0:00:00 - Corey Quinn
Welcome to the Vertical Go To Market podcast, where you'll discover new opportunities to grow your business from seven figures to eight from the world's most successful agency and B2B SaaS executives. I'm your host, corey Quinn, today. I'm joined by Russ Perry. Welcome, russ.
0:00:18 - Russ Perry
Welcome. Thank you, Corey. Thanks for having me.
0:00:20 - Corey Quinn
Super excited to have you on the show. Would you mind introducing yourself to our listeners, who may not be familiar with you and your background?
0:00:27 - Russ Perry
Yeah, i am a failed agency owner that never was able to successfully go from seven to eight figures. Really wished I would have had this content 10 years ago. Then really, from that, looked at what am I going to do in my life and how can I continue to provide value in the creative space and the strategy space? Out of all of that, i've started a company, which I am currently the CEO of, which is called Design Pickle. We are a flat rate subscription creative services company. We have technology to work with brands, tons of agencies, user services to give creative output every single day just super consistent, super scalable, good quality. I love it. It's not super sexy. It's not like I'm creating the next RNA treatment in startup land, but we do it well and we've been doing it now for eight years. It's working.
0:01:20 - Corey Quinn
What's the origin story behind Design Pickle?
0:01:22 - Russ Perry
It comes back to being a really bad agency owner. To be honest, we were the do everything agency For many years. I ran it myself and then I got a partner who was out of Argentina, super, super smart guy named Federico. He was much more of a traditionalist agency guy. We had a model where I managed the clients. I do the sales here in Arizona where I'm located. He does all the back of house production and design and strategy. It worked really good.
But we were never able to create systems. We were never able to create processes. Every project was this huge one-off lift. Eventually that just became too burdensome to grow because any error right, any problem We could never fix, because the next time we were doing something different You'd always have different problems. No process, anyway, close it all down. It was like crap.
I'm an adult, i have kids, i have a family, i have bills, i can't just not do something and started consulting in marketing and found that the everyday design support was really hard to find without just spending a ton of money on a full-time employee. Cobbled together a little do-yourself program for my consulting clients to get simple production designs done. This thing took on a life of its own so much so I was like hey, i think this is something other anyone could actually use. I love pickles. Love, love, love, love. Fermented foods. The pickle is the best word you can choose. You don't want to use kimchi or sauerkraut or whatever Design. Pickle was born. I'm wearing a t-shirt. I don't know if anyone's watching. This is not our actual logo, but this little dude I just drew in a book. It went against every part of my DNA for branding to just whip out a logo, but it worked and we're still using it today.
0:03:17 - Corey Quinn
That's awesome. In the early days, how did you grow the business? Did you take a primarily a vertical approach or was it more of a market generalist approach?
0:03:26 - Russ Perry
Even today we struggle with specialization, namely because design is kind of. I always say design is like a business utility, it's a commodity, it's like internet or electricity. Really, most companies need it. Every company needs it at least once in their career or life cycle. Many companies need it all the time. We find that specialization and this was true when I started was super hard, because one early days you're just so hungry for clients. You're just like do you have a credit card? Cool, this is what I'll do. Please, i'll help anybody.
My growth strategy at that time was super sophisticated. I basically pulled down my email list. I emailed every single person on my email list, one by one. So this wasn't a BCC, this was like here you go. I ended up getting blocked by Google because I sent too many emails in a day and I asked them if I could guest blog or guest post with their audiences. I was blogging for physical therapists, for coaches, for electricians. It was the most random strategy, but it worked. I got enough Lyft to be profitable our first month with everything.
Things evolved Really from there we've driven into paid advertising. This again leads to a lot of the challenges that I wish I would have specialized early on, because when you're delivering a generic service to a huge audience, it takes a lot of dollars to find people who are ready to buy. That's where I see one of our biggest inefficiencies. Even today in our growth channels is that we generate a lot of qualified people, like right kinds of people, but they're not ready to buy. So it's a learning lesson and we're still growing around it.
0:05:10 - Corey Quinn
One of the areas that I was excited to talk to you about, specifically, that you are running this business providing this potentially commoditized service. I'm not sure how commoditized it is, but there's a new entrance in the market which is generative AI, it's chat, gpt, all these new platforms coming along. As the CEO and founder of this business, doing it for a number of years now, as a business owner in the field that you're in, how does this impact your world.
0:05:41 - Russ Perry
Which hat do you want me to wear first? My business hat or the? oh shit, there are computers doing what we're selling hats.
0:05:49 - Corey Quinn
Because those are two different conversations, i think we'll start with the business owner only because a lot of business owners will be in the listening audience and I'm sure they're talking at the bit to hear your perspective on this.
0:06:01 - Russ Perry
Yeah, so we have driven deep, deep down this topic. Not only do I have PhDs on staff that are working for us helping create our own versions of this technology, but I'm thinking about it as an entrepreneur, as a business owner. It's like what can I do? And I laugh because, like the last hype cycle that I think we all can remember was like crypto and some people kind of got it, but other people were like I don't really know what to do, like I'm not sure. And then you have the random guy who's like I just made $10,000 selling a cat JPEG and you don't get it. Oh, true, unlike that. Yeah, unlike that.
This is so clear and real and applicable. So it's so overwhelming for me at times. And, corey, i actually have a tab in Chrome, like a window in Chrome, with like collecting like hundreds of tabs, because it's overwhelming of the tools that are coming out to create, to automate, to research. But I think, first and foremost, it's like I'm assuring I just take a deep breath and I don't get shiny object syndrome. There's so much early stage stuff right now And really there's like almost like a FOMO that I have felt at times that I'm just reminding myself like, look, when web came out, when mobile came out, it got so much better over time that, even though these tools are really, really, really, really cool, we are just starting and there's no need to just freak out or try to like shift everything all at once. Actually have a little bit of patience. But, like I said, it's challenging because these things are in their infancy, are so really, really good. You know, content creation not visual content, but written content, i think is actually that's the best of all of these tools that I've seen is how do we write, how do we speak, how do we use language? And even over the weekend I was working on some letters.
I run a Girl Scout troop Probably none of the parents listen to this podcast, otherwise they're going to hear my secret And I basically gave chat GBT a brief of each girl characteristics that I've observed, some little facts about the year that of the Girl Scouts have I've seen and funny things, and it generated from me a end of your letter that I'm going to hand to them during their end of your party.
Now, i did. I had 12 letters I had to write and this this took me maybe 10 minutes to do, maybe less, whereas had I done it originally, organically, creatively, it could have taken me several hours. So I'm right now just looking at the easy wins, personally and professionally, that I can start experiencing and learning. And I think the thing that I want to share that I've done with any early adoption of technology is do not force this on your teams, on your processes, on your clients, until you've been the best beta tester possible And I and I always have like made sure that I know it, i like it, i can validate it, i can vouch for it and I understand it before I'm asking someone else to do it or before I'm asking for money to do it, because that's very a risk, that's a risky proposition if it's untested or unproven or you don't really, you don't really know how.
0:09:06 - Corey Quinn
So in other words, don't just delegate the chat GBT expertise in house to some interns. Yeah, and you have to first kind of really get your hands wet and roll up your sleeves.
0:09:20 - Russ Perry
Well, like, look, i'm going to tell an old business entrepreneur story. But when we first started to do paid advertising, i went to Udemy and I took a Facebook paid advertising course. Thing was like 30 hours long and I was the first paid media manager at Design Pickle. And I did that knowing that I can't manage an output unless I know what work goes into finding the output. And this is the same process And I think, because they work so well, there's almost like a false confidence that like, hey, anyone can pick this up and use it. But there is. I think the responsibility that we have running our businesses is to still go through the validation, the testing and the you know kind of become a little bit of an expert on it before we put it to our teams or use it on client product.
0:10:10 - Corey Quinn
With that in mind, as a business owner, how much time should they be allocating, or be prepared to allocate, to becoming familiar with this new domain?
0:10:19 - Russ Perry
You know, generative content and creation, using these tools to create things I think is so applicable for agencies. You know, i know a lot of the listeners here because, at the end of the day, what are we getting paid for? We're getting paid for ideas and how to do those ideas, like the work to do them. So both buckets can be augmented with these tools because, all of the sudden, if I want 20 blog post ideas on a certain thing for a certain client, i can have it in an instant and it's free. So I think, to answer your question, i think it really just depends on how much of these tools you can kind of see the line of what you're currently selling and doing and does it intersect with a tool or tools.
And now you talk a lot about specialization, corey, and how to like, do, how do brands and agencies get specialized? That that's the same concept that's happening with these AI generative tools. Right now there's a lot of generous tools Dolly to, mid journey, jatt, gpt. They can do anything for everyone, but the winners in this space are going to be coming in the next 6, 12, 18 months. Where you find the Dolly to for packaging design, you find the chat GPT for lawyers or whatever it is. And that's when I think agencies should, you know, they should be listening, subscribing, learning, keeping an eye, because when that starts to happen, then your specialist agencies now have the super AI secret weapon that's designed just for them, and that's going to be the really, really cool part of this whole next wave of tools.
0:12:00 - Corey Quinn
I couldn't agree with you more on that. My wife is a physician, she has a private practice, she's a psychiatrist, and earlier you mentioned how. You know how approachable chat, gpt is this generative content, because it's so accessible and it's easy to get value out of it And you don't have to know what a. You know all these. You know what was that that came out of the JPEGs and the gifts that were being sold. I can't remember.
0:12:25 - Russ Perry
Yeah, the NFTs, nfts. Yeah, So you've already forgotten it. It's so, yeah, it's so old, seriously.
0:12:32 - Corey Quinn
And I remember going and listening to their podcast about NFTs and all the stuff and I still didn't fully get it clearly. So but on the other hand, you know my wife is using this to generate content to help with her patients right, to help be able to improve her workflow. But to your point, it is a generalist tool. But the minute that you can create a chat GPT for a psychiatrist, that's where you're able to really provide a tremendous amount of value.
0:12:59 - Russ Perry
Yeah, which just a fun which just a fun hack. Do you know that you can run specialization in chat, gpt, if you said I want you to become Freud and I want you to give me answers and you can name well known historical psychiatrist thinkers Socrates, and it will then start to respond and behave and question accordingly. It is wild. So your wife could actually give it a little therapist assistant, if they're, and I can't wait until I can point these tools, let's say, at my email and like, specify these tools based on the way I write and the way I think I know there are ways you can do that through. If you're like a super programmer coder, which I'm not, i just want to plug in to say, hey, look at my 20 years of Gmail, become Russ Perry And now I can really write emails on the fly.
0:13:52 - Corey Quinn
Yeah, But your earlier point is important, which is that if you are a specialist agency and you can find ways to implement chat GPT in these generative AI, not only in your operations, but also pointed towards you that the problems you're solving for your customers right, help them to understand it. The value that you're providing for them goes way up.
0:14:11 - Russ Perry
Yeah, And I think there's like a moment we should pause and talk about that, because, on one hand, people view this as well I'm going to need less people, i'm not going to need to pay as many people and salaries to do the work that I'm going to do. I like to think of it That's like. To me is like the glasses half empty mindset. I like to think of it as like look, keep your people, employ them, but now you can provide 20%, 30%, 50% more value to your clients at no extra cost, which to me, if I'm in the seat of an agency, i mean we, we run into this problem at design pickle.
But retention is a big deal Like, if you like. So. So think about the best way to retain a client. They feel like they're getting way more value than they're paying for. They're going to love you. So I think for agencies this is going to flip the value game. But, but hopefully agencies don't try to like reduce their way into maximizing profits, that they actually maximize value, thus retaining and expanding those accounts in a really, really unique way.
0:15:18 - Corey Quinn
Yeah, i think smart way for agencies to think about doing that is to become so good at Chat, gpt, these tools that they are able to teach their clients how to use it for their own business.
0:15:30 - Russ Perry
Yeah, yeah, well, and I laugh because a lot of people been questioning the Careers of creators and writers and designers, and you know all this stuff and and it's, i think, a fair question This stuff is really really good at creating content, but it's really really good at creating content. That, and it's that content is not necessarily what you need. Like you know, like, if I need dragons surfing eating hamburgers, i can create, you know, photo realistic, i can create a image of that, but right now I have no use for that image other than just to be silly or make a meme. So I think, what people forget, and, and you know, we go back to a canva. When canva launched, guess what? canva still requires time to use. You still just sit down and do it, and even the tools that are auto, you still have to tweak it and like, oh no, that's not right, let me try this, let me do this, let me download this crap. It's rasterized, it's not vectorized. Now I need to recreate so the problems of time and what we will be selling. We'll still be there. We're still gonna be selling our time, because it still takes time to do these things, but what we're doing with that time will change, instead of designing, on prompt engineering, instead of writing, on editing And collaborating with different tools to create more.
So don't think that everyone's just moving to the beach to chill all day long. While these robots do the work for us And for agencies, i don't think they should be fearful of losing out on their unique value proposition, because really, you're just better at doing stuff than your clients, like you're better at building the websites, the funnels, the automation. They technically could do it themselves. These tools aren't that hard, but they value their time to do other things more than the agency services and that's why they pay you. So that service will just shift And I'm excited to see what happens. I'm excited to see the first jobposts Which are already coming out of, like prompt engineers and AI interaction experts and things. Yeah.
0:17:29 - Corey Quinn
Yeah, so what have you seen? the best or the most innovative design teams, and maybe even a design pickle, doing to leverage this new technology?
0:17:42 - Russ Perry
Well, look, i don't have a lot of exposure to what other teams are doing from A technology development standpoint because I only see the final products that a lot of us see. But I think right now it's still too early to tell how the teams are really going to be integrating this in a long-term way into the processes. One the tools are just changing so fast like it's like as soon as you get a handle on a tool, it radically changed. But I think when I look at creative seems specifically back to kind of your question Prototyping and concepting has just become unlimited, unlimited. So this is amazing from a client relations standpoint because now you can be spinning off ideas, whether it's written or visual, and if you're programming or an engineer, software engineer, even encoding Almost instantaneously as many variants as as many versions, and whether you do that and present it to your client or the client does that and then presents you the ideas.
To me this is huge because it's like low cost ideation or no cost ideation, which enables so much more Exploration before you have to create the, the real product, and when you know, even a year ago, concepts take a day or two days or three days and you're like, hey, give me 500 concepts, give me 500 ideas. You'd be like, okay, that's gonna take two months, but now you're like, all right, i'll get that to you tomorrow. So just think about that like it's wild. What ideas now. How much more better and developed they'll be, because concepting is just like. The cost is practically on to zero.
0:19:18 - Corey Quinn
Yeah, yeah, and so as a result, the quality of the final output goes up because there's a lot more inputs that are coming in To be able to write that Yeah.
0:19:29 - Russ Perry
You can have more like. So I'm a huge Disney fan, like crazy Disney fan, and while I love the parks, what I love the most is the process and the business and Walt Disney himself and understanding that. But when they but like, if you've seen the fantastic documentary into the unknown on Disney plus about the making of Frozen 2, just hypothetically, if you've been it, well you'll discover and you'll get an insight into the creative process Now it's not Pixar, it's Disney animation How iterative and collaborative the creative process is. And when you see a final animated movie and you look at the original ideas, it couldn't be further from what it started to where it ends. And I think that you know personally. I know I've had to approve stuff because we're just like out of time, like we just got to go, and it's not right, it's not exact. But now I think we can go through so much more of that with a normal amount of time that the end products will be so much better and the ideas will be bigger and more impactful for business outcomes for clients.
0:20:39 - Corey Quinn
Are there any legal, ethical or moral rights to using these tools?
0:20:44 - Russ Perry
Oh, so I don't know the audience age here. There's probably some younger, but, corey, i feel like you're rough. We're close in ages Like this is the Napster days of creation. So I remember yeah, it's the Wild West. There's gonna be lawsuits, for sure. However, this is so progressive and important that, just like digital file music sharing didn't go away, it just got cleaned up, it got legislated We figure out ways that people can make money that they were happy with, and that's gonna be the same thing.
So, word of caution, i'm not a law expert, but I would just say you know, use your common sense here in terms of using these assets and tools with client work, because you never know right. Like early days, we got hit with a Getty Images stock asset lawsuit because one of our designers found an asset that happened to be copyright, and they have a whole legal army chasing people to sue them for that. Today we have, yeah, exactly. What's ironic is, when we received that notice, i was actually negotiating a loyal stock asset agreement. So now today, we have, like commercial licenses for all the stock that we use, so we don't have to worry about it. And I told the sales guys like, hey, if you get this laughing drop, i'll sign up the package, which he was able to do, but it is the Wild West And I'd say like, look, i'm not a legal expert.
You've probably not got a stress about it right now, because these, the big players of open AI is owned by Microsoft. Practically You got Google, they're gonna do it right and they're gonna do it legally And there will be new monetization schemes that come out of it. So have fun, be careful. But, like, probably don't launch your big international advertising campaign using just straight out of the box generative content. You never know.
0:22:41 - Corey Quinn
Yeah, yeah, i'm reminded of the fact that I'm grateful that I grew up before there was iPhones and the ability to take photos, because I was a wild kid and some of these things never get off the internet, and so just to keep in mind that once it goes up, it never comes down.
0:23:00 - Russ Perry
Exactly, yeah. Now I do think there's a lot of hypocrisy going on in the legal content space. So, basically, if you're not into it, a lot of artists are claiming hey, these models are being trained by our content. Our content, whether visual or verbal, is proprietary to me. I have copyrights. It's what i create. Thus, you know you're, you're, you're illegally using this content and to create these things, and i was like okay, i kind of get it.
However, i'm just an everyday designer and i am have a brief to work. What would i use to design? what would i do? i would go online. I would go to like dribble or other inspiration sites and i would look at stuff. Have you like, oh, that's cool, oh, hey, this is a cool style, or whatever.
What do we do when we study design in school? we learn techniques, we learn from artists that are famous And we aggregate that information. We create our own original work. So, on one hand, i think it's a bit hypocrite, like a bit hypocritical, because the computers are just kind of doing what we do anyway. Now there are some claims that the exact work is being used and not, like it, rated on, which that's no good right, like if your, your stuff is just being copied directly, but we'll see. I mean, obviously there's a long road to go on the legal side around it. I just think people need to stress out a little bit less and, instead of fighting this, be like how do i become a ten x artist? how do you come a ten x designer? how do i become a ten x whatever with these tools?
0:24:35 - Corey Quinn
any tips or websites or resources for folks to follow with regard to this new sort of evolution of technology?
0:24:44 - Russ Perry
Oh my gosh. You know this is actually. I am still like i'm on the front edge of the wave right now, but i'm leveraging a ton on a couple sites. Do you do show notes for your podcast? I will actually send you. I can't remember the name of the website, but i have one. I will ensure ensure we included in the show notes for your, your folks.
But as as weird as it is, red, it is really fantastic for the stuff because it's so real time. I would say the best way to get started with these tools is to understand how to write the prompts that get the output. It's called prompt engineering is a term we've used a few times casually, but each of these tools has its own very easy to learn way to construct a request so that it outputs what it is you're looking for, whether that's visually the dimensions, the style, the resolution, or whether it's verbal, like i mentioned before what kind of voice, what kind of tone, what kind of research. And once you get a handle on that it's not like learning programming, it's just all like regular writing These tools become super powerful. So i did. That's where people should start and i'll send you a couple links once i get back to my computer of good places And then the thought leadership on sub stack in this space is really, really good.
So there are a lot of good sub stack Authors right now that have high and on medium as well, but it's just moving so fast that you don't really like the individual contributors and riders in this space for the best way to find information, because There's no books yet, there's no courses, there's nothing like that. You can't even create something is, by the time you launch it, it'll be, it'll be outdated.
0:26:27 - Corey Quinn
Yeah, i agree with that. It's hard to keep up. I tell you, given, given everything else, i'm trying to do my day job. Quote unquote Yeah, yeah, yeah, any any good tips on that would be would be helpful for myself and the audience. Yeah, totally.
0:26:40 - Russ Perry
If you're listening to this, go to Corey show notes and you'll get a couple links to where to get started beautiful.
0:26:46 - Corey Quinn
last question for you, russ what's your motivation?
0:26:49 - Russ Perry
Wow so i've gone through a lot of my life and i come back to our vision statement for the company which, by the way, i created when it was just me. You know, creating values and mission and vision statements when it's just you is kind of a weird exercise, but it was a new start for me and i kind of was like, what am i gonna do? and you know, this next chapter and that's the change lives through creativity. So really, my main gig, design pickle ceo, is providing this platform, this service to provide agencies and everyone with flat rate design services super easy. But i also like to inspire. I also like to write, i also like to create music and other things.
As i get older and hopefully steps, you know, the next 510 years and i do a little less ceo, little more artist. I want to continue down that path, but i'm really, really passionate about inspiring and educating through creativity. And then, of course, getting paid. My paycheck is earned by providing a services and a platform for that, and I think that goes for my family too. You know I have three daughters. My oldest is going into college next year, so I'm really like having this moment of feeling old and excited. I'm not sure how I feel, but how do I now be more of a guide and a mentor to her inside of that creative space? So that's, you know, big question. But hopefully that kind of shed some light on what's going on in my life.
0:28:10 - Corey Quinn
Yeah, i love that. I love you know ending the show on a high note. So that's yeah, that's really awesome. Thanks for that. Where could people reach out to you if they want to connect? Totally.
0:28:19 - Russ Perry
So going to always be able to get a hold of me on LinkedIn. So just you know, linkedin slash I think it's slash in slash. Russ Perry I'm Russ Perry on them. Every handle there is of everything except for tick tock, which I never really gotten on, but there's an earlier tick tock. Russ Perry adopter. LinkedIn is fantastic And in the next month we are launching our own newsletter called create tech, which is something that I'm going to be driving with my own podcast and my team here interviewing and discovering and teaching on this intersection of creativity and technology. So hit up design pickle or set a reminder in about a month to come back. We don't have it set up just quite yet. We actually had our big planning meetings this month on it, but I'm excited to have this all the time, doing more deep dived tool analysis, having fun how businesses are using it. but it'll be republished on LinkedIn for sure, so you can just start there.
0:29:12 - Corey Quinn
Who is the intended audience for your newsletter and podcast? Who are you speaking to?
0:29:16 - Russ Perry
So we were really going after this persona called the creative manager and it's the person responsible for the purchasing and management and productivity of creativity inside of their organization. So that could be in an agency, that could be in an in-house team, that could be in some global operation and you have a creative ops VP around that. But I think there's not enough conversations having been had around. It's super nerdy, right, but like Nitch talking about Nitch is like who's getting really nerded out about more efficient workflows, about cheaper tools and technology, about digital asset management. Like I get excited about that And I want to create a tribe of people who want to be dorks about that kind of stuff. Beautiful.
0:30:03 - Corey Quinn
The more specific around that, the better and the more resonance you're going to have. I'm excited for you, russ, that's awesome. Yeah, yeah, thanks, appreciate it.
0:30:11 - Russ Perry
Yeah Well, thanks so much for joining the show, Russ. Thank you, Corey, for having me Appreciate it as well.
0:30:15 - Corey Quinn
All right, folks. That's it for today. I'm Corey Quinn and I hope you'll join me again next time for the Vertical Go To Market podcast. If you received value from the show, I would love a five star rating and review on Apple podcasts. Thanks, and we'll see you soon.