By fostering a culture of continued learning and supporting our employees in that growth, everyone is constantly exposed to new technologies, new methodologies, and ways to do things.
Danielle Narveson is a marketing technologist who helps brands build stronger connections with their customers. She is currently the director of strategy at LIFT Agency.
Danielle has 10 years of experience as a digital and mobile strategist in five countries, working with companies including Starbucks, NIVEA, and Disney. She has also worked for multiple startups, including her own.
Where did the idea for LIFT Agency come from?
Tim Carr, our founder and “chief lifter,” was originally an internal creative director at AOL. This was back when AOL was at its prime, offering tens of millions of testable impressions every day. It was a measurable marketer’s dream, and along the way, he identified eight key principles that, when correctly integrated, yielded optimal measured response rates. It’s safe to say he developed a knack for how to develop creative that performs.
Since then, he has taken this methodology and instilled it in everything we do at LIFT. We are constantly testing and optimizing to find big, incremental lifts in performance. For 20 years, Tim called this approach “performance marketing” — today, it’s commonly known as “growth.”
Growth is a buzzword for something Tim has been doing for more than two decades.
What does your typical day look like, and how do you make it productive?
I live and breathe my calendar. I generally try to follow the “one big thing” per day philosophy, but I’m probably only successful three out of five days.
I cover the morning shift with my kid, so my early mornings are me trying to get ready as quickly as possible before he wakes up. Because my husband has to work at 6 a.m., my mornings with my son are just us. I try very hard to be completely present with him over breakfast.
After I drop him off at school, I’ll typically take a Lyft to work. This gives me approximately 30 minutes to structure my day and set my priorities. Then, on the ride home, I’ll finish up any lingering small tasks.
I’ve gone out of my way to ensure I can do all my work from my mobile phone. I’ve downloaded all the project management apps and design-sharing tools we use in the office, and I’ve also backed up all my files on Google Drive.
I always try to get my one big thing done early in the morning. As a strategist, I find that I need at least two hours of dedicated thinking time to accomplish my deliverables. This might mean mapping an entire email onboarding strategy or building out a growth model for a client.
After 11 a.m., I am pretty much in meetings the rest of the day. I’ll usually find an extra hour around 4 or 5 p.m. to respond to questions about ongoing projects.
Typically, I am actively involved in somewhere between eight and 15 projects at a time. I’ve set up an Evernote to have links to the most important documents related to each of these projects. This allows me to jump in and out of different projects for different clients at any given time.
How do you bring ideas to life?
By knowing the challenge and the desired end result. From a creative perspective, if you have these two things in mind, the rest will fall into place.
At the same time, I also think simplification is key. When briefing the team, I try not to be overly elaborate about the task at hand. For example, if we need to help create an onboarding communication flow, it’s easy to go straight into the tactics about email messaging, app notifications, page popups, live chat, etc. But that limits the creative thinking to tactics right away.
Instead, by asking, “What is the one action we want someone to take?” maybe we’ll realize we want them to download the app on a particular device, or maybe we’ll want them to use the experience for five minutes. Once we establish that simple goal, the ideas flow freely. And the metric we measure is based on that one particular behavior. Then, we can add more from there.
What’s one trend that really excites you?
All things voice-related, from Siri to Alexa. Soon, we will finally be able to throw out all remotes and walk up to our TVs and say, “Hey, Alexa, turn on the TV.”
In the near future, I think voice will add much more security to our lives. Imagine being at home and hearing someone break in. Instead of needing to find your phone, you’d be able to shout or scream to trigger a 911 call.
In the more distant future, I’m especially excited for when predictive analysis is built into voice technology. Right now, telling Alexa to turn up the volume or play the next song interrupts conversation. Down the road, Alexa will be able to understand key triggers in conversation — such as “This music is too loud!” — and react accordingly.
What is one habit of yours that makes you more productive as an entrepreneur?
Setting timers. It’s so easy to get sucked into a project when you’re excited and want everything to be perfect. Timers help me prioritize my tasks and ensure everything gets done. If something needs to be perfect and is a high priority, I consciously allocate enough time to do it right.
What was the worst job you ever had, and what did you learn from it?
I honestly don’t think I’ve ever had a job I hated, but I did take one without knowing exactly what it was.
I was hired as a junior strategist and database marketer, but I had never worked with databases before, didn’t understand SPSS, and didn’t have statistical training. By the way, the job was in Germany — and my German was only mediocre.
Needless to say, I was in over my head. The job was extremely humbling. I must have asked 1,000 questions every day. I even had to ask my colleagues to proofread all of my emails.
Everyone always says not to be afraid to ask questions, which is true. I learned to always be honest and keep asking questions if I didn’t understand something, even if someone had already explained it to me multiple times.
If you were to start again, what would you do differently?
I would be better at networking. I’ve lived and worked in six different cities in five different countries. Along the way, I could have been better about forming and maintaining my global connections.
As an entrepreneur, what is the one thing you do over and over and recommend everyone else do?
I will try any startup or new idea at least twice. My husband and I have tried every food delivery service from Blue Apron to Nature Box to Instacart. We’ve also tried all the tiny niche delivery services, and we have a virtual reality setup at home. We have Amazon’s Alexa and Google Home, and despite being married, I’ve tried almost all the dating apps at least a few times — mostly creating profiles for my single friends. I feel like I’m signing up for a new social platform, app, or service multiple times a week.
I love how if a new idea sticks, it completely changes my behavior and helps me see unique executions within different industries. For example, some surveys now ask users to swipe left and swipe right — similar to dating apps. Also, I love seeing how mapping technology for car sharing has been integrated into delivery services.
What is one strategy that has helped you grow your business?
Encouraging our leadership team and employees to take classes and courses. By fostering a culture of continued learning and supporting our employees in that growth, everyone is constantly exposed to new technologies, new methodologies, and ways to do things.
What is one failure you had as an entrepreneur, and how did you overcome it?
I co-founded my first company with my then-boyfriend, now husband. I’m not sure how we’re still together, but I’m glad we are!
Our skill sets complemented each other, but we had no separation of personal life and work life. Neither of us had any space to get inspired and look for new ideas and ways to improve. We were drained because the only thing we ever talked about was business.
I now recognize how critical it is to step away from work and have some space to innovate.
What is one business idea that you’re willing to give away to our readers?
There should be a virtual reality travel experience that stitches together images from the past. When you’re standing in a location and put on the headset, you can immediately see pictures of that same spot in history 50 or 100 years ago. I think it’s the closest to time travel we will get in my lifetime.
What is the best $100 you recently spent?
A virtual personal assistant. In my professional life, I’m a firm believer in outsourcing expertise and specialties. However, I struggle to do this in my personal life.
I recently hired a virtual assistant to help me clear my at-home punch list. She did everything from calling Comcast to creating a list of all the preschools within a five-mile radius ranked according to my personal criteria. She also organized a Goodwill pickup and helped make travel arrangements for an upcoming trip.
What software and web services do you use?
Google everything. Using the Google suite has completely changed how we collaborate at LIFT Agency. We have templates for Google Slides, Sheets, and Docs that we now use for all of our clients. This allows us to move much more quickly and brainstorm more effectively as a team. I love that six people can simultaneously work on one presentation.
We recently implemented Lattice as an employee performance review tool. We’re just getting started, but our entire company is already more aligned than ever. Each individual team is aligned to the same three or four companywide goals, and everyone’s personal goals are aligned to each team’s goals.
Lastly, I love Slack. There’s a good reason it’s the fastest-growing startup right now.
What people have influenced your thinking and might be of interest to others?
The two people who inspire me most are Jan Chipchase and Brian Balfour. They both approach research from completely opposite ends of the spectrum — and I think my personal approach falls somewhere in the middle.
Jan is primarily focused on international qualitative research. He looks at things from an anthropological perspective and digs deeply into customer behaviors and cultural customs.
Brian’s essays on how to think about growth are the most actionable inspiration I’ve ever read. His approach is from a growth background, always implementing tests to determine how a person will react in a very specific situation. His work inspires me to continually optimize and improve.
- I love how if a new idea sticks, it completely changes my behavior and helps me see unique executions within different industries. For example, some surveys now ask users to swipe left and swipe right — similar to dating apps.
- It’s so easy to get sucked into a project when you’re excited and want everything to be perfect. Timers help me prioritize my tasks and ensure everything gets done.
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Mario Schulzke is the Founder of ideamensch, which he started a decade ago to learn from entrepreneurs and give them a platform for their ideas.