PODCAST EP 71
Simon chats with Isabella Villani, Company Director and Chief Customer Officer at Exceed Global.Listen Now
Simon Dell: Okay, so I’m joined by Taryn Williams, who has a very long and interesting story that I’m not going to even begin to tell you. I’m going to leave that completely to her. So, welcome to the podcast, Taryn.
Taryn Williams: Thank you. Thank you so much for having me.
Simon Dell: Now, we’re going to start off. What I’d like you to do is give us that kind of elevator pitch, assuming it’s a fairly long elevator ride because there’s obviously a lot for you to tell us. But if you could give us a real, quick two-minute summation of who you are and what you do, that would be cool.
Taryn Williams: Of course. So, obviously, my name is Taryn Williams and I am the founder and CEO of two different companies. My first business is Wink Models, which I found about just over 10 years ago now, which is very much traditional offline modelling agency. We have offices in Sydney, Melbourne, and Brisbane, and about 650 models Australia-wide. And my second company is an online marketplace for creative talent called The Right Fit. We have about 6,500 talent Australia-wide, everything from photographers, to hair and makeup artists, social media influences, actors, dancers, pretty much anything that you need to bring a creative campaign to life. That company is about 18 months old, and we’re venture capital backed by AirTree.
Simon Dell: Very nice. How do you split your time?
Taryn Williams: I work 100% in The Right Fit. So, as you may have seen from emailing me at my old Wink address, it will bounce back. So, I stepped out of that business about 18 months ago. Running a two-sided marketplace like The Right Fit really does take all of my time and energy, and I have an amazing team at Wink Models who make all of the magic happen on a day-to-day basis and keep the wheels turning. I still own that business. I just don’t work in it in the day-to-day business.
Simon Dell: How much do you contribute to it? Do you just sort of rock up and annoy everyone with changes and then walk back out again?
Taryn Williams: Yeah. I have a once-a-week meeting with my managing director. I’m there for about an hour. And apart from that, they’re pretty much completely autonomous without me. We have a monthly board meeting, obviously, and check in. Apart from that, the business goes on without me. Unfortunately, I’m not as indispensable as I thought.
Simon Dell: How do you feel about that?
Taryn Williams: It was really weird. I think, obviously, stepping away from it, I call it my firstborn. It was like my first child, and I do have so much love for that business and I did spend so many years growing it, and giving it my all. I absolutely love our talent, and our team, and our clients. But it is really fantastic to be able to step away from a business and have it go on without me. I spent a lot of time building systems and processes to make sure it sort of removed the key man dependency in that business. So, it’s nice to know all of that hard work paid off.
Simon Dell: Do you think that’s the key that allowed you to step away, those systems?
Taryn Williams: Definitely. So, I built an end-to-end onboarding calendar management and payroll integrations software for that business about 4 1/2 years ago. It really allowed the business to scale, and it removed the key man dependencies and the opportunity for human error. Without building that platform, it would’ve been impossible for me to step away from that company. So, definitely, whilst it was a really painful and expensive exercise, it’s definitely something I’m really glad that we did.
Simon Dell: I just want to touch on that. When you say you built it, clearly, you didn’t build it.
Taryn Williams: No. I am not a developer. I don’t code personally myself.
Simon Dell: I don’t want that to sound rude, to say you’re clearly not a developer, but I know you’re not a developer. That’s obviously a big project.
Taryn Williams: Yes, it is. I’ve never built anything even similar to this before. Basic websites was sort of where I got to in scoping, and building, and wireframing of projects. It was a massive undertaking. It took about 18 months and it was completely standalone, custom-built.
I went through the process of obviously going out to market, getting some competitive quotes, and tenders, and looking at what it might look like, and trying to figure out what sort of platform we’d want to build it in, and that it needed to be scalable. And really, sort of sitting down and mapping out all of the features and functionality that I needed for that platform to have in order for it to really be able to manage that company.
It was a pretty extensive process, and as I said, it was pretty painful. Obviously, I hadn’t built a tech product before, so there was a lot of things that I had to learn the hard way along the way. But obviously, yeah, completely transformed that company. And now, it really manages everything from sort of overtime, to expense claims, to all of the onboarding process for our new models. It really streamlined things.
Simon Dell: What made you pick? Because obviously you said you went to the market to look at some providers who could build this sort of thing for you. What made you choose the provider that you chose in the end to do it? Was it a price decision or was it…?
Taryn Williams: It was a combination of things. I was really looking for someone who had experience in building two-way responsive SMS platforms. Obviously, we have a really fast turnaround time. I knew I didn’t want it to be a mobile app. It needed to be a web-based application because my team in the office would be building briefs on desktop.
So, I needed to be mobile-first responsive but not a mobile app. I was really looking for development houses that had experience in building a two-way responsive SMS platform, to check availabilities, and rostering, and scheduling based on a two-way SMS platform.
So, I managed to find a company who’d built a sort of similar type of platform for a mining development company who had fly-in, fly-out workers and needed to check availability, and scheduling, and book people based on qualifications, which is very similar to the breakdown we were looking for.
Simon Dell: Okay. I’m going to take you now back to the very start. You went to university and you did international business.
Taryn Williams: Yes. I did politics and international relations.
Simon Dell: That’s interesting. I did politics as well, but a lot before you did. Why that? What sort of drove you towards that?
Taryn Williams: I was actually in Japan, and had to decide what I wanted to do at uni. So, I parents had moved house. I finished high school in Yeppoon, a tiny little town just outside of Rockhampton in Far North Queensland. My parents had moved house while I was away in Japan and sort of said, “Look, you need to decide what you want to do at university” because they were moving to the Southern Highlands in New South Wales. And I said, “Look, there’s nothing to do here, so you can’t possibly live with us. You’ll need to move out and go to university and decide what you want to do.”
Simon Dell: I just want to clarify that, that you went away and they moved house? I presume they told you they were doing that, it wasn’t like you’ve got…
Taryn Williams: No. They kind of just kicked me out of home.
Simon Dell: You got home and found that they’ve gone?
Taryn Williams: Exactly. Turfed out on the street. There was my year of lounging at home gone. So, I sort of knew I loved economics, and politics, and modern history. I knew I wanted to travel. I knew that I wanted to… I probably had some sort of indication that I wanted to own my own business or be somehow autonomous in what I did. Thankfully, I got quite a good UAI and had special acceptance to quite a few courses that I could do in a shorter time frame.
I was really drawn to international relations at A&U, had a great reputation. It was a relatively new course, and I thought, “Well, I’ve never been to Canberra. I’ll just move there and enrol in university”. That was about the extent of my decision-making process.
Simon Dell: Fair enough. Has anything you’ve learned in those years actually come in useful? Because for me, learning politics and doing politics at university, the only thing that’s come into use was my ability to argue with people about it. That’s all it’s done for me.
Taryn Williams: Yes. I would agree with that, and lots of people do come to me and ask for advice on what they should study, if they want to run their own business, or be an entrepreneur. Look, I think there’s definitely some things that you need university qualifications for. Obviously, I would love my doctor to be university-qualified. There’s definitely certain things that require that level.
Simon Dell: As opposed to have educated himself via YouTube.
Taryn Williams: Correct. Look, I think that there’s lots of things where on-the-job experience is much more relevant and much more practical. I think it’s having a balance of the two. Look, I think it taught me a lot of things. It taught me how to jump through hoops. It taught me how to follow instructions. It taught me how to work to timeframes and deadlines, but was it probably the best use of my time? Possibly not.
But look, I think to each their own, and I think some people really thrive in those environments. I think, perhaps, it’s an age thing as well. I was 17, and taking some time out, and maybe coming back as a mature-aged student might’ve been more beneficial for me.
Simon Dell: I also have a law degree and I walked out after three years and just went, “Nope. Never doing that again.”
Taryn Williams: Never going to use that, hang it on the wall.
Simon Dell: If anything, three years taught me that that was what I was not supposed to do in life.
Taryn Williams: Yeah. Long and expensive way to learn it.
Simon Dell: Exactly, exactly. If someone had just told me on day one, they could’ve saved everyone a lot of pain. So, talk to me about the modelling. How did that start? Was that one of those classic ‘somebody spotted you on the street’, or was it…? How did that sort of thing…?
Taryn Williams: Yeah. I started out doing those really glamorous Westfield shows and catalogues when I was about 15, and sort of maintained it through high school, and probably took it up a lot more seriously when I was at university. I was travelling quite a bit throughout university with my modelling. It affords you some amazing opportunities.
I got to travel internationally and work with some of the most amazing, creative, talented people. So, it really did. It was really something that was very formative, and shaped me, exposed me to lots of things that I suppose most 16, 17 and 18 year olds don’t get.
It was definitely a really interesting period of my life and something that I look back on with a lot of fond memories, and especially as it was a little bit of a different time in the industry with big, fat budgets, and lots of international travel, and all of the fun and raucous parties. It was a little bit different to how it is now, I suppose.
Simon Dell: When you were 15 years old, who was it that said to you, “You know what? You should be a model.” Was that your own personal confidence or was it something that your family said to you?
Taryn Williams: No. My parents were sort of innocent bystanders to that whole process, and they’re incredible. They’ve been amazingly supportive of all of my decisions, personally and professionally over the years. I’ve certainly had to bear the brunt of some of my crazier decisions.
I was scouted. I had a girlfriend who was modelling at the time as well, and her agent sort of said, “We’d love you to come down, and get some shots done, and see if this is something that you might be interested in.”
Simon Dell: Did you become more successful than her?
Taryn Williams: She doesn’t model anymore, no. She sort of stopped when she was probably about 18, 19. It was different career paths.
Simon Dell: When you were doing that, obviously, you have a personal brand. That’s obviously what a lot of people see. How did you go about marketing yourself in that? Obviously, the agency did a lot for you, but was there some things that you did that you kind of went, “This is going to help promote myself. This is going to get me more bookings. This is going to get me in front of more people.” Were there things you learned from that?
Taryn Williams: Yeah, definitely. And it’s something that we try and instil in our models at Wink as well. You really don’t need to carve out a niche for yourself. And that niche can change over time. Mine changed substantially, from my teens, to my 20s, to my mid-20s. I think it’s really important getting really clear about what your personal brand is.
My early 20s, I was doing a lot more beachy, surfy, swimsuit kind of campaigns. In my mid-20s, that was much more commercial banking, blue chip brands. It does sort of change over time. And really great models do really develop a personal brand, and that translates from everything from their social media, to the type of shots that they’ll put in their book, to the brands that they associate with. So, how they dress, all of that is incredibly important.
I think it’s definitely something that great models will do, and do well, and understand, and play to their strengths. Not to say that they can’t be diverse and work across a range of different brands, but it’s definitely easier for a client to visualize you as a young mom if that’s what your image and your portfolio portrays.
Simon Dell: Is there something that you’ve taken out of that that you would apply to business now?
Taryn Williams: Yeah, absolutely. And I think being in control of your personal brand… It’s something I speak on quite regularly, is that we all have a personal brand irrespective of whether or not we choose to control it. Every time someone engages with you, whether that’s online or offline, they’re buying into your personal brand, and your journey, and your values, and your ethos, and everything that you stand for.
I think as any kind of business person, whether you are a company owner or an employee, it really doesn’t make any difference. Whether you’ve got a substantial following or not, or a substantial profile or not, it is about getting really, really clear about what your personal brand is, and how you want to be perceived, and how you can best shape, and control, and portray that, if you choose to take control over it.
Because it’s incredibly powerful. It is something that people are engaging with and buying into. You can choose to use that for your best advantage, whether that is to get a promotion, or to get new clients, or whatever it might be. I think it’s definitely worth sitting down, and mapping out who you are and how you want to be perceived.
Simon Dell: When you made the shift from modelling to owning your own agency, was that because you saw a gap in the market? Was that because you saw that other people weren’t doing it particularly well? What sort of made you wake up?
Taryn Williams: It was a combination of both. I absolutely loved the industry and it was something that I was incredibly passionate about. It had afforded me some amazing opportunities, but there was so many inefficiencies and inequalities in the industry. Talent didn’t get paid very well. They didn’t get paid on time.
Generally, they had a pretty awful relationship with their agents. Agents generally had a pretty awful relationship with clients as well. It just seemed like it could be done a lot better from the blissful naivety of a 21-year-old. So, I thought, well, I’m going to start an agency that treats everyone with decency and respect, and pays them within 7 days, and is really supportive like a family, and so that both sides of the equation win.
Clients get a fantastic outcome because they have talent who are available, and can stay in the industry because it’s financially viable for them, and want to do a great job because they know they’re going to get paid on time. And on the flip side, talent can thrive under circumstances like that. That was the initial premise for Wink Models, and we still pay all our models every 7 days, which is unheard of in our industry.
We managed to bankroll that for the last 11 years, and the company’s grown year-on-year, every year, for the past 10 years. It’s quite a feat, quite an accomplishment, something that I’m very proud of and I couldn’t have done it without the amazing support of both our clients and our talent.
Simon Dell: How did you find that first 18 months, maybe the first 12, 18 months? What were the challenges that you faced at that point?
Taryn Williams: It’s incredibly challenging, the first 12 months of business. You don’t know what you don’t know, which in hindsight is probably for the best. Because if you knew how hard it was going to be, you probably wouldn’t do it. So, we were very lucky in that I had a great little black book of contacts on both sides, our client and talent, to launch with.
The very first campaign that we shot was a global print campaign for Nokia flip phones back when they were the big thing, which was really fortuitous for us. We launched with a premise of being really ethnically-diverse, really trying to showcase a diverse range of beauty, and looks, and sizes, and ages, and really skewed towards a commercial campaign look.
Landing that campaign was obviously a huge win for the agency and also afforded us the opportunity to bankroll the business, and initial set up cost, and building a website, and business cards, and things like that. And thankfully, you can run a business pretty lean in those first 12 months. We certainly didn’t have offices or anything flashy to start with and ran a pretty lean show. But yeah, it was incredibly challenging.
I mean, I vividly remember sitting up at midnight, Googling the first 10 pages of photographers on Google, trying to reach out to them and cold call them the next day and say, “Can we get our models in to see you for a go see, or do you have any campaigns coming up that we might be able to work on? Can we have a meeting and…?” Yeah, learning how to delegate, learning how to hire a team. There’s so many challenges along the way, but it’s not supposed to be easy, otherwise everyone would do it.
Simon Dell: Talk to me about cold calling. It’s funny because I see a lot of businesses that those early days, that’s one of the growth hack tips. We talked to a lot of recruiters as well and they said the same thing. You need to pick up the phone and actually talk to people. Was that quite nerve racking for you? Was that a challenge? I mean, nobody in their possible right mind liked cold calling.
Taryn Williams: Yeah, I don’t think anyone loves it. I’ve always been very inclined to say that building relationships are so important. And whether that’s online, or offline, or over the phone… I definitely think face-to-face is super important. I always strongly encourage my team to get out of the office and go and take a client for a coffee, really build that personal rapport.
It’s so easy to get lost behind emails or social media these days that taking the time out to really personal connect with someone is so important. It’s not fun; no one loves picking up the phone and cold calling. It’s also the same as getting out of the office and going to networking events, going to functions, putting yourself out there, giving your business card, and cold approaching someone across the room.
It really does pay off. People really appreciate it. In general, people want to see others succeed, and they do. If you’re honest, and open, and transparent about what you’re trying to achieve, people really do, in general, want to come on that journey with you.
Simon Dell: On that cold calling front, what sort of success rate did you get? Did you just get people slamming down the phones, or were they all willing to talk to you?
Taryn Williams: Oh, gosh. A little bit of mix of both. I don’t think we ever had anyone who was terribly unhappy to take a call. I think generally, when you go in with a value add to their business, they can see we were really trying to solve this pain point for our customers. We knew that they weren’t having a great experience. They were paying a lot of money to agencies and generally having a pretty poor outcome.
They could see that we were really trying to solve that and we were really vested in the success of their companies as well. We really wanted them to have a positive outcome, have great photoshoots, and build better campaigns, and remove some of the pain points for them. So, we weren’t asking a lot of them. We were really trying to solve something. So, I think if you can go in with a value add, then people are pretty receptive to hearing what you’ve got to say or at least being emailed some more information and catch up for coffee.
Simon Dell: I think that’s a fantastic point. I think if you’re going to cold call, cold email, or cold somebody off LinkedIn, you’ve got to have something that makes you stand out. It’s got to be you’re solving a problem for them that you know that they have. That’s important.
I think the photographers sound like they were receptive because you already knew that they were getting a poor level of service from the industry. They were more than willing to listen to you and then hear what you had to say.
Taryn Williams: Yeah, and I think it’s really important to sort of take the time out and ask people’s current experience as well. That’s definitely something that we’ve done with The Right Fit, is really trying to unpick what the current user experience is for people who are trying to find and book creative talent for their campaigns. Is it too time-consuming? Is it too expensive for them? Is there not the variety of talent that they need?
Trying to really get to the bottom of the drivers for our clients and then how we can, using The Right Fit, solve some of those pain points for them. So, I think taking the time out just to meet with them and ask, “What process do you go through at the moment? What doesn’t work for you? What could we do to make that a better experience for you and save you time, and energy, and money?”
Simon Dell: Once you get over those early days, the really painful early days, what is it that worked best for you guys in terms of your growth over the last 10 years? What’s got you more clients? What sort of activity?
Taryn Williams: Really, really ensuring that we were vested in the success of our client’s campaigns. So, they knew that we would go above and beyond to make sure that their campaigns were a success, and that was everything from being available on the weekends if they had last-minute changes that needed to come through, to following up and making sure that their castings have gone well. Is there anything that we could be doing better?
And I think just absolutely over servicing and really being on their team, really being an additional member of their production, or their casting, or their shoot really takes a lot of the pressure off for our clients. Because of that, they’ve been fantastic in repeat clients and referrals. It really does make a difference when it’s not just a transactional relationship.
Simon Dell: Was there a point in those early days? Was there a client that walked in your door and you kind of had that… I mean, I’m sure you do with all of your clients. I don’t want any of them to feel any less loved than the other one. Was there one that you walked in and you just sort of… it was that fist pump when you kind of realized you’d got it or you were there?
Taryn Williams: There was definitely campaigns that we’ve pitched on for years. When you finally land them, it’s pretty rewarding. Some of the bigger magazines, or… When we have really iconic campaigns in market, like Qantas and things like that, it’s definitely those moments where you drive past a billboard, or see it when you get off the plane, and you think, “Wow, that’s pretty cool. We made all that happen. That’s our talent.”
And that goes for both businesses as well. We definitely have those moments for The Right Fit. I’ll see a campaign in market or — and influence a campaign rollout. And I’m like, “Wow, all of this has come together to this actual outcome.”
Simon Dell: You get that warm, fuzzy feeling inside that that was part of you guys.
Taryn Williams: Yeah. Thankfully, it sort of doesn’t die over the years as well. It definitely still gives me a buzz.
Simon Dell: Explain the thought pattern that took you from Wink to The Right Fit. Obviously, there’s a clear line there between what one does and what the other one does. What made you sort of wake up one morning and go, “We could do something else.” Sort of went, “I’m not satisfied with Wink.” How did that evolve?
Taryn Williams: On the back of building the onboarding, and calendar management, payroll integration software, I absolutely fell in love with technology and using it to solve problems. As I said, it was probably about an 18-month build.
During that time, our industry was changing a lot. There was obviously the advent of the social media influencer. There was a move towards the smaller bits of snackable, digital content being produced instead of these really big spend TV season print campaigns.
The type of talent that clients were requiring in campaigns was changing as well. So, a lot of clients wanted real, authentic customers of a brand. There was a lot of leading indicators that our industry was right for disruption. On the other side, we also had a huge range of talent approaching us for representation who didn’t fit into any of our traditional buckets of a modelling agency.
There was kind of this supply and demand side problem on both sides. And I was like, “Well, if we could unite all of these people around a platform that could manage the transactions safely and securely for them and make sure that they got paid on time, which is the key driver at Wink, could we solve some of these problems for creatives? Could we find a better way for photographers to manage their careers and build a brand online?”
We’re seeing so many fantastic creative talent building out great social media profiles, and websites, and really trying to build a brand and monetize that, but really struggling because they don’t have the time or maybe necessarily the skills all the time to manage the admin, and paperwork, and contracts, and everything that go along with that.
It was the premise of, if we could streamline some of this process using technology, could we build a really scalable process for all of the creative industry and therefore remove the pain points for our clients that were constantly having to call around to these highly-fragmented supplier relationships to bring a campaign together, which was really costly and really time-consuming for them, and not financially-viable when they’re just producing high-volume turnover online content?
Simon Dell: Has the growth of The Right Fit been the same? Have you used the same techniques that you used to grow Wink, or is there something different that helps scale this?
Taryn Williams: It’s definitely a completely different set of growth trajectory. Wink grew very organically. It was always profitable. It was fantastic business. As the business grew, we hired more staff. And as we took on more models, we got bigger offices, and all of those things have happened really organically over time.
Whereas The Right Fit is definitely a high-growth tech company with very, very different… We’ve got 6,500 talent in just over 12 months. It’s a very, very different kind of business. We do a much more aggressive marketing strategy. We have much higher targets, and it’s a bigger market opportunity. We are expanding globally. We already work with international bookings and international clients.
It’s definitely been a very, very different journey to the first business, and it’s really exciting. I’m learning on a day-to-day basis, which is amazing. It’s nice to be out of my comfort zone and challenged.
Simon Dell: It’s interesting, when I look back and interviewed Annie Parker, who is the CEO of Fishburners last week, she has this quote that she used about three times in the interview. Of course, I can’t remember. She says it’s easy to understand your path when you’re looking back rather than when you’re right at the start and looking forward.
I’ve hideously hacked that quote and I apologise to Annie. But it’s interesting. And one of the other things, Annie’s comments on one side, and the other one is a book that I’ve mentioned several times in my podcasts by a guy called Cal Newport who wrote a book called So Good That They Can’t Ignore You.
He talks about career capital and about how those steps that you take in your career should be done on the basis of you building up capital in yourself, and knowledge, and experience, and all those kind of things. When you look at yourself at 15 to where you are today, to me, there looks like a clear linear trajectory from where you were at 15 to where you are today.
Because everything seems to have been, not necessarily an obvious step, but a step that relied on your experience from the previous role. Does that make sense?
Taryn Williams: It does. And definitely, with the benefit of hindsight, you sort of look back, and it can look very linear. I think that’s a great word. And when you’re in it, it certainly doesn’t feel it. You certainly can’t sleep, blind-sided. There’s some amazing twists and turns I could’ve never predicted when I was starting out, but yes, definitely.
It has been a really great journey that has certainly built on, and something that I think really focus on, is this idea of just never accepting the status quo, and never just wanting to be stable, and constantly wanting to innovate, and develop, and looking for the new challenge, and what’s next, and what’s around the corner.
Simon Dell: It almost looks planned. That’s what I’m trying to…
Taryn Williams: I wish I could say it was. It’s just the day-to-day chaos of my brain.
Simon Dell: I completely understand that it’s not. But when you go, you started off in modelling, and you learned about that industry. You then went to build a modelling agency because you learned about how to model, and you learned about the industry, and then you went and built a platform that could help you manage that agency better, and that platform then evolved into something. Do you see what I mean? It kind of feels like there was a plan when you were 15 that this was what was going to happen.
Taryn Williams: I wish I could say it was. I had no idea what I was going to be when I grew up. I still say I don’t know what I’m going to be when I grow up.
Simon Dell: Absolutely. I think it’s that Baz Luhrmann quote, “You see some of the most interesting people who are 40 and still don’t know what they’re going to do.” I tend to hack people’s quotes apart here because I can never remember.
There’s a couple of other questions just based on some of the things you’ve said. That social media influencer, obviously, has been a massive growth space in the last five years, give or take. Is that something you think every business could tap into, or is it really something that it’s more of a consumer brand space?
Taryn Williams: Great question. It’s something that I get asked a lot. There’s a misconception that influencers are really for consumer-led products, or that influence marketing is all about beautiful girls on Instagram posting fashion products.
We’ve always had influencers. They’ve just been different things in the past. Whether it was celebrities endorsing products, or journalists are influencers. There’s so many different aspects to influencer marketing. It’s about finding where your customer lives, what sort of channel is most relevant to them. Maybe it’s LinkedIn. Maybe it’s long-form blog content. Maybe it is TV. Maybe it’s offline, networking events, and then finding the right sort of influencer that can speak with authenticity and authority in that space.
If it’s a pet food product, maybe a vet is the most relevant influencer for your brand. If you’re trying to sell to a B2B play and you’re looking for decision-makers in recruitment, then maybe it’s long-form content on LinkedIn that is going to resonate with them.
I really do think that influencer marketing is so applicable in every different business, and I think it’s about taking that time to sit down and map out as part of your marketing strategy, and working out what success looks like, working out what you’re trying to achieve, and then finding the right, most relevant person or people for you.
Simon Dell: That’s kind of answered my next question because I was going to ask you: If you were a B2B company, and I want to talk about that one because I think B2B’s find it harder to get their head around the concept of influencers. What would be the first thing? If they sat down and said, “Right, we’re going to look at influencer marketing.” What would the first step be for a B2B company?
Taryn Williams: I think definitely sitting down and doing that analysis of, who are we trying to talk to, who are our customers? Is it senior management? Is it CEOs? And on the back of that, what do they look like? What are their interests? Is there any sort of common demographic breakdown that we can utilize to find a way to speak to them in a way that’s going to resonate and get cut-through?
Because obviously, we’re inundated with so much content on a day-to-day basis. What can we do to really capture their attention, and is that going to be an offline execution? Maybe we get them in a room for an event and have a fantastic, international, top-tier speaker who can really add some kudos to our brand.
Is it long-form content? Is there particular channels that they engage with currently? Is there particular blogs that they’re reading that they’re inspired by? Is there particular podcasts, for example? And then working out a marketing strategy with influencers incorporated into that. That can really get you cut-through.
It’s just about thinking outside of the box, and I think trying to get past that preconceived notion that influencer marketing is just on Instagram, and it’s just about pretty pictures. And if we don’t have a product or a service that plays to that, then it’s outside of our remit.
Simon Dell: Who influences you or what channels do you get your information from?
Taryn Williams: Great question. I love Medium. I love LinkedIn. Anyone that knows me will tell you I’m a massive LinkedIn fan, a massive LinkedIn stalker. I love each of the different channels probably for different reasons. I don’t use Facebook a great deal. I love Instagram for visual content and visual messages.
Obviously, both of my businesses are incredibly lucky to have an amazing amount of beautiful, visual content to utilize on those channels. I do love both of those. But I love each channel for its ability to tell a different story, so that I can utilize LinkedIn to really share experiences in my life and for my companies in a very different way than I utilize Facebook or Instagram.
Obviously, learning more about those through growing The Right Fit, and just have so absolutely data-driven you can get, and so segmented you can get in who you’re trying to reach on those different channels. It’s so powerful.
Simon Dell: Technology clearly gets you excited.
Taryn Williams: It does.
Simon Dell: Don’t worry, we’re all like that. What technology gets you more excited? What do you read about a lot?
Taryn Williams: I’m pretty obsessed with AI at the moment. I think there’s some really amazing changes coming in the short-term, blockchain as well. I think as cryptocurrency, there’s some really amazing developments that are going to be really applicable to our day-to-day lives and our day-to-day living. The more that we can all sort of read, and learn, and understand these things, the better.
I think that there’s really easy ways that they can be applied on a day-to-day basis to make our lives better, hopefully. I think that it’s going to be really, really exciting short-term. I think people think about AI, and they think, “Oh yeah, we’re going to have robots as servants in 10 years’ time.” It’s so much more than that and it’s happening now. There’s so many amazing developments.
I’ve just been looking at one. There’s an AI, like an EA virtual platform kind of platform where you can have a virtual AI assistant who can look and learn about your current patterns, and how to make your day more efficient, and who you haven’t caught up with recently, and manage your schedule and make you more productive. There’s some amazing tools out there like that that already exist that we can all be taking advantage of. They’re probably my big ones at the moment.
Simon Dell: I tend to get in quite a few discussions on Facebook with friends around self-driving cars. I love the whole blockchain and Bitcoin thing, and I’ll come back to that in a second. But self-driving cars, there are people that go, “Oh, there’s going to be an accident and then no one will ever want to get in a self-driving car.”
And I always made the point, I think it’s 37 people every year in the US that are killed by vending machines, but yet we still have vending machines. It’s not like we’re all scared of vending machines all of a sudden. But especially with self-driving cars, I’m trying to sort of say to people, “Think about what car you’re going to buy next.” And I say this absolutely seriously.
I go, because there will come a turning point, and it will only take a year or 18 months, maybe, when you’ll be at a move from owning a car outright to having a subscription of a car. That car will come and get you and drop you off where you want. All of a sudden, owning a car will become a thing of the past. If you’ve suddenly spent $80,000 buying a car in 2018, that’s going to devalue much quicker than it would’ve done, say, five years ago.
People need to understand that, and think about it, and think about the consequences of the impact of technology, not just in their personal lives, but in business. And really be aware of not necessarily what’s here now but what could be here in two years’ time or five years’ time.
Taryn Williams: Absolutely. I completely agree with that. And just looking to the landscape, and seeing those leading indicators for change. I totally agree with you. It’s going to be relevant in so many different aspects of our lives.
Simon Dell: The other question I’ve got for you is whether you’ve bought any Bitcoin.
Taryn Williams: I didn’t. No, I didn’t, and I’ve been watching it unfold over the last few weeks, especially on social and wondering where I was.
Simon Dell: You kicked yourself, did you?
Taryn Williams: I did a little bit. I think it’s going to be interesting to see how that unfolds over the next 6 to 12 months as well.
Simon Dell: I put $3,000 back in early-August, and I just wish I’d had the balls to put in all of the money that’s sitting in my tax savings account right now.
Taryn Williams: Benefit of hindsight is it’s always 20-20, right?
Simon Dell: Absolutely. As my father would say, hindsight is the only exact science. As you know, there’s one more business question I’ve got for you. When have you failed? Because everything we’ve spoken about today makes it sound like there’s never been any failures. I’m really interested to understand something that went wrong, a big failure that happened, and what you’ve learned from it.
Taryn Williams: I’ve had so many failings on a day-to-day nearly basis. I think you’re absolutely right. There’s this glorification of entrepreneurs and business owners where maybe we don’t talk about, firstly, the hard times and how bloody difficult it is. And secondly, all of the things we’ve all stuffed up along the way.
I’ve had some terrible hires where I’ve completely, absolutely misread perhaps someone’s qualifications and skill set and completely mismatched them for a role and not let them go fast enough, which is obviously not a win for them and not a win for the company. I’ve definitely hired professional services that were not great. We definitely had some accountants a few years ago who were definitely not fantastic.
I think there’s always that desire when you’re a busy founder or CEO that you just want someone to take responsibility. I was definitely guilty of throwing it across the fence and being like, “Cool, you guys have got this. You’re professionals. You’re experts in your field. We’re paying you lots and lots of money, so you don’t need me to babysit you.”
And that was just definitely a benefit of hindsight to look back and say, “Yeah, I definitely didn’t manage that process well, and obviously, I had to unravel and unpick that, which is always a pain as everyone will know. You have to transition accountants, or lawyers, or anything like that.” I’ve had some real shockers over the years. And it’s definitely about trying to look back on those moments and go, “Okay, what are the key learnings here? What can I take away from this? What would I do differently next time?”
Simon Dell: What do you do differently now you’ve had those experiences?
Taryn Williams: Across the board, I definitely have clearer reporting processes in terms of internally and externally. So, when members of my team need to come to me for approval on things before they go out, or before new hires are made, or before big decisions, new office moves or things like that are made, there’s a much clearer internal process there, firstly, so that people feel like they can work autonomously, and thrive, and succeed, and innovate, and they don’t have to run everything by me. But secondly also to stop some of those major fuckups from happening. So, that’s probably one of the big learnings.
Secondly is to hire slow and fire fast. Definitely try and take that time to really sound out your employees, spend some time together. It’s incredibly difficult to know if someone’s going to be the right fit. But when you recognize that they’re not really… And it’s for the best of the individual and the company. I’ve got a team of people that I need to look after on a day-to-day basis, and one person who’s not thriving in that really, really does upset the entire team and have an impact on the whole business. Yeah, I think just making those decisions faster and trusting your gut a little bit more probably have been some of the key takeaways for me.
Simon Dell: Last three questions. What are some of the other brands that you like, or admire, or something that you might buy all the time that you just can’t live without?
Taryn Williams: Gosh, there’s so many. I personally love La Prairie skincare. I absolutely love their branding and they have such an iconic — they’ve stayed so true and so stable to what they speak to their consumer. They’ve never strayed from that. I think that’s really rare in that space, in beauty and skincare, I think to have really stayed so core for such a long time. I think that makes them really iconic. I personally just love their products.
Obviously, we’re an Apple team. We all use Apple products. I’ve got an amazing amount of respect for the attention to detail that goes into their products and their services. I think that’s one that you can’t really fault. Their online and offline experience is pretty bloody incredible.
Simon Dell: Do you pick up ideas from those brands? Do you see things that they do? Obviously, the attention to detail with Apple is something a lot of people learn from.
Taryn Williams: Yes, absolutely. I’m totally inspired. I subscribe to so many different services and products just purely to see their onboarding process is or their marketing material, and I love seeing what other brands are doing. It’s so inspiring to seeing how people think outside of the box. Slack is one of my all-time favourites. Even their app updates, their messaging is so consistent. Even their app updates are always a little bit goofy and funny.
Simon Dell: I’ve highlighted their updates frequently. Just the language that they use.
Taryn Williams: They take the time to… It’s so on brand for them. There’s so many services like that that I’m just wowed by on a day-to-day basis. It’s so important, otherwise, you really operate in a silo and it’s really hard if you’re not obviously engaging with other brands and services on a day-to-day basis and taking those things in. It’s really hard to find inspiration.
I think there’s so many brands doing it well and so many companies doing it well. We’re really lucky. We have some really great brands in the Australian market who are doing a phenomenal job. I think as a user experience perspective as well, I’m always massively inspired by what other brands are doing and how they’re making onboarding flows better or checkout experiences better.
Simon Dell: I’ve spoken to quite a few brands doing this podcast, but I think probably my favourite so far, and again, that’s not to negate anything that any of the other guys are doing, would probably be Vinomofo just in drive and the team. It just seems the love and the passion, it seeps out of the pores of the brand.
Taryn Williams: Yes, and they’ve managed to maintain that as they grow. I think it’s really incredible because it’s something that could’ve been a flash in the pan, cheeky website. They’ve managed to maintain that and stayed really true to their core beliefs and their core customer without alienating new demographics, which I think is really powerful.
Simon Dell: What’s next for you? With The Right Fit, it’s one of those points in its life cycle where I think it’s the hockey stick analogy, it’s the hockey stick graph, where it’s going to go if it’s not already going. It’s going to go almost vertical, like a Bitcoin growth.
Taryn Williams: Fingers crossed, yes. That’s definitely the plan. We’ve seen exponential growth these first 12 months of the business journey. I could never have predicted that it was going to be as steep as it has been when we started out. Which is exciting, but obviously, growth comes with its own pain points and challenges, too.
We’re expanding internationally, which is really exciting, and I’m really proud of everything that we’ve managed. We certainly never thought we would have 6,500 talent or just slightly more than that on the platform in such a short period of time, and the campaigns that we’ve got to work on, and the brands that we’re working with. It’s pretty awesome.
We’re adding some pretty exciting and cool new features, and branching out into new markets, and continuing to build out the team. There’s some really exciting things on the horizon for us for the next, even just the short term, three to six months, which I’m really excited to release to the world. New features on its way.
Simon Dell: Do you think there’s going to be another raise next year?
Taryn Williams: Yes. We’ve actually just closed a round, so probably not next year. But definitely, in the not too distant future, just depending on how quickly we grow and the new markets that we can enter. There’s lots of deciding factors on when we’ll raise next, but we have amazing investors. It was really important to me to get strategic partners who really add value outside of just a cash injection. I couldn’t be happier with the people that we have around the table with us.
Simon Dell: Does that change how you run the business, once you have investors like that?
Taryn Williams: Absolutely. When we did the first raise, I didn’t need to raise capital for the business the first time. We could’ve continued to grow organically, but what I really wanted was amazing brains around the table and but us to be really data-driven from day one. This wasn’t a lifestyle business. This was about building a high-growth tech company.
That was one of the main reasons that we chose to seek investment. We were probably three months old when we did our seed round. It was definitely about building out a fantastic team and really running it this hard. We’re first to market and it was an amazing market opportunity. I really wanted to take advantage of that, so it’s definitely changed how the business is run.
Simon Dell: It sounds like it’s going to be an interesting 2018 for you.
Taryn Williams: Yes, I’m very excited. I’m tired just thinking about it, but I’m excited.
Simon Dell: I was going to say, do you get much time to yourself? Do you get a chance to sort of stop and breathe?
Taryn Williams: I don’t. I’m trying to get better at that. I definitely don’t have any sort of work-life balance. I think that’s a bit of a myth, but this is sort of a journey that you choose to go on and I know I wouldn’t have it any other way. If I wasn’t doing this, I would’ve found something else crazy to throw myself into.
Simon Dell: Final question: If people want to talk to you, if people want to ask you something, obviously, you’ve mentioned LinkedIn. Is that the best place to get you?
Taryn Williams: Yeah. Connect with me on LinkedIn or shoot me an email. firstname.lastname@example.org. Follow me on Instagram. I’m just @tarynwilliams or Facebook.
Simon Dell: Brilliant. That has been fantastic, and I think there’s a huge amount of learnings from what you’ve done in your experience. So, thank you very much for giving up your time for us today.
Taryn Williams: My pleasure. Thank you for having me. It’s been great to chat.
Simon Dell: And good luck for 2018.
Taryn Williams: Thank you so much.
For more transcriptions of the Simon Dell Show click here: Marketing Podcasts.