The most important skillsets for startup and scaleup marketers with Enrique Hoyos of Pexels

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Welcome to another episode of 3-Minute-Marketing, the internet’s most binge-able marketing podcast. We interview the world’s top growth marketing leaders and distill their knowledge into actionable, bite-sized insights.

This week we’re kicking off 2022 with Enrique Hoyos, Head of Marketing for Pexels. Enrique is the epitome of the type of guest we like to have on our show. A T-shaped marketer and a unicorn with experience in start-ups, he’s someone who knows how to move the needle.

I’m in awe of Enrique’s ability to grow businesses and teams. So I asked Enrique, “What skillsets do you think are the most important for startup and scaleup marketers?”

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Show notes:

  1. The foundation of marketing is understanding your customer and the problem that they have. How does that problem play a role in their life and what is the connection between that and how you solve that problem? Whether it be your product, service, etc.
  2. To do that well you have to be good at data analytics, but you also have to be good at combining that with qualitative data that explains why something is happening. That becomes the foundation of any strategy. Know what you’re selling and what you’re telling people.
  3. The most important marketing skill is adaptability.
  4. First-time marketers may join a start-up after coming from an agency and have a deep understanding of one aspect of marketing. But that doesn’t mean that skill is the most important tool to use for the start-up. Take a step back to look at the start-up and find the lever of growth you can use to move the needle instead of focusing on what you’re good at.
  5. When gauging candidates’ adaptability in interviews, ask them how they’ve tackled problems in the past.
  6. Don’t come into a scenario thinking of yourself as just one thing. Survey the field and think more broadly about what tools you have and how you can most effectively move the needle, regardless of whether or not it’s in your area of expertise.
  7. Focus on wherever the growth will give you the most value.


– [Announcer] You’re listening to 3-Minute Marketing, where we interview the world’s top growth marketing leaders and distill their knowledge into actionable, bite-size insights. Now here’s your host, Chris Mechanic.

– [Chris] Hello, everybody. Welcome to another episode of 3-Minute Marketing. I’m your man, Chris Mechanic here with Enrique Hoyos, who is the, kind of the epitome of the type of guests we like here, very deep T-shaped marketer. Kind of a unicorn, kind of a startup person, just knows how to move the needle, knows how to generate traffic and conversions and revenue and lifetime value and probably even some other things that I haven’t even mentioned there. But Enrique, super excited to have you. Welcome to the show.

– [Enrique] Thank you, excited to be here.

– [Chris] Enrique, I should mention, is currently the head of growth at, which my understanding is kind of a new and interesting kind of stock photo site. Do you want to talk a little bit about what you guys are doing at Pexels?

– [Enrique] Yeah, happy to. So it’s not that new. I think it started 2016. I’ve been here for the past two years, but what it is, is a free photo and video library that is used by millions of people around the world to bring their projects, ideas and stuff to life. So we have anything from marketers, designers, to non-for-profits, to like teachers, that all go through Pexels and kind of find the photos and the videos that they can use to tell their stories, communicate their project. And it’s all community-based. So like they all kind of rely on our community of contributors to come to Pexels, upload their photos and be up to date. It’s very interesting because it’s not your average stock, stocky photo, but it’s real photographers, real people taking photos of real things. So you’re going to see diversity, you’re going to see localized content, which is what we’re striving to do. Like how do we make it the most real video and photo library that can exist for free?

– [Chris] Yeah, that’s awesome. Do you guys have a coin yet?

– [Enrique] We do not have a coin.

– [Enrique] No, no, no.

– [Chris] I bet that’s on the road.

– [Enrique] There’s been conversations for sure but…

– [Chris] Cool, well, let’s jump right into it, Enrique. I’m really kind of in awe of your ability to grow business as to grow teams. As you go about hiring, and as you build out your own skill set, what skill set or skill sets do you think are the most important for startup marketers as well as scale-up marketers?

– [Enrique] Yeah, so, this question takes me to like a lot of different places in my brain right away. So, how about I walk you through kind of my thought process to get to the answer that I would probably give you and hopefully it doesn’t change as I’m thinking through this again?

– [Chris] Okay.

– [Enrique] But to start with, like, to me, you kind of look at the foundation of marketing and what it is and that is understanding your customer, understanding the problem that they have, how that plays a role in their life, and then that connection between that and how you solve that problem. That’d be a product, your service, whatever it is that you do. And to really do that well, you have to do be at least moderately good at data analytics or understanding data to understand that what is it that is happening. But then you have to really be good at combining that with qualitative data, like why is it that that’s happening? And that becomes the foundation of a finished strategy, that insight that you kind of know what you’re selling, know what you’re telling people. And at the end of the day, the objective for marketing is to sell people into what, like how do you solve that person’s problem the easiest way? But with the insight that you get there, it doesn’t give you action. It doesn’t give you like that movement that you want to have. And that’s when you start analyzing marketing into what are the things that I can doing with that. And you have like product marketing, you have like SEO, you have a lot of different things, avenues that you can go to. But the reality is that not every company is going to be the same and the answer to every problem is not going to be the same. So like, to me that the most important skill, assuming that you know marketing, is not a strong repeat skill but it’s like a soft skill, which is adaptability. Because one of the things that I see the most is that, first-time marketers, and I had this in experience, you kind of join a startup, maybe coming from an agency like I did, or something of that you have a deep understanding on something and a little bit of the general marketing. But you always kind of try to start with whatever you’re deepest at. But for example, it doesn’t mean that that is the most important skill set that you need to use for that startup. So you really have to take a step back and look at it strategically. What are the elements for the startup? What is the context of like the marketing piece that’s already working, the product that’s already working, to really understand what’s the lever of growth that you can really turn a needle on and actually start getting growth rather than focusing on like, hey, what am I good at? Is more like, hey, what fits the situation right now and how can I make that work? So adaptability is still my number one answer then again, assuming that you still have to have the knowledge of what marketing is and that T-shaped marketing style that we kind of mentioned before.

– [Chris] So real quick, we have 10 seconds, but how do you gauge for adaptability, like in an interview?

– [Enrique] I think just asking them questions of what they’ve done in the past and how they approach a problem. Like tackling, how did you tackle a problem before? And if they kind of tell me like, “Hey, I went right into what was happening,” rather than proposing a solution and a bunch of brainstorm ideas, is understanding the problem as the baseline of anything that you do, where there’s some product or marketing.

– [Chris] Dig it, I dig it. So that’s the time that we’ve got, but adaptability, I agree is huge. And I really like this concept of, you know, don’t just come into a scenario of thinking of yourself as an SEO. Survey the field, think a little bit more broadly and think instead, basically what are the tools that I have and how can I most effectively move this needle SEO or not. There’s a saying basically like when you have a hammer, everything looks like a nail.

– [Enrique] A hundred percent. Yeah. And it’s a big problem ’cause like a lot of the time, like for example, I’ve seen people who like do, like I do a little bit consulting or help founders and marketers and they start with SEO, but like, I kind of start looking at the date of the funnel and inbound. They haven’t figured out. I’m like, “Why are you putting more effort into getting more people when maybe necessarily the other side of the funnel where the retention activation is not working properly?” So focus wherever is the growth is going to give you the most value rather than just keep throwing the same thing at it. It also happens a lot with the ads, I think because a lot of the people who, I mean, I came from ads so like it’s a very easy way to measure ROI versus a lot of other different things. So you see numbers, you’re like, “Okay, I can pop more money into this. It’s going to give more ROI,” but really not focusing on like, hey, what are the next steps that this person has to go through in their funnel to be a good customer, increase the lifetime value, like really increase the value that they get out of a new product or service.

– [Chris] Yeah. Yeah, a lot of times it’s easier to double the conversion rate than to double the traffic. That’s for sure.

– [Enrique] Yeah. It’s cheaper.

– [Chris] Cool. Well let’s wrap here ’cause we will want to keep this nice and short, but if you enjoyed this, Enrique and I will continue having a conversation that’s available somewhere around where you’re watching here either via link or there should be an embedded video somewhere. I’m excited. I’ve got a couple other interesting things to talk to you about Enrique, which is the way that large brands often shoot themselves in the foot by doing basically exactly the opposite of what you’re saying. Which we’ll get into and unpack. But Enrique, do you want to let everybody know sort of where they can find out more about you and or Pexels?

– [Enrique] Yeah, I mean Pexels, just go to and you will find over 3 million photos and videos that are free for you to use. As for myself, LinkedIn is probably right now the best place to find me. I’m also at Twitter @thatenriqueh. That’s my handle. Trying to get better at Twitter right now. So if you want to connect there, I’m happy to follow you back and have a conversation.

– [Chris] Nice, always learn. I dig it. Okay, well, stay on the line for one second, Enrique. We’re going to wrap here. If you guys like this, please drop just a like or a comment that helps us find more awesome marketers like you. And until next time, we will be in touch. I will say, so I just got off the phone with Amazon. Who’s a large client of ours. We work with various teams of theirs and they’re really, really good. They’re really, really smart and they’re really, really focused and they’re willing to invest. They want to be innovative. They’re actually, they’re a challenging but rewarding client and that they’re like constantly pushing the envelope. But this particular call that I had just now was SEO. It was like, basically. So I’m looking at their particular scenario and they gave me one tool set to work with, which is SEO. And again and again, in my mind, I’m like, well, if we pivot it just a little bit and we looked at UX or we looked at conversion or we looked at sell-throughs or we looked at other things, there’s potentially a lot more juice to squeeze, but it was an SEO-focused initiative. Which I think if you’re very large, you kind of have to do that to some extent. Most large companies, they’ll have a marketing team and you’ll have your organic people, your paid media team, your analytics and your BI teams. But I’m wondering if there’s any page out of the startup books that large brands might be able to take to basically add more of that startup thinking into their existing structures, which are somewhat regimented.

– [Enrique] Yeah, yeah. They’re very siloed or end up being siloed just ’cause the size of the company and the size of the team. To me, it’s a little bit of two things. One, I think that once companies become too big, sometimes there’s a lot of tactics that come bottom-up that sometimes come without an objective. It’s like, “Hey, what cool thing can we do to like do something different?” Not necessarily like focus on like, hey, here’s the objective for the quarter. Here’s the objective for the year. How could each team break it further down into that? So making sure that there’s that alignment on the top and that strategy comes from, hey, like here are the objectives of the company for the quarter. Here are the reasons why. I think that one of the things that companies don’t communicate enough is the why you’re choosing those objectives. ‘Cause people like, I mean, especially like social media, those are the ones who like, for example, they live the day-to-day with a customer. They’re like, “Why are we doing certain things,” and like, “I’m seeing these other problems.” So explaining to people in the bottom of the pyramid why things are happening, it also helps you come up with better ideas and strategize together towards one direction in the company. I don’t remember who says this, but like giving people guard rails for innovation and creativity is where the most value you can get out if you could tell people like, hey, go be creative. It’s very hard without like a specific objective in mind. So for me, directional from leadership and communicating the why things should be happening for those teams to understand it better.

– [Chris] Yeah. So what’s one of your biggest win stories so far at Pexels? I know that you haven’t been there for too long.

– [Enrique] Yeah. So one of the things… We’re at the end of the day a marketplace, ’cause we have the people who come down the photos even though it’s free. Like that’s one segment, one target user for Pexels and then we have the other side, which is the contributors and the photographer. So we kind of end up having two marketing strategies and I have to split my brain into two things. One of the most exciting, and I think valuable projects we’ve done was a bit of product and a bit of marketing where we noticed, and I think this is last year, 2020. We started noticing that when people were searching certain keywords like for example, couple, it was always heterosexual couples and white couples that were showing up. It’s not particularly like hey, Pexels wanted to show this, is more like the way the things are tagged and the way the algorithm works. So like if people keep clicking on those things, those are things that are going to go up higher. So we noticed around that, that there wasn’t much diversity in those terms, unless you added like gay couple or LGTB Q plus couple or interracial couple. Like those things never showed up. So we fixed the product to actually start displaying more about diversity than we have on the library. Like we do have that, that exists. There’s photographers who are passionate about this and showcasing it to the world and that’s why they upload at Pexels. So making that product shift was quite interesting ’cause it became like a product, but also like, hey, how do we do this into a PR stunt? So we have Forbes, we have Vogue magazine. We have like a lot of like this, the media publications start speaking about algorithms and how no other stock photo platform was doing this and we were. So it was cool to see it that way in a brand perspective, not something that I’ve worked much in the past. Like I’m very much a numbers guy so like brands are a hard one for me to think about, but also seeing the download rate of those photos and the visibility of those photos, like it 10X. Just from like being able to display them. ‘Cause they both, it’s not that they don’t want to have them, they’re just not thinking about like, hey, I could use this photo, this fits my brand better.

– [Chris] Right.

– [Enrique] So just giving those visibility to those kinds of photos was incredible, incredibly powerful for the product, but also for the marketing piece. Hard to measure results for us in terms of that campaign. Like we can measure based on like media hits and like how how that did. But when you look at our traffic like in the past, I believe in the beginning of this year, we passed 30 million sessions per month. So any kind of like any increase in traffic, like it’s very subtle. You can’t see like even a 1% is pretty high, but you don’t see that in the traffic right away. So we see the trend keep going up and then we keep improving it but it’s hard to measure those campaigns in terms of like how much more traffic this specifically drew.

– [Chris] Yep. Yeah, and I remember Udi Ledergor from Gong, Gong CMO came. And one of his top tips was don’t obsess over measure ability. As marketers, especially now, we’re very obsessed. But he tells a story about how they took out a super bowl commercial at a large expense, knowing that it was basically completely unmeasurable. But then once that ran, they started, you know, their reps started getting calls, they were saying, “Hey, this super bowl.” Like anecdotally, it was working. They were closing deals, but it didn’t show up in CRM as that. And so that could very well, like if you got back links from Forbes and from, you know, those brands that you were just naming, you may never in a million years be able to tie that, you know, back to this individual thing, but it helps you rank on all of your other non-brand terms that you’re battling for in the . And that’s a really good example. What does your team look like currently? Are you divisionalized? Like your organic search people and your paid people?

– [Enrique] So we don’t have the paid. I ended up doing the paid. I wear a lot of the different hats still at the company. I have an SEO person who kind of like, it’s a very technical SEO perspective. Like it’s a search engine that tries to search into another search engine. Like you can search for anything in Pexels and be found on Google. So he has a very technical job and background. That’s kind of him and then myself, the like campaigns through the year. That’s kind of the focus on the consumer side. A lot of the people who download. So marketers, designers, all of those kind of work on the hour. And then the majority of the team is focused on the good shooters and building a community. So I work alongside with the head of community on building that together. So I kind of focus on the email marketing, the notifications. How does the product marketing communicate to them? And then the community and his team kind of takes it into like, “Hey, how do we localize this with community events?” Like for example, we just launched like a couple of countries where we didn’t have photos from it before. So like now we’d have gone to Russia and you kind of have a perspective of what Russia can look like. But now that we have a community of over like 10,000 photographers there, you actually get like the real Russia, like from the lens of photographers and all of that. I mean, one of the things, I don’t know if you noticed, but Pexels is owned by Canva. So all of these like photography goes into Canva. So like all the localized templates and things that Canva has gets the advantage of seeing true localized content from our team. I think I jumped from like what my team looked like to strategy, but pretty much, pretty much that. And then under myself, there’s social media and we have a lot of content creation. So we try to create a lot of content that is for photographers and videographers, both in the educational, but also the kind of the entertainment area.

– [Chris] Interesting. So quick and random question, as you go about reading and building your own skill sets and trying new stuff, do you tend to think, “Let me get better at things I’m already good at more so,” or do you tend to spend most of your time like fumbling around in new topics that you don’t really know that well yet?

– [Enrique] A little bit of both. I try to, I think of myself as a generalist. Like I think strategy above tactics. Like I want to understand the whole picture and then if something I don’t understand, I hire for it or I get someone to consult with me or help me with that. But I do like to know. It’s like, for example, SEO is not my thing, but I’m always reading and keeping up to date and like SEO things that are happening. So I want to have conversations they’re smart. But one of the things that I educational-wise that I love doing the most, maybe it’s weird, I either re-read or re-listen to books that I enjoy. So I probably have like five books that whenever I’m thinking strategy or whenever I’m thinking messaging, I go back to them, listen to them on Audible at like two times of speed and kind of hear like, okay, here’s things that maybe think before, like I know they spark ideas. So I use books a lot for that purpose of like hey, re-sparking ideas. I know this book helped me with this and I go back to that a lot.

– [Chris] Interesting.

– So I try to reinforce what I know quite a lot.

– [Chris] That’s an interesting technique and a good one too, because I’ve probably forgotten more than like a new marketer would know. And in interviewing many CMOs, I’m amazed at how many of them really dwell on mastering the basic and not necessarily always going shiny new object syndrome, but more of this idea of drum beat, block and tackle activities. If you do them and you do them well and increasingly better over time then you see performance. And I’ve seen that in my own. What are your top five books? You got to tell us.

– [Enrique] I have some of them right here. “Obviously Awesome” by April Dunford. It’s positioning you like at its finest. “Hacking Growth” is one that I really enjoy by Sean Ellis and Morgan Brown. I’m kind of looking at them. Have some of them here. “Competing Against Luck.” I don’t know if you’ve… This one’s, it’s a bit like hidden gem I think, but it’s all about jobs to be done theory. I’m going to butcher the name, by Christian, Christensen or something like that. Really good book if you want to get into like understanding customers. And the psychology books, I really like “Influence” and “Predictably Irrational.” I feel like I have a couple more, but those are kind of like the ones that come up to mind right away.

– [Chris] That’s awesome. What else, what other info do you consume? Do you have any like go-to podcasts or go-to like newsletters or anything that you use whereby?

– [Enrique] I’m getting better at Twitter. I find Twitter is becoming quite a good source of information. There’s a newsletter that I follow by Foundation, which is an agency foundation inc. It’s a content marketing agency. They do super deep dives on what companies have done, like marketing-wise. So like it’s like 10, 12-minute reads or even longer, of real pure strategy and execution and how it worked. So it’s really good because it’s very deep versus fluffy kind of articles. But honestly, lately I haven’t been the best at it. I just became a dad and all I read and listen to are kids’ books these days. So I try to get back to my habits of reading and listening to podcasts and stuff.

– [Chris] Aww, that’s awesome. How old is your kid?

– [Enrique] Two months.

– [Chris] Oh, wow. So you’re brand new.

– [Enrique] Brand new. Yeah, just barely getting some sleep these days so.

– [Chris] All right, well on that note, I’ll be sensitive to your time. We can go ahead and wrap here so you can take a little cat nap. But I really, really enjoyed having you on here. And I think that the concept of adaptability is a really strong, a really good thing to look for in marketers. And I also think there’s something to be said or something to maybe as a thought experiment of how can we apply that agile, nimble, adaptable sort of a framework in a larger marketing org. I think that would be really valuable if somebody could crack that nut.

– [Enrique] Yeah, a hundred percent. It has also been a pleasure and thanks for having me.

– [Chris] Absolutely. Yeah. And for everyone still listening right now, please go do checkout Pexels and also check out Enrique. His Twitter handle is what’d you say? @thatenrique.

– [Enrique] @thatenriqueh, yeah. It’s . It’s complex having a Spanish name and last name. I mean Enrique people get, “Oh, Enrique Iglesias.” It’s a joke you get every time.

– [Chris] Right, right.

– [Enrique] But the rest is complicated.

– [Chris] Well, I like that. That Enrique itch. Well, I’ll definitely check you out. I’ll definitely follow you on Twitter and I’ll go check out Pexels and I will probably just search for couples and preview.

– Yeah, take a look at it.

– [Chris] Preview that results page. But thank you very much, Enrique. You enjoy the rest of the day and don’t be a stranger.

– [Enrique] Yeah, for sure. Thank you very much. It was a great interview.

– [Chris] Awesome man, thank you.

Enrique Hoyos

Enrique Hoyos Head of Marketing

Chris Mechanic

Chris MechanicCEO & Co-Founder

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