Meet John, a Growth Marketer at Tuff. John partners with Tuff clients to experiment, test, and drive growth across multiple channels – from ppc to seo to email, and others. When he’s not optimizing website conversion rates or launching influencer marketing campaigns, you will most likely find him on a bike or in his kitchen.
Below, he shares clever puns, what he’s learned from Buddhism and music, and common ecommerce pitfalls when transitioning from crowdfunding to setting up shop.
Can you tell me a bit about your 3-5 years before Tuff? What were you working on?
I’ve worked primarily with early stage ecommerce startups.
I worked with a parent company in Boulder called Eco Brands Group, which has a few consumer brands. They all use upcycled materials like old bicycle tubes or an old advertising banner to make their products. We were a small team so I was running all marketing channels and working with founders. This structure was not entirely different from an agency model, I think that’s kind of what drew me to Tuff.
Right before Tuff, I was with a company called Bullbird. They make travel accessories. That’s actually where I first learned about Tuff and met Ellen. Ellen pitched Tuff to be an acquisition agency and partner for Bullbird. I was working as Director of Marketing at the time. I was brought on to lead ecommerce marketing and get them off the ground and transition from their crowdfunding roots into a full on ecommerce brand. I was running paid acquisition, email marketing, customer service and pretty much anything that needed to be done for the brand.
When the pandemic hit Bullbird’s products, for lack of better words, fell out of the sky. At the same time, I saw Tuff was hiring for a Growth Marketer and I reached out the same day. I remembered being impressed by the meeting I had with Tuff at Bullbird and how they talked to clients. I thought the interview process felt really genuine and natural as well. I feel happy to be at Tuff.
What has the experience been like to go from in-house to Tuff, where you work with multiple clients?
Yeah, it’s definitely been different. I wear a lot of hats at Tuff but not all the hats. I am able to direct my energy more fully into paid acquisition and growth. I enjoy talking with founders and working with them, I’ve been doing this in some way for most of my career. I like learning about what they’re struggling with or where they’re stuck on growth and help them understand marketing on a deeper level.
It’s been interesting shifting to building trust while remote, just over a video call. I’ve had to learn to bring a new comfort level and intentional focus on relationship building. I want the complicated pieces of growth marketing and metrics to feel accessible. And, I focus a lot on bringing the trust level up.
How do you build that trust?
Setting up a good foundation is really important, that’s something I’ve learned while at Tuff. The team stresses this a lot. I work to be able to quickly explain who we are, where we’re strong, and how that applies to their company. We try not to be jargon heavy, just really clear on the strategy we’re presenting. When we work internally as a team, we can slip into some jargon or just get excited and passionate about this work. With founders, I try to understand the depth of information they want. Founders are often thinking about a million things and formula for cost per sale is probably not top of mind all the time. So, I pay a lot of attention to how much information they want.
I’ve always had a community oriented mindset. And, think about how my work impacts my immediate community. I think this has helped me learn how to talk to certain people and be a good partner for them, no matter where we’re coming from.
You’ve worked in ecommerce for a number of years now. What do you think first time ecommerce teams typically get wrong?
I think there can sometimes be an expectation of flipping on a switch and making everything sell as fast as possible. That’s often why people started their company in the first place. I think it’s great to have ambitious goals but you also have to answer the question of ‘how are we going to get there?’. How do we make our sales goals work over time?
Would you ever start an ecommerce business?
No, not at all.
I don’t think I would want to run my own business of any kind. I like working on people’s projects with them which is why I think the agency world is so amazing. I’ve worked really close with a number of founders and we’re working day and night to get it to work and there’s a lot of risk involved. And that’s just not for me.
How has it been working on a fully remote team for the first time?
My personality is on the more introverted side. At work, when I do talk to people it’s for smaller increments of time over video. Like 30-minutes to an hour. And, the calls are planned. So, my energy doesn’t feel as drained. Whereas in an office, you are more likely to have anyone pop into your office for small talk. Having a remote set up, there is more structure and I can plan my week for days with no meetings.
What is it about your work that gets you fired up?
Every day at Tuff, I’m blown away by how quickly the day goes. It’ll be two o’clock in the afternoon and I’m shocked.
I really like client management, talking with clients, and understanding what’s important to them week to week. I also like with Tuff that even though I’m a Growth Marketer, I also handle a channel or two for each account. So I can get into the weeds, plan days where I don’t have any calls, and just focus on working on my accounts. I also like contributing to our blog. I started out my career in a content marketer role, running a blog for a company. Getting back to contributing to a blog has been fun, especially to be writing about stuff that I’m interested in.
Being able to focus on growth marketing while having a bunch of different ways to play into Tuff’s success is really exciting for me.
What do you like doing outside of work?
I spend a lot of time seeing films, listening to music, checking out libraries, and exploring Denver. I also like to get out a lot, I go mountain biking and camping pretty frequently.
Do you ever find inspiration for work in these non-work activities?
I do! Recently, I was watching an NPR series where they talk to musicians about their process.
They were talking to a hip hop producer named 9th Wonder and he was sharing that he does something called 30 by Thursday. Every week, he tries to make 30 new beats by Thursday and that’s his way to keep himself geared into his profession. He said it can be easy to just be like doodling with different sounds, get lost and not actually make music.
I thought that was really interesting and starting thinking about how that could work for Tuff. What could that look like from a content production perspective? I shared this with the team in a meeting and it stuck. We created a content strategy into a 30 by Thursday type sprint. Our sprint is over a few months but we’re focused on writing a lot right now.
I enjoy figuring out where your outside life fits into your work life, I think that is pretty interesting. At Tuff, we make it a point to talk about what’s going on in our lives outside of when we’re sitting by the computer. And I think that makes the relationships a lot healthier. We learn a lot more about each other.
Ellen is the founder at Tuff and one of the team’s core growth marketers. She is a versatile marketer with expertise in multiple channels – from ppc to seo to email to others – responsible for the experiments and testing. She is happiest when she’s on the ski hill or outside pointing her mountain bike downhill.