Founder’s Corner #5: Being Creative in an Environment of Speed

By Max Thomas

Last month, I talked about the qualities in people that we value at Thunder: Smart, Doing and Passion. In this month’s Founder’s Corner, I talk about a fourth and very key element: Creativity.

Let’s face it. We’re very creative folks. We have to be in order to create interactive strategies that work given the fast-changing digital landscape of search and social media. It’s an intrinsic aspect of people here at Thunder as well as interactive marketing in general.

However, we don’t always give full credit to the importance and roll of creativity in what we do. From how we execute on campaigns to how we communicate with clients, we’re getting smarter about being creative…particularly in the ever-changing digital sandbox where we play.

As always, thank you for tuning in and hearing about what’s happening here at Thunder. We love learning from our marketing peers, so please feel free to share your thoughts and experiences.



Hi. I’m Max Thomas from Thunder SEO. Welcome to this month’s Founder’s Corner. Last month we talked about qualities that we value at Thunder, both internally and when we look for new employees, and we are hiring. So be sure to check out the Careers page on Shameless plug.

The three things we talked about are we look for people who are smart, and we value that quality. So smart means, basically, geeky. We like to figure things out. The second is doer. We like to do things, and we like experimenting and trying out new things. The third is passion, and the passion is important because that’s part of our vision statement, but also passion is important in this industry, and I think in any job you want to be passionate about what you do, but also passionate about interactive marketing to do it well.

To highlight these qualities when we hire, we developed a process that starts with someone responds via email to questions that we ask when they apply. It talks about what blogs do they want, do they like to read. We ask them about their experiences with interactive marketing, challenges they have faced. If they get past that gate, then they go to the next one, which is what we call the mini case study. It’s a consultant type call of 20 minutes where they actually go through an exercise that we deal with every day. Then if they get through that gate, then they go to the work skills interview, which is in our office, and we give them a task. They go away for 30 minutes, they come back, and they review their findings with a team of 2 to 3 people. Then if they get through that, then they come in for the group interview, which is where we get to know them and they get to know us on a more personal level.

As you can tell, this is all structured in a way that we get to know each other through the process of doing what we do every day. This way we get to know the applicant more and how they think and how they approach our life, and then they get to hear what we do and how we approach interactive marketing.

So last month, the Founder’s Corner went out via email, and my aunt called me up. Hi, Aunt Beclee. She said, “Max, that’s great. It’s so great you guys have this process, and that’s really awesome. But it sounds like you are hiring and looking for people who have very specific knowledge, almost silos.” And she said, “Given what you do, it seems like creativity would be a big thing.” And I thought, “Oh, I totally missed that.”

It hit me like a ton of bricks, because creativity is intrinsic to what we do, and we don’t really talk about it that much. If you think about it, we’re in an industry that is changing, that’s constantly in flux. Google’s changing, the algorithm’s changing, there are updates, there’s Facebook with its changes, and then social media there are different channels that appear, and even our audience moves in terms of different channels they may be on our platforms.

So we’re always having to recalibrate how we approach campaigns to our clients and how we do things internally. But we don’t walk around saying, “Gosh, we’re so creative, and we approach things so creatively.” So my aunt’s comment really got me thinking, especially in light of the fact that, in the past two weeks, creativity has come up a lot, not only internally, but also in terms of how we work with clients. What we found is that when we approach a campaign internally, we have our deliverables that we’re responsible for, but that it also requires being creative. There’s like a margin of creativity, and how we may change a strategy or even change a deliverable based on what’s necessary for the defined goal, and that’s something that we haven’t pushed really hard at Thunder. It’s almost something like we just embody, or try to, but now we’re realizing that we need to articulate that more.

Then in terms of dealing with clients, when we engage with a client, we actually start with a strategy, and there’s a blueprint. We launch with this strategy, and then we execute on it. But again, we’re finding that we need to communicate better to our clients that while there are deliverables that we’re responsible for, there is going to be some creativity that we’re going to apply in how we may change the campaign. This is all possible because we all have the same goal and we’ve all agreed on the defined goal, which, of course, is typically a conversion.

Now this is very indicative of life in the world of an interactive marketing agency, but it also fits for a company with your in-house marketing, or even if you’re a business and you do the marketing yourself. These same concepts apply. Pulling my aunt back into the conversation, she made a statement that I thought was a great synopsis of this. We are trying to manage creativity in an environment of speed, and I thought that summed it up nicely.

So to recap, we value internally, and also when we look for people, the qualities of: being smart, which for fun is geeky; doer, meaning you get shit done; passion, because that’s so important for not only who we are as people, but also in terms of the industry; and then creativity, and that’s something that is not just how clever we are, but how quickly we adapt and how quickly we change to the environment that we’re in.

So I’d love to hear from other agencies and other companies about your experience with interactive marketing and creativity, and I want to thank you for listening today. Stay tuned for next week. Have a great day.

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Max Thomas

By Max Thomas

Max is a nationally recognized digital marketing specialist who is an expert on search engine optimization and data-driven digital marketing who has spoken at SMX and SMX Advanced, LMA Southeast, LMA Tech in San Francisco, WordCamp and other industry recognized conferences. As the founder and CEO of ThunderActive, Max has lead his team (with offices in San Diego and New York City) to success for clients in legal, real estate, life sciences, consumer goods and new tech. A Columbia undergraduate with a Yale MBA, Max is an Impact Circle Member for The Trevor Project and is an advisor to start-up companies and angel investment networks, including Gaingels and Serval Ventures in New York.

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