In this episode Adam (@AdamVazquez) and Carlton (@CarltonRiffel) are joined by Kenneth Burke (@KennethBurke423) who is the Vice President of Marketing at Text Request. Kenneth explains the importance of a marketing culture to building a fast-growing startup like Text Request, and specifically how he and his colleagues have cultivated a spirit of innovation and creativity within their award-winning team.
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* (2:17) How employee personalities affect team building
* (9:12) Communicating value propositions when the product is constantly evolving at a startup
* (15:09) How winning awards generates employee excitement despite working in a “boring” industry
* (15:09) How winning awards generates employee excitement despite working in a “boring” industry
* (23:09) Have you Heard?
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Transcription generated by Otter.ai
Adam Vazquez 00:06
Kenneth Burke is the Vice President of Marketing for text requests, which is a business messaging platform that was named the tech x company of the year and 2020. In addition to leading marketing for text requests, Kenneth is a board member for the Chattanooga Chamber of Commerce where he helps engage and recruit new companies to the city. During our conversation, we discussed the importance of a marketing culture to building a fast growing startup like text request, and specifically how Kenneth has cultivated a spirit of innovation and creativity within his team. KENNETH and his team have won several awards and are constantly pushing the envelope when it comes to new forms of marketing and driving brand awareness, which is why I think he’ll provide a ton of value in this episode. I thoroughly enjoyed this conversation. I hope you will too. Let’s dive into the episode with Kenneth Burke of text request.
Adam Vazquez 01:11
Content is for closers. All right. Welcome back into content is for closers, where each episode we talked with entrepreneurs, marketers, business owners about how they use content to make more money in their business. Carlton, what do you think of that mix? I think I went with entrepreneurs first this time.
Carlton Riffel 01:29
Yeah. Good, except for I’m a little thrown off every time. grammatically. I’m sure you know better. Because you’re better at writing. But you say welcome into not
Adam Vazquez 01:41
Yeah, welcome to welcome to content.
Carlton Riffel 01:44
Yeah, that makes my brain glitch every time
Adam Vazquez 01:47
Yeah, well, you’re sort of a cold designer type. And so you don’t welcome people into your into physical space. I’m trying to welcome them into this abode. But that’s okay. It’s just different, different opinions. If we do, folks, yeah. Enter in coldly here to this show. Thank you all for for joining us. I am your host, Hannah Vasquez alongside the Snark master himself, Carlton, riffle Carlton, what’s going on? What do you have for us?
Carlton Riffel 02:15
I’m sure everyone’s favorite part of the show is this icebreaker blame game. And
Adam Vazquez 02:21
we need to so everybody knows, we’ve recorded like a bunch of these before the show got released. So if we get like a lot of bad feedback, we’ll eventually pull this out. But you have to put up with it a few more times.
Carlton Riffel 02:33
Yeah. Until we get actual feedback. Bad This is trying to get people to know you better, Adam. Yeah. If you’re not a completely cold, heartless person, then then tell us what you are by telling us your Myers Briggs personality type.
Adam Vazquez 02:49
Okay, this is why you’re asking me this. So originally, you said, What is your enneagram? And then you said, Actually, let’s do Myers brigg. And I said, Well, the good news is it doesn’t matter because I am whatever profile believes these things are absolute toilet water, I just I couldn’t believe in something less than these. profiles. So you can tell me I’m an emigrant enneagram 15 I think there’s only 12. I would believe you. I’m a Myers Briggs, you know, seven or blue or whatever the profile is that says, this is a bunch of BS. What about you?
Carlton Riffel 03:23
Yeah, I kind of think that we should have people just judge you based on that response, and then send in what what they think you are, and then we’ll force you to take it and whoever is right, the first person that responds, that’s right. gets like $100 from your wallet.
Adam Vazquez 03:40
Wow. Very strong gift. Yeah, go ahead and try to diagnose me.
Carlton Riffel 03:44
Yeah, I think that’d be good at so I actually was more of a believer in it. And then I listened to a podcast that covered the start of it. And apparently Myers Briggs specifically is is missing some credentials around its authority. So, Shawn, I’m an intp. For those of you that like this type of thing. That’s Myers brigg. Yeah, that’s Myers Briggs. But I do think that I’m a little bit of an ambivert when it comes to whether or not I’m an extrovert or an introvert. So I kind of switch based on my context.
Adam Vazquez 04:18
That’s good. You, you’re able to do both. I think that probably I should have asked this to to our guests today. KENNETH Burke didn’t know we’re gonna do this, obviously, when I talked to him, but I’m sure those are actually helpful tools. I just have not had many great experiences of them myself. But especially if you’re trying to build out a team, build out a culture, put pieces together so that they can they can perform well together. I’m sure some of that would would come in handy. And that’s essentially what Kenneth does and what we talked to him about today. So just give
Carlton Riffel 04:50
a quick overview of what was covered. We talked a little bit about communication and kind of figuring out your your style, communication style and differentiating the business And messaging by talking to your customers. And then he talked a little bit about inbound marketing and using content to to get leads that way. And then also I kind of finish things up with talking about encouraging your team to be excited about what they’re doing and passionate about what is you’re doing and kind of develop developing this flywheel of excitement and passion around what it is your team team is doing.
Adam Vazquez 05:26
I thoroughly enjoyed this conversation, I hope you will, too. Let’s dive into the episode with Kenneth Burke of textualist. Alright, so before we get too deep into marketing and culture and all these things, I have to ask you, I was looking at your LinkedIn profile, you know, doing some doing some research and saw that you were part of a disc golf club. But when you were in college, and I’ve recently taking taken up disc golf in the last year, you know, in the pandemic, I’m very bad. But like, I need to know what’s going on with this club. Are you what good? Are you Semi Pro? What’s happening? Are you gonna tour?
Kenneth Burke 06:02
No, no, I mean, you know how college guys are right? We wanted to do something fun and have an excuse to do it. And so there’s me and another friend. We like throwing disc into cages. And we said, hey, there’s not a club for this on campus. So why don’t we just go create one? We did. And it was fun.
Adam Vazquez 06:21
Well, maybe maybe next time we’re in person, you can give me a few tips. But Cool. Well, this golf aside, we’re here really to talk more about marketing and the work you’ve done with text requests and through your career, but maybe for those who are unaware uninitiated, could you describe what text request is and what you do there? Yeah, so
Kenneth Burke 06:38
text request is a business text messaging platform built to help you ignite your customer engagement. And so really, what we what we’ve done is crafted these plug and play messaging solutions, so that you can connect with your customers whenever you want, wherever you work, especially now that you know everyone’s remote and having to collaborate virtually. And then will give you as a business or an organization, a professional way to manage all that. So it’s a software as a service, I would just make texting and actually getting responses. Very easy. Cool. And then my role as VP of Marketing is basically just to create and capture demand for text requests. What I started a little under two months after the company launched, and I was doing cold calls cold calling for sales, right? And just kind of got tired of that want to do something else. And we were self funded or bootstrap startup and no one was doing marketing really. I’m gonna said, Hey, that sounds interesting. When we do that. Six and a half years later, here we
Adam Vazquez 07:32
are awesome. Okay, I didn’t know that. That’s actually perfect art. This show is called content is for closers. and and the the genesis of it was my very first job was also cold calling in sales. And it was horrible. It was a terrible experience.
Kenneth Burke 07:46
Yeah. And so that seems to be par for the course.
Adam Vazquez 07:49
Yeah, exactly. But that’s not right. It shouldn’t be that way. There there is there are so many ways to generate sales and revenue that that, you know, don’t have to be terrible. And that’s, that’s really what the heart of this show is trying to walk through some of the practical steps of how to do that. So right now we’ve been walking through kind of a framework of how do you come up with your value proposition? You know, your script, your sales script, so to speak, how do you train your team, because all the sales trainings I went through are terrible, all of these things, right. And what I really wanted to talk to you about was around the idea of creating a culture that cultivating culture that creates continuously, right, because like, with cold calls, like with selling, you’re only as good as your last call, you’re only as good as your last sale or in the content space, in the last piece of creative that you’ve developed that that really resonated or really hit. And so last week, we had Mickey cloud on from the Sasha group. And he talked a little bit about how to create those those assets that resonate with your audience and have impact. But today, we wanted to hear from you just about establishing that culture, then that isn’t just a one hit wonder or, but really empowers the team to to create on a continual basis. So I guess, as a marketing leader, as a startup, how do you think about, you know, initially, just stating your value proposition and making that something clear, the team can can understand and communicate effectively,
Kenneth Burke 09:12
the path is basically basically been, you know, build something, talk to customers, get their feedback on it, iterate, and keep that going. And so creating something new and always having to change and improve, it’s kind of baked into the business model a little bit, which then tends to flow through everything else, right? So if we’re trying to, I mean, it’s a startup mindset anyway, but we’re always trying to improve the product to customers, we’re always trying to improve content and create something that’s going to be more helpful, that’s going to resonate more, that’s going to lead to more conversions or play a bigger supporting role in that cell cycle on our team in particular, we’ve been really intentional on that feedback loop to make sure that each person is able to get and give feedback and that is constructive. Does that help us stand out in the market? So does that give us a unique position or is it you know, At the same thing a lot of other people are saying. So for instance, we were one of the first players in business text messaging. But it wasn’t too long before, there were a decent number of players in the space. A lot of people went with something to the effect of join the conversation, a phrase we’ve been using around here lately is it’s hard to over communicate. And so it’s just reiterating that to our team internally over and over again and then to our customers and all of our our sales and marketing and other messaging. So I want
Adam Vazquez 10:29
to go back to the first part, you talked about getting something build getting getting a feedback loop started and being able to iterate based on that, how does that work with in marketing, because I think it can be difficult sometimes. First of all, it’s very arbitrary, right? Like messaging and design, all these things are somewhat subjective, and any practical tips on just how to how to take feedback, or how to give feedback in a way that moves the conversation forward, as opposed to just saying in that cycle,
Kenneth Burke 10:57
that you have to start with a concept that if mistakes are, okay, it’s us working together to reach a goal that we’ve agreed that we both want to hit, right. And so something I say a lot, especially whenever we have new employees on is I don’t care if you make a mistake, you’re gonna have 14 million opportunities to get this thing, right. It’s okay, if you mess up five or 10 times we can work through that. And especially when you’re talking about content, I mean, the mistakes are not costly. Unless you are totally just ignoring every tenant of business and not being your customers or anything like that. I mean, you’re
Adam Vazquez 11:25
so you don’t advise doing that, I guess? Yeah, no, no. For the most part.
Kenneth Burke 11:31
Here’s an example. We work with over 100 different industries. And so we often create content, like a blog post or an ebook for a particular industry. Sure, particularly people in different departments. So you know, partnerships, or, you know, business development or support or Dev. I mean, we’ve got that feedback loop internally in marketing, but then it’s something that also just spreads throughout the company. And so it’s not like anyone gets singled out, or it’s not like oh, well, that that’s the only person who’s who’s critiquing things as much.
Adam Vazquez 11:57
So yeah, I think that’s, that’s really important. What about when it comes to for instance, you mess, you talked about the messaging, right and differentiating yourself from some of the other things that are being said in and around the space, what is the process that you use to say, this is what we’re trying to say this is the message we are holding is important. And we need to find a creative way a different way of saying that.
Kenneth Burke 12:21
So first was laying out what is actually our story, our brand story, right? So what is what’s the problem that’s going on in the market? that’s creating conflict that lead to why we exist? Or why we are doing what we’re doing today? How do we solve that problem? And then how do we do that uniquely? And do we do that uniquely, honestly, is a question a lot of companies have to grapple with because you’re using adjectives or descriptors like highest or most or best, you’re missing, you’re not actually talking about your value, you’re trying to play a subjective game,
Adam Vazquez 12:53
the point about superlatives the the, you know, using the best, were the biggest, the baddest, the best, whatever, you’re not really addressing the customer problem, the odds of them caring, if you’re actually the kindest, or the fastest response or whatever is, is are low, the odds of them having a problem caring deeply about that problem. And knowing that you care about that problem are very high. Like that’s, that’s essentially what they’re looking for when they’re going through that shopping process. So exactly what you’re saying of kind of re centering around the customer problem, as opposed to whose idea is the best or, or, you know, what marketing ploy can we use? How do you as a leader, empower, whether it be your team or other members across other teams to talk about that, effectively,
Kenneth Burke 13:42
there’s two things that stand out initially. One is that we still use our other teams to inform what we do. And so you know, of everything we do is based on customer conversations, well, who’s having the most customer conversations, it’s not the marketing team, its sales, Success and Support. So we go in and we talk to them and you know, understand the problems and the nuances and the challenges and the stuff that’s going really well. And so, you know, bring that into the fold. And then because they were able to be a part of that process, they’re invested, so to speak, or they care about you know, they feel like they’re a part of it, and they then they actually want to listen to us. I mean, that’s just basic, you know, working with people skills, I guess. But then it’s something you know, they get to share their ideas as well, right? Because they’re I just came through and then they can share it back out. And so part two, which is right in line with it is just creating things that your team wants to share. And so you know, the chamber example, someone will send something to me and say, Hey, you know, will you help us spread the word on this, and I will spread the word on that because I’m really passionate about the mission that they’re, they’re promoting. When it comes to me, it’s hiring and it’s about, you know, promoting Chattanooga as one of, if not the best places to live in America. And I’m all for that, you know, and so I’ll talk about that all day. To look around for our own company, no, we have to look at how can we cultivate that same kind of passion and excitement around what we’re doing. And some things that have worked for us winning awards always helps. So we want a bunch of Awards, Best Place to Work that company of the year, fastest growing company like that. Yeah, and those are all great things that just get people excited. And in our case, too, for marketing, since a lot of times marketing is so intangible and hard to put a finger on exactly what’s happening, they have something that they can see, hey, this is what marketing is doing. And marketing is doing things that lead to recognitions like this, that get us all excited, and also help us bring in more business,
Adam Vazquez 15:38
it’s almost like that’s your initial customer is, is are those internal people you’re talking to like, when you give the back to the chamber example, that matters to you, because the story they’re telling is important to you. If you can establish a culture where you’re speaking into stories, you’re sharing stories that matter to your team, inherently, that’s going to incentivize them to share it to be a part of that conversation. Are there any processes or formal check ins or anything like that, that you have with the rest of the teams to get some of that feedback? and have those conversations? Or Or do you guys just do it over time?
Kenneth Burke 16:13
It’s a lot of scheduled meetings, but it’s not like meetings for the sake of meetings. It’s a we’re going to talk about this particular topic. We’re all busy, so we’re just going to book a time, you know, to then talk about it. And because we’re having these conversations, so often, I mean, even just our marketing team, but because we’re having these conversations, questions come up, we need answers to, and so we pull in the appropriate person to help us with that, you know, we’re working on playbooks for a certain industry and we say we get to a point, there’s a nuance here, we’re not exactly sure about, you know, let me bring in I don’t know someone for business development and talk about that.
Adam Vazquez 16:45
Cool. That’s very helpful. I love We love getting into like the practical, you know, what, how are you talking about it? What are you saying? What is the timing of it, so even setting meetings, people people are allergic to meetings these days, I get it. But that’s, that’s when you want to have a meeting, when you have an intentional outcome that you’re looking for, for something like that. So it’s super helpful. Any just marketing wins that that you just want to share or speak to as a result of kind of this culture you all set up?
Kenneth Burke 17:10
We primarily have an inbound sales funnel. Okay, so our teams create enough content positioned ourselves well enough in search engines that people are coming to us. And that speaks volumes. Yeah. Right, because we’re in an increasingly competitive market. So it’s harder and harder to make as people come in. So that’s great. That’s one piece I’m really proud of, I think two is creating things that people end up wanting to share passions are developed, they’re not found. And so I hear a lot of people ask, you know, how do I get my team excited about this? Or how do I get my customers excited about this? And no one was born excited about text messaging software, right? Like, that didn’t happen. Yeah. So that had to be developed somehow. So how was it developed? Well, okay, we had a bunch of people who were really excited about how we could help businesses better connect with their customers, you know, text messaging happens to be the vehicle that works best to do that these days. But we were pumped about that, you know, and then so we worked with some customers to see results, and get the customers excited about it. And that fed into getting other employees excited about it. And then we just created this flywheel that keeps spinning. So that that’s something I do you recommend to others, whenever it comes up in conversation, you know, how do I get people on my team to share content? Well, you know, help them build that, that passion that care for what it is you’re doing, and that’s also going to flow into everything else that happens, I mean, they’re going to, people are going to be more productive, they’re going to feel happier and healthier in the workplace. And they’re going to, especially in sales and service, they’ll do their jobs better. And that will also lead to the revenue goals you want. But it starts with, you know, sources, working with people as individuals,
Adam Vazquez 18:46
yeah, as for tax requests, obviously, not just to to tout your horn, but that’s where they’re very fortunate to have someone like you, who has been there since the beginning and can and kind of knows those cultural stories knows those threads to pull on, knows the success stories that have happened and can speak to them both historically, as well as like, what’s going on right now. Because I think that, you know, in our very first episode, we talked about hiring a journalist to actually be part of your marketing team. And one of the problems that people run into when they try to do that is journalists are money is not their primary, necessarily motivator, right? It’s like being a part of something bigger. It’s a part. It’s telling a actual compelling story. And a lot of companies just miss that. They forget that, that as marketers, we’re storytellers, and our brands, or our customers need us to tell the stories effectively, but our team, our internal team also needs that. So one way that you’ve done that and I just to sort of wrap up here is you have a podcast of your own. Maybe just tell us a little bit about it, and how can people follow along?
Kenneth Burke 19:53
Yeah, so for our podcast, it’s called build your cue. It’s a it’s around creating you know, more opportunities. creating more customer engagement to create to bring more people into you have that cells font that cell phone queued up so to speak. So that’s where you can find that if you want to connect with me I’m on LinkedIn just look me up Kenneth Burke and then if you want to see you know learn more about tech requests of course you can reach out to me I’m also on Twitter at Kenneth Burke 43 of course you can reach out to me You can also just go to text request comm and grab a demo or reach out
Adam Vazquez 20:22
very cool and we’ll link all of those things the the show build your Q qu EU writer like the weird way the European yeah the full way Yeah. The correct way. Bullying that kennis LinkedIn and his Twitter as well as the the site below but appreciate you coming on and sharing some of these lessons with this kind of and yeah, we’ll talk to you soon. Yeah, thanks
Kenneth Burke 20:42
Adam Vazquez 20:43
Alright, thanks again to Kenneth for joining the show. Really appreciate him taking the time to share some of those lessons with us, Carlton, you laughter just listening to what was maybe one of the the takeaways or lessons you learn from it,
Carlton Riffel 20:55
really narrowing it down, I’d say finding a way to differentiate was a good point, a lot of people end up saying the same thing when they’re marketing, maybe find out in your industry, there’s a common thread that everyone hits on. So sometimes just by changing what you’re saying, and how you’re saying it can give you new customers, and can make you stand out when there’s a sea of sameness. So that was kind of one interesting thing. And then I think specifically with content marketing, content trends can pop up after a little bit. And even in in specific industries, there becomes trends around what’s popular to cover and how you cover it and even the style of video or the style of audio. So finding ways to differentiate within that as well your actual content that you’re creating is another good way to think about
Adam Vazquez 21:47
it. I thought his approach to investigating internally and not just motivating but kind of equipping the internal team to be able to be a part of the content process and getting their buy in was just noteworthy. It’s something that especially as marketers, we tend to overlook sometimes I think like this is our job this is what we’re supposed to do so this is what the piece is going to be and getting that buy in from all the internal stakeholders is sometimes more important than even you know it relating to the external stakeholders just because they’re going to push it harder and help you get more bang out of it
Carlton Riffel 22:23
and sometimes even in something like an internal document or documentation about your product internally or even with your customers it gives you inspiration for then what you can create long form content about before we
Adam Vazquez 22:37
bounce this week Carlton we again have another segment that people more than likely hate but we have to
Carlton Riffel 22:45
accept it with people who get featured you know audience
Adam Vazquez 22:49
the free as that we just hand out willy nilly and that is our Have you heard segment Have you heard this week Carlson What do you have for the people
Carlton Riffel 22:57
one of my favorite apps on my computer has to be affinity publisher, or really the affinity suite. A lot of people in my field use the Creative Cloud suite which I enjoy to there’s some some cool things about it. Or just like is something that’s a little bit more simplified is the affinity suite and basically it’s three apps so they have a publisher which is similar to InDesign they have designer a fan designer which is similar to illustrator and then they have Affinity Photo which is like Photoshop and so feature for feature they’re missing a few things but really have covered all of your main basic operations and do it in a way that’s super clean and well designed they’ve won several Apple awards for apps for Mac so highly recommend the affinity suite they have this cool thing where when you open publisher it opens all three apps internally inside that one apple so you can seamlessly switch between the three and you know kind of handle anything photo related and then jump back over to vector stuff so I enjoy that
Adam Vazquez 24:04
is that is that mainly what you use for for our stuff? Yeah, I
Carlton Riffel 24:08
actually do it’s to me it’s faster, it’s less bloated than the Creative Suite and it has some nice options for mixing bitmap and vector graphics that are pretty useful.
Adam Vazquez 24:21
Yeah, I asked because sometimes I feel like people can get attached to the brand our stuff I love the stuff that we produce as a team that you all produce. So and I couldn’t tell the difference so am I have you heard is so the idea behind this segment is really that we’re trying to give you something that you haven’t heard of that you might be able to use to close more business or make your content, you know, be leveraged more effectively, etc. And I just saw a tactic really this week that I just really enjoyed it got me It got my attention, and it was it was really well done. So there’s a company called micro acquire. It’s a software platform, and it’s the CEO His name is a guy named Andrew gaz deki. But they’re Silicon Valley like they’re In that world, they’re not I don’t think they’re like funded that way. But they’re kind of like a software in that world. They’re always making fun of that world, the Silicon Valley Tech world. So to announce a new partnership, they they kind of like, got a big partner that is going to help their clients get access to funding essentially, they hired on the app called cameo. And if you’re not familiar with cameo, it’s basically where you can get famous people like Carlton to like Wish you happy birthday or whatever I
Carlton Riffel 25:28
was gonna ask if you were on cameo, if we could pay like, you go give somebody a but,
Adam Vazquez 25:34
but like truly famous people are on this thing. And like you can get them to say something and you pay him 150 bucks or whatever. And so what Andrew guys deki did was he went to the character’s name is Russ hanaman from Silicon Valley, if you’ve heard of him, you’ve heard of Silicon Valley, I’m sure the show Yeah, yeah. So there’s like a comedy sketch comedy, kind of like the office. But about Silicon Valley. I think it was on HBO. And one of the most ridiculous characters is this guy named Russ hanaman, who’s this crazy investor. And long story short, he got him to make the announcement video about this partnership. And so it was just really funny and creative, because microcars whole thing is like, don’t be dumb, don’t be Silicon Valley don’t like, raise a bunch of money you don’t need and then they got the most notorious outrageous investor from the show, to play that character and give them a shout out on social so I just thought that was it got my attention immediately. And it was funny, it was really well done. And I was just thinking like, if you’re a small business, if you’re a business of any kind 150 bucks, and you get access to these, you know these people with these followings reputations, it’s it’s something you should look into. I feel like,
Carlton Riffel 26:42
Yeah, that’s a good idea. So do you know that? Do they have terms? Like if you can record the screen when they do it, or
Adam Vazquez 26:48
they send you a video file? Like, yeah, it’s yours now, but some people charge differently if it’s for personal use, or for commercial use. And that’s pretty clear when you go into the app who like how much you have to pay for either. But still, let’s just say it was $500 the earned media that this particular one got his crazy for 500 bucks, you know, versus a paid ad spend. So yeah, something to look into. Thanks again to Kenneth for for joining the show. Thank you all for listening. Truly. Thank you for listening. This has been kind of a labor of love early on here. We’re figuring out our way. We’re through six episodes now. And we don’t plan on stopping we’ve got like 20 more recorded so just stick with us. If you are enjoying the show in any way. We would love it if you share it with one other person who you think could benefit. That’s how we grow. And other than that, we’ll see you next week.