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EPISODE 097: Marketer of the Month Podcast with Eric Fulwiler

Hey there! Welcome to the Marketer Of The Month blog!

marketer of the month

We recently interviewed Eric Fulwiler for our monthly podcast – ‘Marketer of the Month’! We had some amazing insightful conversations with Eric and here’s what we discussed about –

1. Employing AI tools for marketing to achieve better conversions

2. How to develop a marketing mindset that leads to hyper-growth

3. The 4Ps of marketing – getting the fundamentals right

4. Formula for creating and maintaining a strong brand identity

5. Fostering creativity in teams

6. Emerging trends in fintech

About our host:

Dr. Saksham Sharda is the Chief Information Officer at Outgrow.co He specializes in data collection, analysis, filtering, and transfer by the means of widgets and applets. Interactive, cultural, and trending widgets designed by him have been featured on TrendHunter, Alibaba,  ProductHunt, New York Marketing Association, FactoryBerlin, Digimarcon Silicon Valley, and at The European Affiliate Summit.

About our guest:

Eric Fulwiler has helped build firms using cutting-edge marketing, management, and innovation techniques. For the past 15 years, he has worked with some of the greatest brands in the world, from Fortune 50 companies to billion-dollar start-ups. Armed with his years of experience from VaynerMedia and 11:FS Eric has now branched out into building his own marketing innovation consultancy to help businesses think, act and grow like challengers.

Catalysing Growth for Your Clients While Developing Your Own Brand

The Intro!

Saksham Sharda: Hi, everyone. Welcome to another episode of Outgrow’s Marketer of the Month. I’m your host, Dr. Saksham Sharda. I’m the creative director at Outgrow.co And for this month we’re going to interview Eric Fulwiler, who is the CEO at rival, which is a marketing consultancy that works with challenger brands. Thanks for joining us, Eric.

Eric Fulwiler: Thanks for having me.

Don’t have time to read? No problem, just watch the Podcast!

Or you can just listen to it on Spotify!

The Rapid Fire Round!

rapid fire

Saksham Sharda: So Eric, we’re going to start with a rapid-fire round just to break the ice, you get three passes. In case you don’t want to answer the question, you can just say pass, but try to keep your answers to one word or one sentence only. Okay?

Eric Fulwiler: How many questions are there?

Saksham Sharda: I have no idea. It’s in the bullet. Probably like 10-12.

Eric Fulwiler: So I don’t know how selective I need to be with my passes.

Saksham Sharda: 10 or 12, I think. All right, let’s do it. At what age do you want to retire?

Eric Fulwiler: 50

Saksham Sharda: How long does it take you to get ready in the mornings?

Eric Fulwiler: Two minutes

Saksham Sharda: The most embarrassing moment of your life?

Eric Fulwiler: With one word that’s hard

Saksham Sharda: Or sentence, can be a word or a sentence.

Eric Fulwiler: I sent an email to the CMO of GE when I was an account executive at an advertising agency that was meant to be internal. Leave it that way.

Saksham Sharda: Okay, favorite color?

Eric Fulwiler: Green.

Saksham Sharda: What time of day are you most inspired?

Eric Fulwiler: 5 am

Saksham Sharda: How many hours of sleep can you survive on?

Eric Fulwiler: Surviving is different than feeling okay. But I think you mean to feel okay. So six.

Saksham Sharda: Fill in the blank- An upcoming marketing trend is _________.

Eric Fulwiler: Artificial intelligence,

Saksham Sharda: The city in which the best kiss of your life happened?

Eric Fulwiler: Boston, Massachusetts

Saksham Sharda: Pick one – Mark Zuckerberg or Jack Dorsey?

Eric Fulwiler: Zuckerberg

Saksham Sharda: The biggest mistake of your career?

Eric Fulwiler: Not being patient enough.

Saksham Sharda: How do you relax?

Eric Fulwiler: Working out

Saksham Sharda: How many cups of coffee do you drink in a day?

Eric Fulwiler: Too many, perhaps 10.

Saksham Sharda: Okay, a habit of yours that you hate?

Eric Fulwiler: Pass.

Saksham Sharda: That was a big sigh, the most valuable skill you’ve learned in life?

Eric Fulwiler: The most valuable skill you’ve learned in life, is self-awareness.

Saksham Sharda: And the last one is your favorite Netflix show?

Eric Fulwiler: Pass.

Saksham Sharda: Okay, so you had two passes. That was pretty good.

The Big Questions!

Big Questions

Saksham Sharda: And we can move on to the longer questions. But I’m interested in your take on AI being the biggest marketing trend since it’s all over the place now.

Eric Fulwiler: I think so my fundamental take on it is I think people are underestimating the impact that it’s going to have on the marketing industry, but particularly the creative and the services side of our industry. But it is one of those things where it’s people overestimate what’s going to happen in a year and underestimate what’s going to happen in 10 years. You know, you’ll look at web three, and everything that people thought would be happening by 2023 in that space. And I’m not necessarily saying that AI is tracking the same arc as web three with like crypto winter and everything that’s going on right now. But I do think that this whole debate and discussion that I find fascinating around well, a human needs to do that, especially around creativity, there needs to be a human being to come up with these ideas that take us great leaps forward. I’m not an expert in AI. But I feel like we’re underestimating how different things are going to be 10 years from now and overestimating how different they’re going to be 12 months from now.

Saksham Sharda: So what are some of the underestimations?

Eric Fulwiler: To be honest, I don’t know. And I am trying to cop out on the answer. But I think the way that I think about it and when I’m whenever I get a question that’s like predictions or trends or things like that, I don’t think it’s about and try not to, try to predict what’s going to happen. I think it’s more important to set yourself and your business up to be able to adapt quickly when things do happen. So for us, at Rival for example, how we work with our clients is less about us being an expert in AI right now. And us trying to understand and get close to the businesses that are building this technology so that when the time is right, we can bring that to our clients.

Saksham Sharda: Okay. And what about businesses that are not able to do that fast enough?

Eric Fulwiler: I think the most important thing and the most underutilized thing that everybody can do is just spend more time learning about this stuff and what’s out there. You know the way I think about it is what gets prioritized qs gets done, and if you’re anything like me, what goes in your calendar, or what you put on your to-do list is what gets prioritized. And so if you think this stuff is important, set a recurring 30-minute meeting to just go Google it, ask around start learning, and start getting your hands dirty with it. I think too many people just sit on the sidelines and think they need a mentor or a course or a consultant, to tell them what to do. You just got to get started and start spending time with that if you’re listening to a podcast like this, you’re somewhat interested in what’s going on in the industry, you just got to take action to start learning about what’s out there. And that’ll automatically put you in probably the top five to 10% of people out there.

Saksham Sharda: And how much time are you spending on learning or playing with charge? Do any of those?

Eric Fulwiler: Not enough, after this conversation, I’m going to put it on my calendar.

Saksham Sharda: Okay, fair, though, I spent the entirety of Christmas playing with Chad GPT. So I am pretty thrilled, as in during the travel times involved getting to places but anyway, moving on to something else. Now, what inspired you to start Rival, and what sets it apart from other marketing innovation consultancies at this moment?

Eric Fulwiler: So it’s funny, I see where you’re going with the question, I’m not sure that I would choose the word inspired. I had a CMO role that I wasn’t super happy with and had been there for about two and a half years, I was looking for another CMO role, but I didn’t find one, in the back of my mind had always been a bit of an itch to scratch on “Well, I start my own company, at some point, through a combination of not finding something else I wanted to do.” You know, going back to who is now my co-founders and rival them being open to the idea of starting something, it just so happened that we started a business. So I’m not one of those people who is or believes that you need to be a “purebred” entrepreneur, you always had this big idea, you know, there’s not some fascinating made-for-TV story about how we started Rival, it was as much practical as it was inspirational, I guess. Now, with the business, I like to think we have a bit of an inspirational idea of what we want to do. But it’s a bit of a different story like the founding story. And the way I think about it is I think if you play out my career, 100 different times, maybe 60 of them end up with me starting my business because I think I do have entrepreneurial tendencies. But I could have just as easily found another CMO role and done that until I was 50 and ready to retire.

Saksham Sharda: Well, speaking of marketing innovation, where do you think that is headed, in the consultancy field?

Eric Fulwiler: I think it’s interesting, because a lot of what we do, you know, I’ve used the word marketing innovation less because I think a lot of what we do is marketing fundamentals applied to the world of today. And what I mean by that is if you take the four Ps, or the six Ps, or whatever framework you want, about what marketing is, it all boils down to shifting perception and behavior around your brand and business. And what it takes to do that has not changed over the last five years or the last 10 years over the last 50 years. Because human beings haven’t changed all that much over that period. But what has changed is the cultural, technological, and competitive media landscape, around how you change perception and behavior. So oftentimes with the work that we do, even though a lot of people think of us as an innovation consultancy, challenge or marketing being next generation New Age, it’s really about the fundamentals, but done in a slightly different way to be fitter for the purpose for where the world is right now.

Saksham Sharda: And so you do believe that these fundamentals are not going to be changed by the next marketing trend that is AI in any particularly significant way that they have remained the same through several eons and will continue to be?

Eric Fulwiler: I guess it depends on how you define fundamentals. For me what I mean by fundamentals, is the idea of changing perception and behavior through the story that you tell and the places where you tell it, and it’s basically what you put in front of people and where you do it that I don’t think it’s going to change the fundamentals of what a successful brand looks like, how you go to market and effective and efficient way the technology that you use within your mar-tech stack, the culture within the organization that you need to build those things, I think needs to change and adapt. But underlying all of that and a lot of what we end up getting to in the work that we do, whether it’s for a challenger business or an incumbent business that’s looking to think and act more like a challenger is really about those fundamentals.

Saksham Sharda: So could you share some examples of how you’ve helped businesses develop our marketing mindset and model that leads to hypergrowth?

Eric Fulwiler: Sure, so a couple of the examples from recent projects that I can speak to. So I’ll take one on the challenger side of things, one on the incumbent side of things, because, while we are about challenger brands, that can either be the call it true challenger, the disrupter to a category, or it can be more of the established brand and business that needs to think like a challenger to stay as the established incumbent. So on the challenger side, we worked with a payments business based here in London, that is essentially trying to rebuild the cross-border bank-to-bank settlement. So it’s basically how money moves between banks internationally. And what we did with them, is we developed a new brand positioning for how they went to the market for, of course, the brand. And that, you know, ended up being like a website that looked different, and a look and feel that looked different, and sales collateral that looked different, but really what it meant is clarifying and aligning the organization on how they talked about what they did. Because the problem that they brought us in to help solve is like, sure, the scope of work for us looks like, “Hey, we’re going to develop a new brand proposition for you.” But what that means in terms of a job to be done for the business outcome they wanted to solve for, as we do all these amazing things. But if you ask 10 people internally, how to say that you get 10 different answers? So that’s what we help them with. On the other end of the spectrum, we recently redid the global brand strategy and positioning for Reebok. So as you can imagine the process to get there working with a brand like Reebok versus you know, a 50-person, Fintech startup here in London, was very different. And for them, it was the new CEO, the new owner, we want to tap into the heritage and the legacy of this amazing brand. But put a new stamp on it put our stamp on it, of where we see Reebok fitting within the retail and athletic world. And so the output was similar in terms of a deck, essentially using our methodology to develop what we call a brand operating system. But the job to be done was slightly different.

Saksham Sharda: And so how is it easy? Is it to predict hypergrowth in the first place?

Eric Fulwiler: Hard, like it’s hard. I’ve never thought about that question. I think it’s hard to predict. But I guess tying back to what I was saying about fundamentals, well, let me take a step back, I think, you know, we do a lot of work in CPG, and retail a lot in financial services, as well. And the last CMO role I had was in the FinTech world. So that’s part of it. But also, there’s a lot of change, there are a lot of Challenger brands in the FinTech space. And working with a lot of technology, businesses, and product-led businesses, there can sometimes be a bit of that call tension or critical perspective on the role of marketing and brand and whether or not it makes sense to invest in it, how to invest in it, etc. I think the best marketing is a great product. And especially for early-stage businesses, but, at any stage, the most important thing is having product market fit, having a product that people need and want that is not being delivered by the competitive set. However, to maximize the potential of your business, or if you’re launching something new, to give your product or service, or new market, the best chance of being successful, you need a great product, a great marketing plan, and a great brand and a great way that you’re going to go to market. And so it’s both those things. So I think it might be hard to predict hypergrowth if you think about it that way. But some ingredients are critical to giving you the best opportunity to drive that hyper-growth, that type of challenger growth.

Saksham Sharda: And to what extent do you feel that marketing should or can influence a product to kind of try to align it to the market?

Eric Fulwiler: 100% black and white for me, you know, again, if you go back to the four P’s, the fundamentals of marketing, product, positioning, it’s in there from the very beginning. And actually and you know, we had the benefit of, like I said, working with these challenges and these incumbents and seeing what they do differently seeing the contrast between how these next generation, New Age businesses are going to market and how the legacy ones are. And a big thing that the challenger brands are doing very well is they are viewing marketing as how I think it should be defined, which is not what your brand looks like, what your advertising looks like, not even your advertising overall, it’s so much more fundamental than that. Good marketing, when done well, is the bridge that connects the value of your product to the needs of the market. And I use bridge purposefully as the word because I think it needs to be a two-way street. It should be taking the story that you want to tell about your product to the market, but it should also be taking the needs of the market and bringing it back to your product. Use the example of Munzo. In the last business, I was in was the co-founder, one of the co-founders, there was also the co-founder of Munzo. If you look at what they did for, “marketing”, for the first couple of years of that business, there wasn’t any advertising. There wasn’t anything that you know, non-marketers would call marketing. But what they did is they focused on building a community around their brand. They built things like, I think it’s called forum.model.com, or some type of like Reddit-style portion of their website where customers could submit product ideas. For them, they brought the customer into the organization. And I think great marketers and great marketing teams make businesses, work more customer-centric. So I believe in the role of marketing to inform and help guide the product roadmap as well.

Saksham Sharda: And what have been some of the key learnings from your career building some of the world’s biggest brands? How does shaped your approach to consulting travel?

Eric Fulwiler: I think the biggest one is it’s all about the people at the end of the day, the best strategy, the newest technology, doesn’t matter if you don’t have the right people set up in the right way. And maybe that’s a little bit cliche, but usually, things are cliche, because they’re based on truth. And so like anything that comes down to how well you execute, and when it comes to people, that means getting the best people on board and setting them up to be successful in any way that you can. I think going back to basics, you know that’s a red thread and a drum that I’m beating consistently in this conversation. But I believe in that. And then the other thing is, you know when you think about challenger brands, there are so many different things that they’re doing. But if you boil it all down, if I had to pick one sentence of what makes challenger brands different, is they’re fit for purpose for the world of today. Because they’re able to think and act from scratch for how things are right now. If you are a legacy business, chances are you’re taking how something used to be done, how something was fit for purpose 20 years ago, or even two years ago, and trying to adapt it to the world of today. You’re trying to change how you used to do things, to make them how they are right now. Challenger brands, by their nature of them, being new, and then being more long-term oriented can fit how things are right now by being able to think about things from scratch. So I think that’s the other one is, you know, new, hardly any businesses are brand new right now. But I think that exercise of how would you do things differently if you were going to start them over right now is a helpful prompt for people to think through and one that I do for my own business.

Saksham Sharda: So what are the four Ps of marketing that you’ve referenced many times for viewers who might not know about them?

Eric Fulwiler: Product, positioning, I’m gonna have to google them hold on, okay. Product, price, place, and promotion. So some more homework for me is to go back and reread the four Ps. There are also the six P’s, which I think maybe that’s the one that brings in positioning. But basically, this is stuff that’s been around for a while, you know, again, marketing fundamentals. And so again, if you’re a marketer, that is not familiar with these that haven’t read up on them, I encourage you to.

Saksham Sharda: And so these are one of the fundamental things that you’re talking about. That doesn’t change, despite the technological changes, because it’s just so rapidly evolving technology that some kind of fundamentals is needed. But there was this and there was another one that you talked about, another set of fundamentals. I don’t quite remember, somewhere in the 60s. Okay. All right. Anyhow. So let’s move on to the next question, which is, so you had experience with both B2B and B2C marketing? How did the strategies differ? And are there any key principles that you think apply across both sectors?

Eric Fulwiler: Yes, I think there are a lot of similarities. I mean, we do a decent amount of work in B2B, and get excited about B2B clients and brands, because I think the bar is lower. In many cases, most B2B organizations are more sales lead with how they approach growth. And so there’s an opportunity for those that are willing and able to be more brand-led to stand out. You know, I don’t want to get too repetitive about the fundamentals. But what I would say as a different way of talking about what’s consistent is, you know, some people have talked about how it’s not B2B or B2C, it’s B2H: business to human. Again, may be a little bit cliche but I think it’s true. At the end of the day, you know, people don’t change who they are just because they log into their work email working for a B2B business. And I think if you look at some of the successful up-and-coming challenger B2B brands, they’re a lot more human, in their brands in their tone of voice in their marketing communication. So that’s one for sure.

Saksham Sharda: So do you have more fun working with B2B brands in general?

Eric Fulwiler: I think it depends more on the client back to my point about people, you know, there’s Reebok and there’s whatever other brands, but then there are the people that you get to work with there. And that’s my theory about consulting firms and agencies, as well as there’s the logo on the door. And then there are the people that you get to work with. And that’s the most important part,

Saksham Sharda: So speaking of different industries that you’ve tried working or tried working with, you’ve worked in the financial services industry, especially in FinTech. How has the industry changed in the last few years? And what trends do you see emerging in the future?

Eric Fulwiler: Oh, man, it’s changed a ton. I mean, I certainly don’t call myself a FinTech expert, particularly after working with some of the people that I did at 11 Fs. But it’s unbelievable how much has changed and has been on the inside for a little while, how much is still yet to change, you know, we normal people outside of financial services, think of Fs as, you know, banking, insurance payments, the stuff that we kind of see and interact with on a day to day basis. There is an entire world and entire ecosystem of financial services talking about that cross border, bank-to-bank settlements, the startup that we worked with earlier, that you don’t even think of that are required unnecessary to make the world that money work. And they are as much if not more, so ripe for disruption, than the banking insurance payments, you know, sometimes I think of it as like, that’s the skin layer on the Financial Services organism, but all of it is due to be disrupted because a lot of it was built for a world that’s different than the one of today. And it takes a lot longer to disrupt a more entrenched world, that’s more regulated, where people are a little bit less willing and open to changing how they do things because it’s their money rather than their shoes. So I get motivated every time I think about that because there’s I think there’s so much opportunity.

Saksham Sharda: So in several of your interviews, you’ve talked a lot about creativity. So what do you think your relationship with creativity is? How do you foster creativity in your teams and different industries? And how do you think it’s important in the field of marketing?

Eric Fulwiler: Well, you know I think it’s important in the field of marketing, I think a lot about kind of creative and analytics, art, and science, that dynamic that’s required, within marketing, both of those things, I would consider myself probably more of a math and data marketer than a creative marketer. But I think they’re both essential. I think the most important thing for me in terms of fostering creativity in teams is to give people space and support, they need to approach problems the way that they want to approach them. So I think it’s less about saying, hey, everybody needs to be creative. And it’s more about trying to understand back to my, one of the rapid-fire questions about self about, you know, a skill that I’ve learned or something that I really value self-awareness, I think you need that as a manager, as well to understand where people’s strengths lie, how they like to work. And if that’s more of a creative person, understanding how to support them, if it’s more of an analytical person understanding how to support them. But I think the best output, the fastest growth of your business comes from understanding who you are, as an organization who you are as a manager, and who your people are as a team, and trying to support them in the best way you can.

Saksham Sharda: So what advice would you give to people who are similarly looking to start their own companies?

Eric Fulwiler: It’s really hard. However hard you think it’s gonna be, it’s like that thing they say about home renovations, twice as long, twice as much. But I would also add in, you know, something I’ve talked about a good amount and really will do for anybody willing to listen, I think it’s twice as hard mentally and psychologically, to be an entrepreneur, certainly to be a founder or co-founder. So I’m not necessarily saying that to scare people off. But I think two things one, make sure that at least for me, this is my experience. So maybe people will be more successful straight out of the box and be more able to weather the entrepreneurial psychological storm than I have been. But I think You know, set your expectations accordingly, in terms of how much work it’s going to take in terms of how many people say they’re going to give you a project to how many do when you launch the business, for example, everybody’s got the best intense, but everybody also has to focus on, you know, them, and what they care about, and getting people to part with their money, aka revenue. And really, it’s about cash flow. As an early business, it just gets a lot harder to make the sausage than to develop the recipe. But I think the other thing that’s important for me is just for people to hear that it’s okay that it’s hard, and other people are struggling, like me, doesn’t necessarily mean that we’re going out of business, things are going pretty well. But I’m kind of obsessed with this “Instagram-edification” of LinkedIn, where everybody talks about the wins, and the headlines and the accolades, and the new clients and all that stuff. And I do my fair share of that. But I also try to put out a post every once in a while there’s like, you know what, I had a shitty week, or nothing is amazing to share right now. And that’s okay. Because much like on Instagram and everything that’s been documented about how that affects people, particularly younger people’s psychology, I think it’s important to recognize that a lot of people are finding it harder than they make it out to seem. And that’s okay. You’re not alone.

Saksham Sharda: Where do you think the entire concept of LinkedIn is heading as such now that is becoming just every day about the success stories and everything? Do you think it’s gonna lead to an eventual collapse? Is there going to be a lack of authenticity there? What are we looking at?

Eric Fulwiler: There’s already a lack of authenticity. I mean, LinkedIn, it’s amazing. Watching how well they’ve executed their strategy to diversify outside of recruitment revenue. Wasn’t that long ago, they were 95% recruitment revenue. Now they’ve become a legitimate content and advertising platform. And they’ve seen what Facebook and Instagram and Twitter have done. And at the end of the day, it’s human nature. You know, most people don’t want to get on a podcast to talk about how hard it is to be an entrepreneur. Most people don’t want to post on LinkedIn, about what didn’t go well, that week. And that’s okay. I think it’s just the awareness of what’s going on. And also the self-awareness as an individual, of who you are, and why you’re doing something. But I don’t see things playing out any differently on LinkedIn, I do think that there’s an opportunity for people to be more honest, I think that’s one of the maybe not backlashes, but that’s one of the counter-trends of everything that’s been going on in social media is people are a little bit more open and hungry for honesty and authenticity. So I hope that LinkedIn as a platform tries to push things in that direction.

Saksham Sharda: Alright, so the last question of this podcast is of a personal kind. It is what would you be doing in your life if not this right now?

Eric Fulwiler: Well, as I said earlier, I’d probably have a CMO job somewhere. But I think what you probably mean is more of the, you know, what would I like to be doing? You know, I do think that it probably be in an earlier stage or starting a business of some type. I came very close to opening a coffee shop in Boston, where I’m from at one point. And that’s because I’ve always been fascinated by hospitality, food, and beverage, those experiences that are so easy to package up and make amazing or terrible. And the ones that are face-to-face, hand-to-hand with people. And so I think it’d be doing something like that a restaurant, a coffee shop or a hotel. I’m not sure, but that’s always on my mind.

Saksham Sharda: Okay, well, hospitality is one service that is going to survive AI. So you’re thinking in the right direction.

Let’s Conclude! 

Saksham Sharda: Okay. Well, that’s the end of the podcast. Thanks so much for joining us. Thanks, everyone, for joining us for this month’s episode of Outgrow’s Marketer of the Month. That was Eric Fulwiler. Thanks for joining us, Eric.

Eric Fulwiler: Thanks so much for having me.

Saksham Sharda: Check out the website for more details, and we’ll see you once again next month with another marketer of the month.

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