Every brand has a mission statement. Every brand should have a clear business philosophy. But how do you take those ideas and create a framework for your people to actually put them into action?
On this episode of the podcast, Taylor and Richard discuss how CTC is taking our core philosophies and turning them into repeatable behaviors across the entire agency.
- The ADmission All-Access Sale is on until the end of the month — go to commonthreadco.com/allaccess to get all of our products free with an ADmission membership.
- The Ecommerce Playbook mailbag is open — email us at firstname.lastname@example.org to ask us any questions you might have about the world of ecomm
Watch on YouTube
Hey everyone. Before we get into the episode, I wanted to share an exclusive offer for CTC fans, followers, and listeners around our monthly subscription service admission. Now, normally that subscription gets you access to the huge library of tools and templates that we use at the agency, plus access to our private users forum and access to one-on-one coaching from a CTC expert who's trained in the type of thinking we're gonna talk about today.
However, If you sign up for three months of admission, by the end of June, you'll get a, a discounted rate of 299 a month, and B, you'll get access to all of our products for no extra charge. That means you'll get the Enterprise Scaling Guide, normally 995 for free. You'll get the e-commerce diagnostic toolkit, normally 297 for free.
You'll get our media buying toolkit free, TikTok ads, playbook free, and on top of all that, You'll get three free months of the D two C index, which is our weekly overview of key metrics aggregated from hundreds of e-comm brands. So we're calling this the Admission All Access sale, which is more than $2,000 of bonus value for just 2 99 a month, which we think is a pretty good deal.
So if you wanna know more and you wanna get started, just go to common thread co.com/all access. That's one word. Or you can check out the link of the show notes. Alright, onto the show.
[00:01:21] Richard Gaffin: Hey folks. Welcome to the E-Commerce Playbook Podcast. I'm your host, Richard Gaffin, director of Digital Product Strategy at ctc. Joined once again as always, and as ever by Taylor Holiday, CEO here at Common Thread Collective. Taylor, how you doing this fine day?
[00:01:37] Taylor Holiday: I'm doing great, coming off of a wonderful Father's Day and a day off for Juneteenth. So a really great weekend. I feel energized and excited.
[00:01:46] Richard Gaffin: Did you do anything special for Father's Day? Get any Father's Day gift packs. Do kits.
[00:01:51] Taylor Holiday: So my wife, yeah. I'm gonna go a little intimate here for the podcast listeners. So my wife and I part of, part of what we're working on in therapy is learning to express what we want from out of life and from each other. That's not, this is sort of like a suppressed skill that you sort of almost feel guilty doing out of the upbringing, I think, in the world that I came from.
And so we've done this thing where we're like, that my challenge was to go away. For an hour and write down everything I wanted for the day, like in as much detail and give myself freedom to just express selfishly exactly what I wanted. And so I did that and I wrote, and it was, it was an awesome day.
It was great. So it included a little bit of, Personal time, a little bit of time with my wife, a little bit of time with the kids, some good food, you know, some time at, at the park date night, watching a crappy movie with some popcorn. A bunch of things that I had just really enjoyed. So it was great.
[00:02:45] Richard Gaffin: that's,
[00:02:45] Taylor Holiday: a great
[00:02:46] Richard Gaffin: man. Yeah. No, that's great. It's, it's interesting how much, like, how we're so conditioned to think that like getting what you want is generally a bad thing. That it is
have enough trust in yourself to actually write down everything you want and realize that if you were to get them all, that would be fine and everybody would be happy and it would be okay, you know?
[00:03:03] Taylor Holiday: I, it's amazing. It's amazing how hard that is as an exercise. And it's funny, I just got off a call with a, a founder. I actually think, and we've talked about this on previous episodes, is that this in many ways is the fundamental flaw of. All entrepreneurs is, they don't actually know what they're trying to do because they one, either it's bad to think that they want money, and so there's some sort of suppression around that idea.
And so they take on some sort of like abstract missional idea that validates their guilt conscience or whatever. But getting clear on what you want and then discovering that it's available if you just ask, is a really crazy insight.
[00:03:36] Richard Gaffin: Yeah. Yeah. No, no. It's, it's a powerful tool. Yeah. I was gonna say my my Father's Day was spent thinking about whether or not being the father of a dog counts. And I would say I would fall on the side of, no, there's some responsibilities, but, you know, it's it's nothing like having a kid, that's for sure. But yeah, I, I was talking to, I think maybe I mentioned this on the pod once, but I was talking to somebody about like, having a, having a puppy is kind of like having a toddler that can like bite, which that seems really bad. Like they have sharp teeth. But then he came back to me and saying, like, was like, well, they don't have a posable thumb, so they can't, your dog can't throw anything. So actually it doesn't count at all. And it's, it's nowhere nearly as bad.
[00:04:14] Taylor Holiday: Yeah, they both have, they have similar destructive capacity though. I mean, you leave, you leave them both in a room unattended, you're gonna get similar results,
[00:04:21] Richard Gaffin: Yeah, yeah. No, totally. All right, well, speaking
Talking about things that we want, here's, here's one thing that everybody wants, and particularly on our side, and that's is to create a environment within an agency where, What we're selling is in fact a system and not a set of people. And
two things kind of come together.
But this, this is a conversation that you've been having on, on Twitter that we've been talking about internally here at CTC particularly. It's been framed in this sort of sense of we have, I think, become better. And recently think done a. Generally a pretty good job of taking the ideology, the framework behind how we think about e-commerce and turning it into product. And by product we mean not only the digital products for which I'm responsible, but also
service side, the the tools that the people who execute the service here at CTC use to execute that service. so what I wanted to kick this conversation off by talking about is maybe get into a little bit of that. Conundrum we were talking
before we hit record here, which is that generally speaking, the best case scenario when you hire an agency is that you happen to get the best people assigned to your account. And
[00:05:33] Taylor Holiday: Right.
[00:05:35] Richard Gaffin: what, what sort of maybe even generally in the world of hiring for e-comm just sort of generally speaking, it's like it kind of becomes a crapshoot of We were talking about it sort of like, like in baseball or in hiring or casting for a movie or something like that, where the only thing that you have going for you is talent.
And so you have to pay for that talent. Then of course, whether or not you get that talent is sort of up in the air because it's not very predictable. And so the ideal is that what we sell is a framework and a fundamental base that anybody who works at our agency can grow off of and execute a good service, whether or not they themselves are the best person for, or the best person in e-commerce or whatever.
So maybe expand on that a little bit, Taylor. Like what, what are we talking about when we talk about dichotomy between ideology and product?
[00:06:26] Taylor Holiday: Yeah, so over the last couple years, CTC went through a massive growth and retraction. I don't know how much we've talked about this on this podcast where one of the things as I've reflected on that, that I think we got out beyond was that we didn't have a ruthless commitment to a phrase we're calling internally organizational integrity.
[00:06:50] Richard Gaffin: Mm-hmm.
[00:06:51] Taylor Holiday: So what does that mean? It means that, There's an alignment between our beliefs and behaviors. That's what I think integrity is. It's an alignment between your beliefs and behaviors. And as an organization, we have a bunch of stated beliefs. Okay. Let's just use an obvious simple one for illustration that people sort of know us for cost caps.
Okay. Well, you would expect that based on our public ideology and our beliefs that we've stated that our behavior inside of CTC accounts would be that every. Thing is on cost cap. Now, that's not actually our belief, but the, the vast majority would be on cost cap. Well, there were, there have been long periods where that is not true.
Where there is an, a misalignment between the behaviors and beliefs of the organization. And this, this shows up in lots of different ways, not just in Facebook media buying, but and it's because as a system grows, if you think that the ideology, let's just say for the sake of it, illustration is like at.
A hundred percent at the core of the people who have been here the longest. So Richard, me and you and our ideology about it might be like we are deeply saturated with the idea. We've spent many years together. We talk every week on a podcast. And so if you interacted with either of us, you'd get a consistent experience of the belief system ctc.
Well, the further you move away from us in the organization and the newer the person is to the organization, the less saturation they have in that belief system. They're a newer believer, if you will, . And so their, their their knowledge of the, the holy text of CTC is like, reflects a new person.
[00:08:29] Richard Gaffin: Right.
[00:08:30] Taylor Holiday: so the more that somebody interacts with new people, the less their experience is consistent with the belief of the entire system.
And as there was a point at which CTC grew to the point that I think like 70, 60% of the employees had been here less than a year, right? And so when that happens, What? What occurs is that most of the experience of the organization reflects a low level of understanding of the core beliefs of the organization itself.
And so now you're in a place where organizational integrity is low, and this is the challenge when you're depending on just individuals to be the source of. The system. And the reality is when people hire ctc, they don't hire an individual media buyer. They often don't even know their name until they get introduced onto the call.
They're hiring CTC because of CTC methodology that they've been sold in the sales process and in marketing material. And that's what they want. They want all the experience of the organization for all time, all the historical learnings, all the wisdom, all the case studies. But no one person actually encapsulates all that knowledge.
And so the question then becomes, well, how do you elevate your organizational integrity and how do you better productize and operationalize ideology? And so this is a thing that I've thought spent countless hours trying to work through for myself. And to think about how we do it better on this second, really turn around the, the sun, if you will for ctc.
So that's like contextually what I'm talking about is how does an idea, like Four Peaks theory or you know, the growth equation or growth mapping or, or cohort specific LTV forecasting. Consistently deployed inside of an organization. And I think that's, that's what we're having the conversation about today.
And then how does a brand evaluate an agency's ability to do that, I think is another important question we should hit on at some point. And how do you as an agency owner or operator ensure that it's happening? So that's what I think what we're trying to get after.
[00:10:23] Richard Gaffin: Yeah. Well, so let's talk about then, real quickly to, to kind of frame some of the rest of the conversation. Why, why do you think that agencies, and I'm, we're thinking because it's our industry and because we historically have been bad at this, why are agencies bad at this? Generally
a lot of small companies are bad at this, but let's say why, why are agencies bad at this specifically?
[00:10:42] Taylor Holiday: so one, you have to start by having a clear methodology that you can communicate succinctly and in a compelling way That right up front is really hard to do. Richard, you're a published author. You we just this week went through your product, the e-commerce diagnostic, and you got to hear 12 different people experience it and the ways in which it was unclear to them.
And the reality is creating and communicating with clarity is like an elite level skill. It's really, really hard to do. So that's like right up front is just creating the material. In a compelling way, it's easy to understand is hard. So taking complex ideas and boiling them down into understandable material is hard.
That's problem number one. Now, I'd argue that's one of my best skills. It's one of your best skills, I think for ctc. We're pretty dang good at that. I, I still think there's ways in which the material is still unapproachable. It's too, you know, riddled with acronyms and other ways in which it, like it needs a lot of work.
But I'd put us up there pretty high at the creation of the material. Okay, but that's step, that's only step one. Now you actually have to operationalize it and operationalizing ideology. That even the good kind, the kind that's really clear is also really difficult. It requires very clear expectations of everybody in the organization to consume, assume, understand, and be able to teach and deliver the material for themselves.
So when you onboard someone into a system, I'll give you an, like an example, ctc. Has a blog, CTC has a podcast, CTC has a YouTube page, and there have been moments where I'm willing to bet at ctc the amount of employees who had consumed or read any of that material was very low,
[00:12:35] Richard Gaffin: Mm-hmm.
[00:12:36] Taylor Holiday: and yet we're responsible for that material.
That is actually what we are expected to deliver. And so, You have to create an obligation for the consumption and understanding of the material, and you do that through training programs and onboarding, and you have to evaluate it. You actually have to create space to go, do you know this? Can you repeat it back to me?
I have to give you feedback on your ability to repeat it back to me. Like it takes a lot to actually indoctrinate people with your material in a way that they can replicate it and apply it in variable scenarios, right? So, The second step. So one is clear ideology. Second is you gotta get the material read, consumed and trained and understood in the head.
Okay, so that's like head knowledge is like the second piece of it. The third part is the application in multiple scenarios, right? So the hard thing about our world is that to borrow. From range. The book, if anybody's read that, like, business is a wicked environment, it's not a kind environment. What do I mean by that?
A wicked environment is one in which the variables are different every time. And so you can't just apply a templated format or as Alex on Twitter likes to say there's no best practices, like there's no templated responses for every solution. So now you have to apply your head knowledge into practical, novel areas.
And that's about repetition. That's about the number of times that you can experience it over and over.
so you have to combine all three of these things to get to a level of excellence, of delivery, of the information. So that means when an organization is full of lots of new people, for sure. The third one doesn't exist cuz they haven't had time.
And the second one in CTCs case didn't really exist. Then the fourth part of it. So you've got, you've got the creation of the material. You've got the consumption of the material, you've got the application of the material. And then the last one is the measurement of the presence of the material. So are you actually applying it and is the organization measuring itself?
So we have started doing this. Organizational integrity check where we take a set of ideology in an ad account or anywhere else, and we measure what percentage of accounts it's present in, and then we set goals around the leaders for the increase of the application of it. We're gonna do this with the e-commerce diagnostic toolkit.
We're, we're doing this, we do this for forecasting to accuracy, growth maps, being built on time, cost cap, percentage utilization, budget ratios, all these different things that we have, ideas, marketing calendars completed and filled out. We can actually track the presence of the ideas inside of the organization.
So how saturated are they? So that's a whole system, right? That is very difficult to create, but it's what you as the brand should be evaluating. You should be asking people about their system and process for implementation of their ideology.
Hey everyone. Richard here again with a quick reminder that if you sign up for three months of admission before the end of June, you'll get every CTC product included for free. That includes the Enterprise Scaling Guide, the E-Commerce Diagnostic Toolkit, the media buying tools, and the TikTok Ads playbook, and three months of the DTC index.
For free. So stop the podcast right now if you have to and go sign email@example.com slash all access one word, or you can grab the link from the show notes. All right, back to it.
[00:15:58] Richard Gaffin: Yeah, so I think like one thing that I hear when I hear those four steps, and one thing that we've struggled with and I've bet a lot of our listeners struggle with, whether they're from the brand or the agency side, is that all four of those steps require you to take a step back from doing day-to-day work in order to get those things up and running. So maybe like
[00:16:15] Taylor Holiday: That's right. That's right. That's right.
[00:16:17] Richard Gaffin: agree that we are definitely in a place now where we are better at this than we we were before. So let's break down, like, what, what was the secret? In so far as there
to getting to a place where we were able to take a step back from just letting people do whatever they can to get the job done, to get to a point where they are now learning how to get the job done first before going out to.
[00:16:39] Taylor Holiday: Slow down Q1 of 2023. I told our sales team that their new business expectation was $0. Now it ended up not being $0. They, they, there was a lot of good things happening, but, or, or sorry, for the marketing team, their responsibility was zero SQLs, right? Like they didn't have to drive any new leads. Because we were recreating what it meant to do education at ctc and that included Richard, your Q1 goal, which was build the e-commerce diagnostic product.
Like so, you were given space to not have obligation to present value creation for future value creation. We've also more and more depended on. People who are not employees on the service side to create the assets of the operation of the organization. So Neils and Quo are two examples of this. So Quo is the CTO of TLAs.
He doesn't do client work. He builds stats. It's a core operating tool that brings to life our ideology. Neils is a person that works exclusively on the tools of ctc. He builds the growth map and that's his job. He's, he's not responsible to the client. He's responsible to the product. So more and more I think about CTC in a lot of ways, like a software business where there's a product manager for something that's responsible.
So Richard, I think see you is responsible for the e-commerce diagnostic product. I see Steve is responsible for the DC index. I see Qua responsible for stats. I see Neil's responsible for the growth map. You know, I see a lien responsible for the marketing calendar. I see. Like there's all these people I.
That have this responsibility to the systems. I see Trent is responsible for the ideology of our media buying. Like there's just these different spaces in which there's somebody that has a responsibility to a tenant of the system, and they get to spend time in improving that product more than the individual application of that product inside of the system.
[00:18:40] Richard Gaffin: Here's the question. How, how difficult was it for, or how much of a leap of faith, let's say, was it for you to make the decision for us on the marketing side to not drive any new leads for q1?
[00:18:55] Taylor Holiday: I got to a place where I was not proud of the things that we had our name on and I didn't want to do it anymore if we, if I couldn't be.
So for me it was literally like life or death. Like, I'm not gonna do this job anymore if I can't get to a place where. The product is something that I love producing, and I'm proud of the end node interactions that are coming out of our organization.
And it didn't, it's not like I made a conscious choice to be like, oh, I don't care that it wasn't like we intentionally were frivolous about it, but I, the demand was so great for a while that like satiating, that demand became the primary objective.
And in that one there was like, the way I've just sort of described it is you're building a house.
And you're laying bricks and you can really make sure they're quality bricks. There's no cracks, and they're really fit perfectly and they're in there well, or you could just like in a hurry, start stacking them and maybe they didn't set all the way and you just kind of keep going. And that's sort of what happened is we just started moving really fast and we didn't check all the bricks.
[00:19:57] Richard Gaffin: Mm-hmm.
[00:19:58] Taylor Holiday: And that's, and what ends up happening is on two sides, like when you have to hire really fast, the thoroughness with which you're vetting people and the amount of space that they have to onboard and trade goes down, and then. The reality is, is that in, in Covid there was a lot of businesses that were propped up that weren't really viable businesses, so the quality of customer deteriorates as well.
And so this is a bad combination of things that happen. The other thing I, and I appreciate this from our board, is they, I, I think I adopted this idea that it was actually the right thing for me to do as a leader, to give individuals a lot of space to express their ideas. And so in a meeting with our board at the end, towards the end of last year, it was sort of said to me like, Taylor, they're coming here for the ideas that you're creating.
You have to deliver the ideas you're creating and you're selling them. And so it was sort of this moment of like, oh yeah, like if our employees have an idea that's different than ctc, that's great, but this isn't the place to express those. Like you work for ctc. Your job is to deliver CTC ideology, not.
Mikey ideology and there's nobody named Mikey, so I'm not picking on anybody. It's just an example. But it's just and that's okay. It's okay to ask that of them. And now it's not to be dogmatic and say that people can't contribute or alter the C T C I ideology, but you alter it at the root level as a collective.
You don't alter it at the individual node level where you're just off doing Mikey's ideology. Like, that's fine. Go be a freelancer. Go start your own thing. But if you're here, you're gonna deliver CTC ideology. And I think I got to a place where I felt a lot more freedom saying that. And I think it's a weakness that I was afraid to, or people pleaser or something before that I didn't.
But I think that's part of it.
[00:21:40] Richard Gaffin: Yeah. Yeah, totally. No, I was just thinking in terms of like what, there's always to some extent a leap of faith that needs to be taken before you slow down. And I mean, it sounds
like part of the reason that we got to that point where we were willing to take the jump is it just like the situation that got so bad and ultimately we weren't producing the thing that we said we were going to produce. But I've just like struck just in terms of thinking about the psychology of this, how much it's like, I don't know if you ever seen, like at the end of Indiana Jones in the last crusade where he has to cross the bridge to get to the holy
[00:22:09] Taylor Holiday: Right, right,
[00:22:10] Richard Gaffin: painted, so it looks, it looks like there's nothing there. And
you know it's there and he jumps and he finds that the bridge is there, but every single time you return to the bridge, it still looks like it isn't there. So it always feels bad to take the leap. And so I think that there's
[00:22:24] Taylor Holiday: Yep.
[00:22:25] Richard Gaffin: amount of like you need to take, or courage that needs to be gained by just deciding that you're going to slow down and do things the right way. I will say, like, even from my perspective, it always feels, it always feels bad to say like, we're gonna take a step back here and not pursue,
[00:22:39] Taylor Holiday: I.
[00:22:40] Richard Gaffin: you know, go
[00:22:41] Taylor Holiday: I was having this conversation at dinner last night with Tony, our VP of Paid Media, where we were describing a customer that has a core belief about attribution that's different than ours. And I, what it got to for me was, I don't, I think the answer should be, we don't do this work anymore. We don't change our system to try and resolve this issue for them and make the media buyer go do all these different things because why are they here?
Why, why, why? They're not, we're not this variable service provider that just does whatever you want. That's not who we're trying to be. And so to break all our systems to become that for the sake of that contract, it's actually detrimental to who we are. And I said at the end of like, sort of my spiel saying We probably shouldn't work with them.
I said, I want you to know, I'm afraid right now when I say that. Like the amount of money that that contractor represents. The idea of letting it go makes me afraid, I still think we should do it.
And I want you to know it's okay if you're afraid and I don't know what's gonna happen and I can't actually promise safety, but I do know that I've got done the opposite enough times to understand.
That the, the illusion that you go down that path and it creates a healthy, good thing for you is also not the case. . And so this imaginary scenario you've created where you break your own process and value system in the name of money and it works out great for the organization is actually not true.
It's actually really detrimental. And so the only way is to do the other thing, I think.
[00:24:15] Richard Gaffin: Yeah, definitely. And yeah, it's interesting, like we're at a, we're at a point now I think where we've gotten enough reps in of doing it the right way to understand that it definitely works. then that even not being enough to say like, oh, we should maybe not get rid of this contract because that it'll still be scary no matter
[00:24:32] Taylor Holiday: Totally
[00:24:33] Richard Gaffin: times you've seen that it actually works out.
[00:24:36] Taylor Holiday: Well, and there's real human consequence to it that you can't pretend like you don't like. That may mean that you have too many people at that moment. You know, like and, and like, and. So it's not frivolous, like always like it, it comes at real cost, but the violation of the value and ideology actually is like really poorly destructive in a way that can threaten the whole thing.
And that's hard to know.
[00:24:58] Richard Gaffin: Okay, so let's let's maybe talk through some specifics real quick, just because we've been throwing a lot
words around as far as these products that we're actually creating. So let's talk to them
So the first off, of course, like listeners to this podcast have heard many times we've talked about the e-commerce diagnostic toolkit, you know, what it is. But maybe talk a little bit about how we're integrating that into our service more generally.
[00:25:20] Taylor Holiday: Yeah, so I believe that our big idea as an agency is expressed in another formula. Of course. That's how I like to think, and it, it's like this, it's growth equals strategy to the power of execution.
[00:25:33] Richard Gaffin: Mm-hmm.
[00:25:34] Taylor Holiday: So you've heard us talk on this podcast before about our belief about strategy and how important it is, but I think the strategy is only as good as the level of execution that you have.
So growth, and I could even say profitable growth comes from strategy to the power of execution. And so I think from there then, I go down this path of, okay, how do we operationalize that idea? And I took this quote from your name one of your namesakes a famous consultant by the name of Richard Rummel, who wrote a book called A Kernel of Good Strategy.
And he says this, he says, A good strategy must precisely diagnose the problem being solved. Set a guiding policy that will address that problem and propose a set of coherent actions that will deliver that policy. So that's sort of the roadmap to operationalizing strategy, or in our case, operationalizing audiology.
So three things here. Diagnose the problem, build a plan to solve it. Design a coherent set of actions or execute against that plan. Okay, so that's, that's what I'm trying to think about. Okay. How do we do that framework? Alright, well here's how we do it at ctc. Step one, diagnose the problem. Guess what you did, Richard?
You gave us the e-commerce diagnostic. We came up with a score, a set of measures to help us get clarity on the problem, right? Your GQ score, your relationship to these inputs. It is going to be the initial part that we enter into conversations with our customers about how, what is the problem? We have to cl clear on this together.
What is actually preventing your profitable growth? Okay, so the e-commerce diagnostic is our methodology, step one, where we have a consistent way to analyze and view the problems associated with a business. Okay, once we do that, sorry, you want to ask a question about that step one?
[00:27:21] Richard Gaffin: gonna mention quick that like yeah, part of the reason that the diagnostic toolkit was created is that there is, there does seem to be a general problem understanding what the problem is,
[00:27:33] Taylor Holiday: That's right.
[00:27:34] Richard Gaffin: think that
[00:27:34] Taylor Holiday: Yes.
[00:27:35] Richard Gaffin: a way that you can we, we sort of just mentioned that like, yes, it is a wicked system, so to speak.
Like there are a lot of unknown unknowns and so there's a
default to. I'm just going to go with my gut about what I want to do what needs to be done. I've been hearing a lot about how ROAS is the issue, whatever, you know, and then you, you
[00:27:54] Taylor Holiday: exactly, exactly.
[00:27:55] Richard Gaffin: on intuition, and this is a, this, the diagnostic toolkit is a way to bring those things together where it's like this is a systematic way to give yourself the tools to face a bunch of unknown unknowns because at least you, there's more that you could know than maybe you thought. Was the case, you know what I mean? Like actually maybe you have an operational cost problem that you didn't really realize and you didn't realize that that was affecting the quality of your marketing or whatever. So anyway, but I just wanted to say that in terms of like the way we're operationalizing or, or systematizing something that isn't, can't actually be templatized.
Those are like two, those are two different things, and that's kinda what the diagnostic toolkit does. But anyway, okay, so that's,
[00:28:33] Taylor Holiday: Exactly Cuz. Cuz I, I think you're right that I think a lot of time is spent solving the wrong problem.
[00:28:38] Richard Gaffin: Yeah.
[00:28:39] Taylor Holiday: and that is more and more in this business. What I have noticed in my experience with my customers is that the thing we're focusing on is actually a problem because there's an, it's actually symptomatic of an underlying, deeper issue
if un addressed is going to kill the thing.
And you know, there's a great book that I read that informed a lot of my sales methodology called the Challenger Sale.
Which if you're in sales, it's a good book. And the Challenger Sale is the idea that when it's about sort of these different personalities of people that sell, but the idea is that we are the experts and our primary value proposition is to make a customer believe that we already understand their problem because we've encountered it and we've seen it, and we can say it to them before they even tell us.
You know, the traditional sales process is this idea that you go like, tell me about your problem. And then I'll, I'll present you solutions as if they have clarity of the problem, right? And so the diagnostic is a way for us to flip the script and say, Hey. We could help you tell you the problem and then we could help to present the solution in light of the identification of the problem.
And I really think that like if you go to the doctor, you know you're gonna give them a general sense of your symptoms, but they're gonna actually try and tell you and run a series of tests to get to the core diagnosis. Right. And I think that in a lot of ways that's the role we're playing. We're the growth doctors, so to speak, to be a little cliche.
And that requires us then, Using a set of key indicators that we have analyzed over the course of many businesses to understand what works and one doesn't. So that's, that's absolutely like operationally, a consistent way to diagnose a problem that then sets up sets of solutions on our behalf, because without that, The starting point is wildly variable for every customer relative to what they say they want.
And it doesn't set our teams up very well for absorbing the data about the customer and how to now go and act accordingly. But this gives us a very clear output around a consistent set of metrics, a set of absorbed data, a set of findings that gets handed to the operations team that they can now go service against.
[00:30:40] Richard Gaffin: Right. Okay, so let's keep moving down the list then. So, the diagnostic toolkit, let's say, after the
[00:30:45] Taylor Holiday: Yep.
[00:30:46] Richard Gaffin: So, well, actually, so I'll say like the, the couple of other things that you mentioned recently on Twitter were new forecasting models, and you've also mentioned that earlier in the
So maybe let's speak to that a little bit. Like what were we, what are we doing with that? How are we kind of shifting what we did before to make it better?
[00:30:59] Taylor Holiday: That's right. So step two, after I've diagnosed the problem is now to build a plan to solve it. And we call that the growth map at ctc. So a map is a great metaphor for this process, right? We have a destination in mind, and we're gonna build the actual path to that location, to that journey. And we're gonna do that by forecasting the business as part of this process.
So we're gonna actually set up, this is where you're presently headed. Under the, if all, if the future is like the historicals, this is where you will go. Then we will set goals for impacting the core inputs of the model to improve, to reach a better destination, right? We call it breaking the model. We're gonna establish a model, and then our job is to break the model, to outperform it to do better than what we think is going to occur.
And so that growth map includes everything from a marketing calendar to channel specific media plans, to detailed email and SMS send schedules. So, To, you know, creative ideation to financial tracking. Like it's a very rich, deep document that we've developed that functions as the core center. It's our plan.
It's a planning exercise, right? And so that is, identify the problem, build a plan to solve it. Richard Rumelt, step two.
[00:32:10] Richard Gaffin: Nice. Okay, so then the next piece of the of the puzzle here. Well, actually, so it's interesting cuz like, the next thing that you list here is, is the new Status dash and
Growth Map integration to the STAs Dash. So maybe let's speak to that. I
necessarily falls chronologically,
[00:32:26] Taylor Holiday: Well, it does it, it actually sets up and functions in part three, what we call the P three system. So if step, step one is diagnose the problem, step two is build a plan to solve it. And then step three is build a coherent set of actions or operationalize, like go execute.
Well, we have what we call the P three system.
That's our methodology for executing and it's plot pivot, profit. Plot pivot, profit. So the idea is we have a map every day. We plot the point on the map. So what does that mean? That means we track a bunch of data and it's performance to expectation every single day. And so that's what the stat list dashboard is, is it's a view of your performance across 25 different metrics every single day.
So that's plotting. Plot your progress against expectation. Where am I? Am I on the trail? Am I off the trail for my map every single day? Okay. Then relative to where you're at, pivot your direction. So if I'm off course pivot, if my AOVs lower than I thought, pivot your offer if my C'S too high, pivot your cost cap, right?
If my volume's too low, pivot my budget up, right? If my email returning customer revenue is down, pivot my email set schedule right? There's a set of actions that lead to an outcome of profit all the way through the system. The stateless dashboard is what allows us to see that in action against it. Right?
And so all of these things, diagnose the problem, build the growth map, use the P three system are how we and every person at CTC is taught to operationalize the ideology that you're paying for.
[00:34:02] Richard Gaffin: Right. And yeah, I think an important point to make here about the, specifically the growth, so this is the growth map integration. With the status dash.
[00:34:11] Taylor Holiday: That's right. So that exactly.
[00:34:13] Richard Gaffin: yeah, yeah. So you have your map and then what the map does is it pulls signals into our proprietary STAs for those who don't know, that kind of brings all your data together and puts it in one place. And so the idea is then your map is, is sort of automatically giving you signals on a daily basis about where you need to go. And that takes a
[00:34:29] Taylor Holiday: You're on or off Course.
[00:34:31] Richard Gaffin: Yeah, exactly.
yeah, we're not
[00:34:33] Taylor Holiday: You can't,
[00:34:34] Richard Gaffin: We gotta change.
[00:34:36] Taylor Holiday: there's, here's, here's the great secret about every dashboard that exists in the marketing world, and I'm just, I'm gonna be bold with this, is that. There is nobody, nobody that could look at a dashboard of data and tell you whether it's good or bad.
[00:34:49] Richard Gaffin: Mm-hmm.
[00:34:50] Taylor Holiday: You can't, you're lacking the expectation of each number.
What were you trying to do? Were you trying to generate that revenue number? Now we could go, oh, it's $2 million. That's cool. But if you find out they were trying to generate three, it's not good. Right? Data without context, data without expectation is useless. So the growth map creates the expectation, right?
And then stateless actualizes it. So imagine it's like when you go to put your address in for where you're going, it builds you a map, it shows you the trail, right? And so you have a visual of which way you should be going. And then when you go off course, it lets you know, Hey, hold on. You're not going the right way.
But without the initial plan, without the initial expectation, The actual numbers are useless. And so the combination of these things, the expectation and the actual is the key to success.
[00:35:40] Richard Gaffin: Yeah, I think the, the fantastic thing about stats is that it's a, it's a dashboard of data that's built, that is built with our ideology in mind at its core.
[00:35:49] Taylor Holiday: That's right.
[00:35:49] Richard Gaffin: of marketing dashboards just sort of give you. Information and that's it, without really having a sense of like, directionally, what should that information tell you?
And so I, I know like this is probably, or this is changing, but for instance, the way the STAs is built around the formula is, is a good example
how we even started STAs based off this idea, like, this is our core belief about how e-commerce works. This is all the data that you need that ladders up into these of basic metrics.
[00:36:18] Taylor Holiday: that's another great example. Like
[00:36:19] Richard Gaffin: completely unique.
[00:36:21] Taylor Holiday: we, I wrote a document once called How to Solve a Problem. And we used to pass this around ctc and the idea was you encounter an account that's struggling. Here's how you solve the problem. And what that document went through was, okay, visitors conversion rate, aov, profit, like, here's all the things to check.
Here's what to look for to identify the solution. And so we took that sort of framework and we took all the places that you would look for those things that I identified under the visitor section, and we built a report for it. And so that was the initial stateless outline was all around this idea of how to solve the problem.
You know? And now since then, it's evolved to what our, our methodology has become. But that, that is exactly right. It's another example of. Here's an equation for analyzing things. Okay, cool. Well, how do you turn that into, what do I do every day is actually where the real obligation for the organization is.
[00:37:09] Richard Gaffin: Right. Cool. All right. So, and then the final product here, we obviously you guys talked about it last week, is the D
cci, the Direct-to-Consumer Confidence Index, which is a live, updated, index of how people are feeling about the economy, about their own spending power, and so on and so forth. Now, we've talked about this recently.
What I wanna know is how do you see this as integrated
[00:37:34] Taylor Holiday: Yeah,
[00:37:34] Richard Gaffin: our ideology?
[00:37:36] Taylor Holiday: great question. So my hope is right now it's at the research phase, which is where a lot of these products begin, right? Like we had to go research the diagnostic and which as Drisk, we should use. Our hope is that it becomes a key input into the forecast. Right? Is that right now what we use to forecast is historical data about a brand's performance over time that we assume will be like the future.
But what we know is that the business existed in a different context when those numbers were created. And the easiest illustration of this is like everybody's covid numbers are not really useful in predicting their 2023 behavior. So the historical data is often not predictive of the future data. So what we're trying to find is inputs that would allow us to understand the data in context of the macro environment.
And if we can see those relationships and we can tease them out, then we can begin to layer in. Better contextual forecasting that would say, Hey, that efficiency at that time, or that retention per performance at that time was actually a function of the brand seasonality and the macroeconomic environment, and now the macroeconomic environment is less or better or worse.
And so let's think about how that would affect future performance. So the key is that it be, ideally, it becomes a model or an input in our model for forecasting. So let's, at that growth map level, And then it also becomes a part of the D two C index, which is a cool lead gen magnet that get people into our story as well.
And so that's sort of the two prongs that the D T C C I is gonna provide us proprietary data set that we can train models on. And a really cool thing to get people into our funnel and into the CTC ecosystem in interacting with us.
[00:39:23] Richard Gaffin: Yeah. Cool. So this, this I guess, has been in, in some sense is an extended ad for ctc. We're doing a lot of, a lot of great stuff. but one thing that I want to maybe leave listeners with to go back to kind of the initial way that we were framing this, which is around the ability to turn ideology into product, to operationalize thought work. If you could leave. Brand owners, agency owners, whatever, with one piece of advice about how to bring about this change, where they're, they have an ideology, they have a framework, and then they're turning it into something that their people believe in and are executing on. What would you say is the one thing that you can do today to make that happen?
[00:40:07] Taylor Holiday: So I think that it begins with your own personal clarity. So if we go back to the four steps to accomplishing it, right, it begins with, have you written, I. Down your ideology? Like does it exist in a way that someone could go and read or consume? Not did you say it once in a meeting, but like, does it exist in written form?
And then I would ask yourself the second question, which is, if you were to come up with a set of questions about that ideology, what percentage of people inside of your organization would answer them the same? And if you just think about those two things, and, and this is a lot like this could be around values.
This could be around specific, if you're a service business, like what your product or service actually is.
If you're selling a product, it could be how you describe that product. If you, it's a piece of software, it's like, what does it do? Why is it valuable? Who's it for? Like, all these kinds of questions.
And I think that you'll find that the organizational integrity, the alignment between behaviors and beliefs is lower than you expect. So, Step one is to challenge yourself to say, do I have a clear ideology that I can communicate?
[00:41:07] Richard Gaffin: Mm-hmm.
[00:41:09] Taylor Holiday: and I'll, I'll just say that that's hard to do. And it probably takes more than you think to get clear for yourself.
Because even if you think you're clear for yourself, I, I've repeatedly learned that. I think I've said something a bunch of times, and this goes back to me talking about meta right, and Assc Plus it's like, and how well they did this. What is ASC Plus? Why does it matter? What's the data that validates it?
How do I make sure everybody knows that? Simple, clear, actionable, you know, these are hard things to create.
so go write. That's, that's the first thing I would do.
[00:41:42] Richard Gaffin: I think it's, yeah, it's, it's useful to think through. Examples of how this is done well, even outside of, of the agency world, because for an agency, I mean like we are just an ideas factory basically. And so
an ideology is maybe kind of easier, but I think about, for instance dunno, trader Joe's is really good at this in terms of like having a core idea about what a shopping experience could be and then getting everybody
- And, and then I think like one, one instance from, from TJ's is a sort of inside baseball, cause my wife worked there once upon a time, but they, you're basically allowed to just steal from the store if you want to, and they won't stop you. Because that is how
they will go to saying like, we don't want you to feel bothered your experience when you're in Trader Joe's no matter what.
And if there's a
which is actually not that high because nobody's, nobody's just gonna, nobody's gonna do that really. They're able to create an environment where you feel as the shopper completely safe. Perhaps so, like I, I dunno if you can think of any other Examples of that, but like
[00:42:42] Taylor Holiday: Well, I think what you're describing.
[00:42:44] Richard Gaffin: Yeah. Go ahead.
[00:42:44] Taylor Holiday: Yeah, Ben Horowitz has this idea, I think that you're getting at, which is that like sometimes culturally, organizations need to create an outlandish rule that proves the point of the, of the value. And so I think that and he uses this example of, gosh, I'm gonna butcher this historically, but a leader that was leading, leading a slave rebellion.
He made a rule that no one was allowed to rape or pillage after they took over and won some battles. And it was like counter to what like anybody would've said. But it established this. He was trying to elevate their view of themselves.
so he would say this normative behavior that when you're a victor you get to take the spoils.
Like we're gonna make a rule that says we don't do that for the sake of proving the identity attribute. He was trying to get them to understand.
And so I think with product or. Anything else is that oftentimes the cultural idea that you're trying to instill is probably not naturally present in every person.
And so sometimes that extreme rule gives you the opportunity to validate it. Like I, I think about you know, we just. A stupid example, and we don't, we don't have it here cuz we're on Riverside, but we just right now we have new set of new c d, C values, right? And one of 'em is about this idea of setting the standard for the experience that we're providing or the way we do things.
And I've thought a lot about people's Zoom backgrounds and how. Like the reality is that that's a really hard thing to sort of create a consistent, elevated experience around. Because in fairness to everybody, we're like, we're all in our houses. We're all doing the best we can with the space that we have available to us.
And your background's a bookcase and mine's this window and somebody else's is their bedroom cuz they live in a one bedroom apartment, whatever, you know? And so we created all these Zoom backgrounds that are now default on for everybody. That is just like a way to say there's a standard, there's a consistent shared experience of us.
And so like you're just trying to find little ways to instill the idea that you're going after and to find every little place that it's not present and create little elevations of it. And I think just whatever it is, like, you know, at Kalo there they wanted to, the idea was that marriage is not, marriage is a playful space in your life and it's where adventure can still exist.
It's not the ball. And they wanted to sort of do away with all the, you know, marriage metaphors of like, Ah, the ball in chain or, you know, like this, like that's where life ends. And so they wanted to still see it as a time that it was adventurous. And so they used to give every employee an adventure day once a month.
And, but, but to use it, what you had to do was you had to go do something you'd never done before and you had to document it and come back and share it with the company. Okay? And so that's a way in which the ideology that they're trying to create for the customer and the brand. Is invited people into in a way that like stretches them in this sort of abnormal way.
But it says like, this is the lifestyle that we want to embody and so we're gonna go after it. And so I think there's little ways that you just try and, again, operationalize ideology in a way that is tactile and interacted with in a very real way.
[00:45:52] Richard Gaffin: Yeah. The, the example that came to mind as you were speaking too is like the idea of, of taking a, a central, like a business ideology and turning it in and being sort of relentless about pursuing it. And the example I'm thinking of, of course, is Amazon and Jeff Bezos, which is this
[00:46:06] Taylor Holiday: Yeah. Right.
[00:46:07] Richard Gaffin: core ideology of Amazon not really about like books or whatever it happened to be when they came out in the nineties. It's. A relentless focus on customer experience. Customer experience,
[00:46:18] Taylor Holiday: That's it. That's right.
[00:46:20] Richard Gaffin: extreme that they go to. To the point where, you know, like there's, there's obviously certain issues with that.
[00:46:26] Taylor Holiday: Right.
[00:46:27] Richard Gaffin: same time, like they are relentless about like, if you, okay, what would be awesome for the customer if you ordered it and it came the same day, let's make that happen. And so I think that there's some sort of there, I think even getting to the ideology customer service is the thing that we are focusing on is also really difficult. And I think that's, that's kind of the
to, what is the germ, what is the thing that you need to figure out there?
[00:46:49] Taylor Holiday: Right. That's the clarity and then you think about how to operationalize it. So, and, and, and the other thing just to leave with too, is that I think there's a common trope. In the world that like the way to evaluate an agency is to evaluate the people.
And I'm not saying that shouldn't be part of the product process, that you shouldn't meet the team, but the question is, what are you evaluating them for?
Right? Are you evaluating their individual talent? Are you inval, are you evaluating their resume? Because the reality is like you're not gonna actually interview them,
level that you would if they were gonna be employees. So the idea that you're gonna get on a call for 30 minutes and assess them, I think is, is pretty shortsighted as a way to actually Instead, what I would evaluate is I would ask the agency to clearly, to have clarity of their ideology and how it's operationalized inside of the organization to tell you about the processes, the measurement, and the execution of the ideas that they're sharing across the current customer base.
Right. So that you, they can show you that like the things that they say they're going to do are done regardless of who the person is. Cuz the reality is like, Over the course of a relationship, people are gonna get promoted, they're gonna take new jobs. That part is going to be transient. But you didn't actually hire them because of that individual's person's skill.
You hired them because of the organizational ideology and experience. So how is it operationalized? That's the question I would ask.
[00:48:06] Richard Gaffin: Right. Cool. All right, well, I think that'll, that'll do it for us this week. Thanks again for joining us, everybody, and we will see you on the next one. All right.