Ladder CEO Interview with The Scott King Podcast

Jon Brody Talks About Ladder’s Growth Marketing Playbook on The Scott King Podcast

Author’s Note: This podcast and the transcript were originally published by The Scott King Podcast on TheScottKing.com. Listen to the full episode below!


Jon Brody (@ThePokerCEO) is the CEO at Ladder. Ladder is a growth marketing agency helping companies navigate and implement thousands of available tactics to grow revenues.

In this episode, Jon talks about his company’s growth marketing playbook, successes, failures and how his professional poker player past helps him market more effectively.

Scott: Today we’ve got Jon Brody who is CEO, co-founder over at Ladder. You can reach him on Twitter if you have a question during the episode, while you’re listening or if you want to reach out to him after you listen. He’s @ThePokerCEO because he used to be a competitive poker player. We’re going to talk about that a little bit later. But Jon curious what Ladder is working on today. I know that you guys are some type of growth marketing agency and that’s kind of what I’m into. So, if you can just give us a little, maybe a commercial before we get started.

“What does Ladder do?”

Jon: Yes, absolutely. So everything we do at Ladder is based on the premise of us removing more guess work from how a company grows. Basically, what that means is the technology we build, the services that we offer especially SMBs is all based on the fact that growth is difficult because there is so much choice. There are literally thousands of things that you could do to get more traffic, convert more of that traffic and retain more of those leads or more of those customers. The really hard thing is you now have that choice that you have when it comes to digital marketing. It grows on almost weekly basis but that growth of choice has never actually been met by a system to help you prioritize out of all these things you could do, which you actually spend your time and money on. So, the Ladder Playbook which is our database of marketing tactics that is prioritized by actual performance data you that we collect and build. It all goes back to basically helping the business owner or helping the marketer when it comes to your own company prioritize better and just makes better choices. To help get a company from Point A to Point B where Point B should always be more revenues, more leads and there’s an improvement in their commercial bottom line.

Scott: Yes. You mean you mentioned the playbook and I took a look at it and that’s how I got connected with you. There are thousands of different items in there. It’s an excellent example of curating content and organizing it but you know there are so many. I’m really curious what makes a tactic worthy of being in the playbook and how do you help a customer navigate through all these? Reading the thousands of tactics out there would probably take longer than actually implementing one of those. How do customers figure that out? Because I couldn’t do it.

“How do customers navigate through the growth marketing playbook?”

Jon: Yes, you’re absolutely right. A good way of looking at the playbook is that those thousands of tactics represent the amount of choice that every business owner has at a given point in time. You’re absolutely right you know to just have that amount of choice is a representation of the reality, right? And the challenge that business owners and marketers have. What makes Ladder unique from a technology and also services point of view, is how we actually help a company prioritize out of those thousands of things. Which one should they actually spend their time on executing to get more traffic or convert more of that traffic or retain more customers? So, from the start when you look at that playbook every tactic has a purpose which is either get more traffic, convert more traffic or retain you know more of those customers and leads that you’re getting. The way that we prioritize is really two-fold. The first is that on all those tactics that we see in the playbook you know we’ve spent $10M building up a database of performance information on the success rates and the context on when they work and don’t work. We pair that up with our own expert services team to basically remove that guess work for a company and help prioritize which ones they actually should be working on.

Scott: If you help a customer or prospect prioritize the list, how many tactics do you implement? If a customer comes to you and they come on day zero and then they agree to become a client, how many are you trying at first? Are you trying one? Are you trying ten? What’s the number?

 

“How do you help customers prioritize tactics in the playbook?”

Jon: It’s a good question.  On average we’re there to help build winning strategy that identifies where a company is weakest, right? When it comes to traffic or conversion and then based on that and the KPIs that we identify as needing improvement that we’re going to measure. We then start prioritizing on average ten tactics every single month to do the actual execution and reporting of to get those KPIs that drive commercial success and move in the right direction. How we pick that number, really came from most testing at ourselves and also modeling it after elite growth teams at company’s like HubSpot. The amount of experiments they’re able to execute in a given month that combines- be really aggressive on trying lots of things, to learn faster and drive performance faster, but also taking into account the realities of making sure you set up these tests and tactics in a scientific way. We’re able to actually learn from them and gain insights you know not just have information overload.

Scott: Yes, so you said ten tactics a week, right? So that to me it sounds-

Jon: A month.

Scott: A month?

Jon: Yes.

Scott: Okay. Still, it sounds like a lot.

“How many people are required to do this both on your side and the client’s side?”

Jon: Yes, that’s a great question. So on the client’s side, it really requires one point of contact whether it’s the CEO of the company or you know whoever is managing marketing. You’re absolutely right though, to actually execute that many tactics in a given month are really difficult. It’s also really difficult because a company’s growth is never just one thing, meaning there’s no silver bullet. It’s not just trying to spend some cash on Facebook and expecting success. It’s never just sending out you know e-mails to a prospecting list. In a given month, winning strategy involves KPIs that go beyond just focusing on one thing. It’s things from cross-channel traffic acquisition, creative and copywriting tests, all the way down to landing page tests and email automation testing. Now to actually do that it requires a really unique set of skills. With Ladder our whole service is model and this goes back to prioritizing, tactics based off of what’s most likely to work for our company and being agnostic to which tactics those are and then doing the full-service execution. You know at Ladder we basically modeled a growth team that we offered to our partners turnkey. So internally we have engineers, we have data analysts, we have strategists, we have copywriters and designers. They’re all there to make sure those tactics get executed in these given month sprints.

Scott:  That makes sense. When you talk to prospects and you give them the pitch and you tell them you have all these tactics in this giant playbook? What kind of pushback do you get?

 

“How many people think this is BS or what are some of the objections you hear?”

Jon: I guess one of the first objection goes back to the main challenge that every prospect has which is, you know like how are you going to know what’s going to work, right? Which is a really fundamental question. The way we address that is that very transparently we accept the fact that you don’t know for certain what’s going to work until you try it. The way that we position ourselves as being the ultimate choice for our company to help navigate that uncertainty is — one, we have a complete set of data. We have more information to make decisions on and what’s going to work in the first place. Now that actually doesn’t guarantee that every single tactic will work. But, it does guarantee that when you work with Ladder you have more information, more data going into the decision making process. When it comes to the actual execution–because we accept the fact that we’re trying lots of new things each month to be prioritized unlike a typical marketing campaign or a typical agency or even in-house marketing team. You know we don’t just put all of our eggs in one basket or two baskets and spend a month putting lots of resource into one thing or a small set of things. We structure our monthly tactic sprints that we execute like scientific tests where every single one we’re trying to execute using the least amount of resource in terms of budget to prove the case for it. Then once we get back measurable improvement that’s when we can make a clear business case with our partners to double down and put more resource on those winning tactics.

Scott: Does, is there a favorite tactic of yours? Or, is there one that sticks out on the top of your mind that gets used most often? Depending on who your customers are and their kind of evolution and digital marketing that would vary.

“Which tactic gets implemented more often than not and do you have a favorite?”

Jon: Yes, great question. So I’ll mention two tactics here that I would say that if your and B2B. And you aren’t doing these two tactics right now, make sure you do them within the next month. So the first really goes to the demand generation. The interesting thing here is that you know just getting somebody to enter an information for a sales inquiry or a demo request, that’s really good. But at the end of the day, you know as an owner of a business you want yourself or your salespeople to actually get those requests booked in a calendar. Just getting somebody to, submit demo requests is great, it shows intent. But at the end of the day, you need that book on the calendar to really start driving value from it. The way that Ladder approaches that are really through up-sell tactics on the, what we call the post success page, on your landing page. So typically when you go to a landing page and you fill out information for a demo request, you enter information and then you see something that says, “Hey, great. We’ll be in touch soon and to try schedule a call.” That’s a good way of getting let’s say 10% of those demo requests to actually book and meet with their sales team. The way to get the number to go from 10% to 25% or higher is to- on that post you know success page add in a simple button links to let’s say account or booking system that allows the prospect to automatically, at the moment when they’re most interested in your services, just to book right away. Book automatically you know in your calendar without requiring any more information on their part and not requiring your sales team to have to be hustling out there, you know chasing them down trying to get them to book. So, I think that would be one tactic that I would say, in the B2B space worked extremely well, but also is surprisingly rare for how a few companies actually execute.

Scott: Yes, you know a lot of times you’ll see the links in and an email signature to I think Calendly has a free service you can sign up for to book appointments. It’s a good point. Because if someone has intent right then you might as well you know help them book a specific time spot because you know you got to contact that guy inside like five or six minutes anyhow, before he moves on to something else. So that’s a good example.

 

“Is that the tactic you recommend most often or from a B2B standpoint is it that one or is it another one?”

Jon: No, that one right there. Really high success rate when it comes to B2B companies. One of the tactics I’d want to mention if you’re in the B2B space is using a tool called Sniply to get more leads and get more demand generation by leveraging any PR or content that you’ve written. So, what Sniply does basically and Ladder actually does this ourselves and we transparently open up our own growth playbook for how we grow our own company on our blog and we’ve stood about this tactic before. But, essentially what it means is you know when you get a backlink in an article you know that has high authority like Hubspot or Salesforce or entrepreneur.com or whatever it might be. You know it’s great to have that content sitting there that you’ve written, but how do you actually leverage it to get more demand? Because creating content takes a ton of resource, getting PR is really difficult so how do you actually trace that back to demand generation you know if you’re a company? The way we do that is use Sniply. Which allows you to actually run advertising campaigns. It could be e-mail, it could be LinkedIn, it could be Adwords where all you do is promote that article, that got published on a high ranking, high authority site and you drive traffic to it. What that does is allow you to leverage the authority of these people that have written about you and you don’t come across salesy at all. Now the great thing about that is you’re more likely to get cheaper clicks and more engagement on that content and boost your brand recognition in the eyes of your prospects. What Sniply does is it actually follows those prospects to that piece of content and then provides them on that third-party site, a call to action button to drive right back to your demand generation funnel.

Scott: That’s a really cool trick, I’m definitely going to check that out. I like that. Is there a campaign or project that you worked on that you thought was going to be a home run but it just didn’t work but you learned from it, so you know I’m sure that you have a ton of examples, is their one that just kind of haunt you and you always say, “Hey, remember that time?” or anything like that?

Is there a campaign or project that you worked on that you thought was going to be a home run but it just didn’t work?”

Jon: Yes, and I think one interesting one was we worked for a company that was a marketplace. It was part B2B and part consumer in the nightlife space targeting restaurants and bars in that scene. At a high level, all of their metrics looked pretty good pre-launch. We tested messaging. We tested demand generation. People were signing up on the on the business side and everything looked absolutely fantastic from everything we had done. You know that’s said it was before the company had actually launched their full product. What ended up happening was the product ended up going live and it launched. And when people actually engaged the software itself that was being used, the market responded really negatively. All the economics went out the window. And I think for me personally it was a case of you knows never get your hopes up to high until you actually try something for real you know in the wild when you’re actually measuring it. It’s very easy for business owners and marketers as well to get really excited by things sounding interesting and this case it wasn’t just like theory. We’d actually tested things out kind of in a pre-launched environment, but even then it goes to show that until you’re actually trying stuff in the wild with real consumers and you’re measuring everything to trust but verify you know as they say.

Scott: Yes, that is a secret lesson, I like that. I have a bunch of lessons like that. Yes, but I am kind of interested to move on to your twitter handle, @ThePokerCEO. You are a competitive poker player which I think is just fascinating. So when choosing these tactics and helping these companies, kind of map it back to playing poker, because I would assume that a poker player has some situational awareness and is using statistics on outcomes. Do marketers really get that many, do they get to play that many hands? Do they not understand kind of the statistics around their situational awareness or does being a poker player help you? How does that work?

 

Do you think being a professional poker player helps with your situational awareness?”

Jon: Yes, it is a fantastic question. First I think my experience in poker has definitely helped me when it comes to taking a really like unique but effective approach to growing companies. So my background is playing online poker which I think is really important to note. You know, when you play online it is very similar to the way a digital marketer launches campaigns and uses tools like Google Analytics. So taking a step back, like what poker is all about and ultimately what Ladder believes marketing and growth should be about is accepting the fact that you have to make lots of choices with incomplete information. The information you have is, typically, when it comes to marketing, just based off like water cooler recommendations. It is what you heard from somebody else. Its what you yourself personally tried. It is really like a small sample of data and the game is really all about how you can get complete information to make better choices off of it, right? Essentially do a better analysis and build better strategy. Poker is the exact same where you are playing, you are making lots of decisions on ROI, right, just like digital marketing. And, when it comes to online poker, software existed for quite some time but basically it is just like Google Analytics on steroids where it looks at and tracks all the data that is being collected and measured at the poker table over a long period of time and it takes all the data, and start serving it to you the player in an intelligent way. That then allows you to make better choices when it comes to how much do I invest in a decision? How much do I bet? What type of bet should I make in the first place? That directly corresponds to the challenges and opportunities of a digital marketer which is basically saying where should I focus resources, my bets? How much should I bet in the first place? Do I have a process in place where I can you know, learn a maximum amount of the choices I make without betting the farm on it, right? And, being able to manage a bankroll effectively. A bankroll essentially is basically just having your monthly media budget.

Scott: That is a great analogy. It is something that I think everybody can grab on to because there are so many unknowns and many other factors when you are playing poker and the same goes for marketing, especially in the B2B world. One of the things that are water cooler talk right now, is you know the social media platforms will change an algorithm and it affects your strategy and your media budget things like that. So I think the situational awareness is, that is a great analogy. I mean that is a whole podcast in itself I think. You should do that sometimes. So Jon, what else do you listen to or read to get inspiration or, do you have anything for continuous learning anything like that.

 

What else do you listen to or read to get inspiration?”

Jon: Yes, my answer is going to be a little bit of cop out, but it is a true one. Now there are really two things that I have read and got inspiration from. The first generally is the Ladder blog. We have an incredible content marketing team who preachers like radical transparency in everything we do. And then really Ladder is at a point where we work with lots of companies. We do extremely interesting stuff on a weekly basis. The blog that we have is a great way of transparently kind of bullet pointing what is happening, what are these trends we are seeing in the Ladder playbook, in our own database and experience, and what does that mean for companies. So at this point, I honestly, our own blog or something that I personally read really often and get an inspiration from that great team. Beyond that, I am actually really big into like twisty, like mystery books in the fiction space. I think the reason for that is when it comes to growth and the way that we always try to be really innovative with Ladder, it is always kind of thinking outside the box. What often happens with the company is when we work with them, they come to us with a growth problem. Let us say, their growth has really plateaued. What we never want to do is simply start like reciting the ABCs and formulating and clean cutter in our approach. And in order to be innovative, you have to just really have an open mindset that looks at all the information that is there right now. It is isn’t afraid to think outside the box and say well, “You know if you want to get from point A to point B you can’t keep doing the same thing. You know you can’t just keep trying new things that essentially are playing in the same arena that you currently are.” Sometimes you kind of have to, we architect the entire game in the first place and shift your whole strategy around in the outlook to have success. So, for me, reading kind of interesting you now a mystery, fiction books. You know I’ve always found this keeps me imaginative and helps me like always have that mindset when it comes to looking at a new challenge with the company.

Scott: Ha! That’s interesting. Yes, I’m kind of a non-fiction guy so I don’t read like that. But, I will check out the blogs that, thanks for plugging that. We’ll link back to it. Do people ask your advice on anything else other than growth marketing, growth hacking, and poker? You an expert in anything else?

“Do people ask your advice on anything else other than growth marketing, growth hacking, and poker?”

Jon: Yes, and once they have an expert at this. But at this point, we have grown Ladder bootstraps in less than 3 years to now, a 40 person company. We have worked with hundreds of businesses. We have to manage remote teams. We recently bought a company located in Europe as well. And so it has been a really interesting journey to learn me on the operations side, the finance side, and like that. So, at this point, I am always like really enthused to talk to other business owners who are going on a similar journey and to share learnings.

Scott: Okay, that is outstanding. You said you bought a company can you say what that is?

“Which company did you recently acquire?”

Jon: Yes absolutely. So really, just this past month when we bought a 10 person growth hacking agency located in Western Poland. It was founded by an ex-Googler and the interesting thing with them is they were taking a very similar methodology to growing companies that Ladder has always have. They actually ended up finding us through our own content and we ended up just striking a really good friendship at first. We realized that we both saw the world of marketing the same way. Just recently we have officially joined forces and now have an additional crew of awesome people helping us to grow businesses.

Scott: That is super. And they found you on your blogs. That is cool.

Jon: Yes.

Scott: So Jon, thanks so much. Any closing thoughts as we shut down today?

“Any closing thoughts?”

Jon: Yes, the only closing thought I have is if you are a B2B marketer or business owner listening to this right now, and you want to find immediate value from the Ladder playbook, the first thing as always is how can you simplify. So you are going to see lots of options and if you want to lever those options without having to work with Ladder directly, number 1 rule I would say is always starting decision making with the goal that you have in mind. The single goal should be totally commercial. It should be as simple as saying we get 10 demo request every single month right now. We want to get to 20. Every single thing you do in terms of strategy, every tactic you evaluate whether to get more traffic or to get more traffic, always train yourself and your team to forcefully trace that back to, okay how is that going to get us from 10 requests to 20. Because marketing is tough. There are lots of things you have to choose from. There are also choices you have to make. So always being mindful of the commercial goal is super helpful as a process point.

Scott: Well perfect. Hey, thanks Jon for your time today. I really appreciate you investing time in my learning and the audience. So I really appreciate it. Thank you so much.

Jon: Totally Scott, great to be here.