What's Working in Marketing™: How Tech Companies Are Building Media Brands with Cameron Uganec, General Manager of Media at Thinkific
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 Cameron Uganec, the General Manager of The Leap, which is a media company created by Thinkific. He was hired to lead this brand new media division out of his previous role at Later, where he was the Senior Vice President of Marketing & Growth. Since he's in the seat leading an in-house media brand for a highly innovative tech company, we figured there are few better people to explain this popular trend. According to Cameron, it starts with customer-centric content. Join us to understand why media brands are popping up in 2022 and to learn from a marketing leader who's been in digital for over 20 years.
Here's a full transcript of our conversation with Cameron:
Charlie Grinnell: Welcome to What's Working in Marketing, a podcast for marketers that uncovers what's working across the digital landscape by tapping into the world's best data backed research and through candid conversations with industry experts. I'm your host, Charlie Grinnell. On this episode, I'm joined with Cameron Uganec, general manager of The Leap by Thinkific. Cameron, thanks so much for joining me today.
Cameron Uganec: Great to be here. Nice to finally meet you, Charlie. You got so many friends in common.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah, I know. Before we started recording, we were like, how have we not met yet? So it's always good to put a face to the name and excited to dive in and jam on today's topic. Typically, how we start these episodes is I like to go back to the beginning, and you've had a really impressive career at some amazing brands that all of our listeners know. So why don't we start there, how you got into marketing, how it started out for you, how it progressed through different companies, and how you ended up now running a media publication within a tech company?
Cameron Uganec: Yeah. I'd love to share my story. It's a long one. I guess the audience members can't see my gray beard. For many of the tours of duty in the front lines of content marketing. But I've been in the digital business and digital marketing for 20 years, and that was before Google. Before Google even launched, I was involved in digital and internet. So I've seen a lot of different trends happen and the maturity of the space. And what really interested me in the early days are still the same things that drive me today. So the decentralization of communication, what that means for the democratization power of communication and building businesses and learning, empowering individuals and new forms of storytelling, are things that I was interested in when I was 26 years old and just getting started and still interests me today. For the last 10 years, I've had a front row seat on the growth of SaaS business.
Cameron Uganec: So I joined Hootsuite, it's hard to believe, it was 10 years ago. Yeah, the early days of Hootsuite. And really there wasn't a lot of SaaS companies back then. So we were making it up on the fly in terms of what tactics would work, and it's amazing to look back at how some of those things have just become benchmarks and how things are done and how teams are structured. But 10 years ago we were writing the playbooks at that time. And then during those 10 years, it's really been interesting that I feel like I've been part of the three phases of the creator economy. So the first phase being the birth of social media networks and people understanding how to create content and build audiences on that. And at that time I was with Hootsuite, and we are right in the center of that obviously, and created a category around social media management of which there are other players now.
Cameron Uganec: So learned a lot there about the forming creator economy. The second phase really was the rise of influencers. And so, first step was figuring out how to host content and create an audience, then it was like, how do we make money? And very quickly the influencer world popped up. And that's when I made the move to Later and Later was very much part of not just social media, but really the idea of becoming a sole entrepreneur being an influencer. And really interesting trends that we were seeing there of people creating businesses, but starting with social first-
Charlie Grinnell: I know.
Cameron Uganec: Starting with a domain, like starting through social, get your Instagram account, build an audience, when you build the audience, then you figure out how to monetize. That's a really fascinating trend and that's what takes us to phase three, I think, of the creator economy, which is all around creator entrepreneurship. And that's the current phase we're in now. And so Thinkific is smack dab in that phase in terms of how I monetize this. I've got an audience, but beyond brand deals, how can I monetize this? And I'm super excited about that. So for the audience, the people that don't know what Thinkific is, that's the company that I joined recently. It really is like the Shopify for learning products. So it's a platform that enables you to create market and sell your expertise and gives you total control over, you own the website, you own your audience, compared to the social networks.
Cameron Uganec: All the social networks have their own monetization things, but they ultimately own your audience, and you're at the whim of the algorithm. So Thinkific really is about you taking ownership, it's a place for creators to be able to move their super fans to a place that they can control and then monetize them through content that they create in the form of learning products. So I'm really excited about the potential of Thinkific and it's role within this phase of creator entrepreneurship. And it harkens back to those early reasons why I got into digital media around the democratization of business, it's like anyone could be an entrepreneur.
Cameron Uganec: Now, if you have a skill that you could share, and the democratization of learning, so then you think about, in aggregate, if we have ultimately a million creators on the plot platform creating courses, learning products for people on things that they know, think about what that could mean for all the people that are learning, real world examples from real experts and the accessibility of that. And even in a cost effective way of it, it's all delivered on demand on the internet. So really excited about that in terms of Thinkific role in that and this latest phase of the creator economy.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. Well, I mean, a lot to dive in there. And I think the one thing I want to start with is, I was just talking on another episode with Sean Tyson from Quietly, we were talking about brands thinking like media companies and like, here we are with the subject of this episode, what's the thinking behind these SaaS tech companies, starting media companies? And like, I can share a bit of my background, I got my start in marketing more on the creative side, but then I ended up working on the digital marketing side of things with Red Bull. And back then, that was like content marketing, thinking like a media company, this is 2013, 2015, like that type of thing. And now what we're seeing with, I think, the one big example that everyone points to is like HubSpot acquiring The Hustle. Can you just unpack that for people listening? Like what is the strategy or the play here?
Cameron Uganec: So I think one is unpacking that idea of think like a media company. So if you're a digital marketer, you have heard that several times, Gary B has been talking like that for many years. But I think a lot of people don't necessarily understand what does that actually mean? And for me what it means, and I've seen great success in using the, you want to call this think like a media company approach or playbook, it's what we used at Hootsuite to help build that category and build an organic audience. What I did at Later with Hail Lauren who was my predecessor there, did a great job of building that brand. So, what I think it means in terms of think like a media company is being audience centric. So it's thinking about your audience first.
Cameron Uganec: So, that means your content is not driven by the company's narrative and what the company wants to talk about, your content is driven by search. What are the questions in my space that people are searching about? Social, what are the things that people are talking about and asking questions for in my space? That's what drives your editorial strategy, that's what drives what you produce, and that's a two-way relationship. That idea of being audience centric is that we're listening, you're listen an aggregate to the data, but you're also listening to individuals around how do they frame their problem? How do they tackle this? Versus the company has this narrative, we solve this problem, it's much more of a customer centric approach. So that idea of being audience centric, I think, is what is meant by being think like a media company. The other parts of it are related to that are the fact that, go over the fish for the fish for biting.
Charlie Grinnell: Fish where the fish, I love that.
Cameron Uganec: Right? I use that line all the time when I was working at Hootsuite, in that, where are people? Where are they getting their information? And so you need to quickly shift. So if consumer behavior has moved to TikTok and people are spending, including me, hours on TikTok now, that's where you need to go. So being audience centric means to listen to them, but also go to where they want their information, and that change is shifting all the time. And so that's what it means to be a media company. So that also means very different than command and control old way of doing marketing. We want to send everyone to our website, everything happens in our website, everything should be gated by an email because that's value. It's like, no, think like a media company, think like Buzzfeed, think about what vice went through. Get these byte size pieces of content, put it down on the networks that people have and create the audience there, and yes, eventually get them to your media properties.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah.
Cameron Uganec: So really it's that, the concept of audience centricity. Then the other key component or whether you do this right or wrong, where I think a lot of companies miss this, is domain expertise. So if you want to be talking about whatever subject matter your company is about, you need to make sure you're producing the best content. And sometimes when I say best content, people hear that as best quality or production value content.
Charlie Grinnell: Yes.
Cameron Uganec: No, that's not the most important thing. What's the most important thing is that what you are saying is really informed because you really understand the problem, you really understand the solution, you really understand the market, which means that you probably need to hire people that are in the space and doing what you're doing and they are your customer.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah.
Cameron Uganec: So that's another way in terms of being audience centric. So all this to say that it's a different way of thinking about marketing, it's very similar to best practices in content marketing. But really being structured like a media company and thinking like a media company is the way to win at this. And then ultimately, if I have to put my senior VP hat on, then I'd say, well, why are we doing this? You're doing it for customer acquisition, you're doing it because it becomes a much more efficient way to acquire customers than just spending money on Facebook, and you're doing it to build longer term relationships to have those relationships turn into longer term relationships with your customers.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. And I guess the idea behind that is, it's so competitive out there today. Like there's only 24 hours in a day, if everyone has 24 hours in a day and they only have so much attention to dish out, where is that attention going and how can a brand earn more of that attention or earn more of that time? So to your point, I think about maybe a brand like, I don't know, Gatorade here. Typically, they would think about who are they competing with from a category perspective or a competitive perspective, but there's also like attention competitors. So people who might be interested in Gatorade in sports are also interested in other things, and what can you do as a brand to establish yourself to create interesting enough stuff to earn their attention? Because I think the idea is that the more time people spend with your brand, the better opportunity you're giving your brand to potentially hook them on the line, so to speak, to continue with your fishing analogy.
Cameron Uganec: Yeah. Well, your early career at Red Bull, I mean, they really wrote the playbook a lot on this flipping the idea. I looked to Red Bull as really inspiration in the early days of the ways that we should be thinking about this, where it's like, we're not going to rent space on some broadcast company. We are going to create such compelling content, that we are the channel and we are the content.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah.
Cameron Uganec: So it's flipping traditional models, broadcast models on its head. And that all is about, as you mentioned, earning the attention of people and the target market.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. I think that the other thing that just comes to mind is like, whether people are ready to buy our product or service now or not, I want them to spend time with us, that was the thought process. Like whether it's Red Bull or Nike or Lulu Levin, we want people to spend time with our brand. And the tactics used to be, we want 30 seconds of their time on a television commercial at the Super Bowl or, hey, we want them to come to our event, or hey, we want them to follow us on social, but now, it's morphing to be like, hey, we want you to be able to experience us in an always on capacity-
Cameron Uganec: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Charlie Grinnell: And part of that is thinking like a media outlet.
Cameron Uganec: That's building the relationship side of it, right?
Charlie Grinnell: Exactly.
Cameron Uganec: And especially for SaaS companies, it's all about a relationship.
Charlie Grinnell: Mm-hmm (affirmative).
Cameron Uganec: They're paying you monthly. So it's not about a one time purchase. And if you build a stronger relationship because you are providing value continuously, beyond just the product, that relationship strengthens and what you get at is customers that might let something go from a product perspective, that's on the roadmap that they're waiting for. They might wait another six months rather than go to your competitor, because those guys help me out. Whenever I have a problem, I go to their blog and I search for whatever problem I have and they answered it. And I really appreciated the guide they gave me, it really helped me form my... Whatever the thing is. So it's that relationship building that I think you're touching on there.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. So previously you've referenced how Stripe and HubSpot and JP Morgan are buying audiences. Let's unpack that, as you just mentioned, we're seeing this media entity thing, I think some people on its face would think of it as user acquisition. But what you just referenced was also around a retention mechanism. And so can you talk about the ideas of almost like buy versus build? I think, we're seeing a lot of businesses like, think like a media company, but we have seen the HubSpot go out and acquire The Hustle, we have seen Thinkific bring you into build The Leap. So I'd love to get like, what are those conversations? And obviously there might be some things that you can't share, but at a high level, what's the thinking behind that?
Cameron Uganec: What I can share is that, at Thinkific the way we're looking at it is probably a hybrid model of what we are looking at. We are building out that media property organically, but we also are interested in looking at strategic acquisitions to then bolt on to that. So to answer your question of buy versus build, why are companies like HubSpot spending reportedly $29 million to buy The Hustle, which is essentially a newsletter and their trends product, and where do they see that value? I think, one, being in it day to day, and I'm sure you have experienced this, to build an audience takes time.
Charlie Grinnell: Oh yes.
Cameron Uganec: And yes, we did it at Hootsuite, but it takes years organically to build that. And so there is just the idea of it accelerates the impact and the speed. If you look at The Hustle and you look at Morning Brew, they both took over five years to get to where they're at. So, the HubSpot can buy them and they're already there, they've already got that trusted audience, so that's the one. And the second one is related to that, I think, is proven product market fit or audience market fit. Again, if you're going to start a new media company, I'm making some calls here, like who is the right audience? How wide do you go in that audience? What type of content? And with that risk until you hit it, the thing is like, oh, that's what the people want. Again, that eliminates buying an unknown entity eliminates that risk. It also can be a win-win relationship in that it solves the monetization challenge that a lot of media companies would have.
Cameron Uganec: So it's like, I know how to build an audience, I've got that. I can't quite figure out how to do ad deals or when I do them, takes up a lot of my time. And it just doesn't pay me the same thing, where it's like, why don't you come join us a SaaS company, we already have a solid business model, high margins that can fuel this and your only job is to figure out how to add value to that audience.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah.
Cameron Uganec: And so that can be music to your ears too, depending on how somebody's wired and what's important to them. And then there is a bit of a finance thing from an arbitrage perspective. Again, if you have a media company you're training at about two X, if you want to sell that media company, it's two X sometimes three X, usually two X on your revenue. But if a SaaS company's valuation is higher, there's an arbitrage that happened. So you're creating that value and joining something that's got through to a 10 X value to revenue. So there's a lot of reasons why acquisition makes sense.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. And you know what? Like the more and more I talked to you, when I was watching HubSpot acquire The Hustle, thinking of starting a media product, I had always really thought it was like an acquisition play, but now I'm actually realizing it's much more of thinking like lifetime value of a customer and like retention and like keeping customers in the ecosystem. And, I think, it's so funny, you brought up Later. I was literally on a call this morning with someone and I was like, "Go to Later's blog, there's something there." And it's like, I've never bought Later, period. Stop, I've never bought anything from Later, it wasn't the tool at the brands that I was at.
Charlie Grinnell: But you better ask, I've been constantly referring to Taylor's content or content that your team produced or whatever from there, and I still do, I've never even bought anything from them. So it's just interesting to think about it, like you've just flicked a switch in my head to be like, oh yeah, this was purely an acquisition thing in people that they can market to, to no, this is how you keep people close with your brand and keep delivering value on an ongoing basis, which obviously fuels the long term business model.
Cameron Uganec: Yeah. That's part of it. It's recognizing the fact that people have different levels of intent and different times, right?
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah.
Cameron Uganec: So you need to be top of mind for people. So I guess the people that might be skeptical of this approach would say, you just said you didn't buy Later, so that's not worth anything to Later. So why are they wasting this time? And I would say, no, what Charlie said is that he told someone to go to Later.
Charlie Grinnell: I could buy.
Cameron Uganec: In your time in terms of the things that you've shared, maybe you've shared five, six, seven different articles, maybe you did it on social and it reached your whole audience, we're talking about it here on the podcast. Here's a great product, by the way, love you guys.
Charlie Grinnell: Exactly.
Cameron Uganec: So it's this idea of driving word of mouth because of the quality of your content and therefore it helps you with customer acquisition. And maybe next year, you're going to have a need and you go like, okay, I need one. Later is definitely going to be on your list, so it helps there.
Charlie Grinnell: There's a guy who we do some work with named Dan Martel, he runs this thing called SaaS academy. And he has this phrase about marketing is designed to keep your customers warm until they're ready to buy. To your point, I haven't necessarily bought anything, but if I had the need for it, I would've bought it. I just happen to not have the need, but the fact that I'm willing to refer someone to it means that you've already converted me as a customer, because I'm saying, I don't know, I can't help you with that but they can.
Cameron Uganec: Yeah. You're an advocate.
Charlie Grinnell: Interesting. Okay, I want to switch here a little bit. In a recent interview with Vancouver Tech journal, you said that owning these types of communities, like The Hustle for instance, is like content marketing in its purest form. I would love it if you could just build and expand on that statement for marketers and strategists out there who are listening to this and maybe haven't really noticed that. We've talked about this and there might be some people listening, being like, "Okay, well, I've been told to think like a media company, I don't have the budget or the opportunity to build a media company necessarily." Like, how should they be thinking about that sort of thing?
Cameron Uganec: Yeah. I mean, there's a couple questions that you have there, one is how is this content in its purest form? So, I mean, with that, I would go back to what we mentioned early on in this conversation is around audience centricity. And so regardless of what company you're at, you're like, "Okay, I'm the content marketer." You're going to get the request to say, "We just launched this new feature. We've got this new campaign. We want you to talk about this." And these poor social media managers or the people on the blog are like, "I guess that's what we have to do." And so then you post the news of the company to a blog that doesn't have an audience yet, to a social that doesn't have audience yet. And then people are like, "No, one's engaging with it, this doesn't work."
Cameron Uganec: And I'm like, "It doesn't work because you're doing it wrong, because you're not being audience-centric." This is the big secret to this all, is the fact that, no, I mean you need to be talking about the things that the audience is asking questions of, and that's where they're oftentimes is friction the company. Because if the senior people don't understand that's what you're doing, they're going to lose patience with investing in these channels.
Charlie Grinnell: Totally.
Cameron Uganec: And you're just doing it wrong, and it takes time to build that audience, which you mentioned before, so you have to be patient and think of it long term. So I would go back to, that's why it's the purest form of being a media company is like, you just remove that distraction. You don't even have that distraction. My goal is very clear, think if it's like build a large engaged audience, that's what we want you to do.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah.
Cameron Uganec: Then we'll figure out what we're going to do with that. And then I think also being purest form, if I am operating like a media company, it means, of course, I'm going to go where the fish is biting, of course, I'm going to go to TikTok, of course, I'm going to go to a newsletter. It's like, it just makes these things just obvious. Of course, we need to be on YouTube, of course we need to have a podcast. And then there's an element of it is that structure also is more nimble. This is more of an entrepreneurial venture within Thinkific. So that means I have a small team, but I can move fast, I can change fast. I don't need to get approval from five different people or convince the whole company of what I'm doing.
Cameron Uganec: We can make the decision today that we saw something happen on TikTok that we want to take advantage of. And then I think the other part of it is attracting great talent and this is something that we need to prove out. But my thinking and hypothesis there are being structured like a media company, given in that freedom to creators and storytellers, and really being purpose driven around our mission, I will be able to attract or collaborate with creators that may not want to work with the software brand potentially, and it changes the nature of that relationship.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. The one thing I want to touch on that you mentioned that is a phrase that, I forget who said it to me way back in the day, but it's this idea when you were talking about how a company releases a blog post on a blog, it gets no traffic, it goes on socials and it falls on deaf ears and it's crickets. One of the things that I always talk about with marketers and thinking like a media company is, imagine if you didn't sell a product, what would you say as a business? If you could remove all sales messaging. So I sell water bottles, but I'm not allowed to talk about water bottles, what would I talk about? I might talk about hydration, the benefits.
Charlie Grinnell: All that stuff adjacent around it. I feel like that's like a gangster move in starting a media company because having that editorial aspect allows you to talk about more topics that are adjacent and surrounded without being so direct with, obviously, to your point, the goal is eventually bring people closer to the brand with the hope that they convert. But I always just go back to that phrase of like, if you're listening to this, imagine if your brand wasn't allowed to talk about what they sell, what would your brand say?
Cameron Uganec: Yeah, I do like that, building on that might be asking people of, after the workday, what content do you consume? Or when you have a choice, what type of content do you consume? I doubt you're going to say product content.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah.
Cameron Uganec: And so then you say, "Okay, if you are not consuming that product content, but you are a marketer trying to sell a product, what do you think we should do to reach an audience?" Talk about the product, I'm like, "Once in a while, maybe, if you got it in a really customer-centric way and you're adding some value." But for the most part, if we're creating the audience, we want to talk about everything, but the product.
Charlie Grinnell: Totally, it seems counterintuitive on its face, but then the more you think about it, you're like, oh, okay. Like, what is the best marketing? You don't really realize that it's marketing like that old saying, and yeah, how can you create something that people want to spend time with?
Cameron Uganec: Yeah. I mean, I hate to think about that, like as if we're manipulating people or like we're a Trojan horse. The way I rather should view it is to say that I hope what we are providing value.
Charlie Grinnell: Totally.
Cameron Uganec: At the end of the day my whole mantra to my marketing teams that I work with is like, that's all you need to do. Provide value every day to our customer base, and just be focused on that.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. And I think that's the idea, is like, whether that value is educational, inspirational, informational, entertainment, whatever that is. I think one of those things is, at the end of the day consumers know that they're being marketed to. But yeah, I think, that value exchange is critically important. Okay, I want to switch gears here a little bit. I want to get your take, like taking your Thinkific hat off, you are in such a unique position in that you've been around for such a long time. In the intro when you were saying, "Hey, I started pre Google," that was crazy to me. That's awesome. I don't mean that in an offensive way, I think it's really cool that you've been able to live through those things and have a lot of experience and that.
Charlie Grinnell: You've seen a lot of things come and go, what excites you the most in marketing or digital or media brands? Like , a broad question here, but I don't know, I don't get a chance to talk to people who have been like, yeah, I was there in the trenches nitty gritty pre Google doing digital stuff, to today where you're working and building on the front lines of the next iteration of marketing.
Cameron Uganec: Yeah. So, I guess, I would go to just recently, I put that to the test in terms of what excites me the most is by making the move to Thinkific, in that I made a decision that I'm sure a lot of people are probably going through COVID and this idea of the great resignation of really being like, what's important to me? And the fact that I've been able to have senior roles and get to experience companies at different phases. And I've been blessed with the fact of having a lot of opportunities available to me because I was early on with SaaS and the reason why I chose to go to Thinkific is very, very much tied to the mission. And so I really want to be purpose driven in what I do, I really have to believe in what I'm selling now.
Cameron Uganec: I'm just in that sort of. And so what I'm excited about right now, and I mentioned this on the top, is the potential force for the democratization of entrepreneurship. I really do think we're in a very interesting time and it doesn't even have names yet, that's why it's so interesting. Do we call them solopreneurs?
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah.
Cameron Uganec: Are they digital entrepreneurs? Are they creator entrepreneurs? I don't know if it has a name yet, and that's fun to be part of a category before in such early time, like social media in the early years, like we don't even know what this is called yet.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah.
Cameron Uganec: I was in social before, but we didn't know what it was really social media management, we didn't know that's what we were doing. So it's exciting to be on the front end of something. But also this idea for me of being driven by impact, what impact am I making on the world? What difference am I making? And I really do feel like if we're successful, if I'm successful with The Leap and attracting a lot of people to this idea that you can earn a living that gives you the freedom and fulfillment of being a creator entrepreneur. And just sharing with people whatever you're passionate about and the skills that you have. And I'm not saying it panacea that it's for everyone and it's not a get rich quick scheme, I think you hear a lot of that from the internet pros, like the five tips that you're going to get rich without doing anything. It's like, no, it's work, but if you're doing it, look at Taylor Lauren, who's shared her number.
Cameron Uganec: So she's, for those that don't know, she's a great Instagram marketer, has been for years, she was integral to building the brand at Later. So she's been public with the fact that she put out a course around Instagram reels. She made $100,000 on one course. So think about what that means for her life, she is not an employee, she's got her own business, and that business of learning products are high margin. They actually last, it's not just a once done, she'll be making money off that course for a year and if she updates it for a couple of years. So it's this opportunity that I see that I don't think people realize how big it is, there's 50 million people that are self described creators out there, of which 2 million are making $100,000 or more.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah.
Cameron Uganec: And that's just growing at exponential growth.
Charlie Grinnell: Totally.
Cameron Uganec: The 48 million are building an audience and are making somewhere less than $100,000, but they're all coming up. And so I just think that this could have really good implications in terms of building a digital middle class. That second phase that I talked about of the influencer phase, it was like, yeah, that worked for people that had big audiences or you're a celebrity. But for the average creator and influencer that doesn't have a huge audience, hard to earn a living doing that with just brand deals. But with things like learning product and other things that are now available as well in terms of tips and subscriptions and membership subscriptions, there's all kinds of interesting monetization things that are in place now that mean that with 1,000 fans, you can make a living. And that living could be in Greece, if you want, you can move where you want, you don't need to have a boss and you also could have a positive impact on your audience's life. That's like a dream.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. I think it's so funny you say that, that second phase of influencer big audience is like the only way I could do this as a career entrepreneur, creator entrepreneur, solopreneur, whatever you want to call it, was I have to have a big following. And I think to your point, that's the thing that's fascinating where it's like, yeah, I have 500 people on Instagram, but half of them are paying me 100 bucks a month or however much their course costs. When you run the numbers on that, you're like, "Holy shit, that can actually be a huge business." And it's so niche down and specific. Yeah, I think that's like this interesting shift going from like, oh, that person's an influencer because they have a million followers on Instagram.
Charlie Grinnell: Versus no, you can have people with 1,000 followers, to your point, who are literally like, don't have to work more or less like yeah, they have to work to build their courses. But in the more traditional sense of the word, they don't have a nine to five. And yeah, they're working hard, I'm not discounting that, but at the same time, a disproportionate amount of revenue and like a significant business on their hands, that doesn't have the anchor, so to speak, of having to go into an office or having to live in a specific city. It's fascinating to watch that play out and Thinkific is obviously positioned on the front line of that, so that's super interesting.
Charlie Grinnell: I want to ask, as you were talking about that mission and taking some time through COVID to think about what's important, again, you've had a long career working at many brands. Do you have any advice for marketers that they should just be keeping top of mind as they move ahead in their careers? Like, you've navigated in different companies, different stages, different industries, like, yeah, there was SaaS aspect, but you've seen a lot. What would you say to people they should be keeping top of mind?
Cameron Uganec: There's a few things that I tell young marketers or people that work for me. One is when you're young it's time to take risks and there's so much change happening in this world, that there are pockets of opportunity, you just have to take a risk to go for it. And so don't hesitate, I think, if I look back the things that I would change, I didn't take enough risks early on, and some of that's entrepreneurial and some of that doesn't necessarily mean entrepreneurial. That could be in a company and say, I have a gut feeling about what this campaign can do, I'm going to fight for it. Take risks early on, do that often. Related to that risk taking is to keep learning. Like, I'm still learning, because I think the industry has moved in such a pace now that I have to keep learning. I can't use the playbook from Hootsuite days-
Charlie Grinnell: Totally.
Cameron Uganec: It doesn't work this day. I can take some of the things that I learned there and some of the things that I learned or at Later, but I always have to keep learning about what's happening next. So it's important for people that want a career in marketing or creators that want to build something is you got to keep learning. Best way to learn is to ship content, ship product, try something. And I think this was part of why I was successful is I've always had a long term view of my career. I figured out that I was going to work 30 years, and like, okay, I got 30 years, what's my goal? Because you can achieve a lot of things in 30 years, and then break that 30 years down to two year, three, five year, 10 year goals. And it's amazing what you can achieve within that. So you got to take a long term view of your career.
Cameron Uganec: And that means that oftentimes there'll be people that are 24, 25, and they're so eager to get the next senior role and they'll do everything because of that senior role. And that may not be the right choice, you're a little too eager and this thing. Well, you'll get there, but maybe it's better for you to take that role a year from now and you'll be more successful. And so it's taking a 30 year view of your career and then related to that is relationships matter, right.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah.
Cameron Uganec: So even just you and I, I mean, the fact we haven't met, but we know lots of people in common, and if I went around the world and I wasn't kind and I wasn't honest and I wasn't helpful, I would have a different reputation. I'm just following those things I learned in kindergarten, no, be kind, be honest, be helpful, means that I've built strong relationships. And so that means that I spend a lot of my time to giving advice and I don't know what the reward is, it doesn't matter, I'm just building relationships. But then I know that I've got a network of people that when I need something, they're there for me.
Charlie Grinnell: Totally.
Cameron Uganec: And that can be as big as, it's a new gig, or it's a new job, or it's a new business opportunity, or it's a fund that's open that I could invest in. I mean, to right down to saying, I got a role I got to fill, it's a freelance role. Who's got someone? And good people that I have a relationship with will send me good people.
Charlie Grinnell: Totally. Yeah. The phrase that comes to mind for me is, it's not what you know, it's who you know.
Cameron Uganec: Yeah. Well, yeah, and that's part of keep learning. Where do I get my information? I get my information usually from somebody who's one step ahead of me.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. Totally.
Cameron Uganec: Whatever I'm doing. Whatever that thing is, who's one step ahead of me, not 15, because they're not going to understand my problem. But who's one step ahead of me?
Charlie Grinnell: Totally. This is a question that I always ask every single guest and I'll give you a bit of background. I went to university for a month and then I dropped out, and then I got into marketing. So I've never been back to university and I'm super bullish on obviously continuous learning. I learned a lot through reading, watching people, listening to people, talking to people. So how do you stay up to date on business and marketing? Who are you following? What are you reading? Who are you listening to? Anything there to share with the audience?
Cameron Uganec: Yeah. I mean, I hinted at this earlier. I think building is better than reading always, trying and building something is way better, whatever that is. And even when I'm looking at resumes, I really, even if it's entry level roles, it's somebody who's like, oh, I did this side thing. That's more interesting, almost as interesting as your three year whatever degree is, anyway.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah.
Cameron Uganec: So, because things move so fast, I do use Twitter for sure, but that shift of power to the individual. So it wouldn't be worthwhile me naming here's two people to follow, it's like, I've curated my feed, and oftentimes I will, depending on my job, that will change. Like, I'll change my feed because now I'm into the media thing. So now I'm seeing a lot of people that are the thought leaders in media and there's 20 people that are great, and there's 15 people that are learning along with me, and that's a great feed. I'm learning a lot of stuff. So I do use Twitter, I do find it very helpful. In terms of specific people right now that I'm looking at there's VC by the name of Li Jin, I'll spell her name, L-I, first name, second name is J-I-N. And if you're interested in the creator economy and some of the major trend shifts that are happening, she's a great writer on the creator economy.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah.
Cameron Uganec: Also Colin and Samir, again, I'm very deep in the creator economy. They're mostly on YouTube, I think they have a newsletter as well. They're great, I love their format, they often talk to creators in terms of how they got started and how do they build their audience. So they're great in that space. But yeah, I really have a bias towards, it's for me personally, is that I feel like marketing books, unless they're dealing with the fundamentals of psychology or the fundamentals of storytelling, which there are some good ones out there for that. It's changes, so it's going to be meaningless in two years. So I really don't spend a lot of time reading those books.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah. That's super interesting. One hack that I've had is like, I've gone to your Twitter account and looked at who you followed or gone to Taylor's or gone to other people I look at and I'm like, who are they following? So anyone listening out there, go to Cameron's Twitter account and check out who he's following, because you'll be able to see that. I don't know, it's just a question I like to ask, because in the same way, if you're diehard of information, so to speak, what are you consuming on Twitter and where? I'm always adding, but also trimming down to be like, "Yeah, I've tried this for two months." Really driving like unsubscribe, and it is that constant living, breathing thing.
Cameron Uganec: Yeah. I mean, an example of that is like, I was I about a year and ago, well, maybe two years ago I was really following a lot of D to C e-commerce brands and thought leaders there, because I was like, they were doing some very interesting things and I always have taken the view in SaaS and B2B SaaS that we need to market more consumer companies. And so I usually have a slight tilt to what I look for then, what is not what you expect, if I'm B2B SaaS, I'm looking at consumer brands. And then I'll be like, "Okay, I think I've got everything that I can or my interests have changed." And then I call my list and change who I'm falling.
Charlie Grinnell: Yeah.
Cameron Uganec: I'm not great at putting out content on Twitter, but uh -
Charlie Grinnell: Same, I'm the worst.
Cameron Uganec: Yeah. Same with TikTok. There's a few dances that I've done with my 15 year old, but I certainly spent a lot of time consuming TikTok these days.
Charlie Grinnell: Fair enough. I learned on my TikTok excursions that I like watching power washing videos.
Cameron Uganec: Yeah.
Charlie Grinnell: I didn't even know how satisfying it is. Where it's a time lapse and next thing I'm like, where did half an hour ago of this guy cleaning driveways? Like, why am I here? How did I get here?
Cameron Uganec: You're learning about yourself by how TikTok has learned about you through the algorithm. Yeah.
Charlie Grinnell: What a cultural experiment. Last question for you, where's the best place for people to get a hold of you online? I know you have a wealth of knowledge, and so, yeah, what's the best place for people to get a hold of you if they have questions?
Cameron Uganec: We referenced that Twitter account. So I'm @CameronU, so Cameron and then the letter U, and you can follow me there. And if you think that it makes sense that we connect and you've got a specific question, you can DM me there. And then I do need to make a plug for The Leap because we did just launch our TikTok account. So The Leap's TikTok account is @.Leap. So on TikTok, we're at the .Leap. And the website should be going live depending on when this podcast goes out by the end of March. And that will be The Leap.co. So I would be doing a disservice to my team and to The Leap, if I didn't do a little plug for our new property.
Charlie Grinnell: Absolutely. All good. Well, Cameron, thank you very much for taking the time. It was so good to finally connect with you and get to jam on some stuff. I learned a bunch. We'll have to have you on for another episode in the future. I'd love to get together in a year from now to see how things are going, because things are changing super fast. And so, I just want to thank you very much.
Cameron Uganec: That's great. Thanks for having me on.
Charlie Grinnell: For show notes, other episodes, and more content check out rightmetric.co. If you enjoyed the show, please subscribe and leave a review wherever you listen to your podcasts. Thanks for listening.
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