one cared or asked.” I’m like, “I watched your last 50 videos and no one in the comments asked you this question.” So I want to know who at these companies is getting asked, “Can you make a 98-page long white paper about stats that I can consume in 15 seconds on TikTok?”

Jeff Sirkin:
Yeah, and of course the answer is no. It’s no, it’s just been a cheap excuse to get email addresses.

Evan Patterson:
It’s like fine, get email addresses, but can you do it in a way that’s not tasteless?

Jeff Sirkin:
Exactly.

Evan Patterson:
If the strategy’s older than me, that’s a problem.

Jeff Sirkin:
But point is, provide real value and start with what would be valuable to your potential buyer rather than say we need leads, we need contacts in our database, we need email addresses to market to. Say it the other way around, what do they need? How can we actually educate them in a way that they would actually like to hear or read?

Evan Patterson:
Well, you wouldn’t run around asking people for money without a product or service to give them an exchange, so why would somebody give you an email without something worth value in exchange. It’s currency at the end of the day.

Jeff Sirkin:
That’s it.

Evan Patterson:
Data is currency. Lets be honest. So start with, what can we give that will get people to give us their handle, their email, whatever, versus let’s just collect email addresses and last time I did that, we just used this. And I’m just like, I want to throw up. I really do.

Jeff Sirkin:
No, but those forms, those are the B2B cash register. We don’t charge money for things like that, but that is currency.

Evan Patterson:
And if anybody also comments of it’s an SEO juice thing, go away. That’s not how that works. That’s not… No.

Jeff Sirkin:
No.

Evan Patterson:
No.

Jeff Sirkin:
So, okay. So then let’s spin it positive. What would you say is the most underrated marketing activity?

Evan Patterson:
Ooh, influencer marketing, especially in the B2B world.

Jeff Sirkin:
Great. Can you tell me a little bit about why you say that?

Evan Patterson:
When it comes to B2B influencer marketing, its still in its infancy. I think people are still trying to figure out how to do it because it’s not measurable the same way traditional influencer marketing is measured. We’ll use Brittany Broski again, but like if she hocks some clothing brand or some makeup line, the volume of the sales and the price point, it’s grandiose and they need a large amount of followers for an ROI. Not typically, there’s a whole world of nano and micro influencers, but with me, for example, as somebody who works in the B2B space and has several active brand deals currently, the ROI, they have to pay me once. They pay me, let’s say, just throw out a random number, like $10,000 over the course of a year. They make one customer a year, they’ve broken even.

Jeff Sirkin:
Exactly.

Evan Patterson:
The barrier to ROI is so fricking low and granted, the people who work with me get a lot more than one customer per year, but the fact that that’s the threshold, that’s really good. The second thing is the CPM compared to a LinkedIn ad, absurdly good. I can use Shield to figure out, Shield app to AI in case somebody’s interested, you go in there and I can look and see what my CPM would be if you benchmarked my profile views against actual LinkedIn paid ad. I am less than half the price for way more than double the ROI.

Jeff Sirkin:
Well, and I think again, back to personal branding. The idea that people, you are one of, is that you have a bigger and more loyal and more dedicated audience than you’re able to purchase through LinkedIn ads and I’d imagine it’s a lot more trustworthy too than something you know is a purely sponsored post.

Evan Patterson:
Yeah. And it’s also a good way to source things that aren’t just inbound traffic. This is something that B2C influencers can’t provide. If you’re a B2B influencer, not only are you going to drive traffic to their website, to their social handles or whatever, their SDR team and sales reps can go to the comments and likes of your posts and start social selling on the lead source you just generated. They can also go find complimentary brands to do co-marketing with. Also, influencers, just like in the B2C world, run in a close-knit circle. They’ll discover more influencers to do this with.

Evan Patterson:
Now granted, it’s on the brand you’re partnering with if they’re too dumb to realize that they can do all those additional things other than just give you a bitly link, but on the flip side though, you can provide multiple types of value that the traditional influencer is just not capable of due to their business model. And it’s not an attack, it’s just a different world.

Jeff Sirkin:
No, I mean, again, I think so much of this and so much we talk about on this podcast is that the world of marketing has just changed so much and I think it’s hard for people to sort of see that. But I think things like this, when you say it all and you kind of lay it all out, it makes a ton of sense, but companies are just going to still continue to be slow to adapt.

Evan Patterson:
Oh, and the ones that are faster adapters are sometimes also doing it wrong. Why do I keep getting texts by same accounting software? I’m not going to name their names, but there’s an accounting software that I know every American has heard of that keeps DM’ing me asking me to post for them, and I’m like my audience is marketers and sales people, not even freelancers mostly even. Great product, but why?

Jeff Sirkin:
Yeah. Yeah. Not a fit. Actually it’s interesting, for me as a consumer, I’m always much more interested in podcast ads and partially because I think podcast ads are more intentional about making sure it aligns with the host. But so much of that again, and to your point, it shouldn’t just be specific to podcasts. It’s everywhere. We should be more intentional about let’s make this a product that would actually seem legitimate or ideally completely legitimate that this person would actually use.

Evan Patterson:
Simply make it make sense. Make it make sense. Its that simple.

Jeff Sirkin:
Right, right, right.

Evan Patterson:
I actively have openly talked about how much I don’t own a car and don’t want to own a car. Why would I advertise cars?

Jeff Sirkin:
That’s what I mean.

Evan Patterson:
Would I be on a Carvana ad? What?

Jeff Sirkin:
It’s disingenuous, and again, and as a result, back to the authentic part of it, it will very much not come across authentic. It just won’t be authentic. You there’s nothing you can do to create authenticity around something that’s not.

Evan Patterson:
Yeah. And that was my long answer to your rapid fire question.

Jeff Sirkin:
No, actually, it’s funny, I don’t know why I call these rapid fire questions because I’m in the same boat of I love digging into them. So the last rapid fire question is what would you say are the most important skill or skills that a marketer can possess?

Evan Patterson:
I think it depends on what kind of marketing you want to go down because marketing is such a massive umbrella of different types of marketers. I’m good at best at demand gen and I will never be great at it. I was not put on this earth to do demand gen. I can tell based on me trying and it’s in learning and giving enough time. But if you’re trying to go down the route that I’ve gone, which is more the content community partnerships, influencer affiliate stuff, the in front of the scenes part of the marketing, stage presence. I know that sounds vain and shallow, but if you can’t be entertaining, and I’m not saying you have to be a stand up comedian, but if you’re boring, it’s yikes. And that’s really harsh, but you’ve got to be entertaining, even maybe like intriguing might be the better word, just not boring.

Evan Patterson:
You have to have a reason to be listened to and watched. You have to be able to write and produce content in any form in any style. Maybe not any, but multiple. It can’t just sound like you. Luckily, I’ve lucked out. Trender’s branding is not that far off from my own, which is part of the appeal. But when I worked at Troops, best believe I had to talk a little different because our audience wasn’t necessarily the same audience that I normally would’ve spoken to. Not a bad thing, they just talked differently. It had to be a little more suited up and formal. Not a lot, but just a little bit more. And it needed to be jargon heavy because the audience didn’t trust you if you weren’t jargon heavy.

Evan Patterson:
Now I’m in a place where, remove as much jargon as humanly possible, which is my preferred method. So just being able to be a chameleon, be entertaining, have some sort of virtual stage presence. If you don’t have a social media presence on any platform and you want to work in the world of social media, that’s a problem. I will refuse, and I’ll say it now if you want to apply at Trender in the future, if you want to work in marketing at Trender or any company where social media’s a part of your role, you need a social media presence.

Jeff Sirkin:
I couldn’t agree more.

Evan Patterson:
And a professional one. I’m not talking about my TikTok where I upload me blackout drunk at gay drag brunch, which by the way, I do that on TikTok.

Jeff Sirkin:
But that won’t be on LinkedIn.

Evan Patterson:
Yeah. It won’t be on LinkedIn. But have a second one then. Have a professional version of it. I have two Instagrams. I’ve got two TikToks. I’ve got one LinkedIn. I’ve got two Facebooks. I’ve got two Twitters. The list goes on. And as one of each that is made for the public eye, and if you want to have that personal one that’s made for just you and your friends and you lock it down, listen, I’m not here to judge. I don’t care if you’re showing up to work in a furry suit, I really don’t care, feel free to do that, but you have to have some sort of social media presence to work in marketing nowadays. Honestly, I would say you have to have a social media presence to work in any role in technology. I don’t care if it’s marketing or not.

Jeff Sirkin:
It’s funny you say that though because I’ve thought about that. There have been marketers I’ve worked with in my past where they’re not even good at their own social media and I’m like why are they in charge of this? If you don’t know how to reach your own target audience, how are you going to know how to reach an audience on behalf of the company brand?

Evan Patterson:
Yeah. And you can’t copy and paste personal branding to company branding, but there’s a lot of overlap. There is a lot of overlap. Yeah.

Jeff Sirkin:
Before we let you go, what resources, books, blogs, podcasts, anything like that, would you want to recommend to the audience?

Evan Patterson:
So here’s the thing, I don’t read. People laugh, even though I’ve got like books behind me and stuff. I’ve only ever finished one book in my entire life, including as a child, cover to cover and it has nothing to do with marketing. I grew up in the world of internet. You read all day. The last thing I want to do is read more. But I’m a big fan of consuming content on social media to learn. So I love following marketers on LinkedIn, especially community marketers, so shout out to like Zoe Hartsfield and Jorge Soto, Meryoli Arias, I’m so sorry if I’m mispronouncing your name Mery, at Chili Piper. I just like to watch other social media marketers or community marketers in action. They’re not producing how-to content, but I’m a big fan of just watching and just observing people do what they do, whether they’re falling on their face or not, and these people aren’t.

Evan Patterson:
But watching people just merely exist with similar job roles is massive inspiration and lessons to be learned. And when it comes to podcasts, the one I mentioned was an accident, Violating Community Guidelines. They have a couple episodes that are about marketing, because they are two women that do work in marketing, they’re influencers, so they do know what they’re talking about. They have one about LinkedIn influencers, which I think is hysterical, and they have one about the brand stuff. So I do recommend those episodes of that podcast.

Jeff Sirkin:
And we’ll link to those episodes specifically in the show notes.

Evan Patterson:
Yeah. And the last one I’ll say is podcasts or YouTubers or influencers that don’t talk about marketing, but are just good at marketing themselves. They don’t have to be in your industry. I love The Financial Diet and I love Trixie and Katya’s The Bald and the Beautiful podcast. Nothing to do with marketing, but a lot of my inspiration for marketing comes from those podcasts.

Jeff Sirkin:
But I love, and again, I think what you said is so important. It’s again seeing somebody do it in action is honestly, and I’m the same way, and I think this is one of the things that has changed frankly so much in the world of marketing, especially over the last two years with so many people at home, is we now have access to communities of our peers and I think that’s one of the big things that has changed so much. And to me, that’s why this is probably a separate topic, but this is why buying has changed in B2B so much because you have access to that too. But in the same way, that’s why the rise of community has become so much more important. But I couldn’t agree more, the ability to actually see people in action doing fundamentally what you do. And again, it’s not a matter of the how-to exactly. It’s not, here’s the 10-step process. It’s more a matter of, “Oh, I like that,” just kind of picking up little things as you go.

Evan Patterson:
Yeah. I dropped out of college really early and I was really frustrated because college felt no different than normal school. And I was like when have I ever learned the most? And it’s always been either by doing or watching someone else do it. It’s never been someone talking at me. When Betsy trains me or coaches me or anything, it’s never pull this lever, push this button. It’s let me tell you a story about what I did it and it didn’t work out well. It’s that, or it’s me following Daniel Cmejla over at Chili Piper watching him do all these things. Yeah, they’re five years ahead of Trender. I can’t do them now, but I can take that and scale it down to fit our needs. There’s stuff like that.

Jeff Sirkin:
Yeah, it’s borrowing, but borrowing in the way that actually fits where you are.

Evan Patterson:
Oh yeah, and Daniel knows this too. They can’t claim to have invented this either. We’re not doing anything differently than the 1950s. We’re just doing it on a different platform.

Jeff Sirkin:
I love that. I love that. And so then finally, where can people find and connect with you on social media?

Evan Patterson:
Yes. I’m on a lot of different sites, so it’s just easier to go to linktr.ee/evanpatterson. All of my social handles are on there. You’ll see a lot of links to other podcasts that I’ve been on. This one will be on there too. And other brands that I work with, both sponsored and non-sponsored, as well as some other resources for the black speakers collection and anything regarding LGBTQ rights in and out of the workplace.

Jeff Sirkin:
I love that. And I can say from experience that Evan’s a very worthwhile follow. So we’ll link to all of that in the show notes as well.

Evan Patterson:
If you want to have somebody that calls out straight cisgender white boomers on the internet for a living, then follow me.

Jeff Sirkin:
I think we all need that right now.

Evan Patterson:
And because I know somebody named Chad is going to comment, it’s not all boomers. We know. I’m not talking to you, Chad.

Jeff Sirkin:
Chad, your fine.

Evan Patterson:
If your name is Chad, I’m so sorry.

Jeff Sirkin:
Well, Evan, thank you so much for taking the time and thank you for sharing your story with us.

Evan Patterson:
Well, thank you for having me.

Jeff Sirkin:
I really enjoyed my conversation with Evan. It’s fascinating to see the parallels between personal branding and marketing at a startup company. And I love his perspective on the opportunity for influencer marketing in B2B. It’s cheaper and more targeted than running ads and comes from a trusted source. If you want to learn more about the resources mentioned in this episode, you can find them in our show notes. In addition, we’re publishing the full text transcript of our episodes on our website at sirkinresearch.com/podcasts. Thank you for listening and I hope you’ll join us for a new story next week on Long Story Short.

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