Tag Archive for: tuff team

Tuff’s Social Ads Strategist, Nate, on the Intersection of Life and Social Media

Nate Corliss, social ads strategist at Tuff.

Meet Nate, a Social Ads Strategist at Tuff. Nate partners with Tuff clients and social media platforms to build measurable, data-driven, bottom-line growth.  

Below, he shares what he learned from studying Japanese business practices, where you can find his favorite salt, and how being a parent impacts the way he approaches marketing. 

Can you tell me a bit about your time before Tuff? What were you working on? 

I studied international business at the University of Oregon and then studied abroad in Japan learning Japanese business practices and found that super interesting. 

After that, I worked at a website company in San Diego. This was before Squarespace, before Wix, before just anybody could build a website. I was on the support side and I got my first taste of social media marketing because we had these websites and we started to explore how social media could compliment a web presence. And, at the time, it was starting to become apparent that social was becoming a critical part of the marketing mix. 

From there I became a Marketing Manager at an investment group that owned a diverse group of businesses from golf courses to car dealerships. It was fascinating and similar to being at an agency because I was deploying these marketing plans for different businesses in different geos with different objectives. I had to be able to hop in and do like a website edit really quick and then launch a social media campaign in that role. That’s when my experience with Facebook advertising first started. 

From there, I went on to a pretty large digital marketing agency where we were balancing what resources we had available as well as the capabilities our team had to serve the client. So it forced me to stretch and evolve. And, it prepared me for the role at Tuff and asking ‘what is best for our partners we’re working with?’

Why did you decide to join Tuff? What was it that made you say ‘yes’?

I think Tuff is special as a growth agency, we’re extremely focused on helping other businesses succeed. We’re so flexible with our flat pricing to best serve our clients. Whereas other agencies pricing are typically so piecemeal, it’s, by channel, by spend increment, by thousand dollars spend increment. And it stymies the ability to move quickly and learn quickly, which is super important for our clients who are often startups or ecommerce. By being flexible, it gives us the opportunity to test something quickly, find new audiences, try a small test to validate if a new tactic will make sense for our client.

What has your experience been like working for a fully remote team?

Along with remote work at Tuff comes a lot of autonomy to get the job done. I was happy that when I came in, I was able to hit the ground running. I was able to come in and affect change and deploy my own tactics right away. That autonomy has been empowering and I’ve been able to build on that and learn collaboratively with the rest of the team and with our clients. It’s felt like a bit of an evolution in a really good and satisfying way. 

There’s some freedom, too, to be myself that layers in perfectly. We’re not all together in one office. There’s not a person looking over my shoulder at the end of the day to see if I got X, Y, and Z done. So I’m a lot more accountable here to end results than I am to doing things a specific way. And I think that that’s critical for remote work. 

Does being a parent impact the way you approach your work in marketing? 

Yeah, absolutely. It makes me try and look a little further into understanding people and what they’re trying to say. My daughter, Juni, is too young to be able to express herself fully. But, even as adults we’re not always able to express ourselves fully. So someone may say something but mean something else. I kind of become this interpreter when Juni is trying to communicate and that happens a lot with digital marketing. When working with clients, we are often peeling back what somebody says they want. They might say they want to try the latest and greatest social channel but what they really need is that damn lead. And so there’s a little bit of a translation aspect going on there. Being a parent has boosted my ability to take a step back and truly listen and understand what’s being said.  

What is something about you that typically surprises people?

I’ve often been told I look at the world a little bit differently than other people. And I think that is because I’ve always been kind of conflicted wanting to fit in and understanding what works well for me. Over the last few years, the evolution that I’ve gone through is figuring out how I feel and how I work best. 

I’ve become a major bike rider. Previously, riding a bike was something I had just kind of ignored and was even somewhat scared to do in a city.  And now it’s something I do almost every day. It feels so good to have that human powered movement in my life and the carbon benefits are important to me as well. I also do a very mini yoga practice to make sure that I’m present in my body and not just a brain operating machine.

Another thing I’ve come to love is this very specific salt. It’s a pink salt, mined in Utah. I mean, why buy salt that’s shipped from halfway around the world that has a larger carbon footprint when I can buy salt that’s made two States away? 

A lot of these interests are driven by having a diet that makes me feel good, having an exercise regimen that makes me feel good, and then continuously getting my life dialed in and continuing to evolve and adapt as things change.

What is something you’ve been working on personally?

I’ve been trying to do a better job separating out ideas and execution. 

So, it’s great to talk about an idea. For example, one of our clients had an initiative they’re working on and I got fired up about it. I was mentally starting to go down a path of making this whole presentation, mapped out in detail. But then I pumped the brakes and thought, ‘what if they don’t even want to go down that route? So, my mental presentation, outlining everything in beautiful visual detail turned into a few bullet points in a meeting agenda. I wanted to validate the ideas and be smart about how I was using my time. I’m learning to say no to myself, while still giving these ideas time and space. 

What do you enjoy about social advertising? 

There’s all these really specific tasks I do for social advertising but it doesn’t feel like a big task list, it feels like more of a dance. And what’s kind of trippy about it is that I’m dancing with machine learning and artificial intelligence. 

So my skill set is teasing out the best of these social ad platforms, algorithms, and AI to get to the end. So it’s like layering of targeting across social platforms. Because so many people are on these different platforms, the power is in knowing what type of capabilities are on each platform and figuring out that unique mix out for each client. That’s really what does it for me.

What is your best advice for someone just getting started with Facebook advertising?

Try to just dive right into an ads manager account. Either create your own or, if you can, join someone who already has an existing one. In tandem you can do a training course like Facebook Blueprint, but then apply those learnings in a real-world platform. It’s a little bit tricky with Facebook because it’s always going to be pay to play. It’s not going to be a free platform like Google Analytics where you set up your own blog and test. But, with Facebook, getting into those ads manager accounts is important.

Also, don’t limit yourself to Facebook. Become a digital citizen and a user of social platforms that you’re drawn to or that you know the types of companies you want to work with have users on. Understanding the cadence and the behavior of users on those platforms makes it so that your social advertising will blend more seamlessly. With social ads, you’re paying for showing ads that don’t look like ads. So if you can develop a fluency in what great organic posts look like, that can be a superpower. 

Tuff’s PPC Strategist, Chris, on Designing an Intentional Career Path

Chris Alarcon

Meet Chris Alarcon, Tuff’s PPC Strategist. Chris works closely with Tuff’s clients to identify, test, and scale profitable paid channels. 

Below, he shares how he got so clear on the steps he wants to take in his career, why remote work has helped reduce anxiety, and what advice he’d give to someone new to working in PPC.

How did you get started working in PPC?

It’s almost been exactly five years since I started doing PPC. Once I graduated college, I knew I wanted to do more digital focused marketing. It was 2013 and I could tell that’s where everything was shifting toward. I wanted to learn more hard skills that I really didn’t learn in college. When I got my first opportunity to be in an in-house digital marketing position, I really wanted to learn more PPC. 

Why’d you make the switch from in-house to agency?

I got bored of working on the same account, the same campaigns over and over and wanted to gain a bunch of experience and work in a bunch of different types of industries.

Then, I was looking for a more growth focused agency. I think a lot of agencies that started out as more traditional marketing agencies scrambled to get involved in digital when it became obvious they needed to get on board. This is me generalizing but they never really had to have a laser scope focus on performance metrics. For example, say 1,000 people drive past this billboard a day. Then, multiply that by 30 days and you’ll get 30,000 impressions on this billboard. And what did that really ever do? In digital marketing, you can actually see the analytics behind everything. 

More modern and client-focused agencies care more about these analytics and seeing growth rather than the perfect revenue model to get the most money for the least work. When I saw the posting for Tuff, I was like, ‘Oh, this, this is more in line with the growth marketing focus I want to do rather than just like a traditional agency’. And it was aligned with what I wanted in terms of my lifestyle and autonomy in my job. So once I saw the job posting, I applied and thought let’s give it a shot. 

You mentioned autonomy being important to you in your work. What else? 

I’ve always had a good balance of work and life, that’s always important to me. So, I’ve chosen to work at places that allow that. I think, for me, it’s been more so about learning skills to get to where I want to be. 

When I first started in my career, it was your general marketing coordinator job. And I knew that I wanted to do something with more impact, I wanted to go deeper. What I found was that, in order to do that, I had to learn a specific skill set. So that’s when I started learning digital marketing on my own time. Learning specific skills helped me get my first digital marketing full time job, which opened up more doors for me to go where I wanted.

You’ve been very intentional about your career path and proactive in learning skills to get you there. That can be really hard! How do you identify what you want and then take action?

I knew that having a specific skill set would open up the door to more opportunities and it became about taking the right opportunity rather than just kind of, well, they called me back so that’s where I’m going to work. 

It’s important to me to be able to pick where I want to move rather than have to fall back and say, ‘I’m going to apply to 50 jobs on LinkedIn and if they like my resume, they’ll call’. I want to be specific and selective. So once I found the skill set that let me do that, I was able to narrow it down into that niche.

If you go back a few generations, people spent their whole careers at companies they hated. I feel really blessed that I’m working in a time period where something like remote work can be possible and it is easier to at least have an option to take my skills and work in a place that I feel happy to be. I think that was the catalyst for me. Growing up, I decided I didn’t want to dread those five days a week. 

Why is remote work a priority for you?

I’m really obsessive about certain things and little details. I have OCD, so I do have real anxiety about a lot of things. I don’t have as many noticeable ticks anymore or anything but being in a comfortable environment really helps reduce a lot of that anxiety. 

I have been lucky that I’ve never worked in an office or a company that did make me feel anxious. But I could imagine if I had, how drastically different I would behave. But luckily, one thing that I knew even from college was that I wanted to work at places that were culture focused first. I knew that I wanted to be in a place where I always felt comfortable, even if it wasn’t working from home. 

Why did you decide to join Tuff? What was it that made you say ‘yes’?

The message and the mission stood out to me. I liked the idea of being more transparent and growth focused and having a really close eye on actually delivering positive results rather than just worrying about getting campaigns up. I think a lot of traditional agencies focus more on ‘how many campaigns are you getting?’ and ‘how much money are you getting the client to spend?’ and lose focus on if the work is actually having a positive outcome. 

What is it about PPC that gets you fired up? 

I really love digging into data and analyzing it and trying to figure out the immediate results and long term trends. So that’s one thing that really drew me to PPC over any of the other digital marketing disciplines. With PPC, you can make changes that have noticeable effects in the stats right away. And, that’s what really drew me to it. 

At Tuff, our clients are really fun to work on. Every single one of them is unique so there’s a lot of data to work with. I like the diversity of our clients. 

What advice would you give to someone working in PPC at Tuff?

Be willing to try a lot of different things. And even if you haven’t tried a specific channel before you know more than you think. So like, if you’ve never done a YouTube campaign before you still know the basics of what makes a good campaign. Don’t be afraid to test a lot of different variables and try small experiments to learn. It can be a little intimidating at first but new challenges are what makes work fun. 

 

We feel so grateful to have Chris on the team! And admire the steps he’s taken to design the career he wants. Chris helps other marketers go remote by running semjobs.io. If you’re a marketer looking for a remote role, check it out!

A growth marketing team working at a table.

How We Created a Career Framework For Growth on a Small Team

A growth marketing team working at a table.

At the time of writing this, we’re a 5-person team. 

As a profitable but bootstrapped company, our growth is intentional and focused on the needs of our team and clients. We’re excited to grow in the next few years but not rapidly.

With that in mind, not everyone can (or wants to) be a people manager. We’ve been asking ourselves, “What does a career path look like for someone at Tuff?”.

We have awesome clients and certainly, we’re learning every day when it comes to our areas of expertise. One of the things we love most about growth marketing is the constant experimentation and diversity of client needs and growth channels. This has brought us to our second question, “How can we reward role expertise in the same way management is rewarded?”.

To try and answer these questions explicitly or, at the least, facilitate conversations about them as a team we’ve created a Career Framework for each role at Tuff. 

Our Career Framework serves the team in two ways:

  • A system of Levels and Steps for each role means teammates have the opportunity to grow in flexible ways
  • Each Level and Step has a role salary assigned that serves as a variable in our compensation model

Creating a Career Framework

Let’s dive into the Career Framework! Here are the steps we took to build ours:

  1. List out your Company Roles
  2. Create your Career Framework matrix
  3. Define the Levels for each role and the Steps for your company
  4. Calibrate with your team and make sure everyone knows what Level + Step they are in

Okay, now for the nitty-gritty. Here’s how to apply each step and what it looks like at Tuff:

1. List out your Company Roles

At Tuff there are two core roles on the team. At the highest level, they are:

  • Growth Marketer: Looks holistically at a client’s existing condition, finds the bottlenecks preventing them from achieving their goals, and corrects them with innovative improvements
  • Channel Specialist: Focuses exclusively on one platform or channel (i.e. PPC Specialist, SEO Strategist). They have a strong marketing foundation and specialize in one or two areas

2. Create your Career Framework matrix

Once you have your company roles listed out, the next step is to create a company-wide career progression chart. In the following steps, you’ll customize for each of these roles you’ve now listed out but you want to start from the same set of Levels and Steps for each role. 

Here’s the template we use for each role at Tuff:

Tuff career framework

Levels

At Tuff, there are 5 Levels for every role: Entry, Intermediate, Advanced, Expert, and Principal. Levels are distinct jumps in terms of area knowledge, role complexity, and scope of work. 

Steps

At Tuff, there are 5 Steps housed within each Level that are meant to mark smaller milestones of growth. They are defined by Ownership and Initiative, two behaviors that we believe are important to encourage on our team. Steps are defined company-wide, not dependent on role.

3. Define the Levels for each role and the Steps for your company

This is where you put your Company Roles and Career Framework matrix together, it’s where the magic happens! 

Using our structure of 5 Levels of growth, we’ve defined benchmark responsibilities and what performance looks like based on Knowledge, Role Complexity, and Scope of Work at each Level for both the Growth Marketer and Channel Specialist roles at Tuff. 

We’ll share our Growth Marketer Levels so you can see it in action:

Benchmark

  • Look holistically at a client’s existing condition, find the bottlenecks preventing them from achieving their goals, and correct them with innovative improvements
  • Manage a team of channel experts to enable them to achieve client growth goals 
  • Develop and implement a testing process to collect data and fast learnings to make improvements 
  • Have 5+ years experience in marketing, working across SEO, growth marketing, paid acquisition, conversion rate optimization, content strategy, link building
  • 2+ years experience in client management 

Tuff careers framework

Step Chart

At Tuff, there are 5 Steps housed within each Level meant to mark smaller milestones of growth. We’ve chosen to define them by Ownership and Initiative because, for us, these are behaviors we want to encourage and build on. They might be different for your company. 

Steps are defined company-wide, meaning they are the same for every role:

Tuff careers framework.

How this connects to our compensation model

We wanted to create a compensation model that was flexible enough to adjust for factors like experience and location but broad enough that it didn’t require in depth calculations and research every time we bring on a new team member. 

It was also important to us to use a data source and apply structure to our salaries to reduce bias and hold us accountable to paying people fairly. We wanted simplicity and objectivity. Enter: Compensation Formula.

By creating our Career Framework, our compensation model then becomes a formula with two inputs: 

  • Role Salary [Level, Step]
  • Cost of Living Multiplier 

The Role Salary [Level, Step] comes directly from our Career Framework. Using this Career Framework, we’ve entered early-stage company salary data at each level of experience for every role at Tuff. 

Here it is in action for our Growth Marketer role:

Tuff careers framework

This is based on market rates for San Francisco. Then, depending on our team member’s location we adjust the salary based on cost of living. For more on how we calculate the Cost of Living Multiplier, check out this blog post

Continue Reading

We’ve worked closely as a team to develop our Career Frameworks. It’s always a work in progress so please reach out if you have any feedback or questions.

While building our own version that works for Tuff, we’ve also leaned on some great existing resources. If you’re interested in learning more about Career Frameworks, here are some of our favorite reads: