Paul Elliott, CEO of Tiger Pistol
Each week, we interview proven leaders from our network, to learn from their experiences, and share their Talent Attraction and Candidate Experience stories with you.
In this episode,
- Paul share’s the story of his career progression evolving from:
- A role in retail commerce to starting his own Search Marketing agency
- Through the progression of 3+ mergers and acquisitions into SaaS Product Development in the Local Advertising space
- And then onto his CEO role at Tiger Pistol
- Paul presents specific case studies on Tiger Pistol’s differentiators in the marketing as a SaaS based “collaborative advertising” product
- Paul offers his perspective on how to differentiate yourself in a job search, and provides insights into the impact of Data, Artificial Intelligence, and Machine Learning in MarTech
Full transcript of our interview below:
RON: Hello, everybody, and welcome to the second edition of The Bell Fall Search Focus on Talent Video series. This is the Digital Marketing edition.
Each week, we interview proven leaders to learn from their experiences and share their stories with you.
- Our mission is to promote the accomplishments of our guests
- Highlight the companies where they work and the services, and products that they offer
- Share success stories from their experiences and, most importantly
- Provide strategies for job seekers and advice to talent seeking to accelerate their careers.
My guest today is another individual I’ve worked with for several years. In the past, he’s been a client of mine a few different times, and he’s become a very good friend.
He’s a serial entrepreneur, having started and sold multiple companies and is now the CEO of a software as a service business focused on paid advertising in the social media space.
I’m honored to have with us: Paul Elliot, CEO of Tiger Pistol. Paul, thanks for being here.
PAUL: Thanks for it’s a pleasure to be with you.
RON: So to kick things off, can you reintroduce yourself in your own words? Tell us your title. Tell us a little bit more about Tiger Pistol. What differentiates you guys? And then, if you don’t mind, kind of lead into a little bit about your career progression, how did you get to where you’re at today?
How has your marketing career progressed over the years?
PAUL: Sure. So again, my name’s Paul Elliot. I’m the CEO of Tiger or Pistol. I joined Tiger Pistol following a private equity acquisition of the business.
It actually started as a digital agency in Melbourne, Australia. About 6 or 7 years ago, they sent folks here to the United States to start building out some software that was really focused on a specific social advertising use case.
So that company really proved to be a value in the market and successful. And then next step of that growth journey was to bring in some additional capital that came via private equity or family office, and then eventually brought me into the mix to help scale and guide the next steps of the growth of the business.
So it’s a really exciting opportunity. As I mentioned, the company is in the social advertising space. We call it “collaborative advertising” because the very specific use case that we Hone in on is bringing two advertisers together jointly in advertising.
So an example might be a brand in their channel partners, whether that’s retailers or whether those are bars and restaurants, whether they’re agents or dealers.
The intersection of where the brand and that channel partner come together is really Tiger Pistol’s sweet spot and something that requires a really delicate balance of high scale.
So high volumes of campaigns with then also a heavy orientation on performance. So that’s really the sweet spot for Tiger Pistol is collaborative advertising at scale. And it’s been a fun journey that’s got me to where I am today.
I started my career all the way back with IBM as a process consultant, I got some great learning experiences there and exposure to some wonderful companies that we got to help. But I’ve realized during that that I really enjoyed the entrepreneurial space more and wanted to be in a business where I could have some real, direct, tangible impact, wear a bunch of hats, move at really quick pace.
That’s something that I just learned about myself as I experienced different environments. So I always tried to keep myself oriented in that space where I was constantly learning constantly stretching new muscle tissue and moving at a real rapid pace and servicing of our clients. For me, that ended up in an agency path.
So that’s how I spent all of my years with the exception of a short stint on the client side at a retailer working in different agencies, one of which I started myself. I saw a need in the local market for somebody to help out on the search engine optimization and in the paid search advertising space. And this was pretty early on, and that is a discipline.
So I built my company and started it as a part time job while I was working at that retailer, and very quickly it got to the point where I knew it couldn’t be a part time job anymore. So when my business plan got thrown out the window, like two weeks after I wrote it because things just played out differently than I anticipated that they would…I quit my job.
I took a partner along with me, and we started building a company, and it was one of those just amazing things that I look back on with fondness all along because it enabled me to meet some really great people, gain a whole bunch of learnings. I tried not to make too many mistakes that were overly painful.
And then the journey ended well, where we were acquired a little less than two years after we started the business, we were ultimately acquired by the company that was one of our business partners and really just rolled up into that organization that was called Brulant, which was really a regional player in the web design and development space. So we were a natural fit for them.
They didn’t have some of the offerings that my team brought to the table. I had a very good working relationship with many of the executives over there. And so as those things go, it was truly a wonderful match. We got integrated into that business. I became a partner in that business two years later. We then sold that business again. I became a partner in that next business. Two years later, that business was sold again and then became part of a global agency holding company out of France.
And it was shortly thereafter that I started to get those same feelings that I had early in my career when I was at IBM that this has just gotten to be a little bit too big and we couldn’t move at the pace that I wanted to, and I couldn’t have all the opportunities to wear as many hats and to have as much impact as I would like.
And that’s ultimately when I got of the mindset that I was ready to move on, the other thing I’ll add is that I did in the last bit of time within the agency, get exposure to not just being on the services side, but actually got exposure to building product.
So I was leading an innovation team. I got exposed to the product development process and how by putting together cross functional teams, you could really do some amazing things together and do it in a very quick fashion. So that’s where I first got the bite of the product bug, and that’s probably going to drive me for the rest of my career.
RON: Great transition into talking about Tiger Pistol, Paul, and to the product nature of what you guys do. Can you tell us, give us an example of a case study that Tiger Pistol’s been involved with or a success story, if you will?
CASE STUDY – TIGER PISTOL & ANHEUSER-BUSCH INBEV
PAUL: Sure. So within the social advertising space, whether you’re talking about Facebook or Instagram or others, they bring great tools to the table that enable really powerful advertising efforts, very highly targeted advertising efforts to go on the challenges.
The tooling itself is very complicated, and it’s also developed primarily for large advertisers who are running very big budget. But small numbers of campaigns. Tiger Pistol was built for the exact opposite model or use case. Tiger Pistol was built to unlock opportunities where you have hundreds or thousands or tens of thousands of campaigns, each of which may have a smaller, very small budget associated with it.
The native tools that the social advertising platforms bring together really don’t support that model. So if you’re a company where that high volume of smaller campaigns structures part of your go to market strategy, it’s really unlikely that you’re having a good experience or any experience, for that matter in working with the social advertising platforms because they just weren’t built for it.
So one of my favorite examples that I like to use just to illustrate the point is, I take somebody like an Anheuser-Busch So they go to market. Obviously, they sell in grocery. They sell in convenience stores, but they also have a really big portion of their business, which is done at bars and restaurants and hotels.
And the number of those customers that they have is well over 6-7M locations that are pouring their beverages. So Anheuser-Busch came up with a brilliant strategy that said, Hey, instead of just putting a neon Budweiser sign in the back of Ron’s bar to drive preference for their brand, what if they actually partnered with Ron and his bar to acquire new customers to bring people into the bar, which would then drive consumption.
So the goal was, how do I utilize some Anheuser-Busch InBev dollars. Ear mark it for this particular bar or restaurant and collaboratively advertise to drive customers to that bar. ABI went to Facebook with that idea, and Facebook said: “Great idea, We love it. It’s going to generate millions of advertising dollars for Facebook.”
The problem is, Facebook’s technology wasn’t built for that use case, and it was very difficult to accomplish a number of the key pieces, the sharing of branded assets, the sharing of budget dollars, the sharing of target audience from AI to the bars and restaurants, the aggregation of reporting data at the individual level or aggregated up to the corporate level. All of those things are very, very challenging to accomplish without Tiger Pistol.
So we insert in the middle we are the tie that binds, if you will, that allows the one plus one to equal more than that. So we’re the one plus one equals three of bringing together the brand and their channel partners to advertise, collaboratively and in doing so, do something that’s incredibly difficult that has huge scale and volume that it can handle and really has a dual benefit of benefiting the brand, but also a very important community focus that’s helping to drive business for that local bar restaurant.
And so one of the reasons I love the case study so much is this was a great model and client for us before COVID. Now, put on the COVID overlay and say, wow, ABI is doing something really special to help drive the health and recovery within these communities. So it’s a benevolent capability in addition to a revenue driving one.
RON: What other industries are you guys working on right now?
PAUL: Yeah. It’s fascinating if you actually stop to look a research and understand just how many businesses sell through these indirect channels.
So the metric that’s out there from the World Trade Organization is that 75% of all sales occur indirectly. So unlike a brand just selling directly through their eCommerce site, 75% of global trade passes indirectly through channel partners.
We have companies with insurance agents.
We’ve got companies with dealers and dealerships.
We have companies with franchise locations.
We’ve got food brands that are selling into grocery or convenience stores.
It’s just there’s a really, really fascinating multitude of types of models that that fits and really, truly unlock commerce.
RON: Real estate is probably a good idea?
PAUL: Example is another big one is of our largest clients is in real estate space where you have these holding companies. Then you have these large brands and brokerages, and all the way down to the lowest level is the individual agent who’s able to create and execute campaigns that stay on brand. That leverage all of the benefit and power that’s brought to them through our platform.
But they’re still able to truly personalize and lower legalize what they’re executing down to their individual listing or advertising themselves as an agent.
RON: So, as I mentioned earlier, you and I have known each other for a long time, and it’s been and we’ve both progressed from services agencies to now product based companies or in your case, product based companies. And it’s been, in some case, both product and services. I think all SaaS companies have to have a services component of them.
So it’s been fun to watch and see that progression, which is another great transition to our last topic, which is really around the talent side of things. Wanted to tap into your extensive expertise and help with a few different segments of my audience.
First would be what I’m calling entry level or students that are still in College about to enter the workforce. What would you what would you tell them as they prepare for this next step?
What are the hot growing areas in the marketing field and where should they think about focusing on and how to get there?
PAUL: Sure. It’s a very relevant question, because I recently had a student from my alma mater reach out to me for some coaching, and she was asking those very specific questions of, “Hey, I’ve done some other internships in the past. I didn’t have some great experiences. I don’t even know what’s out there or what I need to do to prepare for that.”
So it’s a fairly loaded question because there’s a lot there. Figuring out about you what you enjoy doing, not necessarily the specifics of am I in the analytic space, or am I coding or am I in client management early on in your career? It’s less about that and more about those innate capabilities that you have of drive and motivation and ability to learn quickly. For me, communication, style and quality is so incredibly important. But it’s really about having the hunger and the willingness to learn.
And so one of the ways that you can demonstrate that I think in one of your other videos, my friend Jason (Tabeling) was talking about that there are a lot of certifications that are free and out there, and it does two things.
- It gives you some foundational understanding of what’s going on. So whether you’re getting certifications from Google or Facebook or wherever it gives you context for the MarTech and AdTech space, the other thing very important thing it does is it shows prospective employers that you’re willing to take initiative and that you have the aptitude to learn. So putting those two things together of gaining some context and demonstrating your aptitude and willingness to learn so incredibly important.
- And then what I always recommend to people is try and find a company that’s going to allow you to learn and wear different hats and experience different things. It’s truly impossible, just like so many people go to college and they end up changing majors because you don’t know what you don’t know until you sat in the seat and you’ve gone through the curriculum and you’ve experienced it all. You really just don’t know. And so for me, the early years of a career or as much about figuring out what you don’t like as it is about figuring out what you do.
And so that, to me, is one of the things that I always recommend to College students that they look for, is find a job where movement is encouraged, where you’ll get to experiment and learn different things and get the exposure that you can’t otherwise get. And that’s just such an important foundation and giving you the ability to not have to quit your job, to go learn something different, but to just move within an organization.
So those things are really important, but within that, the world is evolving very quickly.
Data is playing an incredibly important role. So the access to data, the management of the data, creating intelligence out of the data. That whole space is huge.
The AI and machine learning component of all of this is going to continue to fuel the ad tech space.
So if folks have the skills and passion and interest around those areas, those are certainly continuing to grow. But just in general, even if you look at Tiger Pistol, we’re hiring across a broad array of jobs, from engineering to data to client management to customer service.
It takes a lot of people, even in a SaaS business, to run and grow and be successful. So there are plenty of opportunities out there, and we’re seeing that the job market is very tight, meaning that candidates are moving very quickly into new roles, which is a great for the economy and for people looking for roles.
RON: I agree. Another great transition. It’s almost like you knew what was coming here. What would you tell — as a hiring manager and somebody who’s obviously interviewing lots of people and has been throughout your career…What advice would you give somebody to differentiate themselves, whether you’re recruiting them or they’re applying to your role?
What do you like to see that helps them stick out?
PAUL: Well, if you’re applying for a role, you should know what the key avenues or factors of success are for that role. So if somebody’s specifying that for a job, it’s really important that somebody is goal oriented, self driven, highly motivated, moves quickly, has expertise in researches, super articulate, and a strong presenter.
Don’t just tell me that you have those things. Show me that you have those things.
So turn the job description inside out and use that as the drivers of what you’re going to demonstrate along the journey. So, as you know, Ron, it’s incredibly time consuming to interview candidates to work through that process. So any business or recruiter is making a huge time investment by doing this and time well spent is when you come across and you say, Wow, I’m looking for all these things. And this person demonstrated aptitude in all of those and really look for ways to drive those points home and to do so in a creative fashion.
For example, we’re interviewing a sales candidate the other week and one of the things that he did, he knew that presenting was going to be a big part of his role. So he created a PowerPoint about himself and approached the interview as a presentation like he would do if he was pitching Tiger Pistol to a prospective client.
And so he demonstrated that he could research.
He demonstrated that he could build a strong and aesthetically pleasing PowerPoint.
He demonstrated that he was good at the presentation level and then asked probing questions to make the session continue to flow.
So those types of things could really help stand out in a very noisy space.
RON: Yeah, I like to go back to elementary school and I call it “Show and Tell.” Every candidate I talk to…bring something to the table, differentiate yourself. Your resume is one thing LinkedIn’s another, but have a deck, have a sales pitch come up with a special asset or artifacts. So that’s great advice!
And Lastly, kind of related, but slightly different view. If you’re experienced. If you’re out in the market, you’re already in a good position. You’ve gotten to a successful place, but you’re starting to open your eyes and see what else is out there.
How / what advice would you give somebody on kind of how to go about the job search and how to go about finding that next role?
PAUL: I think there’s a lot of soul searching that has to happen for somebody who’s experienced and been through a variety of different roles, really internalize and understand why you like aspects of what you’ve been doing. And what are the things that you’re not as good at or not as passionate about?
For me as I get older, and as I’ve been doing this longer, it’s more and more about the passion that somebody has for what we need to do and their desire to be part of our journey and really be a key contributor to that.
And so the best guidance that I can give is, instead of spreading yourself too wide across 50 opportunities, Hone in on the ones that you really want, the ones that you believe, really scratches that itch that you have and align with what you thrive with. That’s when your true colors will come through.
That’s when you can really invest the time to demonstrate your fit for that particular opportunity. The whole recruiting process is so similar to the sales process. For me, we could splash our sales calls and emails across everyone in the world, but we’re instead taking a very focused approach based on our ideal customer profile. So I would say that the job searchers should do that exact same thing.
What is your ideal employer profile that you’re looking to go after and who fits that to a “T” and then really hone in on them, really be persistent and then let it shine, show why you’re so passionate and desiring to work there.
RON: Great advice. I appreciate it.
You know, it sounds like we probably need another session in the future to talk about all of the M&A experience you’ve been through. And maybe shoot some of that advice back to people out there listening. Because you’ve been through several of them now several transactions, and probably could help in that regard.
Again, I appreciate your time, Paul.
Just a reminder, Paul and Tiger Pistol are looking to hire several people right now. So take a look at their site.
I’ll also include the link below in the description as well as to Paul’s profile.
Always generous with his time. Always willing to help other people out. So I would suggest reaching out to Paul and connecting with him on LinkedIn.
Paul, thanks again. And best of luck!
March 29, 2021