Episode 65 – It’s better to do a few things incredibly well than be mediocre at a lot of things.

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Episode 65 – It’s better to do a few things incredibly well than be mediocre at a lot of things.

It’s better to do a few things incredibly well than be mediocre at a lot of things.

My guest on the show today is Drew Hawkins. Drew has been working in marketing for nearly a decade, helping organizations large and small with digital and social strategy. Prior to leading digital strategy for North Highland, he led digital strategy at DeMoss, the largest faith-based PR firm in the country working with non-profit organizations such as Samaritan’s Purse, YouVersion, Hillsong and others.

Highlights from this Conversation

  1. What has worked well for you?
    1. Simplification; it’s better to do a few things incredibly well than be mediocre at a lot of things. Learned this working for Mark DeMoss.
    2. We axed about 67% of the social profiles at North Highland over the course of a year; did the same for a nonprofit group we worked with at DeMoss. Ran them through an exercise to ask them to identify everywhere on social they had a profile. They couldn’t remember them all. It was a great teachable moment. We eventually helped their social presence and web traffic have triple digit percentage increases over a six month period by trimming down what they did.
  2. What hasn’t worked well that we can learn from?
    1. Not doing due diligence on martech vendors. Trying to make decisions too fast without thinking them through.
    2. Had one that oversold and very very much underdelivered. In the spirit of innovation and “move fast and break things” we signed with an vendor quickly and it turned into a huge burden. Sometimes moving slower and thinking things through, even in a fast-paced digital world, makes the most sense. It can be a competitive advantage.
      1. We also saw a lot of clients end up having PR crises because they tried to move too quickly on social and made significant missteps.
  3. What are you excited about?
    1. Honestly, baby #2 coming sometime in the next week or two!
    2. GDPR….seriously. Most people hate it. Most hate regulation. However, I think it’s going to force marketers to be smarter about what they’re doing. Build true brand advocacy instead of trying to fluff analytics decks. Constraint breeds creativity and I think this has the potential to accomplish that.
      1. **Side note: I feel like if I say blockchain or AI or anything like that, it’ll just be white noise. Who gets excited about legal and legislative imperatives? Nobody! Feel free to push back on that. I can do whatever.

Interview Transcript

Adam: [00:03] Hi, and welcome to the Good People, Good Marketing Podcast, a podcast about nonprofit digital marketing and how to make it better so that good people and good organizations can have good marketing as well. I’m your host, Adam Walker, co-founder of Sideways Eight, a digital marketing agency that specializes in nonprofit work and 48in48, a nonprofit dedicated to hosting events that build forty-eight websites for forty-eight nonprofits in forty-eight hours.


[00:25] My guest on the show today is my friend Drew Hawkins. Drew has been working in marketing for nearly a decade, helping organizations large and small with digital and social strategy. Prior to leading digital strategy for North Highland, he led digital strategy at DeMoss, the largest faith-based PR firm in the country, working with nonprofit organizations such as Samaritan’s Purse, YouVersion, Hillsong, and others. Drew, welcome to the show.


Drew: [00:53] Yeah, thanks Adam. Happy to be here. Looking forward to it.


Adam: [00:56] Great to have you. Always enjoy chatting with you and hearing what’s going on in your brain and also reading your blog. Drew has a great blog, Brain Wads, so always enjoy that as well, so check that out for sure and Drew, anything you want to add to that bio or what is the link to your blog I want to make sure we have that?


Drew: [01:16] Yeah, the link to my blog is thebrainwads.com and yeah I think you just go straight there. You can get in touch with me, you’ve got a contact form, you can see kind of what’s going on in my life and in my brain for better or worse and it’s probably the best way to get ahold of me and get to know me.


Adam: [01:33] Well, that’s great. I really enjoy the stuff that you produce. It’s very helpful, very insightful and it’s really, really good. So well let’s go ahead and dive in so Drew, related to digital marketing, can you tell us something that has worked well for you?


Drew: [01:48] Yeah, I think the things that have worked the best for me is when I simplify what I’m doing. I think it’s very easy and I’ve had several client conversations and we’ve even had this internally at North Highland where there’s a lot going on in the digital space, there’s a new platform coming out, there are new technologies coming out, and you feel like you’re missing out. You definitely kind of get FOMO. You see one brand succeeding on this new platform, this brand’s killing it on Snapchat or this person’s really taking advantage of Blockchain technology, and I think it’s better to instead of trying to spread yourself too thin and trying to find like that secret sauce platform that’s going to work for you, I think it’s best to just focus on one or two things and just knock those out. I think one of my favorite Ron Swanson quotes is, “Don’t half-ass two things. Whole-ass one thing.” And I think that’s really (inaudible 02:41).


Adam: [02:45] The fact that you just quoted Ron Swanson on the podcast is a first and truly amazing.


Drew: [02:52] There’s a lot of wisdom that comes from Ron Swanson.


Adam: [02:55] It’s unbelievable. I didn’t realize you were a big “Parks and Rec” fan. We’ll have to chat about that at our next lunch.


Drew: [03:00] Yeah, no huge fan. That’s what got me through the first kids midnight feedings was binge watching Parks and Rec.


Adam: [03:08] That’s amazing. I love it and I agree I think the key of simplification is focus, right? The point is that if we divide our efforts too far in the digital marketing space, we lose focus and we’re watering down all of that effort to the point where it just becomes very, very ineffective. And so I think if we’re more focused on a select few things, we can do a lot better work, much higher quality work. We can learn faster, we can get a feedback loop going that’s much faster and then we can grow those accounts and grow that reach and grow that engagement much more quickly.


Drew: [03:43] Absolutely. Yeah, we did that with a client at DeMoss. We sat down with them during a digital boot camp and we said, “Hey, let’s write down on a whiteboard all the social profiles you have floating around right now.” And the team actually couldn’t even list them all. So we said, “Okay, let’s trim this down to about two or three things,” and we did that for a six-month pilot period. We said, “Hey, let’s do it our way. If it doesn’t work, we’ll go back to having all these opened up, but if it does work, maybe this is the way to go.” And as a result, they saw triple digit increases in their web traffic. The channels we did just leaned heavily into, saw tremendous growth. So there is a lot to be said for focus.


Adam: [04:21] I love that. I love that. I’m a big fan, so I try to focus my own personal time on very select things. All right, so question number two, related to digital marketing, can you tell us something that has not worked well that we can learn from?


Drew: [04:36] I think moving too fast has not worked well for me in several occasions. I know kind of the mantra, and you get this from Facebook back in the early startup days is “move fast and break things” and while I think there is a lot of merit to not overthinking a problem or overthinking your next step and getting into that decision paralysis phase where you’re not really doing anything you’re just kind of putting something off. We had three good intentions, me and a coworker of mine at North Highland, wanting to revamp how we did a campaign and as part of that we worked with this Martech company — I won’t name them here or anything like that and we just ran right into it. Didn’t really do our due diligence, didn’t really put a lot of thought into the pros and cons, is this really going to work for us? What do we really want we want to do with this? We just said, “Hey, this is something new and cool. Let’s just go for it and see what happens.” Anytime you do that, it’s a fifty-fifty gamble and we just happened to land on the wrong side of the coin. So something that we intended to create that would save us time and have a much bigger audience than that, ended up just creating a lot of technical headaches, created considerable more work for myself and several other colleagues, and it was all because we just moved too quickly. We didn’t do that due diligence to think through every little step of the process or different outcomes. So as a result of that, it was a rough patch, but since then whenever we approach new vendors, new technologies, new ways of doing things, we have a much different approach in how we do that. Our thinking around how do we move forward with X has changed I think for the best. We’re not dragging our feet or moving too slow, but we definitely try to move it at an appropriate pace that isn’t going to come back and bite us later.


Adam: [06:30] Right, right that is always the really tricky balance because we’re in a fast-paced environment. We want to move fast, we want to grow and yet we’ve got to slow down and think and I think that’s really what you keyed in on two or three times is you’ve got to slow down and think. And I think that’s where we miss it is that we’re so inundated with the technology that we don’t stand in front of a whiteboard for three hours and really say, “Okay, where could all of this go? What could happen? If we do this, what are the unintentional outcomes of this? How could this come back to bite us later?” And we just don’t think through those things enough because we’re not thinking we’re just do, do, do, do, do and we just roll through things too quickly.


Drew: [07:16] Absolutely. Yeah, and I think sometimes you used to really be rewarded for being first to do something, especially in the social space a few years ago when everything was new and literally anything anybody did was new. So it just paid to just be the first to market with something no matter what it was and now I think there’s a competitive advantage to taking time to stop and think and be very intentional about what you’re doing in such a crowded space that being unique does help you stand out.


Adam: [07:44] Well, and I think you can look at who’s gone before you and say, “Okay, over in this sector, this company is doing this. I see it’s working well. Let’s see if that applies over here.” So you can start to do that stuff too because you’re iterating on other people’s ideas and other people’s experience rather than just jumping out into the abyss of nothingness that you don’t know and just assuming it’s going to work out well.


Drew: [08:08] Sure, yeah, absolutely. Totally agree.


Adam: [08:12] Yeah, love that. Okay, and then question number three, related to digital marketing, what are you excited about?


Drew: [08:18] This is probably not your typical answer, but I am excited about GDPR.


Adam: [08:23] What? No, I get it, I get it, yeah. Tell us more, tell me more.


Drew: [08:28] So I wasn’t excited about all the legal loopholes we had to do here at North Highland and I was part of the team going through, dotting every i, crossing every t, where do we store data and it’s incredible how much data you have on your customers and don’t even realize it and so that tedious part is not fun and I was not excited about, but what I am excited about are some of the implications with GDPR. I think it really puts more of the power back in the consumer’s hands on how they share data. I’m not going to get hit up by vendors trying to sell me (unclear 09:02) often. I’ve already seen that, but the biggest thing is brands are really going to have to work to gain that consumer trust again. They’re only going to be engaging with consumers that or consumers are opting into that. They like the brand enough to have that value exchange. Is it an email address? Is it your credit card information? And whatever that is, so it’s putting a lot more constraints on the brands. You can’t say, “Oh we sent X amount of emails, got X amount of impressions, we have X amount of data points,” because brands or agencies, we can’t stuff an analytics deck anymore. I think it’s going to provide a lot of constraint for brands and for marketers in that creative space, but I also think that constraint does bring creativity. So I’m just really curious to see how all of us start to approach data collection and marketing and targeting as the GDPR rolls out. But knowing GDPR is an European thing, similar legislation will probably roll over here at some point in time.


Adam: [10:09] Yeah, it has to and just for the listeners that may be fuzzy on what GDPR is, as you mentioned, it’s a new European regulation around the data collection, in particular, on websites and how that data on users is managed, and then also to some degree about, I think scraps data and direct outreach and that sort of thing as well. So essentially it gives users a lot more control over whether or not a website uses cookies on their machine or whether or not they can store the data for a certain amount of time and it even gives users the ability to reach out to a company and say, “Hey, show me all of the data that you have on me and now delete all of it.” And those companies then have to oblige so I think that’s probably a pretty decent short version wouldn’t you say? Did I miss anything? Any of the key points there?


Drew: [11:01] I really think that’s the high point. I think what surprised me the entire process was the HR implications with that. So I saw it through the consumer lens, and how am I as a marketer collecting information, but a big part of that too was how our company is collecting information on their employees, even having photos of them stored on box and what do they have on work day, do they have their birthday stored? Stuff like that came into play too, which kind of surprised me, but I guess it makes sense.


Adam: [11:32] Yeah, well, we have to be careful about how we’re storing data, how that data’s then transferred. Where it is and if we genuinely have permission to even have it and maintain it. So I think that’s really important, so Drew, let me see if I can recap just a bit of what we talked about here. For question number one, what has worked well, you said simplification. So less profiles, less spreading of your focus and more narrow focus on just a few things that you can really double down on to increase your engagement and your effectiveness in those profiles. So specifically, not having too many social profiles, but really narrowing in and saying, “Okay, what are you going to own? Are you going to own Facebook with one company page and are you going to own Twitter with one handle? Are you going to be completely spread out with thirty of each and doing a really ineffective job?”


[12:25] For question number two, what has not worked well related to digital marketing? You said moving overly fast so I think there’s this interesting balance where we do want to move fast but we don’t want to move too fast, and how do we balance that? I think the place that we came to in the conversation was that we just need to take the time to think deeply on things before we make a move that’s too big. So I think we can move fast if we’ve taken the time to be truly and genuinely thoughtful in that fast moving because otherwise we’re going to jump into relationships and into technologies that we’re not ready for or that are just a wrong fit all round.


[13:01] And number three, what are you excited about related to digital marketing? You are the first and only person to ever say GDPR, but I agree with you. I think that level of control over users’ data is really important and we’re getting to a point where there’s more and more and more of our personal data that’s on the web and at risk and held by all of these different vendors that we may or may not know who they are and we need the ability to control our data. We need the ability to get our data deleted and removed and so that we don’t have to worry about breaches and we don’t have to worry about being compromised as individuals. So I think that’s actually a really smart answer and definitely a one of a kind answer, so well done on that. Did I miss anything from my recap?


Drew: [13:45] No, I think that recap was pretty thorough. Covered it all.


Adam: [13:48] Alright man, well this was great. Do you have any final thoughts you want to share with the audience?


Drew: [13:54] No final thoughts. I think we had a pretty good discussion, and if you want to reach out to me or have any other questions, feel free to reach out to me @drewhawkins on Twitter. Pretty much any social profile that I have is just normal Drew Hawkins and then you can shoot me a note via my website thebrainwads.com. I’m happy to hear from you and get to know you a little bit more.


Adam: [14:16] And I’ll advocate one more time: check out his website. It is some really, really good reading materials. So Drew, thanks for being on the show. We’ll have you back again soon and I hope you have a good rest of your day man.


Drew: [14:26] All right, thanks, Adam, so much. Appreciate it.


Adam: [14:31] Thanks for listening to the Good People, Good Marketing Podcast. To get more resources about nonprofit digital marketing, make sure to go to goodpeoplegoodmarketing.com where you can find more podcasts, blogs, and other fun resources. Also, if you want to find me, Adam, your host, you can find me on Twitter @ajwalker or on my blog at adamjwalker.com where I blog about leadership, productivity, habit-building and the craziness of having five kids. Thanks for listening and tune in next time.

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