Community Engagement For Startups: Interview with Kendra Garagan

Content and Community is a 

podcast for entrepreneurs 🎧

The guest: Kendra Garagan, Founder and Managing Partner of

Moken, a global hub for startups and founders.

The topic: Ep. 1: Kendra Garagan and I chat about ways startups can jumpstart word of mouth in their marketing to help generate inbound sales.

Listen here


Ashley: Hey, Welcome to the Content and Community podcast. I'm your host Ashley Ashbee. I'm an inbound marketing strategist and writer. And in this, my very first episode, I spoke with Kendra Garagan. She's a founder and managing partner of Moken, which is a global hub for founders and startups. 

We are both really passionate about this idea that community engagement can be the foundation of anything from sales to marketing, or at least be a piece of pie. And anyone can afford that piece. Anyone can afford the whole pie really, if you take it from this angle. 

So I really enjoyed chatting with Kendra. She's wonderful and I think you'll enjoy this a lot. Thanks. 

How's it going in the startup marketing world so far? Sorry to go right into the deep stuff.

Kendra: No, no it's all good. It's definitely busy. COVID has had an interesting impact on a lot of startups, especially the ones that are in the earliest stages because -- first of all they’re new to kind of like their Industries and then on top of that they're now battling a global pandemic which is, you know, no one's really ever prepared for. 

So it's been interesting. But in a good way, I think we as a company at Moken and myself have learned so much just about the potential of startups because we've had to almost completely pivot our typical tactics because you're up against something that no one ever is up against. So, yeah, it's going well. 

Ashley: That's cool. Yeah, I think this is the ultimate test of -- what's the word -- just just being adaptable, not just startups themselves, but anyone who serves them.

I know for me, my whole content marketing plan has totally changed because the priorities of the people who would benefit from someone like me, they've changed and so it’s interesting. 

I do see some positive things happening. It's really interesting to see -- I don't know -- I might be imagining it, but I feel like people have a more return oriented feeling about marketing. Whereas before I was more like “get an Instagram post up” and people now realize “Well, I need to get a return on everything and it needs to like service sustainability”. I could be imagining it. I don't know. But do you get that vibe in your work? 

Kendra: I completely agree. I think one thing that we've learned, because we've almost, I mean, we've been forced to stay home, we've been forced away from the typical everyday human interaction that we have. 

And I think with that, I mean, I used to hate it. Associating with other humans is just like, I'd rather sit alone in my house, but now that we've been forced to do it, it's almost like you crave it.

And so, I think from a marketing standpoint, previously for Content specifically. We really, like you said, just just blasted stuff out, just blasted stuff out just to tell people about our companies and this is what we're doing and, come visit us kind of thing. 

Whereas now we almost understand the need for that human connection. And I think that is something that's being brought way more into content, these days from both a return, but also an engagement and a community perspective, especially I would say even in the startup market because they don't have the power of, you know, a large corporation like, you know, a Nike or Adidas, would.

They're much more driven by that connection. And I think that that's something that has just almost accelerated because of the pandemic, whereas, previously they would have relied more on like advertising or just social media posts kind of thing. Does that make sense? 

Ashley: Totally. That's a really interesting point I hadn’t thought of that. I did notice that before I used to kind of have an uphill battle trying to kill trying to get people to see the human, community kind of side of marketing. 

Whereas like you said, the tendency tends to be just blast what your your company is doing and I find people -- I don't know if it's a symptom of just like needing to be your like physically with another human being, but I find people are more receptive to the need for community engagement, the need to act like a human being and create a sense that there's like another heartbeat on the other side of the computer and I just feel like there's more -- Again, this is a total vibe. 

I don't have any real evidence of this but I just find when I talk to people about inbound marketing, they're more receptive to the whole idea of being discovered by people who have a fellow kind of Interest. 

Kendra: Yeah, I completely agree. I think part of that, I think probably is stemmed from influencer marketing, which I mean, we've seen for years now, but I think there's been quite a bit of data coming out about how, you know, you can get someone like, a Kylie Jenner to promote your product, but unless the market aligns like, obviously with her, you're going to get quite a return, but if you just kind of try to find a trendy influencer, you're not going to get as good of a return as you would finding someone in the industry that people can relate to. 

Ashley: Totally. I find that people are understanding that more than they did before. I'm glad I'm not the only one who's noticed that (laughing). 

Kendra: No, no not at all. That's one thing that we definitely try to enforce in our startups and it is quite difficult, sometimes, sometimes we do deal with founders who, you know, they think that giveaways and ads or the way to go right off the bat because that's what they see, which is completely valid, that is that is you know a great marketing and sort of growth tactic.

But it almost should be used as an accelerant on an already kind of rumbling fire, whereas you shouldn't use that as like the gasoline right? You need a spark first to use that and the spark is --

Ashley: --Great metaphor I’m totally going to steal that from you Kendra! (laughing)

Kendra: Good. (laughing) It's yours to use. Keeping that in mind, you kind of need all those components to build a fire, right? 

You need your idea, which would be like your wood and then you kind of add that spark, which is which is the community and that's what starts to rumble. 

And then you start adding things like giveaways, ads, any other sort of growth tactic you could think of that builds on that. 

But I think the base we all sort of at this point realized is the community and without that who are you going to tell your product about? because digital marketing right now is so oversaturated. Especially with everyone at home. I mean, you're scrolling through Instagram. Every second post seems like an ad at this point.

Ashley: Oh yeah, for sure. And the retargeting is out of this world.

Kendra: Everyone’s retargeting because the people that they're trying to hit our, you know are being bombarded with 4,000 ads, kind of thing. Whereas when we were all at work and stuff, you could at least, you know, there was there's a little bit more in variables for the aspects of like the retargeting and things like that. Whereas everyone is just stuck at home. 

There's nothing else to do other than sit on Instagram all day, right? 

Ashley: So true, I was actually just talking to someone about this in another podcast episode I did. As I speak, none of this has been launched yet. In my head, I'm like thinking which one's gonna come out first, did she even say this (laughing) 

But we were talking about the difference between influencers and advocacy and my point was vanity metrics literally mean nothing. Someone can have like -- so, for example I have quite a few Twitter followers and it's remarkable amount of the the amount of people who think that I have some sort of influence over buying decisions just because I have a huge following and just like the other people think even, you know, even people who aren't even in my 

You know, like I talk mostly about business and marketing and people with totally irrelevant things just think that you can tweet about anything, if you have a lot of following and it'll just all fall into place.

Kendra: That's not the case. 

Ashley: Yeah.

Kendra: So much more than that. 

Ashley: Yeah! So for me, It's been an interesting way of like learning what I have to do is as a consultant and in order to educate. 

A lot of it is a lot of it is dispelling myths and things, but also a lot of it is advocating for advocacy because I think a lot of people just don't have any concept of the idea of like you can actually scale something, if you have a good connection with someone who knows a lot of people who would benefit from what you do, you could scale that to like six sales a month, like recurring sales, just from one contact with someone. 

Kendra: Absolutely. I think word of mouth is probably the most powerful indicator, especially in the startup world, that you have something that is, you know, going to be impactful. 

We ourselves are, we're your three in for this company. Before that, you know, many other years in. But up till now we have not done any marketing. We have not done any sales and we have solely grown exponentially quite consistently off of Word of Mouth. 

We started with a few core clients and it's just spread like wildfire from there and I think that's because you treat each of those relationships as what it is, a relationship, right? You treat them like other human beings. You don't just treat them like money coming in the door and because of that, that spreads. 

And then those people bring, you know, 10 people back and then soon enough you've got a hundred clients, then you got a thousand and then so on and so forth. 

And that goes back to, you know, that importance of community and how building those raving fans, that is what's going to make your product, or your service, or your startup so much more than just a company. It's going to make you a brand and it's going to create something that's impactful and everlasting. 

Then those who are just sort of, you know, on social blasting away posts every single day, to try to like catch the eye by, you know, hashtagging or whatever and trying to build a following with no tangible meaning behind it. 

Ashley: Yeah. That's a really good point, I think. I'm a little disappointed to be honest because I was hoping that there'd be a little less blasting with COVID because --

Kendra: Yeah. It’s exhausting.

Ashley: I don't fault anyone because you know people are having a hard time and there's probably a lot of people who are desperate and they're trying to meet you know they have different quota needs because they're trying to survive. And so I don't I don't blame anyone but it's just it's, I don't know, as a consultant. 

I think that's one of my biggest challenges is bringing people around to the idea of yes you don't get a direct sale by doing community engagement, but that's not really your goal. 

Your goal is like a lifetime relationship with someone or with a community that can be scaled. It's not about making a sale right now and that's all you care about. 

Kendra: I think with startups specifically it's an understanding of that. Because absolutely, there's going to be tactics that we Implement very, very, very early on in their growth cycle and their launch simply because we need revenue to get to, you know, from point A to point B, but that's not the only tactics were employing and we typically will see that in when we're doing product or tech companies because, you know, they need to bridge between launching and fulfilling with their investors want in order to actually make that investment. 

So you know we do some short-term tactics as well as long-term tactics, but you never forget, those long-term tactics. You don't just throw them to the side because those long-term tactics take an extensive amount of time to grow and come sort of to fruition in terms of impacting growth on a large scale. 

So you don't want to put them off ever. Even if you're not yielding something right away, But that's not to say that you don't employ some of those short-term tactics but you just have to have a full understanding that, that's what they are right there. They're short term. They're going to yield something quick. This is not something that's sustainable and getting 10,000 followers on Instagram who aren't in your industry who aren't going to be your target market is not going to help your company 

And if anything, it's going to impact it because an investor’s going to look and say “Okay, well you have 10,000 followers and have zero sales.” Like how does that work? 

Ashley: Oh yeah, yeah, that would look bad to investors.

Kendra: Definitely not a good thing and as an investor -- we're starting to get into the investment sort of realm. Investing in some of the early stage startups that we've worked with and that's definitely one thing that I take into account, I look and I say, okay, well they have like crazy following on these social accounts, you know, decent amount of engagement on their posts. But no sales like what's going on?

And then you dig deeper into the following and the following is either, you know, bought in the worst case scenario. 

Ashley: I see that a lot

Kendra: Such a cringe-worthy moment. You're just like, how do I even bring this up to this person? Because it's obvious, right?

Ashley: And they don’t realize how obvious it is. 

Kendra: No, and I mean, you see, these people with 70 thousand followers, they're getting a hundred likes. And they're posting every day. It's like not the algorithm at that point, because your post is probably quite high on the algorithm due to you posting so much. But, you know, the correlation isn't there. It doesn't make sense there. 

So, that's always something you have to take into account too, right? What are the actual growth goals along with the sort of KPIs, I guess? 

Ashley: Yeah totally. Well, that's my whole thing, and one of the reasons I wanted to make this podcast is because that's my whole thing, like you need to have community engagement to build those long-term scalability sustainability kinds of things. 

And a lot of people are afraid of that because it's an investment that might take a long time to either recoup or profit from -- hopefully profit from -- but my thing is like you don't need to invest in a staff to get leverage from it. 

I mean you could spend a couple of hours a week or less if you do it really efficiently and you scale your community research. And you you have systems of tracking things, systems of measuring things. You can do it really meaningfully in just a couple of hours a week.

Just hire a freelancer and -- I'm biased (laughing) -- but, you don't have to have a full staff to

Kendra: Absolutely. 

Ashley: And I think that's partly what scares people about it. It's like they're afraid of making a huge investment that they won't even know that they can recoup, let alone profit from. And my thing is, you don't have to do that. So it's kind of the whole -- I'm glad really glad you mentioned that because that's kind of the whole purpose of the podcast. It's to make people see that community engagement for inbound marketing is totally accessible and you don't have to be a social media expert to do it. 

Kendra: Yeah, exactly. I think I think that's something that you're right, eople are scared of, and I think that as a startup As a start-up founder. That's one thing that they need to let go of that fear because you've already taken the biggest step, right? 

You've decided you're creating a company. Being afraid of, you know, failing as you try out different growth tactics, that is a miniscule failure in the grand scheme of things, right? 

And so I think getting over that fear and being willing to do anything to grow your company. I mean like there's bounds to that obviously but of course getting out there -- for myself I very much do not like public speaking. I very much do not like drawing attention to myself. 

I like to be inside the company. Just pounding away at the pavement making like, step after step, but we’ve realized that that's one value to the company is actually showcasing what's going on inside and how we actually build startups, and how we can leverage that to even impact more startups. 

And so, thanks to our growth team in showing me that I now have kind of had to put away that saw that fear aside and, you know, a bit of the ego, too and say, Well, I'm gonna have to suck it up and take one for the team and, you know, public speak or get on a webinar and actually teach something about, you know, startups. 

And so I think as startup Founders who are especially early on in their stages, I think the sooner they can do that and the more willing they are to explore literally anything to grow their company, then, that is when the success starts to happen in terms of traction because they’re are more open-minded. 

They don't think they have to go on a traditional sort of marketing strategy approach. They're willing to sort of, get their hands dirty and try anything. 

Ashley: Yeah. I imagine they’re also -- I don't have personal experience with this -- but I imagine they're also less likely to be the people who were like, “Well, everyone else is doing it, so it must be working.”

Kendra: Yeah, exactly. And the one thing that we, I know, I've mentioned this to you when we've chatted before is the most important thing that I would always recommend to, you know, anyone with a start-up founder or later stage is always asking why. 

So, if you're going to do something, why are you doing it? Like why are you making that even something as small as making an Instagram post? Like, why are you making that Instagram post? What is the purpose?

Ashley: Great advice. 

Kendra: Yeah because I think a lot of times we forget, that's why we do things right? Like there's a why attached to that. You definitely want to be making steps and doing things with a purpose behind it. Otherwise, it's kind of: 1. You're either just blindly trying to grow your company, which is, you know, not really a good or viable pathway or 2. You're just kind of doing what everyone else does, which is pretty well the same thing, right? 

So, Asking why is what's going to garner, you know, those results. And I think, consultants like you are a way for founders and startups to be able to ask that question and then get an answer, right? You're able to facilitate them learning. What that why is a little bit quicker. 

Ashley: For sure and also I find some people know they need a purpose. They need a, why, but they don't necessarily know what that is or they don't know how to measure it or they or they don't know what a long-term kind of projection should look like. They might have a short-term success notion but in terms of like the lifetime value of what they're doing, they might be like (cringe noise).

That's a really big good point. I think. Anything with social media or blogging or any any kind of marketing venture is just if you're looking at it as just a way to get a direct sale, if you're hoping to open and close a sale with a social media post, for me, that's when I say absolutely no. 

In my head I'm thinking, okay, they need a more like rudimentary kind of training about inbound marketing before they they should even try this because until you understand the roots of it and how to how to assess. 

You're pretty much just throwing darts in the dark. You will waste your money and you will also be inefficient because you don't know what you're doing. So it's going to take longer to create content. It's going to take you longer, to figure out what's working and what isn't. You're going to measure the wrong thing. So, it ends up being a huge investment that also has a lower much, much lower value. 

So again, I'm biased (laughing)

Kendra: I really think that it makes sense. One thing we've seen before is founders who have found inexpensive ways or free ways of growing where it takes time, right? So although it might not cost money right then and there because they're using someone who, you know, says hey let's defer payment or whatever it might be, it's still costing you. Time is money and understanding that and taking that into account when you're doing financials and projections is something that also needs to be taken into account.

If a growth tactic, let's say, is taking you 20 hours now and you plan on doing it when you hire people, that's something that you need to take into account to be able to create the proper marketing budget as well.

Ashley: Right, you don’t want to lose momentum and avoid hiring people. 

Kendra: Exactly. And the excuse I've heard so many times as yeah. “Well, I'm getting it for free right now,” and it's like, I know you're getting it for free right now, but you're not gonna be able to raise, you're not going to be able to bring in enough revenue to cover that. And then your growth is going to decrease because you haven't actually calculated that into your budget. 

Because you think it's like the perception is you're getting it for free, but you're actually not, right?

So, that's another impact that we see with Founders later on where they haven't accounted for, you know, these, these crafty growth tactics appropriately because they are getting them for free. 

Like, whether it be making social content or whatnot, but there's actually cost associated because there's time. They’re time or someone else’s time. 

And so, then that inhibits growth detrimentally down the road. 

Ashley: Yeah, and I also imagine that if they're just, you know, it's a founder who's not familiar with social, for example, and he's at the reins doing it. He's not going to know how to measure his time. He's not going to know how to set KPIs or what they should look like. He's not gonna know how to create a conversation between sales and marketing. 

So until you have that roadmap, it's pretty useless because you might have great momentum but you don't you don't know how to finance that or if you even can or if it will even get you a profit if you do it, the way it needs to be done once you reach a certain point. 

Kendra: Exactly. And that's especially true with content that I think is visual in terms of like the founder being on the IGTV, or doing reels, or whatever, it might be, as good as that is in the early stages because people start to relate to the founder. Like, “Wow, I'm seeing the founder of this company, do this.”

You also have to make sure that short to mid-term, that's a little bit sustainable. So you're not getting so busy as soon as you bring in a social media manager that you can't do that anymore because you have to remember your community is following you because of you, right? 

Ashley: Yeah, they have expectations now. 

Kendra: Of now seeing you and your what they're relating with. So if you yourself at the earliest earliest stages relate yourself too close to your company, that again is not going to be sustainable and your community is going to decrease a little bit, when you bring someone in. 

And a lot of Founders, what they're going to think, or what we've seen them, tend to think. Is “Oh well it's the person and social media” when no it's actually these other factors, right? 

It's the factors of you're not at the forefront of it anymore and people want to see you right versus they really care about your product, right? So that's something huge too that you have to make sure you balance -- It's not that you shouldn't do it because I always advocate for like founders, you know, driving their content and that because I think it's a good way for the community to get used to product and learn directly from the horse's mouth kind of thing. 

Ashley: Are you calling me a horse Kendra? (laughing)

Kendra: (Laughing) Of course not.

It's a balance thing and you have to take in -- where I know we had said previously when we had spoken -- taking into account, both that sort of 10,000 foot view, and the one foot view, sort of thing, you have to take into account both. 

Ashley: Like you I also see the value of founders engaging with their communities and things, but I see. A lot of times they do that a lot and you look at their organic marketing and there's nothing there. It doesn't look like they've done anything to really and maybe they have and it's just not launched, but you look. And they don't really seem to have a sense of what their target market is looking for, in terms of information or guidance. 

They’re told, you know -- it's really a shame when people invest more in. You know, they don't invest enough in researching their target and what their target market--

Kendra: -- Product-market fit is probably the biggest reason we see startups fail. 

It's not because of funding, it's, you know, because funding, there's creative ways if you're really that passionate about your product, there's creative ways of getting started and getting to a point where you can get funded.

But you're not going to get funding, you're not going to grow, you're not going to be able to build it yourself if you do not have product-market fit because no one's going to care. And when no one cares, you get no sales and that's a huge problem. 

Ashley: You see that on like Dragons Den or Shark Tank on all the time and they're their argument as well, such a cool product and we have all these cool features and in my head I'm always thinking: nobody cares about your features. They care about the problems your features solve and maybe they don't even have that problem. How do you know until you listen. You can't learn unless you listen. 

Kendra: Yes. And that's one thing especially for early stage and younger founders, at least in my experience is, they are more attached to their solution than they are to solving the problem. 

And what you need to be to be the most successful founder is to be absolutely married to solving the problem, not to your solution because I can promise you, the solution that you initially think of, there is going to be pivots along the way, there's going to be changes, there's going to be updates, there's going to be feature ads And if you're so bent on what you would initially created, because it was your idea, you are not going to get that far. 

Ashley: Yeah. You were saying that's a trend with young founders. Is there a reason why that would be more common with young founders that you can think of? 

Kendra: I think probably like in my experience -- again, this is my experience and we've dealt with a lot of young founders, I think probably because we are young ourselves, you attract that kind of founder, but I think I think part of it is just life experience. I think that older founders, you know, those 45 plus Founders which you know statistically are the most successful, those ones 

have a lot of life experience and understand that things have to change and your idea is not always the best idea and problems exist.

There's just so many more things that they I guess have experienced and understand on a like an internal level simply because they've learned from experience versus that of a younger founder who, it's their baby typically. Yeah, it's their baby is the first thing they've done. It's like, you know, they're out of high school or they're in high school or they're coming out of university or whatever it might be and you know this is the first thing they're going to prove everyone wrong and that's amazing. Like you definitely are, but you have to have your head on straight and know that you are going to impact people by solving the problem, not by your revolutionary idea, right? 

Ashley: I noticed that, I used to support a lot of artists in Toronto when I lived in Toronto and one of the, you know -- I was contemplating making it one of my niches and focusing more on publicity. 

And the whole reason I changed that idea was because I find there too many of them are so focused on something that they don't -- It's like tunnel vision. 

They don't, they don't see the risks of only talking about yourself and nothing else because it's just, like I said, it's when something is your baby,you don't, you can't think objectively about it. 

Kendra: Exactly. And I think especially for founders is, you know, the whole purpose of your product is to satisfy a market need not, your need like, yeah, I'm sure you like the one of the target markets but arguably, if your startup successful, and it starts growing, you're probably gonna have a team doing the things in the area that you had the problem in the first place, so you're not going to have that problem anymore. 

Ashley: Things change so fast.

Kendra: Exactly. So, you know, if you're not satisfying, the need of the market, you're not going to grow.

Sure, maybe there will be like the 10 people who are just like you who have that, super, super specific problem that you have and you know they have tunnel vision on it too, but you're not going to be able to impact the masses in the way that you want to or you initially had set out. 

I mean, unless your goal is to just build something for yourself, which is fine and cool. But you can't have the expectation of going and doing an IPO or being bought out for hundreds of millions of dollars. If you're not building something for the masses and something that's going to actually impact people's lives and make people's lives easier, and fix the problems that they're currently experiencing better than the competitors, right? 

Ashley: And also I find a lot of people, they don't they don't necessarily even -- it's not just that they don't know what people's problems are. They don't know how painful those problems are because the degree of pain often dictates if someone will pay monthly, or if they'll stay with you for a long time or else, if they'll consider you at all like and and maybe some people have that pain point really bad right now, but how do you know if it's enough people with that pain that severe to justify what you're doing if you're not researching that first. 

You can’t override that with any marketing. If the product-market fit is not there, it's not there. It doesn't matter how cool your social media posts are, it doesn't matter if you have a great podcast like me. (Laughing)

Kendra: The best podcast. (Laughing).

Ashley: Thank you. It doesn't matter. None of that stuff matters if it's not viable. 

Kendra: Exactly and this is one of the things that especially, with tech companies. I mean, we work with a lot more tech companies than we do product, or service companies. And, and so in doing that, those are especially expensive. If you have not done your product-market fit properly, and that is something that we now implement as a requirement to continue building.

We're not like the typical agency that just builds what the client wants. We will work with them to ensure that’s there because what's going to happen is one, we're not going to build a product that’s successful for the client and the client’s --

Ashley: -- blame, you.

Kendra: They're gonna blame us or, if we've invested, we especially make sure that the product-market fit’s there because if we're going to invest and then build, you know, it needs to be there.

But the times that we've seen the product-market fit, not be, you know, researched or taken into account at an early stage, those are the ones who halfway through the product build our like, changing their mind on features every two seconds, or “Oh let’s change the branding,” and we've like finished branding, six months ago and we're like, branded the product we're about to launch in they’re like, “Oh, I like purple better.” And we're like What? 

Ashley: Wow, so it's high risk for you to do that and it’s also annoying as hell.

Kendra: Yeah. But, I mean, the biggest part is I mean, we're fine to totally change it and do what the founder wants. And, you know, obviously, but within Moken like we have I know we've talked previously about what we do, but our main mandate is to help you build something that’s scalable and or through our events or through our programs is to build something that's going to scale and something that's going to impact. 

And so we can't help you do that unless you're sure of the market, we’re sure of the market and we're building something to do that. 

Ashley: How do you vet for that? Do they have to bring a report to you or? 

Kendra: No. So we typically will start with our discovery, so in the discovery it's very evident which is similar to a consultation but it's pretty evident at that stage if the founder has a good understanding of the product-market fit. 

We've also built and not all of the industries that would be impossible, but quite a substantial amount of industries that we can base off of the things that we've done before or that are going on in the industry, how well the founder knows it, because they'll say stuff, it like completely makes sense or they'll say stuff that just like you can tell they have no clue. 

Ashley: Like Dragon’s Den (laughing).

Kendra: (Laughing) Yeah, basically it’s Dragons Den.

Ashley: Are you Arlene (Dickinson)?

Kendra: I will be Michelle (Romanow). She is my favorite. I love sharing ideas, she's the best. She's Canadian or I guess they're all Canadian. But she like, oh yeah, she's in technology and Clearbanc (now Clearco) is like the coolest, the absolute coolest. 

But yeah, anyways, it's very evident at the early stages, whether a founder has done enough because they won't have the answers that you need in order to build a proper product. 

So they won't have the answers that especially our user experience team needs in order to be able to fulfill, you know, the full requirements prior to moving to like the UI, which is the beautiful design and then development. 

So there will be a lot of unanswered questions. Which then our first recommendation is to actually do product-market fit and some product market research and we'll walk them through that will do it like collaboratively or we can fully handle it. 

And we really emphasize explaining to them this is in your benefit because down the road, you're going to end up making changes and it's going to cost you so much more money like so much more money and that's something that, you know, on the business side as a company you're kind of like oh, sick. Awesome. 

But at the same time you're like this, this is not what we stand for and this is exactly why we kind of developed the company the way we did is because we don't want to see founders making a mistake halfway through and then having to redo it and us having to charge them for that.

That's just not something that I really want to be doing nor does my partner. 

We make sure they have at the beginning because they're not gonna be able to grow otherwise and I don't, you know, it just doesn't sit right with me. 

Ashley: Yeah, and you also have to think about your legacy, too. If your legacy is a bunch of failed startups, that would not look good for you. (Laughing)

Kendra: No, not at all. We’re never going to get a client again. right, our main mandate--

“How many startups have you built?” Oh hundreds, you know none of them because they haven't taken off.

But so that's something -- most of the startups that we work with, we really have a very close relationship with because we work we try to work with a founder right? We don't look at it as we're working with the startup. 

We look at it as we're working with the founding team and so by doing that you know for us on the marketing side, if you were building a community but also it allows us to really pick their brain and understand where they're coming from and help guide them to be able to launch their product and then go off and actually build a community that they can impact. 

And we can help them do that in any way that we can because we've seen the product and we know what it's capable of and how it's impacted us as builders and as investors and it's you know, that kind of thing. 

Which then just goes to be easier to market right for that. 

Ashley: I'm slightly changing the subject, but you mentioned UI and that really interested me because I find -- I don't work with people in the design development -- but I do find that people focus more on UI than they do on user experience. 

Kendra: Yes.

Ashley: They don’t look at how user experience and marketing and sales are all connected. They're sort of siloed in a way. 

Kendra: Absolutely. And I think that's a mistake. 

Ashley: I agree. 

Kendra: I think that's definitely a mistake and I'm glad you agree. I think a lot of times when we think marketing, It's the pretty pictures and the pretty ads and how something looks. And so it looks pretty so it's going to market well

Ashley: Yes, right. It's like an after thought, they don't design it in tandem with designing the product or designing with user experience, it's sort of an afterthought. Oh, how can we get this out to the masses? 

Exactly. And I think part of it, too, is that the first initial thought when they're building the product is, how am I going to get this out to the masses? 

But you have to almost think backwards with marketing, right? 

When you start to build the product, you are building the products. So no one's going to know about it yet, and who's your user at that point, it's going to be a user. It's going to be someone who's on the platform. 

So you have to think about retention, how am I going to keep these people? Then when you move to UI, it's oh, how do I hook these people when they first check out the platform, through the pretty design, and then it's like how do I launch and grow this thing? 

But during that UX phase. You really need to be conscious of. How am I going to retain these users? You know, is their referrals needed? What does experience the least possible button clicks, is this experience the most unforgettable? Is it creating a story for my platform? 

What is it doing emotionally for the user, as opposed to Yeah let's just get through this so that way we can build it and then slap a pretty face on it and then grow it.

They’re very different tactics. And I think one thing is a failing on agencies. Yes, I personally haven't ever met an agency that actually takes the time to explain that to a client let alone the -- I mean, ours is really good for doing that, not to toot my own horn, but my business partner, he manages our entire agency division and and he, he's all about user experience. 

I could not hear any more about user experience because he has told me pretty well everything I need to know about it. He's a huge advocate for it. So that is something that I really love that we're able to tell people, but I wish more did because that can make your break your product, right? 

Ashley: Yeah. 

Kendra: How many times have you gone on an app or a website? You're like, what is how --

Ashley: I was just gonna say my rule of thumb for even considering a vendor to use for my business is if I can't find any informative content about how to get a return on it and and not only informative content, but the content that's specific to me and what I'm going through, I don't even consider it.

Because you're not only giving me homework, but I have no evidence that I can even break even on it within a month, let alone get a return on it. 

Kendra: Oh, absolutely. 

Ashley: So that's my rule of thumb. I don't even consider it and a lot of times, I won't even like, sign up for a trial, if I Google you -- 

And that's another thing. If your SEO is messed up and you're not using terms that someone would use to search for certain things, but you might have that informative content for a specific audience, but if you're not using the terminology they would use to describe their problems. 

So you might have the information there but it's not discoverable by the people who are searching for it. And that's a huge problem. People just don't consider that when they design it and that's if they put informative content on their site at all. 

So many vendors just don’t and I'm just like, Sorry, moving on. 

Kendra: Yeah. And I think that especially for startups, you know, that's the first thing that people are going to see. You're not an Ikea, you're not a Nike or not those companies that everyone knows what you do, right? Like I know, Nike has athletic wear, but you have to go instead of looking for like, oh, what do you guys do again? Like, that's just not going to happen, right? 

But if you're building a revolutionary service product, whatever it might be and I'm going on your site, you need to tell me and show me what you're doing in an easy way because if I can't login and know exactly what's happening, I'm not coming back, I'm finding someone else who does it better. 

Ashley: I've noticed. I don't know if you've noticed this too, I’ve noticed it quite a bit because I'm a freelancer, so I’ve tested a lot of vendors to figure it out what to use for my business, or what to recommend to people and I find a lot of the time when I get an email from say a Sales rep. after I've signed up for a free trial or whatever and they say, “Let me know if I can help you with anything if you have any questions,” the salespeople, who ask that question and approach it in that way, with that with no context, those tend to be the companies that don't have that information or it's not available to me via search and it seems to me, like, they're in that, in that sort of general inquiry sales is trying to override the impact of not having that marketing intel. 

Kendra: Absolutely absolutely. I completely agree with that. And something we've recently implemented because that's traditional sales, right? That's traditionally how it's been. And so one thing we've implemented, I encourage anyone who's doing that type of sales or any sort of outreach to implement is instead of following up and saying, hey, if you have any questions, feel free to let me know, follow up with a pitch deck or follow up with a sales deck or a showcase or a demo and say, “Hey, I don't even know if you have any questions. Here's the ER I wanted to provide you some more information. Here's what we do or hey I wanted to provide you some more information. Could we book a demo? 

Don't leave it like they should have questions because as soon as I receive that one-- 

Ashley: Good point. 

Kendra: -- I know it's probably automated so I'm like I didn't have questions but should I? Let me go look again. 

Ashley: It also it also requires you to know what questions to ask, and that's their job. Why are you giving me homework? I have enough to do. 

Kendra: No kidding. So providing value at every possible point no matter what stage of the funnel, marketing or sales wise, you should always be providing some form of value or benefit. 

Your product is not the only value or benefit, you can provide right? And it's important, that is that you could easily, very easily package what's on your website or like a process or whatever and provide that to them, say, “Hey, I just wanted to send this your way. It's our demo book or whatever. 

Ashley: Totally. My favorite is. Maybe I, maybe. I've never actually seen this. Maybe I've just fantasized about it but I would love it, honestly, if The email I get from that salesperson == because I have no problem getting a sales email after I signed up for something because it has the potential to be super, super helpful or at the very least a relationship with a vendor who I might be with long term, so I have no problem with it -- but figure out what I do and send me a road map of like, you know, it's I'm a consultant and how they got a return and, and like, when that happened, and what was required on the client side in terms of like labor or whatever? Just like send me a road map. 

Oh my gosh. I will love you.

Kendra: I love that. I think that. I mean, we both work with startups, right? And earlier stage ones. So for an early stage startup, the amount of value you can derive from something personalized. Yes, it's going to take more time. Yes. 

You know what? Might be a pain in the ass the first few times but being able to provide that even if it's your first hundred customers, right? They are never going to forget you. And then they're going to go tell people about you and guess what? You're going to start building community and then things go from there, right? 

Ashley: And they’re scalable, too. refuting. If they’re serving me as a consultant, I'm sure they have a bunch of other nonsultants. They could create, they could send the same content or they could create, you know, a form that has like, conditional settings and then, you know, those determine a specific piece of content that fills all those gaps. 

If you had a library of every possible combination of clients, you could automate that and scale it. 

Yeah. It doesn't even have to be a manual thing. 

That's the thing with personalization, people think that it means that you have to manually do everything. It doesn't at all.

Kendra: And I bet you seven out of ten startups couldn't do that. And the reason they can't do it is not because they couldn't be bothered but because they couldn't create the library of templates beecause they don't know their target market well enough. 

Ashley: Right, right. 

Kendra: But if they knew their target market, every single market, or every single target within it, they could create that information, right? That's product-market fit right there.

Ashley: Yeah. And they could probably pull a lot of that wholesale from any case studies or focus groups. They could actually straight up take quotes out of it. 

You don't necessarily need to hire someone to write a whole white paper. 

If you've done the right research you've actually literally already done the right work. 

Have it literally on paper. 

Kendra: Exactly. Yeah and if they do want to hire someone don't just hire a copywriter who's just going to regurgitate what you have to say because arguably you don't know the target market unless you're the target market. So go and find individuals in your target market who are able to write, who are able to be eloquent, and have them create it. Pay them to create it, right? 

Ashley: That's a great idea. 

Kendra: So now you’re having people who are in your market, who actually empathize and have an emotional connection to the behaviors of that, that target, writing or at least outlining and frameworking what you need to build. So, you have a framework that's going to align perfectly with that market -- again -- product-market fit. 

Ashley: Yeah, and yeah, that's a great idea. Especially when you think of how many companies spend money on surveys and things. Well, this is basically like a high level survey. So if you just remove some of that spend I'm sure it would be incredibly valuable and it's also user-generated content. 

So I mean if you have someone who's loyal enough and enjoy your product enough to write about you, they're going to share that with everyone. So it's also outreach on top now and generated content. 

Kendra: Yeah. And if you flip it and almost mark it as like, oh, you're our ambassador. You're like our consultant Ambassador or whatever it is. I mean, it's no different than them being your copywriter, you just flipped it, positioned it so it's like some flashy thing and exciting for them. 

Then they're going to want to actually be sharing that even more because they're like wow I was chosen as the Ambassador, right? When in fact you're garnering a heck of a lot more than they are arguably.

Ashley: It really does pay to be nice to people which i's just a simple email support request.

Kendra: It's already stuff that you're already doing, right? Like it's just looking at it as your target market isn't just some blob of money that you're throwing things out and they're giving you money back. They're human beings and, you know, they have emotions just like you and you need to relate with them. Which I mean honestly, you should because if you're building a start-up you're doing it because you're passionate about that industry, or whatever. 

And so you should be able to relate to that market and so you just do that. You just build relationships, like it's not crazy hard and it's not expensive and it's not, you know, not doable for anyone. 

Ashley: Yeah, right. I hope people will take from this podcast is it's not this big scary thing that you need to be a marketing expert or a sales expert to understand. It's literally just understanding people as one human to another and understanding that that person has needs and you have needs and how do they connect? That's literally all it is really. 

Kendra: Yeah, it's literally wherever you're wherever, you're going to market, position it as growth instead of marketing in your head and position it as building relationships instead of selling. If you do that, you'll be ten times more successful. 

And then, you know, you take the other 30 tips we gave you in the podcast and then you'll be golden but you know, just reposition your your thoughts would probably be the first step that I give anyone to really get them started. 

Ashley: I was going to say something else but I just had a brain fart. That happened in the last podcast I did. For like 30 seconds. I was like, what? 

Kendra: I’m surprised it hasn't happened to me because it's 5 p.m. on a Friday.

Ashley: I'm honored that you spent your Friday afternoon with me. Before I let you go, I wanted to talk a little bit about -- especially starting out when you don't have a lot of metrics to work with you don't, you know, you don't first of all, you don't even need. Like I said a sales team to get -- or a marketing team to get benefits from community engagement marketing. 

But also, I think it's really important to note that when you're starting out, you probably even shouldn't invest a lot of time because you don't know what you're going to get out of that yet. 

So test really small.

Kendra: Always test and do it really, really small and like, do it week by week or month by month and just don't set it and forget it.

I was wondering if you had any points about what KPIs people should be looking at in those micro level testing. 

Kendra: I would definitely say the first is engagement, that's gonna give you a little bit of, I mean, obviously traction, but it's also going to tell you, if you hit the mark on your growth and on your product itself. 

And be conscious of who's engaging. Is your mom and your dad going like “Yeah this is an awesome product”?

Or is it actually someone that you've never met? Very different. One is going to garner growth. The other is going to you know give you a bigger hug the next time they see you kind of thing. 

So I would say engagement is definitely a KPI on all fronts. Obviously that looks differently based off of platforms, you know, engagement on social either, a like either a save, a send, whatever it might be. Sends are all the rage right now, but also be conscious of like the type of content you're putting out and like, right. Are they sending it because it's intriguing or they sending it? Because it's funny. Are they sending it because they like your product or they sending it because, you know, you got five spelling mistakes and they're laughing in their DM's about it and kind of thing. 

Ashley: Yeah, and also I do this in my own marketing and I also recommend other people do it. I think it's important for people to create a persona or personas ofwhat their target audience on social media is and then that can be your KPI. 

Make it really micro so you can make objectives of that. Say you define success success as I know it's working if -- say my persona is decision makers. If I'm a freelancer for example, and I want to use social media, you know, you could say, I want to engage 5 -- what do you call it, I should know this -- content managers.

Someone who's a decision-maker in the goal that you're seeking and you set that up in your persona, then that can be one of your objectives to determine if it's working or not. That's just an example. I'm not saying anyone should use that later. 

Kendra: Conversations, I definitely think are another KPI because it's gonna give you something regardless. 

The worst thing a start-up could ever hear is silence because that means no one cares. 

If they're giving you negative feedback, that's a learning you can learn from them. So the more conversations you're having that's a kpi. You absolutely want to aim for when you're when you're early because it's going to give you a learning one way or the other. You're either on the right track or they're going to put you on the right track.

Ashley: That would be a good goal. too. I mean I was just talking about outcome objectives but in terms of actually like deliverables, that could be a goal, too, like five conversations in my niche about this problem on Quora or Reddit or wherever.

Kendra: Absolutely.


Ashley: That way you can compare apples to apples, too. 

Kendra: Yeah. Because you definitely want to do that. You don't want to be compared to anyone else. So that's why engagement is key. 

When looking at the type of Engagement, not just going off of like a statistic on, you know, someone's blog where they’re like “30% engagements good.” That's not what you want to do. You want to take deliberate action on it or have deliberate knowledge on it.

And then I would probably say feedback would be the third KPI. So that the kpi there would be trying to get as much feedback or reviews as possible whether they're positive or negative. Those three. The reason I say that, That those would be the best first start up there. Typically not traditional KPI but it's because it's going to give you some form of learning from it. 

It also, if you're hitting those, if you’re aiming for 10 or 5 or 20 of them or whatever you're fulfilling, that there's quite a bit of engagement on your product and your product’s being talked about one way or the other, right? And you can learn from that versus you know, a KPI of trying to get. I don't know --

Ashley: Likes. 

Kendra: Yeah. A bunch of likes or a bunch of followers or whatever. 

Ashley: I have a feeling, I'm gonna be ranting about vanity metrics a lot on this podcast. 

Kendra: Yeah, probably it's such a problem. And the problem is is no one knows that.

Everyone's like, “No, I need followers.”

Okay well why? 

“Well, because then I'll sell more.”

Ashley: I've organically grown my Twitter following to over sixteen thousand followers and I would love to say that’s true. Believe me. That would be amazing. 

Yeah, it's all depends on the target and you need that following to be exactly aligned with you. 

Ashley: Yeah. 

Kendra: Otherwise. As you know, that’s not to say that it's not beneficial, right? I mean obviously beneficial but not to the extent that people think where they think it's going to be, you know, a Kardashian effect where it right, you post something and everyone buys -- that's not that's not the case. 

Ashley: Yeah and I think also a lot of people need to understand that I mean, so I find a lot of people are in one of one of two extreme camps. 

They either all about vanity metrics. And as you say think that following equals sales.

Or they’re on the other extreme where they all they care about is getting a direct sale. 

And yeah I mean absolutely you want to make sure that your social media efforts are going towards that end goal. But a social media post or anything on social media is just one piece of that puzzle. It's like in the awareness phase or with a consideration phase. 

It's a piece of a pie and so it's important to measure it, but you can't measure it in isolation. And you can't expect to open or close. let alone both, a sale with any social media activity. 

So, yeah, I find there's a lot of people in either extreme and there's also the people who think that that's literally the conversion metrics are all that matters.

If you’re even if you do not even pre-seed, you're like not even pre revenue at all, you need to, you need to think a little micro and look at, well, how am I going to get there? 

Kendra: Mhmm. 

Ashley: So you need to be thinking about, like, how to measure community engagement, and make sure you're measuring the right thing with the right people and what does it look like? 

That's what I want everyone to do. Measure your community engagement value for your targeting the right people, and listening to the right people. 

Kendra: Listening, yes. And it's a marathon, it's not a sprint. 

Growth is never a pprint. not sustainable at least. 

If only. If only. 

Kendra: I wish. 

Ashley: Yeah. Well thank you so, so much. It's always a pleasant -- just a little background on Kendra, she's been really wonderful in helping me get to know what startups want and all this. She's been really lovely to chat with. 

Kendra: Very demanding target. 

Ashley: Oh yeah, I try to I try to be a hellraiser 

Thanks so much for chatting with me. Kendra, I had a great time. I could talk about this subject all day, to be honest.

If you'd like to learn more about Kendra and when she does at Moken, visit them at If you'd like to learn more about what I do or reach out about working together, possibly or get some more of my insights via. My social media channels, you can do all of that on my website. It's 

And you can also check out the show notes for the transcript and the links that I just shared here. So thanks for tuning in and stay tuned for next week for another great chat. Bye.