Matt Carroll is Brand Strategist and Copywriter for BigBigStory, a brand messaging agency. With over 20 years' experience creating content for large and small organizations, Matt's desire is to help the "good guys" get heard. He's created content for all types of audiences, helping create messages that move people to respond.
At BigBigStory they love love telling big and compelling stories that help small businesses do bigger business. So many of the small businesses are growing but realize they can't continue to increase without a cohesive brand and clear message strategy. Customers are always turned off by confusion, but sorting through your cluttered and accumulated messaging can be overwhelming.
Matt and his team at BigBigStory bring the fresh perspective that helps you see what's always been there, but is hard for business owners to see because they are in it everyday. They specialize in getting into the mind of your customers and getting into the heart of your business.
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If you'd like to talk to Terry McDougall about coaching or being a guest on Marketing Mambo, here's how you can reach her:
Her book Winning the Game of Work: Career Happiness and Success on Your Own Terms is available at Amazon.
Hey everybody. It's Terry with marketing Mambo, and I've got a wonderful guest with us today. His name is Matt Carroll and he's a marketing and communications consultant with big, big story. And Matt is all about helping people tell more effective stories in the service of effective marketing. So Matt, welcome to marketing.
Mando, how are you today?
Great, Terry, how are you doing?
I'm doing great. So I just, scratch the surface. Very brief introduction of you, but, I would love it. If you go into a little bit more depth about who you are, what you do, what brought you here to be, a communications and marketing consultant.
Yeah, for sure. So yeah, like Terry said, I am the owner and, lead consultant for big, big story. And what we really focus on is creating clear messages for small businesses so they can attract more of their ideal customers. And we utilize the power of story to really be the core.
Foundation of everything that we do. So, yeah. So that's interesting. I think something that would be intriguing for us to discuss is what does that really mean? But Yeah.
Well, one of the things that I think is really interesting about your background and you're not the first marketer that I've run across, that has a background in ministry. And, I think that there's some really interesting parallels between, storytelling in the marketing arena and.
What's a sermon, except for a story that you tell in front of your congregation. So I'd love to hear about what brought you from ministry into marketing and the kind of parallels that you say.
Yeah, for sure. So, Back in 2000, is when I started, , I was actually a middle school pastor for, nearly 17 years, so long time working with students. And I just learned really early on. Communicating and keeping the attention of that age group is a tricky thing. And so, and I didn't know it then, then I was actually learning marketing at that point in my life.
Do a message, do a lesson, do a sermon, run a camp, recruit volunteers, whatever, every single one of those messages that goes out to parents, teens, volunteers, like it has to be so concise and catchy for people to actually respond because you know, the attention spans are so short.
And so, yeah, I learned a lot of marketing parallels during that time, working with students.
Yeah. It's so cool. I'm sure that things have evolved since. I was in college, but I remember that, in advertising and marketing, the whole idea, DIA was the Aida, the, attention, interest, desire, and action. And you can just imagine, and that, when you're, front of a bunch of middle schoolers that you got to grab their attention, right.
And you have to grab their interest and then desire. And hopefully. Action in terms of, what you're trying to get them to do same as what we try to do with consumers.
yeah, no, as I say so I read a book, by a guy named Andy Stanley. , I know you remember what it was called. It was about message preparation. And so if you look up Andy Stanley, he has this book and I think it applies to marketing. He would be like, I would say when the clearest communicators, when it comes to the church world and.
So his formula that he taught was me. We, God, you, we, and so that was how, we wrote a lot of our messages. And so like the me was creating empathy, with the audience that is like, Hey, I'm a normal person. And so that was like how we like led almost every single thing that we created was like, all right.
I deal with struggles too. And me, we said that we part was like, how do you deal with those struggles? You know, God would be the application point. So with marketing would be like, all right, we have a solution. Like, we're the expert that can help you win the day, how does this apply to you?
And then we, how does this change our whole community, our whole environment. And so we started to like, use these simple, like frameworks to communicate. And so, yeah, it was just. Well, unbeknownst to me, I was like, oh, this is like marketing formulas. This is how you just communicate clearly to people.
Yeah. It's so interesting. So I think it's Donald Miller, that was sort of like the father of the StoryBrand. Is that how you got, exposed? Well, besides Andy Stanley the, church world, but, is that how you got exposed to the StoryBrand and that whole arena.
Yeah, for sure. So I am a certified with StoryBrand as one of their, what they call a guide. So I use StoryBrand framework and all the marketing that I do for small businesses. And so, yeah, super connected with StoryBrand and Donald Miller. But yeah, so during that time in the church world, I followed a lot of Don Miller because he wrote a lot of books and memoirs and things like that.
And so later on, after working with middle school students, I was part of a startup and Don Miller was starting up a building, a StoryBrand and right now, they're called business made simple. They used to be. Just StoryBrand but now their business made simple. But I started following his content.
Loved it is really great. And so, as I was part of that startup, I was there communications director and I was like, I want to follow this StoryBrand framework is we're trying to implement it in the startup. And it was really effective is really useful. And so when I eventually branched out and started my own business, my marketing business, , I wanted to get certified to become a StoryBrand guide.
So yeah. So I'm all in that world.
Well, I would love it. If you would give us an overview of how you approach it, new clients, and when you're going in, how do you evaluate what their situation is? How do you determine, how you structure their story? I mean, kind of pretend like I'm a new client, how would you approach, helping me or helping a new client, develop a good story.
Yeah. for sure. Story right now is such a buzz word. So, people don't even really know what that means. And, but what's interesting is if you look at the history of storytelling story actually has structured too, right? And the movies that bomb at the box office are the ones that get a little too clever and a little too creative because they break the rules of story.
And the audience starts to disconnect because it's like, oh, like that was too artsy and weird. I couldn't follow the plot line, or I didn't really understand what was going on where every story or every movie there's this essentially four or five different. Storylines that just get repeated over and over and over again.
They're just like, well, the Hobbit is the exact same story as, Superman, but they just have to read characters. Like it's almost the exact same thing. And so what we do with stories, we take these story elements that like are just as old as time.
Like we need to have a character who needs to overcome something. You think of joseph Campbell is curious journey. Your character has overcome some thing. If it's not a compelling narrative. It's not a story I want to watch. If you had any movie there's main character, he has a problem he has to overcome.
And then there's these elements that get this character to the end of the movie where he wins today. And so we take all these elements of story and they become our key. Foundational messages for marketing. And so if I were to work with uteri, the first thing we would want to understand is like, Okay.
Terry, who's the hero of your story?
So with your business, your customer is the hero of the story. So we need to really understand what I would say, client clarity is like, who is that character and what are the major problems that they need to overcome? And so we start with that. We do customer interviews, we do research on competitors and things like that, but really trying to figure out who is this target audience?
Who is the hero of the story? And then from there, we start to map out the rest of the message. It's like, well, what are the main problems that your product or service helps them overcome? And how are those problems, affecting their everyday life? How has it making them feel? And, we'd go through this whole map of, really establishing your brand or your business as the guide that helps this hero win the day.
So if you think of like Yoda was the guy that helped Luke Skywalker win the day, so it's like, we set you up as Yoda. You're this trusted figure that can help. Hero who doesn't understand their potential, realize their potential and become the ultimate success in their life.
So that's the short idea of what we do with story.
Totally makes sense. And actually, as you were talking about that, I was like, of course that's marketing, right? Because I did marketing for so long and it's all about okay, let's meet the client or the prospect where they are. Understand where they are and how they see the world and how they see the journey that they want to go on.
And then. Come to them and walk with them along the journey. And I suppose that that's the whole idea of why you're telling the story, because it's a big hurdle to jump over, to engage with somebody that you may want to do business with. I think a lot of people look at, that there's some risk involved in that, right?
They may. Lose money. It might not do the thing that they wanted to do. They might have to, have an uncomfortable conversation and say, no, I'm not interested. But to be able to tell that story encourages people that like, oh, okay, if this is where I am and they've led other people through a journey like this, the confidence increases, right?
I mean, we've heard many times that people do business with people that they know like and trust and by telling stories. You can allow people to know you hopefully like what you've done and begin to trust you so that they overcome that hurdle, that they need to in order to pick up the phone or go onto the internet and engage.
I really am pretty. Confident in the idea that if we aren't telling stories, all we're communicating as information and so where businesses go wrong is they just slap information on their website and it's a business card, but like business cards get thrown in the trash.
So like we know that it's boring. There's nothing engaging that helps me understand this. And so we're not entering into the story of our customers. Then they're just disconnecting. You know, it's interesting. Cause like your brain actually, as a defense mechanism, daydreams because it's disconnecting from useless information that doesn't speak to your survival.
And so my brains can disconnect because I. Don't care about what you're telling me, this boring information. Cause it doesn't help me understand how you're going to help me win and my story. And so I disconnect and get bored. And that's why we all like fell asleep in math class in high school, you know?
Cause I don't know what this has to do with me.
I'm just thinking back to, like you said, your seventh and eighth grader, kids that you were doing ministry for. I'm sure that that was a huge challenge. So many distractions, you really have to engage it's one of the things that I've heard is that people actually make decisions based on emotion and they justify it based on logic.
Right. And so, what's more emotional than telling a story. You talked about star wars and it's like, how exciting, how many different emotions did we get, walks through or flown through when we watched that movie, everything from, excitement and fear and, victory and love and everything.
And we can relate to that. Right. But gosh,
Well, and I think the emotional side, those feelings that people are experiencing when they have these problems that you're helping them overcome are the biggest opportunities for empathy, with a business. Like, so your business can empathize with the client and say, I understand you're overwhelmed by it.
X problem. And as soon as we connect with them in that feeling type language, it builds tremendous trust, knocks down all kinds of walls. And it helps people really believe oh wow, this business gets me. And so I couldn't agree with you more. There's just that the emotional side, those feelings are so important in how we market and communicate.
Yeah, it's really interesting. Some of the coaching that I do is with people who are in job search, and actually last week I ran a workshop for this local nonprofit that helps people with job search on the elevator pitch. And, it's so interesting, we did it on zoom and everybody that was on it practice their elevator pitch.
, I'm listening and providing feedback. And it's so funny about how. A lot of times people want to just erase all of the personal out of, their elevator pitch. They'd be like, oh, I worked for a large multinational, blah, blah, blah. I'm sitting there saying like, which one?
And what did they do? I want to know all these things. And I know that, one of the people sort of like dropped in a couple of details, but she almost did it a little bit sheepishly. And I told her listen, do some name dropping, because that's when I got interested.
Cause I could start imagining right? When somebody is talking about like a large multinational, what the heck that does not light up anything in your brain. But if somebody is saying, I worked at McDonald's for 15. All of a sudden, like the red and the yellow and the, the golden arches and all of that comes to mind that really, it provides color and interest in something that you can grab onto.
Yeah. I thinking of, great copy. For customers is like, when you have those words and you can close your eyes and see the mental picture comes alive, then suddenly you're starting to get like Greg copy. Yeah, for sure. I think businesses, one of their major issues when they're writing copy is that they make themselves the hero of the story.
And so they just use all kinds of insider language that no one really cares about. And to your point, if you're like, well, I worked for this big multinational company or blah, blah, blah. And like people are disconnecting, versus like, if you're using language that actually helps people imagine their future outcome or who they could become or, helps them really see something that creates pictures in their head.
Then you're starting to sell and you're starting to market.
Yeah. And it opens the door for engagement as well. Because if people can relate and then they're curious, they want to know more, but if it's just sort of this monolithic. Bunch of words that we don't even really know what they mean. It's it gives you absolutely nothing to connect to.
Yeah. You think those like buzzwords and like integrity, innovation, like whatever. What the heck does that mean? So yeah. To get specific and really speak to people's needs. Yeah. , that's where you need to go.
Yeah. Well, I heard you mentioned, Joseph Campbell earlier and, I've listened to some of his books on audible and I really loved the whole idea of these myths from, eons ago and how. They're used for teaching. And how do you feel that storytelling hearkens to us as humans and maybe just like our survival and maybe like lessons being passed down over the years, what's the connection point with, how stories were used?
In ancient times, coming all the way up to now, that's a big ask I'm asking, but I just want to get your thoughts on that.
Yeah, well, a lot of where I dabble in my part-time stuff is life coaching, things like that, just self-help stuff. And so all of that, I see like super connected as far as just the greater meaning purpose and things like that.
And I think, to not only his story, like something that is enticing as far as marketing goes. But I also feel like. If we really think about story in our everyday life of are we waking up to something that's bigger than ourselves? There's meaning purpose and things like that.
I think it's such a useful exercise for people to think through it that really if they can't answer those like bigger questions about am I writing the story that.
I want for my life then? It does make it difficult for someone to get fullness and meaning, , in their purpose and why they get out of bed every morning and things like that.
So, I think it's so connected to small business owners is do you have a business that you're building that is part of this greater, bigger story than oh, I just want to make money. Do you really believe that. You're creating a message that could really fundamentally change the life of your customers.
And that should be it exciting to people and they jump out of bed in the morning because they're like I'm building something that's going to change someone's life. So Yeah, I think it's, all connected story is connected to meaning and purpose. And why is someone, gets fullness out of life?
Yeah, it's so interesting because it's not really. What we do. It's why we do it. Right. I'm just thinking about you've got the local plumbing company and if one company is saying we'll come in on called your pipes or we'll do this or that. , like that's sort of the technical tactical thing that they're going to do for you, but, in reality, they're going to make.
Your life easier. You're going to feel more assured that you're not going to have leaks and if you can make it about something bigger, that it's about, being able to live a comfortable and a life where you feel confident that you're safe, and that you can live the life that you want.
You make it about something bigger. I think that's really,
there's there's one thing that we do, with our clients that,
We describe as the creating the transformational identity of your, customer that you're working with. And I really believe like that. Like if a business looks at how they work with the customer, in a way that says, after they're done working with us, they are fundamentally a different person if you can wrap your brain around that as a business, then I think it creates a lot of meaning purpose behind what you do with that. If someone works with us, they go from being discouraged to confidence. We help people become more confident in, you said plumbing and, their pipes, we're no longer worried about leaks and things like that.
So I can go to bed at night and have peace of mind. So you took someone from being really Overall, I'm frustrated by this problem. And now they have peace of mind. You fundamentally help them change. You start to speak in those terms and then suddenly your business has meaning and purpose.
Yeah, I really love that. And as we're talking about this, one of the things that has occurred to me recently, I've been on a lot of podcasts since my book came out last year. And I talked about my story as an entrepreneur, I've also been on a few where I've talked about, my upbringing and my family.
And one of the things I've noticed is the more I tell my story, , the meaning tends to shift a bit. I understand it differently and more deeply. And, I think that one of the things that's really interesting is that I could almost. hear somebody saying, I just run a plumbing company.
Okay. It's just, we just do plumbing. Okay. Like, don't make it all fancy smancy. Right. But the reality is that it is deeper than that. People have reasons why they need services. And they don't just need the service. They have a reason why they need the service.
And I think that that's really what we need to address with the why's. Get in deep and understand that and understand as a business owner too, that you can shift that, right? Like it might be that, okay. I started my business cause I did want to make a lot of money, but as you're thinking about how you market going deeper, making it about more, like Ben and Jerry's or Tom shoes, all these companies that, have a, social aspect to what they do.
It really elevates the company just to be about something more than just shoes,
I love our plumbing example. Maybe we can, work, if there's a plumber out there listening me and you can dive in and help redo their marketing. But I just like where my mind was going with that was just like, If it's just about the pipes versus the people behind the pipes, you know that then, it is just going to be kind of like, the worker shows up at the house and gets the job done and they leave versus like, if that worker has a little bit.
More of the why behind it. Then I imagine their service becomes a little bit different that it's like, oh, this person needs assurance and calm down and things like that. And if that could be transformative language that changes the culture of how a company is run versus like, if it's just about the pipes.
So, Yeah. if there's Any, plumbers out there Terry and I will hop in and help them.
Yeah. Any, any plumbers out there go to big big story.com, right? Is that,
yeah. Well, I'm just, I'm thinking about, going into the Tom's shoes example those shoes were extremely basic. But the thing that captured people's imagination was that if I buy a pair of these.
Somebody who needs shoes is going to get a pair of shoes. And so there was so much more why behind people buying these, fairly basic though, kind of expensive shoes. But they're willing to do it because of the story that goes along with that, helping people and knowing that they're doing good with their purchase, it's really pretty neat.
for sure. Yeah. It is transformative for someone to really, feel like their communicating something bigger than just like, well buy from me, to be able to enter into their customer's story and really communicate something bigger. That's like, you can change the world.
Really by how your purchase and the things that you do.
Yeah. I'm circling back to the Joseph Campbell, but like the, role. Story's played in, the millennia when most people, couldn't read or anything. But just being able to teach and to, share information with younger generations that we're going to have to follow in the footsteps of the elders.
And this information being passed down. And, I don't know. I think that there's something that the stories make things more memorable. For one thing. And I think to your point, maybe earlier that whenever we're bored, we entertain ourselves, distract ourselves with our own fantasies.
if you think you'll sit down in a movie theater for three hours. Well, I don't know if people are going to movie theaters Right.
now, but you'll watch a movie that's, super long and your brain doesn't disconnect at all. It's just like, suddenly you're hooked in and that's why story works is because there's tried and true elements that hook, capture your attention that you're like, oh, is the hero going to get what they want?
And so you're on the edge of your seat, trying to figure this out. And so. And marketing, the same thing is like, am I going to get what I want? I'm on someone's website scrolling. And they hooked me in and you're trying to figure out can they actually help me? Would they help me get to my desired destination?
And so, yeah, it's just cool how story works. And I joke around with my kids, cause they're all into, the superheroes and everything like that. And, my oldest son loves history and I'm just like all that, history is, the people who told the best stories and passed it on to the
next generation The winners told the stories and the winners got in the history books and the losers didn't get to tell their side.
And I was like, so it is their version who knows what it is. So
Right. right. Yeah. You think about the, George Washington and the territory, it's like, do you remember that one where, he supposedly chopped down the cherry tree and said, I can not tell a lie. I've heard that. That's probably not true, but you know,
But it's a cool story that.
got passed on.
Right. And it burned us, his reputation as being an honest man. Ever since childhood,
It's funny. Well, what are some of the, biggest mistakes that you see people making and, I'm sure we've touched on that, but I'd love to hear directly from you.
for sure. Well, I think I have a couple of things. , the first one is many businesses have the cursive knowledge. So there, if you think of, a jar that has a label on the outside, and the business person is on the inside and they can't read, they can't read the label anymore.
Because they're so inside of it. And so I think it's just really difficult. Oftentimes for someone who's in it so much to communicate simply and clearly to people on the outside. And so, even for businesses that are just common everyday stuff, if you think of an accountant or a realtor or whatever, everyone knows what they do.
But so often the business owner just makes it complicated. So when they talk about things, so that would be the one thing, just insider language. Especially with technical businesses, they're terrible at that. We need to bring it down from like a level nine or 10 because we're in it down to like a level three. So begin the conversation and then get technical later if you need to, but we gotta begin conversations if we want to sell something. So I would say insider language. I would say also just, And this would be connected with sorry, language, but just over communicating when it's not necessary. I think we need to think of the simplest, most clear terms and those become the catchiest most memorable terms.
I like use the illustration of, if you go into a well-designed room, So someone who's great at it. You realize their space, it's not filled with all kinds of stuff. They're a great designer in this room because there's this chair that goes here and this picture that goes here and nothing more. And I think it's the same thing with our communication is we need to really figure out space and give information when it's appropriate, when it's needed. And so business owners, they get like stressed out or nervous when they're like, oh my goodness. That's all we have when the header of the website, I'm like, yes. And what happens is when you walk into a well designed space that has less clutter people feel calm, like, oh, the same thing with our messaging sometimes the shortest is most profound and it hits the hardest you. And so I see that as a big mistake. And then the last one I would say, is businesses make themselves the hero of the story.
So you'll hop in and they're like, we won this award. We did this. We, we, we, we, we, we, and everything is about them. And what I love to do with messaging is we make the business, the supporting character. They're the guide. And so you are dealing with this, you have this problem, you could see this desired outcome and here's how we can help, you know?
And so it's always like, we, set up the business owner with empathy and then authority. So it's always like, I understand what you're going through. And then I share my authority where business owners normally just lead with authority. It's like, we're awesome. We're great. Here's all our words.
And when, when a website browser hops on and sees that they start to disconnect, cause they're like, well, you're just talking about you. You're not talking about how you can help me out. So those would probably be the top three things, right.
Yeah. That's fascinating. And it's funny when you were talking about the well-designed room, because what I thought about, was somebody who is a good designer of space understands that that space is going to be used and they have designed with the. Residents in mind,
they've left space for them. And I think that what you're also saying is that, for example, when somebody comes to a website and there's just like the value proposition for. A potential customer will get from that business. And that's all, I know because I worked in marketing for so long that how everybody, the salespeople or the product, manager, a lot of times when I tell every feature and benefit.
And it's overwhelming because it doesn't leave space for the person that you want to interact with.
They need to be able to digest it, versus like, if it's just like chunks of huge paragraphs and I don't even know where to start versus we need to know that You're going to be able to say it all. You just have to like give it in the right doses at the Right,
So don't be afraid of that. you can't be technical or give them the exact things that they need. There's a time and place for that, but you got to get people in the front door before you can give them all the information.
Yeah, definitely. Well, there's another parallels That just came up for me when you were talking about that. And it goes back to, helping people with job search. And, a lot of times people are really nervous about interviewing, and I think it's really important to come up with little stories, to be able to tell about how you've added value and previous roles.
And a lot of times. When people don't think about what they want to say in interviews, they just say way too much. Cause they're thinking there's a needle in this haystack somewhere and hopefully they can dig it out and I'm giving them what they want versus somebody who has packaged up what it is that they want to say. And they understand the impression that they want to leave the interviewer with. And then they're there. And then if the interviewer has more questions, they can ask them. And it becomes an exchange. It becomes place where people can connect.
And obviously when people are in job search, they're in sales mode too. They're marketing themselves. And I do think sometimes when people aren't having successes, because they don't realize that you're in sales mode, you're selling yourself.
You're the product.
Yeah, I love that. Yeah. There's actually a good friend of mine here in Richmond who does, coaching and consulting for people who are searching for a job. And he describes in similar fashion of storytelling and being able to jump into. The mind of the person who's doing the interview and figure out what their problems are and try and solve their problem.
It's like, Hey, I hear you saying this, and try and diagnose versus always being on the defensive where you're just answering every question. I answer it, give them the best answer. If you can actually solve their problems and understand what keeps them up at night, Then you're going to have a huge opportunity to be able to be the person that they consider.
So it's just kinda cool how it all overlaps become the guide to the, person during the interview, allowed them to be the hero and diagnose what problem do they need song? it's so cool.
Yeah. It really is. Yeah. And much like your friend. I do agree that once you understand what stories you want to tell that it does change the dynamic, from a mindset standpoint, it can really turn it around from being on the firing line too. I know what I'm about. And I'm going to share my value proposition with you, and I'm going to understand because of the conversation that we're having, whether this is relevant and I'm going to present to you, things that are relevant to you, because I'm going to be asking And I think that that's probably the same type of journey that you want to lead people through when you're doing what you do.
Yeah, for sure. Yeah.
Yeah, well, Matt, listen, I want to thank you very much. I thought this was a really, really interesting conversation and I love the whole idea of storytelling because first of all, it's just fun and it's interesting, like who doesn't want to have somebody tell them a story, right?
We all love somebody. Who's a great storyteller, we're like, oh my gosh, where are they going to lead us next? So any last words of wisdom before we close it?
Yeah, well, we talked about a lot. I think just back to that story point, I was talking to a new client and he basically was like, I just had no idea that you could plan your message around story. And I think that's the cool part is that, you really can tell a story with how you communicate.
To your target audience, which is really cool.
Yeah, you got to hold the mirror up to the person inside the bottle. Right? I love when you were talking about that earlier. Cause I use that analogy all the time that you can't read the label from inside the bottle, then, when somebody comes and works with somebody like you, you're actually holding the mirror up for them so that they can see look, this is what people see is this.
Is this compelling and if not, how can we sort of change the label a bit? Well Matt, where can people find you?
So my website is big, big story.com. So two bigs, big, big story. So I created a download, called the staff confusion, fix it. So for anyone who's interested and really it's designed for people who have teams.
And I imagine there's a lot of people who feel like everyone's saying something different. It's like when someone asks you while your business does, everyone has a little bit of a different pitch. And we know with branding, if you brand slightly different, that cow that gets branded is going to have a real.
Dysfunctional looking brand, if everyone's saying it slightly different. And so the same with your business is if it's going to be hard for you to connect with people, if everyone's saying something different, so this staff confusion fix a care, you can download it and
there's three really short exercises. You can take your team through. And so it's big, big story.com/mambo. And you can download.
great. I'll put that in the show notes. Matt, thank you so much for being our guest today. I really learned a lot and I enjoyed our conversation.