48: The Magic of Your Story in Marketing with Susan Coelius Keplinger

The Magic of Your Story in Marketing with Susan Coelius Keplinger Episode cover for How You Pictured It Podcast for Creative Entrepreneurs

Join me for the interview with Susan Coelius Keplinger, owner of Force of Nature.

Susan shares valuable insights on evaluating marketing efforts, utilizing AI, and harnessing the power of testimonials and influencers. Additionally, she shares her own experiences in building a successful business and the importance of balance within an entrepreneurial journey.

In this episode we cover:

  • 2 types of audiences: With Intent vs Without Intent
  • The way we can use story with each audience
  • The data points to track and how they help us know how to market
  • The importance of your story within your business
  • Using your priorities to guide your marketing and business structures
  • SEO vs SEM and when and how to use each

Find Susan at https://www.forceofnatu.re/ 
Linkedin: https://www.linkedin.com/in/susanck/
Twitter: https://twitter.com/sueck

Follow Dear Kate Brand Strategy on Instagram
Learn more at Howyoupicturedit.com

Full Transcript

The Magic of Your Story in Marketing with Susan Coelius Keplinger

[00:00:00] Kate: I am here today with Susan Coleus Keplinger. She is the owner of Force of Nature. I’m so excited to talk to her today. Susan, can you go ahead and introduce yourself for us?

[00:00:10] Susan: Yeah, I’m Susan Coleus Keplinger, um, a little bit of a mouthful of a name there, but I’m the, uh, 20 year ad tech veteran. I previously founded a company called Trigger in the Ad Tech space, and I think about how can you, as a business leverage the mechanisms of marketing to amplify your brand and. What you’re doing, and there’s obviously a plethora of options and ways to do that.

And at Fors of Nature, we help companies and act as their guides, as they navigate that, that landscape. So excited to chat with you today and see if I can be helpful to your audience.

[00:00:45] Kate: So let’s talk about marketing specifically. What are your favorite, uh, parts of marketing?

[00:00:50] Susan: So I think the superpower of marketing today is that. Anybody and I, and I really do feel like anybody living anywhere [00:01:00] can amplify and, and really push out what they’re doing to the world. And it’s so unique that, you know, we’re no longer in a place where you’re only having a conversation with members of your town or city or local community.

You can have a conversation with the world, and in doing so, you can find those people who are interested in whatever it is that you’re offering. However niche that offering is. And so I think today the world of marketing lets you have a conversation with your audience and it lets you have that conversation on a global level.

And that’s, it’s just so neat how interconnected we all are in that capacity.

[00:01:38] Kate: That’s super powerful, isn’t it? So . I, I know you talk a lot about storytelling and data in your business. Let’s talk about how those two things can kind of play together to create really powerful marketing

[00:01:53] Susan: So I think it’s interesting. I always say that people who majored in marketing majored in [00:02:00] marketing because they didn’t like math, and today so much of marketing is math and so, but it’s really simple math. It’s. Like the math that you probably learned at elementary school, but that data, right, is telling you how people are engaging and reacting to whatever conversation you’re trying to have with them.

And we need to believe and trust that data. It’s like if, you know, if you do a poll that says that you know X, Y, and Z is gonna happen, you’re like, no, I don’t like the result of that poll. I’m gonna keep going over here and continue to do it my way. We’d kind of look at you like you’re, you know, kind of silly.

But yet so often today, that’s what we see happening in marketing. So what we would like to see happening in the world is we would like to see a unification between the story you wanna tell how your audience is engaging with that story and that ability to use data to then inform how to make your story better and to use data on how to grow and iterate, how you’re gonna have that conversation with your customers.

[00:02:59] Kate: So let’s [00:03:00] separate those two things out for a second. When you’re talking about data, what kind of data are you looking at? What are you tracking and how do you interpret that information?

[00:03:10] Susan: So the data that you wanna look at depends on who you are and what you’re trying to achieve. If you’re A big company that’s trying to sell cars, it may be very different, right? Than an entrepreneur who’s looking for leads for their business or who’s looking for very explicit types of things. And so the first thing to say is, what is it that I’m trying to achieve?

What is it that I’m trying to sell? So let’s use the example of a wedding photographer. So a wedding photographer needs to obviously book, you know, have bookings of weddings, right? That’s how they’re gonna make their money. In order to do that, you may wanna get, have more conversations than you are gonna have.

Weddings that you book, those are your leads. So the, the data that you wanna think about, the data that you wanna look at is, how many leads do I have coming in? How many of those leads are [00:04:00] converting into whatever the next step is? Maybe proposals would be the next step, and then how many of those proposals are turning into signed clients? From that very simple math, you can then say, okay, if I need to get 100 leads in order to send out 20 proposals and 20 proposals in order to get 10 clients, and I have the capacity for 10 clients, then you know you have to get 100 leads. So now you say, okay, well what do I need to do in order to get 100 leads of people who are qualified, who are having a wedding in a geographic location?

That is interesting to me. That is. Uh, you know, that can afford the price range that I have, and now you can, you’ve just took, taken data to say, okay, I need to figure out a way to get those 100 leads. Now we can get creative around how we wanted to go about doing that. And there’s lots of different ways and lots of different approaches that you can do, and we can talk through what some of those ways might be, but we’ve just used data to create a framework for what we need to build a strategy around.

Now is when we’re [00:05:00] gonna layer in some of the creative elements right now is when we’re gonna say like, okay, now, now, now can I use my creative mind to find 100 people who might be interested in learning more? So that I know I can send 20 of those people proposals and I can book 10 of those as as bookings.

[00:05:15] Kate: Let’s go ahead and talk about what, um, what kinds of ways you’re gonna get those 100 leads. What suggestions do you have there?

[00:05:22] Susan: So I always think about the internet. It’s having two or, or, or marketing rather. Internet marketing. I guess that’s a kinda an old term, right? Digital marketing. It’s having sort of 2, 2, 2 ways that you can think about the world. Either your leads have intent, they’re looking for a solution, or they don’t have intent.

They don’t know that they need, whatever it is, is your’re offering or a service. But when they hear about it or they find out about it, they’re gonna be so excited. A good example of this is products that are brand new to market. So we have a client right now, which is called Halo collar. They’re an invisible fence replacement for dogs.

So instead [00:06:00] of using an invisible fence that you’re gonna put in your ground, halo collar’s a collar on the dog that effectively does the same thing. This is a new technology. This is a new solution. You wouldn’t even know that you should search for a dog collar that has G P s tracking and invisible fence components, right?

And so they need to create intent. They need to find dog owners who are out there who’ve never heard of their solution and share their solution. And then the dog owner’s like, whoa, what a great solution. I wanna purchase that product. So intent creation platforms are typically places that like Facebook.

You know, Instagram, social TikTok, where people are sort of stumbling on these amazing things, right? That’s where you’re gonna create intent. You’re gonna target your specific audience, but you’re gonna create that intent. You’re gonna go after a broader audience. If you’re a wedding photographer, you probably don’t need to create that intent, right?

Someone’s getting married, they have intent, they’re going to get married. They want to hire a wedding photographer. They want, maybe they want a particular style or maybe they’re from a particular geographic area, but they are raising their hand and saying, I need to find a [00:07:00] wedding photographer. That’s a sort of a, those delineations are, are, are separate.

So are you someone that needs to generate intent because no one’s really heard of your product and service or offering, or are you someone who’s, they’re searching for a solution? Typically, when people are searching for a solution, the place that you wanna make sure that you’ve figured out how to optimize first are places like Google.

When someone’s searching for, I want a wedding photographer in this geographic location, you know, whatever other keywords and terms they’re sort of searching for. And so you wanna make sure you have a strong presence in those platforms that capture intent. And that’s gonna be places like search that could also be having a presence on things like directories, right?

So like all of the different, you know, wedding planning sites and wedding planning directories, um, but places where people are seeking information. Like Google or like some of these wedding sites would be good examples of places that you wanna make sure that’s where you’re putting your time and commitment versus you don’t just wanna target some random, you know, person on Facebook hoping that maybe someday [00:08:00] they’ll get married and maybe someday maybe they’ll think of you, right?

Rather, you wanna say, no, we’re gonna go after where we already know they’re raising their hand. Now, once you’ve captured all of those things, then you can start to think about intent creation. But the first thing you wanna always do is capture existing intent. And then you can move on to things like, um, creating intent.

[00:08:20] Kate: So when you talk about these two different, um, groups, would it also be kind of like people who are solution aware versus people who are just like problem aware, they know they have a problem, but they don’t know that there’s your offer as a solution to it?

[00:08:33] Susan: Precisely. I think that’s a good

[00:08:35] Kate: Okay, perfect. Perfect. How would we use storytelling to target both of those groups?

[00:08:42] Susan: So I think if we continue with our, with our sort of wedding planner analogy and we say, okay, we know that people are raising their hand. We know that people, they, they, they have a problem and they’re seeking a solution. They sort of know what they want for a solution, but they don’t really know what they want for a solution.

Like they don’t know they want me as their photographer. Then [00:09:00] You’ll wanna make sure that you’re doing things that help, that help get in front of those people. So things like making sure that you have a website with a strong portfolio or a strong portfolio wherever it is that you wanna host your portfolio is a good example.

If people can’t figure out who you are and they can’t see examples of your work, then it’s gonna be difficult for them to realize that they want to talk to you about potentially engaging you for their wedding. Or for whatever it is that the activities that they’re doing. So making sure that you have some sort of at least lightweight footprint that people can find you, learn more about you, and then move on to the next step of engagement, becoming that lead that, that proverbial lead that we’re talking about.

There are so many incredible resources out there today that are free, that don’t require coding, that don’t really require a lot of work, but it does require you to make sure that you’re putting yourself forward and putting yourself out there. A place that people can find you now, we’ll obviously can talk about how we’re gonna get people to find you, but at the foundation of everything is you’ve gotta have some sort of digital presence [00:10:00] where people can find out who you are and see what your work looks like.

[00:10:05] Kate: Yeah. And so then with that, how would you use storytelling once you’ve got them to your site?

[00:10:12] Susan: So I think this is then a question of who are you and what’s the story that you want to tell? If you’re, obviously, as we think about the range of wedding photographers, because that’s the analogy that we’re playing with today. Are you a wedding photographer that travels to tropical destinations?

And how do you showcase what those are? And how do you think about what your clientele is seeking when they’re in that moment, when they’re in that space? Are you someone who’s really good at capturing local and the local essence of what communities feel like and look like? So I, this is now where you have to stop and say, who am I?

What am I offering? Right? And this then extends into your marketing as well, right? Who are you and what are you offering? And if you really write down who you are and what you’re offering, then you can start to think about who you want, who know who is your sort of ideal client, like who is [00:11:00] your ideal customer that you’re trying to seek, and what is that story you wanna tell?

If your ideal customer is a wedding photographer is someone who’s gonna fly you to exotic. Locations all over the world and hire you to be their wedding photographer. You are gonna tell a very different story than someone who just wants to be based in Sacramento, California, covering local weddings and doesn’t wanna drive more than one hour.

And how you tell that story on this? know, wherever we decided, it’s sort of your digital footprint, right? Is is how you present your images. But it’s so important to decide who you are and what you’re trying to sell. We don’t wanna be all things to all people. We wanna be true to ourselves, and we wanna be true to what we call in sales our, our I C P, our ideal client profile.

If you had a perfect client, if you thought about, okay, those, those 10 shoots a year, I’m gonna book, who are those people? What do they look like? Now you can start to say, okay, this is my perfect client and therefore this is sort of the story that I need to tell in order to win that client in order to showcase who I am and [00:12:00] why I’m a good solution for those individuals.

[00:12:04] Kate: Are there any particular types of stories you would recommend telling throughout your marketing?

[00:12:09] Susan: I think authenticity wins the day. Actually, let me rephrase this. Authenticity wins the day. There’s no like, think about it. The data very clearly suggests that this is true. So as you showcase yourself and your brand, how do you do that? How do you be authentic? You create this great digital footprint that really showcases who you are and what you want to do.

It’s so important not to put something forward that’s aspirational or something forward that isn’t who you wanna be on an every single day basis. I, when we, when we send our clients, um, Things like case studies, we send them like, this is what you would receive. I haven’t made this more beautiful. I didn’t spend an extra 50 hours mocking up, you know, some set of photos.

This, I send them like the deliverable that I’ve given to another client. This is what you’re going to get. It’s authentic, it’s real. It’s who you are. And from that place, then from that place of [00:13:00] authenticity, you can do really amazing things and and further showcasing it. So be true and be authentic.

Don’t try to pretend like you’re something you’re not. Like if you do great work, you’re going to find great people, and because you’re being authentic and because you’re being honest, it’s then so easy to get testimonials that you can showcase across all of these places that you can turn into ads. It’s so easy to get influencers who wanna showcase your work and talk about your work, and talk about your work into their audiences.

It’s much easier to get featured in some of these different digital publications who are like . Because you’re authentically you. Um, and if you trick people, if you, you know, showcase your work in a way that is not what they’re going to receive as their end product, then they’re never gonna be as happy as customers, which means you’re not gonna get that testimonial, you’re not gonna get that review, you’re not gonna get all of these things that really just support the authentic you.

And so I think, you know, authenticity is so, so important. I’ll also expand that authenticity. Expands even further into just showing people [00:14:00] the truth of how it all works. A great way to show a client or a prospect what your offering is, might also be to have someone follow you around while you’re doing a shoot, taking pictures of you on an iPhone, right?

These don’t have to be high-end, highly edited photos, but just videoing you or taking a picture of you working so that people can see what it looks like to work with you. They can see what it looks like, and now you can turn that into an ad, right? You can turn that into like, Hey, are you looking for this solution?

Here’s how I work and I can show you how I work. And again, it doesn’t have to be highly produced because iPhones are authentic and because of that authenticity, when you see them out in the different domains, you believe that they are real. And because you believe that they’re real, you believe that to be the truth and people seek that truth and they seek that authenticity.

And the data just validates this so much that it is the, it is the true testimonials. It is the true influencers who are loving the product. It is the true that really wins the day from a marketing perspective. I.

[00:14:58] Kate: So when we’re talking about storytelling with you, [00:15:00] you’re mostly talking about telling the story of what it is to work with you. Is that correct?

[00:15:05] Susan: I think the goal of storytelling is to tell the story of what it feels like to work with you. What it feel like, what it feels like to get, like what does the end result feel like? Like you really wanna bring out this idea of like, emotion, you know, if we move to things like products, I. we try to do in the advertising on behalf of our clients, you know, one of our clients is, is a brand called Ashley Stewart.

We want what we wanna help women feel in, through our, through our marketing efforts. We wanna help them feel what it could feel like to wear our clothing, right? What it would feel like to show up wearing something fresh and new from Ashley Stewart. And so the more that you can be authentic in helping women unlock that feeling and in being authentic when they receive your product or service.

Then they will have that feeling because you’re being honest with them about what the product or service is, and what the product or service will you know, be. They’re not surprised. And now you’ve got this full cycle of you’re showing people [00:16:00] how they’re gonna feel, the product or service arrives and they feel that way and they’re like, wow, I thought I was gonna feel this way and now I feel this way.

And this is amazing. Again, authenticity and honesty in what that looks like, makes them a happy customer, which is then gonna lead to, you know, lots of organic and word of mouth type growth that’s gonna lead to positive reviews and positive testimonials, and that’s, you know, starts to just pile and compound on top, on top of itself.

[00:16:25] Kate: So is there a different way that you would use storytelling for those people who, don’t have that intent, or are more just problem aware versus solution aware.

[00:16:35] Susan: Yeah. So if we have, if we’re trying to generate intent, what we typically do and what we see tremendous success around is, is two core things. One core thing is to let the algorithms and the AI figure it out, right? So what does that mean, and how would you do that? Well, in the case of Ashley Stewart, for example, we have tremendous success with what’s called Dynamic Product ads.

On Facebook, we have a very broad audience that could be an applicable, you know, [00:17:00] an applicable partner for Ashley Stewart. We very technically push the pro a product, feed a catalog of products into Facebook, and we say, Go to town Facebook, find people who you think would be interested in these products.

And we really let the algorithms of Facebook do the work. And now we’re looking at slightly different metrics. We’re looking at, okay, what is it costing to sell a product? What is the cost per conversion or the return on ad spend that we’re getting for these efforts? And then we’re spending as much as we can so long as we continue to get a positive return on ad said, right, A positive, um, R o i on that, on that effort. That’s a very technical approach to how we would do sort of marketing at scale, which is saying, let’s let the AI kind of come up with the, the, the way we do the stories, like the way we’re gonna communicate with that woman. The second way that we really do it, that, that, that works tremendously well in today’s world is we use user testimonials and influencer testimonials to showcase the product or brand.

So now we’re saying, look at how this is making this person feel. Wouldn’t you like [00:18:00] to feel this way too? So look at the way that this influencer is feeling, right? Because in, you know, theoretically influencers have this celebrity and have this sort of following. Uh, wouldn’t you like to feel the way that they feel?

But we’ve also found tremendous success doing it with just customers. So taking a customer and saying, Tell us about your experience with, you know, halo collar. They’ll tell that experience and then in pushing that out to market and showing that to other people. They may not know. They, they, they want that product, but man, they wanna feel that way.

They wanna feel that confidence that their dog’s not gonna run away, that their dog’s gonna be safe. And so we use customer testimonials and customer experiences to make other people feel that they wanna have that feeling as well. And so we’re telling a story that again, comes back to feeling and comes back to emotion.

[00:18:46] Kate: Well, and I would imagine with Google’s latest updates, I know that they’re really pushing more towards that, um, kind of U G C U user generated content for, um, pushing. Results. I could [00:19:00] see that those testimonials where someone tells how they feel about something would be super beneficial for SS e o and getting your website found that way.

[00:19:08] Susan: Yeah, and SS e o is someplace where, you know, I think . So, so a couple things that, we’ll, we’ll just get a little more technical here. Um, for the, for the, for the user, so ss, e o and s e m. So, s e o search engine marketing is obviously getting organically ranked for products and services, and s e m is search engine marketing, where you’re gonna pay for similar placement and similar rankings.

Both things come at a cost. I really wanna emphasize that. I think so often people are like, s e o is free, but ss e o is not free. For SS e o, you have to be creating content. You have to be doing a good job investing in the technical structure of that content. You have to be, you know, really making sure that you’re ranking.

Now, once you’ve done those things, then, and now if this, you know, as the algorithms find you, then you’re not paying for clicks. So the long-term investment in SS e o can have a lot of great potential. It’s very competitive. It’s a long-term [00:20:00] strategy. That, you know, you should be aware of the, the length that typically takes six to 12 months minimum to kind of get pace and get moving from an ss e o perspective.

But if you can do it, then it can be a very, very valuable strategy long term. In the short term, SS e m gets you very in front of a lot of those same eyeballs, a lot of those same intent driven eyeballs. So somebody says, I’m looking for a wedding photographer in Atlanta, let’s say. Right? With Google, if you use the platform correctly, right?

And you take your time, and again, it seems intimidating because there’s so many moving pieces and it’s so sophisticating. But if we start simple and we say, I’m gonna go and buy people, I’m gonna go buy those eyeballs that are people who are searching for wedding photographer in Atlanta. 

[00:20:39] Susan CK: S E M is when we’re gonna be paying for clicks. Now the danger of s e m is that there can be a lot of competition for those people with intent.

There’s a lot of people who want to offer another product or service that’s maybe the same product or service as yours. And let’s say that for every person who clicks on your, on your, on your ad that you’re doing, from a search engine marketing perspective, only two of them [00:21:00] sign up to be a lead. So if each of those clicks costs $1, Then if only two of them signed up to be a lead, right?

Then you’re looking at each lead being about $50. So you need to make sure, this goes back to the data component of how we think about marketing. That you know, you’re building a very simple structure to understand how much are you spending to acquire a lead and how much you’re gonna be able to make on the other side of it.

But once they see that ad, once they see that ad, and once they click on that ad, they want whatever your offering is to resonate with whatever they’re searching for. They have a feeling they’ve raised their hand, they have this intent. They’re saying, I’m looking for a wedding photographer in Atlanta, Georgia.

Um, a wedding photographer in Atlanta, Georgia that does church weddings. And when they’ve raised their hand and they’ve said that, What you need to make sure that you do is when they then click on that link and they come to your digital experience that we’ve talked about, they come to your website, they come to whatever it is that that you’re showing them, Hey look, here’s pictures of me taking pictures of weddings in Atlanta, Georgia that are church weddings.

That’s why [00:22:00] I am a good fit for you. If you like what you see here, then I’m a good fit. And so your likelihood of that person then taking the next step and engaging further increases. If you put a an ad out there that says, wedding photographer Atlanta, Georgia Church weddings, and you land on a picture of a beach wedding in Mexico, not gonna resonate.

They’re not gonna say, oh, this is for me. And they’re more likely to say, oh, this photographer isn’t what I’m looking for, and therefore I’m gonna bounce away. And with search engine marketing, you paid money for that person to come and click on your ad, and now you’ve lost that value. I. And so it’s so important to use search engine marketing to identify people with intent, but you wanna make sure that when they’re, you’re buying those keywords, when you’re going after those searches, you really focus on the geography where you actually willing to travel to where you actually willing to take pictures of.

And then when they click on that link, that the landing page they land on resonates with what they’re seeking or to experience. So if you’re gonna service people who are searching for a wedding photographer in Atlanta, Georgia [00:23:00] that does church weddings, I would recommend that you have pictures of you taking pictures in Atlanta, Georgia, ideally at a church wedding, right?

Otherwise, you’re just gonna be wasting your money and you’re gonna getting people who are clicking on your ads that are never gonna take the next step.

[00:23:15] Kate: Right, and that’s where it could come down to having a website that has really clear like services pages, so that . You can link directly to the service that you’re advertising for versus like a general homepage. Maybe you shoot weddings in churches and you shoot destination weddings. But having a page specific to, uh, that church wedding, um, for people to land on from that, marketing would be really smart.

[00:23:41] Susan CK: And there’s some incredible tools that are gonna help you do this. So you’ve, you’ve defined, you’ve de, you’ve defined your ideal client profile. You’ve said, I’m gonna, I only service. I don’t, you know, I’ve got two young kids at home. I don’t wanna travel to Mexico. I service Atlanta. Right? Like, that’s who you service.

So be true to [00:24:00] yourself and what that is and what that means. And then you can go on to the different sort of tools that exist inside of Google Ads in particular, and you can see, okay, how many people are searching for wedding photographers in Atlanta, Georgia? How many people are searching for church wedding photographer in Atlanta, Georgia?

Don’t let the lone numbers dissuade you. If a hundred people are searching for a solution and no one is advertising against that, You could be the only solution that’s out there. You could get a hundred clicks per month that are just for that solution. And from that place, then from that place, then you can say, Wow, there’s a hundred people searching for Atlanta, Georgia, wedding photographer, and I see there’s no one else who’s bidding on that, that keyword. So therefore, if I have a services page that’s oriented at them, I could really be good at what I’m offering. So again, this, this is where the math comes in a little bit, right?

Like you’re gonna go use the tools and you’re gonna say, okay, in Atlanta, Georgia, and Atlanta’s even a big area. Maybe you wanna even refine it a little bit more in the [00:25:00] geographic area that I service, how many people are searching for my solution? Then how are they searching for that solution? And then you’re putting yourself forward and out there in a way that’s unique and differentiated so that they really find you and they really engage with you.

And again, this, this is before you go and use that creative brain. Before you go and use the storyteller brain, you wanna go back to what I said at the beginning, which is say what? I’m trying to acquire a certain number of leads. So now you wanna continue to use your math brain. And again, this is math we learned in elementary school.

Okay? How many people are searching for that solution on Google? Are there enough people searching on that in Google that if I assume that, let’s say on the high end, 20% of the people are gonna click on that ad, how many people will land on my website? Right? So as you think about the world of marketing, you’ve gotta use these, these, this, you know, pretty basic math to say, okay, I need to get a hundred people.

I need a hundred leads, which means I might need a thousand people landing on my website. Of the, how do I get a thousand people to land on my website? And maybe one way you can do that is through Google. Maybe one one way you can do that is through various, you know, [00:26:00] wedding search solutions, et cetera.

And then you wanna be authentic and true to who you are and what solution or service you’re offering.

[00:26:07] Kate: One thing that I’m hearing you say is, um, That you, it’s important to you that you’re, what you’re offering connects with, um, kind of who you are. And that is something that I talk about a lot here on this podcast. So, steering away a little bit from storytelling and, uh, marketing for a minute, but let’s talk about how you have adapted your personal business to fit your kind of lifestyle and your family.

[00:26:33] Susan CK: Oh man, that’s one of my favorite subjects. So I was previously the founder of a venture-backed startup in San Francisco called TriGate. We raised about $30 million and very much went down the, you know, Silicon Valley path. And we had a, a pretty rough landing. We sold the business, we found great homes for all of our employees, but it definitely wasn’t the billion dollar exit that had me retiring with my jet in the tropics. And when I, [00:27:00] so when I came out of that experience, what I realized is, is that, you know, we only get so many swings at building businesses and at the careers and that, that we’re gonna establish Trigg took 10 years and I think a successful business and TriGate was, was actually very successful even though the landing wasn’t quite where we wanted.

It takes about a decade if you build a good business, right? At a minimum. And so I very much wanted to be more deliberate and say, okay, during this next decade, I’d like to be an entrepreneur and start a business again. But I’d also like to have children, I’d also like to make sure that I’m a big athlete.

I play a lot of sports. I wanna make sure that I’m using my body during this phase when I know I can use my body. So what does that look like? And how do I be deliberate in thinking about the business that I’m building? With all of those things in mind. Today I say I’m building the biggest, most successful business that I possibly can within the confines of how I wanna live my life, and really leading with how I wanna live my life.

It doesn’t make me less ambitious. It doesn’t make me want to build less big of a [00:28:00] business, but it makes me lead with my life. Versus leading with my business. So the things that are important to me as I think about in this next phase, what is the business I want to build again, building the biggest business that I can, right with these constraints in mind. The things that are important to me is having a family and having and raising children.

We’ve decided to have two children, which we have two beautiful children, Iver and Asa. They’re five and two. My, I’m a big athlete, so for me, using my body and being able to, to play the sports that I play, I am a skier and kite surfer and mountain biker, right? I love to be outside. Um, being able to prioritize, having time to do that is fundamental.

So my business will only be so big as to support those things. And we also are in an adventure family. We wanna be able to do it from anywhere. So my business needs to be fully remote. So these are the priorities that I set for, for my family, or we set, I should say, for our family and our lifestyle. And what that means for us is we live in Lake Tahoe, California, across the street from Sikee Resort, which makes it really easy to go skiing.

It means that I’m done work at three o’clock every day so I can pick [00:29:00] my kids up from school and be present in their lives. Um, it means we spend half of our time in Maui, Hawaii because, We can do that. We live, you know, we work remote. It doesn’t mean I’m working less hard. It, it does mean I’m working less hours.

But I think I’m working smarter ’cause I’m older and wiser and I have actually found that this, the business I’m building today, if you look at it on a curve against my last business, we are much further ahead. In terms of where we were at at at year two at Trigger compared to where we are at year two at Force of Nature and my lifestyle and my life, and this experience I’m having is so much more authentic and so much more real.

And I think it’s just being honest and true and deliberate. And actually one of the most difficult things I’m working on right now is reminding myself every day about what those priorities look like. What those priorities look like so that I don’t get distracted by bigger is better, and that I need to be chasing every opportunity just because I found a good niche.

And just because I can build a bigger business doesn’t mean I must. And reminding myself that [00:30:00] it’s so wonderful to be able to go out and kite surf almost every day, and to be able to be with my children every day and to be present in my life every day. And I have an awesome business. So that’s pretty cool.

[00:30:11] Kate: That is very cool. That’s exactly, you know, what this podcast is about, is about building a business that really fits the life you wanna live. Do you use some of that, um, authenticity that you’re talking about? The, the real life of how you want your business to look in your, your personal marketing for force of nature?

[00:30:31] Susan CK: We, we are, I’d say we’re working on it, but yes, I am our, our brand, uh, spokesperson. We like, I like to take pictures of myself, especially because I, the sports that I tend to play, I like to push the limits of what is possible. And I think that it’s a, what we’re trying to say as a brand and who we are as a, as an essence. But I think one of the things that, that I feel really passionately about, and I, you know, I sort of, so I think there’s a couple really important things to caveat all this with. I encourage my team, To [00:31:00] also focus on living an awesome life.

But I also recognize I hire young people who are really hungry. So we have about 50 people. We’re globally distributed, we’re all over the world, and some of those people are, you know, 25 and hungry in the same way that I was in that life phase. That I was in when I was 25 and hungry. And so I definitely take advantage of different life phases.

I think there’s people on my team that work much harder than I do, and they all know it, right? I’m like transparent about this reality. But in turn, you know, the, the, the, the trade off for me is that I’ve got almost 20 years of experience in the world of ad tech and MarTech, and that is just tremendously valuable.

When I started this business, I, when I, after we sold Trigger, I said, there’s no way I’m going back into Ad Tech. Like I’m not doing it. I’m not starting another Ad Tech MarTech company. The reality was is I know a lot about ad tech and MarTech, and I’m actually relatively agnostic about the problem I’m gonna solve.

I like solving hard problems, but I’m relatively agnostic about which problem it is. And I realized that if I went back into ad tech and MarTech, then I could leverage that, that, you know, already decade, 15 years of experience to build my life and [00:32:00] still have that incredibly . Incredibly successful company because I’m using the experience I’m building on the experiences that I have.

So I think that’s another important thing, is like, sometimes it’s so sexy and so appealing to say, oh, I’m gonna start over. I’m gonna go chase this shiny object. But if you, if you really wanna build a life that is holistic and is not just defined by work and not just defined by what it is, it’s okay to say, okay, I’m really good at this thing and I’m gonna keep doing this thing so that I can prioritize other parts of my life over here, over here, and over here.

And I think that, you know, first of all, I love the work that I do every day. And, um, I don’t know that I’d be, I’m not convinced I’d be more happy chasing a different problem. I just like to solve problems, but I do think it’s okay and important to say. You know what? I’m doing this thing on repeat, and I know I’m really good at it, and I know that there’s shinier objects that I could chase over there, but right now I’ve got two young kids right now.

I wanna go travel the world right now. I wanna pursue these other things in my life, so I’m just gonna do a little bit of rinse and repeat for a little while so I can live a holistic life and an authentic life. And I think that’s [00:33:00] okay. I think so often we, you know, we’re like, chase your dreams and your passions and everything has to make you happy all the time.

And I’m like, you know what? I’m happy. I’m happy when I’m spending time with my family. I’m happy when I’m kite surfing. I’m happy in so many other places besides work that, you know, I think it’s an important sort of thing, not to think that you have to get all of your happiness from work and therefore you can also think about how to build a life.

[00:33:22] Kate: Yeah, and it sounds kind of like this advertising marketing world is really your zone of genius, and it’s good that it comes easily to you. Like that’s, that’s where we should put our work time, I feel like, in the things that do come easy to us and um, that we are really good at. So

[00:33:40] Susan CK: Well, and sometimes that zone of genius comes from 10,000 hours of work, so don’t negate that incredible foundation that you’ve built. Now, if you hate your job, like that’s a, that’s a separate conversation. That’s not what I’m saying here. Right. I just think that we as a world chase shiny sometimes when if you actually stop and say, you know, I’m really good at this thing [00:34:00] and I’m, I’m gonna just incrementally grow and I’m gonna incrementally get better.

I’m gonna incrementally just be happy and content with that thing, um, that maybe isn’t new and shiny, but that’s okay because I’ve got a new and shiny hobby. I just was reading a book today, um, incredible book by the way, called 4,000 Weeks. If folks haven’t read it, go check it out. Um, that’s about the fact that on average we live about 4,000 weeks.

You can round it up or down or whatever, but it’s about 4,000 weeks. And it was talking about how Rod Stewart’s hobby is model trains. The guy at one point had them reserve an extra hotel room next to his hotel room while he was on tour so he could go in and paint his model trains and it built this extravagant model train collection. And so I think it’s so important where even some days, I bet you Rod Stewart didn’t wanna go out and do that show, he didn’t wanna go out and do that thing, but he had joy that he was coming back to his hotel room and he didn’t even leave it at home like they had to. If they had to get an extra hotel room so he could do his model trains.

[00:35:00] So I think it’s just important to remind yourself of that as we’re in this grind, as we’re, you know, we’re, as we’re doing this work, um, that it doesn’t have to be. It doesn’t have to be perfect and there’s always something sexier and more shiny, but if you’re good at it, if you do this incremental, iterative growth, you’re gonna build a bigger, more sustainable, more successful business, and you can then, from that foundation, you can, you can find magic not only in your work, but in so many other places as well.

So stick with it maybe is the lesson there.

[00:35:27] Kate: Yes. That’s great advice. I’m gonna look up that book too. It was called 4,000 Weeks.

[00:35:31] Susan CK: weeks. I highly, highly recommend it. That one, I, that one, and I’m really obsessed with book, die With Zero. I didn’t love the the Writing and Die with Zero quite as much. But the message of Die With Zero is Die With Zero. Spend all your money. And that doesn’t mean you can’t give your kids money.

You can give your kids money. You can set up a trust fund for your kids, that you give it to them when you’re alive, when you wanna give it to them. But the idea is like, how do we live our most authentic selves by ? Using the resources that we have at our disposal today to live these [00:36:00] lives. Great book.

[00:36:01] Kate: That sounds so interesting too. Oh, Susan, it has been so good talking to you. Where can we find you?

[00:36:07] Susan CK: So you can find me at my businesses website, force of Nature. It’s a re We’re getting creative with domain, so force of nature.re. Um, I’m also available on LinkedIn at susan ck uh, Twitter at susan ck or susan ck.com. Um, so you can find me generally by searching for Susan ck.

[00:36:24] Kate: Oh, thank you so much for joining me today. You were a wonderful guest, was so great talking to you and getting to know you a little bit.

[00:36:31] Susan CK: It’s so much fun. I appreciate the time.

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