What's Working In Marketing™: Harnessing the Power of Content Distribution with Ross Simmonds, Founder & CEO of Foundation Marketing
What's Working in Marketing™ is a podcast where we uncover what’s working across the digital landscape by tapping into the world’s best data-backed research and through candid conversations with industry experts. Join us if you're ready to learn what's working when it comes to your marketing efforts.
On this episode, we spoke with Ross Simmonds, Founder & CEO of Foundation Marketing. We discuss the foundational elements of a content distribution strategy, the importance of research that informs your approach, and how to find underrated distribution channels and whitespace opportunities. When it comes to content distribution, you'll be hard-pressed to find another marketing leader that cares as much about the topic.
Here's a full transcript of our conversation with Ross:
Charlie Grinnell: On this episode, I'm joined by Ross Simmonds, founder and CEO of Foundation Marketing. Ross, I've been following you for a long time. Thank you so much for joining me today.
Ross Simmonds: Thanks for having me, Charlie. I'm excited to jump in and chat about marketing growth and all that distribution. Good stuff. It's going to be fun.
Charlie Grinnell: So I always go back to the beginning with episodes like this. A lot of our listeners, sometimes they know the guests, sometimes they don't know the guests, I'd love if you could just take us back and share just your career journey today, where you've worked in the past, how it shaped you to where you're at today with Foundation.
Ross Simmonds: So I would say I'm going to take folks way back into time, and it would've been way back, back into my high school days. In high school, I got my first itch and interest in entrepreneurship. I started to sell do-rags over to my locker. And as a Canadian, I think you'll be able to align with me on this, which is the fact that when you can buy Putin and you don't have to use your allowance from your parents and you can buy for your friends, there's nothing better. And I was able to use my do-rag money to buy Putin every single day throughout high school. And that was when I fell in love with the idea of entrepreneurship. And I knew I wanted to be my own boss.
Ross Simmonds: You fast forward a few years later, I started a website about fantasy sports. And that helped me pay for my university. And then from there, I started a community online about a video game called the Sims as well as Madden. And at that moment, I knew that this internet thing was going to take off, because I was living in my parents' basement in a small place called Preston Nova Scotia. And I was reaching people all over the globe. My traffic started to skyrocket and go to the moon, but my marks started to tank. And my mom had a very harsh conversation with me and was like, "Son, you need to shift your focus back to your schoolwork." So she made me shift my blog from writing about fantasy sports and writing about video games, to writing about marketing, which I was studying in school.
Ross Simmonds: And then you fast forward a few years later, and that blog rosssimmons.com started to take off and get some eyeballs on it from people all over the globe. So I started to get flown out to speak at events on the things I was writing about on my website. Ended up getting a job at a local ad agency. Worked there for about a year and a half, maybe two years. And then I quit and started up my own company. Those companies ranged from startups and SaaS companies all the way through to experience based companies. And at the same time, still running rosssimmons.com and doing marketing consulting with startups.
Ross Simmonds: Fast forward, a few more years, that company, rosssimmons.com, evolved into Foundation Marketing, which is where I am today. And we work exclusively with B2B SaaS companies on content marketing as it relates to strategy, creation of content and distribution of content. And we're a team fully remote spread out all over the globe, working with some of the fastest growing and largest SaaS companies today.
Charlie Grinnell: That is a lot. The first thing that comes to mind, do-rag money is the funniest thing I've heard in a long time. I love that out loud. I feel like everybody just wants to take some do-rag money and do stuff, whether it's buy Putin or do something.
Ross Simmonds: That's it.
Charlie Grinnell: Interesting. So you started as more of the solopreneur, just getting involved into everything and it morphed down that path into marketing. That's pretty interesting. We took a dig through the archives, of your archives specifically on Twitter. And one of the things that jumped out at me that I loved is a controversial take on content. And one of the things you said was that an often overused and bad piece of advice from marketing gurus is this idea that content is king. I'm super aligned with you on that. I feel like there's two camps here. There's the content people and the distribution people. Can you expand on this and unpack your thinking there?
Ross Simmonds: Yeah. So the biggest thing that I think a lot of people forget is that the idea that content is king, the idea that if you create content, the world will be yours. That whole sentiment is in my opinion, a little bit Plato. And the reason why it's Plato is because we've realized from the beginning of humankind that if you can tell a powerful story and it can resonate with someone, then you can make an impact. But what we often forget is that sometimes those same stories can be told by other people the same exact way. Two different people can tell the exact same story. But if that story doesn't reach as many people, because that person doesn't have a distribution channel, then the person who told the story the exact same way, but just happen to have more distribution is going to win. Two people right now can put up the exact same post, but the person who has more followers, more people on their email list has a larger audience is going to seem like they have better content. But in fact, what they actually have is better distribution.
Ross Simmonds: And I think a lot of organizations, a lot of people get caught up in this idea that they think they're not actually creating good content, because their sample size is quite small. So the idea of content being king is to me, a very bad cliche, because at the end of the day, we should all just strive to create good content. That should be a fundamental thing that we all strive to do. There's this great comedy take. I think it was Eddie Murphy, maybe it was Chris Rock who said, "Everybody brags about raising their kids." That's what you're supposed to do.
Ross Simmonds: The same thing exists in content marketing. You don't get brownie points for creating good content. That's what you're supposed to do. You're supposed to create content that is good for the people you're trying to influence and people you're trying. So that should just be done and accepted as the status quo. But what we don't do is we don't ensure after we press publish on these pieces of content that they're actually reaching the right people. And that is something that I think more and more organizations need to understand and really embrace.
Charlie Grinnell: Totally. It reminds me of... There's a book called Hit Makers by a guy named Derek Thompson. He's a writer for the Atlantic. I read this book probably just around the same time I started following you actually, because you were yelling about distribution. I was like, "This Ross guy is onto something here." And then I read this book, Hit Makers, and he talks about distribution and he uses examples over periods of time in history. And so if you're listening, check out the book, Hit Makers, on Amazon or whatever. Go find it by Derek Thompson. And one of the examples he gives is it's a rock song in the 50s, Rock Around the Clock tonight. That song, I'm not going to sing it because I am going to scare everybody.
Ross Simmonds: I was looking forward to it. I thought you might.
Charlie Grinnell: But what he talks about was that song. And I don't know the exact date here. You'd have to read the book, but the song was released in 1953 and it fell flat. And then in 1954, it was used in the intro of a huge movie and that movie ended up winning an Oscar. And then all of a sudden, that song took off on the charts. And he's like, the song was the same in 1953 as it was in '54, the difference was distribution.
Ross Simmonds: Right. It's like that recent Fleetwood Mac track with the Doggface208 two drinking the cranberry juice is like I personally, and I know some people are going to yell at me on the internet, I had no clue who Fleetwood Mac was and how I seen that TikTok. And now I had that track on repeat over and over again. It's so true.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. The one other example that I've used before in presentations, because I've looked into this idea of what's something that went big later on because of distribution. And another one that I found was the movie Shawshank Redemption. And what happened was I think the year it was produced, it cost 20 million bucks to produce, but it only did nine million at the box office. I think it was nominated for an Oscar. And last time I checked, when you spend 20 million bucks on a movie, you're not trying to make nine. It's basic business math there.
Ross Simmonds: Basic business math.
Charlie Grinnell: But what was interesting is I think after it went through that fanfare, I believe TNT bought it as a TV movie and it got this wide. And now fast forward, I think it's on IMDb's top 100 movies in the past 100 years. And it's this cult classic thing that has gone huge. And again, same film when it was produced and released too just found distribution. So that's super, super interesting. I want to expand on that. So you've said that hitting publish in the past is only the beginning not the end, how does a business, if they're marketers listening to this, they're like, "Okay, great Ross, I know I have to produce great content, how should I be thinking about distribution and what can I do to get started to build my distribution and what are some things that you've seen work?"
Ross Simmonds: So the first thing that everyone needs to do is they need to try to find channel user fit. And channel user fit is the idea of going deep into understanding the audience, the users, the people who you're trying to influence, the people you're trying to serve and connect with, and then think about what channels they're spending time on. And what you want to do is you want to deeply dive in and study and understand, okay, they are spending time on this channel, what is that? Are they spending time in a subreddit? Are they spending time in a forum? Are they spending time in a Facebook group? Are they spending time on Twitter, LinkedIn? What channel is this audience spending time on?
Ross Simmonds: And when you understand that, you then need to spend time thinking about how competitive are these spaces as it relates to audience. Is your competition on TikTok? Is your competition on Reddit? Are they in these Facebook groups? Are they sponsoring these newsletters? And when you start to better understand how your competition is using these channels, you are going to quickly uncover an arbitrage opportunity, because there's going to be a channel where your audience is spending time, but your competitors are not. And what that typically means is that you have an open opportunity in front of you where you can go in and you can communicate and connect with this audience in a place where a brand has not gone before.
Ross Simmonds: Reddit is one of, in my opinion, most underrated channels, because marketers break out into hives every single time you bring up the idea of marketing on Reddit. Why? Because marketers know, and I do too as a marketer and as somebody who's been banned and blocked from Reddit a few times that if you go into Reddit and you do things that are against the rules, you will get kicked off of that channel very fast. It is a real thing. But if you can understand the code, if you can understand the culture, if you can understand the space of the subreddits where thousands if not hundreds of thousands, sometimes the even millions of people are spending time every single month, you can go into these communities, add value, distribute your content within them and extract value back.
Ross Simmonds: So long story a little bit longer. What do you do? You start by studying and understanding where your audience is spending time. You can use tools like audience, you can use tools like SparkToro, you can use good old fashioned Google and type in forum, subreddits, you can use a good old fashioned search to uncover where your audience is spending time and then go into these channels, figure out is my audience here and then start spreading your content into those channels as well. But it starts first and foremost with marketing 101, getting close to understanding the people you're trying to reach.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, that makes a ton of sense. And it's something that we say all the time to a lot of our clients is looking before you leap. To create great content cost money. And so from a marketing perspective, you only have so much budget to spend on content, looking before you leap. And then the other phrase that stealing a Charlie Munger quote is fishing where the fish are. So look before you leap so that you can fish where the fish are.
Ross Simmonds: Exactly, 100%. I love that.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. When you're thinking about building strategy, a lot of our listeners are strategists. So they're sitting there going, okay, my channel strategy, my content strategy, do you have any core principles besides the ones you just mentioned that you would recommend they use as they build out content distribution strategies?
Ross Simmonds: You also want to find your content user fit. And that happens when you go into these communities and you start to reverse engineer the best types of content within these different spaces. So let's use Reddit as an example. If I am trying to create content, that's going to resonate with strategists on Reddit, I'm going to go to a subreddit called our strategist. I don't know if that exists. I just came up with it off the top of my head, but let's say it does. I'm going to go into this community, and this is going to be a place where 10,000 strategists spend time every single month talking about strategy. Now, it would be easy for me to just look at it and say, "Yeah, the strategists are here, let's submit our links and let's call it day."
Ross Simmonds: But what a real great strategist would do is they're going to go into that community and they're going to sort the content by top post of all time. So they're going to analyze now what the top pieces of content have been in this community for the last two decades, whatever that may be. And they're going to start studying and seeing what content rose to the top, why is type of content, this format of content resonating with this audience consistently? And what can I do to create something similar? So if I notice that strategists love templates, what am I going to create? I'm going to create a handful of different templates, I'm going to create a SWAT template, I'm going to create a scaling up template, I'm going to create a handful of different templates for this community and then I'm going to give it back to them. I'm also going to create a long form piece of content in this actual community using a text post that's going to break down the 20 templates that every strategist needs to get a promotion in 2025, whatever that may be.
Ross Simmonds: So I'm going to deliver that to them as well, because now I know that this community wants templates, but I go a step further and I'm going to start to actually create a spreadsheet that outlines a trend. Is it just templates that these people want? Probably not. They might also have a deep interest in salary guides and information surrounding salaries of strategists. So if that's something that I can create, I'm going to give that to them as well. And I'm going to continue to go through every single post and try to keep track and identify a trend around the topics that they're interested in, the formats in which they want to get that content. And then I'm going to give it back to them consistently until I run out of ideas, which is pretty much never.
Ross Simmonds: So that's where I would start. And then once you've saturated and been able to extract a ton of value out of that one channel, you do it in the next one. So you use that same philosophy, that same idea around Facebook groups. You use that same philosophy around podcasts and you reverse engineer. I would ask you, "Hey, Charlie, what have been the best episodes that you've had on your podcast?" And then you're going to send me five links, I'm going to listen to them, and then I'm going to try to be better than those podcasts interviews that you've given. And that again is the format that you take from channel to channel, audience to audience. And if you do that consistently, you'll be able to leverage content user fit and ultimately drive ROI for whatever efforts you're trying to create.
Charlie Grinnell: That all sounds like a lot, but I guess what I'm hearing is the difference between good and great or maybe average and great is the depth in which you go and that upfront work, because I feel like people in content are like, yeah, I just go and I produce and I create and all I'm doing is producing a ton of content, spending maybe not as much time on the distribution, but even that stuff upfront like that, content research upfront sounds like that's where a lot of the work really needs to happen. The production is actually quite small, because you've done that research. So just to frame it up, it's like 40% research, 20% production, 40% distribution, would be in those three buckets. Is that what I'm hearing?
Ross Simmonds: 100%. And I think a lot of people get intimidated by that type of a breakdown, because they just want to get into the weeds and start creating. When you hear sentiments and ideas that content is king, you lean into this idea of acting like a production firm where you just want to produce, produce, produce. I think one of the biggest mistakes that have happened over the last five, 10 years in content marketing overall is the idea of content marketing firms, content marketing agencies, etc, content marketing freelancers shifting away from a simple word, which is marketing. It's not content, you're not in the industry of just content, you're in the content marketing industry. And a part of marketing is research and distribution.
Ross Simmonds: But so many companies, so many people have fallen into the trap of thinking all they have to do in their job is produce good content, but you also have to market that content. And to create content that is actually good you have to do research. Thomas Edison has this quote, I love it. It said, "Opportunity is missed by people because it's dressed in overalls and looks like work. And I think that is one of the biggest opportunities that exist in our sure. You might not need to wear overall to do research online, but it is a lot of work. And if you are not willing to put in the work, then you're going to fall behind against those who are willing to put in the time to understand their audience, understand the channels and then use that to their advantage.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, that rings super true for me. A, a close friend of mine who I used to work with at real ed bull, one of my best friends outside of work, we always used to have this chat that a lot of people use who are just like I'm a content person, and they would just create these art projects. And we would constantly be banging our heads against the wall, because we'd be like we're employed by a marketing department at a for-profit company. And so we had this phrase that marketing is art for the sake of commerce, commerce being the keyword.
Ross Simmonds: I love that.
Charlie Grinnell: Like we're here to make money. And so yes, as a career, as an individual, it's fun for us to create content and that's what we get our rise out of it. But also if you're not going to keep it in mind and how it's going to push the brand forward, generate ROI, whatever the action is that you need to take, "Hey, there's the door in the art galleries just down the road, go get after it."
Ross Simmonds: That's it 100%. You have to realize at the end of the day, this is a capitalist game. And I know folks, oftentimes these days will be like, "Uh, I don't want to do that." It's the truth. At the end of the day, we're in business and we're doing business to generate results for the companies that we serve, the clients that we lead, etc, and you have to get excited by that. That's a part of the game.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. And I want to expand on that a little bit, because I feel like COVID... This is a hypothesis that I have, and I'm curious to hear your take. So with COVID, we've seen this acceleration of digital. So more and more people are spending time online over the past year and a half, two years, more and more businesses were forced to become more digitally savvy to continue to stay alive, which means, okay, there's more businesses on there, there's more people on there, more people are creating content on there, more businesses are creating content on there, more content is being consumed. It's getting more competitive in the same places. And so the hypothesis that I have or that we have as a business is with that competition continuing to increase exponentially, the separation is going to be that pre-work, that research, that insight to allow you to create something that will separate you from the pack. What do you think?
Ross Simmonds: I think your spot on. That's it. The research is going to give you that edge. And in business, that's what all of us are looking for. And when you find it, you have to capitalize on it, you have to own it, and then you don't rest on your laurels and say, "We found it," you say, "What's the next one?" And you continue to innovate. I think that's the hypothesis of the new age for marketers. Anyone who ignores it is going to get left behind.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, I completely agree. I want to shift gears here. Let's talk about remixing or repurposing. I know there's that TED Talk where it's like creativity is a remix or everything is a remix. I want to bring up this book that I actually read. It's called Will and Vision: How Latecomers Grow to Dominate Markets. It's by a guy named Gerard Tellis and Peter Golder. And they did this huge study. It's really hard to find, by the way, I found a used copy on Amazon with someone who's looking notes in it and lines.
Ross Simmonds: I love it. Those are my favourite types of books.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. And basically, it talks about how while the early bird might get the worm, the second mouse often gets the cheese, the late comers to things, the second movers, are the ones who kill it. So they give the example of jobs stealing the stuff from either Xerox or whoever, that was back in the day of the idea for the mouse. And basically they go through so many different business categories where it's like corporate espionage. It was the second mover who was like, "Hey, there's something here, but we think if we make this little tweak, this is the thing that's going to go big." And so how do you think that plays into content remixing or repurposing for distribution?
Ross Simmonds: I think there's a million examples of this consistently in the space. You can look at a lot of organizations viewing things like TikTok as an opportunity in the early days. And a lot of the early adopters, etc, were great at it, they have done amazing, but still think there's going to be brands who now study some of the creators, some of the brands that have been there early and then use that for inspiration around how they should navigate those channels. And they'll find an edge that will ultimately allow them to thrive there. You can also see it on channels like Instagram. It was essentially the Wild Wild West. You could do anything and everything, the algorithm wasn't that sophisticated. You put up some content, you could your audience to a 100,000 people in probably two months.
Ross Simmonds: And now that brands have started to study it and have learned it from the early adopters, they've surpassed some of those early brands that were unlocking amazing wins on the back of Instagram, especially when you look at it from a B2C lens. When you look at direct to consumer, I can remember in the early days of Instagram, all of the competition, all of the contests, tag your friends, tag your partners, tag these people-
Charlie Grinnell: Like this post.
Ross Simmonds: Yeah, like this post and we'll give you a swimsuit. All of those things took off in the early days. The brands caught on and they had taken it. A lot of those brands that had amazing early traction just lost, because they weren't able to continue to evolve and grow, which speaks to the importance of being able to navigate multiple channels and stay on top of the latest trends that are shaping your industry.
Charlie Grinnell: And so that leads me to another question just about when new things come them out. And so I think back to my time working on the brand side was we had our core things, but what I would always encourage my teams to do is, hey, whenever there's a new feature, we need to try it right away so that we can get that feedback, because you never know when there's going to be something where you're like, hey, we've never done this before, we toss this up and look what this did for us, and we caught some wave by accident. What's your take on that?
Ross Simmonds: That innovation happens when you are quick to experiment. And a lot of us, for some reason, step away from experimentation, but it is so key. A lot of the breakthroughs that we have in business, a lot of the breakthroughs that you have in marketing comes from your ability and your interest and commitment to experimenting with new things. So you should be testing everything that comes out. At the same time, I think it's also important to realize a lot of these platforms when they roll out a new feature, they want it to win. So they skew their algorithm to incentivize the usage of these different things, whether it's Twitter spaces, whether it's video on LinkedIn, whether it's Facebook in the early days of launching the ability to actually just share an article for the first time. All of those things, when they first come out, that is the best time to do it, because they want you to engage with it, because they've invested so much engineering time into creating this thing, they want it to be successful. So it's definitely an opportunity. And I think more brands should be paying attention to it.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, absolutely. I couldn't have said it better myself. I want to talk about this phrase. It's been said before that you can create content once and distribute it forever. Is there ever a point where a piece of content can no longer be distributed or remix or does this only apply to evergreen content? I'd love to hear your thoughts on that concept.
Ross Simmonds: So it definitely will depend on the type of content that you're creating. Every single piece of content that you create should have its different type of intent. Some content that you publish is simply going to be announcing that somebody joined your company. You don't need to promote that for three years. They've joined your company, hopefully they've done well, you don't really need to amplify that for three years at a time. There's going to be other pieces of content that actually have utility value to an audience that you should be able to create once and then distribute forever.
Ross Simmonds: Now, one of the things that I oftentimes forget in that sentiment and that idea of creating once and distribute forever is to also optimize every year. So you want to be going back to some of that content that you've created and optimizing it to ensure that old reports that you're referencing are now up to date. You want to ensure that the fact that you're calling out the year 2021 is now updated to 2022. And then next year it's 2023, so on and so forth. If you're referencing an industry stat, you want the most recent stat. So you need to be going back and optimizing these pieces to ensure that yes, you can distribute it forever.
Ross Simmonds: But at the core, if you are creating something that is valuable for your audience, the day you press publish is the beginning of the life cycle for that asset. And you should be able, if it is a highly valuable asset, to distribute that consistently. Why? Because the people who show up on day one to see that asset aren't actually going to be the exact same people who show up on day two, day 30, day 40, day 50, day 125, day 390. They're going to be different groups of people. They're going to be different groups of people because you're going to different channels. You're going to be spreading it across different networks and not everybody is online at the same time. There are billions of people in the world, and there are probably thousands at a minimum of people who are going to be looking for answers to a question that your content could answer. So if you can solve their problems by distributing your content forever, you are going to infinitely have the ability to solve problems and ultimately extract value out of the relationships that you're building with these people.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, that makes a ton of sense. That content updating or optimizing on an ongoing basis, I feel like is something that is often overlooked. And I think that's just a good reminder for anybody listening when you publish something, if you want it to have that shelf life or lifespan extended, then going back and whether it's the ultimate guide or top 10, whatever, top 20 stats or whatever those things, those are super, super important to update.
Charlie Grinnell: I want to talk a little bit more about distribution channels that you think are underutilized. I know you mentioned Reddit. We've done a lot of work across different industries and one that's actually stuck out for us is Pinterest. We always see that Pinterest has a disproportionate impact on businesses to drive traffic versus maybe the amount of followers that they get. And it doesn't necessarily have that viral aspect of you're watching your millions of views go up on YouTube or you're watching your real takeoff or your TikTok video. We think about Pinterest as almost another search engine. A ton of people spend of time on there, there's a lot of attention there and it can drive a lot of traffic for a brand. I'm wondering, do you have any other ones that stick out where you're like, hey, this is a missed opportunity?
Ross Simmonds: Yeah, I love Pinterest. I think that's a great call. I think it's another amazing underrated channel, especially in corporate settings. A lot of people think that Pinterest is just a great spot to find out how you should do your interior design, how you should plan your website, what type of bookcase should we have, how should my room look? All of those things.
Charlie Grinnell: Recipes.
Ross Simmonds: But if you go to Pinterest right now... Recipes, exactly. If somebody listening to this goes to Pinterest right now, and they type in, I'm looking for social media strategy cheat sheet or I'm looking for how to learn Python, I can guarantee you with confidence the information that you get back from Pinterest is actually going to be highly valuable and highly something you can use. So I think we all need to challenge our biases that we may have around these channels and realize yes, even Pinterest can be great.
Ross Simmonds: So what are some other underrated channels? I think one that a lot of people are starting to finally wake up to, especially in B2B, and I've talked about it already a little bit is Instagram. I do believe that Instagram is underestimated from a B2B lens. So if you're in the world of B2B and you're thinking Instagram is just for B2C, I believe you're actually incorrect. I think that there's a lot of value in using Instagram for B2B content. You just have to understand the content user fit for the audience. People don't necessarily need a stock photo, they want video, they want to see some carousels with text. Text content works really well on Instagram. So that would be one channel.
Ross Simmonds: Another thing that I think is underestimated is the power of niche newsletters, especially with the rise of Substack. You can go to Substack, you can type in a few keywords that are relevant to your audience, you can DM and reach out to a handful of the people who run these newsletters and you can actually sponsor their newsletters for a reasonable rate. I think that's a massive opportunity that is actually deeply underestimated across a wide range of different industries.
Ross Simmonds: Another channel that I think is deeply underestimated and we're going to really get woken up to it in the next 10 years is TikTok. And I know everyone thinks, oh, TikTok is all the buzz, everyone's talking about it, blah, blah, blah. I hear you, and that is true again, from a B2C lens. My world is B2B. And in B2B, we sleep on TikTok, but I can guarantee that in 15 years, we're going to have CMOs of Fortune 500 companies who will point to TikTok as being the place where they learned marketing. They learned branding on the back of influencers who are on TikTok.
Ross Simmonds: So if you run a SaaS company and you can get these influencers talking about how your tool can help them better understand SERP, understand the algorithms on Facebook, on LinkedIn or who their audience is and you can train them, 15 years from now, the people who are making decisions are going to be looking at your product and using your product because you made that investment early on. So those are three. I could go on, because I do believe outside of the top three, outside of the Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter mix, a lot of people still underestimate all of the different channels, whether it's a slack community, whether it's a Facebook group, whether it's a subreddit, whether it's Quora, I think YouTube is still underestimated. I think a lot of channels are underestimated and it is never been a better time to be a marketer because of that.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, super interesting. I think back to we've done a lot of insight work on TikTok. And same type of thing, TikTok used to be that thing where, hey, it's only young kids who are on this. And now I think we looked at the hashtag learn on TikTok and there's something stupid like 100 and something billion views, everything from science to math to... You name it. There's stuff on there. And over 100 billion views is no joke. People are consuming this stuff. Yeah. So I completely agree. I feel like it's just one of those awkward things. A lot of marketers don't necessarily like change. And I feel like the last... Some marketers do like change. I think that was an overstatement. But there are some marketers who are like, no, we've had our core like Facebook and Google and that sort of thing for the last decade of digital. And now there's this new kid on the block TikTok that has managed to get to the jungle gym alongside Facebook and Google and they haven't been booted in the face off back to the bottom. So yeah, that's super, super interesting.
Charlie Grinnell: I want to switch gears here and ask you, what are you most excited about when it comes to marketing today? You have a broad range of experience, you're primarily in the B2B space, this could be B2C that you're excited for or B2B, what excites you, whether it's to a trend, a topic, a concept, a framework?
Ross Simmonds: Yeah. So the one thing that I'm thinking a lot about and has me super excited right now is the fact that marketing as an industry, marketing as a space is quickly becoming barrier-less in the sense anyone can get it. That to me is exciting, it's exciting because I'm starting to see not only in our own team where we now have people who work at Foundation all over the globe, ranging from areas of Nigeria all the way through to Ireland, across Canada, across the US, and potentially even further places as we continue to expand and grow. I think the world is going to change as marketers start to become a lot more diverse in terms of the backgrounds, the cultures, etc, and the spaces they come from. And that to me is very exciting, because I think we're going to see how everyone can compete. And I am a major competitive hit. I love to compete. It's something that excites me.
Ross Simmonds: And the idea of competing on a global scale where you're not just competing with locals and the people who happen to get into the luxury of being born in the same area as you and you're competing with them against the same accounts, blah, blah, blah, and creating content that goes up on the local billboard, but now we're creating content on a global scale that can impact the global audience. To me, that's exciting. It's exciting to see our world and our communities and our space just become so global where we have the ability to influence people on entirely different time zones and entirely different continents. That to me is exciting.
Ross Simmonds: And typically the answer to this is I'm excited about this channel, I'm excited about this. I think even more interesting channels, even more interesting creatives, even more interesting stories are going to come mode of this. When I looked at it, I forget where the gentleman was from, but I seen the most recent TikTok billionaire or millionaire, something like that, and they were showing this thing and it was somebody who's not from a traditional area. And it's like this is what the world is going to be like. You're going to be competing with the best creative minds in the world. And that to me is exciting, because not only from a talent standpoint do you have now an opportunity to bring those people into your org, because of the rise of remote work, but on a competitive scale, you now are going to compete with some of the greatest minds that just didn't have an opportunity to compete on a global scale in the past. So for me, those barriers coming down is so exciting for the industry at large.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, that makes me actually think about when I was working at Red Bull in Austria, how our diversity was our strength on the global social team. There was something stupid like 15 or 19 different nationalities, and I used to think of it like the UN. So we'd get in a room and we'd be strategizing over something or talking about something, and there's a guy from Spain, a guy from Italy, a woman from China, a guy from the US, I'm from Canada, we'd have someone there from the UK and someone from Lebanon. And we'd be all looking at the same problem or challenge. Hearing the different perspectives, man, was so interesting and I learned so much. And I feel like you're absolutely right just with the internet and people being more and more connected and how that relates to marketing, you can just learn so much quicker and have different perspectives that you would've never even been able to access before.
Ross Simmonds: Exactly. It levels everybody up, everybody gets levelled up on the back of it.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. This is one of my favourite questions to ask. I'm a beast when it comes to zooming and reading information. I dropped out of university, I never ended up going back, now, working in marketing. The way that I've learned a ton is by listening and reading things. How do you stay up to date on business and marketing? Who are you following? What are you reading? Who are you listening to?
Ross Simmonds: I love it. So I am a big Twitter user. So I use Twitter often and I find myself going into little communities and circles throughout Twitter to gain a lot of insight. So I follow a handful of different entrepreneurs, makers, people who are in the finance space, people who are in the crypto space, people who are in all kinds of different spaces, because for me, what I truly believe is where you find differentiation and the opportunity to grow on an exponential scale is to actually try to stack different skillsets in different perspectives from a wide range of different areas.
Ross Simmonds: So I go deep into different niches and I study them so I can apply that to my world of B2B SaaS marketing. So I'm following a lot of people right now in the world of real estate. I've been following a lot of people in the finance. And through those discoveries and through that deep little niche world that I spend some time in, I'm able to apply different theories and then bring it back into the marketing world as well. So I love to just stay curious. That's one of my biggest mantras and ideas that I really would encourage everyone to do. And don't be afraid to go back to the classics. I think a lot of people underestimate the value of the classics. We all want to read the latest book, one of the newest books and whatever is on the New York Times best sellers today, but scientific advertising, Ogilvy on Advertising, building a story brand, those are some classic books that are still very valuable.
Ross Simmonds: And I think a lot of times we get lost in this idea of always chasing the new, but you can go back to some of the OG original marketing books and still get a ton of value, the same way that you mentioned that book with all of the writing in it, etc, study that stuff, go into the archives of a site like SlideShare. This is a pro tip that I've been having. SlideShare in its early days was filled and still is filled with slides and presentations created by some of the brightest minds in the world. And those decks, those presentations still exist there, but nobody talks about them. But if you go to SlideShare today and you type in go to market strategy, if you go to SlideShare today, and you talk about growth, SaaS, whatever, you're going to find some of the best presentations that were ever given, but have started to collect cobwebs and dust directly in there.
Ross Simmonds: Another pro tip, since we're on this topic of something that I like to do is the Wayback time Machine. You use the Wayback time Machine to look at old blog posts that people created before they made it and you get a better perspective into what actually got them there, because it's easy to fall into the trap of studying someone where they are today while they have lost complete humility and context around where they were 10 years ago. But if you go back into time into the Wayback time Machine, you can study some of those early blog posts and see that they were struggling with a lot of the same things that you're struggling with now, but they've lost context, they've lost the familiarity with it, they've lost the essence of it. And if you can go back into time to get that, it can be really valuable for you to then see, okay, this is what they were actually thinking back then, how can I apply to my life today?
Charlie Grinnell: Totally. Oh my gosh. I've used Wayback Machine to look at old versions of marketing sites, but man, to go look at blog posts, that is a gangster tip. I love that.
Ross Simmonds: I love it.
Charlie Grinnell: Okay. I have a few more questions here, a bit more rapid fire. You can answer either B2B or B2C. Are there any brands whose marketing you admire?
Ross Simmonds: So I would say this is not going to be a fun answer for folks, but I'm a Philadelphia Eagles fan diehard. And I have to say that they did a great job at convincing me to love the team. So I'm going to point to them, but I'll also go a little bit further with my B2C play and geek out a bit, but I also love Madden. And I think that Madden has done a great job. Their game is the same. It's very boring. They don't upgrade it much. And I hope nobody from EA is listening to this, but they do a horrible job at updating their game, but their branding and their marketing to continue to get us to pay for it is great. And they've done an excellent job at that. And I think that they've done an amazing job with it.
Ross Simmonds: Those are some of the brands that I look at. Others like the Campbell's in the B2B/B2C world, I love what they've done. I think that they are marketing excellence of this generation and they've done something that is magnificent. And I'm not humble enough to say I also really love what Foundation is doing. I think the Foundation and the team that we've built are doing some really cool thing, not only for our clients, but also with the Foundation brand. And I think in the years to come, we hopefully can continue to create content that shapes culture in this space and ultimately influence people to really create content that's worth creating.
Charlie Grinnell: Totally. What would be a piece of advice that you think a marketer either B2B or B2C should be keeping top of mind as they move ahead in their careers?
Ross Simmonds: Do the things that you're afraid of. And I know that sounds very cliche and very basic. And some folks are like, "Oh, I'm done listening to this podcast, that's so much fluff." But you actually should do the things you're afraid of. And what you will find is when you get that feeling inside of you, that this thread that you're about to press publish, you should just save it in your drafts and not share it or you're about to share something on a Reddit and you're like, "No, I don't want to get blocked today," those are the moments that you should actually push through, because you're going to do one of two things. You're either going to surprise yourself and have an outcome that is way beyond your imagination or you're going to be met with crickets or get blocked, and it's not going to sting that bad, and then you build thick skin. So do the things that scare you and lean into that very frequently. And over the course of your career, if you do it long enough, you're going to be a completely different person.
Charlie Grinnell: Totally. Last question, where's the best place for people to find you online or get ahold of you?
Ross Simmonds: Yeah. So find me anywhere on the internet. You can look me up Ross Simmons, I'm at the coolest cool on most Twitter accounts. I create my Twitter handle in my universe days. So don't judge me on that one. But I would love to stay connected. So yeah, find me on Twitter, find me on LinkedIn. Let me know that you found me through the Charlie podcast with RightMetric, and I'll be sure to connect with you on LinkedIn, all of those different channels. Thanks for having me on. I hope your audience got a lot of value out of this. I have deep respect for another Canadian having a positive influence on the culture by creating content like this. So my hat is off to you. Thanks for having me on. I hope your listeners got a ton of value out of today.
Charlie Grinnell: Ross, sentiments echoed my friend. As someone who's been following you for a long time, I'm so appreciative that you took the time to chat with us. I hear your thinking on certain things unpack things a little further. And so yeah, we'll have to do it again sometime soon.
Ross Simmonds: Indeed, we went deep. I love it.
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