Erik Huberman is the founder and CEO of Hawke Media, which is on a mission to make great marketing accessible to all. He is a National Best Seller as the author of The Hawke Method, exploring the three principles of great marketing. He lives with his wife and daughter in Los Angeles, CA. In this blog, he speaks with Eventible about his journey so far, the idea behind starting Hawke Media, the challenges he faces and how he aims to overcome them, and his experience speaking at Ad World 2022, among other things. Read along to know more about this enterprising individual.
We believe that every entrepreneur has a story to tell. What’s your story behind starting Hawke Media?
I graduated in 2008 and became a commercial real estate agent a week before the entire banking industry collapsed. After a year in that job, I had made $350, which even though it may be 14 years ago, I promise was not enough to live off of in Los Angeles. I pivoted into launching an online music company, which I ran for 2 years, and then hired a CEO to take over. After that, I built and sold two consecutive e-commerce companies. I didn’t know what I wanted to do next so I started advising and consulting for many different brands.
I found that when the time came for them to execute my advice to grow, it was incredibly difficult because 99% of agencies out there had no idea what they were doing, and the few that were any good were hard for most clients to work with because of high minimums, long contracts, etc. I finally got sick of it and hired my swat team, each with their expertise: a Facebook marketer, an email marketer, a fractional CMO, etc., and went back to these companies and said, “everything is a la carte, month to month, cheaper than hiring in house, but we can spin up what you need when you need, and ebb and flow as your needs change.” That was the birth of Hawke Media and our mission of making great marketing accessible. We are the best at what we do, but are still easy to work with.
What are the challenges that you have been or are constantly facing in your industry today? And how have you overcome them or what do you hope to do to overcome them in the future?
At a time when the future is scary, people do not charge ahead on their initiatives as hard. The last few years have been difficult for all marketing businesses, even Google, Facebook, etc. I believe history shows us that this doesn’t last more than a year or two, but this would be the largest headwind we have faced. However, we are still navigating through it. The opportunity it created for us though, has been massive. During times of turmoil, people need access to rapid information so they can adjust accordingly. We were able to launch hawke.ai in September of 2022, which analyzes individual marketing of a company and then benchmarks it against your industry, so you can confidently know how you’re doing and where you need to focus on your marketing.
The last few years have been difficult for all marketing businesses, even Google, Facebook, etc. I believe history shows us that this doesn’t last more than a year or two, but this would be the largest headwind we have faced. However, we are still navigating through it. The opportunity it created for us though, has been massive.”Erik Huberman, CEO & Founder, Hawke Media
Can you share with us any one particular growth strategy or hack that’s always worked for you?
For HawkeMedia, the answer to this question is always managing what we call the Marketing Tripod. Awareness, Nurturing, and Trust are the three legs of the tripod. Marketing is a competitive landscape, and you need to master all three legs of the tripod so your business doesn’t topple over. This is how we optimize our services and the goods and services of our clients. If you aren’t optimizing your marketing there is a high probability that your competitors will outperform you. And you are always competing, don’t think that just because we are headed into a downturn the competition will go away. You may have a differentiated product, but people have a finite amount of money to spend, especially now. It is easy to get swept up in the competition and forget about the tripod altogether, which usually ends badly.
How has the COVID-19 pandemic changed the way you go about business? What trends do you see coming into force after the pandemic?
Well first and foremost, Hawke Media transitioned to a fully remote agency. We gave up our brick-and-mortar and opened up recruiting to the entire country, the entire world. In the past, agencies have had to take on the enormous expense of opening offices in large city centers, New York, L.A., Miami, etc. We can operate in a lean capacity and have the benefit of recruiting talent from all over. It keeps our clients happy and gives us access to the best talent available. We get together in person for quarterly leadership meetings. Our team leads gather their people a few times a year to network and drive business. We are spending way less than we would, running offices around the country and our people are happier and more productive.
In terms of trends, I think because people are spending such a huge amount of time on their devices, interactive content has become much more important. Static images aren’t cutting it anymore and of course, video has taken the lead in terms of paid and organic performance. The content world has always been crowded, but consumers are much more sophisticated in how they choose to consume content. They know more and more when they are looking at an ad and when they are viewing organic content; attention spans are of course declining. This calls out the importance of AI, especially in the behavior data management space. We just launched Hawke AI as a service to give our customers access to cutting-edge data analytics. We are seeing some exciting results in a relatively short time using the tool.
The content world has always been crowded, but consumers are much more sophisticated in how they choose to consume content. They know more and more when they are looking at an ad and when they are viewing organic content; attention spans are of course declining. This calls out the importance of AI, especially in the behavior data management space.”Erik Huberman, CEO & Founder, Hawke Media
What is your biggest objective as a speaker at Ad World 2022?
Any time I do a speaking engagement my objective is always to share some knowledge, make new connections and have fun. My publisher likes it when I sell books and my staff like it when I bring in leads. I am always wearing multiple hats at events like this. Ad World is one of my favorites though. I love connecting with other agency owners and talking with folks in the industry who are facing similar challenges. We have a great community and it is great when we get a chance to come together, digitally or in person.
What is your objective as a keynote speaker at Ad World 2022 and what are the important topics that you wish to speak on at the event? What do you hope to take back from the event?
As a speaker at the event, I’m here to present the three principles we use at Hawke Media to make marketing soar. I believe that all every company needs in their marketing is awareness, nurturing, and trust. I’m here to dive into what that looks like for different companies and how everyone can make sure that none of those three principles come up short.
I’m always looking for innovation. I love meeting new people and hearing about their businesses – their wins and their losses. I’m hoping to take back to my team insights from companies operating in an entirely different space from us. Who tried something brand new that we can learn from and apply to our own business and those of our clients?
What is the next milestone that you’ve set for your company? As an entrepreneur, what’s the one thing you want to share with those who aspire to become an entrepreneur?
Around the time that I founded Hawke Media, someone asked me at a leadership conference what the biggest threat to my business was and what I was doing to be ready for it. I thought of artificial intelligence. And in regards to how Hawke was preparing for that, that’s exactly why we introduced Hawke AI.
AI is changing traditional marketing by freeing up marketers. If marketers can spend less time in the weeds of platform analytics and competitor research, they can focus on the aspects that really matter to their brand or client. This means they can create more innovative assets, experiment with new mediums to reach new audiences, highlight their partners, and develop those with a similar vision. Advancements in marketing, specifically AI, are changing the way things are done. It’s saving time and resources, proving to be a more sustainable solution. It’s also providing marketers with the ability to flex their creativity muscles and personalize messages to particular consumers.
As an entrepreneur, the one thing I would like to share with aspiring entrepreneurs is to keep your head up. Starting, growing, and potentially exiting a business isn’t for the faint of heart. It takes a lot of work and dedication, and sometimes a lot of luck. Hawke has been successful because we have done our best to stay focused, avoid shiny objects and avoid being the guinea pig with new tech. We work hard to hire the best people and resource them to do their jobs. We manage and maintain the Marketing Tripod and make sure that we stay on top of Life Time Value for our clients. We have a lot of fun doing great work. That has been our key to success.
In your opinion, do digital events give you a similar level of feedback/result vis-à-vis the live versions? What would you say are the biggest pros and cons of both formats? Which do you prefer?
I think digital event outcomes are different but can be just as valuable, if not more so, than in-person events. The COVID-19 pandemic has pushed the entire world forward in terms of technology and process for all types of events. I love that we have viable options for planning and executing the best possible events going forward. The event industry is more than likely going to level-set with hybrid options. It gives marketers more tools to work with in terms of UX and ad placement to meet the needs of their customers and it gives attendees a better experience. I like the fact that hybrid events allow you to broaden your reach and that they give you content opportunities long after the event is over. I don’t like one better than the other, they are both great tools to meet campaign goals and objectives for clients.
This year we are seeing the comeback of many in-person events. What is your take on in-person events? Do you prefer them over hybrid or virtual?
I always enjoy connecting with current and prospective clients, colleagues, and friends in person. Event venues and organizers are continuing to keep the health and safety of their attendees a priority, and people think about event attendance differently than they have in the past. As I said, I think having as many options available to plan and execute the most successful event possible is the win. When it comes to the events I attend myself, I love the option. My schedule is always complicated so I like that I can attend an event virtually from home when I need to or catch an in-person event if I happen to be in a particular part of the country at any point in time.
Eventible.com is a review platform catering to B2B events. Given how review-driven our lives have become today, do you think reviews will bring in a level of transparency to the events industry? Would you rely on event reviews from other speakers if you had to make a speaking decision?
There’s a difference between reviews and word-of-mouth. A lot of our clients have come to us for help with online reviews – trying to figure out how to boost their ratings on Yelp or Google. That’s often because the people most motivated to leave reviews are disgruntled customers who are on a vendetta. Of course, there are plenty of valid ways to boost those scores and encourage more positive feedback, so reviews are helpful but fallible.
The second part of your question – what I heard from other speakers to decide where I speak – that sounds much more like word-of-mouth. This is where good reviews are a lot more inclined to happen naturally, and the bad reviews don’t feel like just a few loud voices. What I hear from other speakers is based on established relationships and trust, which is one of the core principles of marketing. So absolutely, I take other people’s experiences into account whether I’m speaking at an event or buying a shirt online. But word-of-mouth has built-in trust you can never get from online reviews.
As a speaker on the events circuit, would it be helpful for you to have access to a community that sent you notifications regarding entry calls from multiple events without having to search for them, or would you rather sit back and wait for the event organizers to find you?
As a business owner and head of one of the fastest-growing marketing agencies in the country, I am always on the lookout for tools that accomplish two things- one, I need them to make me and my staff’s work more efficient, and two, I need to be able to offer my clients as many options as possible for meeting and exceeding their goals. Community platforms perform a lot better than data-only platforms, for sure. More importantly, though, we look for tools that offer no-hassle integration. And no, we never sit back and wait for organizers to contact us, but we do manage a flood of inquiries that we have to sort through and prioritize. Any way to better organize event opportunities would be welcomed.