Recapping LendIt: FinTech USA

Hey gang! A couple of us have semi-recently returned from LendIt: Fintech USA in San Francisco (the event was April 8-9). And, since the event was enormous (and, at least for us, successful), I thought a quick recap might be worth the keystrokes. Read on!

Our panel (and, a note of thanks):

So, we didn’t just attend; I was honored to moderate a panel with some incredible executives and entrepreneurs. This was the highlight of the week for me; even more special is how this came to be – a client requested of the show promoters that I moderate his panel. That’s really touching – I’m grateful to Brian Unruh and Dan Stevens, as well as the folks at LendIt for the vote of confidence!

Our discussion focused on the relationship between technology businesses (fintechs!) and mid-sized/regional lenders. More specifically, we looked at how these two very different types of businesses can partner to better compete with large, digital lenders. I love this topic. Having worked with many firms in each cohort (fintech businesses, large banks and regional ones), I knew going in that there are a number of interesting angles to this. And, WorkBook6 is a party to many analogous discussions in other industries (such as insurance and home services).

With a topic such as this one, the moderator’s job is to convey with both breadth and depth a compelling discussion in a short period of time. This can be a little intimidating, but our thoughtful and generous speakers made it simple. With Dan Stevens (from NBKC Bank), Jeff Douglas (Wyndham Capital Mortgage), Adam Pase (Notarize) and Ethan Ewing (Pro-Pair) there to carry the bulk of the load, I was really just there to help channel the discussion and serve up as close to an equal portion of everyone’s perspective. Easy peasy. Beyond my opening joke about pizza (which landed with a thud – more on this later), I thought it was awesome. And, super fun. My hat’s off to the panelists.

Enough about us – onto the show, at large:

LendIt rocks. Every show has its own areas for improvement, but overall, I was really impressed. The content sessions were well-attended and also, at least in my view, well-received. The audience was diverse in a few ways, and predictably not in others. I met with interesting people from all over the world, but as has shown to be true in many of the industries we operate within, there’s still a pretty wide gender gap. I’ll give the show promoters credit, though, as I did see several programming nods to bridging this gap, including the Women in Fintech event. Well done. Again, I really liked the way that this event came off. The folks at LendIt seem to have it really dialed in.

Shout out to the city by the bay:

After spending a lot of time in Las Vegas over the past few years for shows and speaking engagements, it was really nice to be in San Francisco. Nothing against Vegas, but it’s great to be able to walk around the city between sessions, meetings, etc. (as opposed to traversing a casino floor). San Francisco is really worth considering for any show or event looking to mix things up. This city flat-out knows how to host an event.

Uh, what’s fintech?

This might cause some eye rolling, but since a bunch of people have asked me, I thought I’d weigh in with some thoughts on the term ‘fintech,’ and what it might or might not be. (Caveat emptor: I’m no more qualified to answer this than anyone else who works in the category, but I’m gonna do it anyway.)

The term fintech is used to describe the broad and deep topic of technical innovation within the financial services industry. Oft-confused with insuretech (and akin to edtech, regtech, martech, adtech, etcetera), the term really just speaks to the interaction of emerging technology and a financial services industry held back by legacy systems. If it’s confusing to you, you’re not alone. The use of ‘fintech’ can be found in the wild as a noun (she runs a fintech), an adjective (it’s sort of fintech-y), and a verb (maybe we could fintech this sucker?). It’s used to describe a growing industry category, and also deployed to define businesses.

Finally, some quick hits:

Funniest moments (there were a few):

For me, it was my elevator ride to the industry awards gala. I thought I had the elevator to myself, but was soon joined by a very nice guy whose opinion of himself was off the charts bold. “Google me. I’m the godfather of fintech.” (I’ve got $50 for whoever guesses this person’s identity, but please do it privately!)

For Brett, it was when my opening line for our panel discussion was received by the opposite of laughter – or even acknowledgement. I guess fintechers don’t like talking about pizza. (By the way, I’m not punting on this – I’ll revive this one in a blog post, soon enough.)

Best tie:

Todd Nelson’s infamous bow-tie. Or is it an ascot?

Technology Doesn’t Need To Be Your Enemy

By Savannah Day

There’s no doubt that technology is evolving at a rapid pace these days; if you don’t embrace this, you risk falling far behind. It’s inevitable that change is going to happen with or without us. My take when it comes to technology is that it’s better to engage selectively than to avoid it altogether. We should embrace the positive differences it can make, instead of fearing the possible pitfalls. 

Technophobia is defined as the fear of advanced technology, especially new computers or devices. New systems and programs are constantly being thrown at us that are meant to improve our lives or make our lives easier. Typically, a fear like this stems from not knowing how a system works therefore creating an uneasiness around that product. So here are a few tips to decrease that uneasiness: 

  1. Don’t be afraid to ask for help. Whether that means asking someone you know personally or using a product’s tech support. Chances are, there are other people out there with the same question.
  2. Teach yourself. The more time you spend with a product, the better you will become at using it. It takes time, but I guarantee you will get more comfortable.
  3. Be open and patient to learning something new. Last but not least, patience is key. It’s better to spend a little bit of time on something each day so you avoid frustration and throwing in the towel altogether. Down the road, you’ll gradually feel comfortable. 

In my personal experience, I did not get my degree in computer science or a related field. I found an interest in programming at the end of college. I won’t lie, I spent many days confused and frustrated, however, as time began to progress, I found the pieces slowly coming together. Now, three years later, I’m lucky enough to be a part of the tech team at Workbook6. I’m still constantly learning new things every day, but that’s the price you pay if you want to work in tech. My point is, a new technology can feel intimidating and confusing at first, but as I have learned, the more time you spend with it, the more confidence and capability you have. I now have a marketable, talent that people all over the world need. My commercial value went up. 

If you take the time to continue to learn about what you are using, you may be surprised of the amount of problems technology can solve. Rideshare is a great example of this as it aims to reduce the number of cars on roads. Online Banking is one of the most convenient technological advances. You no longer have to go into the bank for most of your basic transactions. This saves you time and means you get your money faster. These are some solutions to every day issues that make our lives easier. 

Technology can also have the power to bring communities together that may not otherwise have contact with each other. Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn are some of the most powerful ones that we use every day. The Crisis Help Line provides text and anonymous, online chat support to those struggling with trauma, depression, or suicide. A program like this, thanks to technology, has the resources and abilities to be more accessible to those that need assistance.

I get it. Technology is all around us. It has the potential to take over. But if you think your life won’t involve adaptation and acceptance of emerging tech, you’re likely wrong. So, let’s get in front of it. Better to know and understand what you’re dealing with than to fear it from afar.

LeadsCon 2019 Wrap Up

Well, it’s over. Four days in Las Vegas finds me reflective and proud. And, at least for the first few days upon returning, tired. Like, the kind of tired where you fall asleep at dinner. Or while helping with homework. Super, super tired. Given this, I waited a few days to draft my wrap up post for this event.

I’ve been attending LeadsCon for 10 years, so the Las Vegas event is equal parts reunion, brand-building, and business development for our clients and ourselves. This year, we saw more of that trend, with some adjustments here and there. Read on for a quick recap.

Partnership Marketing Workshop
We were fortunate to be chosen by LeadsCon and AccessIntelligence to lead a Partnership Marketing Workshop on Monday (prior to LeadsCon’s official kickoff). This event, our third in a row, has become an important anchor for our business. We look forward to it every year and commit significant (to us, anyway) resources to making it happen. This year, I was very proud of the effort. Among the high points, I’d include the following:

  1. This was our largest audience, to date. In fact, we filled the room.
  2. In addition to the audience size, we attracted the most diverse group we’ve ever had, with a particularly strong showing from brands and channel sale organizations. (This is very important to me, as without these folks actively engaged, things can get salesy, fast.)
  3. Our speakers did an amazing job keeping the audience engaged, and also staying real. In fact, our first session, led by Damon DeCrescenzo and Jason Kaplan from the Credit Pros, was as contentious and frictional as any I’ve seen. That’s what we aimed for!

There’s plenty more I could say about this event, but the above struck me the most.

Balling on a Budget
As a bootstrapped startup in an industry full of well-funded and established firms, we’ve got to be thoughtful about how we make a splash in Las Vegas. This year, we held a series of cocktail parties at our suites in the hotel. These were super fun, and they didn’t break the bank. For three consecutive nights, we hosted our clients, friends and partners. The venue was perfect, and everyone seemed to really enjoy it. And, we got to throw a party….every night!

Meetings off the Floor
While we were each active at the show and in the sessions, we used these same spaces as private meeting rooms, which worked out really well. These folks are always going hard, but I saw sixth gear from the team in Vegas. I think we took Anna to the point of critical illness, but at last check, she’s still among us and returning to normal. As is often the case, I’m blown away by the team’s effort in Vegas.

Innovation Seems to be Slowing
This is the only critical comment I’ll make, and I promise it’s constructive. When I walked the floor of the exhibition hall, it felt as if there are a large contingent of companies fitting into three buckets: networks, call centers, and software. The networks are buying and selling media, typically in a very transactional way. The call centers seemed hard pressed to differentiate. And the software companies appear to be locked in competition with one another on a product level.

None of the above is surprising, but it’s also a little disconcerting. I think there’s a lot of innovation left in this space, but sometimes, you couldn’t get a sense for that. I hope that next year, we see more innovation and disruption. It will keep the space vibrant, ya know?

That’s it from me. What an awesome week in Vegas!

The True Value of Facetime

By: Chris Cox

As we kick off the new year, business travel for conferences and events seem to be in full swing. For me, this is an important time for a couple reasons. First I need to be careful about budgeting my time. My role on this team includes weekly (or in some cases, daily) communication with each of our clients. When I travel for an event, this work doesn’t stop, so I need to be extra careful to make efficient use of my time. More importantly, though, trade shows in particular give me an opportunity to connect on a personal level with many of the people I communicate with every day. Slack, email and phone calls are a great primer, but our business thrives on the strengths of its relationships. I always value the opportunity to connect face-to-face with our clients and partners. It’s something I really look forward too. We live and operate in a world that allows for easier and more efficient digital interaction, but I think in-person communication is still critical. So where does traditional face to face interaction fit in?

The tools available to us today have transformed business. They’ve made it easier than ever to remotely interact and work with others. These tools are democratized – we all have access to products and services that help us work efficiently and maximize the value of our time. But this doesn’t change the value of 1:1 communication. It’s impact on our clients’ success is still very real and measurable. It’s important.

Why? If these tools are so great, why is face to face still necessary? A few reasons, I think. First, you can only know someone so well via digital interactions – you complete that picture when you engage 1:1. Second, virtual communication is just that – virtual. Need a real, important answer from someone? Email, slack and phone calls work, but only if there’s a layer of accountability and trust already there. That accountability and trust is still best built in-person. Finally, humans are built to interact. We flourish in one another’s company – tech can’t replace that, entirely. (For fun, check out this Conference Call Parody – I think they nailed it!)

Here’s the deal: there’s no replacement for face-to-face interaction. In-person conversation and interaction allows for things that you just won’t get, or might miss, when you interface digitally. Being there , at least occasionally, let’s relationships grow in a way virtual communication never will match. As we continue to head down a path that relies heavily on technology, we can’t forget this.

Strategic Partnership Workshop – Full Speaker and Format Announcement!

Strategic Partnership Workshop – Full Speaker and Format Announcement!

LeadsCon is less than two months away. Let that settle in. I’m guessing most of you still have holiday decorations up, and the biggest event in performance marketing is, like, right around the corner? Excited? Us, too.

We’re thrilled, actually, because we’ll be hosting a Strategic Partnership Workshop for the third consecutive year. This event, in particular, has become the cornerstone of our first quarter – we’re expecting a record turnout.

At this point, it feels timely to share some exciting and important details about the event. Our agenda and speaker roster are both finalized, and I’m confident that this year’s workshop will offer previous attendees and first-timers huge value. Attendees won’t just hear from a talented and diverse group of thought leaders; they will also be treated to an entirely unique format that we believe will help involve the entire audience in the discussion.

Here’s the full agenda:

Session 1: Unit Economic Spotlight: Achieving Better Commercial Outcomes Through Partnership

Our first session is meant to be a live wire. (In other words, we want it to get weird!) This will be a candid discussion about the true value of strategic partnerships in a direct response business. Many have experienced, first hand, the dissent that often exists between the business development and finance/operational leaders. We’re bringing this discussion to center stage, pairing two business partners who’ve grappled with the topic for years. Join Damon Decrescenzo and Jason Kaplan from The Credit Pros for a very real discussion on the commercial justifications of forming strategic partnerships.

Session 2: Forming, Developing and Executing a Partnership Strategy

We have three incredible panelists lined up to address critical phases to any successful partnership platform. But, in this setting, our panelists aren’t the stars – the audience is. The first half of this session will feature targeted breakout sessions, which will be headed up by our panelists. Will Curry from PureTalk Wireless will lead the group focusing on program strategy; Vince Lewis from Quicken’s Core Digital Media will cover prospecting, and Chrissy Ingalls from LightStream (SunTrust Bank’s innovative consumer lending business) will facilitate the discussion around program execution. These folks each boast tremendous backgrounds; merging this expertise with the audience’s perspective will, I think, be really cool.

Session 3: Group Mentality

Over the 10+ years since the first LeadsCon was held, our community has grown ever-more transactional. Publishers, networks and lead sellers all depend on paid media to create valuable inventory, while brands enjoy the convenience of per-lead (or, action) pricing formats. To maximize yield, competitive bidding formats have taken hold – pitting eager advertisers against one another and testing the limits of profitability.

But, what if brands and publishers could access customer populations through less competitive channels? Hundreds of millions of Americans each year join membership groups and associations, or participate in similar, brand-sponsored loyalty programs. In each case, the groups actively represent their members’ interests, often offering specialized products and services to their constituency. To better understand this ecosystem, and the dynamic relationship between affinity organizations and their brand partners, we’ve recruited two tremendously talented leaders from this ecosystem. Join Rita DiPalma from Augeo Affinity Marketing and Jason Nierman, who helped build TrueCar’s partnership program before spearheading Rollick Outdoor’s innovative partnership platform.

As you can tell from the above descriptions, we take this event very seriously. It’s critical that our audience walk away with real value from each of our sessions. If you’ve attended one of these events in the past, you’ll hopefully join us again. If you’ve not participated previously, please know how excited we’ll be to welcome you to this one. Here are the event location and time details:

Strategic Partnership Workshop

Monday, March 4
Mirage Hotel and Convention Center
Grand Ballroom D and E
8 AM – 12 PM

Registration Link: https://www.eiseverywhere.com/ereg/index.php?eventid=319804&
Discount Code: SPKR100 ($100 off current event pricing)

Why Write? A blog post about blogging.

I love to write. I try to spend a couple hours each week composing something with a goal of sharing my work. While I’m certainly not alone, I’m learning this is becoming an increasingly rare practice.

For example, not everyone on our team enjoys – or feels comfortable – writing. During our Q4 retreat (which happened a couple weeks ago), I asked a few of our folks what holds them back from writing more. “I’m not good at writing” was one reply (incorrect, by the way; this person writes beautifully). Others said they’re too busy. Some pointed to fear of public criticism, and not wanting to be vulnerable to that. The most common response, though, was that folks don’t know what to write about or what to say.

The discussion stuck with me. So, as I often do when a topic provokes extended curiosity, I thought I’d write about it.

I’ll start with why I write

I write, mostly, because I love to write. It makes me happy. I enjoy the process – from the planning and outlining to the refinement. It’s fun. And, admittedly, I get a little rush from the feedback that comes from posting something that people enjoy reading. I also like to try out new phrasing and messaging. I play with cadence and flow. I poke and I prod, so to speak.

For me, it started early – like, 5th or 6th grade. I was a wiry, goofy kid with ADD, but when I would read aloud the things I wrote in class, the other kids laughed with me (as opposed to ‘at’ me). That felt good, so I ran with it. Later, I developed an incredible relationship with Gregg Schwipps, who was my writing professor at DePauw. He taught me the value of authentic language and helped me understand how impactful a well-told story can be. That experience, like much of my time at the school, had a major impact on me. Since leaving college, and certainly since becoming an entrepreneur, I’ve always tried to keep some time in my schedule blocked off for writing.

Why writing is only sort of good for business

These days, I write a lot about our business. I do think it helps, but mostly in vaguely-attributable ways (at best). Others may point to revenue growth which is clearly linked to content, but for us, that’s not the goal. I don’t write to drum up business. It’s not that I don’t want more business – it’s just that I think content that aims to sell isn’t genuine. And, I think salesy writing that’s disguised as something else is obnoxious. I’m not saying that thoughtful content doesn’t sometimes lead to more business; I just don’t write with that as the goal. I’ve heard from several folks that something I’ve written has helped them to move forward. I’ve also been told that a blog post I wrote actually inspired someone not to become a client. Clearly, this wasn’t my goal, either!

Many say writing can be good for search engine optimization, but I’ve actually been told that mine isn’t. It’s well-documented that if you can assemble the right words in the right places in such a way that google likes it, this can be valuable. But, since this violates my first rule (don’t write just to drum up business), I think that kind of writing is annoying, too. Our former head of marketing, who I adore, once told me that my writing wasn’t ‘keyword rich’ enough. I don’t know the word for the sound your mouth makes when you hold your lips together and force air out, but that’s how I responded to him. (For an A/V example, Oklahoma State University’s football coach, Mike Gundy, famously made this noise during a press conference recently – it’s absolutely worth the distraction.)

Really, I think writing is good for business mostly because it helps you develop your business’s voice. It helps put a persona behind the brand. Writing allows you to assert a point of view. It lets your audience get to know your ‘vibe,’ or way of being. And it can help establish, I suppose, some authority on topics that matter to you or your audience. It helps you develop an answer to the question: ‘who are those people?’

Why non-marketing types should write, too

This touches back on my motivation for writing this post. I find it remarkable how few people outside of the marketing discipline publish content. Like, if you don’t have an MBA or the words ‘marketing’ or ‘content’ in your title, you shouldn’t write. I don’t get it.

I think business development and sales people, in particular, should write all the time. Think about this. You communicate for a living. Your job is to help people understand why they should work with you or buy your product. Unless you’re somehow pulling this off without the help of language, why wouldn’t you want to constantly improve your own use of words? When you go through the process of writing and posting something, you become more expert in concisely communicating your message. When it’s not just right, you can tweak in a way that you can’t do with spoken communication. Later, you can use those refinements in live action. Writing also helps you build your personal brand. It helps you chip away at the due diligence your audience is doing when you’re not in the room or on the phone. It establishes authority and authorship. It makes everything you say hold more meaning, and it helps you be seen as less subjective.

Some will say sales, marketing and business development are all so interconnected that this is last assertion is obvious. OK. We can debate that another time, but for now, let’s look at other disciplines. I love it when technical professionals write – especially when their work helps me make business sense of technical things. (For a brilliant technical view across a range of business concepts, I think HubSpot’s CTO and Co Founder, Dharmesh Shah is hard to beat.) Another example is finance and venture capital. While we’ve never gone the route of approaching investors, Los Angeles-based VC Mark Suster’s blog is some of my absolute favorite reading. And when I want to learn from content that can benefit my personal life, I often still prefer for those insights to make an impact on my business. I think Dr. Brene Brown – a research professor by trade – has absolutely made me better at home and at work.

Let’s land this plane.

I could go on and on. But, you’ll stop reading (if you haven’t, already). My point? You don’t have to be an expert in an area to have an impact within it. Sometimes, as noted above, content that aims to address one topic can help both the writer and the reader develop new thinking in other areas. In other words, don’t overthink it when it comes to putting your thoughts out there. Instead, open up. Write about stuff. Tweak it; play around with it. Then, share it. Even if you’re bashful about the value of your own ideas, you’ll benefit from the process. And, someone out there might just benefit from it, too.

Sharpen your pencil and share your ideas. You’ll be glad you did it.



Managing Our Tech Exposure

By Savannah Day 

Technology exposure is a growing concern for many of us. I’m generalizing, here, but it seems like a universal problem. Many of us spend our entire day staring at computer screens, only to finally walk away from our desk just to check our phones almost immediately.  When we finally get home from work we probably end up in front of another screen until forcing ourselves to unplug in the late evening. Most of the time we wake up the next morning feeling drained, exhausted, suffering from neck pain, eye strain, only to do it all over again.

If that scenario sounds familiar to you, you’re not alone. And this blog post is for you!

As one of the youngest members of the Workbook6 team, my job literally is technology. I help develop and optimize our platform with the goal of elevating the team’s entire work experience. And I love every second of it. I’ll admit, I consistently spend hours on my computer on end and I’m perfectly content doing it.

But, that doesn’t mean it doesn’t come with a toll. Spending so much time on our devices, staring at screens, can’t be good for us. We can all use a gentle reminder to put our technology away every so often, and we can certainly take steps to make our screen time a bit less impactful. Below are a few of my favorite ways to manage my exposure to technology. I hope you enjoy!

Understanding Technology’s Impact on Sleep

At this point, most of us have firsthand experience with the impact of screen time on our sleep. But do you ever wonder why it’s harder to fall asleep when you’ve been interacting with your screen of choice? The National Sleep Foundation thinks they know the answer. They say that blue light that’s emitting from our screens suppresses melatonin, which affect something called our circadian rhythm. This dramatically impacts the body’s ability to shut down.

To combat this, something I’ve been trying to do lately is simply to stop looking at my phone or computer a few hours before bed. Instead, I’m using this time to catch up on podcasts, clean up a bit, or even read (I know, old school, right?). This gives my body and mind time to unwind and relax. I always feel so much better when I wake up the next day when I don’t indulge in googling all my random thoughts right before bed, or working when I get a new idea.

I’ve also begun to place my phone on Airplane mode when I go to bed. Most people sleep with their phones at arm’s reach – or even in the bed with them. Totally, totally not good! The disruption of inbound notifications is obvious, but our phones also emit radiation when the cellular signal is on. As soon as I started to put my on airplane mode before bed, I slept well again. I use my phone as my alarm in the morning so I still want it close by but I don’t want to sacrifice my energy or health while doing so. Seriously, I’ll take all the energy I can get.

Finally, for those nights when you can’t avoid working on your computer, there’s an app for that! f.lux dims the light on your screen based on the time of day and the room you’re in. This removes that bright blue light that hurts so bad to look at. (There’s even a movie mode, which will give your screen a warmer tone.) This app has helped me so, so much! I even use it during the day. It resets every 2.5 hours and you notice the difference immediately. It’s a game changer for those of us that use our computers all day. Try it – your eyes will thank you.

I hope this helps you! I know it’s unrealistic for all of us to stop using our devices, but it’s a nice nudge to remind ourselves to try to be better about this. My goal is to be more intentional with my technology use, instead of using it just because it’s there. Our minds and bodies will thank us later.

WorkBook6 to lead 3rd Annual Strategic Partnership Workshop at LeadsCon

Today, we’re thrilled to share that WorkBook6’s has been selected by LeadsCon to lead another Strategic Partnership Workshop as part of their annual Las Vegas event in March. This event, our third in partnership with LeadsCon, is something we’re very excited about. We’re expecting our largest audience to date, and we’ve made what we think are some fairly material improvements to the format to reflect the larger group. In fact, just about every session we’re planning is new territory for this event. We’re actively recruiting a very diverse group of speakers and thought leaders, and the format will be entirely different than any event we’ve ever promoted. We’re excited to involve our speakers and attendees in ways that we haven’t seen done before.

We’ll publish our full agenda, soon, but for now, I wanted to share this exciting news while it’s still fresh. While it seems like it’s a long way off, March will be here before we know it. If you’ve never been to one of our partnership workshops or summits before, I hope you can make it to this one. And if you’ve attended in the past, I hope to see you again! Finally, if you have an interest in participating in one of our sessions, we’d love to hear from you. We can’t make any promises, but we’ll always try to help!

For those who want to register, now, here’s the link. 

Discount Code: SPKR100 ($100 off current event pricing)

Remember, you’ll need the full access pass to attend our workshop – we promise to make it worthwhile!

Marketing Jargon

Marketing Jargon: Lost in Translation

By Rob Stevenson

Marketing people love marketing jargon – ROI, KPI, CPC, CTR, and literally thousands more cute acronyms and fun, secret ways to make what we’re talking about seem more important than it really is. Call it jargon, call it buzzwords, call it gibberish (my current favorite, and a completely random sampling: Alignment wheelhouse tablet virality content curation iterative Cloud.)

Whatever you call it, insider language can become a crutch, and worse, result in your brand’s voice consisting solely of you shouting into a meaningless void. But are you being heard?

Over here at WorkBook6 world headquarters, we are wrestling with this very problem right now.

In a nutshell, we help companies overcome something we call the Unit Economic Crisis (explained beautifully by beloved leader JT Benton), a big-picture concept defined as the point in time when a customer’s lifetime value (or LTV) drops below a specific (preferred) ratio of Customer Acquisition Costs (CAC). Every business is different – but when the LTV:CAC ratio drops below the business’s desired figure, it’s time to be concerned.

This happens in almost every business (there are a number of reasons, we’ll simplify down to competition and a general decline in customer persistency), and marketers and BD folks are in a pickle. How do I improve my unit economics quickly, and sustainably? (*The answer is through strategic partnership marketing, but that’s not the point).

Whew – 264 words in and I’m finally getting to the point. And what’s the point?

Marketers Love Marketing Jargon

As we look to increase the impact of our outbound (and inbound) marketing efforts, it’s VERY easy to rely on this world view (the Unit Economic Crisis, LTV and CAC) as WorkBook6’s primary differentiators. In fact, they define the core of our business – we help our clients overcome rising acquisition costs and falling LTV by forming strategic partnerships.

But to our prospective clients, do they phrases mean anything at all? Do they resonate in a meaningful way? Or are we shouting into a meaningless void? We’re A/B testing, offering multiple messages (and creative) and deliveries, following the “Very Good Marketer” playbook to leave no stone unturned, but if language choices don’t resonate, does it matter?

I even had our COO Brett Kaufman post on his VERY active LinkedIn feed about this very conundrum, asking for advice re. CAC and LTV and lingo/jingo/gibberish. Now, Brett averages nearly 10,000 post views and 250+ likes/comments every time he sneezes on Linkedin, but this post? 7 likes, one comment. A (virtual) fart in the wind, if you will. Does everyone hate lingo, or just talking about it?

So what say you? Does marketing jargon fly in your world, or does common sense language prevail? Is there a balance based on preference/audience? Or am I just shouting into a meaningless void (again)?

The Annual Letter 2018

Hello!

In continuation of a tradition we began at the end of 2017, we recently sent out our annual letter to a number of our clients, partners and old friends. And, as we did last year, we’ve decided to post the letter on our blog, as well. There’s a lot, here – some might argue it’s too much. And while it’s true that I’m particularly open and candid in my remarks, here, there’s nothing in this letter that I’d censor our team from discussing with a client or partner.

I hope you enjoy reading it!

Happy New Year, JT

For the second year, I sat down in early December to compose this Annual Letter. This is a new tradition for a young business, but it has become one of my favorite projects. Taking time to reflect on the year we’re now wrapping up – and being thoughtful about communicating our plans for the coming year – has helped me, tremendously. If you don’t do this or something like it in your own business, I urge you to try it, yourself. In fact, my own inspiration for this comes from a client of ours, whose Chairman and President have been jointly-authoring one for over 30 years. While our mentors lead a much larger company, I immediately saw good reason to do something similar, albeit on a smaller scale. I hope you enjoy reading this as much as I have enjoyed composing it.

While WorkBook6 began to assemble in 2016, 2018 is actually just our second full commercial year. This is important to note, as I believe our accomplishments over the past twelve months resonate just a touch more meaningfully when one considers the truly nascent maturity of this business. As a parent of young children, it’s hard not to see the parallels between starting and growing a company and raising children. In that sense, I like to think of WorkBook6 as a promising adolescent. We are at once proud of our progress and mindful of how we can continue to grow. Among other milestones, we’ve accomplished the following, this year:

  • Our team has doubled the company’s topline revenue for the second consecutive year. While this may be ‘table stakes’ for a young firm, I can assure you that we don’t take it lightly. Growth like that is the product of the entire team’s tireless work, as well as the trust our clients and partners have invested in us.
  • Our partnership development team has increased performance-based revenues by over 250%, Year-over-Year. This figure, which refers only to those fees that the firm earns through our clients’ execution and performance in new partnerships, is perhaps the single most important indicator of WorkBook6’s health. 2018 was a year of tremendous progress in this area.
  • To meet this growth, we have expanded our team. WorkBook6 is a technology enabled service business. To provide great service, we’ve added great people. This year, we welcomed Anna Lewis, Chris Cox, Justin Guido, Savannah Day and Kyle Casaccio. We also announced the acquisition of Maszi, Inc, which brought Kara Hutcheson into the firm on a full-time basis. Each of these people have made material contributions to our work and to our clients’ growth.
  • We have developed a fully-functional and entirely proprietary technology platform. This system, which we call Perenn.io, is the backbone of the entire operation. Today, our team leverages this technology across many disciplines, including relationship management, sales and marketing automation, task management, business intelligence and even billing. In fact, we believe Perenn.io to be the first many-to-many business and relationship management platform. This, as I will point to later on in this letter, is critical to our business’s identity. We’re particularly thankful to Max Richardson and Savannah Day’s work in this area.
  • Through the hard work of our client success leaders, we have successfully launched and incubated our full-service partner management program. This effort, which involves full scale partner program management, came at the request of an ambitious client, to whom we’re deeply grateful for the trust and resources they’ve committed.
  • We’ve continued to build out our workshop series as a marketing and partnership development mechanism. In 2018, WorkBook6’s workshops at LeadsCon and InsureTech Connect attracted over 300 attendees.

As I think through these accomplishments, I’m left with what might best be described as a ‘dumb grin.’ That’s because throughout the process of building this momentum, it didn’t always feel as if we were making such progress. As I’m sure many entrepreneurs will tell you, it’s hard, sometimes, to see the business’s progress while it’s happening. I spent much of my time this past year thinking through new kinds of challenges and evaluating new types of opportunities. This, I’ve learned, is what growth feels like in this business. I once listened to a keynote given by Brian Halligan and Dharmesh Shah (who co-founded and continue to lead HubSpot). While I recall many useful lessons from that talk, perhaps the assertion that best applies to the year behind us is this: “companies are more likely to die of over-eating than starvation.” I don’t think there are more useful words of advice for a young business that’s lucky enough to be growing, quickly. The message, which speaks to focus and discipline, could have been better applied to some of our work this past year, and will certainly influence what we decide to do – and not to do – in 2019.

In this sense, I’m most excited about all the things we can still refine, here. I think the holidays are a fine time for candor and for vulnerability, so I hope you can find some value in reading about a few of our hard-earned lessons, too. Key learnings for our business this year include the following:

  • We have a sweet spot, and we also have the opposite. In 2018, we sometimes stretched ourselves too far to meet demand that didn’t actually align with what we do best. Good growth takes time, and sometimes it’s actually best to pass up immediately available revenues until more befitting opportunities emerge.
  • Doing what you’re told to do and doing things right aren’t always the same. On a couple occasions, we deferred to external direction despite a ‘gut feeling’ that the strategy might be off-target. We’d have been better off pushing back in those cases, or even walking away.
  • Finally, there may be CEO’s out there who are great at account management, but ours isn’t one of them. In 2018, I learned that the most respectful thing that I can do as a leader is actually to avail our best resources to our clients. And, when it comes to account management, that ain’t me!

These lessons have informed our plans for growth in the new year, which will differ somewhat from the past. As we begin our third full year in business, we’ll do so with a few important themes guiding our strategy. These themes, which have been drafted with input from our entire team, are designed to help us focus on quality growth and revenue diversification while taking a deeper approach to serving our clients. Each of these themes are outlined, below:

  • We will stay independent. Our business has not raised outside capital. We plan to remain on this path, because we feel that having the autonomy to operate this business and apply the learnings we’ve worked so hard for is paramount.
  • We will focus on deepening our relationships with our existing clients, and also limiting the number of new clients we agree to take on. Two consecutive years of rapid growth is fun, but we feel we can continue on this trajectory without taking on business that doesn’t ideally suit us. More importantly, we plan to expand several existing relationships to include our full-service management offering, and we’d like to focus more of everyone’s time on client growth than we do on our own.
  • We will continue to invest in technology and systems. Through continuing our work on Perenn.io, we believe we are building a company that can mature far beyond being perceived as a mere ‘relationship’ business.

As you can see, we’ve got a lot to be thankful for. For both the growth we’ve accomplished and the opportunities to continue improving, we are grateful. In this light, it only makes sense to end this letter with a sincere note of thanks. Because so many people and companies impacted our successes and our lessons this year, we must stay general here. To each of our clients and partners, as well as our friends and families, we offer a very heartfelt and earnest ‘thank you.’ It’s been an incredible year, and we’re brimming with optimism for 2019. We wish each of you a happy, healthy holiday season and a new year filled with accomplishment.

Sincerely,
JT Benton
Founder, CEO
WorkBook6

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