John Short has worked with Monster, LogMeIn, Yesware, Workable and consulted with a number of other clients. He's a friend and also the founder of another Growth Marketing Agency in Boston - Compound Growth Marketing.
Ian: Tell me a bit about your background and what your favorite highlights are.
John: I graduated in 2008 and that summer Lehman Brothers fell. We’re in the middle of a “hiring freeze” was a normal response when reaching out to someone to try to get a job. Looking back, it was a crazy time to graduate. The job market today has totally flipped, and grads are in high demand.
I started my first job in a small SEO consultancy. It was 3 people, and I had one of the best people in the industry that I could ask any questions from. I learned to pay attention to results of our work and not the rankings or other vanity metrics. That has stuck with me. Eight months in, I was let go. This was not unusual for someone of my age at that time, the economy was tough. What I learned that day, and it has stuck was to stay ROI positive for the company I worked for. I consider this one of the greatest attributes of people who graduated in ‘08, we want to make sure we’re making an impact because we came out in a job market where every company was watching every penny they spent.
From the SEO consulting firm, I went to Monster, and continued to work in SEO. After a while I wanted to be more than just a one dimensional SEO. Monster was going through a rough time, and I still remember going to bed one night, and turning over to look at my phone one last time and seeing an email from a recruiter about LogMeIn.
What an opportunity LogMeIn turned out to be. It was the first team I worked on where I had a group of bosses above me who invested in me. I learned a lot about paid search, and paid economics, but I also learned how important it was for me to have people who invested their time to make me better. At LogMeIn we had a new CMO come on board, and around that time I moved into a business analyst role. I worked with him and my boss to build out a customer economics model that showed us how quickly we were getting paid back on marketing spend very quickly, and led to increased investment in marketing.
I was cocky, and I thought the work at LogMeIn meant I was ready to go on to the next thing and lead a marketing team. I may have been, I may not have been. The truth is, I should have stayed at LogMeIn. To continue to grow a company from $500M to $5B takes a lot of really talented people. The CEO is one of the two sharpest people I’ve ever been around in my career. I learned something every time I was in the room with him, the CMO, my VP, the directors and with the managers around me. Top to bottom it was a really talented company and you continue to see the impact of the LOGM team at companies like Drift, Hubspot, Rapid7, and many others.
The next place I want to talk about was my time at Workable. I still remember when I got the offer, my dad was suspect. He was great, he reached out to someone who knew who worked in a fund of funds to ask about the company, but he was also nervous because the company was Greek. He has read in his newspapers that they weren’t always paying employees on time. As it turned out, Workable was well funded and did not depend on the Greek economy for driving revenue, so that wasn’t really a concern. For the second time in my career I found a talented team top to bottom that invested time and energy into me. I joined and we were driving around 500 leads a month, I left we were driving around 8k. We were on a fun trajectory, and it was the 3 best years I’ve spent. I traveled to Greece, London, and I got to be a part a team that I loved and will always stay in touch with.
Ian: What made you interested in consulting, after years of client-side work?
John: I’ve been at a couple of companies and I always love helping companies get set up, and helping them find opportunities for growth. Each company/product from join.me, to Yesware, to Workable, or any of the places I’ve worked have required a slightly different model for traffic acquisition and a slightly different sales model. I haven’t found it to be plug and play. I simply love this challenge, and the opportunity to do this with 4 clients at a time keeps me on my toes.
At the same time, there is a severe lack of people who can do demand generation. I get people reaching out all the time who are looking for someone and want to know if I can recommend someone. I can hardly ever think of someone to refer the people I know are either happy, overqualified or I don’t have someone I know. It’s tough to find someone who can do Growth Marketing or Demand Gen. It’s a mix of marketing operations, content, CPC, SEO, analytics, and funnel optimization. Who has all of that experience? Hardly anyone. I feel I can help increase the number of people who have these skills and help a number of companies who are challenged with this better with a consultancy than going one by one and working in house.
The opportunity to work with multiple great companies, always be challenged by new problems, and be able to work for myself was too much to pass up.
Ian: How did you become interested in growth marketing?
John: My first job in the consulting firm had me focused on results. I learned how to market on the internet from the bottom up. Once I started seeing results, that became addicting. In short, there are many times that the results I’ve gotten from work has made me as happy or happier than the money I get paid for the work. This is a key element for Compound Growth Marketing as I think about the clients I want to bring on.
Ian: How do you think growth marketing is different than digital marketing?
John: I don’t like to over think the lexicon to much that we use. Whatever language you want to use in order to get results is what you should use.
A lot of people joke that all marketing is about growth. That is simply not true. There is marketing that simply helps you sustain your market, or to simply maintain revenue levels.
Growth marketing first and foremost is a mindset. We are looking for the right channels, and the right methods to get to exponential growth. I’d say Growth marketing is a subset of digital marketing, but you can find tactics outside of digital for growth marketing.
Ian: How do you describe your job to a stranger? Why?
John: Oof, I’m terrible at this. My mom still thinks I am a social media marketer. Its true that is part of my job, but I’ve probably updated Twitter less than 5 times for the companies that I’ve been at.
My goal is to drive customers and potential customers to my website.
Ian: What type of personality or traits do you think are best suited for growth marketing?
John: People who love to solve puzzles. People who are competitive and like to constantly improve and get better than their last performance.
Things don’t change quite as often as most people like to stay. The top acquisition channels haven’t changed so much over time. The psychology of attracting a customer has stayed relatively the same. I will say that every company, every situation is different. Someone who likes to solve problems and figure things out is going to be successful in this job.
Every month raises the bar for the next month. You’ve gotta be ready for that. You’ve gotta want that.
Ian: What are top three areas you have the most expertise in?
Asking the right questions
Solving problems with analytics
Ian: How do you balance your career with family?
John: This year my wife and I had our first baby. Harriet is 10 months old now. The truth is for the past 10 years I invested heavily in my career. I worked for 5 different companies and learned as much as I could. I stayed as close to as I could to people who were the smartest people in the room, and thought about my job constantly. My wife and I also had a great time “dinking”. I think we balanced that well.
I look to set up my days so I can get the optimal amount of work done, so when I need to pick up my baby I can. It’s important to me that responsibilities are split 50/50 with my wife. She is incredible and much better at it than I am, but I am trying to keep up.
I find times when I need to work on weekends and at night to not impact my family and put minimal pressure on my wife to have to pick up extra load, and she does the same for me.
I’m setting up my consultancy with family in mind. I want to be there for my daughter and other children I have. I’d like to coach. My parents were hard workers, but they were always around. My children should expect the same from me. Its really important. I was really inspired last year when Phil Mickelson missed the US Open so he could see his daughter graduate. He is one of the greatest of all time. If he can take time to focus on work and be the best, and take time to focus on his family, so can everyone.
Lately this balance has meant that I take on less clients so I can give them everything they need. I also have gotten in the habit of waking up at 5:30AM to meditate and do yoga after that. This gets me in the right mindset for the day so I can spend my time optimally. I also work from home and have really cut down on meeting up with people for coffee. Saving time on commute is huge, and it means more time to work, and more time with family.
Ian: What type of client do you typically work best with?
John: I have this thing in my head these days. I want to work with people who want it, and dont’ think they have it. Those who are hungry for more growth no matter where they are will be willing to invest in marketing.
I’ve found the teams that invest in marketing with time, effort, and yes, with money, are the ones who see the best results. I know this sounds obvious, but you’d be shocked at the number of people who read about “growth hacks” or about how companies grew without sales and marketing and think they can make that work for their company.
One other thing. I think companies with great products. Workable, join.me, and other places I’ve worked have had great products. That obviously makes my job a lot easier.
Ian: When we’ve talked, you’ve mentioned that some colleagues think consulting is a temporary thing. Is it?
John: No. I’ve gotten to use a different part of my brain than I have before in my career. I love the strategy of this, and I simply love having multiple clients.
I don’t know right now if this is going to be a one person firm or a 30 person firm, but I’d like to be doing this for the next 20-40 years of my life.
Is growth marketing here to stay? Where is the industry headed? What’s next?
John: Companies will always want to grow.