The 3 marketing principles that helped grow 4,000+ brands with Erik Huberman

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Today on 3-Minute Marketing, I’m speaking with Erik Huberman. He’s currently Founder & CEO at Hawke Media, a full-service Outsourced CMO that helps businesses realize their potential.

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His firm works with some impressive logos, including Red Bull, Verizon, Evite, Planet Blue, Stories by Kelly Osbourne and many more. He recently released his book, “The Hawke Method“, which reveals the marketing framework he’s used to help over 4,000 brands soar to new heights.

So I asked him to break it down for us —

“What’s the secret that’s allowed you to help 4,000+ brands be successful with digital marketing?”

Show notes:

  1. Awareness, nurturing and trust must be the “tripod” of your marketing strategy.
  2. Awareness means creating new attention and customers for your product or service. Over time, you lose your existing audience so you need to constantly be refilling this “bucket.”
  3. Nurturing is what you do with the awareness you generate. What most marketers miss is that there’s a consideration period for any purchase. If you’re not nurturing, you’re losing customers before they’re ready to buy.
  4. Trust is the third pillar, because 75% of consumers won’t buy from a brand they don’t trust.
  5. If you haven’t built a brand yet, third-party validations like testimonials, reviews and PR are critical to building trust with your market.
  6. Over time, trust can come from your brand. Your brand is how you consistently show up in the market, for better or worse. Talking about how you show up or want to be perceived via a book or otherwise can help reinforce the brand image you want to convey.


– 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.

– Hey everybody, welcome to another episode of “3-Minute Marketing”. Today’s guest is somebody that I’m super excited about. He’s an award-winning entrepreneur. He was Forbes 30 Under 30, now he’s CSQ’s 40 Under 40, Top 25 Marketing Influencers. He’s an International Business Awards Entrepreneur of the Year, he’s a thought leader, he’s an author, he’s a public speaker. He’s CEO and co-founder of Hawke Media, which is a performance advertising firm, Ladies and gentlemen, Eric Huberman.

– Thanks for having me, man.

– Welcome to the show, Eric. Hey, so I’m super excited to talk to you. We’re going to dig in and dig deep. But you know the drill, you know the style, we’re all about brevity here, it’s three minutes. I know you got a book out and I know that you’ve worked with over 4,000 brands. So I want to know in three minutes or less, what is it? Like what’s your secret? How is it that you’ve helped 4,000 brands and counting?

– Sure. So in three minutes, so we’ve just put out the book, “The Hawke Method”, which is kind of the general principles, but to distill it down into three minutes, how we look at marketing is again three principles, awareness, nurturing, and trust. And what I’ve found is it’s really important to think about these three things as a tripod when you’re building out a marketing strategy ’cause what I see most people miss, and I’ll go into the second thing people miss, I think I can fit it both into three minutes, this is part of what I do. So with awareness, nurturing and trust and the three principles of marketing, awareness is basically what do you do to create new awareness for your brand, for your product, for your service and introduce new potential customers? A lot of people forget about this. I’ve seen many, many companies that are like, yeah, we’re doing email marketing to our list and we’re doing all these other things, but they’re not actually building new audience. And by nature, you’re going to be losing audience over time. You’re going to lose people because they lose interest, they change priorities, they change economic, et cetera, or they die frankly, like there’s a lot of reasons you lose people. So you have to constantly be refilling that bucket, that’s awareness. Then you have nurturing. And nurturing is what you do with that awareness. The thing I would mention that I wanted to talk about, the biggest thing marketers miss is the idea of a purchase cycle or also known as a consideration period. So from the time I see an ad to the time I buy takes time. It’s not, and we always love to say like nine women can’t have a baby in a month, that’s not how it works. And so basically when you’re advertising, a lot of people measure their marketing on a week by week, day by day basis. That’s not accurate because what we’ve seen, e-commerce, we have all the numbers and data, for a $50 average order, it’s about a three week purchase cycle. For $100, it’s about four weeks, $200 is about five weeks, and then it trails off between two and three months depending on the size. And so if you’re not doing things to nurture that audience, you’re not going to convert. So you got to do things like email, SMS, create content, all that. The last pillar, trust, synonymous with brand is basically 75% of consumers won’t purchase from a company they don’t trust. And so you need to do things in the beginning when you haven’t built a brand like third party validations, so testimonials, reviews, PR, all these things that help people build their trust with you. And then over time, your trust comes from your brand, which I’d say is what you’re consistent about, what you deliver. And your brand can be good or bad. You take McDonald’s, they’re known for fast, they’re known, it’s going to taste the same all over the world generally, but it’s also super unhealthy. That’s all things people trust is going to happen with McDonald’s and that’s what they’ve built. And Zappos did customer service. And there’s a few tricks there too. Talking about what you want to be does actually help. If you say, like Zappos, you write a book about customer service and talk about how much you care about customer service, you still have to have good customer service, but people are also going to be looking for a confirmation bias if you’re doing it right so that’s a big part of it as well. So awareness, nurturing and trust, three pillars of marketing and I’m going to give you back 10 seconds.

– That’s amazing. I love that. We’re going to dig deep into each of those pillars and I want to just hear about your story, ’cause I’m really fascinated by you, but there you have it. If you’re a brand and if you’re growing, you have to have awareness, without that, you have no business. Once you’re bringing people into this funnel, they’re not going to, like everybody’s going to plop down 100 bucks right there on the table in the first day. Like you got to nurture them out a little bit. And then first and foremost, build trust, or not first, I guess third, build trust. And I liked your McDonald’s example ’cause it’s like, hey, McDonald’s is not trying to sell themselves as the most healthy in the world. They’re selling themselves as it’s going to be the same and it’s going to be delicious and bring your kids for a happy meal with Ronald McDonald. So I love that, Eric, thank you so much, we’re going to wrap here. Eric and I are going to continue our conversation so you can continue watching in the show notes, you’ll find a link in the show notes, but Eric, let us know, tell us about the book, tell us about Hawke, like give us your plug.

– Yeah, so Hawke Media, been around eight and a half years. We are about 300 people, manage marketing currently for about 600 brands, but as mentioned, it’s been over 4,000 over the past eight and a half years. We basically built this company ’cause we were sick of seeing how much snake oil there was in the marketing world and wanted to create something where we’re the best at what we do, but also super easy to work with ’cause that’s what we found were agencies that were good, went up market, wanted long contracts, high minimums, et cetera, and just didn’t like the whole ecosystem. And so yeah, we basically go into brands, identify where the holes are in their marketing strategy and then we spin up different experts a la carte month to month. Could be a Facebook marketer, email marketer, web designer, fractional CMO, et cetera. And that’s the core business. We also have a, we have our second venture fund now, it’s a $50 million fund. We’ve got a financing arm where we do debt financing for our clients that are struggling with working capital. We have a big software announcement coming next month, but we’re building basically a marketing AI platform that we’ve been working on for seven years and finally coming to market with it. And then as mentioned before, wrote a book called “The Hawke Method”, which is what we’ve done to grow these brands. And again, I just gave the very, very high level notes on how that works, but I found myself talking about it with our clients at conferences, et cetera for years and got kind of kicked in the butt to write a book and realized I could put this on paper.

– That’s awesome, man. Well, we’re going to unpack all of that. Stay tuned, there should be a link somewhere above, below, in the show notes. Eric, thank you very much, this has been a really, really useful, stay on the line. How do you get 4,000 brands in less than eight years? That means that you’ve been, you’ve been getting basically 500 brands per year, right?

– Yep.

– To work with you, which is basically, that’s like 40 some new ones each month.

– Yeah, our best month we’ve gotten 80 to 90 new brands to work with us.

– Dang, how are you doing that?

– So it’s, I guess there’s two parts of it. It’s how do you attract them and then how do you actually handle that? Which the attracting part, you know, I’ve just all, from the beginning, I had my eyes set on how do I build all the credibility in the world for this, but put no barrier to entry up? And so again, being month to month, a la carte, cost effective, all these things, that part puts up no barrier, that was super critical. But then how do we actually deliver and do what we say we’re going to do? Let’s be the best marketers out there. And so thankfully, I had a background in successfully building my, I had built and sold two e-commerce companies and knew what I was doing and worked at Science and advised for Dollar Shave Club and did all these things that I had a background where I knew how this worked. And so sadly that separates me from 99% of marketers right there. During the past eight years, most marketing agencies started by people that watched too many Gary Vaynerchuk videos and just like, or Tai Lopez, even worse. I like Gary Vaynerchuk, I shouldn’t even compare the two, Gary’s great, some of his audience gets a little crazy, Tai, I’m not a big fan of. And so you end up with all these guys that are launching digital agencies ’cause there’s no barrier to entry for them. And so just by knowing what you’re doing, you separate yourself from a huge portion. And so then you have this small group of agencies that are actually know what they’re doing. You’ve still got to get your name out there. And so we drank our own punch. We marketed the hell out of ourselves, built relationships, partnerships, built a sales team and got our name out there constantly while also building credibility, while getting tons of case studies, getting testimonials, getting awards, like just doing everything we can to continue to show very publicly how we work and I talk about it ’cause it’s fun. Like if you go to our Google reviews, I think we have four bad reviews on Google, and we’ll get asked about it, like, “Hey listen, I saw your Google reviews. There’s some bad ones in there.” I’m like, “We’ve worked with 4,000 brands, four people didn’t like us.” I’ll take it. I’d love to bat 1,000, I don’t expect to. And so yeah, so we just, that’s the nice thing about this business is it is very reputation driven. And to this day, like I thankfully get people all the time that pure reputation, like we’re really easy to work with and we’re the best at what we do. And so that messaging, then when you come across people, like we didn’t do any real outbound until the pandemic really. So prior to that, it was all let’s throw events, let’s do advertising, let’s put our name out there, let’s get a lot of PR, let’s get a lot of partnerships, let’s do everything we can to make sure people are aware we exist and then they’ll come to us and that happened a lot. And then, and frankly our best sales month to date is still pre-pandemic. And then when the pandemic hit, a lot of the, a lot of our strategy was around events and being out and about. And so we shifted and so we added outbound selling and went a little more aggressive at that and frankly it worked for a little while and then that’s not the best marketing channel for this kind of a thing. You get a cold call here or a cold email, like, “Hey, we can do your marketing.” You’re like, “Who the fuck are you?” But yeah I mean, yeah.

– They don’t close at nearly the rate.

– Nowhere close and it’s a lot of time sunk too, so the efficiency goes way down as well. And so yeah-

– Are you guys back to in-person events now?

– Yeah and really ramping it up. We kind of, well currently lighting a fire under the ass of our sellers ’cause the ones that have been here since pre-pandemic remember and are going back to it and the ones that weren’t were trained in this whole different system that frankly doesn’t really work anymore. So we shifted really well into the pandemic, we’re now shifting back is kind of the idea.

– And then do you work only with e-commerce or mostly with e-commerce?

– I’d say the small majority. So like, yeah, we’re probably over 50% e-comm, but we have a ton, again, we’re 600 customers, so we have a ton of financial services, hospitality, SAS businesses, no one missing category, just CPG in general, not just e-comm. So we run the gamut honestly in terms of clients.

– Wow, you guys are really impressive, man. You’re doing it up. You got a book, you got a huge team. So just to give the listeners here some context, so you guys have been around for eight years, you’re 300 people. We’ve been around for 13 years and we’re like 70 people. Not to say that the count of people is the only measurement stick, but I’m just really impressed that in such a short period of time, you’ve been able to build such a large team and having impacted so many brands. I think year to date, we’ve probably worked with under 1,000 total brands. We have 60 active clients right now, but it’s under 1,000. So that’s amazing, dude, by any measurement, like golf clap for you dude, like that’s fucking awesome.

– Yeah, I mean we’re our mission is accessibility to great marketing for everyone. We’re trying to make it so that you can, we’re again, the best of what we do, but super easy to work with. And that accessibility is a big part of us. And why I say that is I always hear like agencies love to brag about like turning down clients, picking their clients, firing clients, like there’s this almost ego around it where I’m like, I don’t want to be a gatekeeper. Like don’t me wrong, the one role we have is we don’t work with assholes. Like I’m not here to like put my people through a nightmare, but at the same time, like I’m not here to dictate or judge what someone’s dream or product or service or company is, like if we can help, we’re going to help and we’re going to do everything we can and so we’re going to build up, that’s part of why, and I mentioned that earlier, when you said, how did you handle that? Like onboarding 40 clients, 50 clients, 60 clients, 80 clients, 90 clients a month is, takes a whole process that we’ve had to build out over the years and it takes productizing what we do so that it’s really easy to get going, hit the ground running, and help someone with their search or Facebook or whatever it is. So that’s been a big part of this is how do we make this super easy for companies that are like, “I built this thing, now what?” They can come to us, or, “I’ve built this thing, I got to this level and I’m stuck.” Or, “My team just bailed on me. What do I do?” Or like, “Hey, we’ve gotten to this level, but we have no idea how to get to the next one. We’ve grown companies now many times from nothing to multibillion dollar companies that we basically have a playbook for every stage.

– Yeah, that’s awesome, dude. So talk to me a little bit about your challenges. What are you struggling with or what are you working on right now?

– Yeah, I mean, this year’s unique. The shifts in Facebook advertising, Facebook, it’s funny, it’s a weird animal right now because people didn’t stop buying products off of Facebook, Facebook’s tracking just changed ’cause of iOS changes. And so messaging that and then coaching our clients turned into be a real bear. And so we generally dipped from Q4 to Q1, but we dipped more than we usually do and had to adjust to that. So we’ve had to play a little triage. We had some internal executive problems that we had to deal with as well this year, so slowed us down on growth, but we’ve grown, as you mentioned, so fast the past few years, this year became more of a simplify and integrate year. We bought four companies between August and February of this year. And basically since February, March, it’s been more about like suring things up, getting things in a place where we can build a new stable ground to build off of. So this is one of the few years that we’re not looking for massive growth, we’re looking for almost stability. At the same time, you have this sort of looming economic situation that we’re watching so it’s kind of good timing to be like, hold on, let’s take a pause. Let’s not over invest in growth and let’s make sure that we’re doing things right day to day.

– Totally, totally. How’s the pandemic and the remote life treating you? Are you guys all remote still or do you have, are you requiring people to come back?

– That ship has sailed. We have people in Philippines, China, Canada, both sides, UK and 41 different states, so getting them all into an office would be a little difficult.

– Yeah. And what about your headquarters? Do people still go? Oh, it’s gone?

– Yeah.

– You just don’t have it anymore. Exactly, uh huh.

– We mostly work from home. We got WeWork for everyone and like I think out of 300 people, five people use it so we’re not sure we’re going to keep that. People like working from home. And I would say, generally, we’re doing really well with it. Training has become, like what I’ve noticed is, we’ve hired a lot of new people. When we started the pandemic, we were 126 people. So like grew a lot. And all the people that were here pre-pandemic got in person training, there was a lot of nuance found, et cetera. And so now we’re finding that we have to be so much more intentional with training and development remote than you do in person, there’s no osmosis, et cetera. So we’re, on the service side, it seems to be that we’ve figured that out and we have people doing a really good job. On the sales side, it’s kind of our new challenge is all these sales people that were brought up during remote work, we’re realizing that now that we’re, as we mentioned, we’re going back into in person and we’re changing the strategy, it’s a little harder to get everyone to like just pivot right away, so we’re having to do a little more training to get that, but honestly, way more benefits than cost.

– Yeah, totally. So what does your executive team look like? So you’re the co-founder and CEO, or are you more of the, are you like the visionary or are you more of like the integrator?

– No, my other co-founder is the integrator. So I got an integrator that’s titled as president now, it was COO and then moved to president. We’ve got, currently we have a head of, basically a head of revenue, head of services, head of finance, head of HR, head of partnerships, head of sales. And that is pretty much the leadership team. I feel like I might be missing someone but.

– Do you use EOS?

– No.

– Oh, have you heard of EOS?

– Yeah, I’ve heard of EOS, but we haven’t used any outside sort of systems. We figured out kind of what works for us and continue to shift in the way that we find it to work.

– Yeah, that’s where that language of like visionary and integrator comes in.

– Oh yeah, got it and I’ve heard that 100 times and thankfully, found my integrator from the beginning.

– Yeah, that’s awesome. And you guys started together?

– I started for, I basically, it was just me. Then I brought on an assistant. Then I hired a couple people and then brought him on and then right away he took over like the operational side and I was like, “Just go build it, sell it, like go figure out we’re going to grow.” And that was like two weeks into him starting and I was like, okay great, and been a fun ride because that is, you want to talk about like the nuance of why we grew so fast, that. I didn’t have to worry about the day to day at all, I just got to go out, like everyone’s like, “I work on my business”, I’m like, “I never had to work in”. The few times I do, including this year when we’re going through sort of this transition drives me nuts. I am not an integrator at any means. I want to go out and grow and build and know that things are handled.

– And so what do you spend most of your time doing? You spend mostly on sales, promotional type stuff?

– So it generally breaks down into three categories and it’s about a third, a third, a third. So it’s a third promotional, being on podcasts, writing the books, speaking at events, being out and about, that’s about a third of my time. About a third my time is growth and expansion, including working with the sales team and the marketing team, but also M&A, also how do we expand into other categories, like our venture fund, our capital arm, our software arm, like all the other things we do to grow the business. And then about a third of my time strategically with the exec team.

– That’s awesome, dude.

– Yeah.

– Cool, well, we’re almost out of time here, but I am really enjoying this. I want to have you back on the show if you will come.

– Of course.

– The last thing, I want to just switch gears briefly, and this won’t be long but talk to me about like just who Erik, take me back to Erik, the kid. Like how did you become who you are? For the people listening here that are younger, that are aspiring, that are growing, like how did you, take me through a brief chronology of your of your upbringing and just how you became Eric Huberman?

– Yeah, I wanted to be a rockstar from when I was like four years old. I was given a guitar and I was like, “That’s it.” The only other Eric I knew of was Eric Clapton so I’m like, I guess I’ve got to be a guitarist. But when I went to buy my first electric guitar, I was eight, I told my dad I wanted an electric guitar and his response was, “Good, get a fucking job.” I was like, and by the way, as an adult, you hear that and you’re like, “Are you crazy?” As an eight year old when your dad tells you that, you’re like, “Yeah okay.” Like you don’t take that as a shitty thing to say. You’re just like okay. So I started trying to figure how to work and I sold flowers, sold lemonade and then I got into the Beanie Baby craze when I was eight and made four grand off buying and selling Beanie Babies as an eight year old.

– Really?

– Yeah and so, and bought the guitar, I also bought a BMX and saved some money for a car. And then when I was about 12, all my friends started playing guitar and they were all better than me immediately and I just realized I was not a good guitarist. I enjoyed it, it was fun, but I was not good at it. So then I started thinking, well, maybe I’ll get into the music business. And I also at that time, watched “Behind the Music with Sting” with my mom and he got ripped off for like $25 million and I was like, “How?” She’s like, “He didn’t understand business.” I’m like, okay so business is really important as a musician. So started getting more of the idea of business. Well, it was always in the back of my head because the Beanie Baby thing, I also like at six years old, grabbed a bunch of my parents’ stuff and tried to sell it door to door ’cause I just wanted to make some money, like no idea what I was going to use that money for, but like my dad had always implanted, my dad was an entrepreneur, he always implanted that money side of things in me. And then throughout high school, I thought I was going to go into music business school at Berkeley School of Music in Boston and then I started, my dad was a real estate and waste management guy and I started, I worked in his office, my, I think it was my junior year and worked a little bit with one of his guys to learn what real estate investing was and I liked it. So I was like, maybe I’ll just go to business and keep music as a hobby. And so I went to University of Arizona in business school. And first summer, I worked for my dad realized I could never do that again, loved him, but I was the oldest, he was so concerned I’d be like a spoiled rich kid ’cause he was pretty successful that he like went the other way and everything had to be way harder than he even should be. So I was like yeah, I’m not going to do that. And so then I got a job in sales selling Cutco, found out that I was really good at sales, so decided, and I really did like real estate, so I decided maybe I’ll get into real estate sales and be an agent and went into commercial real estate out of college one week before the entire banking industry collapsed in 2008, literally the week to the day before Lehman Brothers went bankrupt. So made 350 bucks that year, went this isn’t working and ended up, I’m going to try to turn a long story short, ended up starting an online music company that was basically like masterclass for the music business targeting independent musicians to learn how to make money. Did that for two years, realized it was never going to be massive, it was profitable, but hired a CEO to take over, went off and started one of the first e-comm subscription companies called Swag of the Month, built that for a year, sold it and then joined Science, the incubator that launched Dollar Shave, et cetera, advised for their portfolio companies, ended up helping them launch an active wear brand which we sold a year later to Bally Total Fitness. That’s when I spun out and started consulting, which led to Hawke, long path.

– Dude that’s an amazing story, man. Like starting really young, you started super young and made money on, you said you were six years old or eight years old making money on Beanie Babies.

– Eight with Beanie Babies, six selling my parents stuff. So my dad asked for that, when I was like, I think it was like four and five, my dad started like getting me excited about the idea of getting a bigger dollar bill. So like I had a dollar and then I got up to $5 and I traded him for a $5 bill and then I saved up to $10 and traded ’em for a $10. And I was like picking pennies in the street, like that’s how I was, he wasn’t giving me anything, it was just. And so over time I ended up with a $50, over, I think it took a year like, but the intrinsic value of the excitement of just that new milestone for me was really exciting. So I started getting into making money, but I thought of it as a way to be a musician. But then, again, I still have a two guitars sitting behind me and a ukulele, so I still play but I’m still not that good.

– And that’s so funny you were like, I realized I sucked the guitar and then you went to try to study the music business, but then you were like, oh, I’ll just go into regular business instead, like that’s cool.

– But my parents were good about it. They never dissuaded me of like their, when your kid, if your kid tells you, when they start to get older and they’re still saying I want to be a musician and you see how musicians struggle, like that’s painful as a parent, but they didn’t say don’t do it. They’re like, “Why don’t you have a backup plan? Maybe like study business or something just in case?” I’m like, “Yeah okay.” Like they never argued with me. It was just like, yeah maybe try, have both just in case. It was like okay.

– Yeah, well it sounds like you had some awesome parents, man. And I know that you you’re expecting one and I’m sure that you’ll be an awesome dad as well to your daughter.

– Thank you.

– But dude, stay in touch. Let’s wrap here. I want to give you one more chance to say anything that you want about Hawke or about the book or anything, but I really enjoyed this and I would love to have you back maybe sometime next year.

– Yeah, that’d be great.

– Yeah so let everybody know, there’s people listening, they probably are interested to learn more about you or your story. Where do they go? What do they do?

– Yeah, I mean’s easy, it’s h-a-w-k-e, or you can find me on any social at at or slash Erik Huberman, so accessible by nature.

– Nice, I love that, Erik. All right, my man, well happy Friday. Thank you so much. We will be in touch very soon.

– Sounds good.

– All right.

Erik Huberman

Erik HubermanFounder & CEO

Chris Mechanic

Chris MechanicCEO & Co-Founder

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