David Feinman is the CEO of Viral Ideas Marketing. We met him in his role as one of the Community Managers of Online Geniuses, a huge internet marketing community known for their industry leader AMAs.
In this episode David and I compare notes about customer experience and UX as leads become trials and users become evangelists. Marketing, technology, and product SMEs speak different languages, but what we do is all part of the same continuum.
Emotionally engaging channels like video drive the first visits and uses. That’s where product UX picks up to anchor adoption and retention. A comprehensive view of the customer experience from start to finish is critical for B2C and B2B software companies alike.
David Co-Founded Viral Ideas Marketing with Zach Medina which creates online video content for clients ranging from small businesses to Fortune 500 Brands. The company’s mission is to help brands ‘create to inspire. David began his online career marketing concerts in high school on Facebook. He took a 200 person monthly concert and turned it into a 1600 person monthly event through Facebook Advertising. David went on to start The Zombie Run which grew from 0-35,000 participants in 9 months in 16 major markets. The race was featured in Wired, Anderson Cooper and is known nationally throughout the country.
Ledge: David, good to have you here.
David: Thanks a lot. I’m excited to be here.
Ledge: Can you give just a quick intro of yourself and your work so the audience can get to know you.
David: Sure. Just a little bit of a background, I’m an entrepreneur. I started my first company when I was sixteen years old. I’ve been an entrepreneur ever since, always doing something new and interesting. Currently, I run one company with two companies underneath it.
Viral Ideas is our main company; we do video production mostly. And Flixation does on-demand video editing.
We got connected through an awesome project I worked on Online Geniuses which is an invite-only community for marketers. It’s totally free. And we have AMAs of some of the greatest marketers in the world.
Next week, I’m so excited. We’re have an AMA with the head of content for Lego which are my favorite toys growing up. I’m excited to learn some insights from him.
Ledge: They’ve done a fantastic job resurrecting that brand. They were having a lot of issues and they came back and just a powerhouse. That’s awesome. That’s going to be a good one.
We have an interest in solving problems in technology and with technology and just addressing the shrinking of the world, so to speak, into these super expert communities.
As a community manager heavily involved in that, talk about that. How has that been? How do you do it? How do you manage it? How does the technology play into that? Tell a story a little bit.
David: It was actually started by David Markovich, a guy who came up with this idea of putting all these marketers into one channel and have them discuss marketing topics. He put them all in one Skype group to start which actually still exists to this day.
Roughly, two hundred of them joined and it became like the most chaotic group chat known to mankind. It would kill his phone battery once every couple of hours. He would put his phone down with 700 messages.
So he had to do something to fix that. We ended up putting the whole thing into Slack. From there, it became this invite-only marketing community where we have some of the best in class marketers in the world all in one channel. We have about 15,000 of them.
And they interact around best-in-class practices through the channel and really get the opportunity to learn a subject matter expertise from people who are in the roles at other companies, people who are in their edge over other competitors because ─
Just before we got on, we were talking about that power of a community. There’s a huge power with a lot of minds coming together as one around different specific subject matters. And that’s really what we do. We enable that social network for marketers to happen.
Ledge: It’s like the classic mastermind, sort of a Rockefeller kind of vibe with all the smartest people in the room jiving off each other.
As a community manager, I think a lot of people have these ideas and they want to maintain them. And the operations burden of doing it and keeping up with it is a big deal. You can’t just start this. It doesn’t just happen. It evolves over time. And as more and more people get in there, it either withers or it grows.
What work needs to happen so that those things get more engaging and add more value as opposed to it just being like everybody waiting for somebody else to talk and not adding value?
David: We do engagement stuff all the time. I’m also one of about fifteen community managers; and each community manager focuses on different buckets.
My main focus has been on AMAs and in working on getting high-profile individuals to come into the channel for an hour and give a talk. So we do both live AMAs and we do AMAs that just headspace in the channel.
Basically, if you were a marketer, you’d get access to ─ we’ve had everyone from Gary Vaynerchuk, Neil Patel. He was there last week. So get to ask questions at people who are doing this in the highest levels of their career. You can ask them directly to those people.
So a lot of the community managers in there are constantly looking for people who are more self-promoting versus helping the community; and we’ve kind of redirect them to stay in line with the community’s mission; and giving that central mindset to everyone really helps the community grow.
And David Markovich who started is really one of the driving forces behind keeping that engagement rolling and always going up with new ideas to get the community talking and get them interacting with each other.
Ledge: In your business, you deal with viral video. I just wonder how those two worlds go together. Being viral from a marketing standpoint is really about an epic level of engagement.
Do you have a toolset that you use?
Every technology founder who comes to us wants to have high adoption. We experience that through the development of apps. And even on an enterprise scale where adoption matters, you need key people in it.
Getting a trial and sign up isn’t enough. You need to have a very high level of engagement. So how do all that fit together because you’re, obviously, an expert in the field?
David: I actually want to get your answer on how you develop a new product because I’m always curious as to how product people think about it.
The way I think about video and marketing, any business or anything I engage with, is I think about customer experience from start to finish. So from first touch to moving through the product to being in a video, the customer has the experience of it.
That’s something that has to be unique; it has to stand out; and it has to be something different. And in order to do that through marketing and through videos, I believe you have to find something within the actual product or service that you’re doing that is a story that is something that would catch someone’s eye that will pull out and make a good video and piece of content.
And it doesn’t always have to be something that goes viral. In fact, viral is kind of one of those things that is something that happens on a very lucky few basis and it’s kind of like winning the lottery. There’s enough people who win and there’s enough publicized stories of people who win the lottery that enough people are interested in hitting the lottery to keep the lottery going.
But the same thing is with viral videos. Every single person wants to go viral because of the major hits that happen but it’s always better to create a sustainable way to market that’s creating the customer experience through marketing.
So if you can create that sustainable marketing, you can create a sustainable and predictable form of lead flow, a sustainable form of customers reaching out to you; you can do that through videos.
And what both brands, Flixation and Viral Ideas, do is that.
Ledge: I think that a lot of what you’re talking about to answer your question of what we would do is to look at ─ obviously, we’re placing the professionals to do this. And so, I talk to a lot of ─ [feedback 0:08:20.0]
So when we deal with building technology teams, we’re drawn to a lot of best practices and much of that now is coming to ─ and I’m talking to a lot of technology leaders who are not just engineering leaders but also product leaders.
In fact, what you see in a lot of organizations is the coalescing of the product and engineering function.
When I was a software engineer, it was okay to be down in the basement hiding behind code. And you can’t do that anymore. There’s a lot of customer empathy that comes into it because of the rapid speed of deployment and the ability to get things out there really fast. You have to make that experiential impact.
So we rely on folks like you, guys, very much to drive traffic and interest into an application; and that’s where the UX on the application is going to pick up because we drove interest; we brought in leads; we converted the lead.
Now, we have an adoption issue because I can get you to use it once with marketing. I can’t get you to just stick around and keep using it without a very engaging experience.
And if you use that metaphor of the story, you’re really going to be talking about “What is the feeling that I get and the value add of coming back and repeatedly using whatever this thing is?”
It might be a consumer app. That’s how people think about viral technology. But in an enterprise context, it might just be an indispensable thing.
For example, Slack ─ we’re all using Slack. We use it for business. We use it for community. It’s because it became a fun thing to use prior to us deciding that we could actually provide some business functions through that. And we do.
So I think when you develop a product, you need to think in the same way that you’re talking about creating that user engagement from an emotional standpoint or else you’re looking for the same type of hook and the user experience to say that was great; it added value; it continues to add value.
And, of course, you’re collecting all kinds of analytics and looking at what people actually do with this thing and what they want ─ having ongoing conversations with the users.
So if you approach that in a winning context, it’s really all part of the same. I don’t know if that’s what your clients experience but I look at it as one continuum so that way down on the left of the continuum is the lead generation activity.
David: And it’s interesting. That starter lead continuum starting with the video or whatever it’s starting with has to match your product at the backend because if you’re not zigged up all the way through basically the customer experience from start to finish not just a matter of everything ─ even if you’re doing a cold call, even if you’re doing a cold email, that experience has to be uniform, that whole thing; otherwise, people are going to get a different signal as soon as they get the product.
You really have one shot at doing the whole thing.
Ledge: That’s right. And you can only rely on marketing to bring those leads in but you have to keep them and nurture them and create that relationship. And it turns out, of course, that’s not just about technology; that’s always about relationships of people and connections.
And all of us have used the product that really didn’t have the greatest UX but it was there and it was important.
Think about early Wikipedia. We all keep going back. Those didn’t really look that good. It doesn’t even behave that good or it didn’t used to.
Now, it’s become better and better. You consume it in different context and it becomes the default choice for finding information.
Yes, that coalescing of the product in engineering function is huge. And you’re going to see more and more of that marketing and product become inextricably linked. You just can’t avoid that.
So, ultimately, are we all becoming product officers and marketing officers?
I don’t know what that is but product-driven companies certainly appear to be the most engaging and the most sort of profitable ─ like a Tesla, for example. And then, it becomes part of brand and it becomes part of ethos. I think the that’s what ends up happening; and most of the community stuff is going to come down to that.
It’s “Why do I want to stay here” It’s the same reason I would want to stay with the product.
David: I think that experience of the actual product ─ it’s not if you build that they will come. If you build it and market it right for what you built, they will come; and you still have to market and sell something. Tesla still has sales people who work in their offices. You still need that marketing and backing to get yourself the actual deal.
From our perspective, it’s a matter of ─ for Flixation, for Viral ─ making that one fluid experience from product to marketing.
Ledge: Yes. And you’ll often find that a business with high integrity in the software development space is going to talk about those things. You need to be able to say, “You know, you could do this. You could build this and it’s going to cost you a lot of money. Are you prepared to then recoup that investment through proper promotion and marketing and sales?”
And that’s a good thing to have in mind when you have an idea. We talk to a lot of entrepreneurs who are sort of not prepared for anything except building the app and we want to advise them, “Hey, just step back a little bit. You’re really ready for a developer to be able to build that thing. Think about the full cost exposure of doing that and, ultimately, that comes down to twice the budget. Whatever you’re doing to develop that technology, chances are you need, at least, that much on the marketing or promotion side.
And you ought to be doing that in tandem so it moves along together because you want to do the least or minimum viable version of what you’re doing; and check if it has market adoption and see what the users want.”
Chances are, the classic stories always end up that the seventh most popular feature on your roadmap is the one that ended up getting the hook.
What do you think about just video, in general, which is huge right now? I want to help you sort of promote the business ethos of what you, guys, are doing because entrepreneurs need it and it’s critically important. So just from your standpoint, you’ve done a number of startups; now, you’re in the video space.
Why is that so important and what do you, guys, do in order to make that work for the customer?
David: My first few ventures prior to getting into Viral Ideas and Flixation, we actually built back of Facebook ads and video marketing. So we literally built the entire company making videos running Facebook ads. That’s all we did.
I’ve noticed in the market when we first started that there was a huge opportunity for companies to take advantage of that space of using show, of using YouTube, using online video to sell what they’re doing.
So we built up Viral Ideas in order to do that; and midway along the way, about a year ago, we figured out that companies had mounds and mounds of footage. And with the phone, with the ability to record almost instantaneously without a huge professional crew, we started getting a lot of footage to edit for our clients. So we ended up spinning out a startup from Viral Ideas called “Flixation” where companies just upload to us their video footage and we edit it within five days.
I think in 2019, one of the things that we’re doing is increasing the volume in content. When I look at the way a lot of our clients have done their video budgeting in the past, they’ll put down a in the budget: “We’re going to do one video. We’re going to pay fifteen thousand to twenty thousand.”
There’s still room for that high-quality video but we see a lot of companies saying, “Okay, we’re going to do that same 15,000-dollar budget but we’re going to make 25 videos and we’re going to release two to three pieces of content a month. It might be social clips on Instagram and Facebook. Some of it might be something that will go with sales emails.”
Really, I see a shift away from that one and done kind of viral video to more of using video as a sustainable practice for communication.
And Flixation really enables that to happen for companies which is why we built it.
Ledge: Fantastic! David, good to have you! You, guys, are doing interesting stuff and entrepreneurs need this. So they should check you out. Where?
David: They can check us out at flixation.io for Flixation. And we can make a coupon code for 10% off the first order. Maybe we’ll make it “David L” just to go…
Ledge: Make it Gun.io.
David: The coupon is Gun.io. I’m making this up on the spot. It will be 10% off for them. And then, for Viral Ideas, it’s viralideasmarketing.com.
If you’re a marketer out there, you can get more info on onlinegeniuses.com. Just apply and we’ll let you right in.
Ledge: We’ll make sure all the stuff is in the show notes. David, thanks for being here with us.
David: Thanks so much. I appreciate having me.