Season 02 / Episode 025
From ABC to Evenflo with Josh Reed
With Josh Reed - Director of Consumer Demand Generation, Evenflo
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We have a special guest for you today, a client of JEBCommerce! Josh Reed, Director Consumer Demand Generation for Evenflo is on the podcast and you don’t want to miss it! As always, we go through Josh’s journey to digital marketing and affiliate marketing, and I can guarantee you it’s not a path you have heard on this podcast before.
Josh gives an MBA-level discussion on marketing that I’m super proud to have on our podcast. We discuss:
- The differences with high consideration products
- Digital transformation
- The diversity affiliate publishers bring to a DTC manufacturer
- Why he chose to bring in SMEs to run his affiliate program instead of an in-house team
We also discuss some key things in career development and why this period’s crop of college grads seem different than when we got out of school.
It’s a great episode that you’ll want to share.
And if you’d like to connect with Josh, you can do so on LinkedIn.
About Our Guest
Josh has spent his career focused on the ever-changing digital side of marketing for consumer brands. With an even split between brand-side roles and agency account management, he has worked to build business for General Motors, P&G, New Balance, CVS Health, BJ’s Wholesale Club, Hasbro, I Heart Radio and now at Goodbaby International for their Evenflo and Rollplay brands. Two of Josh’s most notable engagements have been his role in the winding down of the Pontiac sports car brand using 1:1 social media engagement with car shoppers and the development of the CVS retail app that helped shoppers eliminate the need for those legendary long receipts if they choose.
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Well, hey, everyone. Welcome to the Profitable Performance Marketing podcast. I am your host, Jamie Birch, and CEO and founder of JEBCommerce. I just had such a great conversation. I’m excited to record this intro. Today, actually, we speak with Josh Reed of Evenflo and Goodbaby International, a client of JEBCommerce.
But before we dive into what today’s episode is about, I just want to let you guys know, as we do with every podcast episode, we are here to help. You can get help for all your affiliate marketing, your partnership marketing and your content commerce marketing needs with JEBCommerce. And you can just email us at firstname.lastname@example.org.
You may be thinking now of what’s going to happen in back to school, and what’s going to happen in Q4, and what you’re going to do, and want to make sure that you have a good system in place and a way to know you have all the pieces in place to do the right thing.
We have an audit and a roadmap service that we can offer you that will review everything about your affiliate program and give you the path forward to achieve your goals in 2022 and beyond. If you’re interested in that and finding out what you’re doing and what you could be doing even better, just email us at email@example.com.
Today, my conversation that you are about to listen to is with Josh Reed. Josh is the Director Consumer Demand Generation and Digital Shelf at Goodbaby International. He oversees the brands Evenflo, CYBEX and a few others. And Josh and Evenflo are a client of JEBCommerce. We’ve been working together for quite some time. Have achieved some success together. And have a really good conversation that started with a little bit of humor that I did not pick up on. We talk about that right away.
But I’m so glad that Josh and I got this time together. You’re really going to get an MBA-level course on marketing, high-consideration products, the need for social proof, digital transformation and affiliate marketing on this podcast. You definitely want to give it a listen.
Josh has a pretty incredible background. Has worked at Hasbro. Has been in some of the largest agencies, marketing agencies out there. Started his career in communications. But has worked for Hasbro. Now, Evenflo. And quite a few other large brands, and like I said, big agencies and some small agencies, Clear Channel Radio, things like that. Lots of experience that I want you to listen to. But I’m just going to stop so you guys can enjoy my conversation with Josh Reed.
[00:03:30] Jamie Birch: Awesome, Josh. Thank you so much for joining me today on the Profitable Performance Marketing podcast. Welcome to the show.
[00:03:37] Josh Reed: Thank you so much for having me.
[00:03:39] JB: Yeah. No. I’ve been excited, too. Ever since I received a bit of sarcasm from your side on this enormous mic that’s always in my face, I can’t help but – When I see it now, I always laugh that I totally didn’t pick up on your sense of humor during the call. But glad you’re here.
[00:03:56] JR: Absolutely. I guess it’s one of those things of like, “there’s a grain of truth to every joke.” And be careful what you wish for, it just might happen, right?
[00:04:03] JB: Yeah, for our listeners, Josh was teasing me a bit of the professional podcast setup I have during a client kickoff call. And I turned it around. It’s like, “Great. Let’s join. You should be on the podcast.” And here we are.
Well, it’s great. I’ve been wanting to chat with you. And I know our listeners are really excited to hear your story. And for our listeners, you guys are a client of ours. Been working with you for a couple months doing some exciting things. But tell our listeners and myself kind of what’s your origin story. How did you get into digital marketing? I’ve heard a little bit of it, and it’s very interesting.
[00:04:39] JR: Sure. I graduated from college in 2001, spring of ’01. And it was sort of an interesting time to come out, right? Like, we had just had the dot-com bust. A lot of things were sort of being figured out. The term digital transformation was starting to become a thing. And I think my background … I went to college at a SUNY school in upstate New York, SUNY New Paltz, for a radio TV production. And learned about two-thirds of the way through that that I was not necessarily well-suited. While I love behind the camera work or behind the mic work, the production side of it wasn’t sort of where my interest lied. I was a little more curious about the business piece of it.
Anyway, ended up graduating and really looking around for a job. It was probably about halfway through my internship at ABC’s Enhanced Television for Disney Internet group. It was this funny operation where sort of a digital startup that they had inside of Disney. And they had rigged up a TiVo to read the time code on tape for master control at ABC. And we could push content out in real-time. And you used to be able to play Who Wants to be a Millionaire in real-time on the web over probably dial-up connection at that point.
And it was a huge ratings winner. We did work – And the reason I was hired as an intern was actually to go through customer service backlog. It was a terrible sort of like slog of day-to-day internship. But if I did the work quick enough, I got to go down to the sets of these shows. Make sure that we did promos. Viewed a lot of tapes of shows that were going to be brought up at sweeps and tried to be sold in for the next season. Really interesting stuff.
But one thing that was super transformative for me was that I watched Bob Iger fire my senior vice president about a month before I graduated from college and had a little bit of a reality check to say, “Oh my gosh! Going into broadcasting,” which is really competitive. And there’s a lot of students that go through and get communications degrees. You’re going to need to do something a little bit different.
In that, my first job ended up being a one-man band marketer who replaced a person that had previously basically just been a secretary who sent out college catalogs in the graduate admissions office at a liberal arts college in upstate New York and like figured out how to do things. Like, designed print ads. Took pictures. Wrote copy. Made media plans. Had […] no idea what I was doing. But figured it out as I went. And I think that sort of created a little bit of a fire and sort of helped to form the way that I generally operate still today, which is: get interested in where things are not working. Look for opportunities to do them. And on the days where you don’t know what you need to be doing next, sort of make it up a little bit and test some things out and give it a shot. And surround yourself with smart people and ask a lot of questions of people that know more than you.
And so, my pathway, I worked in education for four years. Then I did digital transformation for what used to be called Clear Channel Radio, that’s now iHeart Radio, as they were bringing digital properties. Think streaming, and getting radio DJs how to blog, and incorporate digital promotions on the website into their shows. And I did that for three different radio markets. And was living in upstate New York and they’re like, “We want you to move to this other secondary market in another state.” And I was like, “You know what? It might be time for something different. Living in Poughkeepsie’s career, limiting enough. I think going to the Poughkeepsie of another state maybe wasn’t quite the right thing for me.
And so, actually through – Again, dating myself. On an AIm conversation with a high school friend, who is at Saatchi & Saatchi in New York, told me about his colleagues in Boston. And I had always wanted to live urban. I grew up in upstate New York. And Boston was a good sort of entry city for me, right? And I’m still here today. But I went into the agency space. Worked for Digitas on General Motors and Procter & Gamble business. Worked for a few other agencies over the course of about 10 years on brands everything related to healthcare, pet food, MarTech, athletic shoes, a number of different brands and territories.
And the thing that I’ve always tried to do through my career is to come at marketing from different angles. Retreading the same ground isn’t super exciting for me. I try to […] collect up and make sure that my tool bag is ever-increasing in terms of sort of what I bring to the table. But I always want to sort of mix it up and do it differently.
Anyway, 20 years later, having started watching a corporate environment where one guy was getting fired by another guy probably related to some politics that I won’t go into in this podcast, I am back on the client-side coming at marketing very low in the funnel sort of from the bottom-up working in an e-commerce go-to-market role. And so, my day revolves around both acquisition strategy of both paid and owned media and experimenting with other programs like with the success that we’re building with you and your team in the affiliate space. To thinking about first party data gathering, and remarketing, and efficiency and all those sorts of things. And then also, satisfaction and CX, right? What are the readings and reviews like? What is the feedback that we’re getting from the consumer? Where is all the friction in the commerce process?
And so, it’s been a fun journey, but never sort of the same thing twice. But obviously, fully complementary. And lucky that I came out in a period where there is no such thing where there isn’t a digital aspect of marketing. Even when I was making print ads in 2002 for the Poughkeepsie journal, we were sending the files back and forth online and thinking about how my other touch points, my website, all those other things were sort of matching up. Building CRM databases. Qualifying leads. Thinking about all those things. It’s been a fun journey, but definitely not linear.
I call myself, when I get in these conversations, a little bit of Donkey Kong, right? You don’t go straight up the ladder. You go up one ladder. You run across. You go up the next one. You run back the other way and go to the next is sort of the way that has been my, in retrospect, I guess, sort of MO.
[00:10:49] JB: I was just speaking to one of my employees who is around the same age. We all kind of started. I’m a little ahead of you, to date myself. But we all had –
[00:11:00] JR: [inaudible 00:11:00].
[00:11:02] JB: Yeah, yeah, right? Graduated from college. Here’s the dot com. And now it’s gone. And it’s back. And it’s – But one thing we were talking about is the difference in what we all had to do to figure it out and kind of what new college grads are like. And there may be a little bit of, back in my day, [having] to walk uphill both ways in the snow to school, kind of the old vets in this space.
But do you see that? There’s a commonality in what I heard in the beginning of your career and throughout it of like, “I had to figure it out. There are problems to solve. I’m going to go solve it. I’m going to ask other people and try to bring in a lot of different information and solve it.” Do you see like that initiative? That drive? Is that different now? Or is it just the hiring market is such that it is?
[00:11:55] JR: I think my perspective on it – And I’d be interested if you sort of feel the same way. But it’s really where folks that came up around the time that we did are generalists by nature, right? The different aspects and sort of programs and channels and things are so much more mature now that students who are coming out into the workforce interning and really – I don’t think the people that are marketing are all just a little bit crazy, right? We love that frenetic sort of newsroom-esque mentality.
But I think folks that came out – And again, I wonder if you experienced this, too. But like we became generalists out of necessity because we were in this time of huge transformation in terms of communication channels when you’re doing marketing.
Now, there’s so much specialization. And the education, whether it’d be practical or book education within the educational setting for folks coming out and coming up, they may be in a channel and become subject matter experts just in one lane, whether it be performance media, whether it’d be CRM, whether it be audience data composition. Obviously, we have the influencer economy and those things. And those dynamics didn’t exist. Or they were all being tinkered with and played with and weren’t fully formed around the time that I came out into the working world in the very, very early 2000s.
I’ve been seeing things, like, you don’t see sort of generalist marketing roles anymore. They’re always very specialized. And I think that that both is maybe a little intimidating for me sometimes. But also, really interesting because it forces you, one, to like really tap into subject matter expertise. And if you’re hungry and curious and want to learn, even people that are way junior to you in terms of tenure probably have some level of really deep expertise that I don’t get to touch every day, but know enough to be able to tap into.
I think that swing between sort of being this sort of matured generalist versus matured specialist in terms of career pathing is something that I see that’s definitely different than it was. But the passionate curious ones are the ones that generally win and that you really want to be working with most of the time. That’s often the advice that I’ll give to people, whether they’d be alums from my college or others that I know.
[00:14:20] JB: Yeah. No. That’s really interesting. I think that’s one of the better answers to that question that I’ve received, the necessity [of being a] generalist. Because everything was forming. And in a way, we had to figure it all out at the same time. And maybe we paved away a little bit. And like you said, it’s matured to an extent where you can dive into one channel and get a lot of deep expertise in that channel. I appreciate your perspective on that. Now, you had an internship. And I think it was ABC?
[00:14:52] JR: Yes.
[00:14:53] JB: That you had. And I love the story of how you got the internship and all that. It’s one of my favorites. Tell us, our listeners and myself, this story of your internship.
[00:15:03] JR: It’s a little bit traumatic, but sure. I think any good passionate senior in college, basically, I wanted to orchestrate a world where I had to go to no classes my last semester of senior year. That was goal number one. Not surprising. But wanted to be back on campus by like four on Fridays to go out. That was a thing.
Anyway, my journey to internship – And part of the reason that I went to a college, because I got in at Syracuse and Ithaca. And I had gotten some decent financial aid packages. But I wanted to be closer to New York City. One, to just be closer to civilization. I was born outside of Philly. Moved to a very rural small town that was my mother’s hometown growing up. And just wanted to have proximity to Manhattan and the city and sort of life and things going on. And also, a school that had connections to different organizations.
Anyway, my internship journey was a funny one because I knew that I wanted to basically be interning full 15 credits every day of the week. Like, get me off campus. Let me go be doing practical things as far as resume builds.
There were two paths, and what I ended up ultimately doing was spending three days a week working for a – Recently, Clear Channel acquired [a] 14 station radio cluster in Poughkeepsie in the Hudson Valley where I was going to school. And the other two days a week – And it was either two or three days, I was going to do the commute to the city. And this was back in the day when […] major broadcast companies still had commissaries and had budgets for doing things like travel stipends.
Being that I wanted to spend the little bit of money that I did have at the bar over the weekends, I targeted big broadcast companies or things that had .com presents, but on the business side. And so, I first basically stalker-called every different department that sounded of interest to me that a college professor had talked to me about at NBC. I didn’t want to do the page program, because it wouldn’t matter if I needed to be in Manhattan five days a week.
Instead, I looked for internship opportunities at NBC and called a number of different folks. And randomly through like switchboard and persistence ended up getting connected to the woman that ran affiliate relations at NBC. And my internships were going to be in the spring semester, which is when sweeps happen and when the upfronts are getting planned and all of that. And I was like, “This would be an amazing experience.” Because it isn’t just sort of like behind-the-scenes production assistance for one show. It isn’t just sort of like sending out mailers, but like I would have been there during the cycle where I would have been able to participate and really be involved in that process.
My very good friend had graduated a year two before me and was working at CNBC and like had taken me to some upfront parties. And like, I had done that thing. I was like, “Okay, this is awesome.”
I get this internship booked in, like, I don’t know, late October of my senior year. And then at that time, for those that follow the winding road that has been General Electric, GE owned NBC at the time, and they also were being held accountable by the state of New York to dredge the Hudson River in Schenectady and some of the surrounding areas in the capital district in upstate New York to take care of PCBs and a lot of other contaminants that they’ve been dumping in the Hudson for a hundred years.
And as a corporate cost-saving measure, they were consolidating office space within 30 Rockefeller Plaza and slashing and burning budgets that went to fund things like travel stipends and paid internships. And so, I got word about two weeks before Christmas that my internship was gone. And, sorry. And had to scramble. And my other contact that I had made and another internship that I had interviewed for was with Disney Internet Group, which had been formed during the go.com era of the late 90s and had all just sort of – Gone over the cliff, lemmings over the cliff. And had interviewed and had good interaction with them, but didn’t end up getting an internship through them. And did a little dialing up on like the 28th of December, dial-up Internet, and was looking for internships and something popped up at ABC.
And so, I called the HR woman at Disney Internet Group. She’s like, “Oh, yeah.” She’s like, “That just popped up the other day. It’s a new thing.” And like I said, the internship was that they needed someone to move abc.com. There was only one checkbox at the time that had the word ABC in it on the like customer service email capture page. And so, all email having to do anything with NBC. We’re talking about […] people complaining about Bill Maher and Politically Incorrect. People submitting their head shots, everything. Probably, I don’t know, 5000 emails a week were coming just to the inbox of ABC’s enhanced television, which was this web-based interactive play-along that we did with Monday Night Football and stuff.
I went and slaved away. Got through that email backlog in the course of about two months of my internship and spent a lot of time on the floor. But like, total – Just like Kismet persistence and you know willingness to do grunt work. And he paid for my train back and forth to Manhattan, which in itself got – I never knew that people […] partied on Fridays on the train, on the two-hour train back and forth to New York. It was an education from all directions.
[00:20:21] JB: That’s fantastic. And the first internship, that ended up not getting. I love the story of your persistence in “I’m going to call all these people.” And not HR. Because I don’t want the page program. I want to do something different.
My dad always taught me, if you’re trying to get work, just call and ask for accounts receivable. And then you’ll get someone in accounts receivable. And then you say, “I don’t know why they sent me over to you. Can you send me to Emma, the Head of Marketing?” And they would always go, “Yeah, that’s weird.” And they just send you over. And it worked both of our careers. It worked so many times. It gets you past the gatekeeper.
[00:21:04] JR: Yeah, there you go.
[00:21:06] JB: Yeah, things I learned from Ed Birch. That’s awesome. And so, now, when you were a one-man band, you were still in communications. Still in radio, right? Was it difficult to take that step to go to agency where now you’re seemingly were taking a risk and going completely away from what you had gone to college and what you thought you were going to do. Was that difficult?
[00:21:30] JR: Sure. I mean, I walked through it. I think I’ve always had the attitude that no matter sort of where you are. And I probably didn’t have this perspective at the time, right? So, I’ll put it out there. It was definitely intimidating, right? Like, going and interviewing in the big tall glass building with the fabulous office, the big, shiny ad agency that only dealt with blue chip clients. Like, absolutely.
That said, right, the way in that I had was using my network. Like, I met a guy for coffee that was a colleague of this old high school friend of mine, right? That sort of took the air out of it a little bit.
And the thing that I’ve learned and I think that I embraced without really knowing it – And again, bought the good suit finally for that interview and all the pieces, is that no matter where you are and how big the brand you’re working on is, your immediate team is always going to be small. And you’re going to be needed to do – You’re going to need to embrace the gray and do things that aren’t necessarily in your job description, right? Duties as assigned is a flexible part of your job description, right?
And so, I just approach things from a place of being super curious, probably to the point of annoyance. My colleagues will have to answer that for me. But asking smart questions. And that’s both in terms of to convey opinions, or hypothesis, or to pressure test an idea or to get a point across.
And so, I think because I had worked on those big – I worked for a big blue-chip corporation, right? For the Mickey Rat way far down on the totem pole and saw those dynamics. And so – And I knew how I got in there, which was through that lens of sort of curiosity and interest. And even though I’m not always the best at acting humble, I am actually pretty humble. I don’t know. Those are some of the thoughts I have on that one.
[00:23:24] JB: Where does that come from? People who listen to the podcast probably have heard me say this a thousand times. My family was always weird. We always talked about business. My father and my mom, both of them [were] in leadership. Multiple manufacturing organizations. And so, that was kind of a topic around the dinner table, was all things logistical, and management and all of those. We were weird. That’s where a lot of that – For you, this ability to, like you said, embrace the gray. I love that.
[00:23:54] JR: Not mine. It was mine, but it’s a good line.
[00:23:58] JB: It’s so good. Where does that come from for you? Is that just an internal thing that you have or –
[00:24:04] JR: It’s a couple of factors, because my growing up was definitely not what you just described. I have a pretty large family. A little bit lopsided. My dad’s side of the family is much larger than my mom’s side of the family. And in many family gatherings, like there’s that element of like, to be heard, you have to pipe up, right? I think that’s probably an undercurrent of it.
Two was is that I’m like your typical joiner and just […] game to try things even when I’m not comfortable. And probably as I get a little older, I’m not necessarily as ballsy as I used to be. I think that that’s just an element of it.
Neither my parents, who are both wonderful, they’re not together. They’ve been together 30 years. But […] they did not have advanced degrees or advanced education. And I knew that I just wanted to sort of do some different things and try to work as hard as I could to […] sort of build a little bit beyond some of the challenges that they had and see if I could make a way for myself that I didn’t have some of those challenges. And they’ve both been successful in their own ways. But that sort of sense of things wasn’t sort of immediately there and put in as an expectation. And I had wanted to just move out of that small town, go and see what I could create for my own.
In college, I mean, I was like the student rep on the faculty senate and like did search committees for provosts and was the general manager of our radio station. I had a 50 – Whatever it was, 60,000 budget and 200 students working for the radio station as the station manager by the sophomore year of college. It was just one of those things, right?
I have opinions. I really love to work with different people and do different things. And so, I try to let that curiosity sort of keep prodding me along. And so, even now, right? Doing uncomfortable things and embracing that gray of like, “Okay, paid media isn’t going to be the only channel that we can use for success. We’ve got to diversify the […] way that we do acquisition and e-commerce for my company. I have a high-consideration category with a longer purchase – Or purchase consideration cycle than cars. What are we going to do different?” right? Let’s tinker with affiliate. Let’s talk about referral. Let’s think about really […] fighting for the resources for hands-on keyboards to do CRM and get at first party data and remarketing in efficient ways, right? Even when you’re running a great efficient program, doing things a little bit differently is just sort of where I’m generally at.
When I worked on Procter & Gamble business, one of my favorite things to do – Because I have a state school degree in broadcasting. No MBA. But where I was able to get to in terms of like I worked for Digitas. We had a lot of big blue-chip clients. The amount of diversity of thought I was able to get from within my peer group and the agency was great.
But like, Procter [& Gamble] is hiring MBAs out of Duke and didn’t know anything about digital marketing, right? I have a sign on my desk, which I should probably bring and show you. But like, “Digital isn’t magic,” And digital isn’t magic was the line as an account manager that I would say to sort of put the pin in all the big ideas and ambitions of freshly-minted Ivy League MBAs. To say, “No. This is how we’re going to come at this,” right? We’re going to look at where the friction is. We’re going to see what people are pissed off and hate about, either our products, or our service layers or how it is to buy them. And we’re going to fix all those things. It’s a matter of approaches.
[00:27:39] JB: I love that. And do you think curiosity can be taught? Do you think they could pick that up?
[00:27:45] JR: Yes. But I think it’s probably an element of carrots and sticks, right? Like, proving the value of it, modeling it. Having people around you who either are your managers or your peers. And you sort of see how natural curiosity or how a desire to, in a friendly way, right? There’s no way I could ever survive in some sort of […] hyper quant finance firm where they’re just like beating each other up, right? Like, I am an only child of divorce, right? There’s no one on earth that wants a little bit more pat on the back and positive reinforcement than [the] type of person that I am.
But like being able to both demonstrate and have people around you who are willing to unpack how things worked and create a space for you to ask and answer questions I think is – It’s probably just the set of things that I’ve taken advantage of and that I’ve tried to always provide space for others in terms of people that worked with me or for me.
[00:28:47] JB: Well, as a middle child who always wants to be seen, I totally get everything you just said. That’s awesome. One thing you mentioned was –
[00:29:01] JR: Central casting. Look at that.
[00:29:02] JB: Yeah, yeah.
[00:29:07] JB: [00:08:09] JB: Are you enjoying the show thus far? We cover so many different strategies and stories on the podcast, sometimes it can be difficult to keep up. We get it. It’s why my team and I compiled the very best strategies, and we counted 20 of them, in affiliate marketing programs and put them together for you so you can assess the health of your affiliate program and be able to optimize it for the best possible results. You can get that guide at jebcommerce.com/strategies.
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[00:30:09] JB: So, you’re at Evenflo now. You mentioned earlier the high-consideration products are different in terms of marketing and acquisition needs. Talk to me a little bit about how that is different than products and categories that aren’t so long of a cycle.
[00:30:25] JR: Sure. And I think this – Like the perspective I have in this is that I’ve been – And thank God for the agency piece, right? I hit a point working on the agency side where like, okay, as you move up the ladder, you hit this point where you’re either in or you’re out because you will end up in a place where you just have more P&L ownership than practitioner in terms of what your day balance looks like, which is why I sort of moved out of professional services. But that time was so valuable for me in terms of perspective, right?
I worked at three agencies, two large ones. One that was more consultant-based. One that was more sort of traditional marketing agency, but really digitally-focused. And one that was a boutique shop that melded digital and physical together. Anyway, I worked on General Motors business was the first engagement that I had when I came into the agency space. Lead acquisition, right?
Personalization, lead acquisition, feeding the dealer network, big brand advertising. Again, just for awareness. Showing off that vehicle. Learning what a beauty shot is. Building your communication around that, but all in the effort of lead gen, right?
Second biggest purchase you’re going to make in your life, like, it’s a meaty one in terms of a business challenge and a category to work on sort of early – I was really still early in my career. Then after General Motors, had their unfortunate 2008-2009 trajectory. I was actually the last man on earth to work on the Pontiac brand. And then and then fled to the safety of toothbrushes, to Oral-B toothbrushes, for Procter [& Gamble] for two years.
The thing about Oral-B toothbrush is I was like, “Okay. Yes. Safety. Everything’s good here. Big business. Over 40 countries. Everyone needs a toothbrush.” But the largest thing that we probably disproportionately spent time on was electric toothbrushes. The consumer behavior is that you get two free toothbrushes a year from your dentist. You should change them four. But most people just use them for six months till they get another free one. But we’re going to try to sell you a $150 piece of electronics. That’s Bluetooth connected to put in your mouth and like – That, category two, with like high-consideration need to meet needs. Need to credential things. Need to – Where the Good Housekeeping seal actually isn’t really worth the hill of beans. It’s that social proof element that is really needed. And an organization like Procter [& Gamble], where they have such a well-formed engine for how to develop communications, for how to build media plans and how to do it. All of which has been blown up and completely reinvented since around the time that I worked on those businesses in ’08, ’09. And then I worked on toys and athletic shoes and some other things.
I come here, and there’s two things that you’re responsible for when you have a child. You need a woman who’s ready to give birth. And you have to – In every state in the union, you have to bring an infant car seat to the hospital. It’s a loaded category, right? Safety underlies all of it, but is not the most fun, right? Probably, one of the most fun things you get to do – And everybody, the way that they come to parenting is a different journey. None of them are necessarily easy, seamless or like mentally light all the time.
But one of the most fun things people get to do is to shoot that gun in the store to make their registry, right? And so, the dynamics and the behavior where you’re like, “Okay, I want the safest option and the best thing. It has to be affordable. I want it to look really good. I want to be able to – And I need to demystify it, because I’m getting bombarded.” It’s like the SATs and getting pregnant are like the two were just like DR comes at you at such a high rate of speed.
And so – I don’t know. Hopefully. I think you get that reference, right? You take the PSAT and then they send you all – This probably doesn’t happen anymore. But you used to get like stacks of direct mail from an oncologist. Back in the dark time. Remember the 90s?
[00:34:18] JB: Yeah, when we had mail and SATs counted.
[00:34:21] JR: And SATs scouted, yeah. They say it’s coming back. I don’t know. We’ll see.
[00:34:24] JB: Who knows?
[00:34:24] JR: Anyway, that journey is very winding, right? You’ve got […] unsolicited advice coming from every angle. The bump is coming at you. All that stuff is coming.
[00:34:33] JB: And there’s a ton of emotional weight with all that advice, right? Everyone knows exactly what you should do to keep your child safe.
[00:34:41] JR: I should look. Like, I don’t know if anybody’s ever done […] a good like sociology study on this, right? But like there is that thing. And I’m a parent of two. And I’ve experienced it. And I’m half of a two-dad family. We get a disproportionate share of unsolicited advice, especially when our kids were babies.
But there must be something in here, right? I’m on a podcast. I need to not talk about the visuals. That sort of gets delivered to you in terms of the pressures of parenting around – You’re right. Exactly. You have to make the right choice. You have to feel like it’s right for you. Then you have like functional needs of like, “I’m going to be in and out of the car four times a day.” Or, “I’m going to do drop-offs. But my partner’s going to do pickups. Or grandma is going to pick up three times a week.” What do those logistics look like? And what [do] I need to equip that consumer journey?
And so, all these things get wrapped up into, yeah, being really a high-consideration product. The other thing is … is that I yearn for the days of there being a normalized replenishment cycle in this space in durables and any category of durables, but inherent here, because I’m working on baby goods, strollers, car seats, those sorts of things. They are completely predicated on one neat state. You might have your full-size stroller and then you’re going to need your travel stroller because you realize like this hulking thing doesn’t fit in my car if I also want to do a Target run and have everything still fit for me.
But the other piece is … is that every child is different, right? They all come out with […] different percentiles. They grow at different rates. And so, as a marketer, we need to – You still have so much coming at you all the time, right? You have the child. And then like feeding, and baby fashion and all the other stuff. All the soft goods start to come at you. But without any need for really a replen cycle – Like, my brand has enough breath where I can sell you things from birth to probably about age 10. But the time between those phases, it varies widely.
From birth, there’s [an] infant car seat and your primary stroller. Three or four months down the road, they can pick their head up, they can do some activities. I can put them in an extra sauce or a doorway jumper. Then you get – Like, your arm starts to break depending on how big they are when you carry that bucket car seat around and you need to move to the next thing.
We, from a data perspective – And this proves out and is the thing that we work on a lot today, is like let’s keep the opt-out rate down. Let’s nurture and help people. Let’s keep them involved in our brand to some degree so that we can take advantage of a remarketing cycle. And so, those are the things that are really difficult, right? Like, bringing in qualified traffic that is putting people in the right mindset to be open to the solutions that we’re bringing. To make sure that the products that we’re selling are super – As for value for the dollar, have as much function as possible, and of high-quality and that are sort of brag-worthy. And that is a big shift for the brand that I work on, which was an OPP-only brand until about five years ago. And now, is a much more blended portfolio.
It’s been a lot of fun to come to an organization that’s in the midst of some change and some evolution and to have now a core set of products that are so popular that we really have the right and the confidence with consumers to go back and to remarket to them. And hopefully, work on what – And we’re still trying to figure out, what is the sort of lifetime value proposition that we can bring to the table in terms of not having everything sort of be a transactional one-and-done sort of thing? Some really interesting challenges.
It’s funny. You invited me on the podcast, and the only thing that I can think of in my mind is like we are so early in all of these cycles that I have no qualification to talk about any of this stuff. But obviously, probably some people that are also in the same boat who are pretty early days and think about these things. They can be pretty heady. It’s just trying to move. Whether we move an inch down the field or a mile down the field every week, you can predict plenty of things you never quite know. But that’s sort of what we’re trying to do these days.
[00:38:48] JB: Yeah. And one thing you mentioned was social proof. And I wanted to get your perspective on that. Do you think that’s growing just outside? One, for high-consideration products, that has definitely always been important. Do you see that expanding to other areas or its importance increasing in a product category like Evenflo?
[00:39:08] JR: Yeah. I would say without a question, right? I think the social proof to me is – I call it the democratization of the good housekeeping seal, right? It used to be that you had traditional media and there were these sort of like stamps of approval that this is a good choice, right? And in the influencer economy, and in the sort of content creator world that we’re in and with so many of the major publishers having both their pure play editorial side and then their sort of affiliate revenue-driven. Still highly valuable content. But like that whole content marketing world, it helps a lot of people call down choices, right?
Like an element that we have on our website is a product recommender tool. And it’s surely there to not tell you the thing, but to narrow your options down to a couple places to start, because we realize you’re coming in overwhelmed, right? If I can add to that before you get to me a layer of generating sort of qualified traffic, but interest in our brand because someone has talked about it and saying that it’s a viable option, right? Or putting it on a top 10 list. Or, again, wanting to keep really pure about it, right?
So many brands, and the brand that I work on, I’ve been very lucky in that the social proof program that I inherited when I walked in the door had been well-managed, right? There hadn’t been a lot of gamesmanship with trying to pump up the ratings or just pump up the volume of ratings and reviews. We have really strong standards around holding and only cross-propagating reviews at the trim level so that it’s just across our key variants that all share the same DNA and we’re not trying to sort of just inflate the numbers.
And so, in thinking about traffic and thinking about UGC in general, I take the long view of saying that social proof is – One, it’s the thing that helps you to hopefully codify a decision one way or the other based on how many people had an experience with that product if those experiences are like mine and the thing that I’m trying to solve. But also, to make sure that your products are not only on your own or on retailer websites, right? Like, you can’t have a product that the only place that it exists is at retail anymore, especially for high-consideration products, right? Maybe some $10 makeup that a few people say is cool, and an Instagram picture will do it. But in a lot of hard lines categories, I need to be able to find things on the Internet that are not just the brand talking and consumers are savvy to know.
I think there’s that big annual study that Kantar and Catalyst do that they’ve done in the last few years of like a tracking study. And I think the last stat that I – It’s like 60% of all folks start their journey on a retailer PDP. You need to treat that as if it’s your website and think of it in terms of the level importance and the level of sort of order of operations.
Social proof needs to be there. But it also needs to be out in other places. And I think creators and editorial outlets and all those things play in just as much. It probably was a hell of a lot easier when you could just pay whatever it was that good housekeeping wanted you to to throw the seal on your box.
[00:42:23] JB: Pick up the seal. Yeah, yeah.
[00:42:25] JR: And that was all you needed. And it’s not that anymore. But it’s also not just about having an influence or having a cute picture online. I talk often and make a joke around the fact that the category that I’m in is one of the two internet’s favorite things, is either kittens or babies. And we are so lucky to have one of 50% of the internet’s favorite things aligned with our category. But it can make you a little bit complacent if you’re not careful.
And so, social proof is the antidote to that. It adds the context. Don’t just take my word for it, right? Remember reading rainbow in the 80s, right? Don’t just take my word for it. Here’s all the kids that thought that this was great, too.
[00:43:04] JB: Yeah, yeah. Super important, especially with the intersection of PR influencer, social and affiliate now, it’s becoming even more important [in] this commerce economy. Talk to me a little bit, where does the affiliate channel fit with what you guys are doing? How do you view it?
[00:43:21] JR: The starting place that – Sort of the itch that we’re scratching strategically and leaning into affiliate was really about generating qualified traffic in d to c. D to c, as with many brand manufacturers, is a certain percentage of focus within the organization, right? We deal with plenty of consumers who have bought our products from a myriad of different places. But the main way that we’re acting direct[ly] with them historically has been in the consumer care area, right?
I’ve got a problem. I’ve got an issue. I need a thing. More and more, it’s growing, where we’re helping them with demystifying things during a sales process. But if we’re going to start to think about the full CX arc and how to knit all the elements together, obviously, d to c is a great place to, one, have the fully controlled peak experience of product content and information and then subject matter expertise, the things that around which we want to take and build our brand equity.
And then the second part of that is, hey, having those direct sales are a really helpful signal to us around what is sticky? What is interesting? And maybe even be a predictor around what our overarching retail strategy may want to look like. In that, and being that the legacy touch point for direct-to-consumer contact wasn’t sales, but was service, we had a business challenge around needing to grow traffic that was sales-oriented, right? That was at least product researchers, but buyers, too. We’re happy to have the buyers in that channel.
And so, affiliate for us was about diversifying from the one trick pony of paid media. And obviously, there’s so many ways that you can use paid media now and targeting and all those things. But we’ve got a number of different programs in the portfolio now. And we look at what are the most productive conversion rates. And then we talk about, “Okay, how do we take this experiment and start to […] codify it? Put it into as much shape as possible and really see really actually go out and test the horse on the track and see how much speed and productivity we can get out of it?”
And so, that’s really what led us to – We propped up an instance of an affiliate portal service a couple of years ago. Obviously, mostly coupon-driven stuff. A few little other drips and drabs. But really highly converting. Okay. We need to fully form a program. We need to be aggressive for a while and really diversify the ways […] we’re bringing people and then look for those pockets of opportunities. So, whether it’s [a] creator, whether it’s [a] coupon, whether it’s [a] major publisher, editorial type work, whatever it might be.
And also, just for diversity of thought, right? What are ways to also fund additional marketing activity? Doing it in a proportional way with affiliate versus all of it being CPM-based on the front end was also attractive just to – Again, new muscles to exercise as we think about diversifying how we work and looking for pockets of opportunity, right?
I would be more than happy if we had like three well-formed like micro-target personas that could triple our growth. But know we’re a general market brand. And we have big ambition. And we’re having a lot of fun trying things and trying to delight the consumer with highly functional products. Now, I need to match that with highly interested folks.
If they don’t buy from me, totally fine. I get it, right? So many choices out there. We just want to put our best foot forward. Say why Evenflo at every touch point both on the ways that you come inbound, before you get to us and as well as when you get to us. And then hopefully we’ll be privileged enough to be able to win a second sale from you down the road as baby grows.
[00:47:12] JB: When you look at success, you’re looking at qualified traffic. Are you also looking at Mindshare, the brand Mindshare? Yeah, yeah, yeah. Definitely. Revenue, right? That’s understood. This is a performance marketing podcast. Do you measure […] that sentiment? Or do you try to [see] how they view Evenflo? Maybe if they came through the affiliate channel or another channel and then did [they] make a purchase, is there a way you capture that? Or is that not so much – We’ll capture that when they make a purchase later.
[00:47:43] JR: There’s certain elements of it. I think there’s natural curiosity around measurement of all sorts of things. I think we have tried to do measurement in a progressive, not like politically progressive. But like in a one building block at a time way so that we aren’t constantly begging for information and needing to opt in for everything else. But instead, look for signals of success. And then in order to refine that success, starting to measure a little bit more, right?
We’re in a fairly early phase of growing the affiliate program. We’re looking at success primarily based on productivity, of traffic sent, and where those pockets are most productive. We do – Within our ratings and reviews program, we have a tool where I find equal weight and value to three different aspects of my social proof program, right? Retailer QAs, which I have on my site, and we have it outside retail, and our consumer care team is answering every day, those are the things that tell us what we’ve not done a great job with presenting to you in terms of product content and is a area to refine and to drive CRO, right? To drive conversion rate optimization.
Very early in my career, when I was working in agency, I guess not super early. But on the earlier side. Earlier than now. My boss was like, “Your job as a senior associate is to do nothing but make sure that the customer service phone number never rings,” right? Which is really what marketing is. Give people what they need to know, where they need to know it so they can make a confident purchase decision. And that you set up expectations that they’re satisfied when they buy the thing and it hits their doorstep. In that case, it was American automobiles. But I think it’s something that’s easily transferred to every category, right? And it’s something that I instill especially in employees who are really tactically focused, is what are the things that you can do to tell people what they need to know? And set expectations up so that they are overjoyed. QA is the frontend.
We have a tool where, at checkout in our d to c channel, we ask you why you bought it, right? There’s this moment. And it’s seconds long, where I’ve researched the thing, I figured it out, I made the purchase. I can be asked and have the headspace before thank you supply chain, or the fact that FedEx doesn’t always send enough trucks every day to pick up or whatever it might be, right? That there’s that potential. And we don’t try to shrink it every day, but like the item might not ship on time. The box might be bruised by the time it gets to you, right? Or maybe you’re not the most satisfied because you didn’t quite understand what you were going to get, right?
But that moment where you hit the buy button and you put in the credit card information that’s on its way. And before you’ve started [to] even get the notifications, where you can say, “Why did you buy this item?” And get what we think is probably the most truthful answer you’re going to get from anybody. That is a newer signal that we’re taking in that I really love.
And then obviously, we have the in-depth feedback of a product review, where even if people don’t write a review, we do ask them for their star rating and then we ask them to star rate on a couple of different aspects. Ease of use, look of the item, the comfort of [the] child, things like that. And so, we try to take from those three that sort of pre at and post to either sort of build a fuller picture or to figure out sort of where we need to action things.
[00:51:00] JB: Do you see you like tracking that by channel later? Like, looking to see if those things are – Their entry point has any impact on that?
[00:51:07] JR: Well, I mean, we’ll be able to do that in some of our direct channels. Not all of them, right? But there’s such limitations across the whole spectrum of retailer partners that we work with in terms of how they share data. There’s a lot of assumptions that we make. And I think we try to take things as signals and then prove them out more widely. But definitely interest, of course, in our direct channels to be able to sort of take those things in.
I think the other is going to be, as we continue to mature our digital marketing stack, our ability to collect touch point data and satisfaction data from that awareness, to shopping, to purchase, to first-time usage, to ongoing ownership and support and then people’s willingness to do referral marketing or to go and repurchase themselves. Like, there will be some high-level measures in terms of that arc of productivity and how good we’re retaining that will probably come and then we’ll get into more discreet stuff. But again, we’re trying to build something and get into the market before we over-optimize it, before we even put it out there. Or at least that’s my general stance on things.
As a marketer, I’m interested in this from you, right? My number one passion, as somebody who is in marketing, is to put something out there and see if people love or hate it. To see if it’s useful. To see if it’s helpful.
[00:52:20] JB: I love the aspect of like let’s not get ahead of ourselves and analyze everything. Let’s do these building blocks and get through it, and learn and build.
[00:52:27] JR: [inaudible 00:52:27]. Like, establishing what your measures of success are, right? People throw around KPI a lot. I like to actually use the term measure of success and to really differentiate between like what the measure is and then the goal or what we hope the measure to be, versus just like, “Let’s throw some KPIs at it.” I don’t know. For me, I like to be a little bit more thoughtful and be careful to not overly burden. At least [the] first time out, right? We can always refine and get more detail and ask more questions and whatever else. But […] the real proof ends up being in the transaction, and in the conversion rate and in the stickiness of – And interested people having content. So, those are sort of things that I see as the first success.
[00:53:19] JB: A bit of curiosity into the measure of success over a number. Defining what’s behind it.
[00:53:26] JR: It becomes such a thing, right? Like, got to have the scorecard. And some people, they spend more time on the deck slide than maybe like what the signal is and how they do it. I’ve probably driven some of our analytics folks crazy, right? I really love to not just have a dashboard or be sent to me. And part of it just because I’m probably more qualitative than I am quantitative. And I sucked at math all through school and whatever else. But that […] great math course that I somehow got myself into freshman year to like check the requirement box, where like you learned what ZIP codes meant.
But the way that I like to take in the measures is to sit in a room and actually […] have them presented and talk through them to think about the human behavior piece of it, versus just what’s the red box versus the green box, right? To see if we are taking the information in the same. If we feel like we’re unified on what the signal is and what the next steps are. And I think everybody wanting to have their measures is obviously good for sort of organizational health, but sometimes are taken for granted.
And like I said, I’m driven by wanting to just get good work into [the] market. I like to be able to […] look at numbers and have some real reflection and get on the same page with folks about, “Okay, what are we going to do with this?”
[00:54:43] JB: Yeah, and I would think having a qualitative mindset is super important in an area where so much is trackable. And we have so much data available to us. And that’s some of the mistakes I made early on in my career is relying solely on the data with any sort of behavior and just looking at that data.
I remember many meetings where I come in, “And this is what the numbers say.” And in a heartbeat, other people are like, “You’re completely wrong. This is why we’re moving this direction.”
[00:55:13] JR: Which is a great lesson to learn, right? If you’re not careful – Like, you can have a great conversion rate. But if you’re only converting five people a day, you’re going to be in a rough spot pretty quickly. And I’ve had big debates on that with plenty of people over the years. Some of it related to my lack of comfort, or the fact that I always just try to infuse, even if I’m wrong, I usually will […] have a perspective to […] pressure test and just put a stake in the ground and have a discussion about. Where, yeah, I mean, it’s certainly an approach. And it’s not necessarily a wrong approach to […] start from the numbers. But only over time and with breadth of experience and a good amount of failure can you wrap the numbers in some perspective, generally speaking.
[00:55:51] JB: Into a story, right?
[00:55:53] JR: Yeah.
[00:55:53] JB: Yeah. We got a few minutes left. You talked about bringing subject matter experts like our team at JEBCommerce. Why do that instead of hire an internal team?
[00:56:02] JR: I would say the reason that I like – Well, I see the value in agency because I was there, right? The joke that I have, anytime that I’m working with or speaking to a potential partner, is to put a little bit of a pin in the sales process and make the joke – When I’m clearly being solution sold, I like to make the joke that I know that I’m being solution sold. Because then we can all sort of get on the same page.
But my thing with working with agencies and smart agencies and folks who at least have had an understanding of my category and my business challenge isn’t even so much that they are skilled practitioners. They wouldn’t have a business that has any clients if that didn’t exist. But it really is from drawing on the diversity of thought and the diversity experience that comes actually from the client portfolio of that agency.
I know what my competitors are doing to the best degree that any of us ever can. I don’t need to just retread that ground or hear validation of like what I’m doing is great. I really have a huge appreciation for like what the best practice is, or where everybody else has fallen down before I showed up on the scene so that we cannot do those things, right?
It was something that I tried to do when I was an account manager. Early on, when I was working in the agency space, I started as […] a senior associate. And we had these like level meetings where all of us – They were probably – In our office in Boston, we’re probably like 45 senior associates. We worked across, I don’t know, probably 20 to 30 different businesses in different categories of different sizes. Amazing ideas, concepts, failures come out of that conversation and help you to navigate and be smarter with your clients. That’s always what I try to, one, look for, ask for, and if I’m not always getting a drive out of any conversation with an outside partner or subject matter expert.
[00:57:54] JB: Awesome. Well, Josh, this has been an MBA-level hour on marketing and all of this. I have really enjoyed this. I’m so glad I didn’t catch the joke way early on about the mic and we were able to have this time. This has been fantastic. Thank you for joining me today and all the different topics we discussed. If someone wants to continue this conversation with you, what’s the best way for them to connect?
[00:58:22] JR: Oh, probably LinkedIn would be the easiest. I’m an ultra lib, and have just gotten off the Twitter at this point. That’s probably the easiest way would be to look for me, Josh Reed, on LinkedIn. And I work for Evenflo. We make all the things that your baby or the baby you know might need. So, hit me up.
[00:58:40] JB: Awesome. Awesome. Well, thank you so much. Enjoy the rest of your day.
[00:58:40] JR: Absolutely. Thank you so much for the time and the opportunity. This was a lot of fun. Hopefully, some of it was helpful for somebody.
[00:58:50] JB: I’m sure it is. I’m sure it is.
[00:58:56] JB: Josh, thank you so much for taking an hour out of your busy schedule to spend some time with me. It’s always good to sit and chat with a veteran of digital marketing going back to the day. So much that we talked about.
For our listeners, if you’re looking at your career and you’re wondering what to do, I want you to hear a couple things that Josh said. Both Josh and I, state school. No MBA. Still was able to have really good careers. And it was that passion and curiosity. And what I loved is, and it wasn’t Josh’s, but it’s so great. Embrace the gray. Those things, duties as a sign. And on small teams, you have to do more than just what your primary role is. And if you’re thinking about your career and where it’s going, definitely think about that. Are you bringing curiosity and passion to the role to your clients, to your position, to your team? And are you embracing the gray? Things that may not really be assigned to any one person. Are you embracing that going and accomplishing them? Learning about them?
There’s a bunch in there that really drew me in as far as Josh’s work ethic and how he navigated his first bits of his career and making changes from being a one-man band to going to an agency. Something that would be – I know, my first really big job, super intimidating walking into there making that decision. I often look back on my career choices and think, “Man, how did I make those decisions? Those were so big and so risky?” Enter into those.
Man, we talked about so much. I’m flipping through my notes here. I love the section that Josh talks about high-consideration products. For my affiliates that are listening, and affiliate managers that are listening, really think about not just your affiliate channels, driving traffic and converting a sale. But what part are they playing in mindshare for that consumer of that brand? What part of the picture are they painting? And are they doing it well?
And so, there’s a consumer journey that happens, and affiliate marketing is part of that. And those users are part of that. But what are you saying about it? Is it solely about conversion and getting the sale right now? Or is it painting the picture of the whole brand or a piece of the picture that that brand needs to paint? The importance of social proof we talked about. And then why is affiliate marketing important to them?
And that’s another thing I really want you to take from this, is, definitely, it’s generating qualified traffic. And if that direct-to-consumer is giving them really good signals on products and the marketing that they’re doing. But it’s also diversifying the traffic so that they can find pockets of opportunities. That curiosity, that willingness to test from Josh and his team. And they’re using the affiliate channel to do that. They’re looking through that to find pockets that work really well. And then what can we learn from that and what can we do?
If you’re wondering, “Should I get into affiliate marketing?” Definitely look at your affiliates and those publishers in your program and those publishers not yet in your program as another way to test an audience, a message, a product, a tactic, a campaign to a different audience. And that gives you potentially thousands of different tests at any one moment so you can learn what your consumers are responding to. What are the good consumers? And where they’re at?
Lastly, why he chose an agency. And it’s one of the big benefits of working with an agency as opposed to building a team in-house is the diversity of thought. You not only get access to the team managing your account, but the successes, the failures, the tests, the things that did work, the things that didn’t work from all of the clients. And he really demonstrated that well. If you’re wondering, should I hire an agency? That’s definitely something to consider. It’s very hard to learn in isolation. And with an agency like ours, there are hundreds of tests going on at any given time, if not thousands, that we get to pull together as a team and learn from.
Josh, thank you so much. If you guys want to continue the conversation with Josh, you can go to his LinkedIn profile. And I will include that in our show notes. But it is LinkedIn.com Josh Reed, and you will be able to find him there.
Josh, thank you again. Really appreciate it this time. It’s always great to have a client on our podcast.
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