Tag Archive for: tuff

8 Ways We’re Helping Our Remote Team Feel More Connected

Here’s a hot take: for remote workers, gone are the days of watercooler talk and after-hours drinks at the dive down the street. And the world is a better place for it.

I’ll tell you why. It’s straight up lazy to call unstructured, distracting, and impromptu conversation or after-hours drinks “connection.” Beyond that, it simply doesn’t account for the wide spectrum of personality types that make up your team. Dreaming up an array of ways to connect—and making nearly all of them optional and/or low-commitment—can make a huge difference when it comes to building better, more grounded relationships among your team while also honoring the introverts, the people who don’t like booze, the people who like to keep work and life separated, and everyone in between. 

As a remote-from-day-one growth marketing agency, it took us a long time to figure out a baseline mix of things that help us connect in ways that feel “Tuff.” I’d highly recommend that your takeaway from this is less “let me go install HeyTaco” and more “who on our team might have a good idea to contribute to a conversation about ways to connect?”

And, ultimately, this is NEVER just a box to check. As your team evolves, so should your culture and ways to connect. We make sure to always keep up the zest and excitement for things to update, introduce, and even ditch as time goes on.

But, for now, here’s our (not exhaustive) lineup! 

Full Team Annual Retreats

THIS. This is the thing we constantly find ourselves talking about all year round. Once a year, a small group of volunteers get together to plan our all-company retreat. Although this year it will look much different with 30+ attendees vs. the 12 we had last year, all of the same fun things will be baked in.

First, we always leave space for a full company IRL meeting. In it, we’ll hear from each service team lead about things they’re excited about, areas of opportunity, and goals for the quarter ahead. We’ll hear from Ellen, the founder and CEO of Tuff about Tuff’s quarterly performance and strategy for our growth into the future. We also always do superlatives! Who will win “Best Hair” this year? Time will tell!

A few considerations we maintain for this retreat is doing our best to accommodate the multitide of people on the team. For example, partners are always welcome and we’ll do a full dinner together with the entire crew. We’ll also have several different optional events so that the people that want extra social time can show up and connect, and the people that might have a drained social tank after a big dinner can recoup the way they need.

donut! #virtual-coffee

The donut app Slack integration is one of our newest and most successful ways to connect at Tuff! Shout out to Rebecca for the idea! Our team (mostly Raj and Megan) were noticing that as our team started to grow, there was less opportunity for organically “bumping into” friends throughout the workday. To combat this, Raj started sending out invites to “tea time” to members on the team he didn’t see as frequently. 

Ultimately, we all caught on to how much we enjoyed meeting with Raj and decided to implement “Tea Time” on a larger scale. That’s where donut became our perfect solution. Every other Tuesday—for anyone that opted into the Slack channel, #virtual-coffee—donut randomly pairs you with someone else in the channel and invites you to connect. It even scrapes your calendars and recommends times to meet. Easy!


On the flip side, the HeyTaco Slack integration is one of our oldest and most loved ways to keep communication pathways open. Admittedly, at first, the loud recognition/public praise aspects of HeyTaco felt a bit contrived. This was especially for team members coming from toxic workplaces wherein praise was few and far between. 

But, we’ll happily report that it’s a staple of our everyday and a great way to encourage we each shout about our teammates’ accomplishments and wins throughout the day. It’s a tiny addition to our Slack process that’s done so much for our positive outlook and culture of feedback. We’d highly recommend.

Book Club

Before we shopped around the idea of a Tuff book club, we had NO idea Tuff was so full of bookworms! We’re currently reading our second book together and meet twice a month to discuss agreed-upon chapters or sections. 

About a quarter of the team participates and shows up with their book and sometimes a cold beverage to talk about ideas, big and small. It’s been a great way to get face time with people around the organization that share interests and want to talk about big ideas. 

Dedicated Weekly Time with Your Manager

As our team continues to grow, investing time and resources into setting our people managers up for success is at the absolute tippy top of our to-do list. But beyond simply making sure they’ve got the training they need, it’s consistency that really makes a significant difference.

Cultivating real relationships in consistent weekly 1:1s with all managers and direct reports is oftentimes one of the most anchoring connections within our company. Having an advocate, a confidante, and someone to nudge you in the right direction is to feel seen, supported, and connected. We’ll never stop investing heavily into our management.

Show & Tell

Back to Slack! Show & Tell is a highly anticipated, always fun, always casual weekly occurrence in Slack pioneered by Richard. Each week, Richard will drop a fun prompt into the #general channel and it always has the ability to fire up conversations. Here are some of our recent favorites!

  • If you weren’t working in advertising, what would you be doing? What’s your alter ego’s career?
  • What is one artist / musician / band that you consider to be a “guilty pleasure”, and aren’t afraid of people judging you for it?
  • What is one piece of memorabilia (from sports, music, movies, culture, etc.) that you own that you treasure?
  • What’s your lock screen wallpaper and does it have a good story?
  • What’s your all-time favorite “classic” Youtube video? Links required.

Tuff Times

What started as a fun idea soon careened into a full-blown weekly internal newsletter replete with (some) pertinent company information but most frequently hotly contested surveys on the best popsicle flavors, weird TikTok trends, book recommendations, employee spotlights, and so, so much more. 

Virtual Happy Hours

And, of course, the ol’ reliable. We do continue to hold monthly all-company happy hours. Because our team has grown significantly since we first started them, we’ll typically devise a game or activity that splits us up randomly into breakout rooms of 4-6 people so that actual conversations can happen.

Although it took a little legwork, one of our all-time favorite happy hours was when we collected two random facts from each team member and had the opposing team pair each random fact with the human it belonged to. The weirder the facts, the better the game. Here were some standouts:

  • I once had to have my dad come to pay for a bar tab I ran up underage drinking in Mexico because the bar refused to take my credit card (while on family vacation)
  • I’ve been in a commercial before (lol)
  • One time when I was camping, someone dared me to catch, cook, and eat a lizard. I did it. It was gross.
  • When I was young I crashed a golf cart into a rock and then ran away

Ultimately, it’s up to you to decide what’s right for your team! The caveat is that if you work to create a work environment where people feel called to contribute and get excited about developing company culture, it will naturally evolve and take on a life of its own. 

And, if you’re still calling watercooler talk and boozy happy hours “culture,” here’s your sign that your team wants more.

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!