Episode 67

Adam & Carlton

Cleaning Out the Fridge: Innovation, Branding, & Distribution

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In this Friday special, Adam and Carlton cover a variety of topics that need to be addressed before moving forward. From the cutting edge of audio and a painless branding process to setting yourself up for content marketing success, there is something for everyone in this episode!

Highlights from the conversation:

  • Audio innovation (1:36)
  • The branding process (10:21)
  • Show promotion (16:57)


Content Is for Closers is a bi-weekly podcast powered by HEARD Media. Each episode we get into the nitty-gritty details with an entrepreneur, marketer, or business owner about how they literally use content to close more business, drive more sales, and grow their company.

HEARD helps service-based businesses leverage digital content to close sales. Learn more about HEARD by visiting trustheard.com.

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Transcription generated by Otter.ai

Adam Vazquez 0:06
Why do you have so many apparently wealthy friends? And why don’t I have more friends like that? Like, all these friends with spatially aware trucks, VR. Like, what in the world?

Carlton Riffel 0:18
See, here’s the thing, Adam. The key is just having one friend like that.

Adam Vazquez 0:23
That’s true.

Carlton Riffel 0:24
I think 90% of my fun friend stories come from one or two friends.

Adam Vazquez 0:29
See, that’s the way to do it. And then just always refer to them as like “my friend” or “my buddy.”

Carlton Riffel 0:34
“I got this other friend.”

Adam Vazquez 0:35

Carlton Riffel 0:37
“A dude I met up with the other day.” Yeah.

Intro 0:42
Put that content down. Content. The close is over. What’s your name? Content. That’s my name. You know why, mister? Because you drove a Hyundai to get here tonight. I drove an $80,000 BMW. That’s my name. Content Is for Closers.

Adam Vazquez 1:05
Alright, we’re back. Content Is for Closers. I’m Adam with Carlton, as always. We’ve got a kind of a hodgepodge episode. I really hate the word hodgepodge. Not sure why I used it there. What’s that?

Carlton Riffel 1:17
Leftovers. Leftovers in the fridge.

Adam Vazquez 1:19
It is. There’s some chicken in there, there’s some like day-old pizza, some lasagna, and we kind of just need to get it all out so we can have a fresh start next week. But several things I want to get to. First of all, the first thing we just recorded the intro for the Michelle Khouri episode, in preparation for that episode, Michelle Khouri, just as a tease, is the founder of frequency media, she is a post-capitalist. So we had this very interesting conversation. One of the first conversations on the show where I just fundamentally disagreed with the person thought we had a really great conversation despite that, and it was one of it ended up being one of my favorite episodes. But she talks a lot about this idea of audio experiences and innovation within Audio. And I think that’s something that just our nature as a company and as people, we don’t typically push the boundaries of that we’re a lot more practical in what we focus on and how we execute. And I was just curious what you thought of, of that of audio innovation, or where your head’s at when it comes to some of those things that are possible.

Carlton Riffel 2:27
Yeah. No, I love it. I think it’s amazing when people have the bandwidth to not just run a company, but also push the edge of a technology. And I think at different times, like with the web, we find ourselves there a little bit with certain websites, and we’re trying to like, find solutions for things. But I think there’s something very technical about audio that sometimes gets kind of like oversimplifying, so people start thinking about like, Oh, it’s just audio, or it’s just a podcast, or it’s like a dumbed down version of what you get when you watch video, or it’s only half of it. There’s really so much more room in the audio space for different things. And I think part of the problem is that, honestly, like our microphones and some of our the technology has not been fast enough to process some of the things in real-time because most of what we do with audio is real-time when we think about like, like talking on the phone, or there are several other components that have that real-time aspect that we kind of have expected for years to have a certain level of quality, right, like we’re listening to the radio, and it might not might be a little fuzzy, but at the same time, like, we’re still getting pretty good quality. When music streaming came out, there was kind of like a bar that had to be matched with what people would get out of it. So I think there are all these facets of podcasting of audio in general audio branding, that can be pushed and have other areas of innovation. It’s just finding those projects that kind of let you do that.

Adam Vazquez 4:06
Yeah, I think the other side of it, and I’m sure this is the case with any industry, but as someone who’s trying to go into businesses and have these conversations, my thought immediately goes to what will they practically buy, right? Like, we’re going to talk in a second about some of the branding projects that we’ve been doing recently, and even some of the promotion we’ve been doing for our own show, so stick around for that. But when we’re talking about innovation or creativity, sometimes it’s hard to even broach that subject with clients who are so singularly focused on their objectives, their leads, and it’s not their fault. It’s my fault. As a practitioner, I just want to get them something that’s palatable, so that we can move the conversation forward and hopefully work together at some point and then maybe at some point, we’ll talk about really pushing the bleeding edge and innovating and that’s a little bit of a lazy approach really I think I think what people like Michelle are doing, and what lots of other people who have been in the voice space, which is a little bit more of a broader category outside of podcasts or audio have done such a great job of is they think of audio as this end and experiential campaign or component to their brand. And think of how they are interacting with their customer at every touchpoint along the way through audio. And I think that’s something I’m just divulging here, from HEARD standpoint, that we can improve on To be frank, I think that it’s something that we can really think through, how do we help the trucking companies that we work with? How do we help them talk to their drivers? Like literally, not just in a podcast, but in their trucks? Or in the warehouse or whatever. And that applies to other how do we help our venture capitalists talk to their founders? Anyway, it really pushed my brain a little bit that way. I just talked to another founder in the podcast space, was an agency much larger than ours, they’re probably the most successful production agency. And he said, “Hey, do you ever worry, Adam, that we’re going to become irrelevant? That podcast production is gonna become irrelevant? Because that’s what keeps me up at night. I’m worried that we’re going to become irrelevant. That the technology is gonna get so good, people are just not gonna need help,” etc. And this was sort of my thought in response to that: you can’t become irrelevant if you’re continually pushing the bar as to what service you’re providing. And you’re providing an experience as opposed to a commodity of podcast editing or whatever. So just directionally, that’s something that I think that we need to continue to improve on.

Carlton Riffel 6:54
Have you used VR much, Adam?

Adam Vazquez 6:58
No, not really. I’ve worn a headset one time at an event. Actually, I was with you. Remember? We did that driving thing. Explain what we did.

Carlton Riffel 7:08
Well, yeah, we’re just basically testing out a booth, like testing out what it’s like to be in a truck and like, having Digital School digital driving. Yes. Yeah. And so yeah, it was meant for a training device. But like I said, I have a good friend who has a headset, and he’ll come over and we’ll play like a few rounds of golf, or Oh, yeah, there’s some really cool applications with that. He like loves working out with it. Like that’s his go-to workout is boxing in VR. Oh, wow. And so anyways, that aside, I think a big component of VR is the audio part of it, right? Like, if that’s not spatially, right, it’s, it’s like a way degraded experience. Yeah. So I think there’s something to be said about, like, spatially, in like, like, when we’re not in front of a computer, how audio can play a role. Right. So I think for me, the home pod, I don’t know if you have one of those, but I love that thing. It’s like the little home pod MIDI. It’s it’s everybody coffeemaker, and I engage with that all the time. And I think the better that, that that becomes interfacing with what’s on our phones, and what’s with what’s around us. And just lots of W words machine up, I think the more there is there for the future of innovation, especially when it comes to content, finding ways to kind of sneak content in or to help us hear things without necessarily like having to pull out our phones, and have everything kind of consume our visual peripheral fields. So I think there are a lot of interesting trends there. And then you said truck the other day, like I was, you just mentioned that, that listening in truck and made me think of the other day I was in my friend’s new truck. And the spatial audio in there is incredible. Like they’ve got audio and the head seats now, and then a few different speakers around. So if somebody is switching, like the size of the instruments, or the size of the person who’s talking, like you get this really incredible spatial experience of like, oh, this person’s over here, and this person’s over here. So I think there’s like right now, I think we’re scratching the surface still, like technology, technology, being able to use some of those things and help us get the most out of what we produce.

Adam Vazquez 9:34
Yeah, I think there’s tons of opportunity for us as a company to find ways to help other companies do those things. I would like to say as a sidebar, why do you have so many apparently wealthy friends and why don’t I have more friends like that? Like all these friends with spatially aware trucks, VR. Like, what in the world?

Carlton Riffel 9:55
See, here’s the thing, Adam. The key is just having one friend like that.

Adam Vazquez 10:01
That’s true.

Carlton Riffel 10:02
I think 90% of my fun friend stories come from one or two friends.

Adam Vazquez 10:07
See, that’s the way to do it. And then just always refer to them as “my friend” or my “buddy.”

Carlton Riffel 10:11
“I got this other friend.”

Adam Vazquez 10:12

Carlton Riffel 10:14
Like, “I met up with this dude the other day.”

Adam Vazquez 10:16
Yeah, yeah. So innovation, that was one of the things I wanted to pull out in terms of the leftovers and talk about. The next thing I wanted to talk about was sort of just a branding process. And I want to lay the context for this a little bit. We have, we have a client who is currently branding some software, and they asked for us to help them with the logo and the brand new book for this software. And long story short, Carlton just took them through an exercise. And I was just blown away by the simplicity and the clarity that your exercise provided to them. And so I just wanted to ask you a couple of questions about it. So what you did, can you just describe what you delivered to them?

Carlton Riffel 11:00
Yeah, well, so we’re doing a visual identity, kind of brand play. So they’ve already got the name, which takes a lot of the headache out of it. So really, we’re just trying to pick some directions and clear directions around what it is that like, like, where they want to end. So this is the first round of, of kind of choosing or making the choices that help narrow, narrow down that direction. So I ended up just doing a short video, just kind of with a slideshow Canva you can actually record and present now, which is kind of a fun tool. So when they get the link, it’s just got the slideshow there. And they can see where I switch slides. And then it’s got my little video on the corner, where I can talk to them. So that was essentially what I did was just ran through that slideshow overviewing those different options and giving them the pros and cons of each and then letting them make the decision without having to have a ton of back and forth.

Adam Vazquez 11:55
Yeah, so a couple of things you did really, really well here was number one, it was a video, I think more practitioners need to do this who are delivering services. There wasn’t a long meeting, there wasn’t an ornate pitch, you put together some beautiful slides, but it wasn’t like, hey, let’s all go meet in the conference room and discuss this and navel gaze, you sent them a 10-minute video that had the entire presentation with your commentary as well. And I don’t think you scripted that commentary didn’t seem like it was but it was clearly well thought out, you had just some points to make. And then you moved on to the next thing that was number one I thought was really good. And so it allowed the customer to consume the presentation at their own pace and time and then feedback on it before a given deadline that you provided for them. The second thing is that you didn’t, and this I think this is really hard for creatives, but you gave them three directions without asking them for a ton of information or decision-making on their behalf the three directions for this given company. I think the three directions were what was it was like movement, was one of them. The letter association, like a typography.

Carlton Riffel 13:01
Yeah, a letter mark.

Adam Vazquez 13:04
And then what was the third one?

Carlton Riffel 13:05
And the third one was like connection, symbolizing connection.

Adam Vazquez 13:09
Yeah, symbolizing connection. And so by just deciding you just made the kind of like an executive decision, these are the three directions we’re going to provide. You didn’t really ask a million questions that led you to that. I mean, I think we had some work beforehand. But that gave the client such a sense of security and of simplicity, where they just looked at it. And we’ve already heard back from them, like, Oh, this one seems to make the most sense for us given X, Y, Z objectives. So I thought that was really, really good. And then the third thing was the way that you and I obviously it’s a podcast, so it’s hard to describe it. But the mood boards you put together were the least common denominator, I would say of each concept. So it was very easy for the customer to say, Okay, this is what he means when he says, visualizing connection. This is what he means when he says visualizing movement. And you gave some examples of each one slide, not overly complex. But those three things, putting them together in that package made it such a clear and easy process for them. And I’ve been a part of a lot of branding projects that are they can just get so overwhelming and so introspective, or this was just almost like you’re marking off a box. And now we’re moving on to the next phase. So I just wanted to commend you but I also wanted to explain that for people listening like, just following that systemized process, I think will give you a better output, then necessarily coming up with like the greatest hand drawn, Mark and we’ll see we haven’t finished it yet. But so far on the process has been really, really good.

Carlton Riffel 14:55
Well, thank you, Adam. I’m still working on learning how to take and accept compliments in a gracious manner instead of deflecting.

Adam Vazquez 15:03
Yeah, it was great.

Carlton Riffel 15:04
Yeah, no, I think a big part of that as well is like developing trust with your client. Because if they don’t trust you, or if they’re skeptical about something, I think there are some agencies that are trying to prove, like, this is why you should trust us because we’re doing all this legwork. But sometimes in the process, you end up like decreasing trust, because you’re putting all of these questions on the client, and you’re saying like, like, they don’t know which of those questions are the most important organ determine the fate of, so it’s hard for them to measure with what rule some of these questions have in the end. If at the end of the day, if they want to say, hey, actually, none of these are really floating my boat, let’s go for something else, then that’s fine. Like we can reevaluate, but bike by kind of proceeding with confidence and saying, hey, here are three directions that can work that could produce quality results. And, but they all look very different. And that’s kind of the first decision that can be made to narrow down all the rest of your decisions.

Adam Vazquez 16:04
Yeah, and I shouldn’t say that, that was the other part of it, you told them of these three, this is the one I think you should go with which again, it’s probably against, like best practice from Agency 101. But it gave them a sense of ease, and it gave them something to react to. And it’s so important in these processes. Like if you’re providing services to someone, and you’re listening to this, the worst thing you can do is give them the ocean. Because that’s an important, that’s what they hired you for. They hire you for you to take the ocean and make it into something tangible. And so when you’re able to do that, even if they don’t like what you give them, it gives them something to react to, and to improve upon. And so when you told them, here’s the three, this is the one I think you should do. I think they actually agree with you. But even if they didn’t, it would give them something to give you tangible feedback on. So really, really effective tool.

Carlton Riffel 16:56
Yeah, that makes sense.

Adam Vazquez 16:57
The last thing I wanted to get to is show promotion. We’ve been talking about this internally. I think we’re re-orienting how we think about show promotion for our own show, for this show, as well as for client shows. Maybe you could just lay the context as to what you and Tristen were working on that we talked about yesterday a little bit.

Carlton Riffel 17:18
Yeah. So I’ll preface this was saying this is convicting for us, right? We isn’t always our strong point. Because naturally, if you look at our entire agency, not that we’re all anti-social media, but out of the people that publish cron, the majority, I would say. Is that safe, Adam? The majority of us shy away from social media as a personal default.

Adam Vazquez 17:43
Yeah, it’s weird. We have like a very mixed relationship. Like, I probably have the least social platforms, I only have a LinkedIn and a Twitter, but I’m the most active on those. And some wouldn’t even call what I am active. So we for being a social media company of sorts. Yeah. Personally, we aren’t the most active, I would say.

Carlton Riffel 18:07
And yeah, I think some of that’s by design, right? Like, I think we all see the value of social media to some degree. But we also see the dangers out of it. And so I think, by and large, most of the people in our company are just intentional about how we want to spend our time. We’re all on the computer pretty much most of the day. And so I think that’s like sometimes a choice to just not have a screen in front of our eyes. 24/7. But that being said, for a business, we can’t stress the importance of distributing the content that you do make.

Adam Vazquez 18:41
And that makes it difficult for us. I’m glad we all have those in that intentional perspective, but distribution becomes much harder when you don’t have just the natural inclination towards like, none of us are really like scrolling TikTok all the time for personal consumption. So that doesn’t make it—

Carlton Riffel 19:05
I’m a TikTok lurker.

Adam Vazquez 19:07
Yeah, right. You know what I’m saying.

Carlton Riffel 19:11
Yeah, I do. I do. There’s a big difference between when something is a habit that’s part of your everyday life both as like a personal thing and a professional thing. The people that do social media at that level, I think they have an advantage. So anyways, we’re trying to change that there are aspects of things that we’re doing, I think that will help with it. But one of the thought processes we have is, if we can’t do every single thing, if for every single piece every single day, we’re putting out eight pieces of content, what are the things that we can do? What are the more approachable things and I think that’s a great place for our audience to start, because a lot of them are probably in the same position that we are. Maybe they don’t have the tools or the resources that we have, but in a lot of ways I think people feel with social media that is a bit of a burden. And so yeah, it’s looking at what is accessible for you. And then I think the second thing is making a list of those things and making sure somebody owns it, making sure it’s assigned to somebody. If everyone kind of just says, yeah, we’ll share that. When that episode gets live, we’ll, we’ll put it out there, that’s a recipe for failure.

Adam Vazquez 20:25
That was our original plan. And even to the point where we set up that bot in Slack where like notifies us if the hurt account tweets, nobody did anything with it. It was not a regular behavior.

Carlton Riffel 20:39
I think we heard the noise and you’re like, okay, oh, yeah, what was it?

Adam Vazquez 20:43
Well, and everyone assumes, okay, the company account. Got it. So like, everybody else is probably doing something with it. And then everyone was thinking that so nobody was doing anything, was it? Yeah, to your point of somebody owning it is a huge benefit there.

Carlton Riffel 20:59
So essentially, what we did yesterday is we kind of made that list, and then we put it in our templates, in our task templates. And then we also thought not just about social media, we thought about other engagement methods to sow, common one being email, making sure that it’s easier for Adam to take advantage of the email that he sends out as part of the show, The Show release. And then we looked at a few other options to like, like, post, we don’t want to call it post jacking. But that’s probably the best explanation, just looking for other posts that are discussing the content that you’re talking about on the web, and then injecting yourself that’s the word I was for post injecting, injecting yourself into the conversation. Those are all aspects of distribution that I think people don’t traditionally think of.

Adam Vazquez 21:46
Yeah, and I think the other thing you all talked about that, that really got my brain working differently was, how do we take leverage whoever it is that we’re talking to, or talking about or discussing? How do we leverage their immediate network? So give me an example we had on John Sherman. On Tuesday on the podcast, he’s an author, he’s a pretty big Twitter personality, he’s a golf instructor. Using this model, I’m not saying we’re doing this perfectly, but the playbook is, okay. John, Sherman’s the guest. But he has sponsors who pay him to amplify about them. He’s got customers, he’s got people who pay for his book, or his service or his coaching. He’s got some other vendors, like there are natural alliances around the guests that we had on. And so it’s just giving a little bit of thought. And, again, this is not going to be perfect. But it gives me a little bit of thought of as to what’s a piece of content we could create, for one or two, or all of those ancillary audiences, and specifically design the content and flight, the content to speak to those people. Like even if you’re tagging them, like, hey, at TaylorMade, look at how John Sherman represented you on X, Y, Z, or you could flex that to whatever the guest is that you’re talking to. But I think that is a very powerful one-to-one strategy that we need to improve on. But that’s a huge opportunity for other creators as well.

Carlton Riffel 23:25
Yeah, and the lowest bar is if they mentioned something specifically is just taking that segment. Hey, look, you were mentioned, we talked about you. Everyone likes to hear that. So yeah, I think there’s like some low bar things. And there are also some higher bar things where you’re thinking about creating specific pieces for that audience or for that partner.

Adam Vazquez 23:48
Yeah, it’s good. So that’s sort of what we’re working on. Just wanted to kind of get on here and do a quick catch-up episode on, like we said, a few of the things we had leftover in the fridge. We’ve got a new interview episode coming out for you on Tuesday, we’ll be back with some more sort of content. workshopping type stuff here on Fridays. Let us know what you think about this. If this was helpful, it would be helpful to us to know what is working with you as the audience. So let us know hit us hit me up on Twitter, Adam Vazquez or Carlton, or email us or whatever. You got anything else, Carlton?

Carlton Riffel 24:23
No. Just have a great rest of your Friday.

Adam Vazquez 24:26
All right. We’ll catch you soon.