Event Growth Hacking, with Taylor Ryan [Interview]

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Posted on July 23, 2019

How familiar are you with Growth Hacking and all of the MarTech terminology? Whether we like it or not, these are vital concepts for any event professional to be up-to-date with the industry best practices.

How’s your knowledge of marketing technology going? Heard of Growth Hacking? So sit down, take a coffee and learn from a specialist. Taylor Ryan is a mentor, writer, startup junkie, technical marketer, presenter, event host and growth hacker. CMO at KlintMarketing, a growth agency for businesses of all sizes, he told us how to keep up with digital transformation. SPOILER: if you use any kind of data or digital measurement on your business, it’s worth a consulting session. If you don’t use, the following paragraphs will be your turning point.

1 – Who is Taylor Ryan when he’s not strategizing the next marketing growth plan?

There’s a lot of things I wish I could lean into on this one. The reality is I’ve doubled down most of my extra free time to get better at my craft especially over the last five years. 

I moved to Denmark shortly after leaving my job at the Washington Post and starting my sixth company with a business partner I hadn’t spent enough time vetting out. We started off on a bad foot and the working environment that we agreed on was a co-working space yet we were working out of his poorly ventilated basement for the first couple of weeks. 

The turning point

I felt like things had stagnated in my career and as a result, the other areas of my life weren’t going so hot. At times we need to put ourselves through discomfort, adversity, or drastic change in order to strengthen our resolve and get perspective. 

I spent 2-3 nights a week attending meetups, events, and conferences on a broad range of topics (IoT, marketing, big data analytics, pitch events, etc) in the years leading up to my move. 

When I arrived in Denmark, I put in longer hours and attended more events. The average workweek for the Danes is 37 hours per week. I was putting in on average 70-80. Instead of just attending events, I was now focused on speaking.

What was more shocking to me was that I was “let go” from three places in the span of three years due to this work ethic. Rather than it correcting my diligence to go lighter and do less like those around me; it had the opposite effect. 

I was committed to doing something amazing. And I’ve been doing just that for the last couple of months and a half over at Klint Marketing. The environment is low-touch and not micromanaged. This is exactly how I am used to working.

I have a team of almost 30 here and I’m making every effort to be the boss I never had. Granted I work nights and weekends, but I’m better for it and I feel like I’ve accumulated 10 years worth of knowledge in the last four years.  

The short answer is that work gave me the resilience and purpose that I was searching for during my 20s. I’ve managed to figure out that I REALLY enjoy what I do and learning while teaching is what I enjoy the most. 

2 – You train hundreds of people worldwide on Growth Hacking, Growth Marketing and Entrepreneurship. Is agile training following technology speed? How are startup and corporate environments adapting?

I’ve come to a better understanding of what people want out of a career in marketing. The most motivated marketers I’ve interacted with are the ones that enjoy “braking systems.” 

Taking standard pathways and traditional projects and completely breaking them apart then putting them together with optimized tools and automated processes (at least minimizing the manual stuff as much as possible). 

“Doing the most with the least amount of effort and getting better results.” That’s how I define growth hacking.

The hard part is often teaching this stuff because you really need to get the experience of using tools and systems that give you the understanding of how these things work. It’s an endless learning curve. 

Agile training can be part of growth hacking if you’ve got the right team, but if you’re limited on resources there is no way to set sprints like you would in a traditional environment. The Waterfall approach is more realistic in most cases with me because the last step is maintaining an ongoing process after initial delivery/testing.

Each project can be so different that setting week long sprints isn’t going to pan out, especially if you’re working with less experienced team members. 

I think the biggest things that corporations can learn from startups from a growth hacking perspective revolve around limited budgets which force teams to get creative. But the most important thing I can point to is rapid experimentation. Testing everything and trying to work every angle. 

We learn from every win and loss and continue to highlight those learning lessons internally every week. The result is my marketing department runs like a “marketing boot camp” year round. 

3 – Customer experience is everywhere, from digital marketing to real life huge events.  What’s the future of consumerization and customer-centric culture? How do you see it in the next five to ten years?

There’s a ton of customization coming in the next few years. Email automation tools now allow for some really interesting ways of inserting custom fields over clever memes. 

Using rapid testing, you can figure out really quickly which subject lines work the best in your funnel and also present custom experiences on landing pages. This is all happening right now and it gets better depending on the information you’ve gathered about a user. 

Using some additional insights like, where they’ve been, their intent, demographics, and company information; you can do some pretty amazing lead scoring and customization.

Event growth hacking is getting better with Geofencing, scraping attendee lists, custom audiences and more. The idea is hitting people from every possible angle. 

And again- it’s happening now. Yet most people are defaulting back to the oldest methods because it’s easier and there’s less of a barrier to entry. 

As for the future… I think there’s going to continue to be customization mixed with big data and machine learning tools that aggregate a lot more information about users to serve up the most ideal ad, service, product, or tool.

Paid reach is going to be more expensive and the norm for most reach. Realistically this is already happening. Facebook, Instagram, and LinkedIn have already turned down the organic reach of company pages. 

Google’s algorithms are shifting to serve up less organic content. This means you have to pay more to reach your ideal audience. That’s going to be painful, but that’s what’s already happening. 

Do a google search for any key phrase on your phone right now, for example, “digital transformation.” Here’s what comes ups:

  1. 4 ads
  2. Google images
  3. Google’s answer snippet of what it thinks is the best result to your search would be
  4. Video (mostly youtube… which is owned by google)
  5. People also ask drop downs (which just puts you back on the search seeing a ton of ads first)
  6. Top Stories – Google’s News algorithm
  7. Organic search engine results… which likely aren’t getting clicked on by this point because it’s halfway down the first page and a lot of scrolling later.

This means we’re going to paying a lot to get ranked in the near future if we ever hope to reach users. 

4 – You were the CMO of Valuer, where you used to build up links between corporations and startups. From that experience, what did you see as the main values and solutions that corporations are demanding from startups nowadays? 

At Valuer, I used to help corporations identify new opportunities for collaborations and partnerships with startups. 

We’ve found that corporations are getting left behind when it comes to new technology and streamlined approaches to solutions. 

Rather than building something in-house, that will do exactly what a startup already has built, why not partner with a small company to achieve the same goal? These large organizations aren’t seeing the big picture. 

Startups are continuously disrupting the places where they made their money year after year. They’re not acquiring companies like larger tech giants and they’re watching the top talent go elsewhere… that’s a problem. 

We’re selling speed here. Getting a chance to do rapidly innovate within departments using the growing landscape of solutions that already exist. The solution we created wasKlin a platform that aggregates and validates startups in every sector. Using a mixture of boots on the ground via our agent network and our continuously growing database. 

We’re applying machine learning to quantitative and qualitative startup data, founders profiles, industry insights, funding announcements, and more. This gives Valuer a higher level of certainty that a startup is an investable entity than anyone else out there. 

5 – What advice would you give junior entrepreneurs trying to break into the business world? In other words: what’s a main competitive advantage for digital businesses planning to get in the field?

I think the advice is cheap. Go out and do the work. Figure things out as you go. Start spending Sundays doing something you’re willing to follow through with. 

Get something going now. Try to build something and learn as much as you can. Especially if you’re early in your career, your first idea will likely fall flat on its face but the next one will do better and so on.

The concept is that there is no school in the world that can teach you the hardest elements of entrepreneurship but some of the more practical lessons come from doing the work and getting that experience. 

Keep learning! Don’t forget to check these other event marketing posts to excel in your career:

Visit Taylor Ryan’s official website and Klint Marketing to check the latest projects and lectures Taylor has been working on. You can also find him on LinkedIn, as well as have a look at his newest SaaS platform, ArchitectureQuote.com.

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