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Digital Velocity Podcast Hosted by Tim Curtis and Erik Martinez

51 Expert Insights Into Marketing and Entrepreneurship - Eric Holtzclaw

This week on the Digital Velocity Podcast, Eric Holtzclaw of Liger joins Erik and Tim to discuss common digital marketing mistakes and expert insights about entrepreneurship.

Digital marketing has changed dramatically in the last decade. Marketers now have the duty of bringing customers further down the buyer journey. Eric says, “Thinking about it and kind of reconfiguring people's minds cause traditionally, I mean, all the way up until like 2008, marketing was just about getting the person in the store, getting in front of a salesperson. And now marketing's got the responsibility of carrying that customer very far down the journey to the point that they're ready to buy. I tell people that the salesperson often is just either closing the deal or screwing it up. They haven't done anything more. Marketing heavy lifted it the rest of the way.”

The idea of entrepreneurship has also transformed and often people don’t understand the challenges and complexity of growing and owning a business.  “There's so much in it, and the problem I've seen, and I was on the radio for a couple of years interviewing entrepreneurs about what they found as they were starting and growing their businesses. You know, you think it's money, you think it's whatever. It's not. It's other things that are sort of influencing you to be successful in it. And it's also about making sure that you're paying attention to your real purpose behind that business such that you don't stray from it and that we don't get caught up in this rockstar mentality of entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs have become rock stars. It's a tough, tough job. If you like your nine-to-five and whatever, do that and have a hobby on the weekend. It's just not for everyone.”

Listen to this week’s episode to learn important digital marketing and entrepreneurship tips.

About the Guest:

Eric V. Holtzclaw is a visionary, “idea guy,” and serial entrepreneur. With expertise in tech and marketing, Eric’s more than 30 years of experience has made him sought-after by Fortune 500, Global 2000, and mid-sized companies. Today, Eric is Founding Partner and Chief Strategist at Liger, one of Inc. 5000’s fastest-growing companies of 2022, where he’s able to combine his three loves: business, technology, and people.


Tim Curtis: [00:00:00] Hello and welcome to this edition of the Digital Velocity Podcast. My name is Tim Curtis of Cohere One.

Erik Martinez: And I'm Erik Martinez from Blue Tangerine.

Tim Curtis: Today on the show, we have Eric Holtzclaw. He's the Chief Strategist and Dojo Master at Liger, where he is the resident expert in guiding businesses to find their identities, core values, craft revisions, and establish their brands. He's a serial entrepreneur and host of The Claw Podcast, where he interviews business owners and entrepreneurs. Eric has contributed to magazines and online publications and wrote the book, Laddering: Unlocking the Potential [00:01:00] of Consumer Behavior. Eric, welcome to the show today.

Eric Holtzclaw: Thank you so much for having me. You were asking me about my company name before we started. You two have very interesting company names as well.

Tim Curtis: Yeah, CohereOne, that's a made-up name.

Eric Holtzclaw: Okay.

Tim Curtis: It took a long process to get to that name.

Erik Martinez: Blue Tangerine was a similar thing. I was at a workshop the last couple of days and that was the number one question I got asked. What is Blue Tangerine?

Tim Curtis: It's successful at starting conversations. You want to share though with the listeners, what you told us that I successfully guessed?

Eric Holtzclaw: Yeah, my company is named after the movie, Napoleon Dynamite. So, Liger is a combination of strategy and execution. So, we wanted to bring two strong things together, a lion and a tiger. And when we were looking for names, someone suggested Liger, and friends of mine have never forgiven me for watching the movie, Napoleon Dynamite. Like we made them watch it and they're like, Oh, that's the worst movie ever. I'm like, you have to watch it twice. You don't get the jokes until you watch it twice.

So, we saw them just this past weekend and they were like, I still can't believe you named your company after that movie. And I'm [00:02:00] like, yeah, but it gives us a really fun culture internally. We have a disco ball in our office space and we had a prom last year and things like that. So, we really lean heavily into the kind of the mythology of the movie.

Tim Curtis: You just need a llama.

Eric Holtzclaw: We do. Well, one of our conference rooms is named Tater. The other is named Tots.

Tim Curtis: Oh, that's awesome.

Erik Martinez: That is awesome.

Eric Holtzclaw: You know, the Tina is our conference system. We have all kinds of things like that, that we kind of play off of. Yeah.

Tim Curtis: Oh, You obviously have an incredible story to tell. Tell us a little bit more about that. I think that's so fun to hear.

Eric Holtzclaw: So, I'm a recovering technologist. So, early in my career, I ran development shops and those kind of like geeks back in the day. I worked a little bit for some Silicon Valley-based companies establishing professional services organizations around primarily SaaS platforms, which is where I got introduced to like how to sell stuff cause you know, typically techno geeks don't know how to make a sale.

Then I started a research company. I owned a research company for about 10 years and sold my interest in that in 2012. Swore I would [00:03:00] never start another business. In fact, I think I promised my wife I wouldn't start another business. So, I started doing operational work for crazy CEOs because that's really kind of like my early career was working for guys who would raise money and didn't know how to put together the teams.

So, I came in and start working with them. And while I was there, they would hand me their marketing department. They're like, hey, so our marketing department's a mess too. So, like, could you run it? And I'm like, sure. So, I'd end up getting the operations working and still owning the marketing department. And so, at one point, I had like six companies and I wasn't doing their operations anymore, but I was running their marketing.

These are not exciting businesses. I've always been a kind of B2B. So, you know, if you go into a little industrial park and you find something that nobody knows about, those are the kinds of things I would work on. And I was about to sign another client, and I have someone who's worked with me for like 11 years. And I'm in my car on the way home talking to her. And she's like, you do realize you have like seven jobs. This is not a consultancy anymore. It's crazy. Yada, yada, yada. It's like, you're right.

And so, I ended up merging my business with another business, which is how we formed [00:04:00] Liger. So, we took the strategy piece, which is what I primarily focused on and put it with an execution piece to get Liger. I was going to sell the business to a company I was working with, and then we had the tariffs that came on the scene, and then there was a pandemic and whatever. So, we ended up standing Liger up as its own individual brand. And so here we are today. And so we primarily service B2B, 90 to 95% of our portfolios in that space.

We do a lot of M&A, so companies that are buying other companies, with long sales cycles. So, we focus a lot on content, and we do what's called marketing as a service. So, the companies that hire us don't need the skill sets that we have for long term, but they may need them for a period of time. Like a really cool designer who would never work for their B2B company because it's too boring or whatever. And then we put the incremental pieces in place on an ongoing basis to help them meet their goals.

Tim Curtis: And that's the story of Liger.

Eric Holtzclaw: And that's the story of Liger. And here I am.

Tim Curtis: That's awesome. Here you are.

Erik Martinez: I don't [00:05:00] know if the listening audience might take offense to B2B equals boring. I know what you mean but there are really cool B2B businesses out there.

Tim Curtis: I don't know about that. I'm not so sure that's not hitting the nail on the head.

Eric Holtzclaw: Our mission statement is saving the world from boring, broken marketing, and B2B marketing is either boring or broken or typically, both. And because we have this focus on M&A, so we have companies that have gone on bought other companies. So, like one of our clients has 17 companies they purchased over a three-year period, and we had to get them up underneath one brand.

That never works the way that you would expect. There's a lot of stuff happening on the back end to make sure their top MarTech stack works, like all that kind of thing. And because we're in like insurance and financial services and some of those categories and not like Progressive Insurance, we're talking business insurance, they tend to try to do things that are really boring, and we try to talk them out of it so that people will actually pay attention and eventually buy from [00:06:00] them.

Tim Curtis: One of the concepts we had kind of discussed before the show and you get into, especially in B2B, right, you hear a lot about lead gen, you hear demand gen, generation. You also hear that a little bit on the B2C side, more the demand generation. And interesting, you have a point of view on this, and I thought, you know, it might be interesting to hear your point of view and let the listeners kinda understand that. I know I'm very, very curious as to your demand gen verse lead gen.

Eric Holtzclaw: Well, and it is important that you think about the difference between B2B and B2C, and I'm going to redefine that a little bit. B2B is really relational marketing. So, I need to sell you something that has, like, it's a risky purchase. So, it's something that I could get fired. It might risk my health. We work with a couple of companies where they have new medical procedures and it's not necessarily what your doctor would tell you. So, to make that choice is a brave choice. So, I think about relational, so high risk. I make a bad decision at work, I could get fired, I could lose my job, those kinds of things versus low risk, which is a transactional [00:07:00] purchase.

Even something as expensive as a car can be a transactional purchase. I bought a car several years ago. My wife is an Auburn fan, and I bought a car that was Alabama colors. So, I brought it home, took her to dinner, she didn't say anything, I didn't know it. Went to lunch the next day with a friend and my friend was like, I'm surprised your wife would let you buy this car, like it's Alabama colors. And I was like, I'm surprised too. And so, I got home that night and I was like, hey, so I bought this car, it's Alabama colors. And she's like, yeah, you keep a car two years, it'll be gone. So, that's a really good sign of like, you know, the only person I made angry was her. And if I really wanted to trade it, I could.

Now, if I put in a SaaS platform or I change out the way we're doing our finances, or I propose a new way of doing something at work, and it doesn't work out, then I could get fired or we get stuck with something. If you think back to your question about demand gen versus lead gen, people are always focused on, we did this thing and we expect to get a sale. We expect that to convert, and they also define conversion often wrong.

So, [00:08:00] we look at what we call BATCOM. And I've worked really, really hard to make that a Liger term. It sounds more like a superhero term, but we think about BATCOM. And so, every single client wants the C in the BATCOM, which is conversion. You want people to ring the cash register to, you know, sign up for a demo or whatever. But if you're not generating traffic, which is the thing prior to that, you're never going to get conversion. If no one knows who you are, awareness, then we're not going to get traffic. And if you have a bad brand or no brand or your branding doesn't know who you are, then we have to start there. So, we focus on the front end of that, and then we end up in optimization and maintenance.

The problem I see in the B2C side is they typically spend too much time on what I would consider lead gen activities and not as much on demand. And B2B does a lot in demand and sometimes misses out on lead. They're not bringing all those together. We worked to build a display network with another partner earlier this year, just because our B2B clients really [00:09:00] weren't using any paid or doing anything on that side. Understanding the language, talking about it, knowing what your objectives are. Getting that everybody wants conversion, but it's all part and parcel to an overall ecosystem. One isn't right or wrong. It's about where you apply it and making sure you're not spending the wrong money in the wrong place.

Tim Curtis: That's an interesting concept. When I have thought about demand gen, and I don't typically say demand gen. A lot of times I'll kind of talk about awareness, awareness or building that top of funnel. I was actually surprised by a few instances of businesses, and they were B2B, they were doing exactly what you outlined, either very limited or practically no paid media to help drive some of that awareness.

And of course, awareness is a totally paid media. There's a ton of organic things you can do. There's a lot of other programs you can do. That's where you get into some public relations, et cetera. But that just doesn't always translate over into how that connects into lead gen because they're viewing that as an either/or [00:10:00] not really a combination of the two of them. That's kind of what you're getting at. Right?

Eric Holtzclaw: Yeah. I mean, we've had companies come to us who are spending so much money in ads and they've done nothing for organic. So, if they cut those ads off tomorrow, they lose anything that they're getting in. Where we've also had companies, like, literally several of mine in the portfolio, we're only relying on organic, 100% organic. And we were advising them, like, we are reaching the outer limits of our organic reach. We have to do something else. And so, building a platform that would let them tiptoe in and then showing them the results.

I mean, some of the stuff you do on that paid side, let you then accelerate your learning about what you really should be doing on the other and it's this kind of balancing act between the two. And I often see companies over-leveraged one way or the other. And again, neither's wrong. It's about doing a combination, and you just see them leaning too heavily and confusing the two.

On the B2B side, it takes 21 times for someone to really finally understand that there's a [00:11:00] brand and something that they should reach out to. The sales cycle is long, attributions hard. Like, how do we know what the original thing was? And things get attributed the wrong way. Like, oh, they finally raised their hand for this demo because they saw that ad, we need to run that ad and spend a lot of money on it. Well, they also saw you at a trade show. They also saw this; they saw that all these other things are the reason they finally clicked that button because they know the trick. Like, they avoid that, give me a demo button like the plague until they're absolutely ready to buy, not be sold to.

Thinking about it and kind of reconfiguring people's minds cause traditionally, I mean, all the way up until like 2008, marketing was just about getting the person in the store, getting in front of a salesperson. And now marketing's got the responsibility of carrying that customer very far down the journey to the point that they're ready to buy. I tell people that the salesperson often is just either closing the deal or screwing it up. They haven't done anything more. Marketing heavy lifted it the rest of the way. So, yeah.

Tim Curtis: And research will tell you that. [00:12:00] Research will tell you that they're upwards of now 80% through the process by the time they engage for a sales conversation.

Eric Holtzclaw: Absolutely. Consumers, or customer, let's say use that because generically a word, somebody who wants to spend money with you, they know how to work the system and they look everywhere in the ecosystem except for your stuff until the very end of that journey. And then that's when they start to pay attention to things that are really owned assets by the company. So, your salesperson is, in some ways, an order taker, which would be an interesting conversation to have with those who practice the art of sales.

Erik Martinez: Unless they're one of those salespeople who is really engaging and educational. Right? There's a critical role of the sales team in the process in educating and talking to the client and explaining the benefits of the products and how it can help and the pros and cons of different choices that they can make in using whatever product or service that is being discussed.

So, as you talk about demand gen and lead [00:13:00] gen, and filling the funnel, content is a critical piece of the equation. What types of content converts the best, or what is the best way to create content so that you can build that sustainable cycle? Right? You're saying, hey look, paid media helps your organic media, and your organic media helps your paid media, and they have to work together. What types of content makes that more successful?

Eric Holtzclaw: So, we think about marketing like a financial advisor, so you've got money you want to spend on a monthly basis on marketing. And our favorite clients just give us the money and then they tell us they want things to move up into the right because we're constantly kind of moving it around. And so, you think about, like, your social and SEO and ads and things are your high growth stock. Your content is your bond, and it pays a kind of dividend over time. That is putting content out, giving it time to breathe and understanding it's a slow burn. So, we can go back and look at it and say, yeah, this is performing, this is not, here's where the gaps are, this is what people are expecting to [00:14:00] see, kind of that balance of science and art in the content world.

One of the bigger things that we do with companies is we ask them to stop looking at their website as a catalog and think of it as a magazine. So, if you're going to tell the story of your company, tell me the stories. If I were picking this up like it were a magazine in a bookstore for those of you old enough to remember magazines and bookstores, you know, you pick up the one that has the stories on the front end. And by the way, they're kind of secretly selling you crap all the way through. Right? Like, and that's kind of how that works.

So, anyway, we can convert it over that way. We're looking for, anytime we can get like video because if you do video content, then we end up, we can get audio, we can get words, we can get all of that. So, that's my favorite kind to build. So, you can kind of get those stories, you know, understand the process, do the behind-the-scenes kind of thing, and then breaking it up into lots and lots of different chunks and using it over time.

Typically, rule of thumb is 20% creation, 80% promotion, and [00:15:00] those people spend 80% of their time creating it and 10% promoting it. I mean, that drives me crazy. Like these companies will go to these expensive conferences and have somebody stand on the stage or do a panel and they're like, phew, I'm glad that's over. We did the thing. It's like, no, your job as a marketer just started. This is the beginning. We had a hundred people in a room. There are millions of people who would be interested potentially in this message, and we have to figure out ways to get that out and distributed correctly.

So, taking advantage of what you're building, understanding that just because you're bored with the content, like you've seen it, you understand it, your customer's coming to you at a different part of a buyer journey. If I got a mortgage today and know nothing about mortgages, six months from now, somebody else is going to need to get a mortgage and they may know nothing about mortgages. So, they're going to start to follow a similar path.

You don't have to create something new. You need to create something memorable and something great and then let people discover it over time. As marketers, we're really running more like an on-demand app. You know, like all the Paramounts and the Max and the [00:16:00] Netflixes like that's what we're doing. We're putting out a catalog of content that's available to the ideal customer and allowing them to then consume it at the time they want to and not trying to force them into something at a time they don't care about it.

Erik Martinez: Yeah. I totally agree with that. I think the challenge that most people face is that it seems insurmountable. Building content seems insurmountable. I'm a spreadsheet guy, myself, right? I'm a numbers geek. So, the concept of building content, to me, in my youth was, I have no idea. You want me to create an ad and draw? I don't even know where to begin.

Outside of hiring your firm, that would be a great start, but if you're not going to hire Liger and you want to get started, what's one or two things that people can do that are relatively simple to get the process started?

Eric Holtzclaw: So, marketing is about choice. It's about choice. It's about choosing who your brand is, how it talks, how it [00:17:00] shows up in the world, those types of things. And what's interesting is you rarely see a large company with a lot of money make a mistake with that. They do a really good job of understanding who they are, how they show up, what they're going to say. And you see small companies that do a really bad job of that. And they have less dollars to spend.

So, choosing how you show up, messaging, and you can do this activity with friends. Like if you're setting up your own company and you're trying to figure out how you differentiate or your best customers, those are the ones that are going to tell you the reason they hired you. And by the way, it's never going to be price. It's going to be some intangible that you have to get to, which speaks to my book.

So, the book is about research. How do you have a good conversation with somebody? You have to ask them why five times. You know, you sound like a three-year-old, but you keep asking them why. Cause the first time it's like, Oh, you were the best price or you were available, whatever. You're eventually gonna get down to something like you make them look like a hero or you make it easy for them or whatever that is. And so, if I can understand that messaging and lean heavily into it and be very repetitive, even though it feels boring [00:18:00] to you, cause you know, people like new stuff, they want something to change, but you kind of got to understand it and then kind of, you have to own it. And big brands that are successful do a great job of owning who they are in the space.

My business partner in my research company was the same age as me. We have the same ownership in the company. We were the same, whole thing. He, huge Dunkin Donuts guy, and I'm a Starbucks guy. They both sell coffee but are completely different in the way that you feel, or they treat you as a customer, those types of things. He never went to Starbucks. I never went to Dunkin Donuts. And it's because they own that audience. They owned who they're going after and what they're doing.

And that's where specifically small B2B or B2C businesses struggle a lot in that they don't have the budget to do it. They don't have the budget to make the mistake. It's more important for them to make these kinds of active choices about who they are and who they aren't than it is for the big companies. In the B2B space, one of the biggest things I see is that they just don't focus on brand at all. They think the brand is not a thing, it's not important, and it is so [00:19:00] important.

We were working with one company, and they had a relatively common name, and they were in the satellite space. They had seven logos. The logo never looked the same. I think every year somebody touched it and didn't use the right color. It was like, terrible. And I wanted to change the name of the company along with all the other problems. One of their customers was CNN. And so I'm here in Atlanta and he had me go down to CNN.

He's like, okay, yeah, let's change the name of the company. He's like, meet me down at CNN. So, he went down to CNN and went and did like, a behind-the-scenes tour, and every producer who used their product, called it by the name, every one of them. They were like the Xerox of satellites. It's like, okay, fine. We will not change the name, but could you pick one color purple, and let's just use that from now on?

Tim Curtis: Right. Yeah. Can we take at least the basic steps here, you know, on brand management?

Eric Holtzclaw: Yeah. Brand equity. So, like, what is that brand equity and how do you live with it? But it is about making a choice. Americans in particular hate to make a choice. Like, we like to have all the options and you can't have all the options when you're marketing a thing.[00:20:00]

Tim Curtis: Yeah. You talked about B2B and the challenge with brand or branding, and consistency of branding within B2B. B2B struggles more mightily with those intangible assets. It's just soft and squishy and doesn't have the hard lines of a physical product that they're so used to dealing with or as a service. That in and of itself, I couldn't agree more with you on that aspect.

One of the things that I hear consistently, I do a lot of public speaking. I go around to different shows, do a lot of keynotes. Almost invariably I get the same form of question. Basically, the nexus of the question is this, when you're in a B2B brand, B2C, it's a little bit more clear, but when you're in a B2B brand, there seems to be much more of a mental roadblock in terms of how to navigate, particularly what you're doing from a media standpoint.

Today's marketing, and you've kind of, alluded to this as well. Today's market is complex. I think you guys described it as modern-day marketing maze. It's overwhelming. B2B [00:21:00] companies see B2C companies. B2C companies have a little bit more of a handle on some of the complexes. Not much, but a little bit more of a handle. They have so many more tools at their disposal in terms of media spend and how they can spend that media. B2B, and especially coming out of COVID, it's a much harder, more complex area.

How does your team navigate that aspect of media planning for B2B? And I don't know if you do any B2C at all, but I know you have some experience there. How do you approach that to make sure that you're understanding how the media planning process should unfold for those brands? Cause again, that seems to be a mental roadblock for a lot of these B2B brands.

Eric Holtzclaw: Yeah. They're very internally focused. So, one of our first steps in the process with our company is we take them through brand therapy. We have discovery sessions, a very proven process by which we onboard clients to understand kind of what's impacting them. So, macro/micro trends that we can use as headlines that they can participate in. [00:22:00] Typically, we don't want a B2B brand creating a headline. That's not often a good idea.

Making them choose ideal customers. We've got a set of personas we work off and they can only choose one with a second as a secondary so that we have like, who's the message going to. Then we get up to like competitors and where can they differentiate themselves in that space. So, in this process and kind of coming through that brand therapy, because therapy is about self-identification. At the end of the day, your therapist doesn't tell you the problem. They kind of help you discover it on your own.

So, we're assisting them along that path and then coming back. What we do when we get done and come back with our strategy is we say, if it were our company and our money, this is one of the three choices typically that you can make as to how we're going to take this to market. Could be a paid approach, if that's appropriate. It could be more of an earned media approach. Depends on the kind of where they're fitting, what they're trying to accomplish, how fast they need it to work, and what their budgets are.

But given what we're looking at, it's like, if it were our company and our money, based on what you've told us, these are the three things you would do. But once you [00:23:00] make a choice, you can't choose all three, we're going to stick with it. Because once we get on this road, we have to be very consistent about how we're doing this, what it looks like. Because it's going to take us some time to know what's working and what's not working so that we can then start to get into the back part of that BATCOM I talked about, which is optimization and maintenance.

We want to really marketing at the beginning. Regrettably, it feels like a slot machine. You're putting a dollar in. You're not sure if you're going to get anything back. We want to make it a vending machine. So, when we put a dollar into this approach, this thing, we know we're going to get a return of X dollars on the backend.

What I find with companies specifically B2B, I mean it's really true with B2C too, is they get so caught up in what they do and the minutia of like why it's different and special and whatever. And I'm typically like blah, blah, blah. Like, stop. What is it that makes you unique? What's going to make you stand out? How am I going to get a visceral reaction to that? Because B2B, B2C we're selling to humans, so I've got to get a human to pay attention to understand what it is, and that's the storyline or the interesting thing we're looking for to pull them [00:24:00] along.

It's a lot of self-discovery and our clients love the first 30 days because that's when we do all the self-discovery. And then we move into what I call the pit of despair because for the next two to three months, we're implementing all the stuff on the back end to support what they did. And all the fun workshops are over the pretty graphics and the words and whatever. And we're like, okay, cool. Now I got to go build the house, please hold on.

Tim Curtis: Yeah, it's a super fun time for all involved.

Eric Holtzclaw: And we call it the pit of despair. We're like, okay, we've made a choice. We're now moving into the pit of despair, and so for the next 60, 90 days, you're going to think it's uncomfortable and whatever. But it's just like, if you've ever built a house, like you're like, are they ever going to frame this house? Right. Cause they're doing all the foundations, all the things that are important, and if you don't do those right, you go back and you do them later. Anyone who wants to skip a step, it's a more expensive, dangerous thing to do. So, you might as well set it right at the beginning. And we have just proven examples of companies who do it right, and what [00:25:00] we can do to move them up into the right and companies that wanted to skip a step.

Erik Martinez: Let's talk about those companies that want to skip a step. You've talked a little bit about marketing mistakes, and what brands do or don't do to achieve their goals and success. So, what are the most common marketing mistakes that you see out there, and what's the remedy for them?

Eric Holtzclaw: Well, the number one marketing mistake is a lack of consistency, and that consistency can be across the way that the brand shows up, the fact that they put a tactic in place, and they tried for a hot minute and they don't see the results. We had one of my favorite X customers, we put something on LinkedIn and we didn't make any sales. I'm like, yeah, you didn't. Nope, that's not how this works. Right? So, they're looking kind of overnight success, and that is played a little bit in the media. Like, we get these things that go viral because bigger companies did it or some accidental. We all know that. That's less than a lightning strike. Right. So, being consistent. You're going to try something, you want to try for a period of time, you want to make sure you can measure it[00:26:00] but then not being so foolharded, you to continue to do it.

We'll end up with clients, we have a new one that we onboarded just a week or two ago, and they've been doing the same thing they've been doing for the past 10 years, probably. And they're like, it's not working anymore. I'm like, right, cause this changes. So, there's this delicate balance between what are the things impacting, which is again, why, even if you don't hire a full-service firm like us, having an outside expert who's assisting you with here's some things that looking around the corners. Like, this is what we're certain large platforms that control our world more than they should, where they're headed.

So, we need to make sure we're doing some things today, so that we're going to be available for that moving forward. And they're not seeing things across different industries. They may be only working within their one company, and they don't know what else other companies are doing that's working and not working. So, having that outside expert, even just as an advisor to kind of litmus test, what you're doing. So, consistency is huge, number one.

Confusing a tactic for a strategy. Tactics are underneath the strategy, and we would swap tactics more often than we would [00:27:00] strategies. And so, are you doing marketing? Yeah, we're putting some stuff up on social media. That's not what I meant, right? Like, how do all these things work together? Not having clearly defined who the brand is so that they know the voice of the brand and the things that it would do and not do.

I love brands that you can identify before you see the logo and that's what everyone's goal should be. You should know it's an asset, a product or service from a company before you even see the logo, just based on the way it's being talked about, the way that the first few seconds appear on the screen. We've all seen those advertisements and commercials and you don't even have to see the logo. So, those things are things that are common.

The other one that I find more common recently is not having investigated their MarTech stock correctly. Marketing people never went to school to be technologists. That's part of why my background as a recovering technologist is helpful. They buy everything from one company. And I'm like, well, if you want to hint as to what that company does really well, what are they named? Whatever they're named means they do that thing well, and everything else they have in their platform is probably bolted [00:28:00] on and it may not be appropriate to buy anything else from them and go cobble together your best in class.

Marketing is like a Home Depot. You walk into a Home Depot; you're not going to buy one tool to renovate your house. You're going to buy the tool that's appropriate for each one of them and then use them in the right way. And that's a hard thing for marketers because they're responsible for not only what the brand is and the words and all that, and then all of a sudden, now they got to figure out how to deploy the thing.

They annoy the technologists because the technologies like to set it and forget it. And marketing is about no, this week, we got to do this, we got to do that. It's got to be measurable. Like there's all this. I believe it's the most complex practice area right now in the business space.

Erik Martinez: I think you're right. Tim and I were talking about a client fairly recently that built a website on a platform that's designed for UI/UX testing. It wasn't designed to do all the things that a modern capable website is supposed to be able to do. So, that creates some extra hurdles and roadblocks and extra effort and [00:29:00] inefficiencies in just getting the marketing program set up. Basic paid media, organic media type programs are difficult to set up because the technology choice was not the right solution for what they were trying to accomplish. We see that one quite a bit.

I just attended a two-day workshop on professional speaking which I need to get better at. But one of the interesting things about this whole workshop was that during the entire two days, these guys used maybe three visuals. They said, look, if you can deliver the speech without the visuals, and it can still be entertaining, and you can still convey the key message, then you have a successful speech. What you were saying just resonated with me with that whole conversation because branding is that same thing, right? Somebody says the word Target. [00:30:00] We don't think of the circle, right? We know what Target means. That is actually a very, very good insight as well.

Eric Holtzclaw: Well, what's interesting to me is like, I like to use Target, Old Navy, and Apple because all three of them use white, but you can tell the difference between the commercial in the first two seconds, like when it starts, if it's going to be an Old Navy, a Target or an Apple commercial before you see the logo. And there's gotta be something in the way they're doing that. Right. That's an example of great branding. If we can all use the color white as our primary starting point, and you still know it's going to be one versus the other.

Tim Curtis: And I love that Microsoft tried to co-op that with their Microsoft stores. It was painfully obvious to anybody who was paying attention, anybody who had a pulse, what Microsoft was trying to do. They achieved a very, very aesthetically pleasing design. Checked the box. However, the one difference that I noticed between the Apple store and the Microsoft store was people. That's part of the strategy that you could build it, but they won't [00:31:00] come. You got to go a little bit deeper.

Eric Holtzclaw: Well, it reminds me of Malcolm Gladwell's Tipping Point. Like, you can tell the difference between a real statue and a fake one, like even if you're not trained.

Tim Curtis: Oh, great book. Great book. All his books are good, but that one was particularly good. One of the questions I wanted to ask as we turn this towards a close here. You have sort of your top ten lessons that you've learned after working with thousands of entrepreneurs. Those are kind of always the really rich lecture hall learnings, right? That's sort of where I think the power of a podcast really comes into play.

This is the kind of stuff that you don't normally get unless you are, again, in a lecture hall, you spend a lot of money trying to listen to someone kind of go over these things and you're willing to share some of these insights that you've learned for all these years of working. And I think for the listeners, this is one of those key moments about why we started this podcast was to have people like yourself share those kind of insights. So, I'd love to know, what are those ten lessons and give the listeners a benefit of that.

Eric Holtzclaw: Yeah. So, [00:32:00] I've done the entrepreneurial thing my entire career. I was at IBM for the first two years cause that's where I thought I wanted to end up, and I ended up in a startup with a bunch of ex-IBMers and that's kind of not looked back. Along that way, I've taken a lot of companies from like baby through the awkward in between years, which is kind of where I am now with this company is kind of a teenager, and teenagers are a pain in the butt to take care of. They can drive the car, but you still need to know where they are and all that stuff.

I wrote for Inc. for several years and my very first article for them on purpose was Fire Yourself. So, as an entrepreneur, the very first thing you need to do is fire yourself from all the things that you don't do well, that you don't like to do, all those kind of things. Specifically, today, there's so many ways to outsource. Like, if you hate doing books, don't do the books.

You've got to figure out what your best first use of your time is. So, firing yourself, you know, giving up the control to other people. It's a lesson I had to learn along the way. I read Michael Gerber's E-Myth over spring break and came back and fired myself from key parts of the business, and it's been the reason that this business has [00:33:00] been able to scale. That's one of the key ones.

Another is understanding the exit. Knowing that every single business does have an exit. So, we liken companies to marriages or other relationships where, Oh, we're going to do this forever. No, you're not. There's going to be some kind of exit. You're going to want to quit. You're going to get sick. You're going to die. Like, something is going to happen, and that company has to be in a position for the right exit. They're different based on the type of company you're building.

So, you need to know what are you creating? And I've started lots of businesses before and there's this romance period at the beginning. You're like, ah, this is so much fun, but do we want to sell it? Do we want to partner? Do we want to grow it? Are we building a lifestyle business? None of those answers are wrong, but you kind of need to know which one you're on.

And if you're in a partnership, you need to make sure you're defining that very well at the beginning. My example of that is if I said skiing, let's all go on a skiing trip. Well, one of you may have thought about snow skiing. I thought about water [00:34:00] skiing. So, if I say the word skiing, even though it sounds like it's the same word, we all show up at the car, you got a set of snow skis, I got a set of water skis and a swimsuit and we're like, we're not even headed to the same destination. And so that becomes a huge issue specifically in partnerships for companies where that doesn't match with each other, and you haven't defined it at the beginning because you think you've said the right words.

That's why those like agreements at the beginning of companies are really important because they're not important in the beginning, they're important at the end. They're all about what's going to happen when this thing is over and the two of us decided we want to do something different. Also, a very strong proponent of one person needs to be fully in charge, which means they own 51% of whatever it is that you're doing cause you can't have two, like, Oh, we're going to split it 50/50. Just doesn't work. You need one person who's like directing it, managing it, moving it forward.

Tim Curtis: A plug for the EOS model for sure.

Eric Holtzclaw: Yeah, we follow EOS internally. So, when I was doing operational work, I [00:35:00] discovered EOS, and so I implemented it for several of my clients. And it was helpful because it made them focus on some things that you can't get them to focus on otherwise and see if they're really gonna be accountable. And if they're not, they don't want to operationalize their business at all, right? Like, if you're not gonna really take this seriously, then.

And so we implemented EOS in my company and everyone, but me at my company is pretty much a project manager, operational kind of person. They loved EOS. They're like ducks to water. Like, it was like, ah, rocks and whatever.

Tim Curtis: Yeah, it's wonderful. It's wonderful.

Eric Holtzclaw: I attend the quarterlies and help set rocks and stuff and hope I don't own one.

Tim Curtis: Oh, same.

Eric Holtzclaw: So, but an offering system like that, I think you can really scale a business quickly and solve a lot of problems. My issue with EOS is working on the celebratory side of it because it does make you focus only on the things that don't work. It doesn't do as much about like, Hey, look at all the stuff that we've done. I'm kind of out of order but goalposts are really important as you're growing a business.

So, like, what are those goalposts that you can then look back [00:36:00] at? Because it just becomes like the everyday thing, and you think you're just in the mud and you don't realize how much you've really accomplished. And those goalposts with a little gift, a little thing, you know, like, what are you going to do when you get to that goalpost that's going to make you feel good. Like, is it the next bottle of rare bourbon that you're going to buy? Or are you going to take yourself out for ice cream?

Being the owner of a company, being the person running it, is the loneliest job in the entire company. Like, you sit and talk to yourself. Well, what would you do? Well, I don't know. You know, which is a good place to like, either do something more formal like Vistage. So, Vistage is the reason I sold my interest in my last business. My Vistage group encouraged me to do that. If you don't want to do that, then having like an informal board, like people that you can call. Like, I've got one person I call who thinks everything I want to do is a great idea, another person I call who thinks everything I want to do is a bad idea, and so you can balance all of those things. So, you're kind of being confirmed into your decisions.

There's so much [00:37:00] in it, and the problem I've seen, and I was on the radio for a couple of years interviewing entrepreneurs about what they found as they were starting and growing their businesses. You know, you think it's money, you think it's whatever. It's not. It's other things that are sort of influencing you to be successful in it. And it's also about making sure that you're paying attention to your real purpose behind that business such that you don't stray from it and that we don't get caught up in this rockstar mentality of entrepreneurship. Entrepreneurs have become rock stars. It's a tough, tough job. If you like your nine-to-five and whatever, do that and have a hobby on the weekend. It's just not for everyone.

Tim Curtis: It's certainly been portrayed as aspirational. Everyone feels as a part of the aesthetic, right? I want to be an entrepreneur and all the wonderful things that go along with that. And anybody who has worked as an entrepreneur will tell you, that is not aligned with reality for what an entrepreneur really means.

Eric Holtzclaw: When I first became an [00:38:00] entrepreneur, people thought I was crazy. I mean, if you've ever seen the movie Big Chill, there's the guy, he's the entrepreneur, but they say that means he doesn't have a job, right? Like that was a way to just like, say you don't have a job. And during my career, all of a sudden it became like the cool thing to do. And I'm like, yeah, no, this isn't always cool.

Tim Curtis: Not at all. Not at all. Well, that's good insight. Even a little conversation there about EOS just gives insight into how you need to maybe consider the lack of consistency and confusing a tactic and a strategy. I think those are all really essential components and certainly you know, establish a really strong baseline. Going a little bit deeper in those conversations and understanding, okay, is EOS right for me? What is the business framework that we need to adopt?

It's those higher-level conversations, which are really strategic in nature, but have all sorts of tactical implications on the business. If you're asking yourself, okay, I've heard about EOS, Entrepreneurial Operating System, and I've not implemented it, then you're probably identifying or self-selecting as someone who's saying, I need to do some more research because we're probably not in a place where we've [00:39:00] answered those questions yet. That's kind of some good thoughts that I took away from that conversation.

Eric Holtzclaw: Yeah. The other thing with EOS for us marketers is I think that's the weakest part of the system. So, it gives us some opportunity there because it's like, it doesn't have a fully fleshed out, but the rest of it, they do a great job of thinking about accountability charts and rocks and issues and how you're going to move stuff forward, and you have a lot of really rich conversations around what that means.

Tim Curtis: It really helped reshape the leadership management and accountability aspect. Wow, that was good. But I think it also gives permission for people, and I encourage people to take the test on the EOS page. I think it's actually, it may be in Rocket Fuel University, but either way, it helps people understand, am I more visionary or am I more integrator, that operations person that likes to get things done and be organized?

Boy, what a permission you're given when you realize, man, I'm over here high on the visionary side. No wonder I struggle with putting some of these things on paper. And it sort of gives permission to understand that we need to [00:40:00] sometimes adjust the way that we do business. These top ten lessons from entrepreneurs or your five common marketing mistakes, a visionary is going to react one way to that. Whereas, you know, an operations person, an integrator, is going to react differently. So, just really, really good thoughts here today.

Thank you again for coming on and taking the time out of your busy schedule. We'll be looking forward to further conversations. And again, consider Eric's book, Laddering: Unlocking the Potential of Consumer Behavior. And I know you have your own podcast called The Claw. So, if people want to reach out to you, what's the best way to get a hold of you?

Eric Holtzclaw: So, my social media platform of choice right now is LinkedIn, so I'm all over LinkedIn. And I have a newsletter each week called Digitally Inclined, and so talk about kind of the digital impact on marketing. So, it's good for people who are kind of trying to figure out how to apply that part. Find me on LinkedIn and then our website is

Tim Curtis: There you go. Well, thanks again, Eric. It was good to have you on the show. My name is Tim Curtis from CohereOne.

Erik Martinez: And I'm Erik Martinez from Blue Tangerine.

Tim Curtis: Thanks [00:41:00] so much. Catch you on the flip side.

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