Hey, Hey. Hi Alex.
Hey, how are you doing?
I'm great. I'm excited to talk. So let's jump in. We are talking about Campfire Mastermind. So give me the two second pitch. Like what is it?
The two second pitch is, well, first of all, so excited to be here. The second thing about the mastermind is it's really a group of sales and marketing professionals that have these questions that are kind of like deep inside of them, but are afraid to ask maybe people at their company, maybe afraid to ask you know, higher ups, lower people at their company that they just need like a support network. And really this group has kind of become this safe space of sales and marketers that can ask any question that's related to marketing, related to sales, related career development, related to personal life. Like really, almost anything that they're kind of dealing with. It's become a space where there's a group of peers that can help support both during the mastermind. We have a Slack channel that a lot of conversations happen. A lot of other individual conversations happen outside where they meet up for other reasons. And so it's kind of become this small support group for marketers and sales people, kind of all over the country in different industries and different aspects of where they are in their careers as well. Why
Why did you start it? What was the original goal behind the community?
That is a good question. And it is, it's like almost a little self-serving because if you remember the pandemic, what was it? March 13th, 14th, we all at least here in California, we all kind of went into lockdown where we didn't go out anymore. And I am a very people person. I loved the office, I loved the water cooler talk. I could have those conversations, go to lunch, networking groups, you know, my job is sales. So I'd go to a lot of networking groups have, have just relationships with people in person. I think I missed that. And so it started as selfishly as a happy hour for me to fulfill that need, that need of getting a personal interaction from somebody, you know, emotional response. You know, I love my wife, but other than the person I was living with and I also had a small baby.
I had a one-year-old so, you know, home, obviously I was getting it, but also not getting it at the same time. And so it kind of started as these like little happy hours. And people like me that miss that, we created like an online happy hour networking group and it was going well for a little bit. And I kind of felt like it was just, I don't know, maybe we were all just drinking too much during the start of the pandemic, but it kind of turned into, you know, we're all starting to get to know each other. Let's like, let's pry a little deeper. And so I started to ask questions like pose topics. At the time it was marketers business owners, it was salespeople. It's kind of like a wider range. And so we got a good, you know, good wide experience with these questions.
And I think that really the turning point for me was kind of during the summer of the George Floyd protests. And so we were supposed to have an event on Tuesday after the weekend. And it kind of just thought like, this is like a really heavy time. Is it smart to have like this happy hour networking group? And I kind of decided to just go for it because you know, I had my wife to talk to about it and obviously I'm in California. I'm far removed from what was going on in Minnesota at the time, but it also spread nationwide. And so we decided to do it and I had more people show up than than before. Cause I kind of wrote emails. Like I understand what's going on. If anybody wants to talk about it, like we can come, you know, otherwise you don't have to.
And people joined and it was like this cathartic experience of, of like venting just all the thoughts that you had in your head. And I think we all agreed on a lot of points, but we had, we, you know, we have a diverse group. So we had people of different backgrounds talking about their experiences. And I think that was like a turning point for me that I realized it wasn't the happy hours. It wasn't the like fun games we were playing. But it was a place that people were, people were missing that like this, this idea that they could go get coffee with somebody and talk about that or this idea that they could, their mentors to talk about career development were harder to, you know, both harder to reach and things were going on. And it was this support group where people had that.
So it shifted let's see, that was like in July, June, July. And I think by August, I kind of decided to say, let's make this more intentional. Let's make this more specific. People have other issues like this. Like some of the questions we were talking about and we moved away from happy hours. We moved away from a social group to, you know, a mastermind group where people are going to bring things that they are working on. They have challenges with, they have questions about, they want to hear the recommendations. You know, all of these things you can Google and you can read articles about, but I think getting the advice straight from the mouth of someone who's experienced it or has just gone through something similar it carries a lot more weight. And so, you know, I think about a year ago, August, September we kind of last year we transformed it into more of an intentional group that we call it the Campfire Mastermind, a more formatted group with some wiggle room, of course for some other opportunities.
And I think it just turned into this group of people that really needed a place to talk. And I thought it was going to be all marketing and sales questions. I thought it was going to be how do I grow my webinar audience? How do I put on a webinar? How do I grow my newsletter? How do I best practices for starting AdWord's accounts? And there's a lot of questions like that, but it quickly came to realize that that stuff is, you can Google that stuff. You can, you know, you can find a lot of that on the HubSpot blog or on other tech blogs. There was a lot of people talking. There's a lot a great marketers talking about these things, but the questions they really had were my boss isn't giving me a lot of direction.
How do I ask him to give me more direction? One of my coworkers, like isn't doing what I'm asking, how do I help? Like, how do I get through that? How do I get through some of these barriers in the workplace that we don't have a direct line of resource typically for? And so, the group has kind of been on a long journey of frankly self-serving because I missed interactions with people and kind of turned into this, this like support system of like a safe place that people can ask almost anything. And someone's to have a thought on it, having experience, you know, we have a wide enough background of professionals that I think almost every topic has been able to provide some sort of value to, if not somebody always has a recommendation of someone else that would be good to talk to or good resource to look through.
You know, I've been a member now of this community for so long and the reason that it's my favorite community of communities and I'm very similar to you when the pandemic hit, I was, I joined probably a hundred of them because I was like, where are my people at? Like, are, do people still want to communicate with other people? Is everyone okay? Like how are we doing? And what I like most about Campfire Mastermind is the formatting that you have set up with people submitting these challenges that they're facing in whatever, you know, function or respect that these challenges are showing up for them. And then in a very intimate setting, there's six or seven or 10 of us all surrounding this one human with their challenge and just talking about it. And then we move on to someone else's and then we move on to someone else's and it is, it really does feel like a campfire. You know, I'm even doing this little circle with my hands. Like it is extremely intimate. And I think it's really because of that, that format, that people started to feel this trust and enablement to bring different kinds of questions to the table. It's just like what you're saying. I think it's really powerful.
Yeah. And I, and you've been one of the, one of the original members of the, of like this Campfire Mastermind version. And I think we started to branch out of who we, people that I knew that would be good fits just besides, people in San Diego ish area and spreading that out and, you know, campfire for me, when you sit at a campfire and you know, you go camping and you have one at the beach, you go like your backyard. When you sit down and you see the people across, it's like an instant, like comfort level, it's like instant relaxation. And it's instant. Like, let's talk, like, I don't know how many times I've been to a campfire and head like, had better conversations, you know? Like you play like the, what if game where you ask questions and like get into deep conversation with people, even if you've known for years.
And so I think the idea of like the campfire, both you know, physical and like, and like in the virtual space is, that's what I wanted. I didn't want a place where 30 people would join and everybody would be fine jocking for position. You know, they're intentionally kept under 10 is the max that I think I would let be in single session because we don't get to everybody. And, I want it to be a place where people know the people that are giving the feedback and there's like that level of engagement. And so it's been kind of like intentionally designed of trying to like get people to let down their guard a little bit. And one of the things that I did early on, really just because I thought it'd be a good idea. And I think it's really been one of the core elements to get people to relax is, you know, we start out, everybody says, what's your name, your job title.
And then we say, what are some small or big wins? Like, tell us what have you done great in the last week? Or what's gone your way. And then like a fun fact, I'll ask a different question every time. This last time was, what's your favorite food for Thanksgiving? We've done what's your favorite taco? What's your favorite? What do you like to do in the summer? Are you a beach or mountains person? And like those questions, I think, allow people to break down this isn't actually the, you know, VP of marketing at Banzai. This is actually Ashley who is a, you know a perform, you know, the theater arts major performer, you know, like musical theater. This is someone who actually does other things and really likes green bean casserole. I don't know if you do. But break it down to a human level versus a, like, what are they trying to get out of us level?
And doesn't that really also enable us to be better professionals, like remind, especially in sales and marketing, when our jobs are to engage and build relationships with customers and prospects, I think one of the greatest downfalls of this pandemic was that we really forgot how to be together. And I think we need opportunities like this community to just practice again, like how to build conversations, how to be vulnerable, how to be a little intimate, how to ask hard questions, because that was stripped away. So suddenly that when you're not in an office anymore, having day-to-day conversations it's quite different and it's a muscle that you really lose if you're not, if you're not working it. So I think that that's one of the most powerful things about this community. And when you notice, so you talked about this pivot a little bit, this pivot of, you know, general marketing and sales driven questions and challenges to more personal development, professional development, sorts of, you know, career challenges. How did that impact the community and how, if at all, did it actually impact your business? Like what did you find from that?
For the community, I think the first people to start out, ask questions like that, it went from a sales marketing. What are you doing to get more leads through your cold outreach? What tactics are working to like, how do I deal with my manager who's borderline like harassing me. And it, like all of a sudden the bar dropped and the comfort level went up. And I think once people felt comfortable asking those questions more and more of them started to pop up and it's everything from like, how do I turn it off at six while I'm at home? Like, I'm burned out. How do I, how do I avoid that? Or like, how do I get my, how do I bring, how do I relax more throughout the day? Like all these, these questions that seemingly, you know, again, you can Google mindfulness at home while working, but to like actually hear how someone else is doing it or tips that they've thought of.
And everyone's got different, you know, experience and strengths and weaknesses. And I think that that shift from the group kind of allowed those questions to come in. And it's kind of, it's interesting, like people that just join their questions are very, very tactical. I've got a workflow that needs to do XYZ thoughts on this. And then as soon as somebody else asks other questions, then like maybe two or three sessions later, it gets deeper. And I think by asking people to think about what is your challenge, candidly, I'm sure they're like, I don't know. I gotta think about what's my challenge this week. And sometimes when they write it, maybe just whenever they're submitting, it's something more personal or something more deeper than, than tactical and how this has transitioned into like our own agency. So we're an inbound content marketing agency we're serving, you know, SaaS, enterprise software and technology.
And, you know, we kind of had this, this little, like our marketing strategy was similar to a lot of other agencies. We're creating content for marketers to do tactically, to improve, to show our expertise, provide some value. And I think we realized we had kind of a few thoughts earlier this year. One, our vision as a company, something we kind of, you know, stamped on our wall, what it was in our, in our physical workspace is, like we really want to empower others and improve lives. And that's a very like wide ranging thing for an agency to say that probably should be for like a you know, banana company or something. But, but like, we really, like our thought process in that is we are working with marketers and we want to, like, not only empower them to give them the tools to succeed, but then make their life better because either we're taking stresses away or we're helping them get promoted because we're doing great work and they look great.
And we realized for a lot of our company, we're doing that, but from marketing, we had fallen off a little bit on that because, you know, this is recorded and on a live podcast, but I'll say this anyways. Because it's all about transparency and being open and honest, even when it's painful, but we are a content marketing agency and our own content marketing struggles. We are small enough that we don't have a dedicated person. And as the workload increases, you know, our availability to create content. And so we were, we were more reactive with our content. We weren't really thinking about the needs of the people we were serving. So where the Campfire Mastermind comes in is it kind of just occurred to me one day that I'm getting 20 challenges a month from our buyer persona sent to me in a form and then discussed in length with answers and feedback.
And it kind of dawned on me that this is the testing ground. This is where this is, this is what people are actually facing. And as our team and I were kind of like reviewing some of the questions. And just so everybody in the Campire Mastermind this was all done anonymously. Nobody knows who asked what question. Just so everybody knows that, but we kind of had this, we had this thought we aren't creating marketing for the person we're creating marketing for the outcome of like what we would do. And we kind of came up with this term that we're using internally. I'm sure it's not a original term, but we're kind of thinking of is like people first inbound. And so we're thinking about the questions and this is something like 60% of like the questions submitted are in the lines of mental health, career development, team management, these like softer skillsets that are harder to learn and harder to ask questions about to your superiors or even your peers at work.
Because like, how do you ask your boss? Hey, the management team really isn't performing its duties. Well, for me, like you, can't, that's a hard question to go talk to your boss about when it's probably about them. And so we're kind of shifting how we're talking to people and the topics we're talking about. We're still gonna talk about inbound and content and HubSpot and all these things that are still relevant to what we do. But we're starting to approach it more of actually the VP of marketing, what is your biggest, like why do you care about HubSpot reports and like, what is it that you deal with and like, how are we going to help you figure it out that way? And even if it's just a mind shift of how we're creating the content or approaching it, that is like one of our biggest takeaways.
And we're also expanding. You know, I don't know, we did our annual gap analysis and content review of our own work. And we realized, we sounded just like every other agency which isn't a good thing, you know, it's good and bad, but we realized no one else was talking really in depth about agency wise. There's other people talking about it, but like career development, mental health, like we want our people we work with to grow at their company or grow at other companies. You know, it helps us to have our champion go to another company that we can also go work at. So it's both from an agency growth model, but then also empowering others and improving lives. How can we do that through marketing? And, and that's kind of one of the biggest shifts we've had in the last few months, and as a small team, we're still in the transition of making that change.
And one of the ways we're implementing that, I know we're, offline we were talking about podcasts and we've thought about stopping our podcast, the B2B Growth Marketing podcast, but we've decided that these conversations with leaders about, you know, mental health, how to find mindfulness in the day, how to increase you know, how to avoid burnout, how to tips to turn it off and on while you're at home, career development, you know, like how to improve, like time management and things like that. We're going to talk to these leaders in the spaces, use those conversations to then repurpose into full articles of how that relates to how can marketing managers improve their time management by all the tips we just outlined in that article or that podcast. And so we're, you know, this is, I mentioned earlier that our content, our team, it was a little bit harder for them to dedicate time to create an article about topic clusters.
Because we know it it's not hard to create. It's just, are you excited about creating that article or create an article that is about something that's going to actually help people improve their lives? And so it's kind of reinvigorated the passion with the team. It kind of, you know, brought more excitement around our own marketing because it's things I think we're all more passionate about to make changes that I think make bigger impacts. And you saw, I don't know if you went to inbound and you start all over inbound, there was way more conversations around things like that than there were about workflows or service hub or, you know, things like that.
Absolutely. And I think none of our businesses are exempt from the ramifications of burnout and mental health challenges and employee retention needs. You know, like we talked about this a lot in our most recent executive quarterly business review and Banzai mission is very similar. Our mission is to make marketing more human. And we talk a lot about what does that look like to be more human in business and how do we embody and model that internally as well as externally. And so we had an entire conversation in our quarterly business review that was like, listen, our employees are really struggling and it's our responsibility to not only acknowledge that, but to begin to take action on how we can support them in a more holistic way. And so we implemented mental health days and mental health weeks, and we just had our first one actually last weekend and team members came back and they were, they were like, I can't tell you how much this meant to me.
Not only in the space and time of taking some dedicated time away from the office, but just in the gesture, just in the acknowledgement that suddenly businesses are beginning to consider the effects that the world has and that businesses have on their employees wellness. And the conversation is no longer optional really it's, every business is having this and it's, you know, it is a job seekers market and they are looking for companies who are brave enough to really, you know, take care of their people. And that investment just comes right back to the business. So I don't know why it took this long. I don't know why it took the pandemic to bring us all to our knees in exhaustion to say, wow, we really should look at the way that we do business. You know, like I saw some really beautiful imagery the other day of like a gas tank that's that had the arrow all the way past empty. And it said, this is when we actually take a break, is after we've already hit this, we should be taking a break at the halfway point. Why don't we do that? And why don't we talk about that? So, anyway, I'm right on board with you. And I think these conversations are important and I think it is what marketers and salespeople and everybody are actually looking for. It's the kind of content that you need right now.
Yeah. Yeah. I mean you mentioned the gas tank on empty. I mean, I think it usually takes us to hit rock bottom or a tragedy for people to make change. I mean, just look at everything in our social and economic lives and political lives. It usually takes something. So, you know, hitting rock bottom to make a change. And I think the pandemic I think the thing like the, so I'm a business owner. I co-own our agency, you know, I've been running it my partners and we feel like we have a pretty good pulse of our employees. Like we, we don't have a lot of them. We have, you know, we're a team of 10 right now, and we have conversations with them daily. And I think there's still things that we might even be missing of our employees going through situations that maybe they're not even our place to like step in on, but at least to acknowledge.
And I think, I think, I think, you know, Demio, and Banzai have made a good step of saying, look, we've seen a few incidences that means many more people are probably going through it. They're just not, they don't know how to, how to communicate it. You know, they don't have a mastermind, a Campfire Mastermind to go to. But, but like, let's try to solve this from a company wide aspect and then give them resources and outlets to go further, you know, to expand. We had to like almost beg our employees to use their PTO during the pandemic because they were just, they would just sit like, we have people of all age ranges on our team. And some of the, you know, everybody like under 30 was just sitting at home the last year and a half you know, and just working just honestly, just working.
And it was like, I know you can't go anywhere, but you should take some time off and just sit in your backyard, enjoy the sunshine, or go, you know, do what you can with it. And so it's, it's I don't know why companies haven't started earlier. I know a lot of companies over the summer made big headlines, HubSpot, a few other techs of giving them basically were closed for a week. And I don't know why that hasn't happened more often before this year. Cause burnout Americans. I mean, look at the data, Americans work way harder than most countries. And I don't think that's a positive, it's like culture hustle culture that everyone's been talking about lately. You working 60 hours a week. Doesn't, you know, if that's what you want to do I think you can do it. I think you should, but it shouldn't be the norm or the expectation.
Right? And the more that we lean into these exhaustion badges of honor, the harder it is to pull us away from them. And we're brought up this way, you know what I mean? Like we were taught this, this was something that was shaped as part of our schooling and part of the expectations of a society and whatever, whatever that it should be impressive to work hard. And that it's our privilege and our right, and all of those are true. But we're not taught how to not do that in a world where our homes and works are crossing boundaries when you're no longer having a commute that helps to set some guidelines on starts and finishes. But now, you know, I opened this door and my child is at the other end of it, like ready to say hello to me.
And I haven't left this room all day. I, you know, there's, we have to accommodate for the fact that we're not moving back to a 2019 world ever. And in the same way that businesses are responsible for acknowledging the hardships and alleviating them, they are also responsible for the accountability of how they themselves contribute to some of these hardships, right? Where businesses themselves need to adapt practices, operations, hiring, retention, policies, benefits, salaries, everything needs to change in order to accommodate the new world. Can't we can't say like, oh, you know we're in the new normal, but nothing else has changed around us except for us, except that our entire lives have changed, but our entire business has stayed the same. Like that doesn't, that doesn't work. That's not scalable. And that's why it's a seekers market. That's why people have the flexibility to go anywhere they want, because they want more, you know, they deserve more. It's been a hard two years, man. Like people are over it.
That it's interesting that, or the new normal, but the only thing that's changed is us. I mean like how we deal with family has changed how we deal with friends. I mean, I two weeks ago I saw one of my good friends the first time since the pandemic started, because you know, he's in LA I'm here and it's just never worked out. And like, all of that has changed, you know, how family visits us in smaller increments than it used to. And, but the only thing that hasn't changed is how our companies, our employers expect us to be like this, this whole idea of like a nine to five. We have clients all over the country, most of our teams west coast, but like, why, why is it nine? Why can't, if they want to start at seven, start at seven, they want to end at 7:00 PM.
I have two young kids. And so you talk about when you open that door, you're now mom, and you've got a kid waiting for you. I usually end the day because I hear the kids needing some assistance or seeing my wife needs some assistance because both kids are getting crazy. And so like it, that transition is is very, is different. That line is so different now. And so my work hours are certainly different with my life. And that would be harder to do in our old, you know, our old format.
It's not enough for businesses who were, you know, fully in-person running offices to simply have moved their fully in-person offices to zoom. That's not, it's the same thing that I say regarding event strategy, you can't just take an in-person event and put it on zoom. That's not how it works. And you are going to lose opportunity that way. You have to actually change your strategies. You have to actually change the foundation of again, your processes, your operations, like how you actually run and conduct your business. All of that has to change and accommodate. And I'm still seeing businesses that are just sort of functioning, you know, they're functioning this way, but they're not growing. They're not thriving and they're not inspiring their team grow or thrive either.
Yeah, yeah. I mean, we're a service-based industry. People is our product. People is what we have and we've, you know, our vision of empowering others improving lives, was mainly written for our own team because as owners, there's nothing more exciting than in like, and fulfilling, than creating a business that really gives a great life for the people who work there. And that's very challenging at times, but, you know, we've kind of, we feel like we're working hard to continue to improve that make updates when we can, I think more businesses need to function that way. Like companies exist to employ employ people. Companies exist to make people, to help them fulfill their dreams and their life goals and, and all those. And they may leave your company. And that's okay, you know, but, you still have to create the space to give them this opportunity to get their own, their own stake at life that they want.
Well, that is a perfect way to wrap up our conversation. I think that's just, that just totally summed up everything. And I could talk to you about this all day. Maybe we'll do like a two-parter where we come and talk about this more. I think this is really meaningful, but I'm so grateful. Thank you for talking about Campfire Mastermind. Thank you for being, you know, transparent and vulnerable in your conversation. And before we end tell people where they can find you and where they can learn more about Campfire Mastermind.
Yeah. Great question. Well you can find me on LinkedIn. And I think it's just Alex Meade on LinkedIn. You can find more about our agency at beaconspoint.com and there's more information on our podcast there. So the Campfire Masterminds, one of the things that is different than others is we don't really have an open public invitation. It has been more, you know, are you a good fit? Are you marketer? Are you sales? Like, are you, is this just something you're going to fly in and fly out of? And so it's usually been a lot of personal invites. So if you're interested, hit me up on LinkedIn. We don't close it off to really anybody, but I just like to know who it is first or you can hit up Ashley and she'll send you the link. But I can, I can send, I can send people more info that if they hit me up on LinkedIn.
Perfect. Thank you so much, Alex.
Yeah. Thank you.