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Justin Watkins – The Generalist’s Approach Makes You More Competitive – Episode #106
“I really only have about two tips: one is read more than your peers. The other one is do side projects.”
Justin Watkins is the Founder and CEO of Native Digital, a brand and marketing firm acquiring customers where they live: online. In 2020, AdWeek ranked Native Digital as the 4th fastest growing agency in the Midwest.
Questions and topics we covered include:
  • How Justin bridges the skills gap between performance and brand marketing for himself and with his team.
  • The old habits organizations have when it comes to “legacy marketing” that still hasn’t died off.
  • Why you shouldn’t focus on the competition (focus on your clients instead).
  • Why misalignment in messaging is the most common problem Justin’s clients are facing this year.
  • How to qualify potential marketing clients?
  • The traditional marketing channels that still excite Justin and that he’s using for his clients (with an example of how Casper is using traditional media).
  • Should side hustles be encouraged?
And more!
Say to hello to Justin via LinkedIn –

Full Episode Transcript:

Kenny Soto 0:02  

Hello, everyone, and welcome to the people Digital Marketing Podcast with your hosts Kenny Soto, and today’s special guest, Justin Watkins. Hi, just an hour as well. Now, Justin, it’s always important for people to get a better understanding of the guest before we dive into all of the expertise that they have. So before we even get into your company, what you do, and your area of expertise, can you start off by telling us how you get into digital marketing?


Justin Watkins 0:37  

Oh, boy, let’s see how far back we should go. I’ll start, I’ll start at the very beginning, and try to make it quick. So I was one of those kids who could draw. And so I, you know, was, I don’t know, eight years old, nine years old and, and I had adults that would come up to me and say, Hey, can you help me with this brochure? Can you do this? And I remember thinking at a young age, this seems like there’s maybe a job here because I’ve got adults coming to me asking for this stuff. 


I grew up in a really small rural area where I never saw anybody in a role called advertising or marketing or design, I had no idea that was a job, I didn’t necessarily even see it on TV. So I just assumed though, there’s got to be something to it. I thought I wanted to be an animator, though I wanted to be an architect and eventually got into the school with graphic arts, but the program I was going through is more print production type related. 


It was very confusing to me when I showed up at school and it was all these like printing classes, I had no idea what I got myself into. Graphic art sounded cool. So I had chosen that and they said they had to get a job. As I got into it, they had a couple of web design classes. And I was immediately hooked, I just became obsessed and addicted to it. Because I love the instant gratification of being able to do some work, and boom, it’s live. And you can pass it around to your friends. 


And so this is basically 1999 2000 is whenever I discovered this, and again, I just became obsessed. And within a year I had an internship doing that work. And it really just kind of went from there. So my specialty was animation because back then animation was flashing animation was like the hotness like everybody wanted some, some flash animation on their website. And I was good at design and front-end development. 


So my first three gigs in the industry were that, you know, I was hired because, you know, back then you’re just called the website, you know, website designer, which now has been broken down to like 10 different jobs. But back then it was just like that’s a web person, right? And so that’s how I broke into the industry. 


And then from there, it was a very winding road from UX into brand into digital marketing with heavy emphasis in search with SEO, PPC, to then, you know, kind of touched into analytics, but then come back and be you know, working with PR teams and things like that. So it’s been a really kind of winding road. But that’s just because I’m a generalist by nature. 


And I’ve never really put boundaries on my curiosities, and it probably did start, it may have stunted some progression in the early years. But in the long run, it’s been great. And I, I think you have to be true to yourself. And if you’re a generalist and be a generalist, I knew that’s who I was. And so that’s why there has been kind of a winding road. And I think a lot of people can relate to that. And so anyway, here I am today, and I’ve started my own firm. And now I have a new position I’ve never done before, called founder and CEO, and that’s new to me, and trying to learn how to do that as best I can.


Kenny Soto 3:48  

Let’s talk about native digital for a second, what does your agency do? Can you describe the type of clients that you serve?


Justin Watkins 3:56  

Yeah, so we’re a brand and marketing firm. We are primarily based in Kansas City, Missouri, although like everybody else, we have remote staff in multiple, multiple outposts. We are an odd hybrid creature in the sense, or at least I believe we’re kind of an odd hybrid creature because I have worked at great performance shops that had no understanding of the brand or creativity and what that can do for them and they’re almost allergic to it. 


I’ve also worked with brand teams who are incredibly intuitive. Knowing how to speak in such inspiring ways can make people laugh, and all that type of thing is very insightful. But numbers, they’re allergic to that too, and they don’t even really it’s a bummer to even talk about it right like don’t give me math problems. Because I had worked in both of those areas and saw that they needed to work together. 


I felt like there was an opportunity to try to get to both of those teams under a small roof with no walls in between them. I had who also worked at big shops where those groups were together, but they were separated by departments, with many walls between them, and they never really communicated very much. And so there was always this, this missed opportunity to get them to actually work together. 


Now, if you ask people in a big shop, they’ll say, oh, yeah, they work together, I’m telling you, like, there are so many layers, preventing that from really happening. So that’s what we set out to do was to create sort of two camps within one agency, move those walls, trick them into liking each other, and respecting each other and finding ways for their processes to kind of weave in and out and see what happens. 


And that experiment started really paying off, I would say, probably in the first year, but really taking effect. In years, three, four, and five. Now we’re in year seven, and we’re starting to see that at 30 people, those two camps want to kind of pull away from each other a little bit. And so it’s constant work for us to bring them back together, and make sure that they are truly integrated. So you asked about client lists, and what we found was, we were really focused on sort of the service offering not so much on the vertical industry. 


But what we found through time is that tech clients really gravitated toward us because we were quick. Like they needed us to be based, probably primarily based on size, and also, maybe mindset as well. And they wanted a little bit of that full-funnel, offering, right, they needed both, and they needed a quick, and they needed people who were sharp enough to hang with them. 


You won’t find very many tech marketers who are behind the times like they’re very much on top of it, you really have to have your fastball going when you’re talking with tech marketers, and so that became a very interesting challenge for us. And so a big part of our client portfolio is technology, SAS clients, for that reason.


Kenny Soto 6:54  

When you tell me the story of native digital, as well as your own career, I feel like there’s a common thread between the two, where it really brings to my mind, that generalist approach. And I’ve had guests in the past. And I think through those conversations, I formed my own opinion, where I do believe you can be great at multiple things. 


You don’t need to be just great at performance, just great at brand, you can find a balance, especially if you’re looking to be a leader, you should find a way to have your hands in multiple areas in marketing. How do you find that? That way make sure there are no walls. Is it a cultural play? Are you thinking about constant upskilling education training? What is your approach?


Justin Watkins 7:46  

When I was younger, it was I don’t believe it was intentional. I think it was accidental. If I was interested in something, I just looked into it. And I didn’t put limitations on my curiosities. And I didn’t see any reason to. I didn’t see any reason to do that to the people who I admired in the industry, it wasn’t if you lined them up, they didn’t have anything. I mean, they weren’t even in the same role. 


And so if someone said, Hey, you’re a UX designer, am I sure, but if I meet somebody who’s analytics, and I think what they’re doing is fascinating, and I find a book on it when I read it. And I didn’t think someone’s UX designer doesn’t do that. I don’t think anybody telling me that. And I wouldn’t have listened to him anyway. So. So it was really simple. It was just, you know if I had a curiosity, I looked into it. 


And I was trying to be good at this. And I felt like understanding the roles that come before me and the roles that come after me would improve what I did. And it was interesting to me and I just didn’t put boundaries around myself people were trying to cram me into a box I resisted it like crazy. So but that’s how I’m wired. There are a lot of people who are specialists and love it and they just want to go deep dive into that one topic and good for them. 


Those are the ones who I feel progress faster in the early years. As a specialist I think you can your career can really take off because people know exactly how to use you. And you can really climb the ladder. I think in the first 10 years, it really pays off. I remember declining a job that was going to be more of a specialist role for one of the things I did well, and I turned it down because I thought I’m just gonna get so bored there. 


And it was hard to turn down because it was a raise. And that was the day I remember exactly where I was sitting. I’m like, I’m a generalist, and I have to stick to that because if I take this raise and go into this, it’s going to stop my career in the long run. Probably I’m gonna get super bored. I just can’t do this. 


And that was the day when I really understood Oh, I am a journalist. I need to stick with that. Hopefully, that pays off someday and typically it does pay off it just takes it may take 10 To 15 years for it to pay off, but then a lot of the people who are running the show, will they talk and act like generalists lot of time, not all the time, but a lot of the time. And it just, I feel like it kind of just takes time for all that stuff to gel together and pay off.


Kenny Soto 10:15  

Let’s talk a little bit more about this. But in terms of your team, how are you finding and facilitating that, quote, that cross-discipline collaboration? Is it a specific cadence of meetings type of meetings, documentation, and SOPs? What’s the approach?


Justin Watkins 10:34  

Probably three things. One is, from the outset, before they’re even joined, when we’re interviewing, we’re saying, Hey, we intend to be very good at both of these things. And we intend for everybody to work together. So there’s some self-selection, if people don’t want to do that, and they don’t respect the other side, they don’t want to be better, and they’re probably not motivated to join us. 


But if they are, they know that this is part of why they joined this. And so I think setting the tone is one to the way we’ve we’re on a hybrid schedule for everybody who’s in the office. And then we have full-time remotes as well. But the way we’ve designed floor layouts, the way we’ve designed org charts, the way we design our interactions, it’s meant to almost look random. 


We talked about having disciplines, but not departments. If you were to walk around our office, we’d resist keeping people in the same discipline or department together, it looks random, and it’s for that reason, and it is written and it changes every so often, right? Because we’re trying to get people to believe that if they have empathy towards people who they don’t fully understand their career, they’re more likely to work with them and interact with them. 


We also try to have ways that they bounce into each other, whether it’s the kitchen or a zoom call, we’re always putting people together that don’t necessarily work together during the day if we can. So that’s very purposeful, and that leads to respect and interest in what each other does. And that way whenever they’re trying to problem solve, it’s not like they’re talking on different wavelengths or languages. 


And then the other one is, it’s just our processes in terms of how work gets through the shop. So there are points where it’s very clear that this discipline leading it, and then maybe it switches over to another discipline. Well, what does that look like when those two come together? who’s in the room? How do they interact? Who leads those deliverables? Those are the tricky spots that over time, you have to really stay on top of because if it feels like you’re lobbying it from one discipline over to the other, and it’s just a lob, then a lot of the work gets lost. 


So what I always talk I always talked about was, in my past life, I worked at shops, where the strategy would say, Hey, here’s the five things that are really important. They might pass it to the next department, they’re like, cool, I’m gonna take this one, and run with it, right? And so we’re wanting them to appreciate all five of those points, and then take them along with them. versus, you know, they’re looking over the wall, hey, they only took one of those things, you know. So that, that is something you have to really stay on top of that, that that doesn’t happen. And when things are moving fast that easily can.


Kenny Soto 13:21  

The agency model has always interested me in the way that for the most part, even with this unique approach you’ve taken, they have some kind of similarities across the board, where you’re an external vendor helping a brand or set of brands grow over time. But through your experience, just as an individual, you said that you started around 1999 and 2000. What kind of the best term I can put for this as legacy marketing? Have you seen carried over throughout those years, that even your clients today, when you first onboard they are still doing what they shouldn’t be doing? I know, that’s a very long-winded question. But I was saying.


Justin Watkins 14:09  

What are old habits that are not dying off? Yeah. Oh, there are so many. And it depends on who you’re working with on how many there are going to be. At the same time, we also see especially in the tech sphere, there are things that still work print, and then there are principles that still apply. And there’s a new tool that like well, we don’t do that anymore because of this tool, and like that positive, that tool is really going to do for you. 


But you can also be so progressive to the point where you almost lose some of the principles. What is so let me I haven’t thought about this in a while. So here’s a good the first thing that popped into my mind was media plans. We have some clients who will come to us and I want to see an annual media plan. 


For some industries, that is still valid. If the media that is being run is a long way away from a transaction that is highly attributable, then I can understand why you’re still doing like these big annual media plans that don’t change much from year to year. But let’s say you’re an E-commerce brand, or something like that, where attribution is getting pretty good, even if even whatever Facebook’s doing, and Google’s done all that type of stuff, you still have a lot of data where you can kind of patch the holes together and figure out some pretty good attribution. 


If you’re running. Even if it’s top-of-funnel stuff, and you set the plan and a year later, you haven’t really changed it, that needs to die. And, but you have very experienced very skilled marketers who are used to that. And so sometimes they want to see that and it’s comforting to see this big complex media plan. Whereas when our team goes in, we say here’s, you know, sort of our views are basically the first experiments we’re going to run with your ad dollars. And this is the Pass Fail criteria. 


And this is what needs to happen for us to continue. And if by the way, if these metrics, we’re gonna recommend that you put this much more intermediate spin, if it doesn’t, we’re gonna cut spin by this, and we’re gonna evaluate this based on your media spin, we believe we can collect enough data within three weeks and make a call on this. That is a very different conversation. But for some, it’s scary. 


Because they say, What are we gonna do in month three? Well, we don’t know yet. Because we don’t have the data back on this. And, you know, we can look at history and we love these factors. But this idea of being so ready to pivot at the moment and adjust and tweak for some is exciting, and they love it. And it’s addicting. And for others, it’s scary and unfamiliar. So that’s the first thing that comes to mind. But there’s, I mean, you can look at every aspect of our industry and what we do and find things that are a little old-fashioned and probably need an update.


Kenny Soto 17:02  

Let’s talk about competition. How often, if any, are you viewing your competitors? Is it still something that agency owners should be doing? It does not apply anymore?


Justin Watkins 17:18  

It’s funny. There’s so much competition. When the first year, seven years ago, if we had had coffee, probably one of the things you would have heard me say is like I realized that well, it doesn’t need another agency. There’s, there’s a bunch of them. And there are some really good ones, you know. But I felt like at the time there was, there was something that I felt like there was a void, to be filled. 


And I also thought it was strange that if you ask a client, there are a lot of studies out there. If you ask clients, how satisfied there are with their agencies, there’s only about I mean, there are studies I’ve seen where only 40% say they’re satisfied with their agency partners. 


So why is that? Is it the agency’s fault? Is it the internal marketing team’s fault? Is it both? Probably both? So I thought that was odd to have such low satisfaction scores in an industry like that, where there are so many options, right? So I don’t know, I don’t know if this is answering your question. But every year, you have the big players that have the big logos, and they’re going to the big award shows. 


And then there are also new entrants coming in that may look like freelancers may look like a small boutique. And you may discount them. And then five years later, they pass you know what happened? Where’d they come from, you know? So, I don’t know, we don’t obsess too much over the competition, because there’s so much competition. And so I think we watch them. I’ve studied agencies my whole career. 


So I kind of get a kick out of seeing how people are doing things. But not a single one of them keeps me up at night. Because I really just need to be focused on our clients and what they’re telling us. It’s not about how to compete, it’s more of how we just always constantly provide a little bit more value than where they could get it elsewhere. And I don’t think we’ll get very many clues from watching our competitors. I think we’ll get it from listening to our clients. And so that’s really our key focus.


Kenny Soto 19:25  

What’s a common marketing challenge all of your clients are facing this year, specifically? Messaging? How so?


Justin Watkins 19:39  

It’s odd. If you have enough of these conversations, you’ll pick up on patterns just like you do this podcast, right? Like you’re learning, you’re probably hearing similar answers to certain questions, right? With our clients, especially the ones who are growing very quickly or have had a lot of change. So maybe for a larger company, they’ve had a lot of acquisitions, and now they don’t talk the same way. 


As you And, or for a tech startup. They’ve radically changed and added a lot of people in three years. And now what sales say, what social media is saying, what PR is saying, what the CEO is saying on a podcast, it’s different. It’s good, but it’s different. And so they are not on the same page, they’re not aligned. What they really are saying when they say messaging needs work is they probably don’t have a clear brand strategy. 


And it’s possible that the business strategy has also changed. Because it’s impossible to have good messaging if those things aren’t in place. Sometimes people don’t want to admit that they don’t want to admit that the business strategy needs to be fixed and the brand strategy is not clear. 


But they see it in they see it come to life and the messaging. And so they’ll ask for it. It’s a big piece of what our team is focused on is getting the messaging correct, because you can’t have performance. You can’t have a good performance if you don’t know what you’re trying to communicate. And so that has become a big focus of ours, is to just remedy these messaging problems that people have.


Kenny Soto 21:03  

At the startup, I’m working at right now. That’s one of the challenges we’re having. But luckily enough, our company strategy is solid. So that has given us a such strong foundation for my VP of marketing to then go and say this is now the brand strategy based on what the company has in that vision. And you’re right, you kind of need a solid product or service and a solid company strategy first, that informs everything else afterward.


Justin Watkins 21:30  

That’s right. But you also find that it’s accurate that dole is can be alright. It’s, it is technically accurate. We do want them to know these things. But there are two things that we see, most clients when they ask for it, they’ve tried their hand at it, which is great. And it’s great input. But we can always take it a little bit further. 


The two biggest problems I see when we inherit that work is for one day, I’ll have a third party looking at it, who can be a little bit more honest when it’s when you’re super close to the problem. That’s hard to be. It’s hard to do it the right way. It’s just the way it is. I mean, you really value having another person look at it. In the other pieces, people try to say too much right off the bat. And they need to kind of think about it as a journey. 


What do we want to say first? Okay, now what do we want to say second, it’s not the same thing. We want to say second, now what do we say third, no, I say fourth. So thinking through it as a journey. And then the other piece is, logic rarely works on people, we’re emotional beings. And so you can logically make a strong case, and people wouldn’t pay attention because it’s boring, still. 


And maybe it’s too much about you and not enough about them. So that’s again, where our third party kind of view, and also just having great copywriters, and great strategist really helps. Because then we can make it more interesting, you know, and you can take an idea, that’s okay. And all of a sudden, like really elevate it to the spot where it’s now it’s inspiring, or it’s funny, or it’s heartwarming, or things like that. And that’s where people get more motivated to act or stay in the conversation.


Kenny Soto 23:03  

To any degree, does your business qualify clients who are interested in your services? Do you sometimes say no to certain clients that are interested in your work?


Justin Watkins 23:13  

Yeah, I think you have to, it’s a danger not to. So you got to find out who works like what works for your team? And where are you a good fit? One of the risks of taking on a client where you know, it’s not a bad fit is you may be able to do good work, but if they don’t recognize it, or, or whatever, the relationship gonna end soon. Now, you may have received a couple of invoices, the What’s your reputation worth, and people talk, when you do good work, they talk more when they don’t like what you’ve done. 


And you could have done a great job. But if they don’t think you did a good job, they’re gonna tell people about it. And we work in cities and industries where people talk. And so we’re, we want it to be, we’re only seven years old. We’re still trying to build a reputation. And so we are trying to partner with people who not only does our team enjoy working with but when they say things about us, it’s positive because it’s a word-of-mouth industry. So we put a really high value on that.


Kenny Soto 24:16  

Do you think that the main lever that’s growing your pipeline right now is reputation? Are there other battery variables in play? 


Justin Watkins 24:26  

Yeah, yeah, if an outside adviser business advisor came in, they would laugh at our lack of new business and marketing efforts. It’s, maybe you want to try applying some of these marketing techniques to your own brand. But we’ve grown organically in this way, and it’s the best kind of growth. It’s the only problem is you don’t have a lot of control over it. The only thing you can control is who you say yes to and to who you say no. 


So that will be part of our progression over the next few years is, is getting a little bit more serious and putting more time and resources into What new business looks like and marketing. Right now it’s more about vetting opportunities, and showing them showcasing what our team can do. And trying to win the ones that we want to win, right?


Kenny Soto 25:14  

You mentioned immediate plans, and annualized immediate plans as legacy tools or frameworks that should be killed when it comes to old channels, what old channels excite you? 


Justin Watkins 25:29  

The old channels does that excite me? Well, what’s funny is I’ve been hyping up old school, low volume, direct mail lately, internally, and our team just rolls their eyes. Whenever I talk about it, not there are very few clients that make sense. But there’s, there’s been a couple of instances where I’m like, you know, it’s just some low volume direct mail. 


And they’re like, Yeah, but this doesn’t scale on. Like, I think it works, though. You can have something that it’s like fashion but goes out of style, sometimes comes back and style. And sometimes direct mail is an example where I feel like, in some cases, it went so far out of style, it’s bound to come back. 


And so in some ways, I mean, it’s funny, I mean, our name is native digital, right? So when our team says, Hey, I think you actually just need to take out some cable TV spots, so we can get our brand search going again, or, Hey, I think you should probably do some out of home on for this particular instance, we will often get a funny reaction from our clients, because they think that’s a foreign language to us, or somehow against it, we’re not against it. 


Maybe the reaction is like, Oh, I didn’t think you would even think of that, because you guys are so folk,  we do have a bias towards digital channels. Because we love the immediacy of it and the attribution that you get with it and all of that, we still understand the full landscape of how you try to make revenue happen, right? So if you have, if you have played with those channels in the past, understand what they can do to really appreciate the customer’s mindset and where they’re interacting with touchpoints, you can make recommendations on that front, that fall outside of digital or the most modern thing.


Kenny Soto 27:14  

When you mentioned, direct mail, what comes to my mind, I’ve been entertaining, the thought of having the startup at work at the start using trucks and car ads, mainly because there is some infrastructure set in place now with attribution, where the vehicles that sign up for these platforms have geotagged or geofencing technology. 


So you can get some kind of impression share, and attribution set in play for those ads. And I think, over time, there definitely will probably be more of a mix in campaigns where the Omni channel is no longer just all the channels on digital, it’s digital and out of digital or traditional, in this case, a combination of the two.


Justin Watkins 28:00  

I mean, just think about Casper, which you know, is a big spender on mattresses, right? Why did they open up physical stores, it’s because they were spending as much money as they possibly could on podcasts and Instagram advertising, and things like that. Ultimately, they just want to cost customer acquisition cost, which is the right ratio for what they’re selling. Right? They did the math and found out that if they have a store at a place that has high foot traffic, their CAC is in a good spot. 


And so what did they do, they did the exact same thing of everybody else that they’re disrupting, they went back to that because they couldn’t, they felt like they, they were kind of at a threshold where they weren’t going to be able to push those techniques further, but they needed to grow. So they went into a tactic that they basically tore down. 


So I think it’s, it’s funny, and that’s where we, we, as marketers, and just humans, we have these, like cherished beliefs, and these biases and tendencies and favorites. And I think we just have to hold them loosely because occasionally you’re gonna find something that you had torn down and your two before actually is gonna work great. So if you trust the math and understand your customers, you can get to those things.


Kenny Soto 29:18  

Yeah. And if you’re a brand like Casper, you’ve already built a digital moat. Why not try and create moats outside of digital that can aid in growing the business long term because you don’t just want to be in business for 10 years and then lose market share. You want to be in business 30 years down the line, and walk away knowing that you’ve built a really strong brand, and incumbents like Casper once they build that digital moat, why not experiment out of that?


Justin Watkins 29:46  

Just plug, it’s funny. Plus, it’s funny when all the other mattress firms see that you’re moving into their area using their tactic and they’re like, ah.


Kenny Soto 29:56  

Yeah, definitely. I have two more questions for you. Should side hustles be encouraged? Yes. Why?


Justin Watkins 30:05  

Absolutely. I’ve had conversations like this where someone who’s getting started or, or, you know, I’ve got a few years on them ask, Hey, what are your tips, I really only have about two tips. One is to read more than your peers. The other one is to do side projects in whatever shape or form that needs to be. 


And with an emphasis on learning overpaid, right, like, typically, if you’re good at what you do, people ask you for freelance work and things like that. Be I always said, be really choosy with that stuff, you know, you’re getting paid during the day, do this for education or fun. 


And if you make a couple of bucks, that’s like a bonus, right? But I, as an employer, as a person who hires people, I love it, when I see somebody who has side projects, the only risk there is that the side project becomes the main project and that the job becomes the side hustle, right? Like you want to know, is the job the side hustle, you know, and there are not, you don’t want to be distracting, you want it to be. 


You want it to be complementary. And to me, it’s imagined that we’re coaches, and we have a football team or something like that. And you’ve got a kid who’s going home and doing push-ups like I’m probably not gonna be upset with the kids working out and doing push-ups at home. 


And I think that’s what side projects are, right? It’s just another opportunity to learn, I’ve tried to hold on to those types of things. If I ever feel like I’m getting rusty on something that I need to stay sharp on, I might do a side project myself just to stay sharp, because it doesn’t make sense for me to do that during the day. I’ll go home at night and work on some project or something like that. So absolutely. 


And I’ve had these debates in the past, I’ve written articles in defense of freelance and that type of thing. When the very first job I ever had as a manager. Someone came to me and said, Hey, you, your team came in here after hours, and I’m pretty sure they’re working on freelance, and we can’t have that. And I said I love it. And I’m not going to. They’re like you need to talk to them and say, if you don’t want them to come in here, that’s fine. But I love that they’re doing freelance, so I’m not going to talk to him about that. I want to encourage it. You know.


Kenny Soto 32:26  

My last question for you. Justin is hypothetical because time machines don’t exist. But if they did, and you can go back into the past about 10 years, knowing everything you know, today, how would you specifically accelerate the speed of your career?


Justin Watkins 32:42  

How would I accelerate it? Well, first, I’m sort of questioning the question, because I’m not sure I would want to accelerate it.


Kenny Soto 32:52  

Let’s dive there. Why wouldn’t you?


Justin Watkins 33:00  

Alright, so 10, let me go back 10 years and know what I know. So here’s. So first of all, I’m not buying into the hypothetical. I don’t want to I don’t want to go back 10 years and know what I know. Now, you know why? Because I wouldn’t have made some of the decisions I made. If I knew what I know now. And I knew how hard it was going to be to start the agency that I started. I’m not, I may have not started it. 


If someone said, here’s a picture of what your first few years are gonna look like, and how hard you’re gonna have to grind to get this thing off the ground and go, I’d be like, I’m in a pretty good job. I think I’ll just stay there, you know. So I’m glad I had the naivety to jump in and pursue something. 


Because if I really understood how hard it would be, I may have not done it. Now. I’m on the other side of some of that, but it’s never easy. And so I don’t know I have I never have regrets on that type of stuff. And It would be fun to think about like maybe what I would be able to do and you know, maybe the deliverables would be better. 


Maybe I could impress more in conversation or something like that. But I wouldn’t, I wouldn’t want to go any faster. And I wouldn’t have wanted to change anything or know how hard or easy something might have been. So it’s like you and I were talking at the beginning of this call. 


You talked about this podcast and you invited people and you didn’t get the yeses that you thought if you had that was probably not enjoyable. Had you known that you’re not going to get just glowing yeses immediately? You might have thought twice about starting this podcast. So probably good that you didn’t know that right?


Kenny Soto 34:33  

Yeah, I like that you mentioned naivety actually helped you move forward. Because of this podcast. This is episode 105. Probably had at least 800 people today, tell me Oh no, I’m not interested or not this time or I got ghosted like they actually scheduled but never showed up. So I do think that’s probably with almost everything in life, not knowing what the end result isn’t just diving in, for curiosity’s sake or passion’s sake. That’s really the way to go about your career in general.


Justin Watkins 35:07  

We don’t, we don’t like pain, right? Like, if we see that we can avoid pain, we will, we will avoid pain. But pain is information. When you experience something painful you learn, right? Like if you’re walking around in your bedroom at night and you stubbed your toe, you just got some information that there’s something on the floor there. 


The same things in your career, right? You sometimes learn the most from the things that you don’t want to do. A bad job can be very informative. But you don’t want to go through life with no tension or struggle. That’s where you learn the most. And, I’ve always gravitated towards people who I’ve seen have gone through some really challenging times in their life for their careers. 


And I think they’re made for if it doesn’t wear them down to make for very productive, successful and interesting people. I selected a mentor about three years ago for our business to somebody on the outside to talk to, and I met probably five before choosing and only asked them one question. I just said, What’s the hardest thing you’ve had to go through professionally? And that was the only question that I needed answered. And from that, I found a person who I thought could help us. You know.


Kenny Soto 36:25  

When I start interviewing writers for my content team, I’m going to add that question to the list of questions I have for the interviews. Justin, if anyone wants to say hello to you online, where can they find you?


Justin Watkins 36:41  

I spend more time on LinkedIn these days. And so if you just look up Justin Watkins on LinkedIn, native digital, that’d be a great place to go.


Kenny Soto 36:51  

Perfect. And I’ll put your LinkedIn profile in the show notes. And again, thank you for your time today. This was an awesome conversation. And thank you to you, the listener for listening to another episode of the people Digital Marketing podcast. 


And if you haven’t done so, please subscribe. Rate us on the podcast app that you’re listening to and send me a DM if you have any thoughts on who should be next on the podcast. Just search Kenny Soto on Google and you’ll find me everywhere. And as always, I hope you have a great week. 


Bye bye.

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