Episode 018

The Suite Spot

Featuring Matthew Brown on the CMO Suite Podcast

Teaming up with Gary Vaynerchuk and the VaynerMentors program allowed us to learn so many new things. It gave us a whole new perspective and respect for the marketing game. Because at the end of the day, marketing helps eliminate the cold calling one has to do.
Matthew Brown
Pres/CEO That’s Us Technologies

Matthew Brown, ThumbStopper CEO and host of the BROWN on BRAND podcast, was recently a guest on Sean Halter’s The CMO Suite Podcast. Matt helped kick off the third season of Halter’s podcast where the two discussed how social media has upended traditional marketing and what brands need to do to adjust and succeed in the ever-changing marketing landscape.

Here are some highlights from the episode.

Before we get into the specifics, I'd love to actually just dig into how you got into this crazy business. Did you grow up in Florida?

Yeah, I’m originally from the Midwest, but I’ve spent most of my time in Florida. My grandparents migrated down here in the early 90s, and I followed as a child. I ended up on the west coast of Florida in Venice and Sarasota, and that was my old stomping ground.

Did you and your parents move down here, or did your grandparents live down here and you went to live with them?

Yeah, most of my mother's side of the family is in Florida today and my father's side is all up North, so we're a bit segmented as a family.

Brothers and sisters?

Yeah, I have two sisters and one brother. Two of them are in Florida and one of them is in the Midwest.

I think it's family that's sometimes critical in the marketing industry – you're certainly part of this industry in some extent – and it doesn't get any easier. I don't know anybody in marketing or advertising that just says 'this is easier than it was five years ago.' It just gets harder and harder.

Well the technology game is a young man's sport today. You've got pro athletes retiring at 45 years old. But just recently, I was stumbling around in marketing too, and it's a whole different sport than operations, accounting and sales. You can put methodologies in those fields, but marketing is like technology – it changes so fast. Understanding all of the nuances is certainly like a sport in of itself.

You don't really live in an analytical world, but you know that if you go from point A to point B, that those two things are supposed to line up. It’s hard to do that sometimes in marketing.

You’re exactly right: Marketing has been challenging. And it’s not just changes in marketing; The frustration that I've had is that we never really had the revenue to focus on marketing. As you’re building technology companies, they’re so labor-intensive that marketing automatically gets neglected.

Getting the early beta customers on a platform or technology that you’ve built is a challenge in of itself. But what the real challenge has been is getting the early majority of a vertical. It takes marketing to get that high early adoption rate. And when you figure out marketing, people start getting interested and you start getting those incoming leads.

As you know, we’ve had massive national clients of all shapes and sizes. There’s a beauty as a marketer to see you evolve from someone asking plenty of questions to make sure you understand marketing to someone who can have an extremely intricate conversation about how the levers actually work.

Over the last 18 months, the brands we work with are now using social media and digital advertising with us. So I've not only had to learn marketing for myself, but now we're deploying campaigns and ramping up our marketing team. It's now my biggest department by far.

I always found it easy to get on the phone with a potential customer and come up with a pitch – that’s how our sales department operates. But sales is a direct parallel path to a transaction. Marketing is completely different, with different nuances – like creative and copy. It’s a science with what you guys do at the marketing side of things, and I’m eager to learn more.

Teaming up with Gary Vaynerchuk and the VaynerMentors program — which we consider consider to be the hottest agency in the U.S. — allowed us to learn so many new things. It gave us a whole new perspective and respect for the marketing game. Because at the end of the day, marketing helps eliminate the cold calling one has to do.

So let's talk about ThumbStopper for a bit. You've told me that you built ThumbStopper out as an opportunity for retailers to be able to generate content that their brands already have.

ThumbStopper was built inside of LotVantage, which serves the motors industry – passenger cars, trucks, power sports, marine RV, trailers and more. Anything that has wheels and/or motors on it, LotVantage is hyper-focused on it. We were focused on classified marketplaces because it was usually a pain in the ass to manage a lot of inventory on Craigslist, eBay, the Facebook Marketplace and other classified spaces.

So in 2016, we were looking at social media and we realized that we needed to start taking it more seriously. I didn’t feel like there was anything you could do on social media in 2016 to help businesses, but what I was finding is that if you went and searched a local business on Google, you'd find both their website and their Facebook page.

I realized that 90 percent of the retailers that had Facebook pages didn't have any content going to them, and that drove me crazy. We had a platform that was already automating content in the automotive industry. So we wanted to ensure that retailers are connected to the manufacturers who publish digital content on their brand pages.

The ThumbStopper platform became so popular and grew so fast that we spun it out of LotVantage, and today it's is own entity.

Sometimes when you're high up the corporate ladder, you're almost a little embarassed to be Googling if there's a product already out there that suits my needs. I felt like it was important to have somebody like you on to help executives understand that it's okay to search whether there's a solution for them, because it's probably already out there.

And that's why we don't have call centers. We’re trying to attract an executive-level decision maker, and if I need somebody and I need somebody that if we're lucky enough to get on the phone with that person, if we're lucky enough to get that person's attention via email, I need them to articulate a professional conversation. And I don't know how to train that in a call center environment.

Who is your biggest inspiration?

My two teenage daughters. They're much brighter than I am and much more advanced than I am. You know, they've had some of the things maybe I didn't have growing up, but they're a huge inspiration.

I've also been lucky enough to be surrounded by good people – Alfred Angelone, Marc Fratello, my board of directors and internal people that I've worked with. I know what I’m weak at and I’ve been blessed with people who are very good to me. They’ve allowed me to advance and not make mistakes because of those people.  

Great point and great way to end the show. Sometimes, we all need to be willing to find out what our weaknesses and find people that can support us through those weaknesses and make us better markets along the way. Matt Brown, thank you so much for joining us on the CMO suite.

Thank you Sean.

The CMO Suite Podcast is hosted by Sean Halter, CEO of Connectivity Holdings. The show features executives from national and international corporations who share their insights in marketing, technology and current business trends. Notable guests include Jennifer Frommer (Columbia Records), Gayle Troberman (iHeart Media) and Jen Sey (Levis).

Matthew Brown is Pres/CEO of ThumbStopper, the pipeline through which a brand’s content flows across its retailer’s social network. Brands. Retailers. Connected.

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