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So What? It’s our birthday – 5 years of Trust Insights

So What? Marketing Analytics and Insights Live

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In this week’s episode of So What? We focus on the origin story of Trust Insights. We talk through what we’ve learned and what’s next for Trust Insights. Catch the replay here:

So What? It’s our birthday - 5 years of Trust Insights


In this episode you’ll learn: 

  • The origin story of Trust Insights
  • What we’ve learned and what hasn’t changed
  • What’s next for Trust Insights

Upcoming Episodes:

  • TBD

Have a question or topic you’d like to see us cover? Reach out here:

AI-Generated Transcript:

Katie Robbert 0:32
Well, hey everyone, Happy Thursday. Welcome to so what marketing analytics and insights live show I’m Katie joined by Chris and John. And we have been joined together for the past five years, which is why we’re doing our anniversary show. For those who don’t know, Trust Insights has now officially been a public company, public in terms of people know about it not publicly traded for five years. And we wanted to take some time this episode just to do a little bit of a retrospective in the sense of just how we’ve grown, how technology has changed, and just, in general, what we’ve learned. And so we definitely want to get into the backstory, a little bit of how Trust Insights started. For some goofy reason people love that story. So we can certainly tell some versions of it. And we also want to make sure John, that, you know, we get your version of it, because it’s often myself and Chris talking about how we started the company. But a lot of people don’t know how you came to be a part of this as well and what your history with us is. So where do we want to start today?

John Wall 1:47
You know, it’s funny, I had to resist, I wanted to go do that Saturday Night Live thing on social media and be like, tune in for the fifth anniversary, including YouTube, Beyonce, Arnold Schwarzenegger. But I thought that would be that might not turn out properly. So I passed on that.

Katie Robbert 2:06
Yeah, I think that we want to make sure we don’t do any sort of copyright infringement or bait and switch.

John Wall 2:12
Manage expectations. Yes, exactly. What origin story I mean, you guys. Yeah. Everybody wants to hear like, you know, where did the idea come from?

Christopher Penn 2:24
The idea came from being miserable.

Katie Robbert 2:29
As I remember, in the spring of 2017, so I had been working with Chris for just about 18 months. I remember in the spring of 2017, sitting in your office. And Chris, you might not remember this conversation, but you were just kind of over it. You had been on the road 51 out of 52 weeks for the past year. You know, the team was fine, but you didn’t know anybody on the team, because you were never there. You never saw your family. And you were just exhausted. And I don’t remember the full extent of the conversation. But basically, you know, you were talking about, you know, I think I’m gonna leave, you know, I got you know, someone called me made me this offer. And I remember, the light bulb went off in my head. I was like, Oh, he’s not going to leave without me know, this, that’s not going to be a thing. And I think I said to you, like, if you jump, I jump. And you just kind of looked at him like, yes, we’re making a suicide pact right now. Which felt appropriate. But it was basically that first inklings of I just started a company with Chris. And I know your brain hadn’t gotten there yet. Because you were just looking for an out. But like, in my brain, the wheels were already spinning.

Christopher Penn 3:51
Yeah, I definitely wanted out of the environment. So we had worked at an at an agency that had gotten acquired and would the tone and tenor. And so the culture dramatically shifted once the new management took took effect, as as many companies do after mergers and things and Twitter. So at that point, yeah, we’re starting to look around and see what are the different options because I did I tried long ago, running my own company, it turns out that a bunch of things that are important to running a company like finance and legal and operations, I’m really bad at managing people also really bad. And so for a variety of reasons, those things that never worked out. But we had talked to a bunch of folks in you know, in the industry and things. And most of our friends and colleagues is it yet probably is time to, to at least make a change of some kind, if not start your own thing. And it was at that point when started doing inventories and Okay, well, what, what would it look like? Right, so this this is now probably the fall of 2017. And we’d had some conversations with some other folks and things, and there were a lot of ideas, and but the the ultimate sort of packaging of it was the things that we wanted to do. We couldn’t add the old shop, because different priorities and stuff like that, that’s fine. But there was a lot of stuff that back in in the fall 2017 was very clear, the world is going to start moving in a very different direction that is played out, clearly by the fact that, you know, today, you literally cannot pick up any publication without something about AI and chat GPT-2 In particular, in the news, so I was reading something about like, pet training, or something was ready to go pet train script was like, okay, so clearly, the dog is going to be using chat GPT-2. Now, that direction was so apparent that that was the way the world was going to go. And I knew that where we were, we’re never going to make that happen, we’re never gonna be able to do those things. And we’re doing some interesting stuff way back then, you know, we had been doing stuff like predictive analytics, kind of in a very crude way. As far back as, as you know, 20 2015 2016. Yep. But the challenge that we ran into, and we’re the, you know, the a lot of the impetus for me to to want to do our own thing was, I was doing this basically, at night on my own time. And it showed, right in terms of the lack of explainability, the lack of interpretability, it showed that there’s an idea here, but the idea does not have any kind of portability, did not have any obvious benefits to a customer other than to be, you know, a very colorful chart for them to look at.

Katie Robbert 6:53
Well, you know, it’s funny, because you talk about, you know, reasons why going out on your own didn’t feel doable, I had the same inner dialogue running because I’m not an individual contributor, I’m a manager, I can run operations, I can run legal, I can run finance. And at the time, I couldn’t figure out how to turn that into a company. Because yes, those are valuable skills. But I didn’t know then what I know now about how people would bring on a consultant, or, you know, a agency for those specific things. And so I had a lot of that Panic of, yeah, I can’t stay where I’m at. But the skill sets that I have, I don’t know what to do with them, other than maybe just start my own thing. And so that’s when I saw our complementary skill sets play out on the team that we were running, why not take that out of the environment where somebody else was calling the shots, and we call the shots and continue to operate with the skill sets that we currently have that are super complementary. And so that was where I started to put a little bit more of the pieces together. Yeah, it was, it was, I saw a lot of potential in the work that you were doing with machine learning with artificial intelligence, and just general measurement, there was a lot of potential there. And the environment that we were in, people weren’t buying it, they didn’t want that. It was too advanced. It was too sciency, it was too hard to understand. And it’s not just because Chris, you were working on your own time to develop these things, it was just too far advanced for this specific market that we were serving.

Christopher Penn 8:45
Yep, me, it’s funny, because that market is still like that, to some degree today. There are still many customers and clients who measurement measurement has, the value of measurement has not become clearer to them to be to understand that you measure things so that you can manage them well. So that you can cut your losses earlier, so that you can double down on the things that are working. And that’s where, over the last five years, I think things have really evolved, we have changed what the technology can do. You know, so if we go back to, you know, what a predictive forecast for us looks like today. It’s not a line chart with you know, all these things, because that doesn’t really help anybody. It’s much more prescriptive. Now, where is that? During this week, right, this article, right? It’s the same data. It’s the same analysis. But it’s now paired with insight and with next steps, which is here’s the article to write this week. And that prescriptive approach is it is much more useful to clients. It’s much more useful to businesses to say okay, Tell me what to do. Because as we’ve seen over the last five years, companies have downsized, right? We had the the curious fortune of starting a company. And then you know, 18 months later, going into a global pandemic that lasted three years, and then, you know, a year ago starting a regional war that’s, you know, threatening to explode. So we had some interesting obstacles along the way. But what has held true for that time is that people still, people are being asked to do more with less, people are being asked to stretch every budget dollar further, the recent conniptions in the financial system over the last three years because of the pandemic, and then the consequences that are still playing out. And we’re still, you know, we’re seeing people pulling back on on budgets. So the ability for us to go from, here’s your data. And here’s what it says to do these three things, and you’ll have fewer headaches next month, is sort of the the evolution of the company.

Katie Robbert 11:07
I was looking at the very first blog post we published on the website, now five years ago, and I fully expected to have all kinds of like awkward and uncomfortable feelings about what I wrote. But I realized it actually still is, it’s still a post that I’m proud of, in what it says, my writing has gotten better, my writing has gotten stronger. Prior to starting Trust Insights, I’ve never had an opportunity to write to be the voice of anything. I was never really asked to do this kind of work. So I remember how much anxiety, it gave me publishing a post with my name attached to it. But when I look at the content, when I look at the meaning behind the post, not much has changed. You know, the very bottom of it says, you get a lot of content from Trust Insights that talks about innovation, artificial intelligence, machine learning, data, governance, and big data, that’s all still true. There’s still people behind all the robots, that’s still true, we light up dark data, that’s still true. Nothing in terms of how we’ve changed, the core of what we set out to do is still true, our mission and our values are still 100% True, there’s nothing in those that I would change and go back and go, who I didn’t mean to do that, which I think is actually a really good testament to the fact that we’ve always known who we are, we’ve always known what it is we want to do. Now it’s just a matter of getting more sophisticated with those things. You know, when we started the company, you don’t have to have publicly available mission statement, you don’t have to have publicly available value statements. But we felt strongly that we wanted to have those and so on our website, our mission, our vision, our values are clearly stated. And the values are the driving force behind how we run the company. And those came about from a conversation that Chris and I had of what are all the things we hate. One of our been our past experiences, that if we had to go back and do it again and say I won’t tolerate that, I don’t want that in my company. If I got to build a company, what things wouldn’t be allowed, and that’s where the values came from. So we reject deception and secrecy, we are transparent, honest, I can’t stand when other agencies blackbox what they’re doing and it’s all just sort of like magically happens, like No, tell me what I’m buying, tell me what I’m getting. Because there’s this concern that if you tell people what you’re doing, they’re gonna steal your idea. I say go ahead and let them because what we’ve learned is that anybody can talk about doing, you know, ROI, anybody can talk about doing attribution, nobody will do it the way that we do it. Nobody will do it the way that Chris has done it, nobody will give the insights that I give, nobody will talk about it the way that John does. That’s sort of our unique value is that nobody is us.

Christopher Penn 14:23
Nobody’s it’s a funny story. There’s a version of these values, which you have not made publicly will never make public that has individual people named like this is this person who was this dumb? Right or this sexist or this racist and stuff that Yeah, and I can looking at the values I still mentally know exactly. But that’s, that’s a good way to define your values, right to think about the things you like, No, this is just not okay. And then what does the okay version look like right now? And we had actually had that conversation about it, do we? Do we want to, you know, even list out the things that we want to avoid? And I think we settled on Yes, we do. Because we want it to be clear that it’s not just, you know, sunshine and roses like this is this is why that value exists because we’ve run into people who are thoughtlessly accepting the status quo. We’ve run into people who are all all hat no cattle, as the expression. And, and that has helped guide decisions, right? Even to say like, okay, as we’re pitching somebody, as we’re talking to somebody on an impulse put called, and we listen to what they have to say, like, wow, you’re kind of a jackass, I’m pretty sure we’re just not going to do business with you, because you’re an idiot, or, you know, your company’s mission literally makes the world a worse place like it, it objectively makes things worse for a whole bunch of people. So we’re not going to do business with you.

Katie Robbert 16:02
I also see it just as an accountability check of, you know, we put it out there are we being hypocrites by not following what we said we were going to do. And so it’s a nice reminder of who we want to be, and to not get distracted by shiny objects and dollar signs. We’ve turned down money because it doesn’t align with our values. We’ve turned down clients who to your point, Chris, you know, we know aren’t going to be good clients to work with. So it’s not worth the money. You know, we’re a small business, we could use every dollar that’s coming, you know, to us, but we know when it’s just not worth chasing that money. And so, you know, when we started the company, it was just us, but we very, very, very quickly realized we needed more help than that. And Enter. What Go ahead.

Christopher Penn 17:00
The the impetus for that was actually from our financial planner and accountant, Mike NMC, who had said in a meeting offhand, and it was an offhand statement, but stuck with me the last few years. He said, every small business needs three people a minder, a finder and a grinder, right? You need somebody who runs the business. You need somebody who does the work and you need somebody to find new business. And, you know, like you said, very early on we we needed that, that finder like you were the minder, I was the grinder we needed the Finder and enter. Mr. Wall,

John Wall 17:32
flourish. have arrived. Yeah, no, it’s so funny the way things worked out, you know, because you guys are just that classic story of, you know, you were in the cubicles doing the thing. And you had your Jerry Maguire moment where you were just like, Screw this was with us, you know, we’re out of here. And yeah, every entrepreneur goes through that I had gone through that earlier, you know, I had when I was around 2010 was when I actually spun off and like, became a Virtual Employee. And there are a couple of startups that I worked with that were just total disasters. And the weird, the crazy thing is even through all that marketing over coffee was running. You know, we were doing this show for years and years. And right when I switched to more entrepreneurial stuff, that was when marketing over coffee kind of took off even more. Yeah, it was just obvious, it was crazy. The thing that really got me was, you know, event hero, I was at this event tech company, and the pandemic just completely destroyed that it blew it to bits. And so at that point, we were just like, well, marketing over coffee is sending leads over to Trust Insights. Like this is real, why don’t I just keep following up with these leads? Like it was, it was a simple transition, and it made sense. And, you know, Chris, and I had already worked together and I had met Katie, at events previously, too, so it wasn’t like, you know, you guys were interviewing a bunch of Glengarry Glen Ross rejects you know, it was a you guys knew kind of what you were getting right from the start. So it worked out.

Katie Robbert 18:58
I remember meeting you at dinner in Boston After my first marketing profs, B2B, B2B event in 2016. That was still frescoes. Yep, it was it was a steak house. And, you know, as the person who manages the people, I’m, I like to pride myself on how well I can read people. And it was a chaotic environment. And I’d never met you before as meeting a lot of people that day that, you know, few days, and I just, please take this as a compliment. I never got a sketchy vibe from you. As a woman, that is something that I’m always looking out for. And as someone who’s now in a position to start my own company, I get to choose, you know, do I want to be outnumbered to I want to have more females than males and I knew that Chris trusted you. I knew that Chris worked with you for a long time and my initial impression Interview were all positive. And so I had zero reservations in terms of bringing you into this thing that we were building. And knowing that, you know, at the end of the day, it’s going to be me and two other men. Is that another situation I want to put myself into having generally been surrounded by men who have been disrespectful and sexist and condescending. And fortunately, that’s never been the case. If anything, I’m the condescending one. Don’t really, sort of,

John Wall 20:34
you know, I have to give a shout out to Jimmy when we talk about this kind of stuff. She’s the one that opened my eyes. Because I was like, Yeah, this is tech, the industry is bad. But she has like 1,000,000,001 horror stories about like, going to these events, and guys just being complete jerks beyond anything I could ever imagine. Yeah, I can totally understand how you would be like, yeah, that’s, you know, on my top three of thing, you know, like, yeah, I need a producer, but you’ve got to be a cultural fit, because I just can’t deal with it anymore.

Katie Robbert 21:01
Yeah. And you’ve been, it’s funny, I like to think of you as nicely sitting in between myself and Chris, in terms of personality and skill sets, like you and Chris can totally nerd out on the technology and the audio, and, you know, all of those things, whereas you and I can totally nerd out on other things like music and movies and that stuff. And it’s, it’s a nice, you’re a nice balance between myself and Chris, and you make up you fill in those gaps, where Chris and I don’t have things in common, you fit into those pieces really nicely.

John Wall 21:36
That’s fine, because that’s a similar role with prospects, right? It’s the same deal. They come in, and they know nothing about analytics, and a lot of them are completely clueless. And it’s yes, the same thing. It’s like being able to speak a common language on both sides to get them to understand and to get it’s been fun telling you guys about enterprise sales. You know, most people don’t realize some of the insanity that I have to put up with and the, you know, people who will make me do unnatural acts and torture me just to put me through the negotiation process. Like, you know, getting to play those games is all part of the fun also.

Katie Robbert 22:10
And so I’m pretty sure that Chris being your co host on marketing profit, he was the one who approached you and said, Hey, we’re doing this thing we want to bring you in. And, you know, did it take you a while to sort of consider or you like, yeah, amen.

John Wall 22:28
Yeah, you know, that’s funny, as I was thinking about, that’s one of the big things like, I don’t really remember how the heck it happened. It just like made sense. And it was like, well, obviously, event hero is just this big, flaming, you know, pyre that’s not completely dead. So why don’t I just start doing this? And I think that’s a big entrepreneurial thing that I picked up to is like, the you that makes no sense to belabor things and like, sit and meditate on like, well, what is it going to be like? Will it be like, just say, Okay, I’m going to try for two weeks and just go in and do it. And you know, and see how it goes. And because I think we had done that, too. We had, you know, the arrangement got more formal over the first year, but it was kind of like, well, let me just hang out for 90 days and see who gets pissed off. You know, like, that’s the great way to start. And that is how we kind of have just done it the whole way. We’ve made it up as we go. But yeah, it wasn’t like, Okay, I’m doing this whole bunch of stuff today. And tomorrow, I’m gonna flip the switch and do Trust Insights stuff. But and we all have the same approach to a lot of the ways we work like, we’ve all done some agile stuff. And so the idea of daily stand up is, you know, none of us had to be taught any of that stuff. We’re just like, oh, yeah, this is great. I’ve got my, I can put my burn down list here for the day. And we can go and we’re going to Scrum, you know, twice a week to see where things are at. Like, that’s just another thing with the culture that was, you know, took no effort.

Katie Robbert 23:45
Yeah, I agree with that. Where do you want to go from here, Chris?

Christopher Penn 23:52
So I think some of you’d ask the analysts for marketers, what folks have seen and things in what they had questions about, you know, the, the origin story is always a popular one. But in terms of where we’re business itself is going things. I think there’s there’s been some interesting lessons that we’ve learned along the way. I mean, we, like I said, We two years into the operation and the company ran face first into a global pandemic, right, where, where things just went off the rails for literally everyone. And a lot of our peers and a lot of our competitors. A lot of companies did not make it out of that. So from and now we’re obviously you know, facing some interesting stuff on the financial markets and stuff and such, when you look at sort of the headwinds that we’ve faced, you know, as as the organization’s leader, what would have been your thought process about how to how to surf the waves of adversity?

Katie Robbert 25:01
Um, well, I have an incredible amount of anxiety around finances. And so I think that that in this situation has been to our benefit, because I have been very, very conservative with how we spend with, you know, making sure that our profit and loss statements are looking healthy. And where, you know, we can develop processes to cut down on waste. And so I think, you know, our, my focus, our focus was really around making sure that we had a lot of predictability in the things that we knew and what we were doing so that those wouldn’t become distractions, so that we could really focus on All right, we know that now is probably not the time for us to get those big ticket clients, how can we get the small wins? What are the things that are so repeatable and automated, that people need that they can tolerate the cost for? And so always, I’m always thinking about the products, I’m always thinking about the services in terms of where can we get small wins, medium wins, and big wins. And so when the pandemic started, we really shifted our focus into the smaller wins, which was the core of what we do, which was the tech stack audits, things that people will always need setting up your foundation, setting them up for success, making sure that they’re getting basic reporting, is that the stuff we want to always be doing? No, but it’s the stuff that people need. And what we’ve seen is that we can build from there because we start to develop that relationship, we start to demonstrate our skill sets, they start to ask questions like, Oh, what about this? Well, we have expertise in that, or we have partners who do those things. And it was a really good foot in the door, when there were no doors opening.

Christopher Penn 26:57
Yeah, I remember very early on in the when the pandemic started, our board advisor, Ginny had said, pick up the you know, conferences and events are closed, which has always been a driver of attention to the company. So pick up the phone, and just start having coffee with people virtually. No agenda just show up, because you’re not on people’s minds otherwise. Right. And I think that’s fantastic advice for anybody, you know, regardless of where you are, whether you own your own company, whether you work in a company, and stuff, just maintaining that personal network is so important. When we started Trust Insights. You know, because people have asked me, how did the company get off to a start stuff, we didn’t start cold. We already had a lot of assets in place, we had a Rolodex of folks, we had, I was looking at my very early reporting, the newsletter that I do the almost timely newsletter back in March of 2018, we had about 18,000 subscribers on it already. And it was it was already a large list, I think, first dug into setting up our Hubspot instance, it was like a 50,000, contacts import, because we had these these networks in place. And so if if entrepreneurship is something that you’re thinking about in your own career, it’s not just the idea, you need the infrastructure to go with the idea. And that’s, that’s much harder to do. Like, very candidly, last year, I finally paid back the $75,000, I withdrew from my 401k, the first year the company to survive off of while we got the company up and running, you know, it took four years to put that back where it’s supposed to be, you know, you lost some growth along the way, which is fine. But even something like that, like how am I going to afford to you’ll maintain a quality of life during a period when there will be no income. And that’s gonna be a big obstacle for people wanting to start a company. But something you have to plan for.

Katie Robbert 29:09
When we were putting together the pieces for Trust Insights, we actually did seek investment we want we thought maybe getting some investment would be a good place to start. Because between Chris and I, we probably had about $5 to invest in the company. You know, and so in what we learned from that experience of pitching investors was that we didn’t need them. The way that investors wanted to shape and run our company because they would have had a stake in it didn’t align with why we were starting company in the first place. Most importantly, they didn’t want a female CEO they wanted Chris in charge. And as we’ve already stated, for the variety of reasons, those aren’t Chris’s strengths, and that doesn’t mean that Did you know that he shouldn’t start a company, but it meant that he was not meant to be in the position to run the company, which is why my skill sets were valuable. And so it it introduced a lot of doubt it introduced introduced a lot of insecurity, to I remember, it was like five o’clock on like a Thursday or something. And we were changing our decks to put Chris in charge, you know, and to put me in a lesser role, and I was like, Well, wait a second, why this is insane. Why are we doing this? This is why we’re starting the company in the first place, so that people can’t question the decisions we’re making, so that we can write our own rules. Because people are telling us to do this doesn’t mean we have to do it that way. That’s why we’re doing this in the first place. And once we wrapped our heads around the concept that we really were truly in charge, it changed everything, we stopped looking for investors, we’ve been bootstrap the whole way. Yes, we went 18 months without taking any pay. But that has since changed. we’ve resolved that issue, we worked to a point where we felt comfortable to start to pay ourselves. And that gradually grew over time. I do want to take a second to acknowledge our board advisor Ginni. So when we started the company, we decided it would probably be a good idea to have some kind of an advisory board because we’re so close to everything, that we knew that we needed an outside perspective. And I’ve always been a big proponent of having other, you know, trusted opinions, regardless of your skill level, regardless of your amount of experience, you will never know everything. And so having other people who can help guide you, is going to be incredibly valuable. So that’s, if you don’t know, Jenny, but you should know Jenny. She was on our show last week. That’s a picture of Jenny and Chris. And so Chris had a larger network than I did. I was sort of the newbie to the industry. And so Chris, you would set up virtual coffee dates for me, and potential advisors. And I would say, five out of six were duds. You know, and we don’t need to go into what those were. But I remember I got on the phone with Jenny, we were on a Google meet. And literally within 30 seconds, we’re both just staring at each other grinning like idiots is because this whole step or the step brothers, do we just become best friends. And within 60 seconds, I said, Do you want to be our advisor? And she was like, Yeah, I really do. And I was like, Okay, let’s be, let’s be friends, you can be the advisor. And and I’m not even exaggerating, that’s very much how the relationship started. Like, we clicked instantly, to the point where now, Ginni, if we go more than six hours without texting each other, we start to worry about the other person. Because that’s how close we’ve become. But we can separate out our personal relationship and talk business without it affecting our friendship. And that’s one of the things that I really appreciate about her. Plus, she’s just really smart. She’s been doing this for a long time. I’ve never seen her advice, not be spot on and thoughtful. And for anyone starting their own thing, or wanting to go out on their own, I highly recommend finding someone who can play that role for you. You know, it doesn’t have to be top heavy. You don’t have to have multiple advisors, but just someone who at the very least you can bounce ideas off of and go, am I on the right track? Or is this terrible? And that person can do that for you. And I’ve run almost everything past her, when I’m unsure of it. And when I end, you know, the other day, I was talking to her about something on our website. And she goes, What if you looked at it this way, and I was like, that was the missing piece. That’s what I couldn’t think of Thank you. And it was like a 32nd conversation. And I trust your judgment. So I wanted to acknowledge our board advisor, who has helped also guide us through the pandemic.

Christopher Penn 34:07
Yeah, it’s having having resources having a network, you know, the the cliche is your network is your net worth, there’s, there is some truth to that. Because no one person is smarter than everyone. Even in the age of AI, you still need to have resources that you can draw on for a different perspective. One of the things and we talked about this in this week’s newsletter, is when you don’t step back, when you’re doing the work day to day, it becomes very hard to see the macro level stuff like what’s happening like last year, from an SEO perspective, we had the best year we’ve ever had with a company in terms of getting links to the website and stuff growing organic traffic and such. We didn’t even know it. We were just so so heads down doing the thing that we never step back on. Oh, look at that. That charts just gone straight. Read up into the right, which is, uh, you know, it’s better than, hey, why just going straight down to the right. You know, that’s that’s a very different scenario. But that change in perspective is very difficult to do when you’re running the business day to day.

Katie Robbert 35:18
Yeah, I agree with that. And so I remember what’s next, Katie? Well, I remember the services that we launched with. And the good news is that the services we launched with five years ago, aren’t drastically different, just like our mission, vision and values, it’s not drastically different. It has become more refined and more sophisticated. And so I slipped see a slide like this. And I cringe a little bit. But I also I’m appreciative of it, because we’re still doing this. And unfortunately, John, when you came on, this is what we handed you and said, Okay, go find prospects. And this didn’t really, this wasn’t enough, but we’ve been able to refine it from them. So you know, fix, you can’t manage what you can’t measure, connect your data, understand your data, predict your data act on new data, all of those things are still true, we’ve now just become more sophisticated in how we’re talking about it, as we’ve learned from our clients, from our prospects, from our audience, in our community, what the pain points truly are, so we can take these ideas and customize them a little bit more cleanly for the B2B industry.

Christopher Penn 36:37
Now, the big thing that has changed from an audience perspective in the last five years is that, you know, we started talking about machine learning and AI an awful lot in the early years, and the world wasn’t ready for it. The world was was still in love with the idea, but couldn’t see how that came to reality. And today, again, when we look around, I just booked a speaking engagement this morning, like, Hey, can you come talk about chat, GBT? I like, yes. But that the last 18 months in terms of what’s possible with AI is not new. But the interface, the wave, the accessibility of it to people is new. People who previously had no experience, and no understanding of what artificial intelligence tools could do, are now you know, making pictures of dinosaurs wearing cowboy hats surfing on on stuff, you know, and cranking out blog posts, left, right and center with with chat, GPC. That, as the audience changes in sophistication, we’re now starting to get closer to I think, like you said, when we started five years ago, we have these great ideas about how to apply these tools to the businesses that people had, and they weren’t ready. And now, five years later, they’re much closer to being ready to saying, Okay, I’m ready to see how this thing might work. In my business, I’m ready to see if I can save some time or make some money with this. And I think looking forward, that’s going to be probably the most exciting thing over the next 12 to 18 months is to help people understand what the tools do understand that tools are only a tiny part of the big picture, what is the purpose of what you’re doing? Who’s going to do it? What are the processes around it? And then, you know, how do you measure the performance of it, that framework is going to, I think, help people establish what the tools with the context of the tool is. So I’m looking forward to that, you know, in the in the next 12 to 18 months, As the world continues to accelerate ever faster every day.

Katie Robbert 38:55
I want to acknowledge as well, this five p framework is something that we finally had time through having Trust Insights, to really develop and refine and it has become the foundation for pretty much everything that we do. It’s how we structure responses to questions. It’s how we structure requirements gathering, it’s how we structure projects. And so that’s one of the big things that has changed is that we’ve been able to become more focused, when we launched the company. As with any new business, as with any sort of entrepreneur, we were kind of saying yes to everything, because we wanted to make sure that we were bringing in revenue. But now we’ve been able to really say You know what, we don’t do that. We have partners so we don’t do that it doesn’t make sense. And then dig in deeper to the things that we do do really well that we do have really deep expertise on so I think that we will continue to focus and you know, let go of things that don’t make sense. and really narrow in on the things that are our core capabilities, I think we’ve gotten much, much closer to a shorter list of things that we do really, really well. So I think that’s a big thing that’s next for us over the next 12 to 18 months is just further refinement and growth in terms of who we are and what we do. We already know what those things are, we’re just getting more concise, we’re getting clearer. We’re getting, you know, very direct and saying, This is the thing. If you don’t want this thing, someone else could do the thing. You know, it’s funny that you bring up chat, GBT. That’s not a core competency. For us. It’s something that you happen to know a lot about. And it’s a tool that could work into other pieces of what we do. But people are coming to you to talk about it to learn about it. But when I look at our business, I don’t see where it fits in. We’re not a chat, GPT business, there’s pieces around it that we can teach, there’s pieces of it that we can use. And so that’s those are the kinds of things when new technology emerges, and then becomes the only conversation for a while. That’s where my focus goes of what does this mean for us? Yes, Chris can talk about it, you know, endlessly, but is that then going to bring back business to us. And so that’s my current challenge is figuring out where that where all of that fits into our overall company.

Christopher Penn 41:28
Yep, well, I have some ideas for that. But we’ll save that for another live stream. One other thing I want to throw out there that I think is important, and this is true for everyone, whether you’re an entrepreneur or not, whether you’re married to somebody who’s changed jobs. There’s this concept that wholly agree with that, in some ways, your previous experiences, particularly they weren’t very good, really are a form of PTSD. And it’s something that can substantially inhibit your growth as a as a company, as a person. We look back at the first couple of years of the company. And when we talk to other people who have changed jobs, how much stuff just is stuck in your head of the way that you had to do things. It lasts a while so you know, a make sure that you’re aware of any baggage that you’re carrying with you. And regularly and frequently check in to see do I still need to keep doing that? You know, we started Trust Insights. I remember one of the first things that and you talked about this in the newsletter as well. The first couple things are total shocks, it was a looking at our calendar going, huh. It’s not full of meetings. You know, there’s not like 18 meetings, and 37 of the 40 hours of work week filled with meetings, of which 90% were useless, right? And be going, huh, we don’t have to do timesheets, because that consumed the other three hours of the week that we had to do work was doing all the administrative overhead. And yet, those were almost like habits that we were stuck with from years and years in the agency world. But even things like how we set up a Google Analytics account, or how somebody just approaches them, their morning routine, those are things that it takes a while. So if you are in the midst of making a transition, routinely check in with yourself to say, oh, you know, what things am I doing? Because they’re part of the new environment, and they’re needed, and what things we’re doing that are habits that don’t have a purpose anymore that could probably stop doing. I would add

Katie Robbert 43:33
to that, and I was thinking about this is, you know, what are you doing because you think you’re supposed to be doing it. And so, you know, obviously, those are good foundational pieces, like capability stacks and pitch decks and you know, sell sheets and those things. But you find out very quickly whether or not you personally need those things. For us. We don’t need those things. We started with them because it helped us sort of figure out what we were doing and what we what we had what we needed, and where there were deficits. But now five years later, you know, we’ve talked about them on and off, but we’ve never put a lot of effort into them. Because it’s not what’s asked of us. It’s not what John typically needs in order to convince someone that we’re the agency that they should be choosing, you know, having a really nice style pdf of all of our services and, you know, fluff language and jargon doesn’t sell us to people actually demonstrating that we know how to do the thing is what helps us win business. John, what are your thoughts?

John Wall 44:44
Yeah, it’s true. Yeah. We joke that a prospect never needs to see the menu in the emergency room. You know, they they have a specific problem that they need to get done. And that’s it. And that’s, and that’s a big part of what we do is that people trust us to fix these thorns. Any problems. And it’s not even that they’re not smart enough to do this, you know, they can do these things. But the truth is, you know, they have some kind of core competency, competency that only they can do. And it just makes more sense for them to throw the rest of it to people who can handle it. And, you know, we’re the people who have handled it 20 3050 times. So you know, you’re smart enough, but it still might take you months to do it. Chris will have it done in 30 minutes. And that’s because he’s, you know, climbed learning curve and done it. Yeah, and so you know, delivering value to our customers and being able to help them solve their problems, like in the long run, that’s the network that gets us where we want to go, you know, it’s a solid agency model, but it’s just that we’re kind of doing different stuff than anybody else out there is doing. Because that’s kind of who we are. And that’s ingrained in the nature of the company.

Katie Robbert 45:51
So Chris, where do you want to see Trust Insights in another five years?

Christopher Penn 45:56
Oh, probably running a small nation somewhere.

Katie Robbert 46:02
I don’t know if I want that much responsibility. That’s true.

John Wall 46:05
Chris cashes in on chat. GPT for Dummies, that’s really lights.

Christopher Penn 46:12
No, I mean, here’s the thing, the way the direction that a lot of these technologies are going, is going to dramatically change and enable how we do business in ways that folks have not fully wrap their heads around. And so our job is to help people do that is to say, look, here’s this thing, here’s how it fits into your business. Here’s what this what sensible applications, there are for this, here’s things that are just shiny objects, and they’re cool, but they’re not going to help you grow your business. And even for ourselves, building these systems, things into systems that are part of the five P’s, that part of the process, and part of how we train people, is what’s going to to lead to more growth, because all the shiny objects, at the end of the day somebody like Katie is going to say, well, what is this going to do for me? Right? How is this gonna help my business grow? How am I gonna make money with this? I remember, when I first started at the old shop, one of the founders, just point blank asked me in the interview, how are you going to make me some effing money? And that’s a valid question. In the next five years, I think these technologies will dramatically increase in their power and scope to the point where some of them are going to cause societal problems, right at skills that people are not ready to think about yet. But they will, they will cause those problems and we know that that’s the direction they’re going to go. So our role is to help companies avoid those those minefields, and to help them be productive, help them do more. One real quick example, part of what’s new in the new GPT four model is multimodal inputs, which means you can give it things other than text, and it will, it will do stuff with it. And we’re on the waitlist for access to the API for that. But one of the first things that I see as being potentially valuable, is giving it a chart right out of say, Google Analytics and saying, interpret this and find a way to interpret this, tell me what you see in it, and what your recommendations are. Because a lot of the time, people are publishing reports, right? You know, we I’ve lost track of a number of clients who have, you know, reports, you know, this many a month. I don’t do anything with them, because it’s just too much, right. So if you can have machines, distill that down and say, Look at this ridiculous chart, and tell me what I should do. And then, you know, we obviously have spent some time fine tuning in and adding our own human insights on top, I see that as being incredible value that will continue to set the company as a whole, apart as a leader in the field.

Katie Robbert 49:07
What do you think, John? Where do you want to see Trust Insights in five years?

John Wall 49:11
Yeah, that’s a good question. You know, because I think the real challenge for us is, you know, so much of what we’ve done is to make things right, for our specific band of customers. Do we want to continue with that kind of bespoke, you know, boutique agency, where we’re working with a small group of people doing interesting things? Or do we find something that we’re able to scales, you know, that goes to a wider audience with less personal touch? And so that’s, that’s a real question. For me. I don’t know which way we’re going to go on that I, you know, I spent way too much time on the everything scales or you die, you know, entrepreneurial side of things. And so this has been an adjustment for me to, you know, realize that, hey, let’s just kind of do things right for a small group of people. As opposed to, you know, well, everything just doesn’t point to the useless way. machine. So yeah, I, you know, this is definitely an adventure, but where, you know, playing with the right bunch of technologies, and we’ve got the right customers, you know, the right people trust our advice, and our advice does make them money. So you know, everything else, that’s, it all boils down to that if you take care of the customers, everything else does take care of itself, it may not go where you think it’s gonna go or how you think it’s gonna go. But you will end up where you’re supposed to be.

Christopher Penn 50:25
About you, Katie, where do you want to see things in five years?

Katie Robbert 50:30
At a very tactical level, I would like us to have more courses available, I think that we have a lot to teach. And I think in terms of scalability, that will be a way that we can do that. You know, John, to your point about, you know, bringing things to the masses with less of a personal touch, I actually see it as I would like us to even further automate things so that we can spend more time with that personal touch, but at a bigger scale. You know, because that’s really the differentiator, because to Chris’s point, you know, there’s hundreds of 1000s of charts produced for any given client on a regular basis. But it’s that personal touch. It’s that deeper insights and conversation and relationship building, that artificial intelligence isn’t going to be able to touch. So I would like us to find ways to be able to bring more of that to the table, along with the artificial intelligence and the machine learning and the measurement and the reporting and all the things that we do really well, and then further build on those customer relationships. So yeah, I don’t, it’s funny, I don’t see Trust Insights being drastically different than it is today. In the next five years. I just think that we’ll be doing things even better than we’re doing them today.

Christopher Penn 51:54
And I think that’s a great place to wrap up. So thank you for tuning in. Thank you for sitting down and celebrating with us as at our five year mark. We hope you will stick with us and we will talk to you next time. Take care. Thanks for watching today. Be sure to subscribe to our show wherever you’re watching it. For more resources. And to learn more. Check out the Trust Insights podcast at trust AI podcast, and a weekly email newsletter at trust Got questions about what you saw in today’s episode. Join our free analytics for markers slack group at trust for marketers, see you next time.

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Trust Insights ( is one of the world's leading management consulting firms in artificial intelligence/AI, especially in the use of generative AI and AI in marketing. Trust Insights provides custom AI consultation, training, education, implementation, and deployment of classical regression AI, classification AI, and generative AI, especially large language models such as ChatGPT's GPT-4-omni, Google Gemini, and Anthropic Claude. Trust Insights provides analytics consulting, data science consulting, and AI consulting.

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