Small Biz Buzz—102—Veronica Belmont—Product Management and Brand Evangelism

Small Biz Buzz hosts Crystal Heuft and Derek Harju are joined by Veronica Belmont, product manager and evangelist at Adobe Spark, who divulges how those two roles at her company align in an effort to expand her brand, make decisions around products and how small businesses can leverage brand evangelists to supercharge their companies on social media.

“We use Airtable within our own organization to keep track of all the content that we're posting to social or on the blog to make sure that we are getting ahead of our publishing schedule and [having content] in the pipeline. That's one of the biggest tips that I can give to small companies,” said Belmont. “Understand that it's going to make it harder for you if you're posting off the cuff–have a plan, know what kind of engagement you want to drive, know what kind of voice you want to have on social and starting with those building blocks before you start working on campaigns is really crucial.”

Belmont also suggests seeking those who may not have achieved the full evangelist level yet; they don't necessarily need to have a huge audience of their own but if they're already having conversations with other people about your product, you can find them by searching your hashtag on Twitter, replies or looking into other conversations on other platforms about the kind of work you're doing. Tune in for more.

Transcript:

Derek Harju (00:00):

Howdy listeners. As we all know, planet earth has 7.5 billion people and 7.4 billion of those people have small businesses. Now to be fair, numbers that size can be hard to envision and to be even fairer most of what I just said is entirely made up, but I'll tell you what isn't made up, Keap. Keap is the all-in-one client management software designed specifically for small businesses. Keap takes the most annoying and laborious parts of running a small business and metaphorically tosses them into the sun.

Derek Harju (00:28):

Stop grinding yourself to death with busy work and repetitive tasks. Let Keap integrate your customer follow-ups, messaging automation, next level appointment setting and so much more. Head over to keap.com and start your free trial of Keap Grow, Keap Pro or for those looking for something beefier talk to one of our coaches about Infusionsoft, the product that started it all. More business. Less work. That's Keap. Just go to keap.com to start your free trial. That's K-E-A-P.com. One more time. That's K-E-A-P.com.

Derek Harju (00:57):

I keep telling you, all we need is a budget approval for $20,000 for a dedicated podcast booth.

Crystal Hueft (01:15):

If only.

Veronica Belmont (01:17):

It looks very professional.

Derek Harju (01:19):

Well, this is the filming studio, but we have to like quick change it every time we do this because there's inevitably somebody filming in here.

Veronica Belmont (01:28):

Got it.

Derek Harju (01:28):

...but what I want is an enclosed booth that never changes.

Crystal Hueft (01:32):

I would say just like in life, we're more blessed than some and less than others.

Derek Harju (01:39):

Yeah.

Veronica Belmont (01:39):

Oh yeah. It looks very profesh.

Crystal Hueft (01:39):

I love it.

Veronica Belmont (01:41):

It's very greenscreeny too.

Derek Harju (01:44):

Howdy everybody. Welcome back to Small Biz Buzz. I'm Derek Harju.

Crystal Hueft (01:46):

Crystal Hueft here.

Derek Harju (01:47):

And I'm super excited. This week's guest is... would you like to introduce yourself to everybody?

Veronica Belmont (01:53):

Sure. Hi, I'm Veronica Belmont. I'm a product manager and evangelist at Adobe Spark.

Crystal Hueft (01:59):

Yay.

Derek Harju (01:59):

Awesome. Some of you will probably know Veronica from her time with Tekzilla and venues like Sword & Laser, which is where I first became familiar with you. I really love you. One thing that I've shown other people is your appearance on TableTop when you were playing with Jonah Ray which was... what was that game? War of the battle of wizards.

Veronica Belmont (02:23):

I did it with you. We did... I've been on TableTop twice. The first time it was, we played Ticket to Ride, I think.

Derek Harju (02:29):

That's a great one.

Crystal Hueft (02:29):

That is a good one.

Veronica Belmont (02:30):

I think we played that game and in the second time we played some kind of crazy, there were like demons and it was like a super metal game. I can't remember the name of it.

Derek Harju (02:40):

It was Epic Spell Wars of the Battle Wizards.

Veronica Belmont (02:41):

That's it.

Derek Harju (02:43):

No. That's not even the whole name of the game. Epic Spell Wars of the battle Wizards: confrontation at Mt. Skullzfyre.

Veronica Belmont (02:50):

Wow.

Derek Harju (02:51):

I believe is what it's called.

Crystal Hueft (02:52):

Veronica, I'm going to warn you now. You have two fan boys in this room.

Derek Harju (02:55):

That's not untrue.

Crystal Hueft (02:56):

I'm sure by the end I'll be a fan girl but I just want you to know what you're dealing with since you already said yes and we're already rolling. I want you to know what's to come.

Derek Harju (03:04):

Yeah. People are going to be mad about this because I'm going to talk too long. I bought that game because of that show. I'm getting the signal to change topics already. I bought it... I'm going to wrap up soon. My wife is still not super happy about that purchase. We played it once and she's like, we're never playing this game again.

Veronica Belmont (03:23):

I don't even own a copy. I feel like I should be playing. Maybe I do own a copy. I might own a copy. I have to check my game closet.

Derek Harju (03:29):

The game art's delightful.

Veronica Belmont (03:31):

Yeah. I was-

Crystal Hueft (03:32):

I feel like... When I say he's a fan boy, he's a fan boy of yours. He bought the game just because you played it so I just want everyone to know how creepy this is.

Veronica Belmont (03:39):

[crosstalk 00:03:39].

Derek Harju (03:40):

It also had really cool... it seemed really fun. The real reason that we have you on the show, the actual reason, is because of your current role with Adobe and I was wondering if you could speak to your role working with Adobe and Adobe Spark in specific.

Veronica Belmont (03:57):

Sure. I've been at Adobe for about two years. I joined back in early 2018 or thereabouts. I have an interesting role. I'm a product manager, so that's like my full time job, but I'm also an evangelist, which for many people... I mean that's a title that people at Adobe have. We have evangelists who work for the different CC apps, for example and they pretty much spend all of their time going out and talking about the products, talking to users.

Veronica Belmont (04:30):

I kind of have done that in the past through some of my other projects and so when I joined the Spark team, they were like, well, we would love for you to be able to do some of that, but we also want you to be able to be a PM and I have found that those two skills actually aligned really well because through the evangelism side, I'm spending a lot of time talking to customers and users and people who are small business owners or side hustlers or people in that kind of space and so I'm able to bring back a lot of those lessons to the rest of the product team to help inform some of our product decisions.

Crystal Hueft (05:02):

That's awesome.

Veronica Belmont (05:02):

And so even though... Yeah. Even though PM's... I mean typically PM spend a ton of time talking to users anyway, but I feel like I get a lot more kind of in the field time by nature of what I'm doing through the evangelism work too.

Derek Harju (05:13):

Very cool. I was wondering if you could just lead in and by the way we very much appreciate your time. If you could talk a little bit about the balance that you tend to strike between expanding the brand and maintaining standards. Like if you could talk a little bit about the challenges there.

Veronica Belmont (05:34):

Do you mean the Adobe Spark brand?

Derek Harju (05:36):

Correct.

Veronica Belmont (05:36):

Which brand do you mean?

Crystal Hueft (05:38):

I know because you're your own brand as well.

Veronica Belmont (05:39):

Yeah, there's... I feel like I'm multitudes. Human beings [crosstalk 00:05:45].

Crystal Hueft (05:44):

You're balancing a lot all the time.

Veronica Belmont (05:47):

Expanding the brand while staying true. Yeah. I mean Spark is interesting because we have kind of two primary cohorts of users that use the product. For those of you don't know, Spark is a kind of a unique product within Adobe in that it's one of our only completely web-based products. There's no... other than the iOS apps or the Android app, there's no desktop software to actually install. It's fully web based. That makes us a little bit different in the company. We operate very much like a startup within Adobe. We're about 200 people. Maybe a mid size startup, but kind of a small team compared to some of the other teams within Adobe and we have two main audiences and that's education and then that's our SMM users and so we have separate evangelists for the education side of Spark, which makes sense because that's a whole different ball game compared to the needs of our SMM users.

Veronica Belmont (06:43):

Sometimes it's difficult to kind of tell the full story of Spark because we do have these very unique user types that use it in very different ways. So that's... I guess for me, I do talk to education users, but I try to be very focused to the social media marketing and SMB space online because that's really where my expertise lays though I have learned so much more about the education side of the business over the past few years. I don't have kids, so I've been spending a lot of time in school and I'm like, whoa, like things are different now than when I was a kid.

Veronica Belmont (07:20):

This is incredible, or this is like intense. Understanding those pain points has been pretty eye opening as well.

Crystal Hueft (07:27):

I know Derek knows and I've since researched it, but before I had not heard of Adobe Spark. Obviously everyone's heard of Adobe, but do you want to drop just a little bit about what Adobe Spark does because it's such a great tool and I think small businesses out there could really be utilizing it. I'd like to make sure we share a little bit about what it does at the base before we get into too many deep questions.

Veronica Belmont (07:50):

Yeah. Spark is essentially a suite of products. Primarily we have... what most people know is for a Spark Post, which is our tool for creating custom graphics for social media marketing or even for print. Anything, you need graphics for without having design experience. Someone like me who for example isn't a designer I can create really great graphics with animation or GIPHY stickers or something.

Crystal Hueft (08:16):

Yeah. They're beautiful.

Veronica Belmont (08:17):

Yeah. With my professional branding attached to it. You can import your logos for your small business and we recognize all the correct colors, the correct text codes. We pull in your brand, we enabled to use your custom fonts and type faces and so you can really have that kind of consistent look and feel across all your different social platforms using templates if you want created by the Adobe Spark team who of course come with that expertise and understanding of design best practices and what works for social media. You can kind of take that... You don't have to know that in order to look like, you know, that if you know what I'm saying.

Crystal Hueft (08:55):

Yeah. They looked really advanced. I'm the social media marketing manager here and I was very impressed with those.

Veronica Belmont (09:01):

Oh, fantastic.

Crystal Hueft (09:02):

Yeah, they were like very dynamic, the colors. I just loved everything about what I was seeing when I was doing some research, so that's really exciting.

Veronica Belmont (09:09):

Fantastic and then we also have Spark Post... I'm sorry, Spark Page and Spark Video. Spark Page is really our presentation tool, landing page tool, micro-site tool. Anything that you need to post online for reports or information. I use it for customer interviews and it has all this great effects as you scroll throughout that page. It's like a really easy website builder and then Spark Video of course are really easy video editing tool. I like to say you don't need to have video in order to make great video. With Spark Video you can use images, you can use photos, you can use text icons to create a really compelling visual story for social.

Crystal Hueft (09:51):

Wow, that's cool. I hadn't seen the video part, but actually if I use that a little bit more, I might be able to give Dusey a break. That's great. I'm going to have to try that one out based on what I saw on the post section. I mean, it was just really dynamic and beautiful.

Derek Harju (10:06):

Yeah and it's awesome for especially small businesses and solopreneurs. They can have a presence through social media and that's obviously very important but there's... What a product like that can do is, when you can templatize and preset your brand guidelines, then it doesn't look like you're just posting rando content like, here's my sandwich. Here's me working on today's landing page. Here's a picture of a cupcake. Like if you can set your just... even simple things like font color standards and templatize your content, then when people go to find you, they see that you have an actual identity already established.

Veronica Belmont (10:47):

Yeah and we're really digging into that for 2020. One of our big initiatives is really allowing people within an organization to set brand standards and guidelines for other users of that brand. If there's things like your logo or a specific text and type that you don't want moved, you just want the social marketing team to be able to add in which images they want to use. We're really looking for ways to empower that type of workflow as well.

Derek Harju (11:14):

Sweet and I was curious like... Having been entrenched in this, in talking to users for some time now, what would you say for small businesses who aren't deeply set in their social posts yet? What kind of advice would you give them leading into making a bigger presence online?

Veronica Belmont (11:35):

It's about... Well, there's so many things that you can kind of start to think about for this type of project. Consistency is one of the number one things.

Crystal Hueft (11:45):

Definitely.

Veronica Belmont (11:45):

I think especially when you're working to create what we call thumb stopping content. Really being able to grab a customer's attention in that second. You get like seven milliseconds or something as someone is scrolling through Twitter or Instagram to actually get them to stop and read what you've written in the caption. It's like job number one, right?

Crystal Hueft (12:04):

That's what I tried to describe to our design team. Like if it's not going to stop their thumbs from scrolling, it's not going to do what we need it to.

Veronica Belmont (12:12):

Right. Exactly, and so being able to help people recognize your brand look and feel so that when they do see your post, they're like, oh, that's a Spark Post. I got to check that out. I got to read what they're saying. So that's really useful. Having a consistent cadence for posting too is also super important. Even in this era of algorithms mixing up our timelines and not showing the most recent content, it's still really important to have a regular posting schedule so that you stay top of mind for your social content.

Veronica Belmont (12:45):

Let's see what else have we got. And then finding your audience. I think that's another really big one too, is that there's so many options out there for social platforms and being able to know where your audience is and where you're getting the most engagement is super important. Like for example, I have a decent sized audience on Instagram. I use Twitter fairly frequently. I've been trying to work on my whatever thought leadership on LinkedIn, whatever you want to call it these days but I know that my audience is primarily on Twitter, so that's where I'm going to focus 85% of my time and energy is building up that audience because that's where I'm going to get the most impact for the most ROI for the kinds of content that I'm posting.

Crystal Hueft (13:29):

That's great. I honestly I... Our producer put up a question here that is making me laugh because it says, how do you balance thumb stopping content versus branding and tone? And it makes me laugh because one of the things I really get jealous about with small businesses is that they can really make their posts anything they want. It can be cool. You can grab anything you want to do and you're still establishing depending on how small you are, you might still be establishing what your brand even is and sometimes branding can really throw a monkey wrench into some cool posts but I think that is a very good question.

Crystal Hueft (14:09):

How do you balance making sure your brand is a con... I always think that should come first. Your brand should accommodate what is happening in the market. Like I would love to get into some AR stories and different things that are coming up this year but how do you try to balance that as you're building... as you're the PM over there and driving product as well as your own brand.

Veronica Belmont (14:31):

Yeah, that's a good question. I don't feel like they're mutually exclusive, like I think... can you say the original question one more time? I just want to make sure I hit it.

Crystal Hueft (14:42):

How do you balance thumb stopping content versus brand and tone?

Veronica Belmont (14:45):

Yeah, I don't think those are mutually exclusive, but I think you can definitely do both of things really well at the same time. One of the things that I see a lot of brands being really successful with is user generated content. If you look at a company like this is definitely not a small business but I think it's a great example. Like Urban Decay, the cosmetics company, one of my favorite brands. And they do just a phenomenal job on their social channels, especially Instagram by incorporating user generated content that still is on brand with what they're posting when they're not using user generated content.

Veronica Belmont (15:23):

They've got this really cohesive like color story that they use for all of their posts. It's usually like a pinky purple and all the user generated content that they're pulling into their stream still aligns with that color story, and so when you look at their overall posts, you're seeing like really cool stuff from these influencers or from just regular people who are using their products, but they all still maintain that branding that they've-

Crystal Hueft (15:50):

Yeah, that's great.

Veronica Belmont (15:51):

...worked so hard to convey.

Crystal Hueft (15:53):

When you said the pink and purple, I was already like envisioning their packaging.

Veronica Belmont (15:58):

Right.

Crystal Hueft (15:58):

Yeah. Before you had even said that I was already right to their packaging, I could see the purple on the top, especially from like the early 2000s, I could see that purple with the silver. You just go right to the brand and that's a great example.

Veronica Belmont (16:11):

Yeah, it's totally... it's still really reasonable to maintain that consistency while still posting interesting thumb stopping content.

Crystal Hueft (16:22):

Right. How do you look at some of the trends and then bring that back to make sure that your product is offering that? Because when I saw it, it really was fresh. It's relevant to today's social on the post section. I know I'm starting to be a fan girl myself over here, but I mean it is very impressive to be able to bring those trends directly into the product you're creating.

Veronica Belmont (16:44):

Yeah, that's a great question because this is... We have a really active user base and they love submitting feature ideas and content ideas and we can't obviously do all of it all of the time but it's made me really aware of a lot of the trends, especially on Instagram for things that I had no idea existed before I started this job. Like Grid takeovers, for example.

Crystal Hueft (17:08):

I love those.

Veronica Belmont (17:09):

Huge trend. I think the Instagram Carousel is a new one. I had to look that up. I didn't even know what that meant, but when I saw the examples I knew exactly what they were talking about, which is when you have like a multi-panel image that you slide and it connects the images.

Crystal Hueft (17:26):

I love when they connect.

Veronica Belmont (17:27):

Those are awesome, right? Like those are really good.

Crystal Hueft (17:29):

That's Carousel done well. Yeah.

Veronica Belmont (17:30):

And then even when Instagram Stories launched, we for a long time didn't have a... so Spark also gives you like aspect ratios for different platforms so you would have to know what all the correct sizes are.

Crystal Hueft (17:41):

So helpful.

Veronica Belmont (17:42):

We did not have like an Instagram Stories size for a while because we wanted to be able to support video first and so we were getting that ask all the time, like when you're going to have a stories template, when you're going to build that in and we wanted to do it right and so it took us a little bit longer to implement that but then when we were able to actually have like video content in Spark Post and really make it the way we wanted to make it for Instagram Stories, then we were able to release it and that was great but it's tough because there's a lot we can do but like I said, we're still kind of a small team. So being able to really pick and choose and prioritize which features are going to have the most bang for the buck and really make the most kinds of people excited and happy to use the product. That's kind of what we have to focus on.

Crystal Hueft (18:32):

Yeah and that's tough because you don't have control of the channel, just control of the product so you don't know what will change or what they test and doesn't work out. So that's really interesting. Well we're going to throw really quick to Worst Business Ideas in History and then we're going to come right back here because we know your time is valuable and we really appreciate you being on here. We're going to break just for a few, guys and we'll be back with Veronica. Hang tight.

Derek Harju (19:05):

Howdy folks, I'm Derek Harju.

Dusey Van Dusen (19:06):

And I'm Dusey Van Dusen.

Derek Harju (19:08):

And this is Worst Business Ideas in History.

Dusey Van Dusen (19:10):

The show where we look back at some of the most brutal missteps, failures and flops in consumer history.

Derek Harju (19:15):

And make fun of it.

Dusey Van Dusen (19:16):

But also learn something.

Derek Harju (19:18):

Nope, it says in my contract, I don't have to learn.

Dusey Van Dusen (19:20):

Fine, the rest of us will learn something and you can just mock people's misfortune.

Derek Harju (19:24):

Sounds good.

Dusey Van Dusen (19:26):

Welcome to the Worst Business Ideas in History.

Derek Harju (19:31):

Hi everybody. Welcome back to Worst Business Ideas in History. I'm Derek Harju.

Dusey Van Dusen (19:35):

This is Dusey Van Dusen.

Derek Harju (19:37):

And we are both a recording from our homes. So if the audio sounds a little different you can blame the global pandemic. We're not even going to try and hide it. We're both hiding from the world right now.

Dusey Van Dusen (19:47):

Yes, we are in our bubbles of our homes and trying to stay safe all of you. You may be hearing this... You're either hearing this after everything has blown over and you're like, oh yeah, that was a terrible month or whatever.

Derek Harju (20:04):

We're going to talk about the Premier smokeless cigarette. This was a product developed by R.J. Reynolds and surreptitiously through some other cigarette companies as well to try and develop a reusable smokeless cigarette to try and combat what was being seen in the 1970s as people not wanting to bother other people with secondhand smoke and to avoid giving secondhand smoke to other people, but was really another way to get people to smoke more often because if you can eliminate the need for people to not have to sit in a smoking section, that's just one more place they can consume tobacco.

Dusey Van Dusen (20:48):

Yep. Not sit in the smoking section, not bother other people just... Yeah. Make it easier to do, right?

Derek Harju (20:54):

Right. That makes sense.

Dusey Van Dusen (20:56):

Not really like health related at this point.

Derek Harju (20:59):

Well, here's the thing. They made the case that a lot of the carcinogens in existing cigarettes were actually caused by the chemicals coming into contact with each other and then moving through the filter. So oddly enough, the filter on cigarettes was one of the carcinogenic problems with traditional cigarettes.

Dusey Van Dusen (21:22):

Okay.

Derek Harju (21:22):

Their own research led them to this conclusion and so what they did is they spent over $800 million in the 1970s, which means it was probably like the equivalent of like $2 billion now to develop these cigarettes that were like basically a charcoal briquette condensed down, injected with tobacco and then pressed into an aluminum cylinder that the person would then light the end of and like just suck through this aluminum cylinder instead of lighting the end of a physical cigarette.

Dusey Van Dusen (21:59):

What everybody missed besides... I guess my computer camera are a series of confused looks on my face, but okay. That's one way to do it.

Derek Harju (22:11):

Yeah. They test marketed this in St. Louis and in Tucson, Arizona and Phoenix.

Dusey Van Dusen (22:19):

Oh, okay. Well, it was just a little too much before my time I think if it was in the '70s.

Derek Harju (22:25):

Very much so.

Dusey Van Dusen (22:26):

[crosstalk 00:22:26] gotten it here in Phoenix but yeah.

Derek Harju (22:29):

They test marketed it there. They sent like millions of the cigarettes to local stores and stuff and the response immediately from store owners was that the sales were small to non-existent. People did not want this program from Jumpstreet.

Dusey Van Dusen (22:46):

Okay. Now I'm curious about like how they came to the conclusion that they thought people would want it. From the very beginning it didn't even... like our Elestra one was kind of like, oh, at the beginning it was good and then it was bad, but nobody cared from the beginning?

Derek Harju (23:12):

No. Apparently what had happened is their market research was based entirely around focus groups with smokers and asking them, "Hey, what are some of the problems you face as a smoker?" They really tried to galvanize smokers as being like you're a persecuted group of people. People tell you don't smoke here, don't smoke there. What are the things that get in the way of you smoking whenever you want to smoke?

Derek Harju (23:36):

And what they heard was, my office doesn't let me smoke inside the building. Like even in the smoking area people are like, you can't smoke near this building. You had to go stand by the curve. My wife, my own... my spouse doesn't like it when I smoke in the house. I got to go stand out on the porch like a dog and smoke and so they're like, okay, well the solution is we eliminate the smoke part of smoking and give people a different way to consume tobacco and so they created these cigarettes but the problem was every single report people said it tasted disgusting.

Derek Harju (24:09):

It tastes like burning plastic and so people were like, it tastes terrible. There were complaints that the cigarette, the plastic cigarette itself would burn your fingers when you were using it. I mean, you're basically holding a rolled piece of aluminum between your fingers and heating it up.

Dusey Van Dusen (24:29):

Yeah. You mentioned the aluminum. Yeah. The metal usually conducts the heat there. These aren't so much smokeless cigarettes that they made as they are something you can light and put in your mouth that doesn't put any smoke out. It sounds like they're pretty far removed from anything that would feel like, tastes like semblance of other than the shape and the fact that you burn it, a cigarette.

Derek Harju (24:58):

Yeah. Universally when people tried these things, they did not like them. Smokers tried it and they're like, this is nothing like smoking a cigarette. It tastes disgusting. I don't like it. It hurts my hand. It gets grosser the more you use it. They kept trying to basically tell these... they tried to tell consumers that they were straight up wrong. They were like, oh, the problem is you haven't smoked enough of these yet. You can't just try one and be done with it. They literally told people if they would try to return them, they're like, no, no, no. Keep it for a week or smoke an entire carton worth of these things and then see how much you like it.

Dusey Van Dusen (25:38):

You're telling me that the Apple didn't invent your holding it wrong? This is-

Derek Harju (25:43):

Correct. Yes.

Dusey Van Dusen (25:43):

This has been tried before?

Derek Harju (25:46):

Yeah. They literally tried to put the onus on the consumer to the point where they were holding focus groups where they would get people in a room and they wouldn't let them smoke. They were trying to basically get... they were having what they called, through their own language, what they call Tupperware parties for these cigarettes, which was, they would set up these focus groups. They would bring people into a room. They would convince them against their better judgment that the cigarettes were great and then they would give them a bunch of them and say, tell all your friends and make sure you talk to them in the way that we told you to talk about them. Which to me is the most interesting part of this story.

Dusey Van Dusen (26:23):

Wow.

Derek Harju (26:23):

There's definitely the story of like, this is just a bad product and people didn't like it but these focus groups are what I really honed in on.

Dusey Van Dusen (26:32):

It can be easy in this day and age to think about how, what folly this is to try to, say, talk about us in this way. You can have people be marketers for you, but that needs to be in the terms of being a promoter of someone who loves your product and they naturally want to go share it, right? But when you tell people, hey, speak about it in this way, like here's our marketing bullet points. Go tell all your friends our marketing bullet points. Like that seems really obvious where social media, everybody just kind of says things how they want to now and there's not a lot of oversight and everything that's getting shared out.

Dusey Van Dusen (27:15):

It seems obvious now that that's an issue but if you think back to before everybody having a platform, it would be... it's not that big of a jump to say, hey, you know what? Let's just try to get some people to organically go share our message in the way that we want them to, right?

Derek Harju (27:35):

Sure. The messaging is fine. The way they did it is terrifying. They got people in these focus groups and they would keep them there for like eight hours and they would show them video after video of these people being put in these situations where they're like, I want to smoke at the office and I can't smoke at the office. I'm feeling persecuted. I want to smoke in my house and I can't smoke in my house and the people... they would watch a video and then they would be coached on what did you learn from that? What would you say to other people when it's time to smoke and their response almost every single time would be can we smoke the cigarette now? Because I'm a smoker and I haven't had a cigarette in two hours because we've been in this room and the person leading the focus group would go, no.

Dusey Van Dusen (28:20):

No.

Derek Harju (28:20):

...we don't have enough. You have to wait and they would let it go to three hours and then four hours and then five hours and they would wait until these people were in a complete and utter nicotine withdrawal and then they would give them a sample of the product and the person now just basically being like, I will smoke anything that has any amount of tobacco in it and try the product and go, okay, I guess it's not so bad and they're like, that's right. It's not so bad and-

Dusey Van Dusen (28:50):

That's so bad.

Derek Harju (28:51):

...that's what you should tell your friends and family. There's a note. This is actual language from a focus group. I was wondering how you said there's not going to be any secondhand smoke, but it didn't say that the product was less dangerous and the focus group person simply says, yes, it did and the participant asks, "Wait, it did. I guess I wasn't listening." And they said yes. It says it significantly reduces the risk. Here's the problem. The video absolutely did not say that. The person was just straight up telling the person, no, you heard it wrong.

Dusey Van Dusen (29:26):

I'm trying to think of a modern day equivalent and one of the things that makes me think of is, the way you respond to Yelp reviews, right? If there's a Yelp review there's a lot of good ways that you can respond and if someone has a problem addressing it and saying, hey send me a message. I want to make sure you're taken care of. Not only is that good for that one customer, but everybody else sees you trying to take care of these customers even when they're upset. But there's a few Yelp reviewers out there or people who respond to Yelp reviews that do just this, right? They get so mad at these people that give poor reviews and they just leave a huge, first of all, you came into my restaurant doing this and this and this and this, and then you... I can't believe you did this and just like, wow, just digging a hole. That sounds like a similar issue that they're having here.

Derek Harju (30:11):

Yeah. They would coach them word for word on how to describe the product to their friends and family. Another part that I found to be absolutely hilarious was they handed out pamphlets to store owners and R.J. Reynolds representatives, and the pamphlet was literally titled re-educating consumers about reduced smoke cigarettes. Re-education is a word that gives people pause. It's a word that can put up some alarm bells.

Dusey Van Dusen (30:50):

Yeah. This isn't a movie plot where communist Russia is trying to brainwash people. That's when you hear the term re-education.

Derek Harju (31:03):

Re-education usually means you go to a camp far away and come back different.

Dusey Van Dusen (31:07):

Yeah.

Derek Harju (31:09):

Before we wrap up with this, because there's not a lot else to say. They haven't tried... Like, I mean obviously we have vaping now. They eventually found a path to continuing to make us ill but telling us they're doing us a favor. There was one demographic with which this product was extremely successful. High schoolers. They literally got feedback from high schoolers, which they counted as a win saying, yeah, the kids in my school love it because we can smoke it in the bathroom or smoke it in the hallway and as long as you stash it in your bag before a teacher sees you, they don't know you've been smoking.

Dusey Van Dusen (31:48):

Wow. Great.

Derek Harju (31:49):

Yeah. What do we learn from the smokeless cigarette?

Dusey Van Dusen (31:56):

I mean, the first thing that I think of is, you don't tell your customers how they feel. The point of a focus group, the point of getting feedback from your customers or your clients is you have to genuinely be open to what they're saying. You can't tell them, well, no, you don't feel that way. If they feel that way, there is something in the process that made them feel that way and there may be... it may be really off the wall and it might not make any sense to you, but I think that should be an indicator not to dig your heels in and push even harder on how they should feel, but to dig in on how did they get here at a place so far from where I thought they would be, right? Really just genuinely listening and believing your customers, your focus group when they tell you that this is where we're at, right?

Derek Harju (32:54):

Yeah. This is a situation... I want to make something really clear that doesn't have much to do with the product. They spent $800 million on this and I don't think it even made a dent in their sales. That's the degree to which the tobacco company really had a stranglehold on their audience and it says a lot that this product was so roundly discarded. Like you can't produce a failing tobacco product from the 1970s all the way through the 1990s.

Derek Harju (33:25):

I remember being on a... not even a high school. It was a middle school hockey team where fully half of the kids.

Dusey Van Dusen (33:33):

Oh, wow.

Derek Harju (33:33):

Half of the kids that I played with either dipped or smoked and did so in front of their parents. That's how you did [crosstalk 00:33:43].

Dusey Van Dusen (33:43):

And they still couldn't sell this.

Derek Harju (33:45):

Yeah.

Dusey Van Dusen (33:45):

I feel like a lot of these comes back to market fit and spending the time to really find out if want you have is something that people want. Yeah. Like they're trying to be unique and that's important. Maybe not being unique is the right term for small business owners. It's, it can be, how can you be great at what you do for your audience. Maybe it's in a certain area, maybe there's a certain niche. Maybe there's somebody that's doing the same thing across the country. That's okay. Like you don't have to be unique from them, but how can you really deliver something great? And making sure that it's something that people actually want, right? We've got to... like we've said this before. Work with your existing customers and in this case listen to them.

Derek Harju (34:36):

Sure. Yes. Yeah. This has been our dive into the tobacco industry. I'm sure we'll come back to these folks at some point because it's a big business with a long history, but this has been our first remote Worst Business Ideas in History. I've been Derek Harju.

Dusey Van Dusen (34:53):

This is Dusey Van Dusen.

Derek Harju (34:54):

And we will talk to you guys next time.

Dusey Van Dusen (34:57):

Bye.

Derek Harju (34:58):

Keeping ever expanding client info straight, sending the same emails hundreds of times, scheduling and rescheduling appointments over and over. Who enjoys this nonsense? No one, except my cousin Brent and Brent is the absolute worst. Keap is the premier, all in one CRM. Just head over to keap.com. That's K-E-A-P.com and start your free trial today. Get the busy work out of the way, so you can focus on what's important and make your small business grow with Keap. Start your free trial at keap.com. That's K-E-A-P.com. More business. Less work. That's Keap.

Derek Harju (35:47):

All right. Welcome back. That was Worst Business Ideas in History. If you're sick of hearing my dumb voice from that segment, I have sour news for you, I'm still here. We're talking with Veronica Belmont. So Veronica, I was curious if you've seen any of your Adobe Spark users that have reached out to you leveraging the tool and their content in kind of surprising or exciting ways.

Veronica Belmont (36:12):

That's funny that you ask because we actually have a channel on Slack for the Spark team where we post all the really amazing examples that we find like out there in the wild and I was on our... We also do a social rotation where we make each PM every week go on a different platform and like look at what users are saying.

Crystal Hueft (36:30):

That is so cool.

Veronica Belmont (36:31):

Like I said, a really great way to stay on top of what everybody's doing and so I was on the social rotation for Twitter yesterday, which is basically like what I do anyway.

Crystal Hueft (36:40):

I'm always at home.

Veronica Belmont (36:40):

I'm always on Twitter, but for my official time... and I found this post for this podcast called Say it Loud and this amazing woman Karen Elle, she posted like a promo for her podcast using Spark Video and I thought it was so great because she was able to take audio clips from her podcast and like intersperse them with images of her, images of her guests, like quotes about the show.

Crystal Hueft (37:08):

That's cool.

Veronica Belmont (37:08):

I thought it was such a cool... Yeah and she posted it to Twitter and I thought it was such a cool way of making like a promo for your podcasts that still used video also, even though it's an audio show, like I was saying before, you don't need video to make video and so that was super cool and then a day before that I was actually... I think I was in our Spark insiders group, which is like a closed Facebook, like super user group where we all share stuff and talk about product. It's really fun. Anyone can join and this guy, Ricky Racks, has a SoundCloud page, Ricky Racks. And all of his album art, all of his track art for all of the songs that he's creating on SoundCloud were all made in Spark Post.

Crystal Hueft (37:52):

Oh, that's cool.

Veronica Belmont (37:53):

Yeah, and so I thought it was super cool because they all were different, but they felt very much like him from song to song so it was like recognizable and that was like a use case that I don't see all that often and I thought were really great and then finally I don't know how familiar you are with Bay Area ice cream but we have this ice cream company here called Humphry Slocombe and they've been huge users of Spark Post.

Crystal Hueft (38:19):

Nice.

Veronica Belmont (38:19):

I just found this out recently and they actually did a video with us and all this great stuff, but they are just like blowing it up in their Instagram Stories with Spark Post and making it really fun. So this... Yeah.

Crystal Hueft (38:33):

That's cool because to me Ice cream sells itself, but it's hard to make ice cream look any better than it does just two scoops on a cone, but I think with what I saw from Spark Post, I'm sure they've done some really cool and creative things with that. Me, I want an ice cream no matter what. Matter of fact, as soon as this airs, I'm going to write the name down to make sure next time I'm in San Francisco I can try it because I love ice cream.

Veronica Belmont (38:56):

24th and Harrison. Humphry Slocombe.

Crystal Hueft (38:57):

Perfect.

Veronica Belmont (38:58):

It's the jam.

Derek Harju (38:59):

[crosstalk 00:38:59].

Crystal Hueft (38:59):

That's awesome.

Derek Harju (39:00):

So small businesses routinely have to... not go head to head but have to exist in the same space as large established businesses and conglomerates and corporations and being able to be a small business means that you can be more agile and more malleable. I was curious if you could speak a little bit as a project manager and as somebody who works with Adobe Spark as ways that small businesses can leverage that agility to be a more powerful marketing... use more powerful marketing tools at their disposal versus big businesses to get their identity out there.

Veronica Belmont (39:37):

Yeah, I think there's a lot of great tools that can really make a small business feel like a large business and one of the things we really try to do is just to speed up that time to creation like that process of coming up with an idea for a campaign or a project or say you're at a conference and you're promoting what you're working on there. Like being able to do it on mobile, being able to have these tools that make it look like you're working with a fully featured professional design organization even though you're maybe like one person doing social and you don't have any design team that you're working with. And then being able to use like other third party tools like Buffer or Hootsuite or content calendars.

Veronica Belmont (40:17):

We use Airtable within our own organization to keep track of all the content that we're posting to social or on the blog to make sure that we are getting ahead of that publishing schedule and making sure we have stuff in the pipeline. I think that's one of the biggest like tips that I can give to these small companies is, be really like programmatic about it. Like understand that it's going to make it harder for you if you're just kind of doing posting off the cuff, like having a plan, knowing what kind of engagement you want to drive, knowing what kind of voice you want to have on social and really starting with those things in place, those building blocks before you start working on these campaigns is really crucial.

Crystal Hueft (41:03):

For sure.

Veronica Belmont (41:04):

Yeah. Because if you're just posting willy-nilly, like you're not going to have that consistency. You're going to feel like frazzled about like, oh, I know I should be posting something, but I don't know what to post.

Crystal Hueft (41:14):

And it feels stressful every day if you don't have that consistency planned ahead because you're like, I know I need something and then you end up putting something out subpar that you don't even feel passionate about but yet expect your fans or followers to get excited about. So I totally agree. Planning is very important to stay consistent.

Veronica Belmont (41:31):

Yeah. We've been talking through talking to customers, developing these playbooks that essentially like for whatever you're trying to... what your goal is, whether you're trying to like inform and engage, whether you're trying to build an audience, whether you're trying to like cultivate thought leadership, like we have all these different goals and then we build out these like content calendars for you that tell you literally like what to post on what day.

Crystal Hueft (41:55):

I love that.

Veronica Belmont (41:56):

...and it's like 15 days or 30 days and so we're still kind of like building these and like beta testing them with certain users and seeing how they work and feel but we launched them at Adobe MAX back in November and gave them away to the people who came to our panels and we were seeing a lot of like great success for that. I feel like it's this combination of like guidance and also like things like templates or access to other third parties and integrations that kind of enable a small team to feel like a big team online.

Crystal Hueft (42:30):

That's so funny.

Veronica Belmont (42:30):

No one knows that you're a small company on the internet unless you tell them, you know?

Crystal Hueft (42:34):

Yeah, that's true. A lot of what you just said is a lot of how we try to use Keap not to get like a shameless plug in there, but that's a similar way that we use Keap as gentle nudges, moving you to what we know based on past work with all of our small business owners that will get you to the next phase and how to move someone through a pipeline. It's all very similar. I think that's appreciated when you've got the weight of the world on your shoulders and you're running an entire company, usually with a very small team or by yourself to be able to keep moving forward.

Crystal Hueft (43:07):

I think it's so critical. Having things like that for your social or your landing pages or whatever it is really help to kind of just know what to do when. So I love that. I can't wait for that to roll out to everyone.

Derek Harju (43:18):

Yeah. As opposed to just doing stuff, which is where a lot of people get very frustrated, especially like if you're not well versed in social media but you're a small business owner and so you're trying to leverage social media as... you're like, oh I know this is the thing I'm supposed to do and you work really hard on content and you work really hard to like... you're like, oh people are going to love this and then you put it out and nobody sees it, and it becomes a mystery to a lot of end users why it is that they put all this work into the content they put out through their social channels and nobody sees it and it really comes down to timing and templatizing and setting up calendars as well as... obviously you have to cultivate your viewer base and your user base, but you can throw good content down a hole if it's not timed properly.

Crystal Hueft (44:08):

Well, I won't tell you how many times I've cried myself to sleep at night because all of those things seem to be aligned, but every once in a while they still don't get in front of anyone. It does help when you have it templatized and you have a consistent plan in place, it makes it a lot easier.

Derek Harju (44:25):

Hi friend.

Veronica Belmont (44:27):

I'm muted so it wouldn't tell on the audio.

Crystal Hueft (44:30):

I know. I was like, leave it to Derek.

Derek Harju (44:32):

We had a studio visitor. We're going to leave it a mystery.

Crystal Hueft (44:37):

Okay. I do want to ask one thing if we're okay to move off the product just for a second, because I think what a lot of small business owners also struggle with is finding those brand evangelists in their own community or their own community of their own customers, or even becoming their own can be really intimidating. Do you have any tips for a small business? Everyone needs brand evangelists these days. Sometimes they come in the form of super fans or super customers, but do you have any tips for how they can do that to supercharge their own business?

Veronica Belmont (45:09):

Yeah, I think that's a really great question and I think something that we do is look for those users in our existing communities already. Some of them may not be like full evangelists level yet, but you can kind of see that spark of like, okay, this person gets what we're doing. They don't necessarily need to have like a huge audience of their own but if they're already having these conversations with other people about your product, you can find them by searching like your hashtag on Twitter or replies or looking into other conversations on other platforms about the kind of work you're doing. I think that's a really good way of finding people. I think hashtags are like really great to utilize in that way, to find those existing conversations and find-

Crystal Hueft (45:52):

Definitely.

Veronica Belmont (45:53):

...the people having those conversations and saying, all right, you're into... just as an example. You're really into ice cream. I have an ice cream brand. I'd love to talk to you about my ice cream and see if it's something you'd be interested in and I think that's one way of getting started when you don't have a huge audience to choose from, is see what conversations are already happening on the wider internet.

Crystal Hueft (46:17):

Yeah, that's great. That's a great tip.

Derek Harju (46:21):

We're getting close to the end. I had one more question I definitely wanted to ask you, and that's as a PM because there are... I mean, we serve mostly small businesses, but I'm in some medium sized businesses and even in small businesses there's going to be people who act as project manager out there, and I was curious if you could tell us some of your strategies for weighing short-term feature requests versus long-term development.

Derek Harju (46:51):

Like inevitably if you're working on any kind of project, especially if it's a digital product that there's going to be stuff that like, a dev is going to be like, we need to implement this right away and you're like, okay, we're on code freeze for quality. So how do you balance what goes in immediately and what has to just wait for like later in the year?

Veronica Belmont (47:12):

One quick thing. As a product manager, we're very sensitive about being called project managers.

Derek Harju (47:18):

I'm sorry.

Crystal Hueft (47:20):

Fair. It's a totally different thing.

Derek Harju (47:22):

Whoops.

Veronica Belmont (47:24):

A totally like very valuable awesome role, is the project manager. We're just different. We're different. We do different things. We're not sensitive about that at all. Not at all.

Derek Harju (47:38):

Yeah. All I can do is apologize.

Crystal Hueft (47:41):

I'm just teasing you.

Derek Harju (47:41):

I'm sorry. I'm a content creator. I don't know what the people above me do.

Crystal Hueft (47:46):

Well, I think... I've seen that firsthand. That's how I know, but I think before I didn't. Believe me, I stepped into a couple messes but yes, as a product manager, I think-

Derek Harju (47:58):

I make loud blinky things. That's my job.

Crystal Hueft (48:01):

Well, the funny thing is earlier you said you're not a designer to me, product development and managing that whole processes like very much a design element but I do love your question, so we'll stop teasing you now.

Veronica Belmont (48:21):

Yeah. Okay, and I do have an answer for you.

Derek Harju (48:21):

Threw out my question sheet away.

Veronica Belmont (48:21):

I think prior prioritization is like kind of the key of what we do. It is really the crux of our work in many ways and it's an always evolving process. I mean, we have ways that we prioritize things whether it be customer requests, whether it's the amount of time and resources something's going to take. What it means for our bottom line like is it a premium feature or something that's going to drive business, something that's going to drive engagement. Like what KPIs are we focused on for this quarter? All of those things kind of add up to figuring out how to prioritize our backlog.

Veronica Belmont (49:01):

We have things called... we work with JDIs, so just do its. Things that are kind of quick wins, things that we can kind of stick into a sprint that's going to have some immediate customer benefit or value. We try to get those in there as much as possible, but ultimately typically on the two-week sprints that we do, we're working towards like a specific feature or improvement and sometimes that's part of like a wider initiative. Like this year we're working on kind of cross functional cross team, like larger scale initiative that we're all resourcing like about 60% of our time towards. So that's like one thing that... always, there's going to be work around that in every sprint that we are working on, but within my smaller team within Spark, we also have our own initiatives and our own like KPIs that we're working towards so all the product work that I'm trying to do now is around very specific features that up level towards that.

Veronica Belmont (49:59):

It just depends. It's not that frequent that someone just says, we need to do this thing right now. Like we don't get those kinds of mandates very often. Our management team, our VP are all really awesome about understanding and talking about the wider scope of work that we have to do and they trust us to make decisions for our specific product areas. I don't remember the last time there was any kind of like mandate or like strongly worded request for something to get done. That's good. I mean most-

Crystal Hueft (50:32):

That is really good because I will tell you if we're being really honest, we've had a few but-

Veronica Belmont (50:39):

And that's tough.

Crystal Hueft (50:41):

...we're improving.

Derek Harju (50:41):

We'll see if Crystal asks me to edit that out later.

Crystal Hueft (50:43):

No, I stand by it but we all stand by it because one of our values is owning it and I think sometimes we're trying really hard to move fast over here right now too. We have some new guardrails in place, but there have been times that something comes down the pipes really quick and we need to get it resolved fast for our customers. I think it's always a balance when you're doing what you do because sometimes you don't see how one thing will affect something else until it's live and customers are using it. I think that's pretty impressive. You guys are definitely rolling along there. If you haven't had very many of those recently and I think we're on our way to that.

Veronica Belmont (51:21):

No org I think is perfect. I think it's always about finding that balance and-

Crystal Hueft (51:26):

Definitely.

Veronica Belmont (51:26):

...you just never feel like you have enough time or enough people or enough energy to like get all the things you want to get done.

Crystal Hueft (51:34):

Definitely.

Veronica Belmont (51:35):

Yeah. It's just about communicating that out. As long as you're communicating and managing expectations and making sure people aren't feeling burnt out or frustrated or not heard, I think that's... you can have a pretty happy org.

Crystal Hueft (51:49):

For sure. I do think we're all happy even when we get those urgent ones, so that's a good thing but I do hear what you're saying and the communication's very important because I sometimes think as marketing folks, we try to move our product managers too quickly and it's like they're being very realistic about their timeframe and we have to trust that and support that as well.

Veronica Belmont (52:09):

Yeah, I think one of our big jobs too is not protecting but making sure that the engineering team isn't getting like outside requests or feeling too much pressure. Like it's about protecting everybody in the organization too and making sure that everybody understands what's, what's going on.

Crystal Hueft (52:28):

Definitely.

Derek Harju (52:29):

Very cool. Well this is the third time our producer is giving us the red card that says wrap it up.

Veronica Belmont (52:35):

Oh, come on. You're going to edit a bunch of stuff out anyway.

Crystal Hueft (52:36):

I know. I like that these conversations are so good. I've loved every minute of it.

Derek Harju (52:40):

Yeah. This one went quick. Veronica, thank you so much for being on the show. We really appreciate it. Do you have anything you'd like to plug right now?

Veronica Belmont (52:49):

Yeah, I mean of course Adobe Spark, spark.adobe.com is where you can get started with that. I do my own podcast too on science fiction and fantasy.

Crystal Hueft (52:58):

Oh, that's cool.

Veronica Belmont (52:58):

...as Derek mentioned called Sword & Laser at swordandlaser.com and you can follow me on Twitter @Veronica.

Crystal Hueft (53:06):

Awesome.

Derek Harju (53:07):

Very cool. Well this has been Derek and...

Crystal Hueft (53:09):

Crystal.

Derek Harju (53:10):

And this has been Small Biz Buzz and we'll talk to you guys later.

Crystal Hueft (53:14):

Thank you. Thanks, Veronica.

Derek Harju (53:20):

Thanks for listening to Small Biz Buzz. Please take a second to subscribe to the show and leave a five star rating. It helps keep the show going, and if you need a hand with growing your small business head over to keap.com. That's K-E-A-P.com and get started. More business. Less work. That's Keap.



See demo