How to Be Authentic with Your Community by Matt Frisbie

September 29, 2021

Matt Frisbie started his career at the Walt Disney Company in entertainment as a performer in high school and college, working his way into the Entertainment Art Department for seven years. With the skills and brand positioning he learned at Disney, he began a stint in independent film, working with development houses, such as The Juniper Sequence, Georgeville Entertainment, and Paramount CBS.

Once his production and storytelling skills developed, he joined forces with marketing creatives to start a brand-consulting firm called Art+War, which he ran for the next 10 years until going in house with his largest client, Little Giant Ladders in Springville, Utah.

Frisbie is the Chief Marketing Officer at Little Giant Ladders, tasked with taking the legacy ladder company to #1 in its industry. He’s built a large team of creatives and advertisers to change the industry and excite customers with unique products and innovative community-building strategies.

The Role of Storytelling in Marketing

Matt Frisbie is a presenter at the Inventory Management + Growth Summit.

He loves telling stories and engaging audiences. When he joined Little Giant Ladders two years ago, he knew he needed to spend a lot of time talking with customers and listening to them.

Little Giant Ladders is a midmarket company with global aspirations. To grow, it needed to create a customer journey, continue making excellent products, and develop a marketing strategy. All business owners have to ask, “How do I engage my customers? What’s important to them?”

Nobody brags about their ladders, so he had to come at it from a different perspective than if he was promoting grills or cars. Instead, he learned about the fact that a lot of injuries, hospitalizations, and deaths are caused by people falling off ladders. Every day there are 200 hospitalizations related to ladders.

The company’s goal is to reduce ladder-related deaths by 50 percent by 2030. But they can’t just tell people a bunch of scary statistics and expect that alone to change their minds.

A New Focus

Frisbie and his team wanted to honor people who do dangerous jobs by putting themselves in precarious situations. They built a customer strategy that informed their product strategy that informed their channel strategy that informed their pricing strategy and their go-to-market.

Referrals, recommendations, and reviews are what they thrive on, so they started building a community. Their customers often just talk to each other, not to the company itself, which is great. They talk about things they like and things they’d like to see in ladders. And Little Giant Ladders takes copious notes the whole time.

The Importance of Influencers and Ambassadors

Frisbie invites influencers to events and gets introduced to their friends and associates. This doesn’t require a huge budget. If you have a product that people use and enjoy, they will often be willing to advocate for you.

They’re launching eight new commercial products in October, and they’ve got ambassadors speaking for them. That’s because most people tune it out when you speak for yourself. But they’re more willing to listen when someone trustworthy speaks on your behalf.

It’s best to build a customer strategy because then you have lots of people selling your products instead of you alone trying to sell your products. It’s authentic and fun. Plus, it offers insights you wouldn’t have been able to learn otherwise.

Customer feedback has changed the company’s products and informed the way they reach out to new customers. When customers offer feedback and six months later learn that they made an impact, they feel respected and cherished.

Software Recommendations

They’ve used the following software solutions to help them in their efforts:

  • Wooly to organize ambassadors
  • HubSpot to manage their community
  • Salesforce to manage their automation

Scalable Principles

Frisbie has used the same customer-centric principles in both small and medium-sized businesses. When he had 15 employees at his previous company, he did the same kinds of things that he now does with 300+ employees at Little Giant Ladders. And they can work well for much larger organizations, too.

You have to get everyone on board with an idea first, no matter the size of your company. It sounds like a lot of work, but it’s really not. It boils down to being a good neighbor. Be good to those who are good to you, and the rest will take care of itself.

All of this helps them be confident in bringing new products to market and having an army eager to promote them.

Hold Your Ground

You’ll be tempted, when you listen to many voices, to veer off your chosen path. Someone will say they can get your product for cheaper elsewhere. In those situations, you need to hold your ground instead of getting into a price war. You have to be okay with missing out on some potential customers in order to cater to your actual customers.

Your core customers can offer reassurance and stabilization when you feel anxious about what others are saying about your products. Frisbie wishes he could have known things like this when he first started out, and he’s happy to be able to share these things with other business owners now.

Don’t Reinvent the Wheel

Trust those who have come before you, and don’t try to reinvent the wheel by thinking your business is totally unique. Plenty of others have been in similar situations as yours, and it’s wise to listen to them. There are many unique aspects of your business and industry, so there’s a lot you can contribute. It’s important to also recognize the universal principles that can guide you, no matter the type of business you have.

Milwaukee Electric Tool Corporation and Tesla are two examples of companies that have built incredibly successful communities by catering to their customers and encouraging them to offer feedback and talk amongst themselves. This has created amazing advocates for them. Involve your customers in your products and other aspects of your business to emulate this success.

It’s okay to fail and learn from your mistakes. Try reaching out to other business leaders to share successes and failures. You might learn quite a bit by doing that. Internal disagreements, backed by good reasons, can create constructive environments.