The DL - Episode 17 - From the Ground Up
In the latest episode of The DL, things get shaken up a bit when the tables are turned and Diesel Laptops Founder and CEO, Tyler Robertson, is interviewed for a change. During a previously recorded interview for a podcast that was never aired, Tyler shares his story of building Diesel Laptops from the ground up.
The episode begins with a Tyler acknowledging the COVID-19 pandemic. As the episode was recorded at the beginning of April 2020, Tyler hoped that by the time it aired, COVID-19 would be a distant memory. As of the May 1st release date, that sadly is not the case. While the curve is beginning to flatten, and some states are rolling out multi-phase plans to return to some sort of normalcy, the pandemic is far from over.
To learn more about Diesel Laptops’ Mission to Keep Trucks Working During the Coronavirus Pandemic, please read our blog post and be sure to sign up for valuable free resources, available now through May 31.
After the brief COVID-19 message, the interview begins with Tyler recalling the early days of Diesel Laptops.
The company began with no funding and no venture capitalists and 5 years later, there are nearly 150 employees, more than $40 million in annual revenue, the company has created multiple brands and branched out into new markets including off-highway equipment and power sports.
Sacrificing Everything to Grow Fast.
In the beginning, growth was the driving factor for the business, focusing on more sales, more products, more employees, more of everything. However, Tyler admits the company had to sacrifice quite a lot in order to grow as fast as possible.
“We basically said screw it to HR and screw it to all those management things that you need to do as a company to grow successfully - internal IT and controls - and we said ‘let’s just go 100% on growth and marketing’ and that’s what we did as a company.”
By focusing solely on growth, the company found itself lacking in several key areas. In one such instance, inexperienced, newly appointed managers all of a sudden found themselves managing teams of thirty or more employees with no tools and resources, to be effective managers and leaders.
This brought Tyler to the realization he needed to hire several experienced VPs to help lead the company in the right direction. Tyler also relies on several trusted managers to keep the company’s best interest in mind.
“I think that putting people like that in place to really help you is a key thing to do as a business.”
Online Marketing is Essential
Tyler came from the trucking industry where everything was what he considered “old school” as most of the industry still relied on paper catalogs for marketing. Having a background in marketing himself, Tyler realized he could directly target customers online at a fraction of the price.
After moving forward with Google Ads, where Diesel Laptops still spends the largest portion of its online marketing budget, Tyler begrudgingly branched out to advertising on Facebook and was pleasantly surprised to see how well it worked.
“When we first started doing Facebook, I was like, man, that’s like moms on there looking at funny videos of kids or cat videos or whatever… but you can put your ad, your brand in front of diesel technicians and shop owners, and be very targeted and direct with it and it works for really any industry.”
Facebook isn’t what it used to be
With its current success, Tyler does worry about the future of Facebook marketing from the perspective of small businesses. In the podcast, he shares his belief that as larger companies like Amazon and Walmart begin aggressively advertising on Facebook, the cost per click will eventually skyrocket, making it very difficult for small businesses to compete.
“In 2011, you could get awesome traction on Facebook with your business or your personal brand. Like, things would viral all the time on there. Now? Not so much. It’s totally a pay-to-play thing. They want their money. It’s hard to get any kind of organic reach.”
Diversify your Marketing
This is why it’s important to take advantage of other online advertising opportunities and platforms like TikTok, Instagram, Twitter, YouTube, and LinkedIn.
“I can’t tell entrepreneurs enough, you need to be online and you need to find the right platform.”
While Tyler admits that LinkedIn is garbage for business, he finds it invaluable for personal brands. One example is that in a recent LinkedIn post where he shared a story of taking a day off, it got more than 100,000 views in a few days. As Tyler is the face of Diesel Laptops, this, in turn, helps bring exposure to the company.
By consistently posting on LinkedIn for the past two or three years, he has built quite a large following - where even low performing posts see more than 20,000 views.
“That’s marketing that you just can’t buy. You’re staying in front of potential clients two or three times a week like that… I get leads every single week from LinkedIn from people asking ‘Can I talk to one of your salespeople? I want to learn more about your products and your company.’”
Being YouTube Famous is Wierd
In addition to LinkedIn, Tyler has found great success by posting content on YouTube. Part of the channel’s success is that he never takes a “buy, buy, buy” approach to videos, rather he takes an informative approach, showing what tools are out there and what they are capable of doing.
Due to the success of the Diesel Laptops YouTube channel, Tyler has been recognized out in public, which he finds surreal. He has been recognized on airplanes, restaurants, and even once in Las Vegas by a guy who wanted a photo.
“I’ve literally been stopped in random places by people recognizing me from YouTube and LinkedIn. It is the weirdest thing.”
Content is King
All of the exposure social media has brought with it is a direct result of posting content. Tyler is a firm believer that social media is the way to get your brand out there since it is free and it’s already in front of people.
“Don’t be salesy and just put out a ton of content. If you think your posting enough, you’re not.”
Tyler also believes you shouldn’t worry about the likes but instead focus on producing content and putting it out there.
Hear More on these Subjects
For the whole story, be sure to listen to the episode or watch the video on YouTube.
To learn more about the early days of Diesel Laptops, be sure to listen to the episode titled “In the Beginning.”