On November 26, 2019 Conduit Digital had the unique pleasure of hosting social media influencer and entrepreneur, Gary Vaynerchuk.
Also known as “Gary Vee,” he is a well-known figure throughout the digital marketing industry who constantly provides incredible insights into the industry and how to build agency success.
Gary Vee came to Conduit to deliver an exclusive agency keynote address on the State of Digital Marketing in 2020. This awesome keynote address was also featured on Gary Vee’s Podcast, “The GaryVee Audio Experience.” Here are the most important things that we learned from Gary’s visit to Conduit.
WHO IS GARY VEE?
Gary Vaynerchuk, better known as “Gary Vee,” is one of the leading influencers in the digital marketing industry. Gary Vee got his start over 13 years ago after starting a web series called Wine Library TV.
After slowly building a following and an audience, Gary Vee started VaynerMedia, a full-service advertising agency that has grown to work with some of the most recognizable brands in the world.
Today, Gary continues to be an influential figure in the marketing and entrepreneurial spaces. He is a highly sought after public speaker, a 5-time New York Times bestselling author, as well as a prolific early angel investor in companies like Facebook, Twitter, Uber, and more. Gary Vee visited Conduit for an exclusive event where he discussed the direction of the digital marketing industry, his tips for success, and more.
ABOUT CONDUIT DIGITAL
Conduit Digital, a division of Traffic Builders, ranked the #21st fastest growing agency in the world by Ad Week, offers the most cost-effective white-label solutions to help you reduce agency overhead and expenses while growing revenue. We provide a complete digital marketing solution with proven results that you can see in real-time with our unique and customizable Live Report.
Our client agencies’ success is the Conduit team’s mission. We are not a low-end white label provider and we don’t work with just any agency, we are market exclusive and we are a true competitive advantage.
The day you partner with Conduit Digital is the day you become the best digital marketing agency in your market. We invited Gary Vaynerchuk to come to Conduit’s headquarters to talk about the State of Digital Marketing in 2020. Find out what he had to say!
WHAT GARY VEE HAD TO SAY DURING THE KEYNOTE ADDRESS
Gary has so much knowledge of the industry that he could have talked for days! We may have only had 30 minutes with him but the insights he was able to provide during that time will help us here at Conduit plan and execute our 2020 strategies. We want to share this amazing information with you! Here are our biggest takeaways from Gary Vee’s rare agency keynote address.
RECONCILING CLIENT EXPECTATIONS VS AGENCY VALUES
What do you do as a B2B company when so much of what you do relies on what a client sees as success? What do you do when it doesn’t match your company’s point of view of what is happening on the consumer level?
Often times there is a disconnect between agencies and their clients on how success is measured. It is becoming increasingly important to bridge the gap between what the end-client expects to see results-wise vs what agencies value in their results for their clients.
By learning about a client's goals and expectations, you will stand a stronger chance at demonstrating the value your results receive. This in turn will help eliminate client churn within your agency.
THE CURRENT STATE OF THE INTERNET
Despite growing one of the largest and fastest-growing ad agencies in the world, Gary Vee says that VaynerMedia has almost never sold exactly what the market wants at that moment. In 2009, Vayner was selling social media management when some companies he talked to didn’t even know what Facebook and Twitter were.
It is hard for some people to understand or remember how new the medium was back then. Today, social media is the current state of the internet. In the mid-90s, search engines and browsers were the state of the internet.
After that, it was email. Then search ads, followed by blogging. Finally, Youtube came along, followed by social media, which is where we stand now. It is more important than ever before to live in the current state of the internet and leverage your brand on social media.
KNOW WHERE YOU ARE VULNERABLE
As an agency, it is important to understand your strengths and weaknesses. If you consider your expertise in an area that is considered more vulnerable, you have to be careful. Gary tells the story of his first speaking engagement in New Jersey, at a local chamber of commerce meeting. While people were making fun of him at the time for his interest in the internet, many of the people there laughed at him and considered the internet to be a fad.
Gary has had the benefit of being relevant to the consumer is doing at that moment. The number one thing that agency owners can focus on is actually having your firm prepared for 2020.
PREPARING YOUR AGENCY FOR 2020
Having your firm prepared for 2020 is at the top of nearly every digital marketer’s mind right now. One of the biggest factors in preparing for 2020 is understanding the current social media landscape. Tik Tok is one of the biggest emerging platforms while LinkedIn only continues to grow and be an excellent B2B connector. Creating content for these platforms will be key to any agency’s success in 2020 and in the future.
What this means for the digital marketing landscape is that influencers matter. Anyone who believes that influencers are just a trend will be sorely mistaken. Being a deep practitioner at cultivating contextual creative at a large scale will be the most important thing for building your brand.
In order to achieve success, you must be able to understand all of the ad units in the marketplace today and how they work together to create success for your clients. For example, understanding the difference between Instagram Feed and Instagram Swipe Up.
Understanding that GRP and Impressions are the most vulnerable metrics as the industry moves to a results-based KPI model will allow you to be ahead of the curve in preparing your agency and your clients for a more success-driven marketplace. Since many agencies are building their own direct-to-consumer capabilities, results-driven digital marketing will be more important than ever before.
THE INDUSTRY IS ABOUT TO GET A LOT SMARTER
The digital marketing industry has long been a lot like the Wild West. Agencies and less than ethical marketers have been able to get away will black hat strategies that hurt the reputation of the industry as a whole.
Thankfully, as the industry gets smarter more and more scrutiny is being put on some of these practices. Even if agencies are unaware of what they are doing is the wrong approach, an overall dive into the key metrics and deliverables across the industry will force agencies to be smarter about how they do business.
What that means is that some agencies will have to ask themselves these questions:
Do you believe your advertising is actually helping your clients’ business?
Many people do not realize or believe in what they are doing. Whereas you know that someone exclusively in traditional marketing does not believe their advertising is truly helping, digital is in a different position.
Because digital is based on math and real statistics and analytics, people have a tendency to be tricked by the math.
For example, if you are a one-dimensional PPC seller, but then the market shifts away from PPC, causing the cost to go up and put you in a decline, you are now stuck as a one-dimensional seller. The question becomes, how protected are you?
HR IS STILL KING
Most agencies fail if they lost 5-10% of their best employees. That is why it is still so important to ensure your culture is a productive and exciting place to work. Investing heavily in HR to make sure that they are there for your employees’ concerns is key to any successful culture.
Getting to really know and understand your employees will allow you to become more personal with them and ensure long-term employee retention. Ultimately, everyone is in the people business. Having the right people at your agency, and making sure that you retain them, will be key moving forward in 2020 and beyond.
WHAT GARY VEE HAD TO SAY DURING THE LIVESTREAM Q&A
In addition to Gary Vee’s amazing keynote address, he took the time to answer the questions that agency owners just like you had for him. Here are some of the great questions we received and what Gary Vee had to say about them.
HOW DO YOU ENSURE TRANSPARENCY?
“At Vayner, we let everyone have full access to everything. No black boxes. Everyone has full access to their platforms and data. I’m not looking to make money on people’s data, while most of my competitors are. But ultimately the best thing is to do you. Run your business. It has been really fun for us to actually be transparent. Media and creative should be broken up. I look at organic reach vs paid reach. I look at underpriced reach. Being able to run cheap Youtube ads based on Google searches allows you to create a cohesive and memorable brand. While organic feed content is less intrusive than a pre-roll ad, pre-roll is completely grounded in your own behavior and searched terms. No one should be a digital agency without having media and creative in the same room. Agencies will be held more accountable by being both creative and media buyers.”
HOW DO YOU DEAL WITH PROCESS?
“We are so much more advanced on culture than process. I barely look at process and every time I do, I look at it poorly. I believe that human beings are disproportionately obsessed with process over the actual output. The second you start putting the process above the output, you lose. I would rather the process be murky and breakable than put on a pedestal. It is a tricky one, but if you listen to what I just said, you’ll understand that it comes down to people. And with a great culture, your people will thrive. Too much process puts too much influence on inter-office politics and not enough on creative problem-solving.”
HOW DO DATA PRIVACY REGULATIONS AFFECT THE INDUSTRY?
“There is a much bigger conversation about data privacy that is not being had. I actually don’t think that people care about the privacy. I think that as time goes on, people will actually go the other way and prefer to have machines know nearly everything about you. This notion of privacy does not exist. What privacy are we actually talking about? What websites I went on? What my credit card number is? You give out that information freely almost every day. There is a fun narrative right now to demonize technology. But ultimately, that is going to be bad and not good.”
HOW DO YOU MEASURE THE SUCCESS OF YOUR CONTENT?
“My measurement on content success is far more qualitative than quantitative. I know something is working based on reading the comments. And for me, it is more about the quality of the comments than how many. I am building brand at scale.”
DO YOU ENVISION FACEBOOK EVER BECOMING A VIABLE SEARCH OPTION?
“I used to think that they might be. However, just like I knew Google+ would fail because it is not in the company’s DNA, at this point I can’t ever see Facebook becoming a viable search option to compete with Google or Bing. Search isn’t inherently apart of their DNA. I’m shocked that they aren’t given the scale that they have and the data opportunity. But anything could change. If they hire one great search executive from Google then everything could change. There is a lot of fantastic information I would love to search on Facebook’s platforms but again, some things are just inherently apart of a company’s DNA.”
WHAT WILL BE THE BIGGEST IMPACT 5G HAS ON THE INDUSTRY?
“I’m not really sure. The one thing I really know about 5G, I think it is funny about how people think about 5G. Most people think, ‘Cool, my phone will be faster.’ Meanwhile, this is a transcending technology. 5G will be the reason autonomous cars become real because lag time will be zero. 5G is the reason a surgeon could be woken up in Brazil tonight to perform surgery remotely across the world. So the speed in which information moves is so incredible. This is not like from 4 to 5 but it’s like from 4 to 400. So I think it is profound and I think the ability of information to move with no lag is really going to be profound. Think about a world where our pavement is smart and because of 5G it can talk with your car so that it slightly moves so you can avoid the puddle while driving on the highway and your car doesn’t drive off the road. That’s what I’m looking for when it comes to 5G.”
WHAT GARY VEE HAD TO SAY DURING OUR PRIVATE Q&A
Before giving his rare agency keynote address, Gary Vee took the time to engage with Conduit Digital’s team of experts. We had the opportunity to ask Gary our most burning questions on how he achieved his success, where he envisions the future of digital marketing, and more. Now, we are sharing this awesome information with you! Here are our biggest takeaways from this exclusive Q&A with one of the key figures in the industry:
DON’T SELL THINGS YOU DON’T BELIEVE IN
Any marketer, whether you are a digital marketer or a traditional marketer, needs to be consumer-centric. There are so many things that marketers do that hit the metrics that the client wants to see, yet completely lacks the common sense to bring any value to the client’s end-consumer.
“Don’t sell things you don’t believe in.”
At VaynerMedia, Gary Vee’s globally recognized advertising agency, they do not do things that may be expected of them if they do not believe that it brings value to the client or the end-customer.
As successful as VaynerMedia is, they could be three times as big if they sold things that the company, and Gary, didn’t believe in. However, because they don’t believe it brings value to the consumer, they sacrifice potential revenue for added value.
Most agencies and marketers are in a bubble that is B2B centric. The ultimate driver of success is consumers, and if agencies focused on selling what they believe in to the end-consumer, rather than trying to fit the client’s metrics, they will be less vulnerable and see more success.
INFLUENCER MARKETING IS HERE TO STAY
From the times of John Wayne selling cigarettes on the cover of magazines, influencer marketing has long been a great way to market and sell products.
The influencer marketing that we have now appears different because content creators have long-tail platforms and reach with their audiences. In reality, it is the same principles as the days of John Wayne. However, not everyone can be an influencer.
It is important to stay within your company’s DNA. If your DNA is tech, build a platform that can connect you to your audience. If your DNA is management, then you have the most value by managing your 100 or so clients exclusively.
If your DNA is agnostic, you have to always be ready for the best deal that presents itself whether that is blocking, tackling, and DMing, or the platforms themselves that influencers live on.
“I live in a world where I day trade attention.”
Influencers are both grossly overpriced and underpriced. They may think that their 100,000 followers on Instagram make them worth $5,000 per post even though it is probably worth $18. On the flip side, an influencer with 40,000 followers on Tik Tok may be happy to make a post for as little as a spare sock.
“I love inefficient marketplaces. It is what I thrive on. And human beings are the most inefficient marketplace.”
HOW TO KEEP CULTURE ALIVE
Many people think it is difficult to keep the company culture alive while the company grows. However, it is actually pretty simple to ensure culture stays alive and well within your company. Spend time getting to know the company and the employees. Really dive deep to ensure you are seeing more than just what upper management tells you. VaynerX, Gary’s investment division of his company portfolio, recently reached 1,000 total employees. As Gary Vee said about maintaining culture:
“It is very easy, yet extremely difficult.”
Gary Vee explained how, if he bought an agency tomorrow and spent a year truly getting to know the company, he would simply fire the people at the company who didn’t match the vision for the culture, regardless of their position.
Many companies are hesitant to fire a troublesome employee if they bring in perceived value such as a salesman or a member of the leadership team. Culture will never be what you want it to be unless you are willing to take those leaps.
A big issue when it comes to culture is employee empowerment. If an employee has great ideas that are being suppressed by a bad manager, it creates a bad culture. If good ideas are being suppressed by a bad boss, employees will feel empowered if their boss gets in trouble instead of them. Holding leadership accountable is key.
As employees rise through the ranks, they eventually settle into their spot. A lot of people would be pumped to work for a great company, get paid a good salary, and have a great work/life balance. The problem is that this causes them to go on the defensive in order to protect their “spot.” This may cause them to subconsciously or unintentionally suppress good ideas. Being thoughtful about that truth and giving room for your employees to grow and breathe creates a great culture.
“I spend an ungodly amount of time with HR.”
Making sure HR is working for your employees rather than for the company is key to building trust and internal culture. Taking 5 or 10 minutes to respond to an email or listen to an employees concerns or thoughts goes a long way in building trust and credibility with your employees and throughout your company culture.
WORK/LIFE BALANCE IS IMPORTANT
While maintaining a good work/life balance is great, it tends to ebb and flow. People actually see things funny when it comes to work/life balance. Between having off on weekends plus a few weeks of vacation over the year, you are already only working around 225 of the 365 days in the year.
“As someone who enjoys work, having time off is foreign to me.”
Many people see work/life balance in terms of seconds or hours instead of years or a life’s worth. Everyone has a different balance that works for them. There can be too much pressure and too much judgment from external forces when it comes to work/life balance. In reality, an employee should only ask, “Does this balance work for me?”
WHERE ADVERTISING IS GOING IN 5-10 YEARS
When asked where he sees advertising in 5-10 years, Gary Vee said, “I have no idea.” It can be difficult to know where advertising is going because it is difficult to know where consumer behavior is going. What we DO know is that when it comes to technology, voice search will be a major player.
“Voice search’s impact will be as large as the mobile device, when at scale.”
Gary Vee gets a lot of credit for the way he has invested in certain technologies and platforms. However, as he tells it, he doesn’t invest in technologies that aren’t here yet. When he got on board with Tik Tok, it already had over 1.5 billion global downloads, yet he still gets credit for “discovering” the platform.
“People love to say ‘no’ about today, let alone about the future.”
Gary says not to worry about AR, VR, blockchain, or other technological advancements until they are used at scale. While all of these technologies are coming and are worth monitoring, they are not yet used by consumers at scale. No one uses VR platforms for even an hour a day, yet they use their mobile devices for at least 7 hours a day. People love to jump the gun on technological advancements ahead of consumer behavior. Before you worry about your AR capabilities, maximize what you can do today on platforms like LinkedIn, Instagram, or Tik Tok.
If you are willing to invest in future technologies in a practical way, understand that they will make you less money in the short term. However, this does not mean they are not worth watching or investing in.
“When my CFO told me he wanted to shut down the voice department, I said, ‘You might as well shut down the whole company.”
The reason Gary is able to invest in these technologies is that he is willing to make the long-term investment before profitability. If you can live with those parameters, you can be successful in future technological investment. You have to have speed in adjusting to what the consumer has done. If you can be quick in executing today, it has a higher value than worrying about bridging the gap tomorrow.
BRAND OVER EVERYTHING
Having a known, recognizable, and trustworthy brand is the most important factor for a business’s success. With the brand that he has built, Gary knows that he can put out a call to hire analysts and he will receive over 5000 applications. That is the power of a brand. Building a brand allows you to act very quickly in how you operate and execute on day-to-day behaviors. It is about the speed in which you can execute today vs the value of being right about tomorrow. Leveraging your brand allows you to become a leader in the space.
CONTENT QUALITY VS QUANTITY
When it comes to content, Gary Vee is king. He understands better than anyone how to build a successful content strategy.
“Quantity is not debatable.”
Quality is a debate because quality is fundamentally subjective. While every creative would like to think that quality is not debatable, that is more due to pride and ego than a magical ability to always create content people love. Gary Vee’s strategy is to create as much quantity as possible and let the audience decide quality.
He considers that level of humility to be the underlying pinning of his success yet people are always trying to create frameworks of what content could and should be. Do not worry about content being “on-brand” when someone you have not met will get to decide if your content is right for them. We all have different opinions on what is funny or what works.
When we spend hours in meetings talking about shades of the color blue or debating what adjective to use, it is the biggest farce in the industry. It is the subjective nature of human opinion in strategy and creative yet also the greatest variable to success. Create at scale and find “right” instead of pretending that you are right.
“When you create volume, you have a much higher chance of creating relevance to many different people.”
Context is everything. Creating more content gives you the ability to create more relevance. This whole industry is built on potential reach. The majority of brands are losing market share because they are not relevant. Consumer trends are changing and brands are being left behind.
As one of the leaders in the industry, Conduit was so excited to gain these incredible insights from Gary Vee. Let’s take a look back on what we learned during this exclusive Q&A. We learned that you should never sell things you don’t believe in.
We learned that influencer marketing is here to stay. Conduit discovered how to keep are already successful culture alive as we continue to grow (if you haven’t heard, Conduit is a division of Traffic Builders, the #21 fastest-growing agency in the world according to Adweek).
We discussed the growing importance of work/life balance and what that means to different people. Gary Vee took a deep dive with us into the future of digital marketing.
Finally, we discussed content strategy and how brand, quality, and quantity work together to create a successful content strategy. We are going to be implementing these strategies and more in our 2020 content and marketing plan.
To find out how we can help you use these insights to not only survive but thrive in 2020, check out Conduit Partnership.