Building Community for Demand

Overview: Clint Betts CEO of Silicon Slopes reviews how to generate demand through learning connecting and serving a community.

Guest: Clint Betts – Betts is the CEO and President of Silicon Slopes. Silicon Slopes is a nonprofit organization empowering Utah’s tech community to learn, connect, and serve.











Transcript 

Billy: Alright, everyone, I’m here with Clint Betts, the CEO of Silicon Slopes. Clint, thanks for joining us.  

Clint: Honored to be here Billy. Big fan of ChatFunnels’ Demand Gen Summit 2020. You know, 2020 is weird. Here we are. Yeah, speaking at an event. And you know, I’m just doing it from this desk where I kind of do everything. So, honored to be here, my friend.  

Billy: Well, it’s an honor to have you, Clint. So let’s get into it. First, tell us just a little bit about yourself.  

Clint: I’m a lifelong Utahn, for what that’s worth. I don’t know that people care about that too much. And I sure do. I have four children. I’m married. I live in Southern Utah County. I believe Utah County is better than Salt Lake County. For those watching, I will, no, I’m just kidding. I don’t care. I started my career, I actually owned a deli for a while when I was super young. Then I went to school. I got a journalism degree, wouldn’t recommend anyone do that, kind of a pointless degree. I worked at a software development firm with a couple buddies where we help build startups, early stage products.  

And then inside of that software development firm, we launched a little blog called beehive startups, which became a pretty big community platform. Then, you know, more recently, over the past five, six years, I’ve been the executive director of Silicon Slopes, which is a 501, c three nonprofit. We put that together after, you know, big startups, we got some traction, and Josh James and I started talking and then we started talking to Ryan Smith is the CEO of Qualtrics. Aaron Scott, he’s the CEO plural site, and Dave Elkington, who is the CEO of Inside Sales at the time, about what it would mean to bring the community all underneath one umbrella. So here we are.  

Billy: And you guys have done a great job with that. So tell me about the Silicon Slopes model, Clint.  

Clint: Well, the Silicon Slopes model, I believe, is a little bit different than other nonprofit models. I think as you look at it, and I think it applies to any business, not just nonprofits, because I don’t know that we run it necessarily even like a nonprofit, to be honest with you. Although being a 501, c three is important to us. And there are aspects of it that are very nonprofity. The Silicon Slopes model, I think a lot of people, if you’re just you’re not part of the tech scene, or you’re not part of Utah, in particular, you may view it as like another Chamber of Commerce, almost, that kind of advocates for various tech issues, behind closed doors and has kind of these events that you have to pay to go to, and you can only attend if you’re a member, anything like that.  

Silicon Slopes is actually the exact opposite of all of that. We want it to be open and accessible to all. Everyone who wants to be a part of the Silicon Slopes community, we believe has every right to be a part of the Silicon Slopes community and should be part of the Silicon Slopes community. And so given that that was a stance that we took early on, that we wanted the organization to be open and accessible to all, we landed on this model that I believe many of the people who are watching would be interested in.  

In particular, as it pertains to how do you build a community around your brand? How do you build a community around a certain topic? And how do you do it in a way that’s actually authentic. That doesn’t just come across as though it’s authentic, but is indeed authentic. And so what we landed on is three buzzwords, to be honest with you, Billy.  

So what we say is Silicon Slopes is a 501 c3 nonprofit that empowers Utah startup and tech community to learn, connect and serve. When you hear learn, connect serve, you likely, like most people, say those are just like three words, who cares, right? There’s some truth to that even. But, what’s behind those for us and what we’ve built around these three words, and these three pillars within our organization, is the entire reason why we’ve seen any success if we’ve seen any at all. I believe it’s the way communities should be built, just my own opinion.  

So I’ll go through what each of these three pillars mean to us as an organization. Those watching can kind of think about how they could apply at least some of these aspects within their own companies or organizations. So the first is learn, right? And when we say learn at Silicon Slopes, what we’re talking about is stories. What we’re talking about is media and what we’re talking about is letting the community know what’s happening. And that’s critical.  

And I’m going to talk probably go pretty deep on stories here a little bit later. But, when we say learn at Silicon Slopes, what we mean is we want you to know everything happening within the Silicon Slopes community. We want you to have plenty of resources available to you. It’s not just news, although that’s a very big piece of it. It’s not just media. And it’s not just stories, but it’s also helping and empowering people to learn how to be better within the industry, better within their particular profession, learning from other leaders, and gaining insight on various tactics and things like that.  

Learn is a very big deal to us. But primarily, what we mean when we say learn, is stories. And I’m going to go pretty deep on stories, once we get through this. Then the second pillar is connect. What we mean by connect to Silicon Slopes is pretty simple. We mean events. Prior to COVID-19. We were doing a little over 220 events per year. We were doing events all the time, in person at the silicon slopes office or up and down the Wasatch Front all the way, from Logan to St. George, Utah. For those who are familiar with the stage. Basically, just statewide. We were doing events all the time. We have various chapters within the state of Utah, at Silicon Slopes, who put on their own events, and are also connecting kind of their communities within the Silicon Slopes communities really fast.  

And once you build a community, you start to build communities with inside of it. Within it, either by region or by specific topic, right. And so for us, we’ll do it by region, we’ll say like, hey, there’s a St. George chapter. And then we’ll also say like, hey, there’s a marketing chapte. Everybody’s excited about marketing. They’re going to be into this chapter, and we get good leaders around it. And you know, they were doing events all the time. With COVID-19, it’s a little bit different how we’ve had to connect with our community is like this, kind of exactly what we’re doing. But, we’re still doing those types of things.  

And I think events and connecting your community to one another and showing them what’s possible when you lock arms. I think something that’s missed sometimes in community building is there’s this sense that you need to talk down or preach from like a pulpit on how to do certain things, or give your advice, or show that you’re an expert, or whatever it is.

I call it talking down to a community. And this in some industries, this may work. In particularly, maybe in media, it seems to be okay to do that type of thing. It doesn’t actually work if you want long term sustainable community. What you need to do is lock arms and be the voice of that community, not be a voice of the community. And there’s a very big difference in those two things to be the voice of a community, rather than just being a voice among the community. Right? 

 And in order to do that, you’ve got to lock arms with the community that you serve, that you want to build, and you want to tell their stories authentically, which again, gets missed a lot, right? When you remove yourself or your organization or your logo or your title, and you sincerely go after connections that matter to the people on the other side of the table, and stories that matter to the community as a whole and not necessarily to you, then you’re on to something because then you’re being more authentic. And then the final piece, which is kind of the secret sauce to it all is serve.  

Rally the community to serve and give back

We rally the community to serve and give back, both within the startup and tech community in the state of Utah. And beyond the startup and tech community in the state of Utah. This is critical. Having a community that can build something and be a part of something that is bigger than themselves. It can have an impact that’s bigger than themselves. It is vitally important. In fact, without serve Silicon Slopes without the serve pillar,Silicon Slopes would not be where it is today. I can promise you that. I think that’s been a big piece of what we do.  

Billy: Yeah, I agree. With the big conference you guys do every year, who knows what’ll happen next year, but I love the service projects you guys are doing throughout the whole event. And every opportunity you have to give back, I think it helps bring people together.  

Clint: Yeah, we think the service projects inside of Silicon Slopes Tech Summit are something that we can hang our hat on, regardless if the event’s a success or not. At least we did something good those two days. It will be interesting to see what happens. We’re making plans currently on what to do with Silicon Slopes Tech Summit moving forward, how to handle this and this age that we’re all dealing with these issues. It’s not unique to us. I believe there will be Silicon Slopes Tech Summit next year and how that looks and when that is still a little bit up in the air. But we’re sorting through that currently.  

And yes, Silicon Slopes Tech Summit has kind of been the crown jewel of the organization for a while. It’s bringing in about 25-30,000 people a year. We were on a pretty good little roll. We’ll see if we can gain that momentum back once all this craziness is over. So, it’s Silicon Slopes Tech Summit, and having service projects within that event, but also service projects and service opportunities throughout the year has been really important for the organization.  

Billy: Awesome. Awesome. So let’s circle back to the stories, and how you guys leverage stories in that first pillar?  

Clint: Yeah, well, my opinion here, and it’s kind of based on a decent amount of experience in this particular role that I have, is stories are at the heart of a community. And if you want to get at the heart of the community, you got to tell their stories.  it’s a major difference and a shift of mindset. I think so often, companies and organizations try to be one voice of many inside of a community. And when I say that, there’s nothing wrong with that.  

Every community needs a voice

Every community needs a voice. But if you want to be the organizing body, the convener, the organization that brings everybody together and speaks on their behalf authentically, you want to speak on behalf of your community, not speak to a community, major difference. You’ve got to have stories at the heart of it. The heart of everything you do needs to be stories. It’s the only way this thing works.  

Stories are the heart of community

Billy: I agree with you. One of the things I see you guys doing with the stories is the meat and potatoes Podcast, where you let founders come in and tell the story of their business. That’s something that I love. I’ve listened to pretty much all of them. But what else are you guys going to go out and get those stories? Because I think that’s sometimes the hard part is, you know, a business, you’re like, we have all these customers? Well, let’s find out their story using our products or our services, or just the story of their business so we can better serve them. So if you wouldn’t mind like hey how do you go and find those stories so that you guys can help tell them.  

Clint: We can’t have an agenda when it comes to it. Otherwise, you’ve immediately lost at least some credibility with who you’re reaching out to, right. And so there can be no real agenda, like I’m going to tell this company story or this person’s story so that I can then later sell the product, you can have that in the back your mind, you can have that as part of like an overall strategy of your company. But when you’re there, and you’re telling their story. And when you’re trying your very best to let the world know what this organization, this company or this person does, you can’t really have an agenda, otherwise it won’t work. Right? You need to be authentic in how you tell that story. And how do we find them?  

It’s a little bit different for us than maybe a company would be, although maybe there’s some similarities. We go out and we talk to startups, we talk to entrepreneurs, we call them, we email them, we bring them on the podcast that you mentioned, we have a number of podcasts, meat and potatoes, being one of them that a lot of people really love. We’re doing YouTube videos now. We’re publishing stories every day on the Silicon Slopes website, on founders and companies. And honestly, we could always do better. I always feel like you’re only as good as the last story you put out.  

And you’ve got to be consistently striving to be authentic and telling stories and in a way that resonates both for the person that you’re covering, or the company or the organization that you wrote about, but also to the broader community, which is a very big deal. So, that’s how we use stories. And as you think about that, as a company, and how do I apply that whatever your industry is, go out and talk to those folks, people within that industry or the people that you’re trying to sell to, but you got to be authentic, and how you want to tell their stories, and you can’t have in these stories, or on these podcasts or in these videos a pitch of you, a pitch of your company, a pitch of like, and this is how we can help or anything like that.  

All that can come later. Right? If you want, in our case the story actually is the end goal. That’s one of the benefits of being a 501 c3 nonprofit. That’s not going to aline for a lot of companies. What you do with that relationship following as long as you’re doing in an authentic way following telling that story you do after you tell the story. You can’t have in the stories and like if you’re writing a piece about them again, like if you’re on a podcast, it can’t be half about them half about you. You want to tell their story in a way that’s authentic. And so many times we’ll put out a story.  

People will say you’ve told the rest of the world what we do better than we do. And that’s what you’re striving to do. If you’re going to be in the community building game, you want to help those within the community tell their story.  

Billy: For sure, for sure. So I’ve got another question. You may have already answered it. But for anyone looking to start building more community, whether they’re a 501 c3, a startup or even just a larger business that says, you know, we’ve kind of neglected the community aspect of our business. What would be your one piece of advice and getting started?  

Clint: Start telling stories. It’s that simple. Yeah, like start going around, and networking with the goal to tell the stories of others in the community.  

Billy: Awesome. Awesome. Okay, Clint, thank you so much for being part of the Demand Gen Summit. And if anyone wants to reach out to you and learn more about Silicon Slopes or continue this conversation, where should they contact you?  

Clint: Wherever you want, we’re everywhere. Go to siliconslopes.com. My email is clint@siliconslopes.com. Happy to help however. Thanks, my friend. I love Demand Gen Summit. I’m sure it’ll be in person next year.  

Billy: Hopefully.  

Clint: ChatFunnels is incredible as well. What you’re building is unbelievable.  

Billy: Okay, thanks, Clint.