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Susan Rust on Running a Marketing Agency and the Impact of the Drupal Community on her Career

Updated on December 11, 2017

4 Min Read

Susan Rust is the CEO of Flashpoint Marketing and has vast experience with Drupal throughout her career. She has spoken at a lot of Drupal events and is a highly inspirational figure in the world of marketing and Drupal. Today, we sit down with Susan to have a chat about her experience with Drupal and the impact it has had on her career.Susan Rust Drupal Interview

Cloudways: Hello Susan, hope you are doing great today. To kick things off, could you please briefly introduce yourself?

I’m a long-time sales and marketing pro with 13-plus years in Drupal.

Cloudways: Tell us about your first experience with Drupal? What made you decide on a career with Drupal?

In 2004, I started a graphic design company. We did branding and print work but our clients wanted websites as well. So we started building websites with Dreamweaver. Oddly enough, we never did a WordPress site and moved straight to Drupal as our first CMS. I liked the SEO-friendly URL structure of Drupal. Drupal 4 was pretty easy back in the day, even though there weren’t any books on Amazon!

Cloudways: In your opinion, is Drupal a serious player in the CMS market?

Drupal is a great platform with a fantastic community. All that, AND there is a strong future for Drupal when it’s the right tool for the project. That’s true of any CMS or platform. Here are my recommendations:

  • Start with a professionally written RFP
  • Start with a DOOB MVP (Drupal-out-of-the-Box)
  • Add custom features as Phase 2

By having a DOOB MVP, the foundation is set for future development with everyone understanding how to collaborate for the win. And if it’s not working out, the least amount of effort, money and time was expended.

For the right project with the right development partner, Drupal is a very robust CMS choice. But since no one wants just a Pollyanna answer, we also face challenges:

  1. Usability & Maintenance: Many companies build and deliver Drupal sites without consideration for post-development site management by a marketing team or site administrators. Some ways to improve launches for customers:
  • End-user dashboards to manage content, media, and files
  • Don’t hardcode elements if needed by site admins
  • Be thoughtful about blocks hidden by context and panels
  • Ensure ways for teams to easily create basic marketing changes

It’s a simple matter to build a dashboard! Every requested feature should be on a dashboard for the end user to manage their work after launch. This ONE concept would transform many projects into win-win for the dev shop and the client.

  1. Monolithic. The day of the large CRM may be waning. But that day is not quite here. Drupal remains a secure, free, robust and well-adopted platform. Just get the right development partner and you get an amazing “Swiss Army knife” CMS.

Cloudways: What are some challenges in starting and managing a Drupal-focused agency?

Producing quality work. We do Drupal through partner agencies because we don’t keep such highly trained folks on staff. Flashpoint.Marketing is a HubSpot digital agency and we maintain a small stable of Drupal clients. We also do design, UX and feature scoping for Drupal projects along with building WordPress sites for our clients.

Cloudways: You are quite an active Drupal events attendee. What would you say is the major benefit of such events?

Continuing education. There’s always something new to learn, like Kalabox’s new local dev tool, Lando. Seeing the demo, talking to the team is a quick and easy way to adopt new business practices.

Community. I love seeing old friends and making new ones. I’m not a voice in the wilderness now when I speak about project management, client dashboards, budgeting, and ops. The Drupal community has grown and has matured into a professional, enterprise arena.

Cloudways: What was the first event that you spoke at? How was the experience?

SANDcamp 2009 and I’ve been organizing it ever since so I think it went well. I think I must’ve scandalized the community about my build-first, design-last approach to websites.

Cloudways: How has your experience with Drupal events helped you to grow?

Incredibly! I’m not an engineer, I’m a designer, project strategist, and project rescue consultant. What I know about Drupal has come from the community. At first, just absorbing the terminology was mission critical and over time, it led to a wonderful consultancy with enterprise clients.

Cloudways: What advice would you give to people looking to start speaking at Drupal events?

Practice. Talk five times slower and louder than you feel is normal. Don’t put a lot of text on your slides. One short phrase is a good rule of thumb. Use demos. Be free to be yourself. Have fun and your audience will, too.

Cloudways: OK, that’s enough about work. Enlighten us about what you like to do with your free time?

Work, of course! Right now I’m trying to teach my dog not to nip. And I’m also on a simplicity binge trying to declutter my house. “Give everything away” is my new mantra. I put things out in the alley and it’s gone in minutes. It’s fun that my nice things have a new home and someone else is enjoying a newfound treasure. And don’t tell anyone, but I still play World of Warcraft.

Cloudways: Lastly, have you ever had a chance to give Cloudways a try? What is your opinion on the service provided by us?

I haven’t tried Cloudways but I love the premise and will definitely try it on our next site launch. It’s an interesting approach and I’ll be watching you closely going forward. I hope to see Cloudways at our 10-year anniversary of SANDcamp this coming March. Thank you for inviting me to chat with you and I wish you all the best!

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Shahzeb Ahmed

Shahzeb is a Digital Marketer with a Software Engineering background, works as a Community Manager — PHP Community at Cloudways. He is growth ambitious and aims to learn & share information about PHP & Laravel Development through practice and experimentation. He loves to travel and explore new ideas whenever he finds time. Get in touch with him at [email protected]


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