Amber: Hi, I’m Amber Ambrose. Welcome to The BusinessMakers USA, coming to you from Nashville, Tennessee, the city of music, or music city, I guess is what it’s called.
Erick: Music City.
Amber: We’re here with Erick Goss, who is helping me remember the nickname of Nashville, so thank you for that.
Erick: Yes, my pleasure.
Amber: He is with Creative Trust, based here in Nashville. So, Erick, tell me more about Creative Trust.
Erick: Creative Trust is a entertainment company focused on the faith based market, so primarily Christian families. And we have a media division, where we actually sell media products and have a digital media platform that we sell to Christian families, and then we also have a literary and music representation business, which is appropriate for Nashville, kind of home of publishing and music.
Amber: So, you have your own media wing. How did you evolve from being a company that represents publishers and musicians to a company that creates your own media?
Erick: The big issues has been just what’s happened with the internet. So, taking a look at sort of the fragmentation of audiences, and what’s going on with the major media companies. It’s harder and harder for them to pull together audiences, and what we recognized when we first started is we are representing clients, and then as we got into it, because of my background in ecommerce, we recognized we could build our own audience. So, in the process, what we recognized is we wanted to help our clients sell, but instead of representing to larger companies, we’d actually be the distributor, the publisher, the label, the studio for the client (Amber: The end all, be all?). The end all, be all. So, that’s how we ended up doing hat.
Amber: I know that you have a personal story on how you ended up marketing to Christian families (Erick: Yes, well, I think that,), or maybe just finding the company that you’re with now.
Erick: Yeah, so, my now partner asked me to help him incubate a media business. We were in a book group together, and so he asked me, he actually said, ‘Hey, I think you’re really, really great with content, and you actually know how to market. It would be great to have you as a partner in, kind of, coming up with the media business.’ So, in the process of doing that, the first thing we did was we actually started working, we had a client, Phil Vischer, who created a series called Veggie Tales, that a lot of people might be familiar with. And so, we were working with a traditional publisher on that, and they were having real difficulty actually getting it to market. And because of my background in ecommerce; I’d spend a number of years working for amazon.com, we launched our own website, and within three months we were outselling the entire Christian retail channel. And so, in the process of doing that we recognized, hey,
Amber: Maybe there’s something to this.
Erick: Maybe there’s something to this. And so, we went out and got a little bit of funding, and actually launched our own company.
Amber: So, tell me more about this one section.
Erick: Yeah, so we really look at ourselves as kind of a full service digital destination for Christian families. So, we’ve got an ecommerce store where we sell direct to consumer, direct to church. So, we’re selling physical products; some people are still buying DVDs, believe it or not, but we also sell toys and books. We also have a digital media platform called JellyTelly, which is a subscription video on demand platform, very similar to Netflix, and so,
Amber: Is it a Roku app, by any chance?
Erick: We do have a Roku app. So, we’re on iOS and also on Droid, so that basically gives Christian families access to the best in Christian kids’ entertainment. A part of JellyTelly is we actually have a couple of publishing websites that are quite popular in providing resources for parents. So, we’re trying to help both kids and parents.
Amber: And what are some of the unique challenges of marketing, not only to Christian families, but a large portion of your audience is children.
Erick: Yeah, well I think the biggest issue right now for most folks is just fragmentation of the marketplace. And so, it used to be, I always say back in the day, it used to be you could focus on radio, TV, print, and so it was about working with an agency and setting up big campaigns. Now you’re having to think about anywhere from a dozen to two dozen platforms. You start thinking about bloggers, you start thinking about Instagram, Facebook, Google, and then even within Facebook and Google, there are multiple products that you have to be mindful of and thoughtful of in regards to those different platforms. There’s a real complexity around that, in that I think with that, it’s one thing to start, but it’s another thing to grow and to manage, and all of that,
Amber: And Maintain.
Erick: And maintain. And it’s really difficult, because even I think the lines between what a product is and what marketing is, I think, are more blurred today than they’ve ever been (Amber: Absolutely.), and we’re big believers that we have to be useful. And so, if
Amber: Or you’ll lose your clients.
Erick: You’ll lose your clients, but we believe that even our marketing needs to have some utility to it, and so there’s always a sense of, what can we provide the end user, how can we provide them value that would cause them to build trust. Because, what I’d say probably the biggest thing is, we’re so inundated with information, that the key question is, who are the few voices that I’m willing to carve out time for, and who am I going to trust? I always tell my team the two most scarce things in today’s reality are time and trust. And so, we have to earn both of those, every minute of the day.
Amber: Sure. And how do you do that with your content?
Erick: Well, I think part of it is really understanding the customer, the user. So, we work diligently, we talk to customers every week, and we’re actually, have built in kind of a intentional program of actually interviewing and talking to customers and subscribers, to
Amber: So, you know what they’re looking for.
Erick: To know what they’re looking for, and then going back to kind of managing the complexity, just, we’re data geeks, so we’ve instrumented every part of our business where we actually have metrics, and can define it from an algorithmic standpoint.
Amber: That’s great, so you have measurable results.
Erick: We have measurable results. So, when we have people who cancel, we generally know why they cancel, and so we can actually do sort of root cause analysis on what areas are the best for us to invest in to better serve our customers. And so, it’s all about what can we do to put the customer at the center of the business, and then serve and satisfy their needs.
Amber: You mentioned earlier, before we started the interview, that you ended up here in a roundabout way because you were searching for a company culture that was positive. I’d like to hear a lot more about that.
Erick: Yeah, I started my career in the Navy and I’ve always had a focus on general management and leadership, and I’ve always really tried to build great teams. I spent seven years at Amazon building a number of teams and really enjoyed that process, so I think I really wanted to have that chance of architecting a culture. And so, I was an executive in a company prior to starting this one where I had that opportunity, but when my now partner said, ‘Hey, Erick, would you come help me build this,’ I thought this would be a unique opportunity. And I always say that I basically am responsible for two work products: the value that our customers receive, and then the culture of our company. And so, I really care about that, and what I find is human beings are humans at home, they’re humans at work, they have the same needs. We have a tendency to think that work needs to be very different from home, and granted, different outcomes, but we really try to serve each other well and care for each other, while at the same time really pushing to achieve hard goals.
Amber: And how do you think you are able to achieve that culture?
Erick: It’s relationships. I think it’s interesting, I once was working with an executive coach, and he said something that was very enlightening to me. He said, ‘You know, Erick, you often are talking about managing your team, but really your team is five people. And so, what’s the quality of your relationship with each of those individuals?’ And so, what I really recognized is, great management skills are complex. It’s about developing, the quality of our team is really the quality of the relationships each of the team members have with each other, and so we talk about that. What’s the trust level? Do we trust each other? Things can happen where you stop trusting people as much, and so we try to do on a quarterly basis, just kind of check in. I think it’s, I always say three things are accountability, transparency, and alignment, and so relationships are all about alignment. What are we doing to hold each other accountable, and then can we make sure that everything is transparent so everyone knows what’s going on and can feel comfortable and trust in the system.
Amber: I feel like your next book should be a management book; How to Achieve Perfect Company Culture.
Erick: There you go.
Amber: Thank you so much, Erick, I’ve really enjoyed this.
Erick: Thanks Amber, I appreciate it.
Amber: And that wraps up today’s BusinessMakers USA episode here with Erick Goss of Creative Trust, in Nashville, Tennessee.
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