When you meet Chad Coleman and the rest of the Herosmyth team, their passion and generosity is evident. They’re not just digital marketing professionals, they’re your “allies in entrepreneurship” (as they call themselves). Herosmyth was created for the purpose of offering solutions to entrepreneurs and small businesses in Denver. Their new office on East Colfax is a hub of great resources for a company’s marketing needs. From a podcast recording room housed in a former bank vault (unique, huh?) to a full video production and photography space, both of which you can rent with a monthly subscription.
Chad Coleman, the Co-Founder and CEO of Herosmyth, knows how challenging it can be for small businesses to get their feet off the ground and to make their brand heard through today’s noisy digital landscape. In our recent interview with Chad, he explains how storytelling is a key component to creating authentic connections with your audience and about the importance of “embracing the small.”
Tell us a little bit about your background and what led you to Herosmyth.
I started out 21 years ago, one of the early-early digital agencies that existed at the dawn of the internet in ’98. It was an exciting time. At the time, no one had a website or digital strategy. It was neat to be on the first wave of the web. People were like “hey I guess I need a website.” Obviously ever since that initial wave it’s about needing a better website or a different one and people have grown to understand the possibilities of digital marketing.
I started off doing video stuff. I went to film school. I had a real passion around storytelling. When I was working with these clients from a video prospective back in the day at this agency, cd-roms were a huge deal and the web wasn’t such a big deal yet. This package that we sold in the company always included a video and if you signed up for this cd-rom there would be a video meeting scheduled. At the initial meeting we would ask “what do you want this video to be about?” and they’d say “oh we thought you knew. What should it be about?” Most of the time they just wanted an overview type of video. Through that process, I came up with my own techniques on figuring out-
what is it about the company that makes it special?
What sets you apart?
What should we emphasize?
What makes you different?”
It was interesting because I came from that film background and was highly focused on video and storytelling but I had to understand the other side of it and I ended up falling in love with the process. I thought it was really neat that pretty much every company I’ve ever worked for or worked with has something unique and almost magical about their company that makes it successful. I fell in love with figuring out what that is and using that as the foundation in the storytelling.
Speaking of storytelling, what is the best way for businesses to use their storytelling?
I think it’s very important that they do, first of all. When you own a business, you’re really focus and it’s really hard to see from the outside to see what the customer sees because you know everything about your business. We tend to get focused on features and benefits. People don’t necessarily respond to that very much. There’s just too much noise in the world for them to take the time to understand the nuance features and benefits that a particular company and a particular industry setting offers. And sometimes it’s very difficult because your competitors may have the same features and benefits.
What brands would be smart to do is to really deeply dive into the customer and deeply understand what their customer’s life experience is, what are they going through, what are their challenges and their problems that they have. When you do that, what you’re really doing is positioning them in the center of your story. What you really need to do is figure out this customer- who are they? What are they struggling with? What goals are they trying to achieve?” and then tell a story that places them right in the center and shows them “hey, if you work with us, then you will be successful and you’ll achieve the goals that matter to you.”
The name Herosmyth ties into that because ultimately as an entrepreneur what you have to be is a “hero-smyth”. You’ve got to figure out how to make your customer the hero of this journey that their on and then position yourself as their confidant, their guide, their ally, their sidekick, whatever it may be.
Joseph Campbell came up with this concept of the monomyth and wrote this amazing book called “A Hero with a Thousand Faces.” What he discovered in his research is that most hero stories are actually the same story told over and over again throughout the centuries of humanity. He was actually able to quantify the different steps of this “hero’s journey” as he called it. It’s very powerful because it runs through Christianity, it runs through pre-Christianity, really as long as humans have been talking to you other, they’ve pretty much used this same thing. All the way up into Star Wars- George Lucas was heavily influenced by Joseph Campbell’s work and was reading that book when he crafted the original Star Wars. It’s pretty infallible, it works. There’s something in our minds as human beings- stories themselves are how we’ve communicated for over a hundred thousand years. When we hear a story that we connect with and that’s true to who we are, amazing things to happen. We start to get involved, we start to get invested emotionally and the same thing works in marketing.
How is Herosmyth different from other marketing agencies?
We’ve sort of embraced the small. Most marketing agencies don’t want to work with small businesses, but we’ve built our agency to work with small businesses because of the impact it can have on Denver community. If I can help a local locksmith double his income that’s going to feed into the Denver economy, they could hire someone else or get their kid through college. A lot of times entrepreneurs just need a simple thing done, a simple role”I need a good website for my business” Where in the past there’s really bad solutions for that where they use templates where you end up looking like everyone else, making you blend in with everyone else. We are able to create a website building platform which allows us to create great custom websites for customers that typically couldn’t afford a custom website. There’s a gentleman coming in today to get a sales flyer done. I don’t know of any other marketing agencies in the Denver area where you can just go online and book an appointment and you can come in and work directly with the Designer for 2 hours to get a killer sales flyer. That’s all he needs right now and that’s okay. By embracing those small needs- from a flyer design that takes 2 hours to creating a signup form on your website that can feed into your CRM, those little things can mean so much. We’re not set on how deeply you need to work with us. You might need just that one thing right now, But we’re here and it’s fast and affordable.
What made you want to focus on entrepreneurs and startups?
There’s a couple different factors: One thing is that the experience of becoming an entrepreneur is something I believe everyone should do because it is the most eye-opening things you’ll experience as a human being. It will test you. It will push you in directions that you didn’t know you need to go and it will teach you what you’re good at/what you’re not good at, it will teach you how to effectively deal with people as you go, understand how the dynamics of that work. It’s probably one of the biggest learning experiences a human being could have.
I think everyone should do it at one point in their life. And in fact I feel like everyone will have to do it in the next 10 to 15 years because we are entering the age of automation, AI, and robotics. There’s studies that around 15-30% of the jobs people are currently doing in America like retails, driving, customer service, are not going to exist anymore in 15 to 20 years. It’s largely what happened to Detroit. People like to think about how the economy collapsing was a big part of it but they were losing jobs to automation before the economy started to collapse. When the economy collapsed in 2008 it actually made those car companies invest in more automation because they knew they had to do things cheaper, more efficiently.
Everyone is going to need these entrepreneurial skills.
As difficult of a journey of being an entrepreneur is it’s good to have someone to help. So I wanted to help those people and also a company that would have an impact here in Denver. I love this city . I love the community of entrepreneurs we have. And I wanted to build a place that would make it easier for entrepreneurs to be successful. Everything we’ve done is driving towards that goals to make it easier for people to run a successful business.
How would you describe the startup scene in Denver?
It’s a great scene. Denver Startup Week is an amazing event, its the largest entrepreneurship event in the country. I think entrepreneurship is ingrained in the Colorado mindset. I’ve lived here for five years and I’ve been coming out here since the 90s and Colorado has been known for this rugged individualist perspective on things. It’s probably one of the reasons why this is one of the best places for small businesses in the country. We have a ton of businesses here and people willing to make that brave leap and start their own company. I think we have a fantastic scene. I really want Herosmyth to be a part of making that scene even better.
What makes you enjoy coming to work everyday?
The saddest thing to me is when a great idea dies because a few crucial things might have gone wrong in the beginning. I love that we have this place where people can get the advice and guidance to help them avoid those landmines. I think that’s fascinating and I think we can shortcut people to greater success because we’ve helped hundreds of people so we know we can be a guide to help you and be an expert in a number of different areas, from design to branding and development. We can help you avoid those pitfalls and get you to where you want to be which is a sustainable and successful business.
What’s one piece of advice for Denver entrepreneurs trying to get their name out?
Know that what you’re ultimately doing in the simplest and most direct way is trying to build a community. That’s what marketing is all about, building a community of people who care and align with what you believe in or what you do. Rather than thinking about it in terms of dollars and cents, realize we have to build a community of people who are aligned with what we care about what our purpose is a company. It’s a bit of a mind-shift. You’ve got to be practical too, you’ve got to sell some stuff to survive. But you’ll sell a lot more stuff if you’ve created a community of people who actually care about what you’re doing than if you’re just trying to sell them stuff. Nobody likes to be sold to.
How has networking been beneficial to you and your business?
It’s been huge. It’s how we found initial clients and early adopters. I always tell people that word-of-mouth is the best form of marketing in the world, nothing else can really replace that. And while there’s a ton of things we can do, word of mouth has its limitations. I can only go out and meet so many people today. And entrepreneurs have been doing the work and finding time to network- it’s about finding a balance. It gives you the opportunity to understand more deeply who your customers are, what their needs are, what their struggles are. When you get out there and meet people and you develop a personal relationship because you’re not going to do business with someone you don’t trust on some level. Meeting people and developing relationships is hugely important.
What advice would you give someone who has never attending a networking event before?
Study up on it. Being an entrepreneur is about life-long learning. There are networking events about networking and how to do it right. There are books written about this. Go in prepared.
I think it’s about being personable, not salesy. it’s about listening- if you can listen you’ll learn much more and get much further than if you’re doing all the talking.
Know that you’re there to meet people, not just prospects. If you just think of them as prospects and you’re just there to sell, no on is going to connect with you.