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Inbound Success Podcast

Updated 14 days ago

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What do the most successful inbound marketers do to get great results? Each week, host Kathleen Booth interviews inbound marketers on the front lines with one goal: to “peel back the onion” and learn what works, what doesn’t and what you need to do to really move the needle with your inbound marketing strategy.

Read more

What do the most successful inbound marketers do to get great results? Each week, host Kathleen Booth interviews inbound marketers on the front lines with one goal: to “peel back the onion” and learn what works, what doesn’t and what you need to do to really move the needle with your inbound marketing strategy.

iTunes Ratings

33 Ratings
Average Ratings


By Ashley.B.F - May 11 2020
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Really appreciate Kathleen's style and focus on getting into actionable advice, not just theories. The conversations are real and engaging!

Great interviews with intelligent guests!

By Ashton__M_ - Apr 28 2020
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Kathleen knows what she's doing. I'm thankful for a podcast that helps me continuously learn new things.

iTunes Ratings

33 Ratings
Average Ratings


By Ashley.B.F - May 11 2020
Read more
Really appreciate Kathleen's style and focus on getting into actionable advice, not just theories. The conversations are real and engaging!

Great interviews with intelligent guests!

By Ashton__M_ - Apr 28 2020
Read more
Kathleen knows what she's doing. I'm thankful for a podcast that helps me continuously learn new things.
Cover image of Inbound Success Podcast

Inbound Success Podcast

Latest release on May 25, 2020

The Best Episodes Ranked Using User Listens

Updated by OwlTail 14 days ago

Rank #1: Ep. 132: How handwritten notes can drive better inbound marketing results ft. David Wachs

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How do handwritten notes help businesses improve outbound meeting books, increase customer retention and boost customer loyalty?

This week on The Inbound Success Podcast, Handwrytten Founder David Wachs explains how combining handwritten notes with inbound marketing can yield incredible results, and how his company is helping customers automate and send handwritten notes at scale.

Check out the episode to here exactly how Handwrytten works and how companies large and small are using it to increase sales and improve customer retention.

Highlights from my conversation with David include:

  • David is the Founder of Handwrytten, which enables companies to automate handwritten notes at scale.
  • Handwrytten has a website and smartphone app interface, as well as integrations with Salesforce, HubSpot and Zapier.
  • The notes that Handwrytten creates are generated using robots that hold real pilot G2 ballpoint pens, so they look incredibly authentic.
  • Handwrytten is growing at about 300% a year.
  • Companies use Handwrytten in three different ways: 1) sending thank you notes to customers; 2) ecommerce companies include notes in-box with new orders; and 3) outbound outreach.
  • Handwrytten clients that use handwritten notes for outbound meeting booking requests get 3x to 4x more responses, which tracks with the fact that handwritten envelopes get opened three to four times more than typed ones do.
  • One of the companies ecommerce clients has improved customer retention by 5 to 10% by including handwritten notes in their boxes.
  • Several other clients have gotten valuable social proof when their customers post pictures of the handwritten notes they receive on their social media accounts, driving incredible brand loyalty.
  • Handwrytten offers a number of options for customizing notes, from custom handwriting fonts, to inserting your business card or a gift card, etc

Resources from this episode:

Listen to the podcast to learn how companies are using automated handwritten notes to get better inbound marketing results at scale.


Kathleen Booth (Host): Welcome back to the Inbound Success Podcast.

I'm your host Kathleen Booth and this week my guest is David Wachs who is the founder of Handwrytten. Welcome David.

David Wachs (Guest): Thank you very much Kathleen. I'm thrilled to be here.

David and Kathleen recording this episode.

Kathleen: I am really excited to have you here and I say that every week. I do really mean it, but I'm really excited for this one and I have to share this story with my listeners because how this happened I think is so serendipitous.

Not that long ago, a few weeks ago, I was sitting around my dining room table with my husband on a Sunday morning and I subscribe to the Washington Post, which I get once a week, and I read this article in the Washington Post that mentioned this company called Handwrytten and talked about what it was doing and how it helps businesses send handwritten notes.

I stopped him and I was like, "You have to read this. This is really interesting. We should check this out."

Not more than one week later, David sends me a LinkedIn message saying, "Hey Kathleen, I've been listening to your podcast and I would love to come on."

I was like, wait, what? This is the same person. How did that just happen?

Anyway, that's my story of how David and I connected.

David, can you tell my listeners a little bit about yourself, Handwrytten, and what led you to start this business because I think it's really cool?

About David Wachs and Handwrytten

David: Well thank you very much and it really is an honor to be here. I am a listener to the show and I've learned a lot and because of it I am now an Inc. contributor because I listened to one of your episodes where you talked about getting your own content out there in a number of ways as well as a lot of other stuff. Thank you for putting on this wonderful podcast.

I've actually been doing Handwrytten - we are a six year old startup - I've been doing this for six years now and I have to apologize, there's some construction noise in the background that I have no control over, so hopefully ...

Kathleen: I don't hear anything, but if we hear a beep, beep, beep, we'll hope that nobody's backing up into your office.

David: I started this six years ago.

Prior to Handwrytten, and this is important as to why I started Handwrytten, I had a company that did text messaging and in that business we'd send millions of text messages a day for large brands like Abercrombie and Fitch, ToysRUs, Chicago Tribune and others.

What I realized from that, while all that marketing worked and people came out in droves to tropical smoothie cafe and Abercrombie and those types of things, when we sent the messages, they were quickly forgotten and deleted.

I started looking around when it was time to exit Sell It - the name of the company was Sell It - when I was looking around for other opportunities and I walk into my sales people's offices and I'd see handwritten notes on display in their offices. Not only were they kept, but they were treasured.

I think a lot of this is because the average office worker gets 147 or 150 emails a day. You typically get about 40 to 50 text messages a day, something crazy like that. In all that, and with new tools, and I know HubSpot's a great tool, but tools like HubSpot and all the rest, it's easier and easier to send all these emails and electronic forms of communication. After a while it all just becomes noise.

When somebody takes the time to send you a handwritten note, it really stands out as something unique and thoughtful and cherish.

I thought, gee, I'm too lazy to actually send handwritten notes. For my mom's birthday, I would go to the Walgreens, buy a greeting card, promised myself I'd mail it, stick it in my briefcase, and never get around to it because I wouldn't get a stamp, and I'd never sit down to write it.

Kathleen: I may or may not have that problem in common with you.

David: This happened over and over and in all my suitcases and briefcases, I find banged up birthday cards and stuff. I thought there has to be a way to automate this.

That's what led us to start Handwrytten, was being able to take an offline form of communication and make it scale in the same way that emails and texts and tweets and all that does.

We do that through technology in a few forms. On the front-end or what you use, we have a website where you can type in one handwritten note or upload a spreadsheet of 10,000. We've got iPhone apps and Android apps mostly for consumers, but they can be used for businesses as well.

Then we have a integration. Directly from Salesforce, you can send notes and track them. HubSpot CRM integration, and then Zapier integration.

All these methods are trying to turn our software really into a platform where you can send handwritten notes wherever you want and even better, hopefully automate that so you don't even have to think about it.

Then on the other side, the way we fulfill your orders, is we have now about 85 robots that we build here in our facility in Phoenix, Arizona. Each robot holds a real pen. It's a pilot G2 ballpoint pen. You can buy them at Staples, and it writes your note out just like you would. In fact it's no faster, maybe a little bit slower than you are, but it doesn't take any breaks.

We're constantly building robots to keep up with demand. We don't sell the robots or lease them out, we just keep building them and putting them on racks in our facility here. We've got about 85 of those. They're pretty cool. They're 3D printed and laser cut and there's all sorts of cool technologies that I've learned about throughout this process.

When the notes come off the line, if I'm staring at some of the notes that might have the handwriting styles that I am not familiar with, perhaps it's a handwriting style of like a client and we've custom made it, I am flabbergasted because it looks so real. I see it coming off the machine and I can't tell the difference.

Anyway, we're doing about a hundred thousand last month. December was a very busy month. We did about 115,000 of those notes.

We've been growing at about 300% a year, so after six years we're finally hitting our stride.

It was a long curve, but it's been a very interesting process because we have clients that range the gamut. They range from individual realtors and mortgage brokers all the way up to high-end Italian goods manufacturers that sends us with their quarterly catalog. I'm happy to talk about all those.

In a nutshell, if I had to segment how clients use us, they really use us in three different ways.

They use us for thank you notes or correspondence to existing clients. That is if you buy a home or if you buy a handbag or whatever, we will package up a handwritten note with a handwritten envelope and then mail it out to you.

The second way is we do in-box. For large online mattress companies or meal box companies, when you open up that meal box or that mattress box, you might find a handwritten note sitting at the top of that package that says thank you so much for your purchase. We all really care about what you think. Review us on Amazon, Yelp, Trustpilot, or whatever that is, or refer us to your friends. We do a lot of that.

Then the third is the outbound outreach, such as a jewelry store. They might be opening up in a new location. We'll do a database pull of all the homes in that area that meets certain revenue criteria and then send them all a handwritten note.

Now that is very expensive because you're paying for a real forever stamp. Unlike a junk mail piece, which is just printed, we have to start at that level. We have to print something, print the stationary, and then we have to write on top of it. It's never going to be as cheap as a junk mail piece, but it also gets opened substantially more frequently and I can talk about that.

Those are the three ways: inbox, send via the mail to existing clients and customers, and then outreach to new prospects, but the new prospects is rather small just because it is so expensive.

Kathleen: I have so many questions I want to ask you.

David: Go for it.

How do handwritten notes fit in with digital marketing?

Kathleen: I'm about to ask my question, but before I do, I want to let everyone who's listening know you're going to notice that it sounds a little different because David and I were talking and we heard a little echo on his end. We've switched gears and he's called in so that we can give you guys better audio. That's why, if things sound a little different, you're not going crazy.

What I wanted to ask you, David, I think it's so fascinating what you're doing and I want to zoom out and start big picture, which is that, so much of, when we talk about inbound marketing these days, we're almost 99% of the time we're talking digital.

You've almost, everyone else is going right you're going left. You've gone really back and you're investing in this very traditional form of, I don't even know if most people would call it marketing. Handwritten letters. It's a very old school approach.

Talk a little bit about, if you would, how you see that fitting in with digital marketing or the future of marketing in general.

David: Yeah, and I hope everybody can hear me. I think as everything's gone digital people are really craving human connection and they can't go to the store now and know that person that sold them the good in China on Amazon. They want to feel like there is a human on the other end of that Amazon shipping box.

That's really where we step in. When I started this company six years ago, the tagline was and still is: quality cards, your words in pen and ink. Really we were quality cards first because we thought everybody wanted that tactile experience.

That's certainly part of it, but how does this fit into digital marketing? Well we think marketing is marketing and sales is sales and you have to have a holistic cross channel approach.

When you visit the Handwrytten website, and obviously this is a very specific example because it has to do with us, but when you visit the Handwrytten website and you request handwriting samples, that triggers a whole Zapier flow that obviously includes a handwritten note that gets sent out to you automatically.

We do this a lot for insurance firms and other people as well. The same website form interaction flow.

On top of that, you also get emails and you get phone calls from us. I don't see Handwrytten the company being any different than anybody else. If you're looking to reach out to your clients, whether they're inbound leads or outbound prospects, you want to have a multichannel approach.

Not everybody quite frankly connects online. For example, we're working with some healthcare brands and they're trying to go after Medicare seniors and they're finding a lot of these patients aren't responding to emails. By sending them a handwritten note to get them to come into the doctor or sign up to their plan or whatever it is, it's able to appeal to a different demographic.

David: Also, there is definitely a novelty factor. I think the average person receives between one and two actual handwritten notes, or we're an actual handwritten note too, handwritten notes a month.

While you might get hundreds of junk mail pieces and tens of thousands of emails during that time, this is a very different piece of mail that you're going to receive. I think it can apply almost universally.

People say, who are your clients? We say it's anybody that wants to use the mail. That's really what it is. I don't know if I'm answering your question, but I think whether it's an inbound campaign or an outbound communication process that you're trying to build, you have to think about voice and you have to think about obviously email and perhaps social, but you should also think about what's your mail strategy and does that mail strategy include handwritten notes.

Kathleen: Yeah. It's interesting to me because I've been observing what's happening with marketing and with consumer behavior and there definitely is a little bit of a craving.

I think I agree with you for things that harken back to a different time because we have gotten into this era of everything being so digital and so disconnected in terms of, you're not necessarily talking to a real person and everything's very automated. I think it's interesting that there's this resurrection of the handwritten letter at this time.

I also think it's interesting as the parent of a 13-year-old that kids that age are not being taught cursive in school anymore and I can see where the prospect, especially for younger people coming into the workforce, the prospect of sitting down and having to spend time writing out notes, cards, letters, what have you, seems daunting because they're not really taught to write the way that perhaps somebody my age was when we went through school.

Examples of companies using handwritten notes in their marketing

David: Yeah, absolutely. This stuff does work. We know that handwritten envelopes, forget about the actual note itself, but the handwritten envelope gets opened three times as frequently as a printed envelope.

We have clients that are doing outbound meeting booking requests, and they get about a three to four X response right there versus sending out email blasts.

We've got Team Rubicon, which is one of the...Unfortunately most clients don't want us to mention who they are, but we have a few examples that do. Nobody wants to be known as sending notes through us, but Team Rubicon, it's a nonprofit organization and they've been able to improve their redonation rates substantially.

A meal box subscription is able to increase its customer retention by 5% to 10%, which was moving the needle for them. Just the simple thing of including this little note in the box has had some really cool results.

Another side effect is thanks to Instagram and pint-, I guess more Instagram and Twitter, people are tweeting and Instagram sharing the notes they receive.

Another client that I'm allowed to mention is a VYNL, V. Y. N. L. They're a record subscription. They are perfect for us because they're old school records and we're old school handwritten notes and a lot of people will Instagram and tweet pictures of the handwritten notes they received from VYNL.

What's so amazing about VYNL is each note is individually curated for the recipient. it's like, "Hey Kathleen, I saw on Spotify you listen to whomever, because you're listening to that band we sent you these two other records." Then that note gets written out by us and then every day we ship notes to VYNL and they insert them with records. It's pretty cool.

There is that Instagramming, tweeting element, which gets back to your online marketing strategy.

What's crazy is we work with one client that runs a huge, one of the most popular daily YouTube shows, and they were trying to create a fan club basically, and part of that $5 admission to the fan club, you get a handwritten note from the stars of the video.

People were complaining if they didn't get their handwritten note fast enough, which was crazy. They'd see all these handwritten notes online and the YouTube group didn't change it up per person. Pretty much the same note everybody got, but they loved it so much that they would complain if they didn't get that note fast enough. Oftentimes, I mean the vast majority of the times it had nothing to do with us. It was just the post office or a bad address or whatever, but it was really interesting to see that.

I think all of this just comes down to customer experience management and improving that process for the individual because they feel so genericized by everything else.

We have one client that does snack boxes for offices. You could sign up and get a box of granola and chips and whatever else and they'll send it to you on a monthly basis. What they found was if they screwed up your order on your snack, and then they followed up with sending another free snack box with the handwritten note, now granted the free snacks play a huge part in this, they follow up with a free snack box and the handwritten note, your loyalty was much higher than if they never screwed up at all. Then they actually started screwing up on purpose.

Kathleen: That's hysterical.

David: Yeah, because they found that it added so much value to have that experience where you reprove yourself to the clients. That was super interesting to us as well.

Kathleen:That's incredible. I don't know whether I feel like it's just sad or exciting that people are so thrilled to get a handwritten note that the tweet it. It's sad in the sense that it's become a lost art, truly. I still do force my kids to send handwritten thank you notes after Christmas. It's so funny because some of them resist and don't necessarily always do it. The younger ones I can stand over and force them and they're always like, why? Why do I have to do it? No one does this anymore. I'm like, you will do it.

David: That's exactly why they should do it is because nobody does it anymore.

Customizing the handwriting for your notes

Kathleen: Exactly. Well, that's neat. Now I want to switch gears for a second and talk about, somebody listening and they're like, this sounds really interesting and I might want to do it. You said something earlier that really peaked my interest, which is that you can customize the handwriting. Talk to me about that because that I did not realize and that is a game changer.

David: Yeah, so we have two options there.

One, you can use any of our pre-canned fonts. I shouldn't call them fonts, handwriting styles. You can find them on and those, I think we're up to 18 currently, and they range from overly fancy Jenna, to compact Lulu, to very blocky, to everything in between. Most clients can get by with those.

If you want to go and actually have your own handwriting style made, it is a process. It's really an art form.

We have two people here. That's all they do is generate these handwriting styles. It's not cheap. Relatively, I guess it's cheap. It's about a thousand dollars one time fee, but it takes several days for us to perfect that style because it's not just writing out the alphabet and writing out capitals and lowercase, but it's writing six copies of each letter, and then writing a ligature combinations, which are like two O's together, two L's together, two T's, because the way you'd write two T's, would you cross them with one line.

How do your double O's look? Do you loop those together? All that type of stuff gets taken to account and then the end result is something that looks pretty darn close to your own handwriting.

For a much lower fee of a thousand, instead of that, for $250 we can just do your signature and then you could just insert that in any note. The thousand dollars does include the signature. You get it for "free" there. We do have about 60 to 65 clients that have done that. The vast majority of our clients just use one of our, I don't even have my own custom style, I just use one on the website.

Kathleen: Right, the cobbler's child. Right?

David: Yeah. Yeah, exactly. We didn't even send out Christmas cards this year for the same reason. We were too busy sending everybody else's. That's how all that works.

I will say, like I said earlier, they do look, overall the biggest question we got is, we get a few questions, but the number one question is, does it look real? I would say on some of those to me it fools me even, but if I were to hand you a handwritten note and I say, "Hey Kathleen, did you receive my handwritten note?" You'd say, "Absolutely. Looks great. Thank you so much for thinking about me."

If I said to you, "Hey Kathleen, what did you think of that handwritten note? Could you tell it's written by a robot?" If I asked you that it's going to change your viewing of that handwritten note entirely. At that point maybe 50/50 you might determine, oh wow, at the bottom it looks like that. Oh, at the top or something like that.

Kathleen: Right. The lines are very clean. That's the one thing I noticed. When I write, I'm all over the place, but that's the only tell to me is that it's very linear, I don't know if that's the word, but...

David: Yeah. We're getting there. On that way we actually have two different types of what we call jitter. We have a left margin jitter so that the left margin moves in and out every line. It doesn't look like you started the characters at the same spot. Then we also have, and maybe some of these aren't showing up in the samples on the website, but we do jittering.

Then the other type of jitter we do is interline jitter. One line to the next below it is going to have a different spacing than the line below that. We vary that on a line-by-line basis. We do not angle those lines because that would look overly done.

That jitter amount is incredibly subtle because we find people aren't super close then super far then super close. It's within only a couple of points per line that we jitter both of those, but we do try to make it subtle enough where, it's not going to look too perfect with a hard edge on the left side of the screen.

Kathleen: This is totally fascinating to me. It sounds like you guys have studied human behavior as regards how people write notes with an incredible level of detail.

I will say that to me, $1,000 to have a custom font made for your handwriting seems incredibly reasonable if you're going to do any volume. That pays for itself very quickly.

Having said that, it's really funny because I'm on your site right now looking at the handwriting samples and I've determined that I am somewhere in between messy Michael and darlin Darlene.

David: Yeah. All the styles are actually, this is where we become a small company all of a sudden, all the styles are named after either me and my family. I am casual David, even though that's not my handwriting, or office workers.

It's down to the point where even my dog, who's the office dog compact to Lulu because she's six pounds and compact, has her own handwriting style there.

The real popular ones, or my favorites are, tenacious Nick, chill Charity, dapper Will. They all look really great and what's nice about if you choose one of these standard 18 handwriting styles, we're constantly refining those styles and just making sure they look better and better.

For example, with the very formal cursive styles, they look wonderful, but then if somebody were to write something in all caps in that cursive, it looks weird. Now we're going back and refining all those ligature, they're not really ligature combinations, but combinations of all cap words written in a cursive style.

You just go down a rabbit hole of things you want to improve on each of these things. Luckily we have ASU, Arizona State University, not too far away. We have the design students from there come in and they help us with all that because it's a lot. There's a lot to be done.

Kathleen: That's so fascinating. I could talk for hours about these little details and I think it's really cool that you are paying attention to the details in that way because if you're going to do this, I think it would totally backfire if it wasn't done well. If it's an obvious robotic attempt at writing a card.

David: Yeah. We actually have one client that their quality assurance person, who is in a quality assurance mindset, was rejecting our cards because each card looked different.

We said to him, well, that's the whole point. Not each card is supposed to be identical because people are, I know for a fact, for their brand, people do Instagram and do Pinterest and all that stuff, pictures of their cards, and if two people see the exact same card with the exact same spacing and everything else, it's going to look terrible to them. I was able to get them over that hump.

It was funny that that was...He came at it from sourcing or let's get this laser printed perspective, and we said, no, no, no, that's not how it's supposed to be. They are all supposed to have a little variation so it looks more realistic.

What types of cards can you choose from?

Kathleen: Yeah. Yeah. To that point, my understanding from looking at your site is you can do folded cards or flat cards, correct?

David: Yes. Yep. Really we can write on pretty much any piece of paper. On our website, we've got an inventory of about a hundred folded cards to choose from. Most of those now are designed in-house by us under the Red Wagon label.

Nothing ever says Handwrytten when it comes in the mail, because we don't want to be the ones to spoil that. Those will come with that on the back. Instead of saying Hallmark, it says Red Wagon.

In addition to that, we've got a variety of either blanks or blank on one side, 5X7 flat cards. With those, if they're totally blank on both sides, you can put a big image on the back, or I think confusingly which is called the front in our system, and then on the other side you can put your logo at the top and maybe a footer at the bottom and then we'll write between that and it looks like a nice luxurious piece of stationary.

That is a very popular option. If you're a larger client and you've got your own stationary like some of our luxury brands do or whatever, they can always obviously just send that to us and we'll use that instead.

What's nice about the online card customizer is it's so simple. You can literally spend like, I'm doing demos for prospects and I'll go online and in three minutes with them on a Zoom call, I'll create a piece of stationary that looks totally legitimate for them to use and then we can write it on it and send them a sample on their own stationery. It looks really good.

The reason it's a flat card and not a folded card is basically we're resource constrained at Handwrytten currently and we can't afford a huge digital press that we'd then have to cut everything down and all that so it's easier if we just stick to a 5X7 flat card and it allows us to offer these at a price point in quantity one where it still makes sense.

Kathleen: Yeah.

David: It's $3.25.

Kathleen: You guys also do handwritten envelopes too, correct?

David: Everything is handwritten. The note is handwritten. The envelope is handwritten. There's a real forever stamp put on that piece if we're mailing domestically or an international first class stamp, if we're mailing outside of the United States.

In addition to sending cards, clients can send us their business cards and we can insert those. There is a small fee for that for the storage and handling all those business cards.

How companies are using Handwrytten

David: Then additionally we've got probably 15 different denominations of gift cards for you to choose from. Amazon, Starbucks, Target, Home Depot, Visa gift cards, that type of thing. You could choose any of those and include that with your order at checkout too. We do a lot of $5 Starbucks cards typically for, "Thank you for meeting with me - here's a coffee on me" type things. We also do quite a few Home Depot for realtors and mortgage brokers.

Kathleen: Oh yeah, that's a good idea.

David: Yeah. Then also quite frankly for lazy people sending birthdays to their friends wherever, we do a lot of visa cards for that. I would say by and large, our biggest seller is the $5 Starbucks.

Kathleen: Yeah, I could see it being really useful for companies that are trying to get more online reviews for their products. Somebody reviews you, you send them a thank you with a little gift card as a token of your thanks. That seems like a complete no brainer.

David: Yeah, and we do a lot of that for Amazon sellers. Amazon's changed up the rules a little bit, so now it's not allowed to go out and contact them outside of the channel. You can't just send them a note in the mail.

Now we're just inserting those notes with the packages themselves prior to getting shipped to Amazon for fulfillment, but we do a lot of those types of notes for them.

Then a thank you for your referral and then a ton of insurance renewal type. When your insurance is up for renewal, it automatically triggers through Zapier a handwritten note to you thanking you for your renewal.

On the inbound side, quite frankly, I think a lot of it is automatic triggering on forms. When people fill out a form online, that rep might take a few days to get in touch with them and in that time, we send all notes within typically the next business day. Then the post office takes their snail mail time to get to you.

It's a nice follow up to whenever the rep contacts you.

Kathleen: Yeah, that's what I was thinking of is I could see a lot of applications in sales.

I could also see, in one of my previous roles I had, my team did an annual conference and I could see sending it to people who've registered for the conference or sponsors or even follow ups after the conference. There's so many different ways to use it with events.

David: Absolutely. We were able to get our hands on the attendee list for our conference luckily a few weeks before the conference started, and we were able to track down all the mailing addresses.

I didn't even attend that conference quite frankly. I just sat in the lobby and it was by far the most successful conference we ever had because we had meetings booked. I had so many meetings booked. I had to cut meetings short to get to the next meeting.

It was great. It was a great example that our service worked for ourselves. It is absolutely great for pre-conference meeting scheduling and post-conference followup. It certainly does break through the din.

How to automate handwritten notes

Kathleen: Going back to something that you started with. I wanted to just revisit the...You talked about really this evolving into a platform because you have these integrations, so for people who are listening, it sounds like you have the option of doing this in a very transactional way. Either sending you a CSV file with a bunch of names and addresses or you could literally connect this to your CRM and trigger actions from there, correct?

David: Yeah, absolutely. Our deepest integration right now is with Salesforce and in Salesforce you can send a handwritten note from the account screen, from the contact, from the lead, or from the opportunity.

Then we could also automate through Salesforce. There's automation play, which was called process builder.

Quite frankly, I'm a much bigger fan of Zapier, so even if they know how to do process builder, I know nothing about it. I say just spend the $29 a month and do Zapier and send it out. That way it's much easier.

Either through Salesforce or through Zapier, you can do it. What's nice about doing it in Zapier or through HubSpot's CRM is any time you send a Handwrytten note, it's recorded in the CRM systems - within Salesforce or within HubSpot's CRM timeline. Therefore, when you go into that record and you see, "Oh, I called Kathleen on Monday, I sent her an email on Tuesday, I sent her a Handwrytten note with a $5 Starbucks on Wednesday", all that's recorded in your CRM platform.

Then depending on the CRM platform, I know Salesforce is really robust in this way, your manager can oversee you and see all the notes you sent. Track your spend. Maybe not allow you to send gift cards or not allow you to send too many notes a month or whatever it is.

We are looking to expand on that more into HubSpot and into Shopify. Trying to get these small stores to automatically follow up upon certain thresholds.

On Shopify, if I send somebody a third order or they've spent over $500 in their lifetime with me or whatever that is, that would automatically trigger a note. Currently, we do all that through Zapier, but we just want to make it more transparent by putting it directly in the Shopify store.

Quite frankly, for Handwrytten, I just want to be everywhere and every touch point is better SEO and it's more availability, more people will know about us and that type of stuff. Even if they in the end, commonly uses us through Zapier or uploading a CSV into our website.

Kathleen: The real power of this to me is just that it has the potential to eliminate the human error factor.

As somebody who works with companies as a head of marketing, I think there's so much potential to, I was mentioning before, integrate this in the sales process.

I'm a marketer who loves working closely with sales teams because obviously you can judge yourself based on the number of qualified leads you pass to a sales team, but really with marketing, at the end of the day, it all comes down to how many of those leads turn into customers.

I like to look at what happens after that lead gets passed over. I think being able to say, okay, we did a demo for this person. When that's marked off in Salesforce or in HubSpot CRM, if I can go in and automatically trigger it so that handwritten note goes out, I don't then have to rely on the sales team.

It also makes their life easier, which improves my relationship with them. Anything marketing can do to make sales life easier, is always a good thing. I know for sure that it's going to happen.

To me that makes it incredibly appealing as a marketer.

David: Yeah, and that's where we're really trying to get with all of our clients. We want to be the plumbing of the organization on the handwritten notes side. You have your email plumbing and your CRM plumbing, but we want to be the handwritten note plumbing that you don't even think about. You just know it's going to work.

For instance, we work with a solar panel installation company in Louisiana and they're sending about 400 notes a day. All of these notes are simply triggered off of people setting up meetings. They don't do anything. These notes are automatically triggered. They don't even have to think about it.

We have a major car manufacturer if you call into their main customer support number in Detroit, and I'm not sure why you'd call them versus your dealership, but whenever people still do call the car manufacturer, depending on if you were resolved or unresolved in the call center, it automatically triggers one of three different handwritten notes to that car buyer.

That purchaser saying "I'm so happy we were able to help you" or "I'm so sorry we weren't able to resolve this" whatever. To your point, exactly, it's taking the compliance or the follow through aspect out of it. The last thing you want to do is sit down and you're trying to answer the phone and you don't want to have to sit down and remember to send 40 handwritten notes and have your hand cramp up and everything else.

We work with a super premium luxury perfume company and we do all their online purchases. We send handwritten notes following an order. I was just walking through a department store with my wife and they had that premium brand and I pointed it out, and the store clerk came up and she was asking me why I was pointing it out and I said, oh, it's because we do the handwritten notes for you guys.

She goes, "No, you don't." I have to write all my own handwritten notes and it takes all day to do it and that's a pain in the neck. I said, "Well, we do it for the online orders." She said, "Well, geez, you should do it for me too", because she's very busy. I'm sure she can't get around to sending all her handwritten notes. If she does, maybe they start looking terrible by the end of the day because her hands cramped or whatever.

We're doing a lot of that trying to make the online experience just as good as the offline.

Kathleen: That's awesome. I think this is a no brainer. I know I'm going to be using it in some capacity, but I've been fascinated by solutions like this for a while because the same pain point that you expressed when you started the company, I felt that a few years ago and I went and started Googling to try to find a solution and there wasn't really one that existed. There were some very, very high priced ones that if you're a company that's going to do tremendous volume, it might be worth investing in it, but there weren't any good solutions that supported a lower volume and a smaller budget.

I love that you have a solution that spans all of that. I think that's great. It makes it so much more accessible.

David: Right now for better or worse, I actually wrote a medium post about this, our big competitor who you probably saw, they are no more because they spent all their money on marketing and very little money on technology.

I come from a technology background and I spent all our money on technology so that we could support the business and maximize throughput of messages so that you didn't have to have somebody sitting there placing each note individually on a handwriting robot like they did.

They are no more, and right now we are pretty much the only game in the United States. I know of one in Germany doing it and the big problem we're coming across right now are companies claiming to be handwritten, but we've received their product and it's laser printed.

There's a little bit of market confusion out there currently, but in the actual handwritten notes space in North America, we are in an interesting position to be the only game in town right now. You'd think we'd be bigger given that. We're getting there. We're definitely getting there.

Kathleen: Oh, I have a feeling that in a few years everyone is going to be talking about you. Well not even a few years. I don't think it's going to take long because it's a really great product and it sells itself to me at least.

David: Thank you.

Kathleen's two questions

Kathleen: Well, I want to make sure I save enough time to ask you my questions that I always ask all my guests.

The first one is, we talk a ton about inbound marketing on this podcast. When you think about companies or individuals out there who are practicing inbound marketing, who do you think is really doing it well right now?

David: This is actually not a client of ours, but I have some friends that do digital marketing and we've been talking about it. I actually ran this question by them because I knew you're going to ask it.

There's a company called GhostBed based in Florida. They do online mattresses. They've been doing them quite a long time and they rely heavily on people writing video reviews or doing video reviews and putting them on Instagram or on Twitter and then they pull them off those social channels and actually put them on their website and then they tag you with that ad roll and everything else once you're there.

They really got ya. I know they use a marketing influencer network. I think they're using one called Intellifluence, but they do a very good job.

As far as our clients, I think VYNL does a very good job within their niche of building this huge branding presence on, for certain, very specific niche demographics. Those hipsters that want to receive old fashioned vinyl. They've done a great job of getting out there and getting in front with a lot of Instagram and a lot of Facebook marketing and then driving that back to their website and then just having everybody, at least when we started, there was a lot of excitement about these handwritten notes with them and there was a lot of taking pictures of those and posting them online. That worked really well.

Then I got to say we've done a pretty good job of it just because of the cobbled together HubSpot-like platform we've built, which is a nine or 10 step Zapier zap that when you come in and you request, I will warn all your listeners, that if they request samples, they're going to get emails from members of my team and then a phone call and they're going to be put in our CRM system and all that. That whole process is totally automated.

I'm pretty happy about the inbound processing machine we've created here based on creating an item of value, which is a handwritten note sample that people want to receive.

I think GhostBed has done a really pretty incredible job.

Kathleen: Oh, I can't wait to check that out. It's amazing what you can do with Zapier. It's pretty limitless.

David: It really is. I should work for them.

Kathleen: Yeah. I had a guy named Connor Malloy as one of my guests many episodes ago. He's from a company called Chi City Legal. I think it's him and one partner that have a law practice in Chicago and he runs his entire practice on Zapier on basically zero budget.

It's amazing what he has done. That was one of my favorite episodes because he was like, "I don't know if you want to talk to me because it's just me and my partner and we don't have a big budget and we don't have any fancy software." I'm like, "No, that is why I want to talk to you because you've done all this incredible stuff on a shoe string with just you."

David: I remember the episode. He had Zapier pre-filling his contracts and all that stuff.

Kathleen: Yeah. It's amazing. That's really cool that you guys have an integration with Zapier because I've used it at many companies and it's really a game changer.

Second question is, the digital marketing changes really quickly and the biggest complaint I get from marketers is they can't keep up with it. How do you personally keep up with it? How do you stay educated?

David: Well, recently I have to admit I have become a Reddit addict and I don't know if you've gone on the Reddit bandwagon yet, but it's a never ending rabbit hole to go down for good and bad.

I can go on certain channels and just dive in to silly videos for hours on end or I can look at the growth marketers subreddit and get some really great ideas. I find Reddit to be really good.

The latest idea, and I almost hesitate to mention this on your show, is a little black hat idea for LinkedIn marketing called LemPod, L. E. M. P. O. D. I don't know if it's worth getting into because somebody...It was posted on Hacker Noon as well in other websites they talked about LemPod, but basically it's a way of preseeding your LinkedIn posts with engagements.

You join a group of other digital marketers or people in your same vertical or what have you, and it automatically fills your post with comments from them, and because of that, the more engagements your posts have, the more visibility they have.

My recent posts have all received 5,000 to 10,000 views because of LemPod. It's a little bit black hat, but I learned about that through Reddit as well.

Also, I'm a huge fan of Flipboard and I'm part of the hashtag inbound marketing content on Flipboard, so I read that.

Then finally I listen to you and I've heard all these episodes you've mentioned. Those are the three ways.

LemPod is certainly interesting if you're looking for an interesting approach to massively increasing your views, even if it's a little funny at the beginning.

Kathleen: Yeah, I'll definitely have to check that out. I am so humbled that you mentioned me in that mix and that you listened to the podcast and get some value out of it. That means a lot to hear that feedback. Thank you.

David: No, absolutely. Like I said, during the preinterview for this and then again I write for Inc. magazine and I tried to create items of value on the website because of that gentleman that worked at HubSpot, then G2 Crowd.

I really take what you're doing to heart and I think I cannot be the only one. There has to be other listeners out there doing the same. Thank you for doing this and I hope it's paying off for you because it's paying off for us.

How to connect with David

Kathleen: Oh, well thank you. That is why I love doing it. It makes me happy to hear that it's working for you.

Well, I'm sure there are people who are listening to this and they're thinking this Handwrytten things sounds really cool. I want to check it out. How should they do that? What's the best way for them to learn more about Handwrytten and or connect with you online?

David: Yeah, you can always connect with me online. I'm David B Wachs on Twitter, I think David B. Wachs On LinkedIn, but just search for David and Handwrytten on LinkedIn.

The company is That's Handwrytten with a Y, H. A. N. D. W. R. Y. T. T. E. N.

I do recommend the samples requests. You can always say "stop emailing me" after you get your samples, because with the samples you get a whole bunch of material. You get custom cards, you'll get standard cards, you'll get a whole page of different writing styles and a nice little folder to hold it all in. People really do like our samples.

You could just get that at

We are rolling out a new website in the next two months, which I'm super excited about. If you check us out now, please check this out in two months. That's it.

We have a small presence on Instagram. I think our tag is Handwryttennotes on there, and we are on Pinterest because we do a lot of consumery style notes, but for the most part, just feel free to connect with me on Twitter.

You know what to do next...

Kathleen: Awesome. Well, I will put links to all of that in the show notes, so head over there if you're interested in connecting with David or learning more about Handwrytten. There's so much good stuff on the website, so I definitely do recommend people check that out.

Of course, if you're listening and you enjoyed this episode or you'll learn something new, I would really appreciate it if you could head to Apple podcasts and leave the podcast a five star review. That would help us get in front of more listeners like you.

That's it for this week. Thank you so much, David. This was a ton of fun.

David: Thank you very much. It was an honor to be on your show.

Mar 02 2020



Rank #2: Ep. 76: How to Build a Successful Channel Marketing Program Ft. Bryn Jones of PartnerStack

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How do companies with successful channel marketing programs increase customer lifetime value by 150% while decreasing the cost of customer acquisition by up to 75%?

This week onThe Inbound Success Podcast I'm joined by Bryn Jones, the CEO of PartnerStack - a SaaS platform that enables companies to build and manage partner channel marketing programs. 

PartnerStack's clients range from startups to publicly traded companies like Intuit and Shopify. What they all have in common is channel marketing, and the insights that Bryn has gained by working with them have made him an authority on what it takes to build a successful partner channel.

In this week's episode, he talks about the types of companies that are a good fit for channel marketing (TL;DR - it's just about everybody), when to start a channel, what it takes to build a successful channel, how much it costs, and what kinds of results you should expect.

This week's episode of The Inbound Success Podcast is brought to you by our sponsor, IMPACT Live,  the most immersive and high energy learning experience for marketers and business leaders. IMPACT Live takes place August 6-7, 2019 in Hartford Connecticut and is headlined by Marcus Sheridan along with keynote speakers including world-renowned Facebook marketing expert Mari Smith and Drift CEO and Co-Founder David Cancel.

Inbound Success Podcast listeners can save 10% off the price of tickets with the code "SUCCESS". 

Click here to learn more or purchase tickets for IMPACT Live

Some highlights from my conversation with Bryn include:

  • PartnerStack helps companies grow through partnerships by providing the technology layer that enables them to build a partner channel marketing program.
  • Approximately 30% of the software sold every year is sold through channel programs.
  • Partner channels are the best way to get in front of the late adopters and laggards in the market, which is the majority of the market.
  • Bryn believes that partner channels can work for any type of business.
  • The best way to start a partner channel is to identify four different potential types of partners, and the work with ten companies in each category (so 40 total). From that initial 40, you will be able to identify which category is the best fit for your business.
  • Companies with partner channels, on average, have customer lifetime values that are 1.5 times higher than those without channel programs.
  • When it comes to partner incentives, start with basic recognition (ex. thank you notes). When you're ready to scale up, cash rewards tend to work better than coupons or gift cards.
  • HubSpot, Shopify and Intuit are all companies with best-in-class partner programs.
  • Bryn says that companies that have partner programs aren't selling an opportunity to earn a commission. They're selling an opportunity to do business.
  • The most successful partner channels aren't selling incentives, they are selling value that the company (that offers the partner program) can go through and then provide to the partner.
  • When creating a new partner channel program, start by building out a portal and automating communication with partners. Make sure to create case studies about your partners' successes.
  • Companies with $3 to $5 million in annual revenues are generally a good fit for starting a partner channel. 
  • If you're serious about doing this, and doing it well, be prepared to hire a dedicated full-time person to work on your partner channel and give them at least six months to become successful.
  • The typical partner channel program can increase customer lifetime value by 150% and decrease the cost of customer acquisition by up to 75%.

Resources from this episode:

Listen to the podcast to learn more about what types of companies are a good fit for channel marketing, when to start one, and what the specific characteristics are of the most successful partner channel marketing programs.


Kathleen Booth (Host):Welcome back to the Inbound Success Podcast. I'm your host Kathleen Booth, and today my guess is Bryn Jones who's the co-founder and CEO of PartnerStack. Welcome Bryn. Bryn Jones (Guest): Hey how are you? Kathleen, how are you?

Bryn and Kathleen recording this episode

Kathleen: I'm great, thanks. How are you doing?

Bryn: Good, good. I'm in California today, so doing some last minute travel right before the year ends, getting in front of customers.

Kathleen: Nice. The last minute hustle. Hopefully you get to wrap that up soon and have a little down time for the holidays.

Bryn: Yeah, yeah. No, it's ... I mean, that's the great thing about enterprise software is it's pedal to the metal, but the holidays does leave a little bit of time for people to rest and recuperate, so looking forward to getting back into the office next week and putting a solid plan together for next year.

Kathleen: Yeah, it sure beats being in retail this time of year.

Bryn: Absolutely.

About PartnerStack

Kathleen: So before we jump into our conversation for today, tell our audience a little bit about yourself, and about PartnerStack, and what it does.

Bryn: Yeah, perfect. Yeah so PartnerStack, we're a three year old company.

Three years ago we got into a business incubator called Y Combinator. We went in as an idea, and we came out as a semi-functioning product.

But what it is that we do is we let companies grow through partnerships. What that means is we're the technology layer that lets companies go and build partner or channel programs.

So an example of this would be Intuit. They drive about 20% of their revenue through accountants, bookkeepers, and financial institutions. Except this whole process is incredibly challenging to 1) manage, and 2) actually ensure that it's in fact successful.

We're the layer of technology that lets marketers get back to being marketers, and get away from being administrators.

Kathleen: I definitely feel like it shows that you went through Y Combinator, because you have your value prop and pitch completely nailed down, which I know that gets drilled into you when you go through these incubators and accelerators, that being one of the, obviously the most famous ones.

So what led you to wanting to create the solution? Was it something from your background or experience? Did you see that pain point?

Bryn: Super interesting. So my other founders and I, we actually built another company while I was in graduate school. The company was like Slack, except it was pretty much worse in every other way in that the product wasn't as good, we certainly didn't have the revenue growth, and we definitely weren't able to go fundraise.

But what we realized is we could instead innovate on business model. I don't think enough technology companies go through and do this, and so we started working with a network of agencies.

These networks of agencies, they would send us business, and we'd simply send them a commission. This was incredibly interesting, because people started reaching out to us saying, "Hey, how are you managing your channel program? How are you managing your partner program?" Quite frankly, we just said, "What's that?"

It took us down this big path where we realized, there's a ton of software sold each year, and 30% of the is coming through channel partners.

This is kind of like the last fossil inside of a technology company, that technology hasn't had to go through it and understand distribution. But really it's the best way to get in front of the late adopters and laggards in the market, which is the majority of the market.

Kathleen: Yeah, that's really interesting. I have been a participant in channel programs. I've been a value-added reseller, a partner, whatever you want to call it, for quite a few years, with several different technology companies. But I have never been in a company that had a partner or reseller program.

So if somebody is listening and they're the in-house marketer, what would you say are the questions they should be asking themselves to understand better whether a channel program is right for their business?

How To Know If A Channel Marketing Program Is Right For Your Business

Bryn: Gotcha. We firmly believe that channel works for everyone's business. The reason why we believe that, is because we can see that is in fact true. Specifically in software, it works really well.

What it really it comes down to is: Who are your channel partners? Is it more of an affiliate? Is it a larger partnership with a bank? Is it a partnership through accountants and bookkeepers?

Everyone has a specific channel partner that will work for them, and you might not get it right the first time. So really it's a process about running experiments where you're first off, trying to determine the channel partner profile.

You do this by finding 10 channel partners and making them successful, and then replicating it over, and over, and over. Now the best way that we recommend for companies to go on and do this, is to write down four different channel partners they believe will work, and go and try to backfill it. So it ends up resulting in you actually getting 40 channel partners onboard.

The reality is, is one of those groups will work really well. One of those groups will work sort of well. The other two groups will in fact fail, so that's the starting point of a channel program.

It does work for everyone. It depends on what your goals are.

This isn't a marketing channel that you turn on overnight and it immediately starts pumping out lots of revenue. But the reason why people need to go through and invest in it early, is because the lifetime value, sorry, the cost to acquire customers through channel is actually less expense than through any other means.

Then the lifetime value of those customers is significantly more. We're seeing in our customers it's up to 1.5 times more, and so it's an investment worth making early days, because it's the only thing that's going to let you go through it in scale.

Kathleen: Now you said when you were talking about that this, that channel can work for everyone. Do you mean everyone in software, or everyone period?

Bryn: Well, it's interesting. I think everyone period. Technology companies are the ones where we've gone through it and focused, but most other sectors are using channel in some way, shape, or form today.

The best example would be the way Toyota sells their cars through a network of dealerships. They don't think of that as channel, but certainly it is channel. Those dealerships are owned by independent business people, and that relationship is always challenging.

So nontraditional sectors have done a very good job at understanding channel. It just hasn't been formally called that, and so what we're seeing in the space is actually some of the most innovative stuff, is really coming out of agencies, in the way that they go through and manage their referrals, because it drives so much of their business.

Kathleen: Yeah, it's funny when you say that these other industries are doing it without calling it channel, because what first came to my mind was specialist physicians.

For example, I've worked for years with a client that does laser eye surgery. They get all of their business through referrals. I had a call the other day with a company that just does medical imaging, so MRIs, all of their business. Nobody goes in the phone book to pick out where they're going to get their MRI. It all comes through a referring physician.

So in the medical field, it's incredibly common. I think we as consumers experience channels all the time. I think a lot of people just don't know that there's a name for that.

Bryn: Yeah, it's the infrastructure underneath of the way that those referrals go through and work, and so our thesis is that this is actually much more scientific than it has been.

There is a way to go through and do it. You can optimize that process, and when you optimize that process, you just get a better ROI.

How To Start A Channel Marketing Program

Kathleen: Yeah, so if somebody is listening and they think a channel could work for them, you mentioned that the first step is to figure out four, let's call it buckets, of types of channel partners, and to backfill those buckets, 10 partners in each bucket, so you've got 40 partners.

Then it sounded like what you were saying is to do almost an A/B test, only I guess in this case it would be an A/B/C/D test, and figure out which of those is working the best. Is that accurate?

Bryn: That's 100% accurate. You create the buckets, and you're trying to build a persona behind it.

Where is this person located? What is their age demographic? What is their occupation? Maybe most importantly, what is the reason they are sending me business?

You go through and you run those A/B tests, and you try to figure out who's going to most effectively send you the business. When you do, you have to figure out what's the incentive you will then go through and provide them. Is it a discount? Is it a coupon? Is it a reward? Is it cash?

We've seen companies go through it and work through this. It could just be as simple as co-marketing material, writing a blog post, or featuring people.

People like to be recognized for the work that they do. I mean, it could quite frankly be as simple as sending a thank you letter.

But no one has enough process, we believe, behind the way that you go through it and recognize, and incentivize people to help you grow your business.

Structuring The Right Incentives For Channel Partners

Kathleen: Have you seen any evidence of what types of incentives tend to produce the best outcomes in channel programs?

Bryn: It depends on what the goal of the channel program is.

We find, as funny as it sounds, very basic things work, so just general recognition; thank you letters, acknowledging that you did in fact receive benefit, and that you appreciate that.

Most people drop the ball there, and so that's a very basic step that can be done. "Hey, you know what, thank you for sending me Sally over. Got her all setup and it was really great. You really helped me out here." That's the most basic version of that.

Then it can go all the way up to cash rewards. Though some people sometimes think, "Oh cash, that doesn't feel very good, maybe that's not what I want to go through it and do," the reality is, it works more often than gift cards.

From the data that we've seen on our platform, cash works more in building a program that can infinitely scale, than just coupons, because what ends up happening, or gift cards, what ends up happening is you just bring in people to your program that just want to get gift cards. There's a very small segment of the population that only wants that, and so it's a very misleading idea.

I mean, we always tell people, "If you were to go through and partner with Amazon, you couldn't pay them in Amazon gift cards, so why do you think that you can build a longterm scalable program where it's like this?"

Kathleen: Yeah, I would tend to agree with that, having been on the partner side. I would think that gift cards could potentially work if your ideal partner is an individual, truly an individual person, because then their incentive is, "Sure this is money I can spend on myself."

But if your partner is any kind of a company, gift cards have to be used by somebody. I think what's attractive about it ...

I used to own my own marketing agency, and we were partners with a lot of different organizations, probably the most prominent of which was HubSpot, which has a very good partner program, 20% in perpetuity of any monthly recurring revenue that you sell.

What was attractive about it for me was that I was in a business where there wasn't a lot of - what's the word I'm looking for? - residual income, if you will. You're selling your hours, your time, it's not super scalable.

But a partner commission changes the game a little bit, if you can accumulate enough to make it meaningful, so I would agree with that.

Bryn: Yeah. No, and that's what we're seeing. I mean ultimately if you go through and invest in the channel, what you want to do is you want to enable people to be able to earn a living, build a career, build a business off of the channel program that you go through and build.

If you accomplish that, then you will have an incredibly successful channel program.

That is an optimal end state that I think that everybody can go through it and work to, as long as people understand that it's doing the basics really well. But you have to be working towards, "How is this a longterm sustainable channel that runs and operates completely on its own?"

There's many different touchpoints that get you there to that.

Bryn: It's interesting that you mentioned HubSpot. I mean, we always point to them as the leader in understanding channel at a very early day. Peter Caputa, and the work that he did to really create a community around it, it's not just about money. It's teaching people how to build services around software, and that had never been done before.

Yeah, it was incredibly impressive the way that that's happened.

Kathleen: Yeah, Pete Caputa, he's an amazing guy. He's also who introduced us, so shout-out to Pete.

I have to underscore what you just said, because it's kind of blown me away. I mean, becoming a part of that partner program was a major game changer for my business and therefore as a result, for my life. I've said that to him. In fact, I said that to him on his birthday this year.

But the thing that amazed me about it was how almost religious people got as part of that partner program. I mean, I always saw a ton of value in it, but there were partners ...

It was incredibly common to hear people say, "I bleed orange, or I drink the orange Kool-Aid," because HubSpot's logo is orange, which are pretty extreme statements if you really think about the meaning behind them.

People who would paint their office walls orange, buy orange clothes, I mean it really was this incredibly evangelical approach to being a part of a partner program. You don't see that very often, so I think that that's to me the clearest manifestation of the value that Pete delivered to the partners that joined in the HubSpot partner program.

Bryn: Yeah, and you know what, there are other programs that are like this that work well, specifically in SaaS I can point to Shopify.

Shopify has built thousands of agencies in this point in time that help people go through and service Shopify stores. Excuse me. It all comes down to the fact that they know they aren't selling an opportunity to earn a commission. They're selling an opportunity to do business.

"They aren't selling an opportunity to earn a commission. They're selling an opportunity to do business."

~Bryn Jones   Click to Tweet this

Though it sounds very different, you're selling a partnership. What are you bringing to the table when you're setting that partnership up? It starts very low in the funnel, all the way from the thank you letter, to the coupon, to the recognition and the co-marketing stuff, and then all the way up to cash.

So there is a step by step process in which you go through and built this. But it's just having a key, like, treat your partners the same way you would treat your employees.

Bryn: If you come at it with that type of approach, and though it sounds very soft, you can unpack it, and they are very, very, very specific things that you can go through, to do to make that work.

What Makes For a Successful Channel Program?

Kathleen: Yeah. Now in my experience, as I mentioned, I've been a member of quite a few partner programs.

What's really interesting to me anecdotally, is that, I think in every case the platform that I was a partner for, and I'm thinking of SAS software partnerships right now, in every case the platform was a great platform that delivered plenty of value.

But the degree of value that I would say I derived and the platform did out of the partnership really varies. So there would be some companies like HubSpot, where my company, myself, the company I'm with now, we're very invested in that relationship.

Then there's others where it's just like a failure to launch. It never really gets off the ground.

At least in my experience, very little of that has to do with the actual incentives. You might have comparable incentives across five partnership programs, and have five very, very different results.

So can you talk a little bit about ... For a company that wants to start a channel program, once they put that incentive in place, what are the other building blocks that are necessary to set partners up for success, and to have a longterm, really thriving partner relationship?

Bryn: Yeah, so I mean the first and most important thing is that you aren't selling incentives, you are selling value that you can go through and then provide to the partner. That's not some abstract thing. You actually need to teach and train the partner how to go through and sell your product, or make the recommendation for you. You need to invest heavily, heavily in training and education materials that partners can through and access, so that they can understand how to sell your product.

"You aren't selling incentives, you are selling value that you can go through and then provide to the partner."

~ Bryn Jones   Click to Tweet this

Bryn: It's not like selling to a customer. It's again, selling a relationship. It's the same way as you would onboard an employee, so that's the first step that needs to occur.

You need to understand that there needs to be an investment into understanding the value. For you as a company, you need to understand what the partner wants out of the relationship, because again, it's not just money, and so you need to spend some time to go through and do that investigation.

They may not tell you. In fact, they probably won't, because they even know. But often what we find it is, is you as a company understand the value of your product, but I need to be trained the same way as an employee would be. That takes a lot of hand holding, beyond ...

Specific things, you could put a learning management system in place, invest in technology. If you're going to invest in technology to employees that you bring on, whether that be through Slack, your CRM, many of the marketing automation tools that are in fact out there, you need to invest in technology to go through and then support your partner ecosystem.

That technology starts with a learning management system. You should probably go through and create a basic portal. I'm not going to go through and hawk our platform, but then there are other things you need to go through and consider.

You need to be building email campaigns to ensure that partners, once they come on board, they are in fact getting engaged.

You need to think of it like a pipeline. Top of funnel is opening up and bringing new partners in, and then mid funnel is really how do you ensure that partners are moving through that pipeline.

You need to determine when you should go through and reach out to them. If you can go through and do it, you're not going to make everyone successful all the time, but there's at least a lifeline. You're building a lifeline for them to reach out to you when they need help.

That's why channel is a longterm investment. But those are some of the specific things we can think through.

Then there's even more granular stuff. Build case studies, not where you talk about your product, but where you talk about your partner, and their company, and their clients, and the way that they're going through and selling, and the struggles that they're going through and facing.

If you can build those case studies, and you can work alongside the partners to actually promote them inside of your blog, that's how you quickly build a community.

Kathleen: Absolutely. That's been my experience, is that a lot of, especially if you're working with agencies for example, well, and I would think that this is true of most partner relationships, that that agency, that company, that is your partner is running their own business, they have a lot going on, their number one focus is not the partnership generally. So the easier you can make it for them to be successful, it's almost like, "Can you spoon feed success to them?"

This is what HubSpot did really well. It had phenomenal partner onboarding. The partner success managers are great. They gave us a ton of content that we could white label and use in own marketing.

I mean, that's making it easy. We needed to get leads as an agency, and HubSpot would just give us all this content, whether it was eBooks, or infographics, or what have you, that we could put our logo on and send out, and even change, customize copy.

Making it that easy made it easy for us to invest in the partnership, so I would definitely agree with what you said there.

Bryn: Yeah, just treat your partners like they're employees. For the people that are the marketers really driving these initiatives inside of organizations, I recognize one of the hardest challenges that everyone has is actually getting buy-in from executives.

The best way to go through and communicate this to executives when this comes up, is to walk them through that. If these people are going to provide us a lower cost to acquire customers, a higher lifetime value, why aren't we willing to treat them the same way as we would any salesperson, or any other marketer that were to come on here?

If you really push that and understand how aggressively you can go through and push it, it's very surprising how quickly finance comes in and says, "That makes sense."

It's also important to understand that this isn't something that gets turned on and works overnight, but is the only way that you will truly continue to scale up longterm in the business.

Then the other thing where we see people fail often is when they think there's one partnership that will work. "Oh, this one partnership is going to change the direction of our company." That's where you see a lot of scar tissue, you know? People have learned their lessons.

Lots of scars have come from thinking through this one partnership with this one big company, that's going to change everything. Where reality is, those partnerships, to be frank, I have never seen them lead to anything, and so don't do that.

That's certainly not the place that you want to go through and start with, because it costs so many resources, it takes so much time, and the likelihood of the payoff actually happening is actually very low.

Kathleen: It's also incredibly risky. When I hear that, I think about a portfolio investment strategy. If you went to your financial advisor, they would never say to put all of your money into one stock. It could be an incredibly well performing stock, but they would never say put everything into that one stock, because you would have all your eggs in one basket.

If that thing disappears, if that partner disappears, even if it is a successful relationship that does bear fruit, if all of the sudden in year two something happens and it goes away, what are you left with? Nothing, you have nothing.

Bryn: I feel so bad. I'll tell you from our experience. One of the most challenging things for use when we first started PartnerStack in 2015 was customer development. The reason being is, we would go out and talk to partner, or channel, or community managers.

No joke, we tracked it in our CRM, and 30% of the time, they would end up losing their job within six months of a conversation happening. We went back and looked at why they were losing their job, and very often, very high percentage of the time, it was because the pursuit of one single partnership.

To this day, we've never seen that payoff. It's something that we always, always, always warn people about.

You cannot under invest in this channel. It takes time, and there is no silver bullets, there's just a lot of lead.

If you get that buy-in, and you communicate that across the company, it ultimately will be something that's successful.

I mean, look at HubSpot. 40% of the revenue comes through channel.

You can go through and look at companies like Shopify. When they IPO'd, 25% of their revenue was coming through channel, and so it's a huge, huge, huge opportunity. It's the only way you'll go through it and hit scale. It's just making sure you have buy-in.

When Should You Start A Channel Program?

Kathleen: So is there a certain point in a company's maturity when starting a channel program makes sense? It sounds like it's somewhat resource intensive to do it well, so is this something that you've seen companies do right out of the gate successfully? Or do they need to have a little time, and experience, and track record underneath them before they should move to starting a channel?

Bryn: It's my belief that channel, when you make the investment, you can do it very early.

The way you can do it is, it's very important to collect the data required to build those personas that we discussed, those four different buckets. The sooner you can start collecting that data, the better those personas become.

We think that starting early is good. But when you start, you have to think of it as an experiment. All you're doing when you put a channel program in place, is you're putting a sign on the door that says, we're open for business. You should expect nothing to come through. You should just track it, and collect the data on it.

Where we see it start to really work is when companies hit that three to five million inflection point, and it's because, simply put, companies have it figured out. They know where to collect payment information.

We've seen people, and have had instances where people got really upset where channel programs didn't work. We've gone through, dug into their program and realized, they actually forgot to collect payment information.

This doesn't fix a broken product or a broken process. But it will accelerate growth once you hit those inflection points, so I say three to five million is typically when you want to ... you know you ... If you're in a three to five million dollar revenue run rate, in order for you to hit 15 to 20, you're going to need to invest in channel in some way, shape, or form.

The sooner you do it, the better.

But that being said, we've worked with companies who have had less than 250,000 dollars in revenue, and have now grown revenues upwards and over three million dollars in revenue, because they really invested and understood channel. So there's no wrong time, but there's certainly an optimum time.

What Does It Cost To Start And Run A Channel Marketing Program?

Kathleen: Yeah. From a resource standpoint, walk me through what a company should be prepared to invest, in terms of staff to support this; level of effort, budget. I know you can't give me specifics, but give me a general sense of it they want to go in with their eyes wide open, what does it take to do this well?

Bryn: You need a dedicated person on this program at the very least - one person where their job is to figure out channel partners. That is what their job is. You can't pull them off and having them do case studies. Or you can't pull them off and doing smaller tasks that go through and then pop up.

You need to give one person a responsibility. You need to make one person responsible for channel. That one person can, within a six month period, should be able to generate significant revenue. I don't mean cover the cost of their salary by any means, but we've seen it go through and happen. But it will be a substantial amount of revenue, and you can see the path of growth going forward.

If you interrupt that person, if you put them on different projects, if you say, "Okay, not only are you managing channel, but you're going to manage community too" very, very clear and concise in what their role was.

Their goal needs to be, first to recruit partners, then to take those partners and turn them into people that actually engaged. Once they are in fact engaged -  engagement looks like training, day to day communication, opening and reading emails - once they are in fact engaged, they are actually starting to send you business or have ideas of how they will go through and send you business.

But you need at least one person dedicated to it. I cannot stress that enough.

Then after the fact, you hit a point where you decide, do you want to solve this with people, or do you want to solve this with technology?

That's typically where PartnerStack comes in. We've seen companies, you would be very surprised at how big companies can become, just managing this with people. Though it's a really good thing, because they're figured this thing out, it's also very expensive.

So there are companies where there are several hundred people working on channel alone, manually at the end of each month calling people and asking, "Hey, did you close this account? Did you close that account?"

Oh, there's a channel conflict. That being where a partner sends business, and then a sales rep goes and closes it. Who are you paying the commission to? That's why it's important, once you hit that one to three mark, that you need to put technology in behind it.

I mean, we've talked with companies where they've overpaid channel partners millions of dollars each year, because it wasn't gone through and tracked correctly.

So there does need to be technology at some point in time. You do need to convince finance that it's worth an investment. But it's very easy to go through and point to.

Kathleen: I can definitely speak from the user standpoint about why that is important, because I remember ... Again, we're part of several channel partner programs.

I would say HubSpot is, again, is the most professional in terms of how it's run. But it's also evolved a lot over the years. When I first joined that partner program, we were still entering our leads into a dedicated Salesforce portal. Now they've got lead registration seamlessly a part of their CRM, which is genius. You don't have to leave the environment you're working in.

To me, lead registration is one of the biggest pain points. I'm part of other partner programs where there is no good system. You have to email your partner rep. It's so imperfect.

Then once you've done that, you don't know how to track it, because there isn't a portal that you can look in. So it's messy, and if that's messy, then I think that slows things down quite a bit for the use.

I know for myself, if you don't have a clear sense of, "Alright, what am I working on? What is closed? What's in the pipeline?" it's hard to be effective. It's hard to get excited about it too.

Bryn: Yeah, I think that this is all about optimizing for the partner's experience, and so everything that we do, every investment that we make is to try to enable that.

So we try to automate programs as much as possible, as much as you possibly can, because that improves the partner experience.

If you can improve, build the perfect partner experience, those partners will more likely than not be successful on your platform.

But the reality is, is where partnerships and channel, today in 2018, is where sales operations was in 2000, where is didn't exist before things like Salesforce and HubSpot.

Where marketing automation was in 2005 to 2008, that's the state of things today. So if you go back and compare to sales operation and marking automation, and you see the structure, the infrastructure, the requirements, and ultimately the returns that the investments in fact made, it's easy to go through and justify something further up front.

Fortunately today, there are ... We're not certainly the only people in this space. We see other people do a really great job of stuff, and there's a lot of options for when that comes up.

But at the end of the day, you have to optimize for partner experience. Your partners are going to tell you. Quite frankly, if they're not telling you, they're telling you. Silence is negative feedback, and I don't think people quite realize that too often.

PartnerStack's Partner Channel

Kathleen: Now, does PartnerStack have a partner channel?

Bryn: Yes we do. We do have a partner channel. We've had a partner channel since day one. Since year one in our business, it's driven revenue for us.

Certainly like everybody, you can through ... There are improvements for it to go through and be made. But for us, working with agencies has been, it's so much fun, because all the sudden, we're training people how to add another service line to their business. We're training them that they can go to their clients, and they can differentiate themselves on the market and say, "Hey, not only can we do email marketing, can we manage your website, can we do PR, but also we can know how to go through and manage the channel."

When we walk agencies and our partners through that, the level of excitement that they have is unbelievable, because quite frankly, there are only so many new services that can be launched. This is something that's unique. We've seen agencies be very successful and generate a lot of new business of it.

What Kinds of Results Can You Expect With A Partner Channel Marketing Program?

Kathleen: Yeah. Walk me through the results. You have your own partner program. You work with companies. Obviously by definition, everyone that is a client of yours has a partner program.

Can you tell me a little bit about the kinds of results you're seeing, either for yourselves, or for the companies that are using your platform?

Bryn: Yeah, so I won't use specific customer names, but I will talk about some of the results that we've seen. We've seen early stage companies go from 250,000 dollars in revenue, to over a million five in revenue, in less than 16 months.

This is completely bootstrapped, a team of four people moving upwards of a team of 10. We're driving upwards of 50% of their revenue, and it's awesome to see.

We work with larger companies where people have hit annual milestones for their partner program within 24 hours of launching with our platform, because all of a sudden there was a way to go through and track stuff. Those people go through and get promotions because of it, which is incredibly exciting.

I think that there are over 100,000 partners that are on our platform, that companies go through and work with today. What's unique about us is we believe very firmly, again, in partner experience. For us, that actually means enabling partners to join a broader network, where they can go through and pick other packages, and services that they can go through and promote. Companies go through a buy-in to this, so it's worked really well.

It's been fun to watch. It's so fun to watch people go through it and be successful in their jobs, whether they be partners or companies that we've gone through and worked with.

I mean for us, it accounts for 30% of our revenue, and drives 40% of our leads. We have a unique system in that there's a tiered version of it where you're dropped in. We give you an opportunity. We train you, and if you are in fact successful, we can move you to the next tier, and so I know that my customer success and sales teams love our partners. It's just fun to work with them.

Kathleen: Now you started out talking about how prevalent channel programs are for software companies. I know for that particular vertical, two of the most important business metrics that they track are cost of customer acquisition, and lifetime value of a customer. In fact that ratio of LTV to CAC also is very important.

You mentioned in the beginning that partner programs can really help optimize that. What have you seen, as far as how much does having a partner program enable you to bring that CAC, or cost of customer acquisition, down? How much does it extend the lifetime value?

Bryn: Yeah, so we're seeing lifetime value for some of our customers to be over 200%. Median is about 150%, more than what they're currently used to. Anything over what they have now, everyone is happy with. But median returns, 150%. But we're seeing people as much as over 200%.

The CAC is the thing that is incredibly interesting. We enable companies to go through and experiment with different incentives. Today you could go through and launch a bonus program where you pay an extra hundred dollars. Next month, maybe that that's not what you're going to go through and do, so we've been able to go through and test that.

We've decreased CAC upwards of 75% in some companies.

Kathleen: Wow.

Bryn: Yeah. Some companies get really aggressive with their programs in the beginning and over invest, and actually try to not do that, because they're looking to improve engagement so much. But it's a result of not only are you unloading the cost of sales, I mean, this is the thing that people don't talk about enough, it's actually the cost of support after the fact. It's very hard to go through and quite frankly quantify that.

But with our big customers that have those resources, those massive, massive finance teams, they've gone through and done it. That alone is enough for their finance teams to go through and invest in the tech to through it and support it.

Kathleen: Wow, those are some impressive numbers. Well, so interesting, and this has really been the first time we've talked a lot of about channel programs on this podcast, so I'm really glad we had an opportunity to chat about it.

Kathleen's Two Questions

Kathleen: I want to switch gears, because I want to make sure we have time for the two questions that I always ask all of my guests.

My loyal listeners will have heard me say this time and time again, but I would love to know from your standpoint, we're all about inbound marketing on this podcast, so company or individual, who do you think is doing inbound marketing really well right now?

Bryn: That's really interesting. One of the companies that we see that has been doing a really great job of this, and that have been actually using their partner network to go through it and do it, is Intuit.

Intuit has turned to their community to build content, and it's working really well. It's been very cool to see such a big company go through it and move so quickly, to go through it and take advantage of the opportunity.

There's of course smaller companies that we've seen do a good job on this. But Intuit is the best example. Of course, I'm going to be biased with it. Intuit is the best example because they've leveraged their channel, their partners to actually create the content required to drive those advanced sales.

Kathleen: Yeah, that's interesting, especially because they're such traditional industry, that a lot of people think of as very stodgy, so knowing that they're at the forefront of that is really fascinating.

Now I'm going to have to take a look at Intuit's content, which I would normally not look at, now that I'm not a business owner anymore. But I did used to be in and out of QuickBooks every single day of my life for 11 years, so maybe I'll pay it a visit again.

Kathleen: Second question, the world of digital marketing is changing at a lightning pace. How do you personally stay up to date and on top of all the new developments?

Bryn: It's so tricky. One of the things that I've been doing lately is actually cutting the number of tools and technologies that I use way down. So instead of being spread out across all these social media platforms, I just focus on one.

Kathleen: Which one?

Bryn: Oddly enough, I go through and focus on LinkedIn. That's where I get most of my value from. I'm also following things on Twitter. That's certainly an area.

But at the end of the day, with all this extra noise in the environment, I actually listen to people. I'm going through referrals more. I'm talking with my peers and asking them what works.

I actually have a number of people through Y Combinator that I have biweekly calls with them still, that we've been continuing for three years now. We talk about it, what are the best things that we're seeing in the market.

We also ask our customers when we're in the middle of doing any type of sale. We say, "Hey, just out of curiosity, do you have any new tools or technology that you're using?"

As much as it's going through, researching and seeing what's out there, it still goes back to the basics.

For me, it's limiting my consumption of technology, and going to the source, going to people, because I think with this influx of tools that are on the market, it's so hard to know which one is the best one to go through and pick. You have to go through and use referrals the way that you've always had to.

So it's interesting, it's this weird thing that kind of through it and happened.

Kathleen: Yeah, for me it's my podcast. I call or email people like you, because I'm interested in learning more. I interview you, and that's how I learn. If other people listen too, great, but I always say I would do it even if nobody listened, because it's-

Bryn: Yeah, that's such a ... Maybe we'll have to start doing one, because that sounds like a really great idea to go through and learn how to, to go through it and talk with people. Talking with people is very underrated.

Kathleen: Yeah, I would so agree. I've learned more doing this than I have doing anything else honestly. Well if you start a podcast, let me know how it goes. I'd love to hear about that.

Bryn: I'll be calling you and we'll get you on there, first thing.

Kathleen: There you go.

How Reach Bryn Jones

Kathleen: Well, so much fun talking with you. I've learned a lot about channel marketing, and I'm sure there are people listening that want to learn more, might have questions.

What is the best way for them to learn more about PartnerStack, as well as connect with you as an individual online?

Bryn: Yeah, so I mean, reach out to me on LinkedIn. I spend a lot of time on there. Connect with me, message me. I usually get back within 24 to 48 hours.

People can reach out to me through email. It's first Bryn, B-R-Y-N

You should check out PartnerStack or Message one of our support or sales reps. We'll get you on the phone, and mostly walk you through what the potential is.

One of the biggest things we push on people is like, "Hey, maybe now isn't the right time to go through it and invest in technology. Maybe you need to figure out your four buckets before you come through it and buy the platform." We love talking about this. We don't think enough people are talking about this, and so if you're interested, feel free to reach out any time, happy to always have a conversation about this.

Kathleen: That is the mark of a great salesperson by the way - the salesperson who tells you, "You're not ready for us," and tells you what to do in order to get ready.

Awesome, well thank you so much Bryn.

If you are listening and you found value out of this or you learned something new, you know what to do. Please leave the podcast a review on Apple Podcasts, or on the platform of your choice.

As always, if you know someone else that's doing kick-ass inbound marketing work, tweet me @WorkMommyWork because I would love for them to be my next interview.

That's it for this week. Thanks Bryn.

Bryn: Thank you so much. 

Feb 04 2019



Rank #3: Ep. 93: How Adam Sand Gets 3300% ROI By Integrating Direct Mail With Digital Marketing

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How does a "roofing company" growth hacker generate $240,000 from a $7,000 marketing investment?

This week on The Inbound Success Podcast, roofing company marketing expert Adam Sand shares the marketing campaign formula he uses to regularly generate 3300% return on investment for his clients.  

A roofing business owner himself, Adam has parlayed his success marketing his own business into a new career helping other roofing companies to use digital marketing and direct mail to grow their businesses. 

Over time, Adam has refined an approach to combining Facebook ads, video marketing and direct mail into a proven formula for lead generation that works for any industry - not just roofing.

This week's episode of The Inbound Success Podcast is brought to you by our sponsor, IMPACT Live,  the most immersive and high energy learning experience for marketers and business leaders. IMPACT Live takes place August 6-7, 2019 in Hartford Connecticut and is headlined by Marcus Sheridan along with special guests including world-renowned Facebook marketing expert Mari Smith and Drift CEO and Co-Founder David Cancel. Inbound Success Podcast listeners can save 10% off the price of tickets with the code "SUCCESS". 

Click here to learn more or purchase tickets for IMPACT Live

Some highlights from my conversation with Adam include:

  • Adam joined his friend's roofing business and used Facebook ads to grow the company's revenue. He was so successful at it that he began to get other roofers asking him for help with their own Facebook ad campaigns. From there, his business advising roofing companies on growth was born. 
  • While Adam's business is focused on helping roofers grow their companies, nothing that he does is specific to the roofing business (and therefore is entirely applicable to other types of companies looking to grow their revenue).
  • Adam and his business partner have built a custom pixel that allows them to track website visitors and then enrich that data with the anonymous visitor's name, mailing address, and email address.
  • They use this data to build a simple, three-step funnel that incorporates Facebook ads to drive top-of-the-funnel traffic, direct mail retargeting, and then a bottom-of-the-funnel offer.
  • The campaign starts with a series of three educational videos that Adam boosts using Facebook ads.
  • Anyone who watches one of the first three videos is considered to be a qualified lead and then retargeted with a fourth video that is more bottom-of-the-funnel and offers them a free upgrade (such as a vent) with the purchase of a new roof.
  • Adam then uses his custom Dope 360 pixel to identify the visitors that have clicked through to get more information on the free upgrade offer and sends them a targeted direct mail postcard.
  • By adding the postcard into the campaign, Adam and his partner are getting a 15% to 70% increase in their conversion rates.
  • One way they measure ROI is by using call tracking software.
  • The way Adam has set up the Dope 360 platform allows the user to log in every morning and see the visitors that have come to their site on the prior day, along with their enriched contact information, and then simply hit a button and have the postcard sent to them. Importantly, mailing and fulfillment is included in the platform and there are not minimum order quantities.
  • This approach has enabled Adam to lower the cost per lead for roofers from $150 to $70.
  • The ROI is also astronomical on these campaigns. Adam estimates that a typical campaign costs around $7000 and generates approximately $240,000 in revenue (this is a 3300% ROI).

Resources from this episode:

Listen to the podcast to learn the exact process Adam uses to build campaigns that get extraordinary results by combining digital marketing with direct mail postcards.


Kathleen Booth (Host): Welcome back to the Inbound Success Podcast.

I'm Kathleen Booth and I'm your host, and today my guest is Adam Sand, who is best described as a roofing company growth hacker. Never heard that title before, can't wait to dig into it. Welcome, Adam. Adam Sand (Guest): Thank you so much. I appreciate the opportunity to come on the show, and kind of see what I can offer the audience. I've looked into a bit of your episodes, and it looks like you have quite the advanced group of people and I'd love to contribute what I can and see if there's anything that might be taken away from it.

Adam and Kathleen recording this episode

Kathleen: Yeah, you know, what's fun for me about doing this podcast is obviously I get to talk to a different person each week because I'm interviewing somebody, but what I think is so much fun is some of them are like marketing luminaries, at least to me, people that I've looked up to and then I have the opportunity to speak with. And some are people I've never heard of, who are doing just amazing work. And I meet them and I interview them and I think, oh my gosh, how is this person not a luminary or are they a luminary in the making? And some of the most interesting conversations have been with people who are not marketers by trade or by training.

They come into it and they're very intuitive. They're voracious learners, and sometimes they're the best at marketing because they understand the customer the best.

So I was really intrigued when I saw your profile because you have this background in roofing, like literally companies that put new roofs on your house, and you've had tremendous success with that and now you're helping other roofers. You've become something of a marketing expert outside of roofing all together, so I can't wait to hear more about it.

But to start with, because you do have such an interesting background, I would love it if you could tell my listeners your story, and how you became to be the roofing company growth hacker.

About Adam Sand

Adam: Well, it's a very odd, and everything I've done, I call it the accidental career. Everything has come down from just a series of well-positioned accidents.

I owned a business before that had nothing to do with construction. I recognized an opportunity in that business that was basically in the app world. This was way back when apps were brand new and they were kind of a hot thing, and nobody was quite sure what to make of them. And what I found was when I closed this tanning business ... I had a couple of tanning salons, I sold them off, and I was no longer involved in it, I went in and I was like, you know what I want to do? I don't want to deal with people anymore.

I wanted to make an app. I wanted part of the app millionaire gold rush, right? And so I made an app for other tanning salon owners who had a challenge of taking phone calls and trying to run the business at the same time. You either had to pay for an extra person, or you had to literally duck out of a sale to go take an appointment. And I thought man, wouldn't it be nice if people could just book an appointment on their phone? Which today is such a duh thing, but back then I literally was trying to convince tanning salon owners that this would be a good idea.

And so I really dove into a different kind of business, like something totally outside of what I was doing before, you know, retail, service-based stuff. And I really kind of saw the power of technology and I spoke with a lot of tanning salon owners on Facebook, and so I really started to see and believe in the power of social media by trying to promote this app.

We ended up doing fairly well with it. I made the app, I sold it to a large franchise, and then they ended up and eventually turned it into an app that many people know and use today. Part of my code is still lingering around inside that app somewhere, and they've turned it into a thing that they could use to then book for all their people, and that kind of moved into everything and all tanning salons.

So from there I made some money, and my best friend, who he was about to have his second baby, he was not enjoying the company he worked for. The roofing company that he was at sold, so his bosses sold the company, and they made a bunch of money off of it, which intrigued me.

He went to go start his own roofing business after a while, because he didn't really like working for the new guy, because the new guy didn't know anything. So when him and I talked, I said, "You know, you're not really running a business." He was just subcontracting. A big company would sell the roof, and then he'd come do the work.

I was like, "You don't really own a business. You're just an employee that pays taxes differently." And so that's when I said, "How much did those guys sell that company for?" And he told me and I was like, I can live with that kind of exit strategy. So I said, "Let's do this together."

I jumped in, and we were doing a lot of the stuff that was conventional. Facebook was not ... like it had the ads on the sidebar, that was it. There were no Facebook ads as it exists today. But everyone was talking about Crackbook, they called it Crackbook, and I had seen the power of it in communicating and connecting with people on social media.

We hired the Google Ad Agency and all that, and I was like our account manager comes in, "Hey, can you run Facebook ads for us? I really think this would be a really good place to promote?"

And they were like, "No, stupid, you don't sell roofing on Facebook. Roofs are how much?" I was like, "I don't know, six, 10, 40000 dollars." He was like, "Yeah, you don't have a buy now button for a roof. You need to track conversions. You need a buy now button."

And then they were like, "And what's your lead magnet going to be?" And I was like, "What's a lead magnet?" Like if you're a dentist you give away a free tooth whitening and then you'd convince them to be full time clients. Or it's like, you gave away a free guide on how to lose weight, and then you sell online personal training or a fitness book or something. He was like, "That's what you use Facebook for, dummy." And I was like, "Okay."

So then I fired them, and went to try and hire another company. They said they would, and then when it came push to shove, they wouldn't do it.

I spent eight months trying to hire a Facebook ad marketer. And nowadays you can't throw a shingle off a roof without hitting 13 people with a ClickFunnels degree that are promising riches from leads from marketing on Facebook. But back then it didn't exist.

Eventually I decided I would learn myself. There was nobody who could tell me exactly what to do, but one instructor online who ran one of those online courses, he said, "Hey, you know, you're right, I can't tell you how to do it, but I can tell you how to test and how to run assumptions and how to operate Facebook."

And just then, the news feed ads started to come out, and he said, "And this is a great time to get into it." And so I went about learning, and when you learn, you spend a bunch of money losing and failing, but then eventually we had some massive success.

Now sharing that success in the group as I went, just kind of like ... they had a little private Facebook group for all the students, like all these online course people have, and as I was sharing ... and then all of a sudden we had our big hit, he was like, "Hey, you know, we should get you on the podcast." And he did, and this is where the accidental career thing comes in.

Because the minute I did that, all these other people, the other marketing guys, were like, "Hey, I want to try and make lots of money selling roofers Facebook ad marketing." Or it was like, "Hey, I own a roofing company, can you help me?" I was kind of flattered at first, and trying to just answer people's questions for free, and eventually it got so ... it was like another podcast interviewed me and then another podcast interviewed me.

And next thing you know, I so busy I was like, I should charge money for this. Not like neglecting my other business to answer these people that flatter me with this hey, can you help me thing.

And that blew up, and the next thing you know, it was like okay, fine, I'll run Facebook ads for you, 1500 bucks a month. And then there were others ... it was like, oh I don't have time, $5000 month, he won't say yes to that. And he says yes. Okay, $7000 a month. Okay, yeah, and I'm like holy smokes.

Kathleen: There's a business in that.

Adam: Yeah, and then I started to feel bad because some people obviously couldn't afford that and I know how hard working roofers are, because this is a trade that is not easy. It's a tough, tough job, and there are a lot of smaller companies that deserve to have success as much as the big ones.

And so I said, "Okay, well can't I just put all these lessons into something?" I mean, now we've hired teachers to actually create pedagogical learning so that we could actually ... Because, I mean, roofers are not easy to teach marketing to. So I hired people with education degrees to help me teach them, like, "Hey, you teach children? Perfect, that's exactly what I need to teach people my marketing."

And so we brought him on to help me create these courses. He was sort of like, "Hey, you know, I know you can't afford to hire me, but here, pay this 500 bucks a month and you can learn to do it yourself." It's exactly what I do in my roofing company and for a lot of these clients it helped.

And that's where this roofing company growth hacker kind of started. Then when it became ... all these roofing companies started having problems with having too much business, I found out that companies, even $10, $15 million dollar roofing companies, they've got technological problems. They're still stuck 10 years back behind the rest of us. I mean, they're using triplicate paper, they're using old systems, they're still using dot matrix printers.

So when they all of a sudden had too much business and wanted to fire the marketing guy because they don't need any more leads, it was either get fired or fix their problems. So I was like, "What's the problem you're having?" Too much business, we're not calling people back, and leads are leaving bad Google reviews. And I was like, "Okay, well I can fix that. I can fix that." Next thing you know, I became a CRM consultant, is what you call yourself now. And so with all the different stupid things that I do, for lack of a better word, growth hacker was the term that kind of seemed like it made the most sense.

Now it's like this cliché thing. But yeah, it's essentially helping roofing companies run their businesses a lot more like how we do run our businesses online, using things like Slack and Trello and project management, and thinking about things in terms of how do we scale and optimize and automate our businesses so that selling a roof is just like selling something through a funnel. That's all it is, it's just half the funnel exists out there in the real world on houses.

Kathleen: Yeah, and I love ... it seems like the real common theme underneath a lot of this is that you love to sink your teeth into a business problem and figure out a way to use technology and automation to solve it, and that was kind of one of the reasons I was excited to talk to you because when you and I first connected I felt like there were so many different topics we could cover in this interview. We could talk about your approach to Facebook ads, we could ... there are plenty of things we could do.

Adam's Approach to Combining Direct Mail With Digital Marketing

Kathleen: But what I thought was really interesting was how you strung together different elements of a marketing approach involving things like Facebook ads, but then also offline things, like a postcard, and a company's CRM and their back end data, in order to put together a 360 degree marketing campaign that really touches ... has those touch points with the customer in so many different ways. And it was very effective. So I'm excited to talk about that and dig into it a little bit.

Adam: Yeah, and I thought that would be really good because the audience that ... from what I've seen from your other guests, is that this is not Basics 123 here, have you heard about the Facebook pixel-type audience. I mean, this is an audience of people who are looking for an edge, who are looking to be more competitive with their agencies, or to try and find ways to actually perform better for their clients, and kind of have those disproportionate results that maybe Facebook is feeling for a lot of people, has lost is luster. Because it used to be, oh yeah, do an image ad and anybody who engages with that ad, re-target them.

Or like anybody who visits your website, just re-target them with an opportunity to purchase it again for 10% off. And that used to work like cookies, it was so simple. And we look at it now, it's kind of losing a little bit of its effectiveness, you need a little bit more strategy.

And I love what you said at the beginning about knowing your customer, and beginning with the end in mind, how really knowing that buyer's journey. That is something that's so heavy in what I do, because with ... I mean, the construction industry, the home services industry, margins are huge, right? It's a business that not a lot of people want to do.

Everybody wants to be a Gary V nowadays, they don't want to be a Bryan Bauemler or a Bob Vila or a Mike Holmes. They want to be like Gary V or Tim Ferriss.

So there's not a lot of people that want to do construction, so the work requires a good margin to make it worth it. And so the business, from a marketer's perspective, I mean, I'd rather be a marketer for the construction business than join the cult of chiropractic dentists, that whole side. Or, getting into the whole online marketing, selling, e-commerce construction is a very underserved, hugely profitable marketing industry, or I guess an industry for marketing to pursue.

And so for us it was how do we continue to maintain an edge and kind of perform in ways that roofing companies or construction companies or home services companies understood? And one thing that they really understand, and they already see value in, is direct mail and lawn science, right? Like these kinds of real life touch things that there's a tangible to it. And if you explain to a roofing company that you're going to send somebody a postcard, they're in. If you explain to a roofing company that anybody who hits their website you're going to re-target them with a digital postcard inside of Facebook, they get confused.

But when you show them that they're one and the same thing, essentially, where you can ad extra media, extra education, and you can reach people at scale for pennies, like you literally can't throw flyers out your window for as cheap as you can get video views on Facebook. Well, then they start to understand.

And as Facebook is starting to remove targeting options, most specifically home ownership, and then they did take away income for awhile, and now we know we've brought it back, but home ownership still doesn't exist.

Now, Facebook doesn't want you to not be successful with your Facebook ads. They just don't want to make it so that any one month graduate of an online marketing course by some 19 year old influencer is now suddenly able to target Hispanic homeowners for high interest mortgages. They don't want Facebook to be used in ways that land them in the Senate hearings.

Kathleen: Right, which is ... they're fighting an uphill battle, but they're working on it.

And I should note, before we get too deeply ... Even though what you do is specific to roofing, it is totally applicable to so many different industries. Like there's nothing so particular about this, other than probably you're targeting options in Facebook, that is specific to roofing. So if you're listening and you're not in the roofing industry, don't jump off, this is relevant to everybody.

Adam: Oh, absolutely. If you want to target people who like ... I mean, at the end of the day, this is all about targeting ... just allowing yourself to have every option. It's just about making sure you have choices.

Because Facebook wants to be successful, they just don't ... they almost just want to make it a little bit like you have to be kind of advanced, or you have to kind of invest in your business a little bit. The barrier to entry is just getting a little bit higher because you can't just ... They just don't want it so that these people can continuously ruin everything. It's like Seth Godin says, marketers ruin everything.

Kathleen: Yeah.

Adam: And so what we've found is that Facebook used to share and enable us to buy ... Or not buy, but they used to enable us to target data from Epsilon and Acxiom and all these other third party data providers, but then that allowed us to target things like Hispanic homeowners, stuff like that that was something that was a problem, especially in the finance industry. So then they had to remove that level of targeting.

Does not mean that we cannot still access that information when somebody hits our website, it doesn't mean that that information isn't still existing in that transaction of someone coming to a website.

And so what we tried doing is plugging into ... Me and an affiliate of mine, we decided we would try to plug in to that data still by creating our own pixel, so that we could continue to use our content marketing campaigns where we educate people on process, the people and the product of our home services companies ... because he owns another home services business and has a marketing agency as well.

But to continue to market our people, our process and our products, and then re-target the people who engage with those videos with another video talking about a very specific product and then offering a free upgrade to that product.

Very simple, three-stage funnel, nothing fancy. Works awesome, but we wanted to increase the effectiveness of that, and also improve the targeting of it.

And so with this pixel, what we found is that we were able to then still get the information, and then we can append that internet user data against the same data brokers that Facebook used to allow us to target from, Axiom, Epsilon, etc, etc, and when we run that internet user data against that waterfall, we could then, 24 hours later, have name, email and home address.

Kathleen: So let's back up for one second, because I want to make sure everyone understands exactly what we're talking about. So if you're a marketer, you're probably familiar with the concept of Facebook advertising and the notion that if you have an ad account with Facebook, you have a pixel, which is that little snippet of code that you put on your site that allows Facebook-

... Which is that little snippet of code that you put on your site that allows Facebook to feed ads to people that have been on your website. You said you built your own pixel. Is this something that is used in tandem with the Facebook pixel, or instead of it?

Adam: No, we still use the Facebook pixel because there's still a thousand other things that we can't do with ours. All this did was allow us to submit that information to our data provider and say anybody who hits this website, we want to know who they are so that we can then re-target them with a direct mail campaign if we want, or online marketing if we want.

Driving Qualified Website Traffic

Kathleen: Great, and so is there a part of this campaign that starts off the website? Are you using Facebook ads to drive people to the website first?

Adam: Absolutely. This is a campaign that I run for my clients all the time. I coin it a 30 day roof booster. Essentially it's where you run three videos that are purely educational, not salesy, they're just content. It's to talk about the people or something about the company that makes them good, the process, video, something about the roofing process that helps customers understand. Product video, something talking about the product. We do some other ones, thought reversal.

Kathleen: The very top of the funnel.

Adam: Yeah, very top of funnel stuff, just to basically build audience. Then we offer a free upgrade to some products. We talk about is when we record a fourth video. Three videos acquire audience. The second level, fourth video, and I script these videos for clients to kind of show them, this is how the videos work. I run it in all these markets. Just basically record yourself talking like this and be an expert in the industry and it will work.

The fourth video is talking about a product. We could talk about, in roofing, you talk about roof vents. In decks, you talk about those little light caps. In home, like washing your house, you talk about washing windows and how it's a great time to do it. There's something for literally every home services business. If you're talking about snow shoveling, talk about clearing the deck. There's something for every home services business. You're doing a basement, add in a smart home device. It works everywhere.

The fourth video is about a product, some kind of upgrade to the base level of service. Instead of talking about discounts, you're talking about upgrades and then giving away free upgrades, because you can usually price condition the value of an upgrade beyond the price of its actual product. A good example in the roofing industry is vents. Vents cost $250, but the value of having adequate ventilation on a house is thousands of dollars of either air conditioning bills saved over 25 years of the life of your roof, up to damages caused by humidity and condensation wrecking your house.

The value of a vent, when you educate them first, is thousands. The price to give it to them for free is hundreds. If you just say right out of the gate, "Hey, I'll give you free vents if you buy a roof," they're going to go, "Well, how much is a vent? $200? That's not that good of a deal."

But if you say, "Hey, these are vents. They're awesome. They save you thousands of dollars on your air conditioning bills over the life of your roof, plus they're going to prevent any kinds of damage from humidity and condensation. You know, these are really good things. You should know about those if you're ever planning on doing your house, wink wink."

Then a week later when they see an ad for free vents if you get a roof done, they're going to go, "Holy smokes, are those vents? Those are awesome. We go to make sure we have those vents." This is how that answered that lead magnet question a few years later after getting made fun of by these guys.

We're teaching first and selling second. You have to first educate people so they felt empowered to make a decision about something that otherwise, it's not sexy. They're not interested in roofing. They love having clean teeth. They love losing weight. They love a new car. Roofing is something you do when you have to. You never replace your roof 10 years early just because.

Kathleen: The videos really drove people, and the upgrade offer was what drove people to the website.

Adam: Right. So now, anybody who watches video four, so you're re-targeting the three videos audience. Anybody who watched those videos, engaged with one of those one to three videos, they've self-identified as homeowners.

So now, because who watches a video about roofing if they're not interested in roofing in the near future? Not renters. Not people who are 10 years away from needing to replace a roof. If they're going to watch a four minute video about a roof when they could watch a Trump video or a cat video or whatever, they're self-identifying as people who might be interested in roofing and obviously homeowners, so then they're re-targeted with video four to make sure they have the knowledge to value the free upgrade offer that we're going to re-target them with. Then we re-target them with that offer.

Now, anybody who lands on that page, we're then able to have their name and address and email address just from having landed on the page by running it against that waterfall, provided by data providers.

Now, 24 hours later within this dashboard, we just send them a postcard with that offer, free vents. Now in addition to targeting them in real life, we're also doing it on ...

Sorry, I guess I should say in addition to targeting them on Facebook, like is conventional, like we're all used to, we added that online thing, and now that, our statuses, I mean, we're matching people 30% to 60%, people who hit that site. We're getting 30% to 60% of them getting their name, address, phone number and email.

Kathleen: Based on their IP address?

Adam: There's a few different things. It's a bit of a proprietary thing, but there's a few different things that we use to do this. It's all legal and it's all Facebook terms of service legal and everything like that, but obviously you don't want to give away the secret sauce. There's going to be at least one really, really smart person out there listening to this podcast who I don't want them to figure it out just yet. I just got the numbers back this morning. We're getting, at the bottom, a 15% bump over running it without, up to 70% bump in conversions running this bump.

Kathleen: Sorry, clarify that. You're getting the bump from running the campaign with the postcards?

Adam: Yeah. Let's say we're running the ad in Halton, Burlington and Oakville in Ontario, right?

Kathleen: Because you are from Canada, if somebody has not already picked that up by his Canadian accent, which I love.

Adam: Say we're running ads there, or we've also ran this exact campaign in Minnesota. If we run this exact campaign to three cities, very similar income levels, very similar everything, similar home ages. All the demographics are the same. We run this 30 day roof booster as I've done it conventionally, and then we run that same 30 day roof booster in a neighborhood 30 kilometers away where it's very similar. 17 miles away, where everything about it is very similar, but you add in that re-targeting with the direct mail that's just automated.

We have no minimum orders. That's the thing. Data providers are now allowing people to build stuff like this and buy this information and access this data without having to order a list of 10,000 people. You can then append this data in a small amount.

Kathleen: You described it to me, just to be clear, you described it to me as literally everyone's traffic flow to their website is different. If I'm using this on my website, I might wake up tomorrow morning and have 10 people in my dashboard with their name, email and their address, and I could just push a button and have a postcard sent to them, or if I'm some other business who gets more traffic, I might wake up and have 150. It really doesn't matter. The point is whatever that number is from yesterday is the number that I get, no minimums, no maximums, and I can just automatically send them a postcard.

Adam: Exactly. The next day you just say, "Here. These are the 17 people that we were able to match or the 1,700 people that we were able to match. We've uploaded your design, your front and back of your seven by eight postcard, or seven by ten or whatever your postcard size is. You just pick the names you want to do or select all. Boom. Send. It's going to be, hi, Adam Sand. Here's your free offer. Here's a thing. Call us now. You got your own call.

We have our own call tracking numbers. Make it so that we can do attribution and all those things so we can actually test this, because this has all been one big, giant test for the last four months. With that, we've been getting on the low end 15%, on the high end, 70% bumps.

Kathleen: 70? Seven zero?

Adam: Seven zero. Now, those are extreme cases with really good offers. These are not save 10% kind of monkey, rinky dinky offers. These are real, tangible offers where everything went right. That's a video that I did where we really talk about the value of the roof upgrade, and I'm really good at these roof upgrade videos after doing so many of them, that when I produce the kind of content that I'm used to producing, we can really make it so people really value those vents.

When people really value the vents because we did a kickass job at audience generation with the level one videos, and we did a kickass value build video where people really understand and appreciate the value, and then on top of that we then have a good ad running people to that page, yes, then you get the 70%.

But when everything is kind of amateur and you're dealing with a client who's never recorded videos before, or they're very amateur at it, then you're getting the low end, the 15%, just by proxy. Just by the fact that you're hitting them again. And it's extremely, extremely cheap.

Kathleen: Is that 15% more people that contract and purchase their roof, or is that 15% more people who say, "Come out, I want a quote from you?"

Adam: 15% more people that say, "Come out, I want a quote from you."

Kathleen: But with the cost of a single new roof sale, the ROI, I have to imagine, is astronomical on that.

Adam: Basically, as long as you're not a complete moron in the construction industry and you have a half decent business, yeah. Your closing ratio should be 30% and you can pay $150, $200 a lead regularly every day. Actually, this is a real thing. Home Advisor charges $150 to send you a lead, and every time, you're one of three.

Kathleen: Yeah. I was going to say I bought a new roof last year so I do know how much that costs and what that means to the company. It's a lot of money.

Adam: Yeah. You're looking at 20%, 30% margins because there's a lot of stuff that goes wrong. On a per job basis, you need 25%, 20%, 30%. Some things even more, like air conditioning is big. Flat roofs are even more. There's a lot of things-

Kathleen: Yeah. I have a flat roof up top on part of my house. This is giving me bad memories of the check I had to write from last year.

Adam: But occasionally, those guys putting on a flat roof, some kid leaves a torch on the ground. Burns the whole building down, and now their insurance goes up $10,000 here. There's a reason for those margins. If you're running a good business and have half decent salespeople, I mean, on a pure margin basis, I mean, construction and home services businesses are regularly conditioned to paying $150 to $250 a lead. Not a sale, a lead, and those aren't even always exclusive.

Agency partners like myself who have some experience with their business can deliver leads for $70, $17 or something like, you know, something in that range. Then all of a sudden things get a lot better, especially when it's coupled with inbound marketing strategies, such as using content to create value in the product, and not just being, "Hey, we do this and here's 10% off." That's weak, right?

The Dope 360 Pixel

Kathleen: Yeah. Let's back up and talk about kind of the mechanics of this.

I think lots of my listeners are probably familiar with and have done Facebook advertising. They're familiar with using video to do it. They get the concept of creating top of the funnel videos, driving people back to your site, having an upgrade offer.

Where it gets more complicated is this notion of the pixel that you're talking about. When you and I talked, I was saying to you, my big goal from the podcast is for people to feel like they can walk away and do some of the stuff themselves.

When we were talking and you first told me this story, I was like, I don't know if this is good, because are people going to be able to do this? But you actually have commercialized this pixel.

Talk a little bit more about that, and the fact that somebody doesn't have to know how to build this in order to do it.

Adam: Yes, absolutely. Essentially this social enhancement program that me and Dope 360 is the pixel that we're calling it, have created this dashboard and commercialized this so you can put the Dope 360 pixel on there.

The whole fleet of stuff that we're doing that we've done that just, we couldn't even get into this podcast about. There's some stuff in there that two years from now, it's probably going to get ruined, because the success rates will be ... We were talking about that in the original call. The disproportionate success with some of the stuff that we're doing with this is going to eventually get reeled back, but right now everything is Facebook terms of service legal. We've created this pixel and allowed people to append this data and put this on their site and get into this dashboard.

Not only does it allow you to do all this offline print marketing, but you're also building up a much better list. I mean, you're getting people who have landed on your page. You're getting more information from them than you would get from your typical Facebook pixel, because again, the Facebook pixel, you're allowed to use ... in your cookie policy, you're allowed to say that we're getting data. We're getting re-targeting information. We're collecting user data from using this website. We're going to retain it for X period of time. We don't have GDPR in Canada or the US yet.

We're allowed to take this information. Then the fact that users voluntarily share this information with us means that you can then create a custom audience of these people who visit your website. You've got their name, their email, their home address. You've got this information. This is essentially an offline event set.

Kathleen: You built the pixel, but what you're essentially providing to the user, does that include then the dashboard that delivers the addresses?

Adam: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Absolutely.

Kathleen: You talked about how you have a fulfillment house that's willing to do small batch orders. Is that included, the mailing?

Adam: Mm-hmm (affirmative). Absolutely. When you get into the dashboard, and obviously we're rolling this out. We've been rolling this out gently to some people that we know, or to big franchises who wanted to run tests. We're slowly rolling this out to some agency partners, but essentially right now today, if I was talking to the right kind of agency, it's like, yeah, yeah. Free access to the dashboard. Put these pixels on your clients' website, and then you just pay for the fulfillment. You get the data for pennies. We're talking five to 15 cents per hit. You're talking nothing as far as running it against that waterfall. Five to 15 pennies and you're getting an enormous amount of data on the customer. Then the fulfillment, again, you're talking pennies. Nothing is a dollar. We're talking pennies. Some of the printing, some of the printing-

Kathleen: Right, but you're going to have that regardless if you're doing postcards.

Adam: Exactly. The pixel is free right now. If the right person is around, the dashboard is free. The data costs pennies, and the printing and fulfillment, the mail and delivery targeting is pennies, because again, nobody is doing this yet. All these companies that offer ...

This information is available to Ford. It's available to IBM. These people have, they have the ability to directly partner with Axiom and Epsilon and all these other huge data providers.

Right now the little guy doesn't have access to it. This is our way of getting access to it ourselves. We've built it for ourselves. Then essentially we're rebuilding the investment and the time and the testing and the energy by eventually rolling this out to US agency partners or to US clients.

It's been a very, very cool journey, but I have to say that now that the consumer market is kind of used to being re-targeted online, they're getting, I guess, maybe slightly desensitized to it, but the psychology still works.

It's just I guess the competition for re-targeting is just gone up, so the cost of getting ad performance has gone up, but because of the success of digital marketing, the cost of print and direct mail and all that kind of stuff has gone way, way, way down. The competition is way, way, way down. The number of junk mail you get is way, way, way down.

When you can combine the timing, the personalization, the relevance of online digital marketing such as Facebook by re-targeting them with an offer based on some content that they've seen, which you can't do with direct mail right now. You just kind of say, "Yeah, give everybody in this postal code this offer and see if it works."

Now you can say, "Send the person who watched this video and this video and went to this page, send them this postcard for this offer." When you can do that and then give that tangible thing in their hands, at least in home services, we're seeing a conversion rate that's almost like cheating.

Kathleen: Yeah. That's great. It's funny too, timing-wise, because I just interviewed Oli Bilson, who's an amazing marketer. And he talked about combining digital with postcards and direct mail for a-

Adam: Really? I never... I started listening to that one, but I didn't get a chance to get it fully done.

Kathleen: Yeah, it wasn't exactly the same way you've done it, but he just talked about how direct mail is a part of his process for driving people to events, and how effective it was. I think it's one of those things that digital marketers can... It's very easy to brush off direct mail and think it shouldn't be a part of your process, but there still is definitely a role for it.

Reducing The Cost Per Lead

Kathleen: What I'm interested in hearing a little bit more from you about is the actual math and the ROI. So you talked about how roofers are used to paying $150 a lead. When you use this kind of an approach, how far down can you get the cost per lead for them?

Adam: Again, so a lot of this has been preliminary testing, so there's still... We're still talking hundreds of thousands of impressions. We're seeing success in the range of, I want to be over zealous, I would say $70 a lead is easy.

Kathleen: So like about half?

Adam: Yeah, easily half. $70 a lead is easy. I mean, have we had small campaigns where I did the content for my company and yeah we got much lower? Yeah, sure, but I want to talk about what I was able to...

What we were able to get for people within a variety of industries who didn't have the experience in digital marketing and knowing how to create a video that was really effective on Facebook, or more so hey this is the kind of video we need to do, and they could create the kind of content we're kid of looking for. We go, "eh it's okay."

Those guys, we're able to get cut in half. We were able to cut the lead cost in half and more importantly, we're exclusive and they're nurtured clients. It's not like a lead from Home Advisor where you're one of three contractors that's being contacted where Home Advisor is the protective person, and they're giving you to three contractors of which are the best of the crappy bunch.

Where it's not like oh, you're on Yelp or Angie's List or something like that, or just another Google ad click. It's not a conversion based on a Google ad click, remarketing thing on Adsense where they saw a picture for 10% off.

I mean, this is a person who has watched at least two videos of you or someone with your company talking about your service and your product, and building value in some kind of upgrade that now they're getting for free. And the cost to providing that upgrade we target to be around 5% of the total price of the service, which is dramatically less than the usual offers which are 10, 15, 25% off early season special type stuff, right?

Measuring ROI

Kathleen: And the cool thing about what you did was that the postcard goes out in such a timely fashion, especially if it's in the local area that you're hitting them at that point of highest interest.

So, from a ROI standpoint, earlier you talked about how adding the postcard into the mix, you already had a good formula with your videos, and then you add the postcard into the mix and that an improve results by anywhere from 17 to 70%.

But when you look big picture at the ROI, taking the investment that a company has to make into a campaign such as this versus the return that they can potentially see, any ballpark data there?

Adam: Yeah. Essentially, one campaign, $7,000 including marketing agency fees. I guess you should look at is as $2,500 ad spend, $2,000 in data and print and mailing. The whole thing where as far as like the hard cost, not including management, $5,000, $4,500. That there you're looking at 113 opportunities. I mean, the client reported that they're getting around 30% as far as closing rates show. Average ticket price, $8,000. Average margin, 20%.

Oh, a puppy.

Kathleen: Oh, there goes my dogs.

Adam: No problem. So then you're looking around, let's say, 30 sold opportunities at a $2,000 profit margin. So when you're looking at $60,000 in profit... What is that? 130 times 80, or 30 times 8,000. What's that?

Kathleen: I'm glad you're doing math so I don't have to. That's why I'm a marketer.

Adam: $240,000 as revenue and then $60,000 in profit off of roughly a $5,000 or $4,500 hard cost in. And then your management fees if you're not doing it yourself, right? 

Kathleen: Well, by any standard, that's a pretty incredible ROI.

Adam: That's why I tell more people that they should stop trying to get... They should stop joining the bandwagon of people going after dentists and yoga studios, and maybe try looking at helping the construction industry, because they're good hard working people and they need our help.

Kathleen: Yeah, I've always said, especially with the economy they way it's been the past several years, it's almost worth if I could go back and do college over. Instead of doing college I might become a plumber or an electrician, because if you're in that trade and you know what you're doing, and you show up on time, I think there's a gold mine to be made.

Adam: Cream rises... We always say the cream rises to the top. We don't have to be perfect. We just have to be less crappy. 

Kathleen: That's exactly right. Or what is that? It's like the equivalent of if you're being chased by a lion, just run faster than the next guy.

Adam: Right. I mean, it is not... The competition is there, but it is not... I mean, we're not talking about the competition amongst dentists or realtors or personal trainers. The competition in the construction industry is lower just because less people want to do it. Less people want to be a roofer, or a siding washer, or a gutter cleaner, or an ice dam remover, or all these different kinds of businesses. Not a lot of people want to pour concrete or do landscaping.

It's hard work, but because it's hard work you don't want to do it yourself. So you have to pay someone else to do it. And if you want to pay someone else to do it then you got to make sure you're paying the right price or else they're going to screw up your house and now you're going to have to redo it.

It's a business where there is... It is a good business to be in. And the problem with this industry has been frequently client acquisition. How to stand out. How to present a unique selling point, your unique market position. How do you get customers to value your time? How do you get customers to appreciate the fact that you promised good quality?

Well, you can't do any of that with a yellow pages ad, or a Google ad, or... I mean, you can try and run a flyer and jam a bunch of information from people, but they're just going to go, "Ah, too long. Didn't read," and they're going to move on to the next thing.

By using the content strategies that I've learned over the last five years in teaching, in my case, roofers, and in my partner's case, a variety of home services industries, how to actually drive traffic using these specific video scripts that are two to four minutes long that all of a sudden make people pop down a funnel and then come out the bottom and educate a consumer that values your time; Then all of a sudden your prices are going up 30% in your market because people are willing to pay an extra 10, 15, 20% for a contractor knowing that they're not going to burn your house down, destroy your lawn, wreck your house, or cause you to have to call them back time and time again for you to not answer.

These are huge, huge pain points and concerns for home owners, so home owners are willing to pay the price, especially if they're planning on living in their home.

So if you can help customers understand what to value, and then empower them to make it an educated decision through a little bit of free content that you record once and put out at scale at digital, and then use the power of Facebook, and then use the power of the Dope 360 Pixels who really hammer them with your value proposition and your upgrade offers... This is not tough stuff. This is just simple marketing.

Kathleen: Cool. Well, I love the whole system. It sounds super interesting, and there's a clear ROI case there for adding some old school direct mail back into your inbound campaigns.

Kathleen's Two Questions

Kathleen: Before we wrap up I want to ask you the two questions that I ask all my guests. I'm curious to hear what you have to say. One of them is: When it comes to inbound marketing, company or individual, who do you think is really killing it right now?

Adam: Well, I hate her politically, and I'm sure I'll split the tide on this one, but AOC. I can't stand her policies, but that girl is killing it. I mean, she's got Netflix going on. I'm like, when you asked the question I really thought long and hard about it. I was like who am I going to say? Am I going to say Nike? Am I going to say Ford? Or am I going to talk about somebody everybody else has talked about? And I thought who is really killing it right now? And I said someone who I don't like that's constantly in my ear and constantly gets my attention, and constantly keeps challenging me to think about cauliflowers being a racist vegetable. That is someone who's killing it with inbound marketing, because she is using content marketing. She is using digital. She's using Twitter. She's even got her own Netflix special.

Kathleen: She has a strong Twitter game, I'll give her that for sure.

Adam: She's the one that's battling the other guy that's got the best Twitter game, President Trump who she goes up against every other day. I mean, I know I'm from Canada so I got no horse in the race either way, but I got to say if you want to see someone who is doing a good job at communicating online and using it to attract people to her thing she will very likely be, as much as I'm not a very big fan of her, she will very likely be a person who could challenge a presidency at some point.

And she'll say, "I'm not showing up to a debate. Debate me online. I'm not showing up to a debate, living within the structure that was pre agreed upon by a bunch of stodgy old white pale stale men and we'll just go... No, I'm just going to run on my campaign and I'll get voted in and I'll win."

Kathleen: I love that example. You're the first guest I've had to name a politician in that answer, and I love it. I am not afraid for people to stir the pot a little, so bring it.

All right, that's a great one. Another question is, and this is particularly interesting with you because again you're not necessarily a marketer by trade, you're more of an entrepreneur, but you've become quite a savvy self taught marketer, so with the world of digital marketing changing so quickly... You know, everyone always describes it like drinking from a fire hose. How do you stay up to date and educate yourself about all this stuff?

Adam: Obviously I have a podcast on... I listen to podcasts because I'm always trying to stay educated on that. I would say that I frequently listen to a lot of podcasts, right? I love the... What is it? The Marketing School podcast.

I always have all the staples like everybody else, like the Gary Vee Show and stuff like that. But then some industry specific ones, things that are more going to for the things like me, like The Roofer Show and Roofers Coffee Shop.

And then I find some gems. You know what I mean? Something like your podcast. I listened to a couple of episodes in the last few days and it's been interesting. I mean, for me, I try and just really wander the field a lot with podcasts because it's an environment where people are forced into knowing their stuff, right? Because you're now trying to communicate... You're trying to communicate a subject where you don't have the power of video, you don't have any infographics, you don't have an animation, you don't have a PDF, you don't have anything to work with.

And then people are on the other end with just their ears, and you have to try and convey ideas about something that for a large part is pretty dry, right? I mean, compared to some other stuff. It's not Sportsnet, it's not... But you can...

The things that I've learned... I mean, what we're doing with this direct mail stuff... I mean, we didn't invent this stuff. We took it from real estate and from big box retail. And we just found a way to make it work for home services and use the technology.

A lot stuff that I use for my marketing has come from personal trainers and people like Gary Vaynerchuk. I learn stuff from Amy Porterfield, which is what webinars, and I learned... I take little tips from every different type of marketing and try and expose myself to new ideas because sometimes you run into a good idea that's like huh, I wonder if that'll work in the home sales niche, or the home services niche.

The amount of stuff I've ripped off from realtors because their industry has got to constantly be super super competitive, super cutting edge. I steal stuff from realtors al the time because there are a few things that work for me. They're high competition. They deal with home owners. And their super high margin, high price type stuff that are focused around a knowledge difference, or a knowledge incompetence.

That's me. That's podcasts. And that's a lot of showing up in a lot of different places.

Kathleen: I like that tip of sort of observing adjacent industries that maybe cater to the same audience and taking a page out of their playbooks. Some of the best marketers I know are just really keen observers, so that's great.

Adam: An unexamined life isn't worth leading, right?

How to Connect With Adam

Kathleen: Exactly. So if someone's listening to this and wants to learn more about you or do the work you do or is intrigued by the Pixel and wants to learn more about that, what's the best way for them to get more information online?

Adam: They can find me as Adam Sand pretty much anywhere, but when you Google that that comes up with a lot of Adam Sandler stuff, which is great for all the stuff I did in my younger years growing up, washing that down the drain.

But then you can also do Roofing Business Partner, so you can hit me up on and generally I have a lot of different little PDFs and blueprints that people can download to implement a lot of the stuff that I talk about here. And then if they want to talk to me more there, they're going to know how to reach me.

Kathleen: Great. Well, thanks so much, Adam.

Adam: It's not hard to find on the internet. I mean, this has been a really fun experience and you're a hell of an interviewer so thank you so much for...

Kathleen: Aw, you're very sweet. Thank you so much. I will take all the compliments and I love hearing them, as I said, in your Canadian accent. I'm a fan.

Adam: Thank you.

You Know What To Do Next...

Kathleen: It's awesome. Well, I appreciate you sharing all of this with us and I'll put the links in the show notes for how you can reach Adam, so check that out. And if you are listening and you learn something new and liked what you heard, of course I would always appreciate a new five star review on iTunes for the podcast, or rather Apple Podcasts.

And if you know somebody else who's doing kick ass marketing work tweet me at workmommywork because I would love to interview them. Thanks, Adam.

Adam: Hey, thank you.

Jun 03 2019



Rank #4: Ep. 85: A Master Class in Instagram Marketing Ft. Rev Ciancio

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What are the best practices for using Instagram to market your business or brand?

This week on The Inbound Success Podcast, author and Instagram marketing expert Rev Ciancio pulls back the curtain on how he's built up almost 80,000 followers on Instagram and breaks down exactly what marketers need to know to master Instagram marketing for their own businesses.

Rev covers both the high-level strategy that will help you win at Instagram, as well as the nitty-gritty tactical details you'll need to know to look like an Insta pro.

Some highlights from my conversation with Rev include:

  • Rev is a food blogger and Instagram influencer focused on the restaurant and hospitality business.
  • He has taken a very intentional approach to what he posts on Instagram and specifically shares things related to his passion for food and how to market restaurant and hospitality businesses on the platform. 
  • Rev says there are really only two reasons that a business should be on Instagram. Either a portion of their target audience is already there, or they have the ability to build an audience where nobody else is.
  • Instagram is a very visual platform, so if you can't express either the values of your company, or the solutions your service or product provides, or you can't speak to your audience through a visual medium, it's the wrong social network to be on.
  • It's a particularly good platform for conveying corporate culture through photos of employees, office environments, team outings, etc.
  • Instagram has both very casual users who just look at photos and videos but don't read captions, and intense users who go deep on a topic. Rev says to design your Instagram presence for the intense user by sharing striking images and videos, and then going deeper in your captions.
  • Because Instagram only shows a limited amount of text from the captions before making you click to read more, when you're crafting the message to your Instagram post, think about what's going to happen in the first six or seven words that's going to make somebody want to tap more to see what else you wrote.
  • Photo quality is critical on Instagram and apps like Snapseed make it very easy for even a layperson to create professional looking photos very quickly.
  • Consistency is also very important, so Rev says to determine how often you will post and then stick with that scheduled to develop a habit amongst your audience.
  • One way to get discovered by new audiences on Instagram is hashtags. The platform allows you to use up to 30 hashtags, and Rev suggests taking a "content mix" approach by combining some more popular and widely used hashtags with some more niche terms to find your audience.
  • There is a debate going on right now about whether it's better to post hashtags in the caption to the post or in a comment. Rev is testing both approaches right now and suggests that others do the same.
  • Instagram doesn't allow you to use hard line breaks when posting captions, and will actually remove hard line breaks when they are put in. Rev suggests using a third party tool such as a notes app to create captions and insert a period in between paragraphs to get around this. Doing so makes caption text easier to read and also lengthens the amount of time your audience interacts with your post, which Instagram's algorithm really likes.
  • To make it easier to format and schedule out Instagram posts, Rev uses Later, a third party software tool.
  • Photos and videos posted to the Instagram feed are a great way to capture a moment in time, whereas Instagram Stories are more effective at digging deeper into a topic and weaving together a narrative.
  • If you're posting a large volume of content to Instagram and one of your goals is to get people to visit your website, or click through on something, then putting a link in your bio can be a great way to accomplish this.

Resources from this episode:

Listen to the podcast to hear how Rev approaches Instagram marketing and learn how to apply those lessons to your business Instagram strategy.


Kathleen Booth (Host): Welcome back to the Inbound Success Podcast. I'm Kathleen Booth and I'm your host. And my guest this week is Rev Ciancio, who is a hospitality and digital marketing consultant. Welcome Rev. Rev Ciancio (Guest): Hi, thanks for having me.

Rev and Kathleen recording this episode

Kathleen: I'm happy to have you here, especially because we're going to talk about something that we haven't talked about yet on this podcast.

But before we get to that, you have a really interesting background. What you're involved in now is really interesting and kind of different from some of the other guests I've had on.

Tell my audience a little bit more about yourself and your connection to delicious looking food.

About Rev Ciancio

Rev: So I used to be in the music business, and I owned an independent agency that did marketing promotion on behalf of record labels and publishers. I got this in my head one day that working for a small amount of time on a band, or an album was fun, but I really wanted to get in deep with bands, and I become an artist manager. So I was managing rock bands and touring the world and all that fun stuff.

What I sort of learned over time in that business is that the majority of band members who pick up an instrument don't do it to start a business, they do it because they want to play guitar, or they want to sing a song.

I found that over time, my ability to teach people in that industry to think about business first, or think about business as much as they do their creative aspects, just wasn't providing the results I'd hoped it was. And I was like, "Well, I bet I can apply these same principles to food and to restaurant marketing."

So I made a leap from doing independent marketing and consulting for basically rock bands, to chefs and restaurants. You'd be amazed at how similar those two things are.

Kathleen: I feel like the same thing could said about doctors. Don't they always say doctors make the worst business managers?

Rev: Probably, but I feel like the art of health is less art and more science. So you'd be surprised the similarities in rock and roll, and in food and hospitality. But I kind of quickly learned that you can't download a hamburger, and that if you have a favorite restaurant you might eat there again as opposed to you're not going to buy an album twice unless you're converting from album to CD, or whatever digital.

Anyway, I started to apply the principles I had learned in the music business in marketing, branding and promoting bands to restaurants and food and it worked.

So that was it, I was done. I was done with the music business and from that point forward I sort of focused on hospitality marketing in the forms of local search, social media, menu management that kind of stuff. I actually went and even owned a bar for awhile.

So, not only have I consulted, not only do I like eating, but I've actually been in the trenches and run a bar and restaurant.

The most important lesson I learned in owning a bar and restaurant is that I'm really bad at running a bar and restaurant. But I'm pretty good at the marketing and branding piece. So, I sort of got out of owning and just focused the rest of my career on helping location-based businesses, primarily restaurants, to be successful with digital marketing, and digital marketing tools.

Kathleen: You've spent some time also at Yext, correct?

Rev: I was there for two years, yep.

Kathleen: They're a big player in the local marketing space as well. I've actually had the CMO of Yext on the podcast talking about local search and SEO and optimization. So, it's an interesting background, a mix of things that you have from working at the smaller level with those local businesses to working in a larger SaaS company that's aiming to help those kinds of companies at scale.

Then, one of the things I found really interesting about you, and that was kind of a fun side rabbit hole that I went down, was your Instagram. Warning to anyone listening. Do not look at Rev's Instagram if you're hungry. It's kind of like going grocery shopping when you're hungry. It's really dangerous.

But you have this really interesting Instagram that's attracted quite a following. Can you talk a little bit about that?

Rev on Instagram

Rev: Sure. Well, first of all I don't make any apologies for causing hunger pains. So, no apologies happening there. If you happen to go look at my Instagram screen name, which is just my name Rev Ciancio, I post what a lot of people call food porn.

So, I used to write a lot of content when I was in college and whatever about the music business, about music. Then I got in the music business and I didn't want to have my passion and my job sort of be the same. So, when I started in the music business I still wanted to write, so I started writing about food.

Back in like it must have been in '99, 2000 food blogs weren't really a thing. So my first real food blog was in 2003 and I've just sort of kept creating content since then whether it was a blog or Pinterest, or Snapchat or whatever.

Instagram, I've been on since 2006 so quite a while. But, that I think is the first social network that really lended itself towards the visual nature of food in terms of it being appealing and looking. I really think only in maybe the last three or four years has that channel really become what it's become in terms of growth, and influencer marketing as it appeals to food.

So, how did I get there? Well, I used to treat my Instagram just like everybody else. Pictures of my daily life, and shaking my fist at an angry bus. Or, here's a really poorly lit picture of a salad. You know, just a snap shot of my life.

I made a decision that if I was not only going to lead digital marketing for other businesses, but if I wanted to sort of attract a bigger audience, then I needed to practice what I preach.

So I was like, "Well, I'm not going to look at Instagram as being a yearbook, or a photobook of my life. I'm going to use this to prove that I am who I say I am to reach a broader audience." Then actually be able to use it to learn so that I could transfer that knowledge to my clients.

So, all those great looking photos you see up there were intentional. I decided what was my reason for being on there, what theme did I want to have, why did I want people to follow me. So there's a lot of thought and a lot of curation into sloppy looking cheeseburgers is what I'm trying to tell you.

Kathleen: I mean, the food is insane. I am now deeply regretting the healthy kale salad I chose to have for lunch right before I did this podcast interview. I'm looking at the pizza, the burgers, all of it. It all is everything that I would eat if I had no limitations.

Rev: Well, then it's doing its job. It got your attention.

Kathleen: Yes. It did.

Now, this is exactly why I was interested in talking with you because I really haven't had anybody come on the podcast yet, and I think I'm at about 80 episodes, and talk about Instagram. I talk to a lot of B2B marketers. Certainly B2C as well, but I think particularly in the B2B world, everybody feels like they need to be on Instagram, but nobody can quite figure out what to do with it. I think B2C is doing a little bit better, and I think some Instagram ads are helping.

But, I feel like a lot of the people that are listening really don't have a deep knowledge of Instagram. Maybe I'm making an assumption. I don't have a deep knowledge of Instagram. I mean, I use it. We use it for our business. I wouldn't say it's a major driver of traffic to our website, or leads, or even brand awareness for us.

So, I really just want to pick your brain for marketers who are listening, who are maybe grappling with "How should I use Instagram for my business?"

How would you suggest they get started today, given where Instagram is now? And then we can maybe dive a little bit deeper into very specific tactics of ways to do it right.

How To Use Instagram For Business

Rev: Cool. Well, I would say this really about any social network but specifically as it relates to Instagram. There's only two reasons why a business needs to be on Instagram. Either a portion of their target audience is already there, or they have the ability to build an audience where nobody else is.

If you can't define either of those things I would tell you not to use Instagram or any social tool.

Where it gets specific with Instagram is, this is like a "duh" moment of course, but it's a super visual format. So, if you can't express either the values of your company, or your interests, or the solutions your service or product provides, or you can't speak to your audience through a visual nature, it's the wrong social network to be on.

So, is it a powerful platform for B2B? Well, yeah, I would say it is. But then it's how are you using it.

So, what I think the problem with a lot of businesses when they approach Instagram is they approach it the same way they might approach LinkedIn, or the same way they might approach Facebook or Twitter. They're just copy and pasting the same format, and they're using it to broadcast whatever it is they're broadcasting.

Because Instagram is pretty visual I think it makes a great play for it being a great way to brand your business. So it doesn't necessarily have to be promotional based, "Buy our product. Use our service." But it could be about your people, it could be about your brand, it could be about your customers.

So, I think Instagram is a great tool for expressing either who you are as a brand, or who are the customers you help.

Kathleen: It's interesting that you say that, because I think to date ... Again, we haven't put a lot of resources into our Instagram. But, I feel like the one area to date where it really has produced results for us is with recruiting. Because people do ... We tend to recruit a lot of younger marketers, I say younger but that's younger than me. Which is a lot of people. People who are in that Instagram demographic, and they do tend to look at our feed and see the pictures.

We post a lot of more kind of cultural things -- our employees out having fun together, stuff happening in our office. It's been really great for that. We really haven't put a lot of effort into it as far as attracting a customer, a subscriber audience. I think that there's probably a lot more we could be doing to be quite frank.

Rev: I think you hit on it. I think a lot of, especially in 2019 the way the work force is going, people choose where they're going to work. Not just on the availability of a job or not, but what is the culture like. I think Instagram is a great tool for expressing the culture of what it's like to be a part of your brand from the inside.

So, I would agree that, that's actually a really great use of Instagram because you can take pictures of, or videos of people and moments and show what it's like to be a part of your team. So from that aspect it's actually a really great recruiting tool because it gives a vision into what it's like to be there.

Kathleen: So, fair to say that the key differentiator of Instagram, well key differentiators, one is that the platform is really built around pictures and video? Then, I know the other one is that you can't put links in your posts. You can put a link in your bio, but not in your post, correct?

Rev: That's correct. One of the things with Instagram is because it's sort of an open format and it's very heavy in the influencer world and there's a lot of brands trying to figure out what to do there, I think you get a lot of casual audience. So, just because somebody liked your picture doesn't mean they read your text. So even if you did attempt to put a link in your text, which doesn't hyperlink, or you were smart and put it in your bio and told people to go there after they read the post, it doesn't mean they're even going to see that text.

Rev: So, the problem, or maybe the challenge, with Instagram is that you get a lot of intense users. If you want to go deep as a fan on any subject, cars, education, food, swim wear, vacation you can go super deep by following super deep oriented brands, or channels, or influencers. But you're also going to get the bigger you get a lot more causal of an audience. So it's a lot harder to get them to convert from being causal to intense. But, it's a great place to drive intensity.

So, you see that picture and if it really speaks to you, then you might click more, then you might take my call to action. You might go to my story. So, I tell people to design their content for the intense experience, not the broad audience.

Kathleen: Okay. So, it sounds like focusing on videos and images that can stand alone without any supporting copy?

Rev: Well, from an attraction standpoint. I'll use my account as an example because thats honestly the best one I have, or maybe the one I have the deepest lens into.

So, if you go look at my Instagram account without clicking deeper, it just looks like cheeseburgers, french fries, steak and barbecue. But if you start to go read the captions, or you read the stuff I'm putting out there, you check out my stories, a lot of them have not just where should you get that pizza, but how you should manage your reputation online if you're a restaurant. Or, the importance of impression metrics in Instagram.

So, the actual text is a bit deeper. I do that by design.

The picture of the cheeseburgers is there to get your attention. It's my headline if you will. Then the text drives a deeper intention. So, I've sort of designed it that if you want to casually like burgers, you can, and if you really care about what I have to say or my thoughts, you can go deeper.

I think the sort of a great way to look at how Instagram can work for a brand is that the pictures have to be appealing about whatever it is that you're trying to spread.

Like we were talking about recruiting. What's it like to work here? Then the text, and the links, and the calls to action can be how to take that next step, how to find out more. How that brand can appeal more to the intended, or target, audience.

Kathleen: We talked about the pictures, and it definitely sounds like, if I'm hearing you right, that that's about the first attention grab. We'll call that almost like the top of the funnel. How do you real them in?

Then, as you're describing, there's what you put in your caption to the picture. I mean, even as a casual Instagram user I've noticed there are certain little tricks people use, hacks, et cetera in terms of formatting their captions, how they want hashtags to show up.

Can you talk a little bit about the different ways that you can use that space to your advantage and to help you get found?

Rev: Sure. So, one of the things that you need to keep in mind when you're building the text for your Instagram posts is that they do cut you off. So there's only a certain amount of characters before you have to tap more to see it. It's almost like an article versus going deep into a blog.

So when you're crafting the message to your Instagram post, you got to think about what's going to happen in the first six or seven words that's going to make somebody want to tap more to see what else you wrote.

So, I know again this is going to sound like a "duh" moment. But you got to think in terms of story telling.

The photo gets your attention, that first line needs to make you want to click to read more. So you have to think about, when you're crafting an Instagram post, how intense is the message? If it's not super intense, you can sort of give it away before the fold.

Like if it's ... Let's say it's a giveaway. You're going to run a promotion on your Instagram. I would tell you that the first word in your post should be "giveaway" so that I know, "Hey, that's a giveaway. If I want to participate in a giveaway I need to tap more."

But, if it's more of a story that reveals a point or needs to drive something, you need to almost treat it like it's a headline to your photo. I hate to use the words "click bait," but really you got to think about what's going to drive that tap for more.

If you're going ... Look, I don't tell brands to get on Instagram and think about growing your follower base. It's pointless. You want to grow engagement. So I don't care if you have 100,000 followers, or 10. How many of those followers are hanging onto every word and photo you say?

So when you're writing that text, and you're thinking about "How do I get them to click more?", you got to think about what's the best story you can tell? What is the highest value you can have and get them to click more?

Anything else, Kathleen, that I'm going to go through today is completely tactical-based like where to put your hashtags, which hashtags to use. If you can't sort of perfect the image, the call to action and how to get click more, none of the other advice I would ever give you has any relevance whatsoever.

Kathleen: So, have you seen any examples of brands that are doing this really well that have that deep level of engagement and that passionate following, if you will?

Brands That Are Crushing It On Instagram

Rev: Most of my examples will be food, that really shouldn't be a surprise.

But I really like Taco Bell. I think all their images look great. So they've taken the time to make sure they captured your attention by having a really interesting image. Then if you go look at their photos the first line of text, that pre-header to the more, is always something that makes you sort of want to know more. It makes you want to tap more, it makes you think. You can almost decide in the instant whether you need to know more or not. They're a really good brand to follow.

I kind of also really like Food Beast. I don't know if you're familiar with Food Beast, but they're a media channel. So they're kind of an agency and they do some influencer marketing stuff. They have a podcast or whatever, and a blog, blah blah blah. But their whole thing is about really intense food experiences. So, they don't post a picture of burgers at In 'n Out. They post a picture of a stack of 17 patties on a bun. So, it's really intense but then you'll go click it and they'll be something about how you can order that burger. Or why you should tap their bio to go listen to an interview with somebody who figured out how to gain the secret menu system at In 'n Out.

But, anyway. The content's super engaging. So the photo will draw you in, the text will make you want to tap more and then there's usually some sort of call to action that makes you want to go deeper.

So, those are two examples of brands I really enjoy following.

Kathleen: Okay. We'll definitely have to check those out to see how they're crafting their captions.

Now, as you mentioned there are tactical elements to this. So, shifting from the strategic, which is how do you tell a great story, how do you craft a great first line to get somebody to want to hit that more button and dive deeper. Then there's the very tactical elements of formatting these things. Again, the hashtags. Can you get into the tactical side of it a little bit?

The Nitty Gritty of Mastering Instagram Marketing

Rev: Sure. So, let's start high level.

The first is photo quality. It's so hard for me to tell people to not edit their photos. There's some really simple, simple easy to use apps you can use on your phone.

I happen to like Snapseed, it's available on both iOS and for Androids. I mean, I've got it down where I can edit a photo whether it's a picture of my kid in the backyard, or a stack of french fries I can edit it in under 30 seconds. They've made it super easy to just adjust the white balance, up the structure, add a little saturation.

The difference between a crappy photo and a much more engaging photo is much lower. There's a much lower barrier for entry than you think there is.

Kathleen: Now, do you have to know much about photography or graphic design to do this? Or is this something that anybody could figure out using Snapseed?

Rev: I have been doing some sort of photo content since 2003 and I know nothing. My photoshop skills are about as good as I can cut and past a taco into somebody's hand. I have no photoshop skills. I mean, you said earlier that you really liked my pictures. That's something I could teach somebody in a matter of minutes. It's much easier than you think it is.

So, number one, edit your photos. Don't assume that just because it looks good on your phone it'll look good on mine. Run it through an editor. Do a little white balance, a little contrast, play around with it. But number one, definitely edit your photos. Don't think your handheld device is good enough that you can be a master.

Number two, a really good, and important, tactic is consistency. So, if you're going to post every day on Instagram, then post every day. Don't post every day for a week and then stop doing it. If you don't have the bandwidth to post every day, post every other day, or post just on Saturdays. But you want to build an expectation with your audience of how much content to expect from you. Don't put anything out there that doesn't help ... That basically doesn't help people.

So, if you're like, "We're going to post every day," then you better make sure that every day you have something that's valuable to people. If you can't possibly put up something of value every day, then lower your cadence, right? It's okay. Instagram's not going to hurt you if you only post on Sundays.

Have that consistency, let people expect to know when somethings going to ... They're going to get something from you.

Kathleen: Is there anything you can do in the way you create your post to increase the odds of it getting found by somebody who's casually looking through Instagram? Because there are your followers, and then there are the people that are going to stumble upon your content.

Rev: Sure. So, I'm sure everybody's heard of this but one of the best ways to attract new audiences on Instagram is with hashtags. I'm going to break down something really important here in a second about hashtags. But, the thing to know is you can have up to 30 different hashtags. So, I suggest that people use a content mix of hashtags.

So, again, I'll use food as my example, of course that's my lens. I wouldn't share a picture of burgers and then have all burger hashtags. I'll have some location hashtags, I'll have some branded hashtags, I'll have some more cheap food type hashtags. But you want to get a mix of hashtags that appeals to different levels of your audience.

Some hashtags are going to have millions and millions of uses. If you have 100 followers there's little to no chance that you using a #Life, or #Happy that you're ever going to score with those. You need to find things that are a little bit more deeper down the funnel in terms of getting an audience.

But you need to think of that mix in terms of tiering your hashtags. But the other thing to note, and there's sort of a conversation happening out there in Instagram land, you can either put the hashtags in the caption of the text, so along with your call to action and your description, your story. Or you can put them as a comment. So they're separated.

There's a conversation out there happening, and nobody's sort of landed on which side of the coin is better. But I would tell you to test it.

Kathleen: That's really interesting. I haven't heard about this. So, I would love to get your sense of when you might use one versus the other.

Rev: Well, I have been religiously posting the hashtags in the text of my content for three years. So, I'll write out my post, I'll pick out my 30 hashtags. When I go post it up I've included the hashtags with the text.

Somebody recently told me that they're having success with using it in the comments. So I'm actually in the middle of a seven day test where the prior seven days I only did in the text, these seven days I'm only doing it in the content. Then, I'm going to measure what the differences were in those.

When you're going to run a test like that, and I would tell everybody to test this. Everybody. Know what you're testing.

So me, right now, I'm just looking for a signal. Do I get more audience, do I get more followers, do I get more engagement? What do I get more of?

I'll then take that information and then do a second deeper test. So, right now I'm just looking to see how it affects my impressions. Do I get more or less impressions by putting it in the text versus the comments? Then once I have an answer on what I think it is, then I'll test the next thing which is "Okay, if I continue to get higher impressions will I then get more followers?" See what I'm saying?

Kathleen: Yeah.

Rev: So, Instagram doesn't give us these answers. You kind of got to out there and test them. I'm not exactly sure based on what Instagram has put out there whether there is a difference.

I do know that the algorithm works different for every single account. So that's why it's important to have a theory and to test it. Have a control, that kind of thing.

Kathleen: Okay.

Rev: I would tell somebody to always use some hashtags. Never to not use a hashtag. Even if you don't score for the Explore page, which is when you go to search in Instagram and you see recommended things, you should go look at hashtags are how you get there.

But, even if I post something ... Like, every Monday I post a marketing tip. In that I always use #Rev'sMarketingTips.

So let's say you happen to find the post I did this Monday. You think that's a valued tip. You see that I'm using that hashtag, you can then just tap that hashtag and find other posts related to that subject that go back years, and years, and years, and years.

So, the value of the hashtags I think most people would look at as, "Oh, that's how you hit the Explore page and get a bunch of followers and likes." It's also good for research.

I did a thing last year where I was trying to categorize all the types of fries. There are 21, by the way. I needed a photo visual of smiley fries. I didn't know how to find a picture of smiley fries so I just typed into the Explorer S-M-I-L-E-Y-F-R ... And guess what? People had used the hashtag, so I found the things I needed.

So, hashtags have a double value. It can help you be found sort of in the immediate, and also in the long run. But I would tell everybody to use at least the most relevant ones to the content every time.

Kathleen: Okay. Now, I want to come back in a minute to the Explore tab but I don't want to get distracted from this and lose track.

So, I notice when I look at your posts you have a very particular format that's almost paragraph style. In between your paragraphs you have a period on the line break. This is getting very tactical and technical but it's something that I'm interested in. I see a lot of other people do their initial caption and then five line breaks with little periods and then their hashtags.

Can you talk a little bit about that and also for the newbie to Instagram, because I remember when I had this question, how do you do that? Because you can't do a hard return from your phone.

Rev: So, we'll start with the why, we'll talk about the how, and then I'll go into why you would do each one.

So, first of all you can't do a line break when you're typing in Instagram. Typically they'll just pull it back anyway. They'll delete the line break. So, I put a period in between paragraphs or sentences so that it's essentially a line break. It just so happens that there's also a visual to my line break. They don't allow you, so that's why you would do it.

Now, why do I particularly do it, or why would I recommend you do it? Well, I think if you take five sentences and you put them together they're much harder to read than five sentences with spaces in the middle. So I'm trying to make a really fast moving social network a bit more digestible.

If you see what I call "word vomit," you just see five sentences all smashed together on Instagram, your brain's not going to register that as fast as if I have one sentence, a line break, one sentence, a line break. It feels more digestible and easy.

So I'm trying to get my content to be a little more easy to digest and I would tell that to anybody.

But, now to get into the super, super, super deep part. So the Instagram algorithm rewards the accounts by users who spend more time. So if you come to my content and you spend one second that's worth X amount of algorithm. If you spent two seconds that's worth X+. If you spend five seconds X++. If you spend a full minute on one of my Instagram posts the algorithm is like, "Wow, this must be a pretty awesome post."

So, why would you put in line breaks, or multiple line breaks is you're trying to get people to scroll and interact. So it's a little bit of gaming the system, you know what I'm saying? But, truly Instagram does value time spent on a post.

So that's why you would might see somebody has a sentence and then five line breaks. They're trying to gain time on the post.

Kathleen: Now, the technique I've always used to do that, because you can't do it in Instagram, is to open up the Notes App on my phone and type it in there and then copy and paste it over. Is that pretty much what you do, or do you have some other secret sauce behind how you're doing this?

Rev: I used to use Notes on my phone. I just don't like that app. So now I use Simple Notes. Simple Notes also has a super easy desktop format so it's easy to go back and forth between, which Notes doesn't really. So, but essentially it's the same thing. I write it in the text based notes and then cut and paste it in.

Instagram Software Solutions

Rev: But there are a number of software solutions out there that will let you do that where you can actually write it in the software and have it push it. I just don't happen to like them.

Kathleen: What are some of the more common ones?

Rev: Later is probably one of the biggest ones. I really like their analytics, I just don't ... I'm not a scheduler. I don't like scheduling software, so.

Kathleen: Got it. Those are some of the details that I think if you're not a heavy Instagram user can really trip you up. Being like, "How are all these people adding these line breaks and periods? Why are they doing that?"

Rev: But I could see for a ... You know, I'm a user in that regard. But for a brand or business if you're managing multiple social channels and you have content going out everywhere having a software that schedules could be super, super helpful.

Kathleen: Yeah.

Rev: Don't take me saying I don't like it meaning it's not good. It's just not what I need.

Getting Into Instagram's Explore Tab

Kathleen: Now, back to the topic of the Explore tab. So you mentioned that is how you can get found in Instagram by an audience that may not already know about you if you land on the Explorer tab.

Can you talk me through how does that happen? How does Instagram decide what to put there?

Rev: So, the answer is "I don't know." Anybody that has the answer either works at Instagram or is lying.

Like I said, I'm in the middle of the test and I went and actually analyzed my last 14 days worth of content, so 14 posts this morning in preparation for this conversation. I realized that in the last 14 days I made it to the Explore page twice. It was only worth about 400 total impressions.

So, how do you hit it? I don't know. Ways that you can sort of try to get in the surface of it is having better engagement. One of the ways to send a signal is through hashtags. So the way ... Let me see if I can explain this a different way.

So, here's how the algorithm works. If you, Kathleen, post X type of content and I, Rev, happen to like your content and then I go like content that's similar to Kathleen's content, it will send a signal to me and to Instagram that your account should be shown more to me. Does that make sense?

Kathleen: Yeah.

Rev: Then as long as you continue to post similar relevant content, it's going to be shown to me. So my algorithm is unique, and your algorithm is unique. Where they match is where the magic sort of happens.

The Explore page is where your content and the general populace, so the ven diagram of interest, that's where the general algorithm and your algorithm meet.

So, everybody's like, "Oh, hit the Explore page. Hit the Explore page." People think, "Oh, if I get 10,000 likes in the first 10 minutes I'll hit the Explore page." That is not how the Explore page works. It used to but Instagram's gotten a lot smarter.

So now, again, it's going to take into effect your Explore page, and my Explore page are going to be totally different.

It's going to show me things that are relevant to me based on other posts I've engaged with. It's going to show you relevant things based on what you've engaged with. Hashtags is just a way for you to send a signal that your content might be relevant for X type of category or content.

Kathleen: You said that you knew two of your posts had landed on the Explore page. How did you know that?

Rev: So, if you have an Instagram account and you have, I forget, over so many followers you can change it to a business account. I have a business account and one of the advantages to a business account is Deep Insights.

So you can pull up your Insights on any post and you can see what your reach was, you can see how many followers you got because of that post, you can see impressions and then you can also see how people found that post. So you'll see something like from home, or from hashtags, or from profile, location, Explore, and other.

So, like I said, I went and looked at my last 14 days of content and only two of my posts had impressions from Explore. So if you just view Insights and then you can see. If it doesn't say from Explore, that post did not hit the Explore page.

When To Post to the Instagram Feed v. Create An Instagram Story

Kathleen: Interesting. Now, changing gears for a second, Instagram has the feed and then it has stories. I would be really curious to get your take on when a brand should use stories versus when they should use the feed for something.

Rev: There's a great question. When to use stories, and when to use feed?

I read a poll the other day, and after the interview I'll send you the report so that you can link it up if you want. But basically a company went out and did a bunch of research on Instagram the other day and found out that people don't look at stories. Not nearly as much as people thought they did. I think the reason for that is people originally assume that stories didn't screw up their algorithm for their feed so they were like ballot stuffing, and box stuffing. Like, "Oh, I can put anything I want in my stories. It doesn't hurt my algorithm." Almost like, "Oh, it's going to delete in 24 hours. It's throw away content."

So, you might have an influencer or a person that would go put up 14, or 15 story posts in a day and I think what's happened is as people have started to actually look and play with stories, they move through it even faster than the feed.

So, if you have 20 live stories it feels like homework for me. I don't need that much vision into your life. Unless you're somebody who I really look up to, or you're a celebrity I'm really interested. Or, I don't know somebody you're stalking.

But, when to use them, and I think is really what's good here, is I think that they have to be a part of the overall content plan. The feed is intended as a snapshot. Here's a moment in time, it's super curative, we thought about this, we put time into this post, it's meant to represent us a certain way.

So I think people look at the feed as having a certain value because they know that you have to work to have a certain quality post. They're expecting a certain level of quality.

Where the expectation with stories isn't the same. It's more people are looking for "How do we get here? What's the story behind the story? Is there really a Wizard of Oz behind the curtain?"

So, when would I tell somebody to use a story? When you need to tell deeper parts of a story. Or, when you need to show a side of the brand that's a bit more snackable, right?

Like, I'll give you an example. I know that my content is photo-based around food, and then provides restaurant recommendations and hospitality marketing tips. If I put a picture of my kid in my feed it doesn't deliver against either of my brand goals.

But, I might put a picture of my kid in my stories because something funny happened and it shows you a little bit more about my brand, or my personality. It doesn't necessarily have to interrupt the broadcast of Rev Ciancio. It's just "in addition to."

So, is that a really, really long way to say use it to tell the high listing stories?

Kathleen: No, that's perfect.

The other thing I think is so interesting, though, is that feed and stories have very different functionality. Stories has dramatically enhanced tools when it comes to your ability to edit. I want to even say, like, add bling, or bedazzle your images. There are so many things with text overlays, and animated GIFs, polls, and questions, and music. It goes on and on.

So, that's one of the things I think is really interesting, is the way that you can manipulate the images and the video on your stories is very different then what you can do in the feed.

Rev: Yeah. I think that's one of the fun parts about stories is there's more you can do. You can actually put a link that people can click, and you can have a call to action. You can put fun animations. That's why I think stories are sort of more the behind the scene thing. You can definitely have a lot more creative fun with them. It's easy to add a GIF, it's easy to add a link, it's easy to add a geo locations.

From a business account aspect, one of the things that I love about stories and that was really helpful from a branding and marketing perspective is you can actually calculate sticker taps.

So, a sticker tap is anything that you add to the photo that leads somebody to another destination. So, it could be a geo tag, it could be another screen user name, it could be a hashtag. You can look back and see how many sticker taps.

So, if you're a brand and you're using influencer marketing, you're paying influencers to post sponsored content about your brand you can have them report back, "Hey, how many people saw your story and then tapped to my page?" That's a super valuable metric because it shows high intention.

So, I mean that is one of the great things about stories is there's a lot more fun and a lot more tools.

What Is "Link in Bio" And When Should You Use It?

Kathleen: Yeah. Now, the other thing that I'm really curious about is the whole "link in bio" thing. You see a lot of, particularly news organizations do this a lot where they then maintain dedicated pages on their websites that are just collections of stories that you get to from tapping the link in their bio. Then you tap on that and it takes you to another ... That's sort of their way of getting you to come back to their website.

Any thoughts on should brands be using that? Is that just for bigger companies? When does that make sense?

Rev: I love telling people to always take another ... I'm sorry. Let me put that another way. I love calls to action. Even if the call to action is, "Like this photo." It's a call to action. So, to me, if you have something really valuable, or really funny, or really important to share telling people, or asking people to click the link in your bio to learn more, to read more, to get something for free to download is a great use of it and shows high intent.

So, I published a book. Well, actually my former employer published a book that I wrote earlier this year. I know that I've driven almost 600 downloads to that book from my Instagram bio page. In the grand scheme of thing if I'm getting 2,000 likes a day 600 isn't all that much. But, to me those 600 taps are more important to me than any other content action, or engagement action that's happened on my profile.

How do I know that? I track that link. I make calls to that link. I look at that link. So I think it's a super ...

Putting a link in your bio and drawing a call to action to it is a great way to give customers another reason to be deeper involved with your brand. Or to reward them, or to help them, and I think it shows a really professional way, even if it's just entertaining, to use Instagram. Give me a deeper experience. If you want me to follow you and engage with you give me lots of fun stuff. Give me lots of value, give me lots of information.

So, I'm a huge fan of the call to action. Set a quick link in bio and I'm a huge action of people measuring it.

Kathleen: There are two different ways you can handle that link in the bio. There's the send them to a page on your website where there's a thing, whether that's an offer, or a book as you have. Or there are these third party tools that are specifically for the link in bio feature that allow you to create almost a dynamic page that has multiple offers, or multiple gateways to other things.

Have you used any of those, can you speak to are there any of those in particular that you recommend?

Rev: Sure. I've tested a couple of them and they didn't really deliver against my goal so I kind of stopped. But I can tell you why you would think about using something like that.

So, the way the algorithm is working currently with Instagram is the life of a post, they've extended it. So if you put something in your feed it typically performs about for three to four days. Meaning it's going to continue to get activity, maybe somebody came to Kathleen's page, they start up following you, it throws a couple posts up and they like it. They realize you like it. Three days later they'll test another one from four days ago.

So, anyway, the life of a post is a little bit longer on Instagram than it used to be. It's certainly longer than the life of a Facebook or Twitter post.

So, how does this relate? Well, if I put up an article on Monday and say, "Hey, go click the link in my bio. You should read this article." But then I post another article on Thursday and tell you do to the same thing. If you see that one from Monday you can't interact with it again. So, that call to action kind of dies the minute you switch your bio.

If you are a brand, or a business, or a person that has lots, and lots of media content to share, that's where those tools are really, really helpful because then if I missed the ability to click the link that was directly to the contents that you told me to link to that landing page still gives it to me. Like, I didn't miss out on it as a brand, or a marketer, I didn't miss out on that tap. I didn't miss out on driving that value.

So that's why you would use it.

Kathleen: I see it a lot with media organizations. I follow The Today Show on Instagram and they do a really good job with the link in bio thing. Then they have their page with a million different things you could go off and look at. So that's a good example for anybody who wants to see that.

Rev: Yeah, anybody who's producing a high amount of content like a news channel or media outlet it's a super valuable tool. If you're just sort of writing a blog here and there, producing a monthly video, maybe not a tool that's going to deliver as much value to you. But still something to look at.

Kathleen's Two Questions

Kathleen: Yeah. Well, I could talk about Instagram with you forever. But, we are running out of time. So before we wrap up two questions I always ask everybody. The first one is: company or individual, who do you think right now is doing inbound marketing really well?

Rev: I'm going to answer that question from an Instagram content perspective, how's that?

Kathleen: I love it.

Rev: I love Later. Later is an app that helps you sort of manage your Instagram content. But, I love that their content is a mix of thought leadership, product attributes and branding. It's super specific to Instagram marketers and people who need Instagram solutions.

But it helps people think about the space, then they tell you a bit about why their product could help you. Then they also do some branding moments.

So, they're truly using content in the way it should be used, to get your attention, to get you to consider their solution, to understand the problem. Really that's what inbound marketing is. It's about awareness and conversion down the funnel.

Kathleen: They are @LaterMedia on Instagram, because I just went and followed them as you said that.

Rev: They have a good content mix too, I tell people if you want to learn more about how to do good Instagram marketing, actually check out Later. They have some good marketing and some good branding.

Kathleen: Boy, just casually glancing at their account one thing the very interesting that they do well is all of their images kind of thematically hang together, like from a color standpoint. They're all very pastel and bright and happy. So, that's really interesting. It takes a very keen editorial eye to carry that consistency out throughout everything.

Rev: They have clearly thought out what their Instagram marketing ... Why they're doing Instagram marketing. It's one of the great reasons to look at their account.

Kathleen: All right. Second question: the world of digital marketing is changing really, really quickly. It can be very hard for marketers to stay up to date on the latest developments. How do you handle that? How do you keep yourself educated and on top of everything?

Rev: Oh, boy. Well, you have to want to learn. That's the first thing. Me, I listen to, there's probably three or four podcasts that I really, really recommend that I'll listen to every single episode on. Because they've consistently delivered value and the types of things I want to learn about in marketing. But then there's also a couple media sources that I really like. So, it's reading, it's listening, it's educating, it's asking questions. Then my favorite part about marketing, and the most important one, is testing.

So even if you learn something new, or somebody listening to this interview today is like, "Oh, that's really cool." Don't take my word as bond. Let it inspire a thought and then go test it. Maybe some of this works for you, maybe it doesn't, maybe you come up with something better than what I've thought of. That's really ... How do I stay educated and keep abreast? I learn, ask questions, and then test, test, test, test, test, test.

Kathleen: All right. You got to spill the beans on what your favorite podcasts are.

Rev: So one of my favorite podcasts is Social Pros with Jay Baer. What I love about Jay is that podcast has been around for many, many years and they sort of started it to talk about great solutions and great ideas in social media. But it's really come about digital marketing.

On one episode you might get some great thought leadership about how people need to think about marketing tomorrow, then the next episode you'll get super neat tactics on how to master HubSpot. So it's really good if you like inspiration and tactical information, which is like some days I don't need inspiration I'm just like, "Tell me how to change my day-to-day." That's a great one.

My other really favorite one is The Marketing Companion podcast with Mark Schaefer and Tom Webster. It is entirely thought leadership. So they're not going to tell you, "Hey, what's the best way to get more engagement on Twitter today." But, they truly, truly care about marketing and like to think deeper. So if you're a really heady marketing nerd like myself, and probably a lot of people that listen to this show, The Marketing Companion podcast is a really great podcast for inspiring you to want to think differently, and to be ahead of the curve and be a better marketer.

Kathleen: I was just listening to their episode on Mark Schaefer's new book Marketing Rebellion this morning.

Rev: I'm obsessed with the concept in that book. I believe that reputation management and customer success is the most important form of marketing, that's kind of what that book's about. So, it's speaking to a lot of the values I hold.

Kathleen: Yeah. Very cool. Well, thank you for sharing your insights on Instagram, that was really interesting. I feel like I know a lot more know than I did when I started. I am self-admittedly not an Instagram pro. So, that was really helpful.

How to Connect With Rev

Kathleen: If somebody's been listening and wants to reach out and learn more from you what's the best way for them to get in touch with you?

Rev: Well, again, thank you for inviting me out today. I truly enjoyed this conversation. People say to me all the time, "Oh, I should be like you. I should be on Instagram." If you don't know why you should be, then don't. Take the challenge that works for you. But if people want to ask me more questions, or get more information my screen name is the same on every LinkedIn, Instagram, Twitter, Facebook. I'm @RevCiancio. If you're like, "I don't know how to spell that, or I can't remember." Just Google "Expert Burger Taster" and I should be in the top seven results.

Kathleen: Nice.

Rev: Yeah.

Kathleen: You can also visit the show notes and I'll have links to your Instagram, and your LinkedIn, and any other place that you reside online.

Rev: Thanks so much. I'll tell you what, obviously anybody who's listening to this after its been recorded you'll already have known this, but I'm going to put a link to this podcast in my bio once I have the link.

Kathleen: Love it. Excellent. Link in bio, check it out. Very good. Well, thank you so much, Rev, it's been fascinating.

If you are listening and you liked what you heard, as always, I would really appreciate a review on Apple Podcasts, or the platform of your choice. Really, I would appreciate it. If you know somebody else who's doing kick ass inbound marketing work tweet me @WorkMommyWork because I would love to have them as my next guest.

Kathleen: Thanks for joining me Rev.

Rev: Thank you for having me.

Apr 08 2019



Rank #5: Ep. 136: When should startups invest in marketing Ft. Nicolas Vandenberghe of Chili Piper

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How did Chili Piper grow to become one of the hottest new sales software providers, and what would the team do differently if they had to start all over again?

This week on The Inbound Success Podcast, Chili Piper Founder and CEO Nicolas Vandenberghe shares the story of growing his company, from his early days bootstrapping, to what he is doing now that he has secured venture capital funding, and what he would do differently if he had to start over again today.

One of the biggest things Nicolas would change is his approach to marketing. Listen to the podcast to learn why he would have started investing in marketing much earlier than he actually did, and how he thinks that would have changed the company's growth trajectory.

Highlights from my conversation with Nicolas include:

  • Nicolas started Chili Piper to help solve the problem of companies not booking meetings with interested inbound leads.
  • The solution he developed helps his customer double their bookings.
  • Nicolas credits his early success to achieving product-market fit quickly.
  • The company gained traction in the US market by using what it calls the "bullseye" strategy, which involved targeting highly influential customers to establish social proof.
  • This strategy was successful in helping Chili Piper bootstrap its initial growth.
  • Now that the company has secured venture capital funding and Nicolas needs to scale it, he wishes he had made a larger investment in marketing earlier.
  • Chili Piper calls the category in which it plays "buyer enablement" and is focused on creating products that are so good, buyers will demand to switch to them.
  • This is how Nicolas believes they will unseat the incumbent providers, like Microsoft and Google, that their prospective customers currently rely on. 

Resources from this episode:

Listen to the podcast to learn why startups should invest in marketing early, and how even an unknown startup can take on the industry giants.


Kathleen Booth (Host): Welcome back to the Inbound Success Podcast.

I'm Kathleen Booth and I'm your host, and this week my guest is Nicolas Vandenberghe, who's the CEO and co-founder of Chili Piper. Welcome, Nicolas. Nicolas Vandenberghe (Guest): Thanks. I'm happy to be here.

Nicolas and Kathleen recording this episode.

Kathleen: I’m excited to have you here. I've been sort of watching you and your company for a few years now and I have a personal passion for startups. It's something that I've invested a lot of my time in, and I really especially love following startups that bootstrap for some of their time and find success, so I'm really excited to talk to you about that, and how you fueled your growth, and what the company does.

About Nicolas Vandenberghe and Chili Piper

Kathleen: So let's actually start out, if you would, by having you tell my guests a little bit more about yourself, your background and story, because that's pretty interesting as well, and Chili Piper and what the company does.

Nicolas: Sure. I'm originally French, as I'm sure everybody will guess. I came to the US in the mid '90s. I went to Stanford Business School with the idea of traveling the world, and when I was there I met Steve Jobs. He was invited to our class. He sat on the floor. At that time he was CEO of Next, going next to nowhere.

It was an amazing experience and I thought, "That's what I want to be when I grow up. I want to be like him, doing tech companies."

And so I proceeded to do that and I've done several startups, not quite as successful as Apple, I must say, but enough success to be happy and done three different startups.

I also had spent a lot of time in sales, so I funded my studies. I say that I sold newspapers in the streets of Paris. It's a true story. I am very proud of it because I outsold everybody else; this newspaper that sold more than anybody else.

So I have a passion for sales and more recently I got to know the world of sales is going to be completely changed. Digital is going to have a big influence and it hasn't happened yet.

Right now we are still at the stage where records have been put in place. That's what you call CRM. But it's a different role for crossing the chasm and I make a distinction between a system of records and system of action.

The system of action is what should be used to do your job, and that is yet to be invented. So that is the business of Chili Pepper is to say we're going to be the company that will bring central revenue to the scene.

Kathleen: I love that, and it's one of the reasons I was excited to talk to you.

I've been working in marketing and actually sales, I've been in sales roles as well for a long time, and technology and tech stacks have become an increasingly important part of the daily lives of anybody who's in marketing or sales.

It might just be me, but I feel like on the marketing side, there have been just substantial advancements in making the technology a lot more user friendly, but on the sales side, maybe not as much, for the most part.

You see that with CRMs and systems of records as you referred to them. Things like Everyone I talk with kind of both loves it and hates it, and the problem with these platforms, if they're not user friendly, is they don't get used.

Your tech stack is only as good as the decisions of the person who is meant to be using it. If they choose to use something else, then it's garbage in and garbage out. So that's my little rant but what I like about-

Nicolas: You're absolutely right, and still to this day the service is so bad that these days you have companies saying, "If you don't put your data in Salesforce, I won't pay your commission." It's like threats and punishments to use the software.

I mean, imagine if I had to tell my kids, "If you don't use your iPhone, I won't give you any candies."

Kathleen: Yeah, it's ridiculous.

Nicolas: Right. That's right.

Kathleen: It's ridiculous that we're in that position. Yeah.

Nicolas: That's why I'm trying to change the system.

An introduction to Chili Piper

Kathleen: I read an interesting article that said that today every individual, marketer, and salesperson is their own CIO because of this exact problem. Because as a company, you can choose to put software in place but every individual person on that team is going to decide what software they're actually going to use.

If there's friction in the process, they're going to find a way around it. It's sort of like water. When water hits an obstacle, it goes around it and carves a new river. And I think that's what people do with software.

So tell me a little bit about exactly the problems that Chili Piper solves for because you mentioned that it's great for revenue teams, but what exactly does it do?

Nicolas: Yeah, so I started the company to help sales people, and we accidentally stumbled into inbound process. It's something relevant to this podcast.

What's happening is we started with helping people schedule their meetings. So especially with complex situations where there's a big SDR team booking a lot of meetings for a big company team, which they should book with the routing being fair with a round robin distribution. So that's how we get started.

And I was talking to some of our customers and saying, "What's your job?" and they say, "I am an inbound SDR, and what do you do?"

"Some people come to the website, marketing people spend a lot of money to bring them to the website. There's a form to request a demo or talk to somebody. I submit the form and my job is to call them and to book that meeting."

I said, "How is that going for you?" and they said, "It's going great. We're converting at 40%." To which I said, "Wait a minute, you're telling me that out of a hundred people who want to have a meeting, only 40 of them get a meeting? Because somewhere they got lost?"

That seems completely crazy to me but it seems to be accepted in the industry. That's what it is. You have a 40% conversion rate inbound, you're doing great. I didn't even have the... beat yourself up! I don't want to touch it. I'm 40% right. Thinking like it would be the ultimate achievement.

So we decided to build a solution for that and what we did is a small piece of JavaScript that companies put in their webpage, in their form, and when the form is submitted, we get the data from the form.

We can augment the data with solutions like ZoomInfo and Clearbit, these kinds of data sources. And in real time, based on this data, we need to find the right rep who should handle that prospect. We can dial the rep and dial the prospect and connect them in real time or we can retrieve the calendar and show options of the prospect and book a time.

So instead of saying, "Thank you I need to call you," say, "Just pick a time that works for you," they pick a time they're all set.

That seems obvious, but we are the first - and only to this day - company doing it.

When I launched it I said, "That seems too obvious to be true. I must be missing something." It turned out I wasn't.

All of our customers doubled their conversion rates. We had people at 80% conversion, a lot of people at 70% conversion. We had a company that was at 23% and went up 55% which is a very high volume.

So it just works. It was just a matter of innovating, coming up with a new way to do things.

The reason why it stayed at that level for so long is because we were just at the junction between the marketing and sales. So marketing thought we were bringing a good job bringing a lot of leads. Sales thought we were doing a good job filling up the leads.

The reference point was outbound, right, so all these companies you reach, you convert maybe 10% percent of meetings. In inbound we were getting 40%; that looked good.

That was a disconnect, so we're putting that all together with all inbound solutions to do this, handle it very efficiently and improve conversion rates.

Kathleen: It's really genius and it's funny how you mentioned that nobody thought of it sooner. You know, it makes me think of an experience that I recently had as a buyer, and I should preface this in saying that you referred to this under the umbrella of buyer enablement because I do think it's all about giving the buyer choices and allowing them to choose the path that they want to take, and not then putting things in their way.

It makes me think of, I was recently looking to vet agencies that do pay-per-click marketing and I went on to a website of a particular agency who I will not name and they had sort of like a quiz that they needed me to fill out instead of a contact us form, and I get the logic behind it so I filled out the quiz even though I was sort of annoyed.

I just wanted to talk to somebody and then at the end of the quiz, it was like, "We'll get in touch with you to set up a meeting," and I thought, "Well, no." Now I really want to talk to somebody and there was no way for me to go to any kind of a contact form or find any phone number.

It's interesting. By the time they emailed me to set up the meeting, I had already found somebody else that I was really happy with.

So there's like a perfect example of how the 60% of people who can fill out a form, who say they want to talk to you and then don't actually turn into a viable, bottom of the funnel lead/opportunity, because you've allowed that time in between to be filled with another solution, or they've talked themselves out of purchasing, which I'm sure happens a lot.

But it's frustrating. It's frustrating as a buyer.

Nicolas: It's crazy, it's crazy.

Something similar happened to me. I submitted a form to talk to somebody at LinkedIn. At the time, it was a while back, I wanted to buy a license of their solution, and you had to talk to a sales person, so I submitted the form and they said, "Somebody is going to call you," and to my knowledge, nobody did call me.

It turned out that two weeks later, it's not that somebody did call me the next day, but it was a 408 number and I got my setting that it go straight to voicemail, because I didn't know the number, and so I never knew that somebody had called. And it doesn't make sense these days.

So with our solution, a company has the option to connect in real time. We even have what we call real time video.

So if you... it's used a lot by companies for their in-app solutions, so if they're the free service, or paid service, somebody wants to talk to somebody, the most efficient in-app format for conversation is Zoom Video, because you can see each other, you can share your screen you can really engage with others.

We have a real time Zoom Video connection, where you can submit a form and say, "I need to talk to somebody," boom, so here is your Zoom Video link and you're connected to somebody over Zoom.

So, that's such a better experience for the potential buyer to be in real time connected to Zoom Video as opposed to waiting and wondering when they're going to be reached out to.

Kathleen: I want to make sure I understand. Are you telling me... I get that you guys through this JavaScript code can do this on a website, but you're saying that in-app, somebody can also use Chili Piper and immediately spin up a Zoom conversation with...

Nicolas: That's right.

Kathleen: That's a game changer. I mean, just like when you talk about trial to customer conversions and adoption and eliminating those friction points early in experience... that's amazing. I did not realize that it did that, which is very very cool.

Nicolas: Yeah. I think we need to market it a little bit better.

Kathleen: Well, there you go, we're talking about it on the podcast.

When should startups invest in marketing?

Kathleen: One of the things I am fascinated by is your earlier story with the company, when it first started, because, as I mentioned, I work with a lot of start-ups. I am a head of marketing for a start-up right now, and the conversation always revolves around, in those early days, before you have really deep pockets or VCs have thrown a lot of money at you, what should the approach to marketing be?

I feel like there's really two schools of thought from the founders I've met. Either they believe in throwing all their money and resources at sales and having an entirely sales led organization and they defer marketing until after they get a lot of investment money, or they really really believe in marketing and make an early investment in content and building out their top of the funnel, etc. And that's a bit more of a long game but it's a leap of faith so I'm sure there's an in between but I seem to talk to those two people who fall in those two courts.

So I'd love to hear what your experience was, because you were successful in your early days bootstrapping.

Nicolas: That's a great way to put it, and I will say that I think the right approach is to do the second, the all in, in marketing. I mistakenly did the first and went to sales, so I'm here to exemplify the mistake.

We did something right at the beginning -- the strategy that I call the "Bull's eye." When we came up with the first product -- and the first product was around handoff between teams, so distributing between SDRs and account executives -- we had a company come to us and say, "I have this problem, can you solve it for us?"

And so the product market fit was easy because somebody came and said, "I have this problem", and we check if other companies have this problem, and we finally did, and so there was no question of having an idea and-

Kathleen: I was going to say, because that's the danger of having that one customer who's the squeaky wheel and you build out a product just for them only to find out nobody else wants it.

Nicolas: Right, right, so the worst part of that, we actually went to SaaStr. Only SaaS companies, and I went around and said, "Do you have that problem?", "Yes", "Do you have that problem?", "Yes", so more than half had that problem.

Then we did something that was inspired by the fashion industry and namely I was exposed to, in the early 2000s, Louis Vuitton, the luxury brand, built their business in the U.S. They targeted the most influential people in the world, the celebrities, so they were not so well known in the U.S. except for a few people.

They went to famous actresses and got them free bags and free jewels, so these actresses were photographed. That was the center of the bull's eye.

From there, they went to what they call socialites. In every city there are people who are more visible than others. They're social, they're visible.

They targeted these people, and from there they extended it. So it was a top down, concentric circle.

That worked really well and we did the same and thought, "Okay, which companies are the most influential in our space?" Obviously it's not Beyonce that helps you sell software. It's companies like Square, Greenhouse in New York, Segment in the bay area -- the companies that people look up to and say, "These guys know what they're doing when it comes to sales and marketing."

So we targeted these companies. It may have taken longer to get the business from them, but once got the business, other companies came to us and that built our early inbound flow from these companies saying, "Hey I booked with Discover Org," "I booked with Discover Org, that was awesome, that was the same experience," "I booked with Segment and it was great, I just did one yesterday. That was a good experience."

So that's what did well to get started to build the foundations. And back to your question from there, what we should have done was build the marketing and expand it, our content and case studies.

Instead, what we did is extend our sales team, so that worked. Every rep paid for themselves. We were able to bootstrap. We passed two million without funding.

It worked well but now two years later we think, "Well we have to build these foundations," because if you want to grow to the hundreds of millions in revenues, you can not do it without a strong brand, and a strong marketing presence, so we waited too long to build marketing foundations at the outset.

Kathleen: This is such an interesting conversation to me and I appreciate your candor in saying you would have done it differently, but I think if somebody is listening they might be thinking, "He says that but they were successful," and so I'm curious what you think would have been different had you started marketing earlier?

Would there have been a different outcome or would it have been the pace that would have changed?

Nicolas: I expect that we would have grown faster.

We typically double over a year, and  expect that we would have done even better than that.

You have to think, the number one problem for us starters is product market fit. If our customers more than double their conversion, they have a return investment that is massive.

That's obviously the first place to get to, but once we have that then the question becomes, how fast can I go and what's the most effective way to go so for all you listeners, you can bypass the product market fit.

The question we're addressing now is how to go from there and the marketing investment is more leverage, so for the same investment, you're able to serve more people.

Initially it doesn't work, but when it does work then you have more leverage right there. A piece of content can reach 20,000 viewers. A rep can not be in touch with 20,000 viewers at the same amount of time.

That's the leverage you need to get and how you're able to grow at 3x or 4x instead of 2x because you get this leverage from marketing, that's big.

We just hired a CMO a few months back, and we're putting all these things in place. That's why I say, we'll see if it all happens, but I have a lot of trust in our CMO and his team to make it happen. I can see he is already putting in the information and I can see how it makes sense.

About the "bullseye" strategy

Kathleen: Well I definitely think you have a good team, I did a little bit of stalking on LinkedIn to see who was on your marketing team and it looks like a really qualified group of people so I'm sure you're going to see fantastic results from that.

I want to go back to something you said earlier, about the bullseye strategy. That's interesting to me because you talked about how Louis Vuitton Moet Hennessy used that to bring Louis Vuitton into the US.

I've seen it also with one of the people that I sort of idolize who is Sara Blakely, who is the founder of Spanx, she did the same thing. She sent products to Oprah and other people like that.

In some respects, that can be really risky, and those are examples of product companies, but if you're sending product to somebody you don't really know, if they're going to do anything with it, if they're going to evangelize it... In your case it was going after really high value accounts.

While it's one thing to say, "We're going to do this, we're going to land the biggest fish in the industry," it's another thing to make it happen. So, I am curious, did you have another approach, or what did you do in those early days that you were able to get those meetings, especially as a company, at the time, that these other companies haven't heard of.

Nicolas: Yeah, it's actually not so much high value accounts we went after, it's highly visible accounts. It's a strong difference.

You get a lot more licences from selling to, say, I am thinking of an example, HP, than you get from selling to Segment. Both are costumers actually, and HP came much later, so we got a lot of licenses. Equal industries, these days.

Marketers look up to Segment to what they should do much more than HP, HP is known for other things. The target was not so much larger deals, it was very much who do people look up to.

It turned out that you think that, "Well how did you get about getting these costumers," people look up to these companies because they are forward thinking, and because they are forward thinking, they are interested in trying new tech.

I remember Segment had this French guy, Gillaume Cabane, and there was this discussion and he pushed back and I said “Hey Guillaume, you're super, and on the leading edge. Surely if I am right, you don't want to have missed it."

He said, " Okay, fine we'll do an AB test", and boom, we did an AB test, he went across 61%, it was super successful. He led a team that was known in the industry as forward thinking because he would try new things.

That helped us, because we would go to companies that would try new things, because they would implement these practices, and to implement these practices you have to take some risks.

You have to go and squeeze new solutions, you have to explore, you have to be willing to try new things.

So that's how we did it, and more practically, since...we implemented, and immediately, I did most of this in person. I actually went to events, meet ups and met in person in the early days.

It's not really scalable, but in the early days that's the best way to do it. Nobody knows who you are, if you email campaigned people will ignore it, so you have to go in person and engage in person, and try.

Once you get a few reference accounts, of course the game changes, and you can go online.

How Chili Piper gets customer success stories

Kathleen: Well, it definitely seems to be working because, I think, when Chili Piper came on my radar screen, I actually heard Udi Ledergore from Gong talking about some of the results they have gotten.

I am curious, you're going after these highly visible accounts, they're having some success. Do you have a particular way of approaching them and asking that they talk about those success stories?

Nicolas: Yes, Udi is a great guy and Gong is definitely one of the visible accounts that we love.

We do case studies. We have a case study with Gong, it's on our website. We have one with Grow. We have one with Segment.

So we definitely package it as success. Then we ask them to share with other companies in the community. Often you have questions in the community say, what should I use, partner with them? That's something we could have done better, but we did pay attention to make sure that these champions would serve as references and would talk about us through case studies, and other type of discussions.

How Chili Piper is approaching marketing today

Kathleen: Now, you got your first round of funding last spring, was it April of 2019?

Nicolas: Yeah.

Kathleen: Since then, you've gone on to hire some folks for the marketing team, you mentioned you have a new CMO, and I saw a few other roles. How big is the marketing team today?

Nicolas: We just hired....It's four people now.

Kathleen: Okay. As you think about looking forward, what is your approach to marketing, what are you looking for in the year ahead? Are there particular things that the company is focused on in terms of building its brand, its content, etc.?

Nicolas: Yes. When we took money last year, we were cash positive, so we didn't need the money from the existing business.

What we wanted to do was to invest in product development because we developed the new IDs that we thought were mature enough to bring to market, or to start building.

I should preface with that our inbound solution is growing. Of course we want to keep growing the business.

We're about to launch a very bold take on inbox, so we're taking on Microsoft, Outlook and Gmail.

With the new inbox, the difference is a collaborative inbox. The idea that revenue teams will be able to, we syndicate account-related emails across email boxes, so if you take a common account, you can see everything being discussed within the account, directly in the inbox.

Let's just say an account, let's say Gong, so if it's just for Gong, I'll see every email that's been sent to Gong, every meeting with Gong directly into my box from everybody. Then I can chat, comment on it, so ask somebody, "Hey, what did you do, say, when you talk to him at that meeting?"

It's a collaborative inbox. We think it's exactly the type of approach that sales and revenue teams need, especially the account manager, or CS. We need to know whether that's happened before.

We're about to launch that, and back to your question, we have this marketing team of four, what do we expect from the year?

Well we have this dual mission of building the business around our solution. As you pointed out, not everybody knows about everything we do, like the in-app solution. And start to position that new product line around our inbox, our collaborative inbox and revenue teams.

It's a lot to do. We are going to invest in content because we see that, obviously content marketing stuff works well, but in case there are lot of questions from companies, a lot of the things we do are new, leading edge, the idea of specializing revenue teams... What should the account managers do, what should the CS, costumer success do, how should the head off be done, how to be the best account manager of the best CS?

We are fortunate to have a lot of customers who are very smart and have great ideas, so we can bring these ideas, write them up and bring this content.

That's a big piece of what you're going to do in the future to lead the change... We said earlier on in the podcast, I'm a big believer that sales and revenues are going to be completely transformed with a new set of tools, so we want to make sure that we evangelize that.

How Gong is building the "buyer enablement" category

Kathleen: Now, it's interesting to me, because you coined this term buyer enablement and a lot of what you're doing, as you explained rightfully, is new. It's something that hasn't been done before. This inbox, totally different than what anybody has constructed. You know some of the functionality that you have in your initial tools, totally different.

I am selfishly going to ask you this because I am fascinated by the topic of category creation. So, as a smaller company, you're thinking about this concept of buyer enablement. I assume you're also talking to analysts, companies like Gartner or Forrester, what have you?

How do you look at that, because everything I've read, and I've researched, and seen about category creation, it's an incredibly difficult play. But if you can pull it off, it can be huge. But it's not a quick thing to build a category.

I just would love to hear your thinking about that, and how much of your strategy revolves around that term, buyer enablement, which you're really coining and introducing into the market, versus drafting off of existing searches and things like that.

Nicolas: I'm smiling because I had a long discussion with our CMO yesterday about the category creation and the role of analysts. You have to think that an analyst is not going to come up with an innovation that's in your category currently. An analyst is not going to say that, "the new way of doing inbox is collaborative inbox, and this is the new category, and players come play in my new category."

Kathleen: Right.

Nicolas: Their job is to observe where the market is going and say, "Oh there is something new happening there, it's real," and, "I'm going to call this category, I'm going to explain it within there." That's typically useful in crossing the chasm when you're moving to mainstream. When you move to mainstream, you need this clear explanation of what it is about, but when you build a category you're not at that stage, moving to mainstream, you're at the other stage, the early state.

Our focus is to provide a solution to an existing problem. It's going to sound boring, but the fact that this problem is big enough that it's worthy enough of being labeled its own category is unintentional.

We think that sales people should have better tools, and we think that inbox and calendar, we are also going to launch Chili Calendar, should be specialized for them. Because it works, we're going to solve the problem, and we're going to help them coverup their revenues better.

Hopefully someday Forrester, one of our costumers is Forrester, will call that a new category, will put us in the right quadrant.

It works the other way. Once we’ve done it, they'll say, "This is what's happening and we'll do it," so for now we focus on the solving the problem. It's not as hard as it seems in a sense to create a category because if the problem is real, you're going to have real movement in the market.

A great example, that has happened recently, is sales engagement. Sales engagement is actually, in effect, is synonymous with sales development, it's the tool for sales development. Their job is to prospect and to engage the initial engagement.

A bunch of companies can request tools early on in to us, CalTAP and Yesware, they were doing templates. Then SalesLoft and Outreach which came with a better way to do it, which was cadences, multi-touch cadences, it's the right tool for this team.

They did that tool. Then they got a lot of costumers, high growth.

Somebody, I'm not sure who, called it sales engagement. They thought, "Oh, that makes sense, I like it," and then the category was born, but it didn't come the other way around, it didn't come the other way around.

So buyer involvement is a term we've used because we strongly believe that the focus has switched on the buyer, and that's what we do with our inbound solutions. You can't let your buyer wait two hours or two days to get that.

It’s a focus, but it’s more of a philosophy. We don't expect that somebody is going to come up and call this category buyer enablement. Some day the category will be called, and as a mission, we hope that we'll be in the right quadrant when that happens.

Kathleen: I think that's the right way to look at it, because everything I've seen is that even if an analyst sees it as a new category, they're not going to spend the time to coin it as such until there is more than one player in it. You can't have a category with only one company, at least in the eyes in most analyst firms.

Nicolas: Yeah.

How to unseat the incumbent solution provider?

Kathleen: I think you're right. Last question, and then we'll kind of move into the wrap up. The thing that you're talking about doing, especially some of these new products around inbox start to get into the territory of taking on very well entrenched existing tools.

If I'm an enterprise level sales person, I have an inbox already, well I mean if I am anybody these days I have an inbox.

Nicolas: Yeah.

Kathleen: Often, in these larger organizations, it's generally Outlook, it's Gmail, and these platform, Google, Microsoft, have their tentacles into just about every aspect of the business.

So, how are you accounting for the fact that there is going to be an incumbent product in everyone's hand already, and does what you're building play with these other things, or how does that work, because that would seem very daunting?

Nicolas: That is a great question and it's for sure that the feedback we're getting from a lot of people, especially in the investing communities, are people who've never switched from our product, they get so attached to our product.

Kathleen: Well I don't know about that, Outlook is like SalesForce, people love to hate it.

Nicolas: You must be a Mac person because it doesn't work very... But the world has changed.

Kathleen: Yeah.

Nicolas: People adopt new tools much faster than they ever did. You see this on the iPhone, the level reduction, but look at Slack. There was email, there were also a bunch of messaging solutions like Skype and PICCHAT, but they came up with a better one, and people switched must faster than they used to.

It's up to us to come with a solution where the benefit is so obvious, it's a better way to do it, that people will switch intimidatingly.

That is much less of a risk than the investing communities sees, because people do switch. If in the inbox, this company called Superhuman that launched, say took after the inbox, and they've been successful.

Now there are so many new apps that users are accustomed trying new apps, changing new apps, and if it's better, they will do it. The job is to do something that is obviously better, and that's the challenge. If we do, then companies will switch, and usually will switch.

Kathleen: You just said something interesting, and this is my follow up question. Users might switch. This goes back to how we started the whole conversation about every person being their own CIO, because, especially in larger enterprise, I could see a sales rep saying, "Oh, I want to use this."

But at the end of the day if you want to get enterprise adoption, particularly for something like inbox, isn't the CIO, or the head of IT the key decision maker in that process. Which is a different audience than maybe you've dealt with in the past so-

Nicolas: Yeah, yeah, but there are two privileged citizens in the world, software developers and sales people. The software developer or sales person say, "I want that tool, nobody gets on their way," because you don't want to mess up your software development and you don't want to mess up your sales.

The reason for that is because obviously the software developers build the product, and you want to make them happy, but sales people, they bring the revenues. If they say the tool is going to help them, then it's very measurable.

That's the thing that's beautiful with our inbound solutions, that Chili Piper for the work sites. When conversion rates double, it's directly twice as much pipeline from inbound, the return investment is very easy to calculate.

It's not the feel good solution where you think, "Oh. That is helpful." No, you have twice as much pipeline, and that's easy.

So, same thing. When we launch our inbox, you're going to see shorter sales cycles and higher conversion rates.

I mean obviously it will be more subtle, I don't expect that it will double conversion rates. It will be a few points, but it's a few points on your total revenue. So if you can increase 5% your revenue, then the company making $200,000,000, that's 10 million, we'll charge less than 10 million.

Kathleen: Yeah.

Nicolas: We'll all make money.

Kathleen: Well I think you're probably right about software developers and sales people. I am just waiting for the day when the marketer becomes the privileged citizen as well. I have a feeling I shouldn't hold my breath.

Nicolas: You're right, marketers on a budget also, but for some reason, they struggle a bit more.

Kathleen's two questions

Kathleen: Yeah, yes. This is the path we choose though. Well, all right, so... Shifting gears, there are two question that I ask all of my guests and I would love to have what you have to say about these things.

One is the core of what we talk about in this podcast, is inbound marketing. Is there a particular company or individual that you really think is killing it right now with inbound marketing?

Nicolas: Well, I am going to be boring and name the king, and the king is HubSpot. They've nailed inbound marketing. To a large extent, they've been so good that they've been able to hide the weaknesses of their product. It took the longest time to... But now they have a reasonably good marketing product, a reasonably poor sales product. They've written the book on it, and I think all the other companies that are doing well...

A lot of companies have spun off of HubSpot and are doing well. In the case of Drift, they take the playbook, they replicate it, and it works for them.

That's definitely the company I would mention.

Kathleen: Okay. Well I've definitely heard those names, HubSpot and Drift, a lot on this podcast.

The second question is, the biggest complaint I hear from marketers, or the biggest pain point I should say is that digital marketing is changing so quickly, mostly driven by technology. They feel like it's trying to drink from a fire hose to keep up with everything and to stay on top of latest developments.

How do you personally stay on top of things?

Nicolas: On top of all marketing and technology, all the tools are there?

Kathleen: Right. Marketing, but also you're kind of in that sales and marketing technology space. Are there particular blogs, or podcasts, or people you follow? How do you stay up to date?

Nicolas: Of course, since we're in the space, we want to know what's going on at anytime, so it's almost our job to stay open. I do that with all the tech, I was looking at whatever tools can help us.

We have this concept of decision memo, so whenever we look at the particular piece... For example, I want to train my salespeople better right now. The first reflex we have in the company, at Chili Piper, is to say, "Is there a piece of software that could help us do that," and of course we’re biased, because we are software developers, but that's how we do it. That's the answer to your question, we go outbound looking for solutions.

There'll be different places where we can find good advice. Podcasts are a great one, yours in particular.

We listen to what other people do, say, and you learn a lot more from podcasts because people leave more practical description of what happens.

Look at the vendor talk, often abstract. Then there are also online communities where people discuss the best tools, and we pay attention.

Then we do, we take, random demos. Right now we are in the process of taking tons of demos from Learning Management Systems, for this particular solution.

We have tech savvy people in the operation, that also makes a big difference. I see companies that don't invest in operations, or don't put the right people in operations, and they're held back by that choice. It's a super important opinion that all companies over sites get tech savvy strong people in their operations.

These people are able to bring in new technology.

Kathleen: Yeah. I think that makes a particularly big difference in the early days, when everyone has to be willing to roll their sleeves up, and not just strategize but do a lot of the work as well, and understanding how to use technology is very powerful for that.

How to connect with Nicolas

Kathleen: Well, we are coming to the top of the hour, so I wanted to make sure I ask you, if somebody wants to learn more about Chili Piper or reach out and connect with you online, what's the best way for them to do that.

Nicolas: That is to come to our website, because we use our own tools. Chili Piper is a play on word, chili pepper, Piper as in pipeline, so it's C H I L I, Piper, Chili Piper, and if you request a meeting with us you'll see our technology in action. It will pop up for you so you will be able to book it.

Kathleen: Great, I'll put that link in the show notes. Also, I didn't tell you I was going to do this, I also want to give just a small plug for Gipsy Time, which is another company that you are involved in founding. I just submitted my request to get in on the early access, it looks really cool, because one of my biggest problems is I have a million tabs open on my computer at any given time, plus Slack, plus inboxes, and it's super distracting, and it looks to me like you're solving that. Is that right?

Nicolas: Thank you, I am really delighted to hear that. Yes, yes, it's a typical case of solving your own problem. I have ADHD, I have a focus problem, and these to-do lists, they keep accumulating tasks, and I needed to manage a way to do that. On the side, I did this other company, Gipsy Time, to help people focus. It's not about capturing the task in the long to-do list, it's about getting it done.

We have the distraction blocking, where you can block, close all your tabs, and reopen them when you're finished. Make sure how much time you spend on something, make sure you spend the right amount of time. Did I tell you... When you requested that... Invited, it's very promising and it's helped me a lot in getting more done.

You know what to do next...

Kathleen: Well, I need it for sure, so I can't wait to get my invitation. Well, thank you so much for joining me this week, this has been so much fun, if you are listening, and you like what you heard, please head over to Apple Podcasts, and consider leaving in the podcast a five star review, that's how we get in front of new listeners.

And, of course, if you know somebody else who is doing kick-ass inbound work tweet me @workmommywork, because I would love to make them my next interview. Thank you so much Nicolas, this was a ton of fun.

Nicolas: Thank you, great fun, yes.

Mar 30 2020



Rank #6: Ep. 126: Using dinner seminars to generate inbound leads ft. Rylee Meek

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Rylee Meek went from being virtually homeless, with $600 in his bank account, so selling more than $2 million within just six months. Here's how he did it...

This week on The Inbound Success Podcast, Rylee Meek shares the story behind The Social Dynamic Selling System, his approach to using dinner seminars to generate qualified inbound leads. 

Rylee's selling philosophy is built on a belief that success hinges on getting prospects to know, like and trust you, and he does this through dinner seminar marketing. Now he has parlayed his success with this approach into a business where he trains other entrepreneurs on how to use this same system to grow their own companies.

In our conversation, he breaks down exactly how it works, and how you, too, can leverage Social Dynamic Selling.

Highlights from my conversation with Rylee include:

  • For the last ten years, Rylee has been using a process he calls Social Dynamic Selling to sell a variety of products and services.
  • He says that the product or service isn't the focus - it's the environment that involves bringing a group of people together, establishing the presenter as that authoritative figure in that industry, and then ultimately getting potential clients and customers to know, like and trust them.
  • Today, Rylee teaches and consults with other business owners who want to learn how to use his process to grow their business.
  • When Rylee works with a new client, he starts by asking what they want to sell and then digging deeply into what the ultimate benefit is that the customer would get from that product.
  • The Social Dynamic Selling approach works best when the product or service being marketed has a high price point or upsell value.
  • Rylee's process relies heavily on direct mail to generate initial interest in his dinner seminars.
  • To generate an audience of 25 registered dinner seminar attendees, Rylee sends out around 3,000 postcards.
  • These results are generated from one send, as opposed to a multiple step direct mail campaign.
  • Once attendees are in the room, Rylee says it is critical that the presenter NOT do a hard sales pitch. Instead, the goal is to establish a relationship and get the audience to know, like and trust you.
  • Rylee and his team track six measurables: 1) response rate; 2) RSVPs; 3) show up rate; 4) appointment set rate; 5) appointment rate; and 6) close rate.
  • His goal is to generate an ROI of 300% from each event.
  • One of his recent clients generated $11 million in sales in less than a year using this approach.

Resources from this episode:

Listen to the podcast to learn how you can leverage dinner seminars - and Rylee's social dynamic selling formula - to generate qualified inbound leads.


Kathleen Booth (Host): Welcome back to the Inbound Success Podcast.

I'm your host, Kathleen Booth. Today, my guest is Rylee Meek, who is the founder and CEO of The Social Dynamic Selling System. Welcome, Rylee. Rylee Meek (Guest): Hey, Kathleen. Yeah, I'm happy to be on here. It's going to be fun.

Rylee and Kathleen recording this episode.

Kathleen: Yeah, I'm excited to have you here. I was really intrigued reading about your background, and kind of your, let's just call it a rags to riches story. I think it would be really interesting if we could just start by maybe you sharing some of that story. What was your journey? How did you wind up doing what you're doing now? Then we can finish it with, really what is social dynamic selling.

About Rylee and Social Dynamic Selling

Rylee: Sure, yeah, happy to do that. I'm 34 years of age now. I started really my entrepreneurial journey, I guess, probably at the age of 14, 15.

It all started based upon me getting my first actual job at the age of 15. I grew up in South Dakota, a tiny, tiny town in South Dakota, like less than 1,000 people.

Kathleen: Wow.

Rylee: There wasn't much for opportunity there, but there was a little gas station that I had the opportunity to go make pizzas at, at the age of 15. My hourly rate at that time was minimum wage, $5.15 an hour.

So, tough to get excited about that, but I still went to work. My first shift, I worked eight hours. I did the math in my head after I calculated that, and I thought, "There's no way I'm doing that again."

Kathleen: You want to know something funny? I too was a short order pizza cook-

Rylee: Really?

Kathleen: Around the age of 15. So, we'll have to have a whole separate conversation about that.

Rylee: Absolutely. Absolutely. That was kind of my initial introduction to really the workspace, I guess we'll call it.

I was in high school at the time, and I realized there're additional ways to make money versus just having to go work for somebody and creating your own platform or your ability to earn income, is really based upon some of your own efforts if you really put your mind to it.

I was introduced to a number of different network marketing companies, MLM companies, which at the time was an amazing personal development time for me, going through high school and just be around... I completely drank the Kool Aid within those industries.

Being around just like-minded people that were all about personal development, and opening your mind, or just expanding your vision. I think that really has attributed to where I've come today, which is surrounding myself with those types of people.

The day I graduated high school, I actually moved up to Minnesota. Like, literally the day. Not really to come to Minnesota, but more so just to get out of South Dakota. I needed more. I wanted more of an opportunity. I moved to the big city and was fully planning on going to school.

My initial intentions were to become a chiropractor, which you own your own practice, but you've got to build your own practice with that. I like the idea or thought process behind that, that I wasn't really working for somebody. I was still working for myself.

During that time period, I started to make a decent amount of money just selling things. The network marketing company that I was with at the time was nutritional supplements. I put together some catchy little campaigns that I was doing in newspapers and PennySavers and things.

I was retailing between $10,000.00-$15,000.00 a month in nutritional supplements. At the age of 18, 19 at the time, I was doing pretty well for myself. I thought, "This is great. Why do I want to go into student debt, and go down that path when I can just build my own business doing this?"

So that's what I really did. Through that time process, kind of in that network marketing world, MLM, whatever you want to call it, a lot of the pitch of that whole atmosphere is why earn 100% of your own efforts, or 1% of 100 people's efforts?

I always loved that. That was kind of the goal, was that mailbox money, or just that residual income. I realized what I was doing certainly wasn't something that was duplicatable. I was working 15 hours a day, meeting with people, and going through our sales process. They would physically come into an office that I had rented. I was working my butt off, making good money, but I certainly didn't have the time to enjoy it the way I should.

I started to look at a number of different opportunities. Kind of flash forward a few years at least, a number of different business ventures that were successful, some failed.

Learning a lot through the process, I had an opportunity to go to Mexico when I was 23. We were opening up operations there with, again, a different company that was expanding into Mexico. I ended up renting out my condo here in Minneapolis, and moved down to Mexico in Puerto Vallarta. We had a beautiful spot just up by the beach.

Things were going well. It was great. It was a fun time in my life. About five months into that process, the Mexican government shut us down, shut down all operations. We pretty much were done. We didn't have anything to do. We packed up our stuff, we came back to the states.

I pretty much invested all of my money. I'd even rented out my condo here, so not only was I pretty much broke, but I was homeless essentially. I had to go sleep on my sister's couch, and I was just kind of looking for the next thing.

This would have been in April of '09, I think it was, in which I came back. I spent really that entire summer just trying to figure what play, what I was going to do next, full well knowing I didn't want to go work for somebody. I don't know why.

I know why, of course, but it was just no matter what, I was going to try to figure this thing out on my own. I ended up coming across this ad on Craigslist of all places. It said, "Work three days a week and make $10,000.00."

I thought, "Yeah, right." But-

Kathleen: Your curiosity got the best of you, huh?

Rylee: Exactly. Exactly. A nice little catchy phrase that they had there. I inquired upon it. I had multiple conversations with gentleman, and he started talking about these events where he was getting groups of people together, and then delivering a presentation and selling his products.

It was the first time I was really introduced to this concept of selling one to many versus one-on-one. Everything that I'd done up to this point, was pretty much meet with somebody one-on-one, give them the whole sales spiel from A to Z, and then try to close the deal.

It was a new concept for me. I didn't really fully grasp what it meant, because one of the frustrating things for me leading up to this was, as much as I wanted to believe in direct sales, your income is unlimited, you earn what your worth, I realized that that wasn't necessarily true because granted, I could sell higher ticket items and make higher commissions in that standpoint, but I was still limited by the amount of time in a day. I could only do so many presentations in a 24 hour period. My income was still capped.

After multiple conversations with this gentleman, he invited me out to one of his events. It was a couple of hours away. I'd driven down to it, and that's when it really hit me.

It blew my mind that I walked in this room and there was 20, 25 people sitting there, all chit chatting, having a good time, enjoying a nice meal. He bought them a free steak dinner. He delivered a presentation, and it wasn't like this sales-y pitch, like rah-rah, rush to the back of the room or anything. It was just getting them to ultimately know who he was, and if they liked him, they trusted him, then he had the ability to ask for that second appointment or at least the opportunity to present price on what it was that he was selling.

I left that meeting, I just couldn't shut off my brain. I had a couple hours drive back, and my wheels just kept spinning, and spinning, and spinning, and full well knowing, you know what, I didn't want to go work for somebody.

I started just to think about what could I sell through this format, because it's a beautiful system. I realized getting these people together, how do I get people, how do I market to them to come on out and have any interest in what I'm even talking about.

I spent months and months trying to figure this thing out, and by that following summer, I did my first presentation, my first campaign, in which we did some direct mail, just little postcards. I invited people out for a free steak dinner, and I had 15 or so people that showed up at my first event.

Through this process, I literally remember I pretty much spent all my money. I remember driving to this first event I had $693.00 in my bank account. It was like, "Okay, I've got to figure this out. How do I get these people to ultimately want to do business with me?"

I ended up making a few sales through that process. Flash forward a decade now, it's been since I've been doing this, we've sold multiple different products and services through this format.

The product or service isn't necessarily the focus. It's really the environment that we create where we're bringing a group of people together, establishing the presenter as that authoritative figure in that industry, and then ultimately getting our potential clients and customers to know, like and trust them.

That's what we've really kind of been doing over the last decade, and fixing and refining that process, which is now what we know as The Social Dynamic Selling System.

Kathleen: Ah, there we go. You brought it full circle. I love it.

One of the reasons I was interested to talk about this is that I feel like this format can be used well, or it can be completely abused. I've certainly seen examples of it, where you go in and you're like, "Oh, crap. It's like those timeshare pitches," where you're like, "I've got to sit in that room for three hours to get my free night."

Rylee: Right.

Kathleen: There's definitely bad ways to do it. Some people will walk in and know that they're trading a steak dinner for a hard sell, and it's a terrible experience. I always wonder, do these places actually get people to buy anything?

What I thought was interesting about your approach, and really what made it kind of inbound-y, is a few of the things you just said here, that's it all about getting people to know, like and trust you, which is really the heart of inbound marketing. It's not a hard sell. It's a get to know you session, if you will.

I think you said something that really stood out in my mind, which was you didn't say, "We tried to figure out how to sell them something." You said, "The events were all about how do we get them to a point where they want to buy from us?" Which is a very different thing. It's a subtle difference, but it's an important thing.

I think the, "Having them want to buy from us," tracks with know, like and trust, and "How do we sell to them?" tracks with, "Lets spam them and give them the hard push, and guilt them into buying from us," or what have you.

Rylee: Right.

The Social Dynamic Selling process

Kathleen: That was why I was interested in chatting with you. Let's actually break this down. If you would, really pick apart and describe to me the process you're using.

You realize you have something you want to sell. You've said yourself, the product really doesn't matter. So, if somebody's listening and they're thinking, "All right, how would this apply to me?" You've got something you want to sell, then what? How do you tackle this?

Rylee: Sure, absolutely. When I started out, it was all about, "What could I sell? What could I sell?" And then it was, "Okay, that did great."

My first six months, literally, we were selling energy conservation products. I am the least mechanical person on the face of the earth. Literally, my wife is the one who hangs the pictures in our house.

For me to be selling home remodeling and home improvement products, it was like I couldn't give two cents about that, but it was the process of being able to connect with our clientele, our customers, understanding what their wants and needs are, but really what their wants are, because I really feel people don't buy what they need. They buy what they want.

It was about creating that environment.

My first company, in our first six months, we did $2.1 million in sales through this process. Then that's when I started looking at, "Okay, what else could I sell? What else could I sell?" It wasn't until about three or four years down the road, where I realized-

Kathleen: You did $2.1 million in the first month, did you say?

Rylee: The first six months.

Kathleen: The first six months, okay. I was going to be like, "What? That's crazy." I mean, that's still really good.

Rylee: Yeah, it was great from going from $693.00 in my bank account.

Kathleen: Yeah, that's pretty awesome.

Rylee: When I started to look at different products, and when I would go out and have my sales weeks, and I'd come back, I remember so clearly just this lack of passion that I had. I didn't care what I was selling. Were we helping people? Yes, but that wasn't it for me.

When I really had that realization, I remember so clearly, this was like a Wednesday night, I came home. I'd had a successful sales week. I was sitting down. My wife and daughter were already asleep. I just started thinking about, "What am I doing with my life?" Yeah, we're making money and that's great, but if you don't have any passion or you're not enjoying doing it, it ain't worth it, really. I mean, it's just not. That's not what I wanted for my life.

I realized my passion really was people, and being able to help them develop a sales strategy to take their products to the marketplace, because if you build it, they don't come. You've got to figure out a way to get them to want what you have.

That's when I really pivoted in my career to moving more to consulting and teaching people how to do this versus physically doing it myself. Anytime we onboard a new client, or somebody that's even questioning, "Does this make sense for me? Can I do this?" We always start out with a quick strategy call, and really kind of determine, what is your product, and not even just what are you selling, but really, what truly are you selling?

You know, getting into the actual benefits of the benefits of it, and can we create a story, an environment that we can take people on that emotional journey that want we have?

It always goes back to the old "People don't buy a drill because they want a drill, they want a hole." But we even obviously take it further than that, that they don't want the hole, they want the picture hung. They don't want the picture hung, they want their house to feel warm and comfortable.

It's the benefits of the benefits, of the benefits that we really try to get into on these initial calls to determine, is this product saleable through this format?

Who is Social Dynamic Selling right for?

Rylee: But then also we really want to get into the numbers, the money aspect of this. I will be the first to tell you that what we do isn't for everybody by any means.

If you have a $48.00 widget and there's no additional upsell or upside of that, or no additional lifetime value of your customer, this is not going to be the format for you. You're just not going to have a return on investment that is going to allow you to do this long term.

I want to be very upfront with people on that when we do our initial strategy calls, that this does take some money to do some marketing with this.

Getting started

Rylee: We do a ton of direct mail initially. I call it, "We fish with corn dogs," and really what I mean by that is there's not a fish in nature that would sustain a life on solely eating corn dogs, but if I put a corn dog on a hook and throw it in the water, they're going to bite it every single time.

My goal with that initial outbound piece, I guess, is to bring them in. I'm hooking them, and then once they're within my group, within my environment, now I can really nurture them, and feed them what they need to actually truly be fed.

That's what we do. We do a ton of direct mail in that aspect, but once our message is clear with the client or customer, whatever the product is, we want to have continuity within that whole process of the message that's been given initially to them calling to RSVP for the actual event, to the confirmation call, to just the culture that they walk into for this actual event.

Most of these, we host at kind of mom-and-pop steakhouses. We're not booking out huge comfort centers, or rooms, or anything like that, because that whole process of know, like and trust, you need to be able to connect with them.

If you can get them to come to a neutral environment where they're not feeling pressured, like you had mentioned, that timeshare thing where they literally chain the door and you can't wait until you get out there.

It's more of just creating that neutral environment in which we're having a good time, we're joking. We're really getting to know each other and understanding who you are, to obviously know who you are, but then that like and trust is the most important aspect of our whole process through our system.

Kathleen: I love that you started with figuring out what it is somebody's really selling. You're not a marketer by training, and I always say this on this podcast, that sometimes the best marketers are the ones who are not trained.

What you've figured out intuitively, is something that a lot of marketers are taught, but not all marketers actually do, which is really focusing on the outcome, the benefits, as opposed to the features and the inputs. When you talked about you're not selling folks a drill, you're selling the picture hanging, the home feeling cozy, et cetera, that's something that I think many marketers get tripped up on.

Using direct mail to attract prospects

Kathleen: We focus more on features than on benefits. That makes sense to start there. Assuming somebody's listening and they have figured out their benefits, they're able to tell that story of the compelling problem, let's say, that their product or service solves, then you have these direct mail pieces which is, if I understand correctly, that's primarily how you're driving registrations for these dinners. Is that correct?

Rylee: Yeah, primarily it is. We've done a lot of online, Facebook, SEO and different Google Ad Words, things like that, to get people try to register for these events. But by far, the highest return on an investment is direct mail. Part of it is because it's such an easy, measurable format for us.

When we do these events, first off, we do them all throughout the country. This week alone, we hosted over 63 events. Not over, but 63 events exactly this week.

We're all throughout the country, so when we determine where we're going to go, it could be Evansville, Indiana, it could be San Diego. It can be any city. It can be anywhere throughout the country.

When I determine who my demographic is, who is my ideal client, and we create that message to get them to take action, when we do a direct mail piece, the data that's out there that we can purchase is amazing.

If our target demographic is blonde hair, blue eyed kids from... Whatever it is, we can get so specific with who we're going to be inviting out to this, where we'll craft a message to speak to them specifically.

If I send 5000 pieces and I get 50 phone calls, that's an easy thing for me to measure to start my initial process of what my return on investment is going to be.

Measuring success

Rylee: There's six measureables that we track throughout every single campaign, every single week, for every single one of our clients. The reason we do that is because I'm not physically in San Diego doing our events this week, but I need to be able to have a bird's eye view of an understanding where things are at.

Is our message off? Is the phone conversation off? Are we saying something that's turning people off? Is the venue icky? Is it in a bad spot? Is there parking that's tough for people where they don't want to walk three miles to get to the venue?

All of those come into play when we're tracking this, and measuring this. But it all starts with that initial how do we get them to take action? That's where direct mail has really been the primary focus for us.

Kathleen: Okay, so now I have a bunch of questions. First of all, it sounds like, if I'm understanding correctly, you're defining the audience, and then you're able to purchase a physical mailing list that matches those demographics.

If you want to have, let's say 25 people show up, do you have some benchmarks around how many postcards you need to send out to get that many people?

Rylee: Yeah. Yep, absolutely. That is going to be different per industry and per product, I guess, because for instance, we're working with a solar company, and they consider a household as one buying unit. You have husband and wife together, so that's two people coming in for one potential sale, versus when I work with our medical doctors.

When we're inviting them out, we're still sending one invite to one household, but there's two potential sales, maybe three or four dependent upon how many people live within that home.

So, all of that comes into play when we determine how many people we're going to try to attract.

When we do these invitations, we're not just doing on Monday only at this time. We're planning, we're giving options throughout the week, where if there's usually two, three four, sometimes five or six options within that area, maybe all at the same venue.

We might do a luncheon and a dinner on Monday, and then just a dinner on Tuesday, and then a luncheon on Wednesday. Whatever the case is. Again, that is all going be dependent upon who we're trying to attract, because a luncheon might not be good for somebody whose working a nine to five job. We might need to look at focusing on an evening, or sometimes it's Saturday morning breakfast.

All of that comes into play when we really peel back the onion on determining who is our true client, and how do we want to get them to the actual event.

I can safely say personally I love doing presentations or rooms with 20-25 people.

Kathleen: Around, like ball park, understanding that it's all different, but around how many invitations have to go out to generate 20-25?

Rylee: Maybe up to 3000, just to be safe.

Kathleen: Okay.

Rylee: For instance, this week I was out in Ohio. I flew in and out, and did some events for one of our clients. We had sent 6000 pieces. We hosted three events. The first one had 23 people, I think. The second one had 18, and the third one had almost 30. That's where we give it some options.

Part of it too, is we've got to make sure the room holds enough, and that's kind of choosing the venue, making sure everybody's facing forward. There's a lot of components that go into truly hosting a successful campaign.

Kathleen: Yeah, I was going to say do you ever have situations where you have a much better turnout and you're like, "Oh no, more people want to come, and we don't have the room."

Rylee: Yeah, it's a terrible problem to have. That's where our event team will... We'll know in advance if we have an over-response that's above and beyond this, could we add an extra day or time?

That's stuff that we kind of monitor, because part of our campaigns is we want our invitations to hit in time, where we know how often these are filling, do I have to send some booster, even some online stuff to try to boost our response rate because mail hit funny that week, or a snow storm came in. God forbid, I'm in Minneapolis right now, and it's negative 10 out right now, I think.

Kathleen: Oh, God that sounds terrible.

Rylee: And it's snowing still. It's like it shouldn't snow when it's that cold. There are certain things that are out of our control that you do still have to be flexible and be able to roll with the punches with this a little bit. We try to control as much as possible, knowing what we know works within the system here.

Kathleen: In general, do you have a sense of how many times do you need to hit that same audience before they'll say yes? Is it one postcard and 25 people respond? Or, is it one postcard sent three times?

Rylee: Yeah, it is usually one approach, and this is where kind of that fishing with the corn dogs. To me, if you send me... This is personally, and this is why I'm probably not a good example of this, but if somebody sends me an invitation that I don't care anything about, I don't care if they're feeding me a steak dinner, there's no way I'm going to go.

But there are some people out there that they don't even care. They come to the events, and they don't even know what they're for to listen to. They're there for a free meal. Whatever.

I love those people because the Law of Reciprocity takes place here, in which they're coming out, I'm getting them to love me through this hour chit chat that we're talking about. They know everything about me, and that's setting know, like and trust.

Even if you get the people that are never going to do business with you, they are your biggest allies because they know they're never going to do business with you, and they're the people smiling, nodding, giving you great feedback and energy within that whole room.

Know, like and trust

Kathleen: Let's actually talk about that for one second, because you said you have that hour and your goal is to get them to know, like and trust you.

Can you shed some light on both how you do this, and how you advise your clients to do this correctly so that it's not just a hard sell job? What happens in that hour?

Rylee: Yeah. Let's call it an hour. Sometimes it could be less, sometimes it could be more, dependent upon if there're demonstrations or things like that.

While this the first time they're physically meeting you, this isn't the first time they've had any interaction with us. They've received an invitation. They've talked with potentially you on the phone, if you've called to do the confirmation and things like that. We maybe have given them direction of, "Go look at this prior to the event."

By the time they get out to meet you, they have at least a decent understanding of what's going on here. Now, I call it, this is your circus and you're the ringleader within here.

Immediately, you are established as the authoritative figure, because you are, you're the speaker. Name an event that you've gone to, and you haven't immediately had a respect for the person on stage speaking. They've created that environment where they are that authoritative figure.

Now, assuming you know your product well, which we just assume that, the goal isn't just to educate them and make them think how smart you are, and how wonderful the features are of your product. We've kind of said that.

The goal is to get them to know that you're human. You're just like them. We take people on an emotional journey through this process, because I fully believe every buying decision is emotional, but it has to be backed by logic. We take people on this emotional journey.

We teach of NLP, neuro-linguistic programming, in this with getting people to be able to speak to their subconscious of feeling certain things within the environment.

That's what we talk about getting them with the drill. We're not talking about, "Okay, this drill has a 3.5 volt battery, and it's going to spin at X amount rate per minute." Whatever. Who cares?

Nobody cares about that. They want to know what's in it for them. That's all anybody ever truly cares about, is what's in it for them. We can talk about all those benefits full well knowing by the end of these, they know my life story, they know my daughter's name, they know where she goes to school.

We're creating a relationship, a bond, with these people, and I'm not there pressuring them.

This isn't rah-rah, rush to the back of the room and buy this course, and blah, blah, blah.

I mean, we could do that, but that's not what we teach within our system.

At the end of it, assuming you've done a good enough job where they like you, you're just simply asking for that next appointment.

That's it.

We're not closing deals. We're not selling things within these environments. It's just, "Okay, we're to help. If what we talked about is adventurous to you, we're available all day tomorrow."

So, we are creating a little sense of urgency in doing that, because we're in town for a period of time, where we've got this special rate for this consultation. Whatever it is, we can create that sense of urgency to get them to make that decision.

Most people don't make decisions. They need a reason to make a decision, and that's where I say people don't buy what they need, they buy what they want. You can lead a horse to water, but you can't make it drink. But you can put salt in his oats, and he'll want to drink.

That's really what we're trying to do with these educational events. We truly speak to express, not to impress. The presenters going up there, and making people think how smart they are, that's just not what we focus on. It is getting them to...

Again, I always just come back to that know, like and trust, because people do business with those that they know, like and trust.

Six measurables to track

Kathleen: Absolutely. You said something earlier that my ears perked up at, which is that you have six measureables that you're tracking in all of these cases. Can you just kind of quickly summarize what are those six things?

Rylee: Yeah, absolutely.

Obviously, our response rate, which is more of our outbound, our initial hook, where if I send X amount of pieces or I have X amount of clicks or whatever the case is, so we're tracking that.

Then to the actual RSVPs, because just because they respond doesn't mean that they're going to register for the event. We want to make sure we have a proper registration rate.

When we do our confirmation calls, we want to make sure there're strategies of the words that we use on how to get people to actually show up to the event. So, we have our show up rate.

Then from there, you do your presentation and at the end of the presentation, you're asking for that actual appointment. Then we obviously we have our appointment rate.

By the time we go to meet with them the next day, some may fall off, some decided they didn't want to do it, or something came up, and they... I hate that "cancel" word, but they cancel the appointment. So, we want the actual appointment set rate.

And then, obviously once you meet with them, the close rate, the actual, "I made the sale, and there was a physical transaction there."

If I can measure all of those throughout this process, again, I could be anywhere in the country looking at an event from across the country.

I kind of equate it to we've kind of created an offline funnel system. Everybody talks about the online, you start up top. It's like, okay we're trying to get as many leads into there, and now we're constant sifting the sand, bringing them down to actually only meeting and spending time with those people that truly want what we have to offer.

The cost structure

Kathleen: Yeah, I think you described it well. They're like funnel metrics, conversion rates at every different stage. Are you also tracking the cost of acquisition?

Rylee: Oh, yeah, most definitely. Most definitely.

Kathleen: I would be interested in knowing kind of what that ratio usually looks like, because you talked earlier about how if you have a $43.00 widget, it doesn't make sense to do this.

Rylee: Right.

Kathleen: What kind of a multiple do you need to have to make this really work?

Rylee: Again, any time we onboard a new client we're always starting with that end in mind, of "All right, if I can net $1,500.00 of sale on my product, can I make this work?" Or, "If it's $4,000.00 of sale, can I make this work?"

Some of the data that we have to buy could be more expensive than others. If we're just sending a post card to every door direct mail, anybody could do that. That's cheap. Go ahead and do that. But when we're buying specific data, and the invitation that we have to craft, if it's mailed, it could be a certain card stock, it could be in an envelope.

Rylee: We've done video invitations before, where it's a physical, they're getting it in the mail. We've done-

Kathleen: Those are cool. I've gotten those before. They're really neat.

Rylee: Yeah, we've done chairs before, like physical chairs that we have to mail out. Because you need to get their attention. If you're trying to figure out how to get past a gatekeeper, we do a lot of B2C, business to consumer, but my goal is to talk to that corporate executive, but he doesn't check his own mail. We've got to figure out to get past that, where we can...

Some of those cost more, but I don't need to send as much to get the response that I need. That's everything that we kind of take into consideration in building these campaigns.

My sweet spot is a three to one ratio of what we're spending. Can I at least make three times that? Net profit, three times that, because if you're only about to do two times that, or if it's four times that, maybe we're not spending enough money on marketing to bring that number down.

So, that three to one ratio for me, is just kind of that sweet spot. If I go to the casino, and I know that every third quarter I put in I'm going to four back, I'm never going to not do that.

This is a well oiled machine for the right products and campaigns. We're doing these every single week. A lot of financial advisors do these. They do selling annuities and things like that, but they do them once a month or once a quarter, and then they're working with them.

What we do, it's more of like let's keep this thing going, constantly keep you in front of that correct audience so you never have downtime, you never have that slow season utilizing this marketing format.

Kathleen: Let's talk about where the rubber meets the road, results.

Rylee: Sure.

Rylee's results

Kathleen: Can you share some examples of ROI for a typical campaign like this?

Rylee: Yeah, I've got so many examples. One of the most recent ones, we met with a group of doctors. It just would be actually about a year ago now we started our initial conversations. They were trying to do events like this. It's educating people about what they do.

We're not getting into too many specifics. We went out and saw their events that they were trying to host, using Facebook ads and things like that. They're very smart. They do a great job at educating, but the goal isn't... There's no ROI in educating. You have to still create that environment to get them to take action.

Through our consulting with them, we hosted our first campaign. This would have been in February of 2019. So, from absolutely zero business through our format, they've done over $11 million since February of this last year, solely utilized in our system.

Kathleen: What kind of cost basis goes into generating $11 million? I'm just curious what the ROI is.

Rylee: Sure, absolutely. That's definitely a lot higher than three to one. Again, it partly depends on the margins that we're working with, but realistically, like I said, if we determine a campaign is going to cost five grand, six grand, whatever that amount comes to, I'm inviting people out, we have meals involved here.

We want to make sure that we're at least going to be able to confidently be able to earn $15 grand off of that campaign. Otherwise, they just might not make sense. There might be other ways to go about this.

That's again why I say we're definitely not for everybody, but for those that we are for, it's a great system to constantly have that pipeline full of new potential clients.

Kathleen: Great. So interesting. I have so many more questions, but we don't have much more time.

Rylee: Yeah, exactly.

How to connect with Rylee

Kathleen: Thank you for sharing a lot of the details about how you're doing that. If somebody has questions, or they want to learn more, what's the best way for them to connect with you on that?

Rylee: Sure, yeah. Our website is, so That actually has some exact case studies and things like that, that you're kind of asking for. It really gets into the specifics on ROI and things. That's a good site. They can schedule an easy strategy call on there.

I wrote a book last year, so all of that's available on there, they can get more information on.

Kathleen's two questions

Kathleen: Awesome, well I'll put that link in the show notes for anybody who's interested. Of course, I have to ask you the two questions I always ask everyone. The first being, we talk a lot about inbound marketing on the podcast. Is there a particular company or individual that you think is really killing it with inbound right now?

Rylee: I travel a ton, so in my downtime I will throw up social media and just try to catch up on certain things.

I think Gary Vee is always out there, his face. He has a ton of videos and things like that, so I think he's obviously crushing it.

A new one, well he's not really new, but Steve Weatherford. I don't know if you know him, but he was a former punter in the NFL. He's created a real brand just in the health and nutrition kind of field. I think he's crushing it right now as well, with just the content that he's putting out there, and creating that environment, that following of getting people to want what he has to offer.

Kathleen: Very cool. I have not heard the Steve Weatherford one before, so I'm going to definitely have to check that one out.

The other thing is, of course, digital marketing changes so quickly. Your somebody whose totally self-educated in this area, so I'm curious, how do you stay on top of the changes happening in the world of marketing?

Rylee: Yeah, absolutely. Completely self-educated. I think I probably spent more than having to go to college than I would have through this process-

Kathleen: That's what they call "winning ugly".

Rylee: Exactly. Completely worth it, and it really has just gone back to surrounding myself with not really like-minded people, but how about like-minded people, where everybody is here to help, and surrounding yourself with that. Iron sharpens iron, by all means.

So, being able to surround yourself with those type of people, and continually feeding off of that information. Through that, I meet with mentors and coaches, and things like that, but we're always working through books.

I listen to a ton of Audible, which is great. I always do the every month by three, so that way I know I'm listening to at least three a month, new books, a podcast all the time.

Again, I travel a ton, whether it's on a plane or in a car. Sometimes it's nice just to have that downtime and chill, and zone out to some music, meditate or whatever. But utilizing that time specifically for bettering yourself, I think has been crucial in what I've been doing over the last decade.

Kathleen: Yeah, I'm a huge fan of Audible and podcasts as well. I love with Audible, putting things on 1.5 speed, especially business books, because it's not like you're immersing yourself in a story. You're like, "I want the information and I want it quickly."

Rylee: Yep, yep. Keep it going.

Kathleen: You can tear through some Audible books that way.

Rylee: Absolutely.

You know what to do next...

Kathleen: Great, well, thank you so much. This has been really interesting. If you are listening and you liked what you heard, or you learned something new, I would love it if you would head over to Apple Podcasts and leave the podcast a five star review. That's what helps us get found, and in front of new listeners. If you have a minute, consider doing that.

If you know someone else who is doing great marketing work, tweet me @WorkMommyWork, because I would love to make them my next interview.

Kathleen: Thank you so much, Rylee.

Rylee: Yeah, thanks Kathleen. This is has been fun.

Jan 20 2020



Rank #7: Ep. 88: How Goldie Chan Became 'The Oprah of LinkedIn' Using LinkedIn Video

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LinkedIn is like the wild west for video creators, so what does it take to be a LinkedIn Top Voice and what the Huffington Post calls the "Oprah of LinkedIn?"

This week on The Inbound Success Podcast, I interviewed Goldie Chan, otherwise known as the "green haired Oprah of LinkedIn." Goldie has more than 45,000 followers on LinkedIn and garnered 3 million+ views on her daily LinkedIn video in under a year. She's been named a LinkedIn Top Voice (the highest honor bestowed by the platform) and is the owner of LinkedIn's longest-running daily show.

Goldie is indisputably one of the top thought leaders when it comes to LinkedIn video, and in this episode, she gets into the nitty gritty of how she approaches her LinkedIn Video strategy, including how she shoots her videos, writes the copy for the accompanying posts, and more.

This week's episode of The Inbound Success Podcast is brought to you by our sponsor, IMPACT Live,  the most immersive and high energy learning experience for marketers and business leaders. IMPACT Live takes place August 6-7, 2019 in Hartford Connecticut and is headlined by Marcus Sheridan along with special guests including world-renowned Facebook marketing expert Mari Smith and Drift CEO and Co-Founder David Cancel. Inbound Success Podcast listeners can save 10% off the price of tickets with the code "SUCCESS". 

Click here to learn more or purchase tickets for IMPACT Live

Some highlights from my conversation with Goldie include:

  • Goldie has the longest running daily video channel on LinkedIn, and has produced more than 600 daily consecutive LinkedIn videos.
  • Goldie produces and edits all of her LinkedIn videos herself and she says the key is to start by creating a video strategy and determining what the focus of your video content will be.
  • It took Goldie some time to build up her following and her advice for others is to approach it like a long term play and be committed to consistently producing content.
  • All of Goldie's video content is available through her LinkedIn profile which she refers to as her "channel." She does this to accustomize people to the notion that her profile is her content home base on LinkedIn.
  • Goldie uses the branded hashtag #DailyGoldie in all of her LinkedIn video posts and recommends that anyone who is serious about LinkedIn video use their own branded hashtag as a way of making it easier for followers to find their video posts.
  • She does not think it is a good idea to use what she calls a "hashtag wall" - essentially a long list of hashtags - because it does not help with YouTube SEO and is confusing for followers.
  • In terms of video quality, Goldie believes that people gravitate towards authenticity on the platform, so you don't need incredibly high quality video (and sometimes overly-produced videos can backfire). But she did say that videos should be in-focus, with good frame quality, good audio, and good lighting, and you should not be too close to the camera.
  • If possible, your LinkedIn videos should also be captioned (and if you're only posting videos once a week, captioning is a must).
  • Goldie has a very specific structure for the copy she creates to accompany her LinkedIn video posts, but she says you can create whatever structure you like so long as you don't use hashtag walls, you don't tag too many people, and you're not too salesy.
  • She uses emojis in her posts but says that if you do this, they need to be relevant and contextual.
  • She advises LinkedIn users to never use an emoji in their name on LinkedIn because it can break LinkedIn's code.

Resources from this episode:

Listen to the podcast to learn more about the power of LinkedIn video and get specific tips from Goldie on how to use LinkedIn video to grow your business and brand.


Kathleen Booth (Host): Welcome back to the Inbound Success Podcast. Welcome back to the Inbound Success Podcast, my name is Kathleen Booth and I am your host. And this week I am especially excited to say that my guest is Goldie Chan, who is known as the green-haired Oprah of LinkedIn.

Welcome, Goldie. Goldie Chan (Guest): Thank you for having me.

Goldie and Kathleen all smiles while recording this episode

Kathleen: I am really excited, maybe a little too much, it might be a little weird.

About Goldie Chan

Kathleen: So I'll just say a few words about you, and then I'm going to ask you to introduce yourself to our audience. So just, Goldie, I started following her because I was, personally, interested in getting better at LinkedIn video, and her name kept popping up, and her face kept popping up. And I just quickly realized that she was the one really doing it first, and so I started to LinkedIn stalk her, and then Twitter stalk her.

But she's got her own social media agency, Warm Robots, she is an influencer in the LinkedIn space, she's on the Producers Guild of America's new media council.

You put your hand in a lot of different things, and I probably won't do as great a job of covering it all as you would. So tell my audience a little bit more about you, and how you came to be this LinkedIn influencer.

Goldie: Sure. So I've worked, historically, in digital marketing, both on B2B and B2C side for over a decade; which always surprises people. And I worked from that ground up, I worked from the very lowest level entry level position to where I am today, and very different divergence from the traditional path.

But I currently am a contributor on Forbes, I write about storytelling and personal branding in the digital age, and I absolutely love my column that I get to write about that. And I have the longest running daily channel currently on LinkedIn, I am over 600 daily, consecutive videos right now, so I started in the beta and I kept going.

And one of the most interesting things, I think, is when you are doing daily consecutive content, which I'd personally never done before, you learn so much about yourself, your work ethic, your creative process, and how you can also teach that creative process and, hopefully, that work ethic to other people and explain what works and what doesn't work.

And I also teach a few LinkedIn learning courses, one which is on LinkedIn video, and if you have a library card in California, Texas, or New York, I'm not sure about other states, you can get access to for free, that's L-Y-N-D-A, and you can actually watch all three of my courses for free.

Kathleen: That's great, I love that. And I want to just pause for a second and underscore something you just said, because I feel like it would be easy to gloss over it.

Goldie: Yeah.

Kathleen: Over 600 daily, consecutive videos on LinkedIn. So if you're listening, she has posted a new video every single day for over 600 days. I don't think you could find many people out there who have done anything consistently in their life for 600 days straight; let alone produce video and content.

I heard you talk about this, I think, it was Social Media Week Toronto, I watched your talk on YouTube. And you talked about you were going into the desert with friends, and you realized you hadn't done your video and you, literally, had to leave the desert and go film it because you didn't want to break your streak.

Can you talk a little bit about just that consistency, because that's pretty amazing?

What It's Like To Produce 600 Consistent Daily Videos

Goldie: Sure. So I had been used to doing content for clients or content in-house. And this is very different, because there's a definitive strategy behind it, you don't do content first, you do the strategy first, then you bucket the content, and you do one entire process; and when I started doing video on LinkedIn, I didn't do any of that.

I was actually on a hiatus between my last role as Head of Marketing at a full time analytics startup, and getting my next role as Head of Marketing at some other sort of startup, and I was taking a month sabbatical. And during that month sabbatical, I got into the LinkedIn video beta and I decided, for really one of the first times in my life, that I would be doing content that wasn't geared towards monetization; it didn't necessarily have a goal, it was content that I would enjoy.

So the first 50 videos, or so, I did on branding and metrics of pop culture phenomenons, because this is how big of a marketing nerd I am, this is what I consider fun to do. So I talked about things like Harry Potter, trains in the US, ride sharing, all sorts of really interesting, different things that have really permeated, specifically, American culture.

And I think it was so interesting, because the first 10 or so I did I thought, "This is so painful." Really fun, but it's also painful because if you've never done daily video content before, and you do 10 in a row, it's a lot. Ten videos in a row, that's almost two weeks' worth of video, so your schedule changes from everyday you might create content to everyday you have to create content.

And this is what got me through 600 daily videos, this is what got me, truly, through the biggest and hardest milestone, which was 365 days or a full year of video. And every single one of those videos were unique, original content; so nothing was ever repurposed, it was 100 percent unique, original content. And I think what got me through that is that there was never a plan B.

Kathleen: Yeah.

Goldie: So in all things in life, usually you have a plan B like, "If this doesn't work, then I just won't post today, I'll post two videos tomorrow, it'll be fine."

There was never, ever a plan B. I was on a flight back from London to the US and my video wasn't uploading, so I ended up uploading this video of me running across the gang plank onto the plane; that was just like a very short clip. I essentially live on airplanes too, so I travel a lot, so my fight with wifi is always ... My battle and love affair with WiFi; we have a very contentious relationship.

Kathleen: I was just going to say, you can never go off grid.

Goldie: Yeah, I never can go off grid. But I had this really great, edited long video, super thoughtful that I did for that day, and I couldn't upload it. So I upload this video of me running saying, "I am trying to upload this video, I'm going to see which of these videos uploads, hopefully you guys will see one of them." And ironically, of course, what video uploaded was the video of me running. This video uploads, which then it actually blew up, which is the best part because no one had ever uploaded, of course, a video a very meta video of them running to try to upload-

Kathleen: To try to upload a video.

Goldie: A video of them. So it's a video of me holding my laptop, which is attempting to upload the main video, and I'm on my camera phone videoing me running down this to catch my flight. So-

Kathleen: I love it.

Goldie: Shoot a meta video and what it takes in order to get, I think, if anybody's thinking about doing a 365 day challenge which is, to me, that's the true challenge. Can you do one day of video for an entire year?

I think it really does change you to make that kind of commitment to creating content, original content, not repurposed content every single day; because repurposed content is easy. When you don't feel like being on camera, you don't feel like, say, necessarily seeing yourself, or hearing your own voice, or seeing your work.

It's very easy to repurpose content, it's so much harder to create truly original content every single day.

Kathleen: Yeah, I have so many questions that I want to ask you about this. Starting with, really, is it ... They say that content creation, whether it's written or video, or what have you, is like a muscle that you have to exercise.

Doing this for 365 days, did you feel like it got easier? And like working out, where you get into the groove and you're like, "Oh, yeah, I can do this, I'm in a routine?" Or did that challenge persist throughout that time? How did that play out for you?

Goldie: I will say it's so funny we're talking about this today, because today I struggled with ... Today was video 610 for me. I struggled with doing a daily video today, and I almost repurpose an older video, which I do sometimes; now that I've passed 365 mark.

So it is a problem that continues to pop up is creating original ideas, coming up with a concept, actually executing on that concept and/or editing through my insanely giant backlog of video content that I still have. I still have several unedited videos that I will release at some point this year.

You never quite get over that hump of there will be days that are really, really tough; but overall, overall, it does get easier. So it is like working out where you may just have some bad days where you don't want to go the gym but, overall, you're so used to going to the gym. I'm so used to every single day, I will upload a video onto LinkedIn, and I could not do any other content.

I do social media for a living, but I could not access any of my other platforms, I could just avoid them all. But I know that I will always go on LinkedIn, and I will always upload some sort of video content period. And that is a promise I've made to myself as a content creator, and so it's a little bit different than if you were doing it for a client.

But also, once again, a lot of people assume that I outsource most of this to my team; I actually don't. And I don't do it, partially, because I am crazy but also, partially, because my team has other things that they're handling, too. They're handling a lot of the client work, they're doing other things, so I don't want to, necessarily, distract my team from that.

Although this year for myself, personally, because once again, I've gone over that 365 day hump, I will be giving them a little bit more, especially of the editing to do as I'm moving forward with my content creation. But I think it's really important for even if you're doing, say, a 50 video challenge to do it all yourself, because it teaches you what you need when you do hire somebody to handle this for you.

Kathleen: Yeah, amen. I am currently trying to do it myself, and it's been an interesting journey; so far I managed to get a couple of videos out. But I'm not highly technical, and I think a lot of people listening probably aren't either. You have your team, that's your web developers, your video producers. I have a whole video production team that works for me, but I'm not having them do this. Because right now, it's not a business strategy, that's something I'm doing for myself. 

Creating a LinkedIn Video Strategy

Kathleen: So if someone's listening, I guess, you've mentioned starting with strategy; so let's actually start in the right order. When you're talking to somebody who's thinking about maybe investing in LinkedIn video for themselves, or to promote their business, how do you talk them through conceptualizing a strategy for it?

Goldie: Sure. So the thing I start with is, what I start with with all my clients when I think about content in general, which is, who is your target demographic, who are you're trying to speak to? Because then it's so much easier to figure out the kind of content that you should be doing.

So if your audience is very serious, or your audience is very light-hearted, this changes the kind of content that is optimized for the audience you want to speak to.

So I like to think about it as an audience or demographic, first piece; so that's number one is thinking about your demographic.

Number two is, what is either your personal brand, if you're coming at it from your personal brand, or what is the brand brand? What is the keywords, what is the thought process behind the brand that you're trying to promote?

So those are the two really big key pieces, and people tend to hop, skip over this. And they're like, "You know what would be fun? Is a show about blog." And I'm like, "That sound fun." And I was looking at to literally do a show about blog, and then it took off, but properly strategizing for this, you want to think about who your audience is, first. And if you do run your own business, and you are looking for, say, more customers or more clients, who are those customers and clients, and what kind of content would be of the highest value to them?

How Long Does It Take to Build a Following With LinkedIn Video?

Kathleen: Okay, now in your case, how long did it take before you started to see traction with your videos and gain followers?

Goldie: I'm laughing a little bit, which you guys can't see because this is audio only. I will say the first 30 days I did it, or the first ... I don't remember what month, I started in August; that's right. So the first month I did videos, all of my friends, including some who are content creators on other platforms, they all thought I was absolutely bananas, they thought I was nuts.

They were like, "Why are you making videos on this platform? You're getting maybe 100 views if you're lucky." So giving everybody my numbers when I started, so I'd get, maybe, 100 views if I was very lucky, maybe 10 likes if I was super duper lucky, and I just enjoyed the process of creativity.

So it took me a while before I saw traction, and I think it's really interesting that people now want that immediate traction, especially on LinkedIn video.

And yes, you can get there faster than you can on other platforms, but I had a meeting once with this young lady, she's super nice. She had done three videos; so just three videos 1, 2, 3. And she said, "Okay, how do I land a brand like WeWork, like you have a partnership with? I've done three videos, they've all been incredibly well."

It was so interesting to me to hear that she had only done, and I use that word strongly, only done three pieces of content and then expected a giant brand deal out of that. You have to put in the time, the energy, and the effort, so you have to put in more pieces of content. So the in this case, it was both quality and quantity that was being ignored.

And that is one thing to think about, which is when you're strategizing and thinking about doing LinkedIn video, can you commit to doing at least 10 videos? Can you commit to doing at least 20 videos? Can you commit to doing enough videos for you to see if you can get traction over two months, three months, as opposed to thinking, "If I release one video a day for a week, I will get 12 new clients."

If it works for you that way, amazing; please teach me. But if it doesn't work for you that way, a lot of it is duration and being in it for a longer haul. Because with all video content creation, you need more time to build an audience, even if your content is amazing.

What Is a 'LinkedIn Channel'?

Kathleen: Yeah. Now you talked about having the longest running channel on LinkedIn. And this is something so interesting to me, because I don't think, probably, 90 some odd percent of people even know what the concept of a LinkedIn channel is.

So this is a two part question. The first part is, can you explain what that is and how it functions? And then, also, I would love to understand from you, if you are somebody who is going to commit themselves to a consistent LinkedIn video strategy, how important is it to approach it from, like, a channel mentality?

Goldie: So as opposed to other platforms like, say, YouTube, where you have a distinct channel, so your YouTube URL is your channel, it's the place that houses all your videos.

Right now LinkedIn, unless you use a third party, doesn't have the ability to host your videos on LinkedIn in a separate video tab or video functionality.

So when I say 'Channel', I essentially mean all of my content, so all of my content goes through the funnel of being on my profile. So in this case, my LinkedIn profile is my channel, and when I work with brands on their strategy on LinkedIn, and then I usually call their brand page 'Their channel'.

It's just slightly different terminology, but it helps people also understand that this is a place to consistently see content, because we expect a channel to consistently have content. And, once again, I have to emphasize that word 'Consistent'.

Kathleen: Yeah.

Goldie: Now I'm completely forgetting what your second question was.

Should You Have a Branded LinkedIn Hashtag?

Kathleen: Well, so I'll help you out with that, because I have a second part to the question you just answered. Which is, in your case, you have your profile, which is your channel, but you also are very good about consistently using a hashtag, #DailyGoldie-

Goldie: Yes.

Kathleen: With your posts. And you can click on that hashtag and, actually, there's the ability to follow the DailyGoldie hashtag. So I guess the second part of the question's really, if somebody is going to really double down and commit themselves, obviously, your point about consistency is crucial; and I think that you've made that really, really clear.

You're not going to get traction unless you're consistent and the quality is there. How important is it also to try to brand yourself with whether ... Like I've noticed, you've done a hashtag, I also follow Chantel Soumis, who has #ChantelShares and Alyssa Mangaoang who has #AlyssaHQ. How important is it to have a branded hashtag to make it even easier for people to really follow that feed?

Goldie: So when I began doing LinkedIn videos, hashtag search in August of 2017, was not what hashtag search is now. So I actually didn't even start doing #DailyGoldie until my audience asked me to do a hashtag, so they could better find my content. Which I love this because this is such an example of chicken and the egg, horse and the cart.

I wasn't actually the original one who asked to do a hashtag, my audience was the one that asked me to do a hashtag so they could better find and aggregate my content. So moving forward, one of the things I do tell people is, "Have your own branded hashtag."

However, the thing that I super strongly recommend against is having multiple hashtags.

So some people, if you notice, they have a hashtag block, they have what works really well on Instagram, but it doesn't work as well on LinkedIn. And why is that? It's because LinkedIn's hashtag search is not as mature as, say, Instagram's hash tag search.

So if you have three or four hashtags that you're trying to own, it's much harder also for people to follow all three of those, remember all three of those, it's just much easier for people to remember one hashtag. So having one hashtag that you own that has, maybe, your name or your brand name in it will make it so much easier.

And even when I started doing live streaming, because now there's #LinkedinLive, I started doing #GoldieLive, which I might keep up with and I might not just because I think it's nice just to have my live streams be a little bit more unbranded.

And I know that is very counterintuitive, because everybody wants everything to be hyper branded; I, myself speak on branding quite a bit. But I think when something is so new, and in such beta form, you can look a little bit over done when you're over branded.

So when everything is hyper graphics, everything has an intro screen, etc, you lose some of that genuine qua- ... especially if you're a vlogger. This is not necessarily true if you're a brand.

But if you are trying to represent your personal brand, you lose that genuineness, you lose that authenticity, because people are having to watch 15 seconds of an intro to every single one of your live streams, and they all look the same too. Which is, to me, visually un-stimulating-

Kathleen: Yeah.

Goldie: Not interesting and not, necessarily, super creative.

LinkedIn Video Production Quality

Kathleen: So that brings me to an interesting question, which is around production quality. I think you referenced wanting to convey a genuine feeling. And I feel the same way, like things that are too overly produced, they just don't seem authentic on.

And so what are the guard rails around this? Like, is there a low end that you shouldn't go below? And is there a high end that you shouldn't exceed?

Goldie: Well, it really depends. So one of the things that I tell people now is that LinkedIn is like YouTube year one. So even though LinkedIn, gosh, I'm coming up on two years now of doing LinkedIn video, even though it's maybe closer to its second year of birth, it still is so, so new as a platform, and that's why people are excited about things like blogs.

People are excited about these videos that feel a little bit more unedited, because they feel more different on a platform that is ... There's so many ads that I see all the time on LinkedIn, or just things that are constantly being super salesy on LinkedIn; so it's so refreshing to see things that are a little bit more genuine on LinkedIn now.

But let's go over the guardrails, so still, when you're creating content on LinkedIn, you want it to be as clear as it can be, as non-blurry as it can be, you want the framing to be nice. So I recently switched over to doing a couple more vertical videos just because I'm also experimenting with IGTV right now. And one of my personal pet peeves with vertical video that I've seen, is when people get too close.

So you guys can't see this, but I'm framing my face, and I call it the serial killer face. So when you are too close in the frame, your head fills up 90 percent of a vertical frame, you are too close. So you want to make sure that your head is maybe two thirds of the frame in a vertical video if vertical video is what you want to do.

And this is, of course, our beautiful rule of thirds, which is a classic rule, classic video rule, it's not one I made up.

And it really is helpful for actually, subconsciously, being a more interactive and engaging video. Because you're not in other people's faces, which is attention getting for one video.

And I've had other people who will dispute me on this, other marketers, who say, "It's good." They like this format because it always gets in people's faces. That's good for one video as a shock value, however, if I noticed that all your videos are disturbingly close, I probably won't want to watch more than one video, because it's off putting to me, because it feels like you're staring into my soul; and I don't know that I want that.

But having the proper framing for a vertical video, if that's what you decide to do, is important.

Now LinkedIn alternates between the style and the type of video that you can create that's optimal.

If I have enough time, because I am extra nuts, I like to shoot actually vertical and horizontal, just because I personally like the way horizontal looks on LinkedIn video more than I like the way that vertical looks.

But you'll notice that people who are, especially, doing blogs on LinkedIn, they're shooting a lot of them in a vertical format.

But I even have right here, I have an LED light that I use when I'm shooting content, but for most of it, having good audio, having good lighting, these are just basic tenants of creating content, and making sure that you have a tripod that you can carry with you when you are shooting on mobile. These are just basic that will be helpful for creating content.

Captioning Your LinkedIn Videos

Kathleen: Now what about captions?

Goldie: So I love, love, love captions and I am incredibly guilty of not doing captions recently in my content. And the reason for that is, quite honestly, I do daily content and I don't batch my content, a lot.

So for people who do batch content and say you're releasing one video a week, there is no excuse, there is zero excuse not to have captions on every single piece of content.

Now for me, I will literally shoot something on the way to a meeting, and then upload it 30 minutes later. So for me it's a lot harder to do captions, just because my content production cycle is so quick. But if you have more than 24 hours, you can hire people who either do captioning, or use something like Clips or Google Matic, which does auto captioning as well on the iOS devices.

So there's so many solutions if you're not doing daily content, where you can get captions and yes, I may not do captions frequently, but captions are so helpful.

And if there was a way for me to better do daily captions and still get the adorable filters that I like to put on my videos, I would do that.

But with daily content, it is incredibly difficult. But yes, there are so many captioning services out there, it's a shame not to do captions.

Kathleen: Yeah, there's a massive market opportunity out there for somebody to create a tool that makes it easier to caption.

I will say when I started doing my videos, I've tried, oh my God, I probably tried 10 different approaches to recording, and then I use to transcribe my podcasts and I thought, "Oh, I'll just use Rev to create the SRT file for the captions." But then putting it all together was a nightmare.

What I settled on, which is amazing, is you mentioned it, Apple clips. It's unbelievable, it's so easy. I mean, if I can do a video with captions in Apple clips, literally, a four year old could do it.

Goldie: Yeah, Apple Clips and, I personally use Clipomatic when I do do captioning in videos. The only issue, of course, with that is that it only records up to a minute of video caption and then you have to, of course, go back and edit those captions because it misspells-

Kathleen: Yeah.

Goldie: It always misspelled my name.

Kathleen: And it's all one long run on sentence, it doesn't process sentences.

Goldie: And it's one long run on sentence. So it's nice to go back and edit those captions to make sure that they say things properly. But, yes, there are captioning services out there so if you are making videos that are one minute or less, then there is truly no excuse, yeah.

Creating Copy For LinkedIn Video Posts

Kathleen: Now for every video you post, there is accompanying copy that you put in the post itself. And I'm curious if you can talk to, what have you found works really well when you're drafting the copy to go along with a video?

Goldie: I have an entire talk I do on copy on LinkedIn video, which should probably tell you how big of a nerd I am.

Kathleen: That's what I say, I knew I could talk to you forever, but we don't have forever.

Goldie: With copy, I have so many pet peeves with the kind of copy I see accompanying video or even imagery on LinkedIn.

One is the one that I already mentioned, which is the hashtag block. It is not SEO optimized, don't do it, it will only look junkie. So if it's not going to get you the SEO push, there's no reason to do a giant block of hashtags; it's my personal belief.

And the same thing, because I just talked about hashtag block, was tagging 20 irrelevant people in the post. Now I always love being tagged in everyone's post, because I do ... Even though I may not comment, I may not like, I do try to watch as many people's videos as I can; so I'm an exception to the rule.

But for the most part, most people don't want to be tagged in content that's irrelevant and I, myself, don't like being tagged in, say, images that are irrelevant and not original video content, so you have to be really careful about tagging.

And that is something people also put in the copy, is they do half a line, usually misspelled, and then they have 20 people in it. And that, once again, it looks junky, it just looks like it's not very well thought out.

And one of the things I do like to do in my copy is I like to use my personal hashtag, so I use #DailyGoldie.

I have a very distinctive structure for my copy, which you guys might now see kind of propagated across all of LinkedIn; a lot of people now use my structure. I tend to do a title, and then I do a body, and then I maybe put a link or something in there, and then I'll do which did daily number video I'm because I do daily videos and it's nice to know for me, personally, what video number I'm on for that day.

The structure, of course, changes for everyone, but what it is not is, once again, not a giant block of hashtags, it's not me tagging people who are not directly related to that video.

And it is also not, necessarily, a sales funnel. I don't believe in doing every video as a hard sales funnel, in fact, I very rarely do sales in my videos, even my sponsored videos. They happen pretty rarely and infrequently and I think, to me, that's because I like my content to always be of high value.

So even if I'm doing a video that is driving someone towards a sale, that's a high value video that they're getting, so even if they don't want to buy the thing, they're still learning something and I think that is, to me, the most important thing you can do with a video channel on LinkedIn.

Kathleen: Yeah. Now I've noticed you use emojis in your posts, and-

Goldie: Yeah.

Kathleen: I actually really like it. There's a lot of debate around emojis in, general, right now I feel like. For me the way, at least I've seen you use it, it helps visually break up the post.

Goldie: Yeah.

Kathleen: It's almost like you can't, necessarily, do bolding and italics in LinkedIn, but you can bracket things with emojis and set things apart.

Can you talk a little bit about your approach to that?

Using Emojis in LinkedIn Posts

Goldie: Sure. So I think ... Well, let me tell you where not to put emojis; so let's actually start with there, and then we'll go back to where you can use emojis and it does make sense.

So where you should not be using emojis - and I've actually talked to some of the top creators on the platform about, "Don't do this anymore" - s o I'm doing my school teacher finger waving that you can't see.

Don't put emojis in your name on LinkedIn. And the reason for that is, first of all ... And I use a green heart emoji next to my name on other platforms, but on LinkedIn, it looks a little unprofessional; so you want to stay away from that.

But that's not why you shouldn't use an emoji next to your name on LinkedIn, it will actually sometimes break the code.

Kathleen: Yeah.

Goldie: So if someone is trying to tag you on LinkedIn, it can potentially break that code, which is all bad-

Kathleen: Yeah, that's not good.

Goldie: Because then people aren't able to tag you, and you don't get the benefit of being tagged in someone else's post. So that's the main reason I say don't use emojis specifically in your name; regardless of the emoji that you want to use.

Now let's go back to where you can use emojis and it does make sense, which is in your video copy and I use them to, like you said, break up the copy. I like to use them so it gives you a little bit of fresh air, but the emojis are usually relevant to the copy.

I don't like to use a ton of irrelevant emojis, like people who tend to do five or six emojis in a row and it's just a string of emojis that don't necessarily relate at all to that, but it's just a subset of emojis that they always use.

Once again, I think everything should be relevant and a value, so if I'm using an emoji, it will likely be relevant to the content that I'm creating; and that makes it less obnoxious.

Kathleen: Yeah.

Goldie: There's a lot of debate, which you were talking about, that emojis are so obnoxious, they're just so annoying to see, and the way you kind of take that down a notch is making the emojis actually relate to what you're doing and what you're talking about.

So if I'm talking about fishing, and I use a fish emoji, people can't really argue with that because I'm not doing like 12 emojis in a row of palm trees and then a fish. I'm not trying to be a graphic designer with my emojis.

Kathleen: Right, you're not bedazzling your LinkedIn posts.

Goldie: I am not bedazzling, although we grew up in the 90s, you probably like the bedazzling.

Kathleen: Exactly. I don't know, I think it was pretty tacky then and that's one of those trends that does not need to come back, the second time around.

Goldie: I feel like in might just because we're seeing-

Kathleen: Probably.

Goldie: A resurgence in bedazzling, in general.

Kathleen: If gauchos and culottes can come back, then so can bedazzling.

Goldie: Yes.

Kathleen: Yeah, I would agree. I mean I think it's actually, emojis are becoming much more accepted in a business context than they used to be, but it definitely requires a steady hand and some balance.

Goldie: Yes, I think it just requires relevance.

Kathleen: Yeah.

Goldie: So the more relevant an emoji is, the more people can't argue with that emoji use. I mean the same thing is true of, if we want to go down this rabbit hole, of GIFs as well.

Kathleen: Yeah, exactly.

So again I do feel like I could talk to you all day, but you have lots of content to create. And so a couple of questions for you to kind of bring us back home. The first is for somebody who's thinking of getting started with LinkedIn video today, any top piece of advice you would have for them that we haven't already covered as a newbie that they should have in mind?

Goldie: So my number one favorite piece of advice for anyone who's thinking about starting on LinkedIn video is focus. When you are thinking about creating a bucket of content, a bucket of videos on LinkedIn, they should have a singular focus.

And why is this? This makes it easier for people to understand what you're about, what your content is about, and it makes it easier for them to follow you. Because they can decide right off the bat, if they want to watch all your videos on, say, Shopify Plus.

Kathleen: Yeah, that makes sense and everyone who listens to this, in some way shape or form, is a marketer, so it's all about the editorial strategy and-

Goldie: Yes, and it's about editing yourself.

Kathleen: Yes, exactly. Sometimes it's the hardest kind of editing.

Goldie: Yes.

Kathleen's Two Questions

Kathleen: All right, well as my listeners know, I like to ask every guest the same two questions before we wrap up.

The first one is company or individual, who do you think is doing inbound marketing really well right now?

Goldie: Oh my gosh, this is such a lovely question. I recently met with somebody who I think is fantastic and has a great email strategy, and her name is, I'm going to pull it up right now because I really should have pulled it up sooner.

Kathleen: That's all right, I'm catching you off guard.

Goldie: For everyone who is, because I always get her last name wrong, Ann Handley.

Kathleen: Oh, I love Ann.

Goldie: Yeah, Ann is wonderful. We are totally going to buy matching suits and wear them to the next conference, so-

Kathleen: Doesn't she have the best suits?

Goldie: She has the best suits-

Kathleen: Yeah.

Goldie: But she also has incredibly strong email strategy.

So go subscribe to her email strategy, go read her book; she also has a new book out. But I like how friendly, yet professional her outbound content is. And it's this beauti- ... It's just like her suits, which are wild, but professional. And I think that she is such a great example of just a branding. She has incredibly consistent branding both on her person, literally her person, and also on her outgoing emails.

Kathleen: Absolutely.

Goldie: Yeah.

Kathleen: Her suit game is strong, and her newsletter which is, for anyone listening, it's called Total Annarchy, with two N's for her first name, is amazing. It comes out once every other Sunday, I think, is the cadence. Great answer, we love Ann at IMPACT.

Second question is, obviously digital marketing is changing so quickly, how do you personally stay up to date and keep yourself educated?

Goldie: So, I have a few resources that I absolutely love and I absolutely would follow.

One of them is so funny because they interviewed me, and then I got so obsessed with them, because I just love all the content that they're constantly putting out, and that is WeRSM. And they are based in London, but they have footprints all over the US. And they tend to cover a lot of things as they're happening.

So what they're great on is they will release articles, literally, the same day LinkedIn officially announced live, they will do an article that same day. So I love how incredibly up to date and feature focused they are, but for me as a marketer, it's all the kind of content and news that I'm more interested in, the new features that are released that are relevant to my user base and my demographic.

So they're a really slightly unknown, but such a great media outlet for marketers that I think should have a bigger and better presence. Ad they also had a podcast, that was really, really wonderful as well, but I think it's currently on hiatus.

How to Connect With Goldie Chan

Kathleen: I cannot wait to check them out, they sound like a great resource. Now we've already talked about how you can be found on LinkedIn if anybody just types in #DailyGoldie, G-O-L-D-I-E. Any other places people should seek you out online if they want to learn more about you or get in touch?

Goldie: Sure, so you can find me on Twitter @GoldieChan, G-O-L-D-I-E-C-H-A-N or find me on Instagram @GoldieCylon, G-O-L-D-I-E-C-Y-L-O-N, because I am a huge Battlestar Galactica fan. And I've been experimenting a little bit on Instagram, like I said before with IGTV and other kinds of alternative short form content; so Instagram also is fascinating.

Kathleen: And you have to go check her out on Instagram because she has an amazing picture of herself dressed as Khaleesi from Game of Thrones that is on point.

Goldie: Thank you.

You Know What To Do Next...

Kathleen: All right, well if you're listening and you liked what you heard, of course I would love it if you would leave a five star review for the podcast on iTunes. And if you know someone doing kick ass inbound marketing work, tweet me @WorkMommyWork because I would love to interview them.

Kathleen: Thank you so much, Goldie, this was great.

Goldie: Thank you so much for having me.

Apr 29 2019



Rank #8: Ep. 113: 6 Pillars of Influential Content Ft. Joshua Lisec

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This celebrity ghostwriter says there are six things that every piece of content needs to have in order to be considered influential. 

This week on The Inbound Success Podcast, celebrity ghostwriter Joshua Lisec shares his six pillars of influential content - a formula that any marketer can use to create better content, whether it be for a blog or a full-blown book. 

In addition to being an accomplished author himself, Joshua has ghostwritten more than 40 books for celebrities, well-known entrepreneurs and other people who have compelling stories they want to tell, and he's used the six pillars in each of these cases to create books that have gone on to become best sellers and produce significant business for his clients. 

Highlights from my conversation with Joshua include:

  • Before Joshua agrees to work with business clients, he holds a manuscript strategy session in which he identifies what that client wants a book to accomplish for their business.
  • Once he begins working with clients, Joshua starts by reviewing their existing body of work which can include anything from blogs they've written to YouTube videos, to case studies on their website.
  • When setting expectations, Joshua tells his clients to expect to put in an hour a week for the first few months.
  • Next he looks at the books that are in your category. What are your future readers saying about those books? What did they love? What did they not like? What did they buy hoping to learn but did not? By looking at what the market is saying, he can narrow down everything that you could write about to what you must write about.
  • He suggests going to Amazon, GoodReads and Barnes & Noble and looking at the neutral (as opposed to very positive or negative) reviews of books to see what people are saying about them.
  • When Joshua begins to write, he ensures that everything he creates follows the 6 pillars of influential content.
  • The first pillar is credibility. This is your lived experience of how you made progress, how you got from where you were in the land of suck to success, how you're going to help people achieve that as well. Even if that success is merely progress. That's good enough.
  • The second pillar is connection. This is where you're telling your readers what they actually want to read. You know this because you've gone and looked at neutral feedback of other books. So you know what your readers want, what they don't, you structure your book to give them what they want, but also make sure they're following a step-by-step path to get there.
  • The third pillar is compelling. Write at the fifth-grade level. Simple English, easy to read. Anyone who's a PhD can understand it. Anyone who's a kid can understand it.
  • The fourth pillar is counter industry. Name and shame the bad ideas. Not the companies, not the brands. The bad ideas, and explain why they did not work for your readers. You create a special intimate trust bond when you do that.
  • The fifth pillar is a call to action. Make it stupid simple for people to get into your funnel. Make it better, faster, cheaper, easier than DIY-ing it, following the instruction inside of the book, literally copying by hand into their journal. And give them the templates, download one email, everything.
  • Circulation is the sixth pillar. This is where you're applying your advice to literally as many people as possible, but you're still targeting your specific avatar, your target market by of having 80% of the examples or so be your target market with the other 20% being people who are just wildly not, but that's okay because you're still reaching that broad audience. You are also writing for your ideal reader.

Resources from this episode:

Listen to the podcast to learn more about the six pillars of influential content and how you can apply them to your own marketing copy.


Kathleen Booth (Host): Welcome back to the Inbound Success Podcast.

I'm your host, Kathleen Booth. And this week my guest is Joshua Lisec, who is a celebrity ghostwriter. Joshua, tell me more about what that is. Joshua Lisec (Guest): Sure thing, Kathleen. Glad to be on with you today. As you said, I am indeed a celebrity ghostwriter. In fact, I am the only award-winning, celebrity recommended, number one international best-selling, certified professional ghostwriter on the planet.

Joshua and Kathleen recording this episode.

Kathleen: Oh my God. There were so many adjectives in there.

Joshua: Indeed, indeed. You could say writing books is a bit of an obsession of mine. I've ghosted over 40 of them in addition to my own books I've authored over the years. I have worked with everyone from your A-list celebrity types, your big day entrepreneurs, the breakout stars of tomorrow and the occasional great grandma wants to share with the kids what it was like to grow up during the war.

Kathleen: Great. I am fascinated by this topic because I've always wanted to write a book, but I'm one of the many, many legions of people who talks a great game and then never puts pen to paper. And if somebody is listening they might be wondering, well, what does this have to do with inbound marketing? And what I thought was so interesting about it is that you have actually worked with people who are looking to write books with the ultimate objective of generating business, not just telling their life story. And you have some really interesting insights into what it takes to write a book that will accomplish that goal and then also how to promote it. So I'm excited to dig in.

Joshua: As am I.

When should you consider writing a book?

Kathleen: Yeah, let's start with if you have somebody come to you who says, "I have a business and I think that writing a book could be a great way to generate leads or build my business or et cetera. Talk me through like is there a conversation you have with them to determine whether that in fact is the right way to accomplish that goal?

Joshua: Absolutely. We have what's called a manuscript strategy session which we get into the details, what is it that you want your book to do for your business? Every entrepreneur, business owner, marketer that I work with who wants to write a book, they see an end result. So I want to mail copies of my book, autograph with the handwritten letter to my dream 100 prospects. I've got clients, they do that, they don't even promote the book. They just do that and they get their multimillion-dollar deals, when you add up all the consulting and the gigs that come from that.

You have people who use their book as kind of a springboard to join an online program, very successful track record there. So when we get into is what do you see your book doing for your business that you cannot do without the book, because a book is like a key that opens any door of authority, influence and credibility that you desire. So we have to get clear on which one it is that you wanted to open. That's the very first thing.

So we're talking about the end game, first part of the conversation. Then we get into what this book needs to do, what content it needs to share in order to make that happen. And there's a specific model that I use with every author.

It's called the 6 Pillars Of Influential Content. It's a model to create well, influential content, whether that's a 300-page book or a 300-word blog post. It applies to all of them because any content, any message that you're getting out into the world needs to pull people in, persuade them to do it your way and then gently push them, propel them to take the next step and ascend inside of your business. It's a true inbound marketing project.

So that's what we get into in this conversation. We'll get into the six pillars later on here in this conversation, you and I Kathleen, but we want to make sure that your message your book, idea, does in fact check all six box so to speak, that you have everything, and there's some authors that don't. So I'm very frank with people like, it doesn't make sense for you to write a book at this point if you don't have the track record yet.

Although I will say that most people who wonder if they do have a track record or not, those are the ones who need to be writing the books. It's the one who were like, "I got this." Who usually have no idea what they're talking about. So that's something that I found and it's been interesting, is if you're questioning like, maybe I should, maybe I should, there's a good chance you have long ago checked all six boxes inside of your business and it does make sense to write a book to generate inbound leads.

What does it take to write a book?

Kathleen: Oh, I have so many questions. I guess first would be, I talked about how I've always wanted to write a book, but I've never done it. What kind of expectation setting do you do with people who come to you saying they think they want to do this, as far as like the amount of time and effort and an input that's required to produce a really good book?

Joshua: Sure thing. Yeah, this is not one of those processes where it's like hey, I'm going to interview you, question and answer like a journalist, transcribe the answers, fix the typos, hey, it's a book. No, it's not. It's barely a booklet. It's a transcript that's probably not worth the bytes of data that make it up in the digital file. We do it different.

Rather than say, "Oh, question asked, question answered." We want to start with the body of work you already have so everyone who comes to me, even if they're at the beginning of their career as an entrepreneur, maybe they had, 20, 30 years in corporate world, now to launch the consulting business and they want to book to propel them to credibility into that go-to expert status and then industry, you're starting with something.

Maybe it's articles you've written, a newsletter you put out, maybe you've given speeches, you have presentation. I had one client who, he had over 250,000 words worth of YouTube videos when we transcribed all of them. So I felt like Michelangelo carving away everything that wasn't David from this block of marble so to speak. So everyone is starting with something. So we want to first see what do you already have that we could potentially repurpose for this book. Obviously kind of massage it into something different, make it be what it needs to be for this book, but there's something there.

Are there success stories? Are there clients you work with that have done amazing things? Do you want to perhaps connect me with some of your clients and we can interview them and put together their success stories into this book? Even if you have very few, very few things you need to get this book going, I always tell my clients, "Expect to put in about an hour a week for the first two to three months. That's it." So people are like, "Wow, I can definitely do that."

Kathleen: Less than I was expecting, I'll be honest.

Joshua: Yeah, it's a lot more attractive to do that than to try to DIY it and you're getting up at 5:00 and staring at a blank Word document for two or three hours and then you're like, "Screw this, I'm onto something else."

Kathleen: Yeah.

Joshua: So the reason why we don't need that much time is because once we have our kind of body of work and repurpose this material.

What we do next is we go and look at the books that are in your category. What are your future readers saying about those books? What did they love? What did they not like? What did they buy hoping to learn but did not? That's your opening. So by looking with the market is saying we narrow down everything that you could write about to what you must write about.

That combined with the material you already have gives us a solid direction and structure for the book. So these few conversations over a couple of months, an hour a week fills in all those additional gaps. We have everything we need for a winning profitable lead generating book.

Kathleen: So are you basically then going onto like and reading reviews? Is that how you're doing that research?

Joshua: Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, yes. One of my clients is in the reputation management industry. In fact, he's the CEO of the largest one in the eastern hemisphere and he's taught me something, working with him I've learned quite a bit about authentic reviews and what do buyers look for when they look at reviews, what is most important? How can you tell a fake review? So there's a lot of five-star reviews that are obviously fake. Even if it says verified, unfortunately. And there's a lot of one-star reviews that it's the competing author who's paid for these fake reviews on their competition. That's very common, unfortunately.

So we look at the neutral reviews, which by and large tend to be honest authentic reviews, the two, three and four star reviews. That's where people have put some thought into what they want to say. Like, "I bought this book because I wanted to learn about topic A, B, C. And it was promised in the book description on Amazon. I saw in the book cover jacket. I saw them on a webinar promoting their book." I said, "Hey, it covers this topic I really want to learn about. It's critical for my business." You buy the book. There's one paragraph.

So yes, it was mentioned, but you're going to say this in the real like, "Hey, I bought the book to learn A, B, C. I got one paragraph." And you'll see patterns across the different places where there are reviews, even on the Google Play or Apple iBooks for example, you'll start seeing patterns where people are saying the same sort of things over and over. The author said they would cover this, they did not. I felt like they over-promised and under-delivered.

That's a gap in the market that you can fill because what you don't want to do is to write about something that no one cares about, that is irrelevant or has already been covered. We see that as well. People say, "Just stop talking about topic X, Y, Z. I've seen it enough." And you'll see that often, like, "This book is just rehashed advice from Russell Brunson or from Tony Robbins or for Carrie Green or whoever. We've seen this again. We're done. Let's try something different." So that also is kind of a warning sign for you to avoid that topic or to give a unique take on it that has been seen before.

Kathleen: I love that advice to look for the neutral reviews because you're right, nobody's going to plant a bunch of neutral ones and there's also ... But even if the positive ones are genuine, there's not a lot to necessarily learn from that as much as there is from the neutral ones where there's something somebody thought was missing. So that's a great piece of advice.

Is it fair to say, when I was listening to you talk earlier about how you start working with authors, is it fair to say that if you are someone who is a prolific content creator, like if you have a YouTube channel, if you're blogging a lot, that you are probably a really good candidate for this kind of thing, just because of because you do have so much out there already?

Joshua: Absolutely. Absolutely. Because in that case you have this vast body of work that to you is overwhelming. You're at a strange paradox because there's so many things you can write about, but when you start you type chapter one, you don't know what to say. And like, "I could say this and this and this and that topic and that topic and all these other things."

Well, the process that I've designed is one that helps you sort out the topics you shouldn't write about. They're fine to have on your YouTube channel, a course about it for example, maybe you have an e-book that you've done before, a series of webinars.

But the process will help you identify the most profitable content that should be in this book in order to generate those leads, get the media appearances, the speaking invitations, converting people from being a reader into a high ticket client, maybe a member of your exclusive mastermind. So that a $15 sale becomes a $15,000 lifetime customer value relationship.

The 6 pillars of influential content

Kathleen: Interesting. So somebody decides they're going to move forward, you do the strategy session with them, you then go review, you look at the reviews of the other books in the space to see kind of what people are hoping for, what might have been missing, what makes a great book. And then you're ready to begin. Can you talk a little bit about the six pillars that you alluded to earlier?

Joshua: Absolutely. As we get into that, I do want to mention that the manuscript size of the session is at no cost to authors because that's where we want to make sure that it actually makes sense for us to work together, is a book in the cards for you. So that, of course, is a complimentary experienced authors. With that said, let's get into those 6 Pillars Of Influential Content and how you get those in the book.

So everyone listening right now, think about your book idea because that's where we're going to go. If you can check all six pillars, and I'll show you how, or if it's clear that it's not a right fit for you, that's okay. Maybe the time will come for you to write a book.

Kathleen: I love this. This is my opportunity to see if that that kernel of a book that I've been harboring in my head is real. So let's do it.

Joshua: Perfect. The first pillar of influential content is credibility. By this I do not mean, "Hey, I know what I'm talking about. I have the credentials and I have the experience, 20 years, blah, blah, blah, blah, blah." Basically what's on your resume or CV. That's not what I mean, because what you'll be doing is competing against other authors, who, well they have all the credentials, they have the resume, the cover letter as well.

Your credibility is your lived experience, your unique journey from the land of suck to where you are now, success, because what you are as the author is you are a Sherpa, a guide, the person who's taking folks on the journey from again, where they are, where you used to be, to where they want to be, to where you are now. So the best way to build the credibility pillar is to open the book sharing your story, how exactly you did that, how you became this unique expert.

In short form content, this could be as quick as a simple sentence that's towards the beginning. And I in fact practice what I preach. At the outset of this call, I built my credibility pillar in this interview, this content, mentioning that I was the only such and such, award-winning celebrity recommended international best-selling certified ghostwriter in the world. No one can touch that.

And in your case, you also have a combination of lived experience, yes, credentials, the track record, but the unique story to get to where you are today. So that's the story you want to tell in the first chapter, is build that credibility pillar and then towards the end of the chapter of make this great transition to say, "And now I'm going to help you. Here's how we're going to get there." Give a quick preview what you're going to cover in the book and then list in a glorious row of bullets, a column, you might say, "Here's all the ways your life is going to change."

Think of these as action verbs. Second person, you're going to do this and this and this and this and this. The reason why we're doing all this, we're essentially selling the book. We're selling you, the author, in chapter one because people can get it for free on Amazon. I'm the guy who always download the book samples to see if I want to proceed further. So are your readers. You can even go and look at the read more or look inside on Amazon. So the purpose of chapter one, this opening chapter, introduction, whatever you call it, is to sell people on buying the book.

Kathleen: So to clarify, you're saying that chapter one will be free?

Joshua: Yes, that's just how it is inside of Amazon in our day and age. People will click it, they'll look at the table of contents and they'll look to start checking out chapter one to see if this thing's worthwhile. So that's where you need to sell people on your unique credibility that you're the person, not just how this is a great book. But like, "Wow, I want this person to take me on the journey that they themselves have successfully accomplished so I can get there and reap the rewards as well."

Kathleen: Got it.

Joshua: That's the best-seller.

Kathleen: That's pillar number one, right?

Joshua: That's right, credibility.

Kathleen: Okay.

Joshua: Second pillar is connection and we've already covered this a little bit where we have all the things you could write about, we're connecting marketplace demand with your knowledge base and we're making sure that the contents of this book, look at the table of contents match what people actually want. You are connecting your material to the demand of the marketplace. That's why it's so critical to look at the reviews. So you know what people want to read the next book, that they check out that's in the category that you are.

Make sure that the entire structure of the book is including the things that people want to learn from you, but also it's in a linear order. Remember, you're taking people on this journey and all best-selling stories, whether it's fiction, novels, literature, movies television, they follow what's called the hero's journey. We co-op that for nonfiction. It's not a protagonist who's the hero. It's the reader who is the hero.

And so what we have to do is connect their story to yours and bring them along with you. And structuring your books that there's a clear outcome, set clear sets of outcomes for them that they're going to learn these things going to have this type of confidence. They're going to be able to do a A, B, C things, get this result, this outcome. That's very, very attractive. That's the purpose of the second pillar, connection.

Kathleen: Very cool. I want to go back for one second to the first one, credibility because something was like in my head as you were talking. You talked about credibility needing ... Like you're the expert explaining what your success has been. If somebody's listening, I feel like one of the questions that they might have is, "Well, I'm not this super successful person, I haven't gone on to do great things." Can you maybe put a little bit more definition around what success really means? How high is that bar?

Joshua: Sure. Sure. So I think Tim Ferriss did a really good job of answering that question about 12 years ago with the four-hour work week, which is that if you are further along, then the next person, to that person, you're the expert. You're the expert on the progress that you have made. So it's not like it's totally perfect. Authors that I have, in many cases they've gone on a journey, they've achieved some sort of success, but bare minimum progress.

And let's be real, if you haven't achieved progress for yourself or for your customers your clients, you don't even have a business. Like you're a wantreprenuer at this point. And I don't even think you would be the ideal listener for this podcast. So for everyone listening, it doesn't just have to be your personal story. It can be your journey of creating success stories.

I have a lot of people who own different types of agencies, graphic agencies, digital marketing agencies. So for them, their credibility is their journey taking other people to the land of profitability and spending less time in their marketing campaign. So they can kind of borrow from that success and they might say like, "Hey, I can do the same for you."

Kathleen: I love that Tim Ferriss thing that you mentioned because that really puts it in perspective and I think would take the pressure off of a lot of people who might otherwise disqualify themselves from this. I deal with this all the time in my job. I do marketing and I have a lot of experience, but I don't consider myself by any stretch to be a top marketing expert. But it's funny, I'll have a lot of people come to me and ask me for advice and it's because for whatever reason they feel like I have more experience than they do.

I think when you frame it in that light, you can all of a sudden start to see yourself differently. I don't have to be an expert to everyone. I just have to be an expert to the particular audience that I'm writing to.

Joshua: That's right. You've made more progress, and that progress is worth at least 20 bucks.

Kathleen: Yes.

Joshua: To learn about to how to achieve that as well.

Kathleen: All right. Okay. So we talked about pillars number one and two. What's pillar number three?

Joshua: Compelling. So this is where you don't want to write a textbook. I find that people who come from 8:00 to 5:00 world, the corporate world, they tend to knock over this pillar, demolish this pillar, unfortunately. The kind of simple hard-and-fast rule for building the compelling pillar is to write at the fifth grade level. Imagine that you were literally writing for children. The fifth grade reading level is the industry standard within publishing. Get too abstract, use too much jargon, then you're going to fly over people's heads, they're gonna have to reread it. If they can't visualize it, if it's not a sensory experience, if it is not a metaphor or an analogy to introduce something, then it's not going to be compelling, it's going to be cryptic, which is not one of the six pillars of influential content. The inverse of this.

So always think about how can you make it simpler, what's the simplest way you can say this with as few words as possible. Cut all those prepositions out of your sentences. You don't need them. Throw away the adverbs. If you feel like you need the adverbs, it's more likely that your verb isn't strong or descriptive enough. I need to be able to picture exactly what you mean when you use a verb without the adverb thrown in there. Think of adverbs are like salt, too much of it and you just can't. It's a garnish, you might say.

So compelling, write at the fifth grade level, use visual language, concrete, simple terms that anyone who doesn't have anything close to your experience, even someone outside of your industry can pick it up, can learn from you and can take action based on that.

Kathleen: Joshua, this one pillar is like a masterclass in how to do marketing right, not just how to write great copy, because really this is the biggest mistake I see most marketers make. My audience is full of marketers and it's just unbelievable. They put their marketing hat on, they forget that they're human beings. They speak like marketers, not like humans. They use fancy words that don't mean anything to their audiences because they think it makes them look smarter. It's just uh, marketers, and I love myself and we're the worst.

We love using jargon and it's funny because I just a week and a half ago started a new job and this is really resonating with me because I'm coming in to a cybersecurity company where it would be very easy to speak at a level that like even somebody with a PhD couldn't understand because cybersecurity is so complicated. One of the reasons they hired me was because I don't come from that background and they're like, "We need help translating this for the normal person."

But it's not even just translating it for the normal person, like boiling it down even further, and I feel like this is such a universal challenge with marketing, with communications in general, is de-complicating the things we're saying. Any further advice on that? When you are working with people, how do you get people out of that habit of making it too complicated?

Joshua: Sure. Well, of course, that's one of the things that I do for them, is I bring you-

Kathleen: How do you do it?

Joshua: I bring it down from the 12th to the fifth grade. Well, one of the things, there's all sorts of different tools that you can use to literally look at what's the reading level of this. It would be the Flesch-Kincaid score, that great average will tell you, "Hey, this is written in 11.8." Who is the end of a junior year of high school. Well, I need to bring it down to that fifth grade? A practical terms of people who want to DIY this, what's your industry?

So in this case it would be the cybersecurity. So if you have position that's in the idea of marketing cybersecurity, maybe there's specific solutions or type of technology that it is that you want to be marketing. Here's what you do. You go on to Google, you type in what a technology is. You put that in, that's your first keyword. And then you type Wikipedia Simple English. That will pull up the version of Wikipedia, not the normal one that's kind of like the default for people in the English language, but there's an alternative Wikipedia in Simple English. It's literally one of the languages, German, French, for example, English, Simple English.

And go look at how that article describes your product, your technology, its uses, its function. That's more so how you want to be writing in your copy.

Kathleen: Okay, how did I not know that this was a thing? Who uses this? How did I not know about Simple English Wikipedia?

Joshua: It's very popular in the ESL where the English is a second language community because that's how they kind of get their ... I guess they could say get their brains and the vocabulary around more, I guess you could take industry topics, not so your everyday kind of vernacular English, but rather on specific topics that maybe jargon doesn't easily translate into their native language, well, Wikipedia Simple English is perfect. So that's how you write copy especially in the technical fields. Is consulting the Simple English Wikipedia article on your product or on the technology.

Kathleen: That is so fascinating. I feel like as a marketer I want to incorporate that into everything I do now because I mean, that's it. You go to write an email, you need to simplify it. You come up with your about us page in your website, you need to simplify it. It applies to everything we do as marketers. It's all about boiling it down. So I'm like going to bookmark Simple English Wikipedia going forward. So that is an awesome tip. I love it. All right, what's next? I can't wait to hear the next one.

Joshua: The fourth pillar is counter industry. And this applies to all sorts of marketing, not just using a book to generate leads for your business or for your clients' businesses. The kind of industry pillar goes like this. I would say this to authors, in digital marketing as an example, there are over 50,000 books that people can buy, why should people buy yours? I usually get a deer in the headlights look at that point like, right.

Kathleen: I don't know.

Joshua: And now we need to get some clarity like okay, when people come to you, when your prospects come to you, what did they try before that didn't work? Where did they get that advice? Oh, they got it in a TED Talk? Oh, they got it from this famous person who's on the cover of Entrepreneur magazine? Everyone else is following their advice and it's not working anymore? Call that crap out. The counter industry pillar is all about not specifically pointing to hey, this person gets terrible advice, but name and shame the ideas, the strategies, the ways to go about getting results that you know aren't working. Maybe they're not working anymore.

A lot of my digital marketing clients who come from that space are asked to call out what their clientele are still trying to do that just does not work anymore. Maybe worked 10 years ago, but times have changed. So this is where you can really set yourself apart, make your value proposition shine by consistently pointing out why you're doing it the way you're doing it? Why you're giving specific steps to accomplish this objective? Why are you teaching it this way? Why they want to follow your framework your model your approach to things rather than what they've done before?

Even just spending a couple of sentences on why it doesn't work anymore the way that used to work. That's totally fine. Another common thing off authors will do especially in saturated markets where there's so much competition, spend a chapter on the myths about your industry, an entire chapter. I do this all the time with clients where okay, what are the terrible pieces of advice has that all of your clients are following? That's a chapter and that needs to be towards the beginning because then you're going to tell them how to do it properly.

So this way you can go counter to what the industry titans have been saying and you can be the person who gives that aha moment and they realize, "So that's why famous person ABC's ideas aren't working for me. I thought it was my fault. I thought that was my problem. I thought something's wrong with me." And you just say, "No, either they don't work. They just don't work period or they stop working because of an industry shift for example or saturation in that space."

So you can give people a glorious sigh of relief. There is an amazing quote that I always like to reference. It's called the One Sentence Persuasion Course. And it goes like this. As my marketer Blair warned, "People will do anything for those who encourage their dreams, justify their failures, allay their fears, confirm their suspicions and help them throw rocks at their enemies." So persuasion in a sentence is that right there.

The counter industry pillar takes on justifying the failures like, hey, you got sucky advice. That's why it didn't work. You allayed their fears. Oh, yes. There's good reason to fear doing it the same way that you've always been. We're doing it differently. We're doing it a way that works. You can rest easy. And you confirm their suspicions as well because you knew it couldn't be you that was screwed up, it was the process you're following that's broken. Throw rocks at their enemies, well, literally say, "Hey, these are stupid ideas. Let's break them down and explain why they don't work."

Of the several little points of persuasion right there in that one sense, this fourth pillar just about takes on all of them and implements them for you. So this is an underused pillar. Make sure that you take advantage of it in your content.

Kathleen: That's such a great quote that you pulled. I love that. And this whole topic kind of harkens back to that notion and marketing of having a common enemy, because that's what kind of gets people emotionally tied in with what you're advocating for, whether that's selling a product or a service or an idea. When you have a common enemy, people feel more of a sense of belonging, like it's us against them. And the common enemy doesn't have to be a person or a company, as you said, it could be an idea or an approach that's outdated. So I can see where that would work really well. All right, what's our next pillar?

Joshua: The fifth pillar is the call to action. And this, like the third pillar compelling, simple as possible. What exactly do you want people to do next? With books, this is how you make the big money. Everyone listening now is heard of Guerrilla Marketing by Jay Conrad Levinson. Jay Conrad Levinson, when asked about his first book Guerrilla Marketing, he said, "Guerrilla Marketing made me $10 million. The royalties only paid about 30,000, but the consulting, the coaching, the speaking, the products, the programs that I sold because I wrote this book account for the remaining $9.9 million."

And of course, that's because he has a strong call to action to go get his free newsletter, to get updates, to learn more, to be part of his tribe, his world. So this is the way where you get from the $15 sale of the paperback the $15,000 mastermind. Make it an easy road to ascend right into your business to buy your other products and programs. And the way that you can do this inside of a book is to have free content upgrades.

I'll give you an example from digital marketing. There's a client that I had, he, in his case, he told me later that his book was directly responsible for $1 million in revenue inside of this business over a 12-month period because he had a strong call to action. It went like this. So there's a chapter on how to write copy and design high converting landing pages for his specific industry, like the things that you need to be aware of in here in this industry that apply really to this industry, the specifics.

He gives you the formulas, the templates, everything you need to go do it yourself. Then at the end of the chapter we say, "Hold on. You don't need to do it yourself. Go to this free page. Share your email with us so that we can send you this downloadable template." And saying ClickFunnels obviously because that's what they were using and you get your affiliate income for signing people up for ClickFunnels. He'd already written the copies, designed it. It was exactly what was explained inside of this chapter that we given you the how-to process.

So you can DIY it or you could be smart and just go download the templates for free basically. And we have these sorts of free content upgrades for every topic from getting reviews, like here's a, go get this downloadable script, word-for-word script that you can copy and paste it so it's tech-based. You don't have to copy it from the book, type it into your computer. You just go download it. All sorts of free content upgrades that make it easier, faster and cheaper to implement what's taught in the book.

So think about how you can give away as much how-to knowledge as possible. Literally your step-by-step processes. Don't worry about giving away the farm, as we say here in Ohio, give it all away because what you'll do is halfway through this book, you'll overwhelm people with so much to do to get the results that we like, "Is there a faster way to do this?" And then you come right along and say, "Yes, I have these content upgrades, these templates, these tools, these tactics, these techniques, download them all in one place."

And it's the logical call to action. So people go from the book to being on your list and now they're in your funnel for your webinar, for your discovery call, for whatever your offer looks like to turn a once-off client into some serious high ticket income.

Kathleen: Yeah, you pretty much answered the question I was going to ask, which is what's the right way to do that call to action, because I am sure that there are plenty of people who hear do a call to action and think, "Oh, I'll offer like a free consultation or a meeting with me to scope out a project or whatever." And that's very, very bottom of the funnel and I think probably a little bit more salesy than makes sense. So I like the idea of giving people tools that they can use to DIY things and in doing so bringing them into your orbit.

You mentioned getting them signed up to receive your emails or to watch your webinars. I would imagine you could also probably, if you're really being a savvy digital marketer, you would have retargeting pixels on your website. So even if they don't fill out a form, as long as they visit your site and you have that Facebook pixel, what have you, you can then go and serve them up with retargeting ads on other platforms.

Joshua: Absolutely. Absolutely. A strong call to action is a difference between losing money on a book and making a crap ton.

Kathleen: Yeah, that's a technical term, right? Crap ton.

Joshua: That's right. Simple English Wikipedia.

Kathleen: Yes, that's writing for the fifth grader, right? All right, next pillar, we're on the last one now, right?

Joshua: Yes, the sixth and final pillar is circulation. There is, and I know everyone in the audience has heard this before. If you're marketing to everyone, you're marketing to no one. That's like marketing 101. The inverse is true in publishing. To have a successful book right for anyone, for everyone. The reason why, 92% of book sales are according to Nielsen come from word-of-mouth marketing. It's the number one way that you're going to get people to buy the book.

Think about every famous, take personal development. Think of all the personal development books, 7 Habits of Highly Effective People, How to Win Friends and Influence People. Just take those two examples. Who wants to be more effective person? Who wants to win friends and influence people? Everyone. Of course, it just so happens that the authors were targeting the business professionals who could ... Let's take the 7 Habits for example.

That person wanted to do more keynote speaking, wanted to be in front of more business people, who want to be more effective executives for example, they wanted to ... He basically had these consulting services lined up for a specific type of reader. So what you want to do is think about all the different types of people that your advice, that your strategies can apply to, can be useful for. So it has broad, it has circulation potential where your ideal client could give it to their spouse, their spouse could give it to their college-age kid. The college-age kid could read it and recommend it to the professor. Professor could recommend to the dean. Dean can recommend it to ... So on and so forth.

This is how massive book sales come about, not through selling one copy the time, but through creating circulation inside of an individual reader's network with your book. So then you say, "Well, how do I actually get people to take my call to action? I'm writing for everyone. How does that work?" What you do is when you're giving your examples of how to follow your strategies step-by-step, because you're giving the how-to, the step-by-step, your examples will be your ideal clients. So you make them the stars. You highlight how you've helped your specific market or industry.

Throw in a few other examples, think 80/20. 80% of the examples are your specific avatar or avatars, your ideal clients, and then there's some that are kind of completely unrelated, but you're still covering them. So that's how you get circulation while also still having a specific message that is useful to your target market.

Kathleen: So helpful. I love this framework. Can you just quickly go back and summarize the six again so that we can remember and really kind of like cement it in our heads?

Joshua: Absolutely, the 6 Pillars Of Influential Content. The first pillar, credibility. This is your lived experience of how you made progress, how you got from where you were in the land of suck to success, how you're going to help people achieve that as well. Even if that success is merely progress. That's good enough.

Second pillar, connection. This is where you're telling your readers what they actually want to read, you know this because you've gone and looked at neutral feedback of other books. So you know what your readers want, what they don't, you structure your book to give them what they want, but also make sure they're following a step-by-step path to get there.

Third pillar, compelling. Write at the fifth grade level. Simple English, easy to read. Anyone who's a PhD can understand it. Anyone who's a kid can understand it.

Fourth pillar, counter industry. Name and shame the bad ideas. Not the companies, not the brands. The bad ideas, and explain why they did not work for your readers. You create a special intimate trust bond when you do that.

Fifth pillar, call to action. Make it stupid simple for people to get into your funnel. Make it better, faster, cheaper, easier than DIY-ing it, following the instruction inside of the book, literally copying by hand into their journal. And give them the templates, download one email, everything.

Circulation is the sixth pillar. This is where you're applying your advice to literally as many people as possible, but you're still targeting your specific avatar, your target market by of having 80% of the examples or so be your target market with the other 20% being people who are just wildly not, but that's okay because you're still reaching that broad audience. You are also writing for your ideal reader.

Options for publishing your book

Kathleen: Great advice. Thank you for summarizing that. I feel like there's not enough time in the world for me to ask all the questions I want to ask you, because this is so interesting.

I wanted to talk about promoting your book and all this other stuff, but we're running out of time. So a couple of just short final questions here.

I've done some other interviews with people who've talked about writing books and they've talked about how it's become so easy now to get your book printed. There's Kindle Direct Publishing. There's Amazon's Solutions where you can print even one book at a time.

So it sounds like if I'm correct, there's really nothing that should stand in your way of creating this book because we no longer live in the days when you have to contract with a publishing house and spend $20,000 to get your run of books printed. Is that right?

Joshua: It depends on what your objectives are. I have authors whose hearts are set on the traditional path, the agent, the publishing deal, the six-figure book deal for example. I have a track record of helping authors go down that path. I wrote a piece for the Nonfiction Authors Association about how to actually do that, what some of my clients' experience have been, the pros and cons of that.

With self publishing a big concern people have is quality because there are so many shoddily thrown together books that are self-published. A lot of people are like, "Oh, you self-publish? I don't know man." That's what people will say. So what we've done inside of my business is we've developed a complimentary service to ghostwriting called ghost publishing. Ghost writing, someone else does all the work, you take all the credit.

Ghost publishing, someone else launches a publishing business, your own imprint right alongside of your business. You don't have to do any of the work. We've combined the best of self-publishing, which is higher royalties, total control over the process, your timeline. We've blended that in with the best of traditional publishing, which is industry standard quality. The quality, the level of attention to detail that comes from New York City publishers, we apply that to this book process. Also distribution, the total number of countries, access to wholesale channels, the low margin, high volume sales through bookstores, libraries, book fairs. All that's available through this process.

There's also special little things that go on the copyright page for example every traditionally published book has, no self published book does. It will set you apart. You get that as part of this process. So most of our authors actually choose the ghost publishing model because they get the quality of a big five, like Simon & Schuster, Random House quality book and the distribution of that process, but they get the creative control, the freedom that's afforded by, and also the speed that's afforded by self-publishing.

Promoting your book

Kathleen: Okay, that's good to know. And then you get your book published and you're like, then what? You have to get it into people's hands. Any quick like two minutes or under words of advice for the best way to promote your book?

Joshua: Sure thing. There's a couple. One of which every New York Times, Wall Street Journal best-selling campaign you see nowadays follows this process I'm about to explain to you. It's a special limited time bonus.

When your book comes out you want people to buy as many copies as soon as possible. One of the ways we do this, especially in the digital marketing space, is an expiring bonus that's available for like 48 hours after the publication date, 48 hours afterwards.

So basically it goes like this. Buy the book within two days, you have two days to buy the book now that's out, and forward your purchase confirmation to this special email and we'll send you the audiobook edition for free. You'll also get access to one of our premium courses at no cost to you and you'll be signed up for a live question answered webinar exclusively with the author to talk about the book, ask any question you have seven days from today. You only get access to these bonuses if you buy within the next 48 hours. Come on. Let's do this.

And usually there's like a price promotion in there, knock $5 off the price, 99 cents exclusively for the first few days for example. That's how you get lots of people to buy at once. Then when let's say on Amazon you rocket up in the best-seller and now you're number one because you're selling beaucoup copies, take screenshots of your book as a best-seller. Oh, look, you're number one. Oh look, you're in front of Gary Vee, Robert Kiyosaki, Anthony Robbins. Oh my goodness. Share that everywhere on all your social media channels.

I had one author. She doubled her best goal for book sales because she started showing all those screenshots of her book selling more than copies than the celebrity writer next to her. So do not discount what a simple screenshot can do because success begets success. Follow that. Use the special limited time bonus offer and you will start your authorship journey off right.

How to connect with Joshua

Kathleen: Great. All right, we're close to the top of our hour so I don't want to end without asking you a couple of questions. First one is, if somebody is listening and they want to learn more or they have a question for you, what's the best way for them to reach out and connect?

Joshua: Absolutely. A couple different ways. If you are an aspiring author and you want to have the key that opens any door of opportunity that you desire for your business or for your career, I work with several people who work in the corporate world and they want to use the book to earn that that promotion quite frankly. So what their objective is head on over to There's a few free tools that you can find there. One of which is a Book Ideas Generator.

You're sitting there wondering, could I have a book in me? Does that make sense? But what is the title? I have no idea. What would I write about? I'm not sure. What you have to do is just type in your industry and your product or service and this thing will spit out in seconds winning book ideas for you personally, title and subtitle, to get those wheels turning and help put some structure to a winning book idea for you. That's The Entrepreneur's Wordsmith if you're the aspiring author.

If you are a marketer maybe, a copywriter and you like this idea of the big money ghost writing world where you're working with celebrities and thought leaders and the influencers of tomorrow, I can teach you how to get into this world at I have a free training there called the 7 Myths About Ghost Writing That Keep Most Freelance Writers Broke As F.

Kathleen: That's a great name. I bet that resonates a lot with people.

Joshua: It does. It does. I think the average or median income rather, the median income for freelance writer somewhere around 40,000. So yes. Yes. That should be one project, not your annual income my friends.

Kathleen's two questions

Kathleen: Right. All right. So then the two questions I always ask all of my guests, which I definitely want to ask you, this is obviously a podcast about inbound marketing. Writing and publishing a book is one form of inbound marketing, if you're trying to do it for marketing or business purposes. Is there somebody out there, a company or an individual that you think is really killing it with inbound marketing right now?

Joshua: Absolutely. Absolutely. Her name is Heather Prestanski. She is a sales and marketing consultant for high-ticket businesses. So basically, is your product or service more than a couple thousand bucks, she is the one to follow, Heather Prestanski.

Kathleen: Great. I will definitely check her out. That's a new name and I always like when I get new names. And then the last question is, the world of digital marketing is changing so quickly. How do you personally stay up to date with everything?

Joshua: Well, one of the ways I do is set the trend myself. One thing I did not mention today is that I am the only, the first and only ghostwriter in the world who uses a software driven process to write in my author's authentic voice. Each of us has our own unique fingerprints. We all have our own unique way to communicate. We use the data science of stylometry to literally measure and understand your unique author voice and then we recreate that on the page. So that's where the future is going and we're already there.

Kathleen: Awesome. Well Joshua, so much good stuff here. I really could talk to you forever. I feel like there was probably four podcasts that we smashed into one today. But thank you for sharing all that. I love the six pillars. I'm going to like write them and put them on my note next to my computer, because I think it really can apply to any kind of marketing copywriting, not just writing a book and it's a great framework for it. So thank you for coming on.

You know what to do next...

Kathleen: And if you are listening and you like what you heard or you learned something new, I know I learned a lot, please go to Apple podcasts and leave the podcast a five star review because that is how other people find us and we get new listeners and if you know if somebody else who's doing kick-ass inbound marketing work tweet me @WorkMommyWork because I would love to interview them. That's it for this week. Thank you so much Joshua.

Joshua: And thank you Kathleen. I enjoyed myself today.

Kathleen: That was a lot of fun.

Oct 21 2019



Rank #9: Ep. 130: Building a marketing team to take Fleetio from $1M to $10M ARR Ft. Lori Sullivan

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What kind of marketing team is needed to take a business from $1M to $10M in ARR?

This week on The Inbound Success Podcast, Fleetio Director of Marketing Lori Sullivan shares her journey from Fleetio's first marketing hire to head of the company's growing marketing team, and how she built a team that drove 10X revenue growth - most through inbound marketing - for Fleetio.

Listen to the episode to get Lori's thoughts on what you should look for in your first head of marketing, what roles should be your second and third hire, and transitioning fro specialty roles to what she calls "scale roles."

Highlights from my conversation with Lori include:

  • Fleetio is a fleet management company with a SaaS product and customers in over 80 countries.
  • The company was founded in 2012 and Lori joined Fleetio in 2015. At the time, she was employee number 6 and the company had just $600,000 in annual recurring revenue (ARR). 
  • Fleetio is a marketing-driven company and more than half of its website visitors and conversions come from its inbound marketing efforts. Most of that growth can be attributed to organic.
  • Lori says that in small companies, the first marketing hire really needs to be like a swiss army knife - capable of doing many different tasks.
  • Because so much of the company's strategy revolved around SEO, Lori put in place a tech stack that enabled her to get the data necessary to build an effective SEO strategy. She relied heavily on Google Analytics and the Google keyword tool, as well as Drip for marketing automation. Now that the company has grown, she has moved from Drip to Marketo.
  • Lori's first two hires on her marketing team were a content marketer and product marketer.
  • She believes strongly in insourcing as much of your marketing talent as possible. 
  • She also believes that a manager should step in and do a role first before hiring someone to fill it, so she managed the company's paid media strategy for some time before hiring a growth marketer to take that on.
  • She strategically outsourced design work and video production until she was able to add full time specialists in those two roles.
  • In the early days, her content marketing manager handled the company's social media marketing until she was able to hire an events and PR person who took it on. 
  • As Lori has gone about filling all of these roles, she has placed great importance on culture fit, and has other members of her team interview new candidates.
  • She also has every candidate that reaches the final stages of the hiring process do some sort of hands on skills assessment.
  • While she wishes there was some sort of formula that could tell you when to hire new marketers, Lori says you really need to pay attention to the work you're doing and how that is contributing to growth.

Resources from this episode:

Listen to the podcast to learn how Lori built a marketing team designed to help Fleetio 10X its ARR - and get Lori's advice on building your own marketing organization.


Kathleen Booth (Host): Welcome back to the Inbound Success Podcast.

I'm your host Kathleen Booth and today my guest is Lori Sullivan who's the director of marketing at Fleetio. Welcome Lori. Lori Sullivan (Guest): Hi Kathleen. How's it going?

Kathleen: Great. How are you?

Lori: Doing pretty well. Wrapping up the year strong over here at Fleetio.

Kathleen: I know, I was going to say by the time this gets published it's going to be 2020 but we are recording it the week before Christmas and so I'm just grateful that you found time in your schedule to come on because I think... I'm sure like any marketer, you probably have a ton of things to do at your end.

Lori: Yeah, well, like any growing SaaS business, we're trying to hit our annual goal and end the year strong and get a good a launching point for 2020.

About Lori Sullivan and Fleetio

Kathleen: Absolutely. Now before we jump into this conversation, and we are going to talk about growing SaaS businesses, maybe you could tell my audience a little bit about yourself and who you are and what led you to the position you're in today as well as what Fleetio is?

Lori: Absolutely. So I am a seasoned B2B marketer. I spent a number of years in marketing agencies and specializing on the B2B lead gen side.

I worked with a ton of different types of clients from startup businesses to large corporations running and executing lead gen programs for them, digging into the data and analytics around those as well. And in 2015, I got the opportunity to come over to Fleetio.

So we are a fleet management software company. So we help our customers track, analyze and improve their fleet operations.

We have customers in now over 80 countries, which is pretty wild, and we've really helped our fleet customers keep track of things like maintenance, fuel parts and inventory.

So any business out there that has a fleet of mobile assets, whether that's vehicles, equipment, drones, any thing that moves, Fleetio can manage it. So we help people keep track of fleet operations and really improve the efficiency and productivity of the fleet so at the end of the day they can achieve their own businesses' mission.

So we were founded in 2012, and I came on the team in 2015 when we were at about around $600,000 in annual recurring revenue (ARR). I was employee number six, so a really small team and I was marketer number one.

So it was a really exciting opportunity for me to use my B2B lead generation skills to come in and build an inbound lead gen engine.

Kathleen: I love that. And it's so interesting for me to hear you talk about the fleets, right? Because you said a few things, you said drones and bikes and I hadn't really thought about it until you just said it, but yeah, the definition of what constitutes a fleet is really changing these days. You even have autonomous vehicles and things. It's so fascinating how that industry is evolving.

Lori: Yeah, absolutely. The transportation space in general is just a really interesting area right now, especially with the rise of electric and autonomous vehicles. And the transportation market in general is just growing tremendously. It's changing.

We're really trying to stay on the leading edge of what's going on and really anticipate what the market is going to need and what fleets are going to need - not just next year but in 5 years, 10 years, so we can really be that modern solution among our competitors to offer what's really necessary as technology and vehicles and assets change as the years go by.

Kathleen: Now you joined the company at a very early stage and this is a topic that I'm so fascinated by because I'm drawn to early stage companies and I love coming in as the first head of marketing and building a team and all that, and you have been very successful at driving leads for the company and quite a bit of it is inbound, correct?

Lori: Absolutely. Most of the revenue to date here at Fleetio has been driven by inbound.

So we've been a marketing-led organization and honestly that's one of the reasons that this opportunity, coming in early stage was really interesting to me. I've kind of carved out that specialty for myself and I thought okay, "My background can really help to build this at this company."

So yeah, we've been fully inbound driven.

How Fleetio grew through inbound marketing

Kathleen: That's great. And that's a real feather in your cap as the person who came in to kind of build that marketing engine.

One of the things that you and I talked about, which I was excited to dig into today, is some of the mechanics that happen behind the scenes to support that kind of growth.

And maybe before we get too deeply into that, just if you could talk for a few minutes about what has driven your inbound results. Because when you talked with me it was very content oriented and that sort of thing.

So if you could provide an overview of that because I think that'll be great table setting for the conversation we're going to have.

Lori: Absolutely. So I think anyone who is in the early stages of a SaaS business and then know they're going to focus on inbound first, one of the first things that most people invest in is content marketing.

So in 2015, none of our competitors were really focused on inbound. So there was a low barrier to entry when it came to some of the categories, specific keywords that are usually really high competition in a space.

We found that we could compete for those even with limited resources back in the day through content marketing and focusing on keyword, focusing on keyword specific blog posts, content on our site, technical SEO as well, making sure that our site was well optimized, to not only register for and rank high for high competition keywords and category keywords, but also long tail keywords.

And with limited resources back in 2015 and 16, we knew that we could crank out really interesting and engaging blog posts.

Again, not a lot of our competitors were doing that at that point so we could get the leg up on the content marketing side and really position ourselves as a thought leader in this space.

So we started with blogging. We then moved into a lot of video content, white papers, eBooks, webinars. We do webinars really frequently and they're definitely popular among our customers and prospects.

So content marketing really was what led the charge. It ended up equating for a little over half of all of our website traffic and half of conversions in the early days and it is still a really large piece of the pie when it comes to site traffic, lead generation and even revenue.

Organic specifically still leads to most of the ARR that we see today.

So it was a really great, I think strategy back in the day to start there to start building that. And as we've built our team, we specifically hired around those content roles so that we can continue to invest there and continue to double down on something that has been proven to work for us.

How Fleetio staffed and grew its marketing team

Kathleen: I love this topic because you really have done the block and tackle work of creating a very strong inbound content engine. And I can have tons of guests come on this podcast and talk about all kinds of sexy strategies, but at the end of the day that strong foundation of really just good content marketing, is what needs to underpin all of it.

I mean, it's The Inbound Success podcast, that is what inbound marketing is all about. So I love that.

And like I said, I was really interested maybe to focus on the things you did behind the scenes to support that. Because I think most of my listeners understand what it means to do good inbound marketing. It's funny, not everyone will do it, but everyone understands it conceptually.

So as the first marketer coming in, I've been in that position and I sometimes feel like it's a little bit of a chicken and egg situation because you know what needs to get done for a business, but you also have the realities of resource constraints and revenue, et cetera.

So talk me through what that looked like in terms of how soon did you hire someone, what was that role and what did you do in the interim? How did you do it all in the beginning?

Lori: Absolutely. So I think it's important when a SaaS business is hiring its first marketer, if the hope is to have that person come in, be a marketing team of one for a short time, and then build a team, which was the case with me and Fleetio, that person does need to be a little bit of a Swiss army knife because you are going to be, like you said, blocking and tackling.

There's a lot of things that need to get done, but especially if you're going to focus on inbound and content in general, the person also needs to be a strong writer.

Now when I stepped into work at Fleetio, I didn't have a fleet background, probably not surprising. I didn't have a fleet background and so I sourced a lot of external resources to do Q and A's and calls and interviews and would cite these people in our blog posts.

I looked externally to get that expertise that we were building at the time. I also looked to see what competitors were doing in adjacent markets.

So like I mentioned, a lot of our competitors weren't really doing content marketing as we were and as we were hoping to. But there was a lot of that going on in adjacent markets. And so I looked at what other people were doing and tried to replicate that with our own flare and then also looked at where our actual competitors were ranking for certain keywords where we were not.

So we did a lot of keyword gap analysis to see what topics we needed to talk about.

A lot of people, when they start out kind of building a content marketing presence, building blogging presence, they start to develop content themes just around what they think is interesting or what they think their market thinks is interesting. And it really should be grounded in data.

And so we adopted the tools early on to do that keyword research, to invest in analytics tools to see how we were performing and really tried to understand what would be the most valuable keywords or themes to talk about on our blog, in our white papers, instead of just kind of deciding for our market what they thought was interesting.

So we've really tried to rely on data as much as we could. Even in the early days. We'd do that even more today with different tools and technologies that we've adopted to give us that visibility. But we've really tried to listen to the data to do that.

Kathleen: That's a great analogy about being a Swiss army knife and it's really true. There's so much that needs to get done at that early stage and I completely agree with you about writing skills. That's one of those tough things that you can't... those are a lot of things you can Google and learn how to do as a marketer. If you can't write at that point, you can't Google and become a better writer. I mean I suppose you could, but it would take way too long. So totally agree on that.

Fleetio's marketing tech stack

Kathleen: Now you mentioned technology. What tech stack did you put in place back in those early days?

Lori: Absolutely. So technology was really important to us. We like to think we're good consumers and technology since we're a SaaS company and we build tech.

In the early days we didn't have a lot of monetary resources to invest in tools, so we used a lot within the Google suite, so we use Google analytics. We used Google's keyword tool to do a lot of keyword research.

We quickly adopted a marketing automation software. We use a tool called Drip, which was kind of a lightweight version of a HubSpot or Marketo, though their platform has grown tremendously over the last few years.

We've since moved off that to something a little more powerful, we use Marketo today.

But that tool set early on allowed us to have the visibility that we needed.

We've since grown that to look into kind of more areas and have more data around the full customer journey. But in the early days especially trying to figure out what keywords to focus on, it was helpful with Google analytics, their keyword tool and our marketing automation software.

Making the first marketing hire

Kathleen: Got it. Now how long were you at the company before you hired someone else to join your team?

Lori: About a year.

Kathleen: Wow.

Lori: So I was a marketer of one for close to a year and we really tried to be strategic around creating a marketing team. We didn't want to bring on anyone that wasn't absolutely necessary and super critical at the time because in the early days we were of course investing a lot in content marketing.

Our first two marketing hires were a content marketing manager and a product marketing manager. And really both of those were very content focused.

The way we split up those roles and responsibilities was, our content marketing manager really owned blogging, white papers, webinars, anything under the lead generation umbrella.

And then on the product marketing side, our product marketing manager really owned value-based content around our product features, creating a walk through videos or demo videos of the product. There's a lot of video happening on the product marketing side.

So those two areas were really important to us to fill early on, and then we've grown them from that point. But we hired both of those roles about a year in to my tenure here at Fleetio.

Insourcing v. outsourcing

Kathleen: Now were you also outsourcing at the same time for some things?

Lori: We did a little bit in the early days. We keep almost everything on the marketing side in house today, which I think is really exciting. I mean, we know our brand better than anyone else, but in the early days, especially design work was really necessary to outsource.

And we would get creative in the ways that we found people to do that. We outsourced a lot through Upwork and would find some really solid designers on Upwork that we could give repeat projects. And Upwork's a great way to find different freelancers for different types of things. But we we did outsource a good bit of design work that we could not do in house.

Kathleen: And how about the video, because you mentioned that video was a key part of your strategy? Did you have a team in house for that or did you outsource that as well?

Lori: In the early days we outsourced our video work, especially animation, animated explainer videos and things like that. We would outsource that work.

Our original product marketing manager and people we've added to that team got really great at doing screen shares, screen share videos to walk through the product and do different feature tours and things like that.

So we tried to develop that expertise in house, but we would outsource the more heavy design or heavy animation type videos.

Today we do have someone on the content team that is fully focused on video because it is a key part of our strategy. We were able to bring that role on board this year in 2019, and that was a really exciting one for us.

Kathleen: That's great. I love that you're going in that direction. I believe so strongly in video as well. And there's plenty to keep a good videographer busy as you grow.

Lori: Absolutely. Yeah. Whenever we hired our multimedia specialists, that's our videographer role, I quickly learned that we could have two. It's such a powerful medium, especially when it comes to our market. Telling the story of all the different things Fleetio can do to help a company's fleet operations, it's become a very robust product.

And so video is a very powerful tool and one of the best communication tools that we have to really communicate our product's value. So was very excited to invest in that role this year.

What to delegate

Kathleen: That's great. Now you mentioned after a year you added the product marketing person and the content manager. You mentioned how they were splitting responsibilities, but how were they splitting things with you? Like what did you hold onto at that point?

Lori: Absolutely. So at that point I was helping on both ends, still developing some content, helping kind of strategize around where we wanted to take content marketing, where we wanted to take product marketing, the roles we were going to add in the future to support both of those areas, we have multiple people on both of those teams now, also focusing still on kind of adding more to our marketing mix.

So at that point we were dipping our toe into paid media through Google Adwords and we were using AdRoll for retargeting at the time.

We were starting to figure out what a paid strategy looks like for us, and so that was one of the big responsibilities to start developing what that looks like.

When it came to building a team, my philosophy and our CEO's philosophy, it was always let's have our director step in, start to build the area, kind of do the job for a month or two and prove a solid case for the next hire.

So we really got hands on with, especially in the early days, we got really hands on with that area of the business before we made a hire. So just to really prove that it was a crucial need, a critical need at that time and it was the right time for making that hire.

Pay-per-click marketing

Kathleen: You mentioned pay per click marketing, where you actually doing the paper click at that time or?

Lori: I was. I was and in 2018, so a few years of years later, we hired a growth marketing manager, which he has really two roles here at Fleetio. One is to run our pay per click advertising, he is an expert in that, much better than I was trying to really string that together.

But the other area that he focuses in is true growth marketing. So he does a lot of experimentation alongside engineers and product designers within our signup flow, within the onboarding flow for new customers, really trying to improve things like trial to paid activation.

And so we've really, within the last couple of years, started to dig in to true growth marketing. And so that's an element of his job as well but he also focuses and has wonderful expertise on the pay per click side.

Who manages social media?

Kathleen: Great. Now I'm curious, back in those early days when there was just three of you who handled social media?

Lori: It was on the content side. So our content marketing manager at the time handled social media. Now we actually have a media and event specialist on our team and social media, PR, communications, things like that fall under her responsibilities along with events.

So events and trade shows are still really big in our industry, in the transportation and fleet space. People are still heavy going to trade shows each year and so we definitely want to have a presence there. So that's part of that role. But she also focuses on social media now.

Hiring a designer

Kathleen: Okay, great. All right, so you had three people - you, your product marketing manager, your content marketing manager. Who was your next hire after that?

Lori: After the content marketing manager and growth marketing manager, our next hire was actually a designer. We had been outsourcing our design work for a while and we had a couple of freelancers that we worked with regularly on the content production and video production side, but we really wanted to bring that expertise in house. And like I said today, most of almost all design work that we do happens in house.

So we hired a brand or visual designer to come in and really work with people on both the content and product marketing sides to develop assets for our website, which is really our most important marketing assets as inbound marketers, develop sales collateral, really everything under the marketing umbrella here at Fleetio.

So we brought on a designer, we've since brought on web designers, so someone's specific to our website, again, it's an incredibly important resource for us when it comes to lead generation. So adding that design talent was really critical as well.

Kathleen: Yeah, and you guys have a really nice cohesive visual brand, so if you're listening you should check it out. It's Fleetio, The website is very tight visually. So that really shows that you have that resource focused on it. It looks like you've got custom icons and really good consistent imagery, et cetera.

Lori: Yeah, design is really important to us here, both on the marketing side and the product design side. We believe that design flows through every single thing we do, whether it is through visual design or the way that we design our professional services offerings for customers. So design is a huge focus here.

In the early days we also had a designer come on board around the same time I did. He was more focused on the product design side, but did play a huge role in kind of architecting the initial kind of brand of Fleetio, laid some of the foundation there, which was really, really wonderful to have that asset early on.

Adding specialized and "scale roles"

Kathleen: Yeah, that's great. So talk me through from there, what happened, like how did the rest of the team growth occur?

Lori: Absolutely. So the way I thought about building a team, a couple of years into my time at Fleetio, it was really about filling the specialized roles, the areas of expertise that I needed to build.

And then once those were filled, it was about hiring what I call scale roles. So I may have two or three content marketing specialists developing blog posts and white papers, I may have multiple designers to support a lot of the content marketing and product marketing work, the web design work that's happening on a regular basis.

So first we finished filling those specialty roles.

I mentioned bringing on a web designer, that was really key for us. I mentioned bringing on a media and events specialist that was also very important hire.

We also brought on a partnership marketing manager. So integrations and partnerships are really important to us here at Fleetio. We have a number of integration partners, different telematics programs, fuel cards, maintenance shops.

We integrate with a lot of different types of products and have a lot of integration partners that we can collaborate with, co-brand different marketing efforts. And so we brought someone on to really facilitate and grow, not only those relationships, but the revenue that we're getting from our channel partners as well.

And then we started to look at the scale roles. Like I mentioned, we brought on a couple more product marketers to further drive home the value of Fleetio in our sales collateral and on our website to really own the customer communication that we were sending out, whether that was through email or in-app messages.

And then we also started to double down on the content marketing side. We hired a videographer. We hired another content marketing specialist who focuses on written content.

So it was all about laying the foundation with those areas of expertise and what I call specialty roles, and then stepping into kind of hiring for what I would call scale roles.

Managing a growing marketing team

Kathleen: Now, at what point in the evolution of the team did you introduce kind of layered management?

Lori: Yeah, that's a great question. So we just started kind of having that layered or middle management layer really in early 2018. So it's newer to our team and it really happened first on the content marketing side and then on the product marketing side and it has definitely, I feel made the team more efficient. It gives really talented people even more ownership of their areas and the ability to teach and coach and even learn from their direct reports.

So that was a really exciting thing to kind of build out more of a structure on the team. We'll continue to build that out, especially in 2020. But 2018 was the first time that we really saw that middle management layer established. And I was really excited by that. That to me felt like, "Oh okay, this team is really growing. We're really becoming this powerful force." So that was a really exciting milestone.

Kathleen: That really also fundamentally changes your job and your day to day as well, doesn't it?

Lori: Absolutely. Yeah. So whenever I am having kind of a one-on-ones and during the week with my direct reports, I always want to make sure and check in with people that don't report to me.

For instance on the content marketing side, have a dotted line to our content specialists or to our videographer.

It's definitely important to me to have the strategic conversations with them and that one on one relationship, even though I'm not the person who they technically report to.

We have a pretty close knit team. So we're a team of nine right now and we have a really close knit team. I think we get a lot done for just being nine people and every single person on the team teaches me something weekly.

I'm incredibly proud of the caliber of people, both personally and professionally that we've brought on. I think at Fleetio we do a really killer job at hiring and the marketing team is definitely true to that.

Lori's approach to hiring marketers

Kathleen: Now any specific tips or secrets to hiring that you think have worked really well for you?

Lori: That's a great question. We really... I would say picky is a bad word, but really I am picky in the hiring process. I think really having those deep conversations with people in the hiring process, try to envision not just yourself working with them but different members of your team working with them.

We have a pretty stringent hiring process as well. I'll start the conversations and then I'll always loop in at least one or more members of my team to interview them as well, kind of in the later stages.

I think that's really important. And to get the feedback from those team members. How do you feel about working with this person? Do you feel that they're a good culture fit? We really drive home the idea of culture fit here at Fleetio in the hiring process and it's really paid off.

We also typically for most roles do some sort of quick hands on assessment in the later stages of the hiring process. Just because, I mean you can have a wonderful interview with someone, you can get along with them great, you can visualize yourself working with them being very productive. But just seeing their hands on work really makes a huge difference.

And so that's something we leaned on in most roles here in the hiring process and I think that's a great and very impactful part of of the process in general.

Kathleen: I just want to stop for a second and underscore what you just said about having a hands on activity as part of the hiring process. Because I have done that as well, and the quality of candidates that make it past that stage differs dramatically from the quality of candidate that sort of makes it to that stage, and then it is revealed in that activity that either they're great or they're not as great as you seem to think they were. And I've had phenomenal results with that.

So I love that you guys do that too. But that's actually kind of controversial, I have discovered. I'm a member of a bunch of groups online and there've been several conversations about this with a lot of people saying that they don't think it's right to have activities. I personally disagree, but I think it's interesting the different outlooks on it.

Lori: Yeah, I've seen that as well. And I also personally disagree. I think as long as you limit it to a certain amount of time, for instance, any project or hands on assessment that I give someone in the hiring process, we usually say, "Dedicate an hour or less to this."

You don't want to get people into those too early on in the process or take up too much of their time, but I truly believe in them. And it's also not just to prove their hard skills, you also get an idea of how much effort they put into getting this job, right?

Kathleen: Yeah. How much do they want it.

Lori: Absolutely. So I think you can just, you can learn a lot.

We also use it as a talking point in final hiring conversations. "Tell me about your experience doing the assessment? How did that experience go? How did you start? What were the steps that you went through?"

I think you can get a lot from someone asking those questions about something that they literally did hands on and really understand how they work, how they think about their work, their intensity.

I personally disagree with anyone online that would say that it's not a great thing. I think it's been really valuable to us.

Kathleen: Same. And I like what you said, it does show you how someone thinks, which is almost as important as the quality of work that comes out on the other end, really-

Lori: Sure.

Kathleen: -from an alignment standpoint and et cetera. So that's so fascinating.

How to know when its time to hire another member of the marketing team

Kathleen: Well, one thing I wanted to ask you is, you've built this team, you've been successful in growing revenue and leads for the company, do you have any benchmarks that you personally use, financial benchmarks, to determine when it's worth adding another member of the team?

And I asked this because it's fascinating to me in sales it can be very cut and dry. If when you add X amount of revenue, you need X numbers more of salespeople, or if you add X number of customers, you need X more sales people.

In marketing it is definitely not as cut and dry. So I'm just curious and the answer may be "no", I'm curious if you have any benchmarks that you use?

Lori: Yeah, that's a wonderful question. I've read a few articles online about this topic as well. It's so interesting in marketing because there's not an exact formula.

So I think the short answer to your question is there's not an exact formula. However, I do believe in... we build projection models every year. I think about how much lead generation, the velocity at which lead generation is going to grow month over month to really get us to that revenue goal for the year. So we build these projection models and I do use those to kind of pace hiring.

But I think intuitively based on the team's capacity, what areas are really leading to the most revenue?

I mentioned organic is a huge generator of revenue for us, so we want to continue to scale that team.

I think intuitively I know the roles that we'll need for the next quarter or the next year, but the pacing that we lay out for ourselves, the goal setting that we do, it kind of helps me determine the timing.

So I would say not an exact formula, but if you build a good prediction model or projection model, it can help you on the pacing and the timing around your hiring.

Kathleen: Yeah, absolutely. And I just recorded yesterday a great interview with Peter Schroeder from Onna about growth modeling. So if you're listening to this, by the time this airs, I think the previous episode, the one immediately prior will be on growth modeling. So check that out because then you can learn how to build your prediction model.

Lori: Nice.

Kathleen's two questions

Kathleen: Well I could talk all day about this because it's not the sexy stuff, but it's the really important stuff about how you build a team and what that growth engine looks like.

Shifting gears. I have two questions I always ask my guests and I'm curious to hear what you think about this. The first is when you think about inbound marketing, is there a particular company or individual that's really killing it these days?

Lori: Absolutely. There are a ton. I constantly am looking to other growing B2B SaaS organizations for inspiration from an inbound perspective.

I think Intercom always kills it and they've just grown so fast, mostly driven through content SEO. I really respect their efforts.

Another one that's really interesting to me is Autopilot. I think what they did is pretty interesting, just their tremendous growth. I think it was zero to over 2,000 customers in just two years and most of that was really focusing on inbound and nurturing across the full customer journey. I think their model is really interesting.

One smaller company that I always look out for is called FullStory. We actually use their products here at Fleetio and it's a wonderful product. I think they're an Atlanta based company and they did a big raise earlier this year, but I just think they've really differentiated themselves amongst their competitors, like Mixpanel and Amplitude and I continue to watch them grow and I think just their strategy and what they continue to do is pretty impressive.

So those stand out to me for sure.

And then of course anyone that's created a category for themselves, Drift, Outreach. I'm always looking for any content that they publish around their growth strategy and kind of how they continue to grow then double down on their efforts. Those always are really interesting stories to me.

Kathleen: Yes, I am obsessed with the topic of category design. It's really interesting. Absolutely. Well those are great. Now marketing is changing so quickly. How do you personally stay educated and up to date?

Lori: That's a great question. I think there's a million ways to answer that, a million places to look for that type of information these days luckily. I'm glad there's a lot out there.

I'm a huge podcast person, so as I know you are. And so I love again a plug for Intercom, but I love Inside Intercom. I think their podcast is great. They did a growth series recently. I think it was around seven or eight episodes that I found really interesting, both from a sales and marketing perspective.

And then, let's see, I like HubSpot's Growth Show a lot. I think that's a great one.

And then just kind of under the SaaS umbrella and not necessarily marketing, I like Scale or Die and then SaaStr, an oldie but a goodie.

Kathleen: Those are all good ones. And I will put links to all of those in the show notes. So if you're listening and you want to check them out, head over to the show notes and you can click right through and listen. Great stuff.

How to connect with Lori

Kathleen: So interesting. Lori, if somebody wants to reach out and ask a question or learn more about you or Fleetio, what's the best way for them to connect with you online?

Lori: Absolutely. I would love that. The best place to reach out to me is LinkedIn. It's Lori Sullivan and I'm sure you can post a link as well.

Definitely check out Fleetio at F. L. E. E. T. I. O. We are constantly updating our website. Great thought leadership content. Again, a wonderful team producing that content and really kind of shaking things up in our space that we're super proud of.

Kathleen: It is a great site, like I said earlier, not just from a visual branding standpoint, but from a content standpoint, with lots of good examples on the blog of types of articles, you've got video case studies, there's so much good stuff here. So definitely check that out if you want to see an example of a company that's doing inbound really well.

You know what to do next...

Kathleen: And if you're listening and you liked what you heard today or you learned something new, I would be incredibly grateful if you would take a minute and head over to Apple podcasts and leave the podcast a five star review. That really helps us to get found and find new listeners.

And if you know someone else who is doing kick ass inbound marketing work, tweet me @workmommywork, because they could be my next interview. That's it for today. Thanks so much, Lori.

Lori: Thanks so much for having me, Kathleen.

Feb 17 2020



Rank #10: Ep. 82: Increase Sales With Micro-Influencer Marketing Ft. Shane Barker

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How did a small business quadruple revenue in less than a year using influencer marketing? 

This week on The Inbound Success Podcast, influencer marketing consultant Shane Barker recounts how he helped grow Zoe Rodriguez's online fitness business ZBodyFitness from $400,000 to $1.6 million in sales in less than a year through the exclusive use of influencer marketing tactics.

Shane was recognized on the 2018 list of 100 Most Influential People in Influencer Marketing alongside Kim Kardashian, Gary Vaynerchuk, and legendary PR leaders like the CEO of Edelman, and teaches the first-ever influencer marketing course for UCLA. 

He is also the author of “How to Build a Successful Influencer Marketing Program,” and has published a valuable guide offering a step-by-step blueprint to help brands connect with the right influencers.

This week's episode of The Inbound Success Podcast is brought to you by our sponsor, IMPACT Live,  the most immersive and high energy learning experience for marketers and business leaders. IMPACT Live takes place August 6-7, 2019 in Hartford Connecticut and is headlined by Marcus Sheridan along with special guests including world-renowned Facebook marketing expert Mari Smith and Drift CEO and Co-Founder David Cancel. Inbound Success Podcast listeners can save 10% off the price of tickets with the code "SUCCESS". 

Click here to learn more or purchase tickets for IMPACT Live

Some highlights from my conversation with Shane include:

  • Shane worked with fitness consultant Zoe Rodriguez on an influencer marketing campaign that took her revenue from $400,000 to $1.6 million in just about a year's time.
  • The development of a good influencer marketing campaign is more time intensive than most people think and involves research on the front end to ensure the influencer is the right fit and can deliver results.
  • Shane uses an influencer marketing software called Grin that enables him to search for hashtags and find influencers that are a good match.
  • He also uses GroupHigh to identify blogging influencers.
  • Once Shane identifies an initial list of potential influencers for a campaign, he goes and reviews their profiles, looks at engagement levels and what other products they've worked with, and what the reactions have been to gauge how effective they would be for his campaign.
  • He also looks for influencers who are excited to work with the brand he represents, have done their homework, and have specific ideas for how to structure a campaign that will resonate with their audience.
  • Shane puts together written agreements with all influencers that he works with that specify how the campaigns will be structured, what hashtags will be used, and requires that all FTC regulations be followed. The contracts also specify that the brands will be able to use the content created by the influencer in other ways.
  • One thing to watch out for when developing relationships with influencers is fake followers. Shane reviews how an influencer's followership has grown and if there are specific spikes, he will ask what they are attributed to. If the influencer doesn't have a good answer, it might be because they are buying followers - something you should definitely steer away from.
  • Influencer marketing is regulated by the FTC, which requires that influencers be transparent in letting their audiences know when they are promoting something for which they are getting compensated.
  • Not all companies/products are right for influencer marketing. There needs to be some sort of "wow factor" to really generate big ROI.

Resources from this episode:

Listen to the podcast to learn how Shane used micro-influencers to get insane marketing results for his clients - and how you can too.


Kathleen Booth (Host): Welcome back to the Inbound Success Podcast. I'm Kathleen Booth, your host, and today my guest is Shane Barker, who is a branded influencer consultant. Welcome Shane. Shane Barker (Guest): Hey. Thanks for having me. I'm excited about being on the podcast today.

Shane and Kathleen recording this episode

Kathleen: Yeah. So branded influencer consultant. Can you tell my audience a little bit more about exactly what that is, what you do and how you got to do this?

About Shane Barker

Shane: Yeah. So I've been in the digital space for 20 plus years. And I kind of started off in SEO and digital marketing and it just kind of progressed to a point where about six or seven years ago -- I think we're gonna probably talk about this a little later on the podcast -- I had a client that reached out to me and said they were looking for somebody to help them with some social media marketing. And so we did a call. Well, it ended up turning into influencer marketing.

And so that kind of is how I jumped into this space, and that's how I've really ... It's catapulted me to where I'm at today. And this is probably seven years ago of the influencer and brands that would reach out to me and talk about wanting to figure how they can work together, or how they would find influencers. Or influencers, how do they work with brands?

I also do the digital strategy side of things. The influencer side of things has been interesting because I actually teach a class at UCLA, which is a personal branding/how to be an influencer course. And so because I was one of the originals talking about it, and once again it was just kind of an original thing where they came out to me and said, "Hey, would you want to teach a class at UCLA?" And when UCLA knocks on your door, you don't say no.

So I was out there teaching a course. So it's been really interesting, especially over the last few years because of how it's morphed and how it's changed and like anything in marketing, it's become more mature and it's kind of ... I'm excited to tell the story here on the podcast.

Kathleen: Yeah. One of the reasons I was really excited to have you one is that, I don't do influencer marketing, I'm much more on the content marketing side of things, but I have dabbled in it.

So one, I would say, serious dabbling instance that I had, was for a client campaign back in, I want to say it was 2015 or 2016. And that one campaign was so successful that we won the first ever client campaign of the year award that HubSpot gave out.

And it was an accident. We didn't mean to do influencer marketing but we kind of stumbled upon this perfect opportunity, and it was amazing to watch what happened. I think the client's social media, lead from social media, grew by 12,000% in one month, because of this campaign. It was so crazy.

And I remember, "Well, damn. That worked pretty well, but I didn't honestly know what I was doing." So, I'm really interested to kind of pick your brain and learn ...

I know you've had some really great successes with it and to learn what you've done in those cases, but also as you say, how it's evolving. Because it is changing a lot in recent years.

Shane: Yeah. This is funny about influencer marketing is, it really comes down to once you find the perfect product or service and you find those perfect influencers, and you put out the perfect message ... Of course, everything, now this doesn't have to be perfect, but when those moons align, it is absolutely crazy.

It can be one of those things where your equation, where you look at this and go, "Wow, my client's going to be happy. And now I've got a great case study. And I'm winning HubSpot Awards." And so, that's always a good thing.

Influencer Marketing for Zoe Rodriguez

Kathleen: Yeah. So let's talk about some of the actual campaigns you've run that have really yielded great results. I know when you and I first spoke, you talked about one particular client, I believe her name was Zoe, who did really well with it. Can you maybe take us back and tell that story?

Shane: Yeah. Definitely. So her name's Zoe Rodriguez. She has a company called Build a Better Booty. So do the math on that. She's a fitness instructor. And so she's been doing that ...

She reached out to me, I think about six years ago now, and she was the one that said, "Hey. I'm looking for some ... I do my own content. I'm really looking to do more advertising. I really wanna increase my sales."

And so, just to be extremely honest, when she reached out to me, I thought, "Oh, here we go. We have some kind of a fitness person selling fitness products." I wasn't super excited about it 'cause I was just thinking, "Oh. Here we go. It's a lot of fitness people out there. There's nothing really to disrupt the space." A push-up is a push-up. A sit-up is a sit-up. Right?

So I wasn't really too excited about it. Except when I did the call with her and we were talking about ... I said, "Well, tell me a little bit about your products that you have." And she says, "Well, I have three main products. One is sexy arms. One is sexy legs. And one is sexy booty. Or build a better booty."

So I was like, "Oh, okay. That's kind of interesting." And I said, "So which one is your best seller?" And she goes, "Well, build a better booty." And I said, "Okay sounds good." I said, "Well, what are your sales right now?" And she goes ... She goes, "Really not that good." She goes, "I've only sold maybe like 10,000 of them." And this is at $20 a piece. So I'm like, "Okay. That's $200,000." I said what about-

Kathleen: So really not that bad.

Shane: Right. I'm like, "Okay." She's like 22 years old. Her overhead is a gym membership. But in her mind she was like, "I've really got to figure this out 'cause I'm just not doing good." And I was like, "She just doesn't know what she has."

So, I said, "Well, what about sexy arms?" And she goes, "That one's even worse. That one's 5,000." And I'm like, "That's another $100,000. We're still doing well."

And I go, "Well, what about the other ones? The sexy arms?" And she goes, "Yeah. That one's 5,000 too." And I'm on a call with this girl, 22 years old. Overhead is literally a $100 gym membership in West Palm Beach. I mean, nothing else other than that.

She had no marketing team. She was doing all the content. She had really built up her social media following through Instagram from zero to, at that point, she was at 180,000 followers.

And so on this call, $400,000. That's awesome. I have a lead magnet on my website that I'm asking for an email address and I can't seem to get an email address, but yet she has $400,000 in cash that she's pulling in. And she's like, "I don't know what I can do better 'cause I just can't seem to be doing that well."

And I'm like, "Last time I checked $35,000 a month is not too bad for what you're doing," considering she was just documenting her life and what she was doing in regards to her. Before and after pictures were the big seller with the influencer marketing.

It blew me away. So I instantly thought she was probably ... Like I was gonna get on the team and be a part of some Russian credit card fraud ring or something. It didn't make sense to me. I honestly thought there's gotta be something not right about this. Anytime something seems too good to be true, I get nervous.

So I really looked into it. And there was nothing wrong. I was looking at what she was doing, I looked at her before and after pictures, I looked at her content, interviewed her a few more times, and finally realized that it was gonna be a good fit for us. And she was-

Kathleen: Yeah, there's just an insane number of women who wanna have better arms, legs, and booties apparently.

Shane: That's it. That is it. Who doesn't, right? There's always that, especially because you know in the media and all that kind of stuff. So there's hot times when everybody does ... And this is the thing, is if everybody started fitness and continued with fitness, then we would just all be fit. You would never stop, right? Everything is awesome. The thing is, is we always fluctuate. We have this and that, or we have things that happen in our lives; we eat more, we eat less, we get focused, we don't get focused. So there's always a time for fitness to come back in your life.

So that's where Zoe came in, is that she would come out with these new programs.

So obviously right around bikini time for women, it's like, "Ah I gotta get ready." So you'd have this major push. Or the first of the year, or whatever that is. There was these every four months really, we had these cycles where people would wanna come back on and wanna get serious again. "I wanna get in a group, I'm motivated."

And Zoe had a very female-centric audience. So she'd built that from the beginning. And on her Instagram she's not shy about posting pictures of her body. So she'd have guys that would say stuff and then she would instantly slam them, and then the whole group would slam a guy for coming in and saying something inappropriate, then they would block him.

So she had this very, very I guess kind of organic kind of authentic group that she had built, that really was supporting her and her journey. But was also really excited about her transformation.

'Cause she was a runner, so she literally had no booty, right? And then she started doing her squats and lunges, and a year or two later, she had a big booty.

So the girls were like, "Oh my God, this is me today, and this is what I wanna be like in two years." So they saw that. And once again, that was for fitness before and after pictures that people can recognize and look at and go, "Okay," and were relatable.

Anyways, so we rebranded everything for Zoe. We redid her website, her logo, all of her e-books. She had done a good job with what she had done, but we were obviously gonna come in and revamp all that.

And the end of the story is we took her from $400,000 to $1.6 million in just about a year's time.

Kathleen: Wow.

Shane: And that was just rebranding and all the stuff we did. And everything was done through influencer marketing.

We tried SEO, we did some PPC, and nothing performed anywhere close to as it did with influencer marketing. Because once again, Zoe had a great story, she had built this audience, and people really thought of her as a very genuine person that talked about the ups and the downs of losing weight. And she would eat some food and take a picture of her food baby. She was just really authentic with what she had did, and wanted to see people be successful.

And it was interesting because Zoe was not only a brand, as in ZBody Fitness, but she was also an influencer because she had a good following.

So at that time is when we were getting pitched by the tummy tea, and "drink tea and you can lose weight," all these kind of -- I'm not gonna say gimmicky, but probably gimmicky -- products. You're not gonna drink tea and lose weight.

So we're getting pitched on that side of things, and Zoe was very adamant about not taking on any products that weren't gonna be good products. You have this miseducation of, "Hey you go and drink tea, you'll lose five pounds."

I've drank a lot of tea in my day, and I've never lost five pounds.

Kathleen: I drink tea all day long, and let me just tell you, all it does is make you pee more.

Shane: We've been doing research our wholes lives on this, and this hasn't worked. So that's kinda the deal is, is her audience knew that she wasn't going to promote a product that she didn't believe in.

So we didn't promote a lot of products because we wanted to make sure, once again, that it was aligned with her audience and it made sense to do that.

We got her up to over just under half-a-million followers on Instagram. But we spent about $300,000 in influencer marketing.

We did this before software. I always joke around, we used these things called Excel spreadsheets. So if you have any millennials that are listening, they might not even know what that is. Now there's software that can do that, but these Excel spreadsheets is what we used.

And I had this crazy system, 'cause I was talking with influencers and negotiating with influencers through email, through WhatsApp, through all these applications. And I would have to remember who I told what, and there was just a lot of moving pieces to the whole project.

But the cool part about it, is that I was one of ... Not first people, but ... Well I have to say I probably was one of the first people that started talking about influencer marketing and how we were doing it. And what was the successes of it, and the failures, and what we had seen, and how things have gone great, and didn't go great, and what that was.

So I just wanted to kinda educate people. Because it just blew me away. I thought for sure we'd have some good PPC sales, which PPC's a little difficult because of, once again, the before and after pictures. Facebook doesn't allow a lot of that, and Google don't allow a lot of that, because of the potential of a, not racy picture, but they can be somewhat questionable sometimes.

Kathleen: Yeah.

Shane: They're real strict when it comes to those regulations, when it comes to putting the ads up.

So anyways, but yeah, influencer marketing was really how we really went to the next level. And we've also bundled some of her packages. 'Cause since she sells an e-book, it doesn't cost anything to send a PDF file, right? So she had a really fixed cost there in regards to hey it's $5,000 to get the videos together, the content and everything, and now here we go.

And it's like well what if we, instead of charging them $20 for an e-book, why don't we charge them $50 and give them all five e-books? Give them a 50% discount, and what is that? That's the same email, except we're adding four more attachments to it.

So we learned that as well, so we were able to get the cost from $20 to $35 was now the average. So there was just some things that we did that made sense.

You can't necessarily do that if you're selling shirts. If you sell five shirts, you have X cost for each shirt, so you can't do that. But with a PDF file, it's zero cents after I've already paid for everything. So it's like why not get that out there?

So there was some cool stuff that we did there. And then we built out her email list and all that with Infusionsoft, so that was pretty tricky, some of the stuff we did there on behavioral marketing. But influencer is what drove it. That was 99% of our business, was done through influencer marketing.

Developing An Influencer Marketing Strategy

Kathleen: So now, as you mentioned, she herself was somewhat of an influencer even when you first started working with her. But you worked with other influencers to really amplify her reach.

Can you talk a little bit about in that case, and then also sort of generally, when you look at doing an influencer marketing campaign and you know you have a client that wants to get in front of the bigger audience, what is the process that you use for identifying who those influencers are, or who you want to bring on board for the campaign?

Shane: Yeah, for us, the one thing that people don't realize with influencer marketing is it is very time-intensive if done correctly.

So a lot of people think, "Hey I just go grab an influencer that's got a million followers, we negotiate a deal, I give them some free product or send them money, they put up a picture, and then millions of dollars come in, and then I go and retire." There's a lot of steps in between there before the million dollars and the retirement.

So what we look at is now there's a lot of software, back in the day we would just go look at influencers and kind of look at the engagement we thought was good, and kind of look at some things. There still is the eyeball test that needs to happen. But we use software, like Grin is one of the softwares that we use, where you can go in and-

Kathleen: Grin?

Shane: Yeah, Grin is a good one., is the website. And you can go in there and look for hashtags. So you can look up yoga instructor, you can look up whatever. You can do city searches, you can do that kinda stuff where you're really gonna try to find that person.

Like as an example, you have a yoga product, you wanna find a yoga instructor, you put hashtag yoga in there, and you can put Los Angeles area, and then you have a list of people that will pop up for that. And they have the engagement-

Kathleen: And that's just for influencers, is that right?

Shane: Yeah. That's mainly like let's say YouTube, or mainly on Instagram is where I do most of my influencer marketing.

And then there's other platforms that you can use for if you're looking for bloggers, GroupHigh is another one we use if you're looking for bloggers. So that could be for food bloggers, or any type of blogger that does an unwrapping, unveiling, does blog posts, anything like that.

And then there's other platforms out there for YouTube as well. And then there's for Facebook and Twitter and all that as well.

But most of my influencer campaigns I do are on Instagram, just 'cause we've had some great successes there, for that lifestyle, like everybody looks at. "I wanna be like that, I wanna do that, I wanna have that life. So I'm willing to buy that product or service."

Kathleen: Yeah. So you use these platforms, and are you ... Influencer marketing runs such a wide gambit.

You have these micro-influencers who, for example on the case of the campaign I ran, it was a LASIK eye surgeon looking to reach potential patients in a very hyper-local area. So we were going after somebody who had local reach, which is a very different ballgame than if you're trying to really go national or even international.

You have people like the Kardashians who, gosh, I just finished recently watching the two Fyre Festival documentaries about all the money that was paid to influencers for that. And that's crazy, crazy, crazy money.

And there's so much in between. So when you're trying to wrap your head around this, you've got these software platforms that will help you find people.

So are you looking and trying to match their audience demographics with the demographics that your client is trying to reach? And then from a budgeting standpoint how do you even start to plan for that?

Shane: Yeah. So we do. So we look at the software, and we'll pull a list.

So let's say we want 50 influencers, and let's say it's all in Los Angeles area, as an example. So what we'll do is we'll pull let's say 250. We go and evaluate them. I'll take a look at them.

And what we'll do is I'll actually go and look at their profiles as well. 'Cause there's a lot of different ways to game software. You can add likes and comments and emojis, and all this other fun stuff. So we actually go and look at the content. 'Cause for us, we're looking for a long-term relationship.

So that's where we use software as a way, we pull them down. And then we go, and I go ahead and take a look at their profile. There's engagement rates, and we wanna see what other products they've worked with, and how people have reacted to sponsorships that they've done. Maybe they've worked with companies that are similar to ours.

And then I actually interview the influencer. Because the biggest issues, and you kinda touched on it, is like how much do I pay somebody? Is it $5, is it $5,000, is it free shirts for life? What is this? How do I structure that? Well it's hard to answer that, because that's like saying ...

It's hard to give a templated answer for everybody. 'Cause each one of these influencers is different. And they all have a different way they run their business, and they have different costs, and they have different things. So I can go to one influencer and say, "Hey I work with Adidas, and we wanna give you three pairs of shoes. They're worth usually $150, and we want you to do X, Y, Z for it." And they go, "Wow, this is awesome, let's do it."

And I can send that over to somebody else and they go, "My production cost is $5,000. I don't want your $150 shoes. That doesn't make sense to me."

You just never know. So it's everything is negotiable when it comes to this.

So usually what I'll do if it looks like the right influencer, and we outreach to them and they say that they're interested, I usually jump on a call and say, "Okay, tell me what you know."

Adidas is a bad example, 'cause Adidas is a household name. But let's say it's X, Y, Z shoe company that nobody knows about. So, "What do you know about our shoe company?" And, "Hey I know a lot about your shoe company, you guys do this, I love your guys' mission, I know you guys give 10% to these communities."

So then it's like, "Okay great, I've got an engaged person." Influencer that knows our product, that's excited about it. I wanna hear it in their voice.

The first question, if I jump on a call and they go, "So how much am I gonna get paid in this thing?" Like, "Oh got it, so it's about money." Which could be a factor.

But for me, it's a little bit of a hip check. I wanna go and check the temperature. 'Cause I wanna find the person that has looked into my company or the company I'm representing and that is excited about it, and then ask them, "What are you willing to do? This is what we're thinking. What we wanted to do is this is the kinda campaign we were thinking. And this is what we were thinking is maybe we'd do three Instagram stories and we do a YouTube video and you do a blog post. You tell me what that's worth and what that would take from a time perspective. You tell me if you think that's a good campaign, and then just tell me what that would cost."

And they go, "Hey listen, let me tell you why you don't wanna do this, is because I know my audience, and this is what I think would be good." Or I'll tell them, "Hey listen, we have a budget of $5,000. And tell me what you would be willing to do for that price point and how many touch points we would be able to do. What's the frequency of this? I gotta be able to talk about it once a month, twice a month. I do a big YouTube video that'll be a five minute video that can index. Or I'm gonna do a blog post, it'll be a 3,000 word blog ..." Whatever that is.

Everybody's gonna have a different thing that they'll recommend that they think would work.

And I don't wanna get in the way of that. I don't wanna tell them, "This is what we need to do because we think this is best."

No, I wanna keep it down and let the influencer tell me, "Hey I know my audience. I don't think if we did a video, I'm not that big on YouTube, so why would I wanna do a video? Maybe I'll do a shorter video for Instagram."

I let them come up with the plans. And I give them a little bit of parameters of, "Hey this is kinda what we're looking at budget-wise, what would it make sense to put together a plan like that for you? And does it make sense for us to work together?"

So I always, like I said, I come with some basics. I come with a brief and some ideas, but I'm always open to what the influencer wants to do. 'Cause they say, "Hey listen, I've never done this before, and this is kinda crazy, but I was thinking we could do this, this, this, and this." And I go, "God, that sounds epic. Let's do it." That's something outside of the box that we haven't heard or we haven't seen.

With the brief you wanna have certain hashtags you use, and you wanna have certain things that you follow so you understand I wanna understand exactly what you're gonna be getting for this price point of $5,000. A basic agreement you put together, make sure that everybody's following FTC, and all these guidelines and stuff that we have.

But at the end of the day, you wanna develop that relationship with the influencer. Because if it's an influencer that just cares about money, and all they're doing is a thousand sponsorships a year, then the audience is gonna be very disconnected.

And that's not what we're looking for. We're looking for the influencer's excited, the influencer that gets what we're doing, and the influencer that says, "Hey this is the perfect fit, and I don't work with a million companies, it's not just a money thing for me, so this has gotta be a good fit for my audience."

And that's the one that you guys did for LASIK. That was obviously a good fit for their audience.

You can have the best product in the world, but if you go to the wrong influencers. And that's the problem is most people look at numbers. So they go, "Oh this influencer has a million followers, this is gonna crush. This is absolutely gonna crush."

It's not always that. So that's what people get confused about. Influencers have always been paid in the past because of how many followers they have.

So now we get into the fake followership. Because guess what happens? If I have 15,000 I get $5,000. But I have 20,000 I get an extra $3,000. And if I have a million, you guys are willing to give me $50,000. So guess where I wanna get to extremely fast? Probably a million.

So that's where we run into this whole situation of the fake followers. And people go, "Oh this is terrible, and this is that." But you're telling somebody, "Listen, I will give you some more money if you can somehow get to this number." And they're like, "Let's do it." So now I gotta get to that number, it becomes this situation.

So that's where we've jumped into a situation like this. And like the festival, the Fyre Festival. Everybody looks at it and says, "Oh my God we gotta be so careful, we gotta be this."

That can happen in any situation. In any situation where somebody says, "Hey we have this, we have investors." How do you double-check that as an influencer and make sure? Do you go send in a private investigator? Do you go and you ... I mean it's hard to say.

Influencer marketing didn't cause it. Influencer marketing was the one that got the people there. So it works.

But the problem is, is the festival wasn't done correctly, and there was all kinds of logistics and things that weren't thought about on a last minute thing, "We're gonna go to this island." In theory it's like the perfect influencer thing. People go, "Oh that's the lifestyle I wanna live, I wanna come in on a private plan. I wanna drink caviar, and eat this, and do this, and hang out with celebrities."

Kathleen: They just didn't expect white bread and cheese sandwiches.

Shane: Or no restrooms or no water on an island, last time I checked. So that's not necessarily influencer ...

The thing is, is actually that was a successful campaign, because influencers drove people there. So it actually was a win, in theory, for influencer marketing. But the publicity behind it is now these celebrities have to be held accountable.

And I get it, but what happens if I was to go represent a product today, I go represent some kind of a Tupperware company, whatever it is. Some company. And then the CEO goes and kills somebody? Or does something stupid. I can't really stop that.

I can look into it and give it a little test and do some research and say, "Well it makes sense, the island's there, and there seems to be some celebrities, and they've got some investors." It's just a difficult thing.

And people go, "Well how do I know if I'm working, if this influencer doesn't have fake followers? Or how do I check on that?" It's once again, just go and look at them, and talk to them. And say, "Hey look, tell me the past campaigns that you've done. Show me some reporting that you've done in the past, show me some campaigns. Why are you at 15,000 followers and then you went up there?"

Kathleen: Right.

Shane: "Oh was on TV, and I was on this, and I became this, and my book came out." "Oh, okay. That makes sense." Or, "No, I just got more followers." That's a little fishy, but okay. So that's what you just have to look at.

It comes down to educating yourself when it comes to influencers. Really anything. Anything you do. But influencer marketing, I've written 100 articles, and there's plenty of other people that have written 100 articles where you can go get a general idea of the questions you should ask, or the emails you should send out. You get a basic idea, and then you have some knowledge when it comes to that. And then you can go in there.

Any situation you go into and you're not educated, you're gonna be a little nervous. Whether it's SEO or PPC it's like, "I just don't know, I'm not really sure. I've heard this is the thing to do."

Just educate yourself a little bit, and then go in. And if it doesn't feel like the right situation with the right influencer, the cool part about it is guess what? There's millions of influencers. Absolutely millions. So they'll be like, "Well yeah, but this person seems really good. We have to give them this high amount."

No you don't. You don't. Because now with software you can go and look at analytics, you can look at the demographics, you can go look at the stuff and say, "You know what? You seem great, but I have this person over here that's willing to do twice as much work, their demographics are the same as yours, so is the followership. And they seem to be more excited about the project than you were." Not a big deal. That's the exciting part about influencer marketing.

People are like, "Oh, is it gonna go anywhere? Something's gonna happen to it." No.

There's people that weren't influencers yesterday that are influencers today. And that's always gonna continue to happen. We're gonna have this evolution of more and more people that can represent your product, which is very interesting.

The problem today with the whole thing is that you have brands and influencers that just don't know how to work together. And that's what we do at UCLA is try to bring those people together.

And I have a workshop I'm doing in San Francisco bringing brands and influencers together and saying, "How do we make this a better relationship?" We can hangout and do some stuff together, but how do we make it so this can be a successful campaign? Or at least watch out for some of the hurdles that could happen so that we're not just wasting our money?

Kathleen: Yeah, I love that. And going back to the conversation about the Fyre Festival, it's interesting because that has really elevated the conversation, and I think more people are talking about influencer marketing.

And as you say, it's such a funny example, because in some respects it was a huge success. They paid these people to get the audience there, and they did it. And the debate subsequently has been a lot around the ethics of influencer marketing.

We had this debate internally in my team. And my position was "Look, I don't see how if you're one of the models that was hired to post something on Instagram about this, I don't see how you could realistically vet it, you couldn't. There was too many smoke and mirrors, and you can only vet it so much."

Where I think the fault really lies is A, their agency, which totally knew that the whole thing was not gonna work. The agency I do think holds some responsibility.

And then I would say if you're an influencer like Ja Rule, I'm gonna go out on a limb here and say this on the podcast, who was deeply involved in the planning. If you're that involved and you know it's not gonna happen, I think you own it partially.

But it would be a shame for it to give influencer marketing a bad name. And if anything I think what I'm seeing in all the marketing literature I'm reading this year, is really that influencer marketing in general is taking off, as opposed to at risk because of something like the Fyre Festival.

But it does speak to me, to the larger questions about how do you do it right as a brand? And how do you do it right as an influencer?

I know you were just speaking to some of those points. I guess some of the questions I have, one of them is I come from a content marketing world, where everybody's really forced on lead generation as a key metric of success. How many new contacts did we generate? How many marketing qualified leads did we generate?

My guess is that in some respects you could do that with influencer marketing, but I'm sure that there are other metrics as well.

So can you talk a little bit about if I'm a brand and I'm gonna go pay somebody $5,000 for a bunch of Instagram posts or some stories, when you talk with brands, what do you generally advise them that they should be looking for in terms of an outcome?

Measuring the ROI of Influencer Marketing

Shane: Really I usually flip it on the brand and say, "What are your KPIs?" Like what are our goals? What are you looking to do?

Let's reverse engineer this. Like, "Oh hey Shane, I wanna spend $5,000 and I wanna do a million dollars in sales." And I say, "Well that sounds extremely unrealistic, so let's go ahead and reset those expectations."

Kathleen: Right.

Shane: Right? So it really comes down ... When somebody reaches out to me about an influencer campaign, I have qualifying questions that I send with any client.

So what I wanna do is find out what are you looking for? How realistic are we? 'Cause the problem is, and I've done it, I've written an article about, "Hey, for Zoe every dollar you spend you make four dollars." And people go, "I want that plan." Well of course, who doesn't want that plan?

Kathleen: Yeah, who doesn't?

Shane: Yeah. Even one for two I'll take. Or 1.25 I'll take.

But the thing is, is that I wanna just do a little to find out what their expectations are. So when it comes to brands and saying, "Hey listen, I'm gonna spend $5,000 on this." Well what are you goals? So is it sales? Is it gonna be mentions? Is it gonna be you wanna increase your social media following? What are your overall goals? What would you consider this to be a win?

And that's what I think is important. Another thing I like to tell people, don't spend all of your money just on influencer marketing. This is a piece of your marketing tool set. Don't just put all of your ...

People come to me and say, "Listen I got $5,000 or my business is gonna go down." You know what I'd tell them? Take your family out to dinner, go on a vacation or something. Do not put all of your money in this last ditch effort of this thing that you read about and it seems to be going great for everybody.

Influencer marketing isn't for everybody. Influencer marketing, it's no different than issues that we have with PPC or SEO or anything like that. The idea is, is that if you find the right influencers, and you invest the time, and you go do that.

Same with SEO, if you go after the wrong keywords, it doesn't matter what product you have. PPC, if you go after the wrong stuff, then you're not gonna have your target audience or your lookalike audience and you're not gonna sell stuff.

Influencer marketing is no different. The idea is that you need to go in and do the research and make sure that you're, once again, trying to find those right influencers. Trying to find out. And then talking to them as well and saying, "Listen these are our goals. My budget's $5,000, I would love to be able to get $10,000 in sales. So what kind of campaign do you think that we would have to put together that your audience would buy $10,000 worth of product?" Now if you're selling a one dollar product, then that means that there needs to be 10,000 transactions. And you have to go, "Well I don't know if that's gonna be possible in $5,000."

'Cause one of the things you look at too is that people don't realize that it's not a, "Hey Kim Kardashian, hey can you put this picture up?" And she puts it up, and she charges you $1 million, and then all of a sudden you just make $1 million. It's a frequency deal.

Back in the day, it used to be a little easier 'cause you'd just put a picture up and people didn't even really know what influencer marketing was, just said, "Hey if Jennifer's doing it, I wanna do it."

Now it's a little different. We have more of an educated audience that's kinda like ... If they're following you, and you're not just taking on any sponsorship and you're genuine with your recommendations. I think then people obviously people are gonna be more likely to buy those products.

But it really comes down to what is the brand looking for? And does the influencer think this is gonna be a possible outcome?

But what happens in most influencer campaigns is people just run into it blindly. They're like, "Let's just see if this thing works and we'll just do some stuff, and let's just see what happens."

It's no different than content. You don't just go into content and say, "I'm just gonna write this article today." I think we all did in the beginning. But now we look at-

Kathleen: Right, there was a time.

Shane: Right, we all did that. But now what we do is we look at keywords, we look at competition, we look at what kinda competition for that specific keyword, what is working? We have all this software we can make a better educated decision.

And the same thing with influencer marketing. What are your goals and do those goals line up and are they realistic with the influencer? And is the influencer gonna be able to tell you, "Hey, I can tell you if you've have this amount of sales and we can do that through a coupon code. Or through an affiliate link." Or whatever that is.

It's just, once again, most of the time a brand's read an article and an influencer's looking to get paid, and they come together. And they have this beautiful little baby called an influencer marketing campaign. And all of a sudden they go, "We didn't even talk about the future or whether we're gonna live together," whatever, right?

Kathleen: Yeah.

Shane: There are some steps before that, that you have to ask, to make sure you guys are on the same page. And if you're not on the same page, then don't work with that influencer.

But that's one of the biggest disconnects, is that they just assume that you do one post. It's not that. It's a frequency thing.

An influencer, if they post three, four, five, six, seven, ten times, now their audience has seen it more and more, they say, "You know what I really think that John uses this product. Or I've seen good results from what he's done here with this product or this service. Now it makes sense for me to go and purchase it." So it's a little bit of a longer term play now.

And then also in your contract having like when John posts this content, now in my contract I'm gonna put now I get to use that content however I want. I can use it on my website for social proof, I can use it on my flyers, I use it wherever I'm gonna use it. And then I also wanna do some PPC ads. There's some other stuff that goes into that.

So once again, don't just do a campaign with somebody who's got a million followers giving them ten grand, don't talk about it, have them post one picture, and expect for a miracle to happen.

You really wanna have that overall strategy and make sure you have the 10 things that you're gonna be doing to get it up to that point when it launches and the things that you do after that to continue the success and do whatever it is, Facebook ads that's gonna push it towards that influencer's following, whatever that is. There's a lot of things that go into that, to continue to get the results, to squeeze the juice out of that lemon.

Regulations & Influencer Marketing

Kathleen: Now one thing that I think a lot of marketers who have not done influencer marketing, or don't do it very frequently, might not be familiar with, are the regulations around it. And you mentioned FTC regulations earlier.

Can you just briefly give a quick overview of some of the things that you have to be careful about when you enter into these relationships?

Shane: Yeah. The thing is with the FTC, is the FTC what their thing is, is they're obviously going after the bigger influencers because what they wanna do is make a story about it, and let people know hey, you have to be transparent in the things that you're doing.

So what they've done is gone after Kim K and all these bigger influencers. 'Cause the idea is it's a trickle down. They wanna have the story about Kim K got sued for $50,000, whatever the numbers are and whoever they went after.

The idea of that is 'cause they don't want you to fool the public. They don't want you to go in and when you're representing a product, or a service, or whatever, they want you to be authentic and tell your audience at least let your audience know, "Hey listen, this is an ad. I received free product, or they're compensating me for this."

And there's a number of ways to do that. There's hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored.

The FTC has tried to tighten up the regulations, in the sense of having the verbiage be a little better, so it's a little better understanding. 'Cause it's still a little bit of gray area with it. So that's where people are like "Well I don't really know, do I have to write hashtag ad and sponsored? Do I put it at the beginning? Do I put it at the end? Do I have to say it? Do I have to get it tattooed on my forehead?"

What do I need to do, so that people know that this is an ad?

And if you're going through Facebook and Instagram you can see "in partnership with," or whatever it is, there's ways to tie that in. I just think that if you're at least disclosing that you are in some type of relationship, this is a paid thing. Or even if it's not paid, that's another thing people don't realize. Even if you got a free shirt and you're marketing that shirt, talking about that shirt, that's still, you received some type of compensation for that.

Now do I think that the FTC's gonna come through? The FTC's not gonna be able to come through and sue a million people and expect to be able to do that, and expect for those people to have money to fight it and pay the fines. They go after the bigger influencers.

I'm not saying if you're a smaller influencer don't follow the regulations, by any means. Follow the regulations. But you just have to be careful what you're doing. And once again, it's not too difficult. You hashtag ad and hashtag sponsored, and there's some other stuff. You can read the FTC regulations, they have them on their website.

And then if you have an attorney friend or something or even have an attorney just say, "Hey, looking at this, do you think we're gonna be okay?" Most of the time you'll be okay if you can justify that, "Hey listen, I was being transparent with my audience, and the way that I did that was through this, this this," you should be fine.

Who Is Influencer Marketing Right For?

Kathleen: Okay. So having gone through this whole conversation I think I'm intrigued. It sounds like there's a lot of potential to leverage influencers more in different campaigns. I guess the next question that pops into my head is, who is this right for?

So if you're a brand that's looking to accomplish something through marketing, we've got B2C, B2B, B2G, you name it, nonprofit. Are there certain types of companies and certain types of campaigns that influencer marketing is well suited for and are there certain that it's not? Or is there a way to use it for everybody?

Shane: Yeah, there's definitely products and services that are better catered for influencer marketing. With a lot of the stuff that I work on, I work on very unique products that I think are gonna have that wow factor. So if it's a T-shirt company and they're like, "Hey we have this really cool T-shirt, it's got Bert and Ernie on it." I'm like, "Ah okay, nothing really too exciting about that." I guess we'll go try to find the Sesame Street fans-

Kathleen: Unless you can get Bert and Ernie to shill it for you.

Shane: Then there we go, right? And they're influencers, so there we go.

So there are certain things that make more sense where it's like I think it's gonna have that, I call it the wow factor. I think just about any product or service I think could do influencer marketing, some it doesn't make sense when you have ... I've had insurance agents that are top insurance agents for MetLife and this kinda stuff, "Hey we're looking to get more clients." That becomes more difficult because there's a lot stricter regulations. They're like, "Yeah, we have to have three attorneys to look at our post before it goes live." And I'm like, "You just lost everything because it took you nine days to come out with this Instagram post on what you were doing nine days ago. Nobody cares today." For the most part.

So there are things that if you have a cool product, and it doesn't even have to be necessarily a cool product, but the cool part about it is that there's tons of influencers. And you never know ... The hard part is finding the influencer that's gonna be best for your product.

But there's an influencer for everything. Literally there was a guy, I spoke at the first influencer conference in Mexico, in Mexico City. And there was a guy that was up there speaking with me, and his Instagram is literally about the color pink. That is it. That is it, like he's-

Kathleen: That's very specific.

Shane: He's at 80,000 ... Very specific. Yeah, and that's all it was. So anything pink would get ahold of him, and instead of going after drinks or something, it was just pink. So everybody that followed him, and I don't know if everybody that followed him loved pink, but obviously they had some kind of thing for pink. Or it was just he put out pretty crazy content, he was always showing pink hair, and pink this, and pink that.

So there we go. And now you have a pink product and you go, "Who knew that we were gonna find this guy? And here we go, now we have an audience in theory." ... Can represent your audience, you just have to figure out what that is.

If you have a really cool patented product, it becomes easier because it's cool and everybody wants it, and this kinda stuff. If you don't, you can still find out ... You can still find an influencer that can rep your product, but you just have to look at the demographics of their following and say, "Hey do we think this is a good fit? How can it be a win-win on both sides? And what do we expect the outcome to be?"

Influencer Marketing Tools & Software

Kathleen: Great. Well lots to think about here with respect to influencer marketing. Now you named a couple of platforms in the beginning that can be helpful.

If somebody's listening and they're a marketer with a business that's just starting to dip their toes in the water of influencer marketing, are there any particular sources or platforms that you recommend that look at?

Shane: Yeah. Obviously my website is I write about it quite a bit, and write about it for a lot of other websites as well. So there's that.

Obviously Grin is who I use to put campaigns together. So they've got a really, really robust platform that they've put together. I've watched them grow over the last few years. 

GroupHigh is one that we use for bloggers, so if you're looking for bloggers or anything like that, that has been a really good one. If you're looking for anybody that's in your niche and stuff like that. That's been great.

There's some other like Lee Odden and those guys over at TopRank are doing some good B2B stuff as well. I'm trying to think what else, some other resources. There's a lot.

You obviously can put in ... Influencer Marketing Hub, that's who I'm partnering with to do the workshop that we're doing in San Francisco on March 21st. So we're doing an all day workshop for brands. And for agencies to come out and say, "Hey I wanna work with influencers, how do I go about doing that?" Or, "My clients wanna work with influencers."

Save $100 off the price of tickets to Shane's workshop, "Under The Influence: Influencer Marketing Workshop," with the code SHANE100.

Click here to learn more or purchase tickets

So we're doing a one day training there, kinda hands on training to show them all the stuff we've kinda talked about on the podcast, but more hands on and just kind of explaining everything in detail, and how we do outreach, and how do we negotiate, and that whole process, kinda breaking it down deeper.

Kathleen: Great. All right, I'll put links to all of that in the show notes. So if you're listening and you wanna learn more, check that out.

Kathleen's Two Questions

Kathleen: Now before we wrap up, two questions I ask all of my guests, which I'm curious to get your take on. The first one is we talk a lot about inbound marketing at this podcast. Company or individual, who do you think is really doing inbound marketing well right now?

Shane: Yeah, I mean inbound, it's so funny 'cause when you talk about inbound marketing I'm probably gonna be, the people that I'm gonna recommend are my competitors, right? So that's ... This is a humbling moment for me.

I would say Neil Patel, he's kinda one of the originators, I would say in regards to building out content and doing that inbound extremely well. And now he has an agency and stuff that he's done. So I've always been impressed, I kinda looked up to him in the beginning when I jumped into doing content marketing in the inbound side of things, as somebody that just put out some good content. He seemed to get it right, and he kinda paved the way. Now I'm just trying to catch him on some keywords right now, which Neil if you're listening to this I'm coming for you, and I will beat you, just so you know.

Kathleen: Watch out, Neil.

Shane: Yeah. Yeah, there goes the warning shot just so he knows. There goes the warning shot. But I think Neil's been doing a great job.

And there's a lot of other marketers that do a phenomenal job. Robby does a great job, he does some really cool stuff. So anyways, there's some cool stuff that I follow, a lot of guys that I follow that I work with directly, that like I said, have done a phenomenal job on the inbound side of things.

And we don't do too bad ourselves. All of the leads that I get are all inbound marketing. So we don't have any sales team, I don't have any outreach or anything like that. I don't know if that's something to brag about, but all of that comes from inbound. So it's been a nice little machine.

Kathleen: That's what I always say when you hear stuff like that, "Hey, this stuff actually works."

Shane: Yeah. It takes awhile, but it's a good investment for sure.

Kathleen: That's great. Yeah.

Now second question, digital marketing is changing so quickly, how do you personally stay up to date and on top of everything?

Shane: Yeah, there's different sites or different things. I always try to keep up on when it comes to SEO, Search Engine Journal is one that we always take a look at. There's a lot of the search engine ones, that I think they're always getting the updated information, so we'll kinda see some cool stuff there.

I also like Content Marketing Institute, they have some good stuff there. Some good content as well.

It's funny, so as much as I have my podcast, and I do podcasts and all this, I don't really listen to too many podcasts, so I probably should. I know there's a lot of great things that are happening there as well. I don't tap in as much as I probably should, because I had ADHD for God's sakes, so it'd be great, I could do a video, do 10,000 other things at the same time. But those are probably my picks for your two questions, for sure.

Kathleen: Okay, great yeah. And I like for us, Search Engine Journal as well, that's a really good one.

Shane: Yeah.

Connect With Shane Barker

Kathleen: Great, well if somebody is listening and they want to reach out, ask a question, get in touch, or learn more, what is the best way for them to connect with you online?

Shane: The best way to get my attention is to send me money through PayPal, so I'm gonna give you my email address. If you send cash that's an instant, "Hey, Shane's gonna pay attention to you."

No, you can actually, this is my direct email is just And I answer all questions. So if anybody has any questions, and this has come back to bite me a few times where I've had like 200 emails come through and I'm like, "Oh this is awesome. I did say for free, didn't I?" 

So if anybody has any questions about influencer marketing, you can go to my website, obviously you can look it up on Google as well. But you can send me direct questions and I'll make sure to answer them and get something out, usually within 24 to 48 hours.

I just got back from Singapore, so I'm a little tired right now, but I'll say 48 hours.

Kathleen: All right, awesome. Well again, if you're listening and you wanna reach Shane, you can get in touch with him that way, or you can check the show notes and I'll have links to his email and all of his various social properties and websites will be in there. So check that out, and we'll put you in touch.

And in the meantime, thank you so much Shane for joining us. This was really interesting. I learned a lot about influencer marketing, and definitely now motivated to go see if I can find some influencers to test some new campaigns with.

Shane: That's it. That's it. Let me know if you have any questions.

Kathleen: I will. And if you're listening and you enjoyed this or if you learned something new, please take a minute and give the podcast a review on Apple Podcast or the platform of your choice. It really makes a difference. And if you know somebody else that's doing kick ass things on marketing work, Tweet me at workmommywork, because they could be my next guest. Thanks. 

Mar 18 2019



Rank #11: Ep. 114: How to Use Public Relations With Inbound Marketing Ft. Kristen Ruby

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How (and when) should you use public relations in tandem with your inbound marketing strategy? 

This week on The Inbound Success Podcast, Ruby Media Group Founder Kristin Ruby breaks down the myths surrounding PR and inbound marketing. In this conversation, she gets into detail about who should consider using PR, when to use it, how much you should expect to pay, and what kinds of results you should expect. 

In addition, Kristin covers the difference between PR for brand building and PR for SEO, as well as the difference between reactive and proactive PR.

There's lots of practical information here for any marketers who has ever considered using PR as part of their strategy.

Highlights from my conversation with Kristin include:

  • Kris is a PR specialist, which is different than a media relations specialist. PR can encompass anything in the communications plan and marketing plan whereas media relations is specifically about interaction with the media. 
  • PR is a good strategy for any business that is looking to build a long term, sustainable funnel of leads, as well as to build their brand. 
  • One of the big benefits of PR is that it can contribute to building your domain authority, which is great for SEO.
  • In terms of setting expectations for a PR engagement, Kristin says that the results you can get are very dependent upon the news cycle and what journalists are interested in covering. 
  • Kristin says you should expect to commit to working with your PR firm at least one hour each day.
  • There's a difference between reactive and proactive PR. Kristin specializes in reactive PR, which entails responding to reporters' requests for sources, as opposed to proactive PR, which she characterizes as going out to the media and spamming them with unsolicited pitches.
  • When it comes to PR, its important to build up on line authority and get others talking about you so that the media sees you as a credible source.
  • For clients looking to get started with PR, Kristin recommends that they begin by publishing content that is aligned with what they are hoping to get coverage about. This can be published on their website, LinkedIn profile, etc.
  • The cost of a PR engagement can vary widely depending upon the scope of services and the type of media coverage that you're looking for and then the size of the firm you want to work with. A reasonable range that PR services start at would be anywhere from $3,500 or $5,000 a month, but some of the larger firms could be charging $35,000 or $40,000 a month. 
  • If you plan to be on TV at all as part of your PR plan, it could be worth investing in media training as part of your PR package, as it will prepare you to be on camera.

Resources from this episode:

Listen to the podcast to learn more about public relations and how you can use it as part of your larger inbound marketing strategy.


Kathleen Booth (Host): Welcome back to the Inbound Success Podcast.

I'm your host Kathleen Booth. Today, my guest is Kristin Ruby who is the founder and CEO of Ruby Media Group. Welcome Kristin. Kristin Ruby (Guest): Hi, thank you so much for having me.

Kristin and Kathleen recording this episode.

Kathleen: I'm so happy to have you here. You are in the field of PR and we don't get to talk about PR a lot on the podcast so I'm really excited to dig into it with you, but before we do can you just tell my listeners a little bit more about yourself, and about your company, and what you do?

About Kristin and Ruby Media Group

Kristin: Sure. My company is called Ruby Media Group. I have been a practicing public relations practitioner for over a decade now. I work with clients and businesses of all sizes from small to midsize companies to even Fortune 500 companies, and particularly with a lot of medical practices and doctors as well. We assist with brand building, content creation, social media, public relations, and really help people get found online. What we're really best at is taking people of thought leadership offline and translating that online.

Kathleen: Great. It's interesting. When you and I first spoke what I really liked was... My question to you was obviously this podcast is all about inbound marketing, and people have mixed opinions about where PR, public relations, fits within that mix as an inbound marketer. I think there's also a lot of misconceptions about what public relations is, especially today, like as it's evolved over time. You had some really interesting viewpoints on that, and I wanted to just actually start by having you explain what you see as what PR is, and the different uses of it, because there's obviously PR for SEO, and then there's other types of PR.

Kristin: I mean, so it's a really interesting question. To start with I think there's a difference between PR and media relations, so I want to also explain that to your listeners. PR can encompass anything in the communications plan and marketing plan whereas media relations is specifically about interaction with the media. To clarify, I do a lot of media relations work whereas some public relations practitioners will sort of do community outreach, and sponsorship, and a larger umbrella of what PR is. So in terms of public relations basically a publicist will help you in terms of all your interactions with the media, getting you out there, handling media inquiries, anything of that nature.

When should you invest in PR?

Kathleen: Okay, great. What do you see as the value of PR for the companies that invest in it? Who is it right for? When should you do it? That sort of thing.

Kristin: That's a great question. PR, it really depends with what stage you're at in your business. For example, let's say you're a medical practice, and a doctor, and you've been around for 10 years, you already have a waiting list of patients, but at this point you have other goals. Maybe you want to become a paid speaker. Maybe you want to write a book, and you want a publisher, and you need a social media following for that, or maybe you're at a different level in your career where now you just want to focus on putting out educational content to reach the masses because your time is limited, and you can only see a certain amount of patients a day.

For that type of practitioner I think PR is ideal, because it fits in the brand building bucket. I think if you're someone that is saying, "I need more patients in the door tomorrow, and I've just launched a practice," I would still say more traditional inbound marketing would make sense for that, including some direct marketing and advertising as well. I really think you have to evaluate are you looking for sales and leads tomorrow out of this or can you have a longer sort of sales funnel in terms of what you're doing with all of this?

Kathleen: Yeah, that's a good point. I often hear about PR a lot from startups, especially B2B technology startups. There seems to be this assumption that in the beginning PR is something that you should invest in almost before marketing. I think part of it is this desire as a startup to plant your flag in the ground, in the marketplace, and get your name out there. But then, the other part of it is also, from my perspective as a marketer, it's building domain authority. That goes back to the PR for SEO thing, so I wonder if you could just talk a little bit about that.

PR for brand building v. PR for SEO

Kristin: Sure. I have a great case study in terms of PR for SEOs. We worked with a client, and we started everything from scratch for them with a new website, and we had not done any direct marketing, and we've only done PR for them. Their ranking right now is a 32, Domain Authority, and that's only from public relations. So all of that authority they have not done any paid advertising. It's all back links from PR articles that I've gotten them. Now, again, that was never even a primary goal of why we did PR for this person, but I think one of the amazing things about that campaign is that it just sort of compliments, and comes out, when you're not even trying for it, right?

I think public relations practitioners there's often this sort of disconnect with SEO, and with PR, because they're so focused on getting the hits, and working with producers and journalists that they don't actually realize they really are building someone's back link, and Domain Authority while they're doing ... Now, of course you can never guarantee any placements, and we could talk about that as well, but if you get them it can be great, especially if you are securing it for a client in that third-party national media outlet, and that outlet has very high Domain Authority, well then, you're benefiting from that.

Kathleen: Yeah. It is tremendous potential if you have a well known media entity. Those back links can be worth a lot.

Kristin: Yes.

What should you expect from a PR engagement?

Kathleen: I want to talk about expectation setting because that can seem very alluring, and I'm sure you have clients who come to you and say, "Get me mentioned in the Wall Street Journal, or on TV, et cetera," so can you talk me through when you first start working with a new client how do you, A, determine what's possible, and B, how do you set expectations around that?

Kristin: Sure. The first thing that we ask a prospect that's interested in working with us for public relations is what does PR success look like to you? So how are you going to evaluate the engagement here, and what do those metrics and KPIs look like? For example, if they're saying, "We want to be on the today show, within a month." Obviously that's going to be an unrealistic expectation. If they're saying, "We're looking for around three or four press placements, and digital mentions a month." That's a realistic expectation with my firm. I'm not sure if it is with every firm, but for us I know that I can deliver that.

If they're saying, "I want you to guarantee a set amount of bookings whether that's on radio, or television, or any outlet." That's something that's not realistic, because no PR firm that's worth their salt is going to be able to give those guarantees, and the reason for that is because we are working with the media. The media dictates what they want to use and what they don't want to use. I think the problem is that people hire publicist and think that the publicist have much more power than they do. I don't know if that's because PR just misrepresents what they can do to try and close a deal, or what it is, but it's just not realistic, right? We are working with the media at any given time.

For example, if you look at any week on the news cycle there's a lot of political stuff happening, whether it's Trump, and whether he should be impeached or not. What if you had a client that's booked on TV this week? All that's going to be canceled, because of the news cycle.

Kathleen: And if it wasn't canceled no one would probably pay attention anyway because everyone's attention is diverted somewhere else I would think.

Kristin: Exactly. But this is why it's so important if you're doing PR right now, especially in this news cycle, people need to understand that the news cycle, and breaking news, dictates what's being covered. It's not your client that dictates it, right? So if you can come up with some great tie-in to the news, or if your client's a political expert and they can comment on what's happening, then great that adds value to whatever story's happening.

That lends itself back to your original question, which is how do you sort of determine if someone's going to be a good client? In this heavily political climate that we're in right now a lot of PR people will definitely gravitate towards clients, or prospective clients, that can comment on those things, because they know that they can get them booked, and get hits for them. So you have to think about that as well. So we sort of go through an internal checklist about who's going to be good. It has to do with expectations, are they realistic?

The next is, do you have at least one hour daily to work with your PR firm if you hire them? People make the mistake of hiring a firm and then they don't give them what they need to do their job. You have to supply content to your firm so that they can get you out there. You have to let them know if something's going on that you can comment on, tell them. If there's a link that you think is interesting share it with them, but this notion that you're going to hire a PR firm, and then you're not going to talk to them, and they can get you hits is just very unrealistic.

What makes for a newsworthy story?

Kathleen: Yeah. Now, someone comes to you, and their expectations are realistic in the sense that thy say "Hey, I would love to get four press mentions this month." I'm assuming that as you say there's some kind of content that's needed, like you can't just call up a reporter and say, "Hey cover this company," full stop, period. There needs to be some kind of a story. So how do you work with clients to determine what that right story is, and kind of cultivate something that's newsworthy?

Kristin: Sure. There's two different types of PR. There's proactive PR and there's reactive PR. I'm a specialist in what I call reactive PR. So reactive PR is when you're using different databases, whether it's a HARO or a Profnet, or Cision. There's a lot of new ones coming out right now where those journalists are saying, "We're writing this story, do you have an expert to speak on X?" That's when I plug my clients in to be able to comment on those stories, reactive. Proactive PR is I think a more traditional old school approach where you're sort of just going out to journalists and I would call it spamming them, which is saying, "I have this great idea, why don't you cover it?" But the problem is they may or may not be writing that. So I think just the success rates are significantly higher when you practice reactive PR, which is what I call it. Because you're giving them what they want, want they're already working on and it makes their life easier.

Kathleen: Okay, so you really, in that case then, don't have to necessarily have a breaking news item or a piece of content. It's really just authority and expertise that you're pitching?

Kristin: So it's authority and expertise, but it's also answering a lot of questions, and usually those questions tie into something. So if someone is working on a vaping story. Right? You could have authority and expertise, but you also need to have expertise in that new's component that's happening with vaping in the country right now. So I think it's a combination of all of those factors together. But to answer your other question about, how do you sort of package that? I have a motto. My motto is, "Package, pitch, promote." Phase one when working with someone is how can we package this story. Who are they? What do they look like? What does their brand look like? The first thing I'll do is do a deep dive on Google. I want to look at their website. Do they have a usable working site? If not, that needs to go up before we even work with them because journalists are going to look for that.

Next, what has been written about them online? Do they have a critical mass of authority online? If they don't, again, that needs to sort of be created. Third, who are they? What do they want to be known for? What is their area of expertise? If there is going to be a lower third for their title tag on television, what would it say? Expert in what? Right? So we need to sort of figure all that out. Finally, do they have a higher res headshot for the media and do they have an executive bio? All of that sort of has to be done in the first two months of us working with someone. Even though it sounds sort of simple, most people don't have all of that ready to go. So we definitely get that lined up for someone before we start with them, and then next we start putting together an FAQ document in Microsoft Word. I actually just put together a helpful media 101 pitching checklist that I can definitely share.

Kathleen: That would be great.

Kristin: With your listeners.

Kathleen: Yeah.

Kristin: That would be great. As well as a media guide too, with a lot of answered questions that for them that are helpful.

Building online authority

Kathleen: Now, I think it was the second thing you mentioned there, was they need to have... After the website, they need to have some sort of critical mass of online authority established. What does that mean? What are you looking for there?

Kristin: I'm looking to see that other people have talked about them and have quoted them. Right? I think that sorts of lends itself very nicely to the new Google... I recently put up an article on this since we last spoke about the Google's authority and what they're looking for in this term called Eat. It's very important. It's all about having authority online. That's where PR can really help if you're trying to increase your Eat on Google, you need authority. So Google, one of their quality raters what they look for is, it's not... I'm going to actually say this. It's not about just you saying that you're great. When we look online we need to see that other people are saying you are great and that you are an expert in what you're saying you are. So I think this is a very interesting time, and this is sort of changing the game in general for PR. So you can't just pivot. You can't just say that you're an expert in everything anymore.

You have to say you're expert in one thing and it doesn't matter how many times you say it. If no one else does it, you're not an expert. So this is going to be a major game changer for PR.

How to get started with PR

Kathleen: So if somebody comes to you and they don't have a lot of mentions online, can you work with them? Can you get them coverage? How do you start? What's that first step?

Kristin: So the first step is that I feel like for them we have to do more of a brand audit and it's sort of different campaign where we're building that out for a longer period of time before we ever pitch anything to the media, and I think how you start with that is definitely content marketing.

So if they want to show their expertise, they have to put out content that aligns with that expertise. So the best place to start if they don't have other people mentioning them is to start putting out their content on their own site or on LinkedIn where they're showing what they know, or doing an Ebook, or any sort of other inbound campaign, which I think is just very important. Having people link back to that to start to build up the authority even if they have no other outside media coverage. Right?

That's where I would start for something like that.

Why inbound marketing is necessary for PR

Kathleen: That's helpful because when you think about how inbound marketing and PR go together, like I've said, I've talked to lots of companies that think you start with PR, then you do inbound and then maybe you do PR again. But if what I'm hearing what you're saying is correct, it sounds like it does make sense to begin with some inbound marking first so that you have that content already created. You have potentially gotten mentioned, you're starting to establish some authority. Is that accurate?

Kristin: Yeah, it is accurate because here's the thing. You can say that you're an expert and have no content to back that up and expect people to write about you.

Kathleen: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Kristin: Because you're only... At that point, you're just a self-proclaimed expert. If a PR person is going to pitch you and that journalist looks you up, and they don't even see content written by you, how are you an expert? It doesn't make any sense. So I think that's a major mistake that a lot of people make. So there are some PR people who obviously skip this whole content marketing part and that's not really practicing the new method of PR. I would say that content marketing and inbound is critical to work in silo with public relations. I don't think it should be separate.

What does PR cost?

Kathleen: Yeah. Now one of the questions I'm sure that anybody has if they haven't worked with a PR firm before is, this sounds great but what does it cost? I'm not asking what do you charge, but can you give me a sense of if somebody's considering beginning to do some PR and they're going to work with somebody outside of their company to do it, what sort of budget should they have just to get started?

Kristin: Sure. It really depends on, for example, are you willing to work with a public relations freelancer? Are you looking to work with a larger size firm? So the scope of services and the type of media coverage that you're looking for and then the size of the firm all dictate the answer to that question. Typically, I would say a reasonable range that PR services start at, you can see them anywhere from $3,500 or $5,000 a month and then up. For some of the larger firms, they could be charging $35,000 or $40,000 a month. So it really, again, depends on the size of the firm. It also depends on the other ancillary services. So for example, do you nee media training? That's typically going to be a cost. If you need a press kit, that's going to be an outside cost. If you need a personal branding website, that's going to be another cost. If you need photography and head shots, another cost. So a lot of times those costs are not actually built in to the ongoing campaign. I think that managing scope creep is also very important in PR to understanding what the role of a publicist is, and if not, it definitely matters too.

What is media training?

Kathleen: Let's talk about media training for a minute because this actually came up in a conversation that I recently had. Can you explain what happens in a media training and what are you being trained about?

Kristin: So media training is really supposed to prepare you, a lot of the times for on camera interviews, and how can you be prepared, particularly in television in a breaking news environment. How can you answer questions? How can you not say things like um while you're doing interviews. Anything like that. So typically when I do media training with executives, I will record them and we'll go play back what they sound like. If they do a segment, we will sort of rigorously critic that segment, and say, "This is great, but here are all the things you need to do to improve that."

So for example, can they maintain eye contact. That's what we look for or are they sort of looking all over the place? Are there a lot of transition words? Can they cut back on that? Are they using modifiers like in my opinion. That can be cut and that don't add to the interview. Are they talking for way too long and have they not been trained in speaking in sound bytes. So all of those things are components in media training.

Kathleen: It's so funny because listening to you describe it, it makes me think of podcasting because I've been doing this now... I'm on episode 110, and when I podcast, I always send my audio off to be transcribed and then I have to edit the transcription for the show notes. Reading the written version of what I say is the most horrifying thing in the world.

I have discovered that I start just about every sentence with yeah. My guest says something and I'm like, "Yeah, let's talk about that," or, "Yeah, and I have a question." It's just so funny and I imagine it's the same thing with media training when you play back a recording. All of a sudden you're like, "Wait, I say that, that much? I had no idea."

Kristin: Yes, exactly. That's why it can be scary and that's why it's really important though. For example, in addition to running a PR firm, I'm also a television commentator. So I've personally been on TV more than a hundred times on Fox News or other outlets, and still even if it's segment 101, I'm still rigorously assessing what I sound like because if I'm not doing that I'm not learning and I'm not getting better. So I think that people don't realize that people that are on air all the time are still doing this very same thing. It's not just something that you start when you hire a PR firm. You have to keep doing it.

How to handle the tough questions

Kathleen: Yeah, and one other... See there I did it. I said yeah. One of the other questions I had is... Because this is part of what came up in the conversation I was having, how do you advise people to handle it when they don't want to answer a question? Is it, "I don't comment on that"? Is there a certain way to gracefully avoid answering.

Kristin: So I think there's two things. One, I'd call bridging. So if you don't necessarily want to answer something or if you're not sure how, I would bridge it and transition it into something else. So you can say, "This is a really interesting question, however I think this is the larger question." So that would be bridging. That's one option.

Two is always be honest. So if someone asks you something and you are not qualified to speak on it, literally just tell someone that. Say, "That's a really interesting question, however I'm not sure I'm the best one to answer this, but if I had to take a stab, here's what I would say." You can say something like that as a modifier or you can say, "I'll get back to you on that one" I don't have time to Google it right now but you could do what Mark Zuckerberg did at the congressional hearing, which every single question he said, "I'll have my team get back to you on that." That's a perfect question of answering your question.

Which PR opportunities are worth responding to?

Kathleen: Okay, that makes sense. So circling back to PR for SEO and in tandem for inbound marketing back links. When you're pitching and you mentioned that you do reactive PR, how do you screen through which opportunities are worth responding to and which ones are not?

Kristin: Sure. The first thing I will do is I will look at the outlet. Is it a well-known outlet, or is it a random blog? I'm not actually the... The back linking part I don't really like look at until the very end until something comes out because you don't really know if they're going to include a link or not. For me, if I'm going to send something to a client, I'm looking at it to think, is this an anonymous query? If it is, we're not replying. Is it a large national media outlet that we've heard of, which would be great to get a mention in regardless of the back link? Then yes, I'll send it to them. Is it worth their time to answer this?

How many questions are on there that they want answered, and do I realistically think the client can answer it by the deadline that's given. So all of those things factor into whether or not I think that they should look at that. Again, I look at back links as great added bonus of doing PR, but if people come to me and say, "You need to guarantee back links." I tell them, "There's no way any public relations professional can guarantee back links. Reporters don't even know." So there's a lot of scams out there right now where people will... I'm sure you've received them too. Where they send you this nice long sheet and go, "Oh for X thousand dollars, for this one off I'll get you informed for this mention." Well Google's changing the game right now, rather, with how all of that's handled and if you look at the quality rater's guidelines, they also clearly mention that they can tell and that those links, they're very aware of that and they don't count for much.

So I would say that's a waste of time and a waste of money. Spend your time and resources doing PR the right way, and if you get links out of it then that's an added bonus.

Kathleen: Now you mentioned anonymous queries, and this is something that I've always wondered about. So I look at HARO all the time and like you said, some of the calls for sources they say, "I'm with this particular news outlet," and then others are just anonymous. I've always wondered about that because sometimes I think, "Oh, well if they're anonymous they're some podunk place." But then other times I think, "If they're anonymous maybe they're someplace big, but they don't want to let people know that." I don't know. What has your experience been with that?

Kristin: It's a gamble. It's 50-50. It can go either way. So sometimes it could be like a major outlet, but they have an internal editorial policy, which may state we don't want someone else scooping up this story or we can't use HARO. So that reporter may put it in as anonymous. So technically they're not using HARO. That's one option. Another thing is that it really is a much smaller site and they know that no one is going to answer their query if they say, "This is for my hole in the wall blog that no one has ever heard of." So, it can go either way.

How to identify PR opportunities

Kathleen: So for somebody who's listening and thinking, "Gosh, I'm not ready to hire a PR firm yet, but I might want to dabble in to trying this out for myself." Are there... There's obviously HARO, which is Help A Reporter Out, which is a great free source that you can read and respond to. Are there any other really helpful places that somebody can go to on their own to see what kinds of stories other reporters are working on and potentially respond?

Kristin: I think the best thing that they can do is really just read the news. I know that sounds so simple. So many people don't do it. Everyone is looking for this cheap quick fix on how they can do something, which is why I'm not really a fan of do it yourself PR for a number of reasons, but the main one is that people really... Do it yourself PR can actually be quite dangerous. I've seen people make major mistakes because they're not media trained. They say all sorts of things. They don't really know what on the record versus off the record even means, and then they want someone else to fix it. And that part... And they can't. Right? Because they read some advice somewhere and told them to try it and then it hurt them, and then their CO is not happy. I would say you have to be kind of careful. However, if you're interested in sort of figuring out, "What is the media really writing about?" So maybe you're a digital marketer and you want to get quoted in the news. Go into Google and then click news. Then put in digital marketing. That's the first step I would take.

If you don't want to hire a PR firm, that's what I would do and I would set up Google Alerts for that and set up Google Alerts for your name. I would use a site like Mention because a lot of times Google Alerts doesn't pick up everything it needs to now. Then I would start seeing... For example, let's say I comment on Instagram. I have Google Alerts set up for Instagram. Or for Trump's tweets or anything relevant to what I talked about, and then I get... that's just becomes part of my day. So maybe you're a cardiologist and you're speaking on artificial intelligence and cardiology. I'd set up an alert for AI Cardiology. So you start having... That's more of an inbound approach to PR really because it all comes to you. Then you start formulating an opinion on that. I would then take that opinion, write content around it, put it on your own site, and then I think what you're going to start to see is that if its good content and you optimize that content, you can be found for that content by a member of the media.

I will say this, people always say, "How did you get started in television?" I got started in television because of content. I wrote a really cool article on how social media was impacting the world of dating and it was for, and this was like 10 years ago. I tweeted that article. I did not have a PR firm at that time and I was still more so in social media. A producer found my article on Twitter. Again, no PR firm. They found the content, they liked the content, and they said, "This would make for an interesting segment, would you like to come on the show?" That's literally how I got started in my career in TV was because of content.

I would urge your listeners here to consider that when you're thinking how to get there. That's sort of a do it yourself PR approach, but it's not dangerous because you're not necessarily reaching out to the media directly. It's a content first approach.

Why Twitter is key for your PR strategy

Kathleen: Now do you find that there are certain channels in which you can publish your content that make it more likely that you will be found by a reporter?

Kristin: Twitter.

Kathleen: Really?

Kristin: Yeah, Twitter and LinkedIn. I mean, just 100% because journalists are the biggest users of Twitter. We have clients that say to us, "I don't want to be on Twitter," and I say, "You don't have a choice. You have to be on twitter because if I'm getting you hits, I need to tweet those hits because reporters want traffic to their articles." So that's my end... Like, I have to do that. Right? That's the other thing. This old school notion that PR is just take, take, take and not give is so antiquated. You can't expect that someone's going to write about you and then you're not going to help push traffic to those articles. Which is why whether it's a podcast, or it's a reporter at a different outlet, they want to see that you're pushing it out too. Social media's an integral part to that process.

Kathleen: Twitter is so incredibly misunderstood. I find that with every client I've ever worked with... I was in the agency world for, oh my gosh, 13 years and almost everyone, including the heads of many agencies would say, "Twitter is a waste of time. I don't want to be on Twitter." It always blew my mind because not only is that where all the reporters are, but it's the only platform where you can directly reach out to anybody regardless of where you're connected with them. So the access on Twitter is unbelievable.

Kristin: I mean, if you want to get on the radar of journalists, they're on Twitter. The other thing you could do is create a favorite list and look up some reporters and then add them to a favorite list and start favorite them for what they're doing, or replying to them and get on their radar in that way. It's a great way to use Twitter, and obviously, it's strategically hashtag. If you really want to learn how to use PR, go on Twitter and use #PRfail. They will actually grill different publicists or do it yourself PR people, and you can learn from that. You learn a lot. It's just amazing. They'll put out bad pictures on there. I think there used to be a blog called Bad Pitch Blog. I don't know if it's still around, but I mean, you learn how to do PR the right way by looking at it the wrong way.

Kathleen: Yeah. See I still say yeah. Even though I try to get myself not to. Now I've also heard that YouTube is really valuable. Especially for getting picked up for television because that allows people to see your on camera persona. Have you found that?

Kristin: I think that definitely makes sense more so in the entertainment space. I think it adds to credibility and I think anytime you do a TV segment you should put it on there. Do I think that like, for example, would I have gotten discovered from YouTube if I was just doing something on my own? I don't necessarily think so, no. But entertainment, yes. If you're a singer, if... So that's just a whole other area of PR. You don't as much as I think is valuable for that, and sort of the corporate world, I think it's a little bit different.

Kathleen: Interesting. And you mentioned LinkedIn. How do you see LinkedIn playing into this?

Kristin: I think publishing articles on LinkedIn is very valuable and using hashtags on LinkedIn can also be very helpful to get found for your content. LinkedIn is at this amazing point right now where they are really almost giving away views in organic traffic, more so than Facebook is at this point because they want to become more of a social network. So there's this massive opportunity, especially with video on LinkedIn right now, if you want people to find what you're doing. So from what we've learned with clients, video definitely does the best.

And you could put the same video on Facebook, or Twitter, and Instagram, and you're just going to see the views are so much higher on LinkedIn.

Kathleen: Absolutely. I have been testing out LinkedIn Video now for several months, and I did a LinkedIn video recently about it because I looked back at all of my posts and the posts that had video in them, almost in every single case got 10x the number of comments and views as a post without video. It was so starkly obvious what a difference it made. So I completely agree with you on that.

Kristin: Yeah, but I mean, they want to incentivize users to be doing more videos. So that's why you can see it. If you look at the analytics, you'll see that that's what they're trying to do.

Kathleen: And it won't last forever, I'm sure but right now it's a great opportunity. I want to talk a little bit about results. Obviously, you can't divulge client names and things like that, but can you just, in an anonymized sense, can you give me a sense of what kind of results companies that you've worked with have seen from PR?

Kristin: Sure. For example, one company that we work with, they have received over 35,000 visitors in search alone over the past year. Again, we're not doing any paid marketing, any paid advertising. That's just because of content marketing and PR. That's all inbound traffic. Another company is actually ranking in search engine results on page one for specific... In the snippets, which everyone is trying to get in right now. There is content that we created for them years ago that's ranking now.

That content hasn't even been historically optimized yet, and it's still ranking. Why? Because we answered questions. That has to do with our approach that we started on Facebook where we grew that audience from zero to over 5,000 fans right now, and basically used their business fan page as a community and group page. Because of that and because we took the time to answer their questions and sort of ask the expert type of format, that has just skyrocketed their search engine results.

So I would definitely say that that's something people should be doing. Answering questions is so underrated. People spend so much time on SEO but don't actually answer questions. If you want to appear in snippets you have to do that. I would also say podcasting as been, for that client, a big part of their growth strategy, in terms of being a guest. They've probably recorded over... I don't know. Over 900 minutes of time on podcasts and I can see the analytics for that and I can see the conversion rates. I see people's like, "I heard you on this podcast. I'm interested in coming to you now." I see on their social media page where they say, "I read about you in this article." Well, I know what those articles were because I placed them. So that's PR. I read about you. Are you taking on new clients or new patients?

I can actually literally track it from the PR hit to them then going to the social media pages to saying, "Are you taking on new patients?" Or direct messaging that, and then to a new lead going through the contact form, and becoming a patient or a client. So I would say, again, that's not any sort of... that's happened across the board for several clients.

Kathleen: It is interesting how it snowballs too, right? You get your name out there and that is almost a self-fulfilling prophecy because you're building that Domain Authority, which helps you get found more. As you said, the content that you create that lives in the snippets can live forever.

Kristin: Yes.

PR is an investment

Kathleen: So it is sort of an investment as opposed to, you think about paid advertising and it's like a drug. You can't ever stop. But this is more like an investment.

Kristin: It is, and I would say... I mean, you're right. It does snowball. Media snowballs in other media. That's what people have to understand, and I think people that have the short-term approach to PR, then they shouldn't hire a PR firm. If you're going to hire a firm and you're thinking, "You know what, I need you to do X, Y, Z by this date, and I need it now to do X." It's just not going to happen, and even if it doesn't happen, it's the wrong approach because you're not building a community.

You're not building anything that has intrinsic value to others. So you just getting hits is good for you, but how is that good for others. So the clients that I've had great success with are... The one thing that they all have in common is they are other-centric, they're not me-centric. So when you're other-centric it allows us to do the best job we can for them because they're building out something larger than themselves and all of it is around education. So I always say, "Egocentric PR is not a PR strategy."

It's very important for people to understand that. The PR strategies that we deploy are education focused, and I think clients get the best results, and again, even if it's education focused sound very similar to inbound marketing.

Kathleen: I was just going to say, that's basically the premise of inbound. It's a give before you get kind of mentality.

Kristin: Exactly. What's so funny is that these people that work with me and hire me, they just really wanted to get great educational content out there into the world and build up their brand. When they're working with me they're not necessarily saying, "I need more clients or patients or people in the door," because they've achieved a certain level of success and they want to do other things. The most amazing things that happens is all of this happens as a result of it. But it's not because they were even trying to achieve that goal. It's because they put their users and their audience first, in terms of just giving, and giving, and giving great advice and content.

Kathleen's two questions

Kathleen: Right, well that's so interesting and thank you for explaining all of that. I want to shift gears now and I have two questions I always ask all of my guests and I'm curious to hear what your responses will be. The first one is when it comes to inbound marketing, is there a particular company or individual that you think is really killing it and doing it well.

Kristin: I thought a lot about this, and it's hard for me to say that any one person is doing inbound well is because the way I look at this is I look at different attributes of how someone is doing something well. So I can't necessarily point to one person.

I can give you all the answers that I think everyone else points to all the time. I could say Gary V, and Gary's great, right? Of course Gary V is doing it. I'm sure every single guest in your show says that, so I want to give you a more unique answer.

I think that doctors that are taking the time to answer patients questions are doing it well. Again, I don't want to name any specific ones, but I think that in general if you take the approach where you look at the most frequently asked questions that you're asked all the time and you write them down, and you write content around it, I think it helps you and it helps your patients and it helps your clients.

Kristin: So anyone that's doing that gets a gold star in my book.

Kathleen: I've always really admired Mayo Clinic for that. They are like the Wikipedia of medicine. It almost doesn't matter what you Google, they pop up with an educational article on that thing. Causes, symptoms, treatments, yada, yada, yada. Though we can not name specific doctors, I would say the Mayo Clinic, in general, is an institution has really done a great job and committed heavily to inbound.

Kristin: I think if people wanted... just a tip for inbound is use the notepad in your phone, and when people ask you questions or if a prospect emails you a question, literally save that question. That can be a great part, a foundation of your content marketing strategy. People spend so much time trying to figure out, what do I write about? Well, just write about what you're already answering.

Kathleen: Yes. Yeah. It's staring all of us in the face, right?

Kristin: Exactly. Also, when you write that, write how people are... The language that they are using to type into Google when they ask you those questions. But I think something that most people are not doing today is that they're just missing the boat on optimizing their content for questions. I think that's something that... The term is called historical optimization, which I think is critical of any sort of PR SEO campaign right now where everyone has to do it.

Refresh older stuff that you've written. And also, I would say, use PR to amplify the content that you've written. So if you've written a great blog post and maybe you've done a podcast, you should include that podcast link into whatever relevant content that you've already written around that. So you're constantly just adding value to your audience.

Kathleen: Yes. It's so funny because I 100% agree with everything you just said, and it's so interesting to me that it's like, somebody from the PR world who so intuitively gets what it is to do inbound marketing correctly because that's really what it is all about.

Kristin: Well, I just want to say one thing about that. What really amazes me is I don't understand how people can practice PR today and not have an understanding of inbound because if you don't, you're not helping your clients. Those clients are setting their money on fire. You can not be doing all of this stuff and have SEO in a different area and content and inbound in a different area. It doesn't work. It doesn't help your clients.

So you need someone when you're interviewing a firm, you need to make sure that they have an understanding of all of this because what I see is, you could hire a firm and they could get you all these hits, but if you do nothing with the hits then it's all a waste. It's not just about getting press covered. It's about what you do with the press coverage.

If you do a podcast and no one hears the podcast, was there any point to doing the podcast? No, there was not. You have to mark it the coverage that you get.

Kathleen: Yes, yes. Totally agree. Second question because you are a PR person who clearly understands marketing. The world of digital marketing is changing so quickly. You talked about Google updating its quality rater guidelines. How do you personally stay up to date and current on all of these things?

Kristin: Sure. So I read a lot of different search engine blogs currently. So I think one thing is Search Engine Land. I have a lot that sort of come in that I've subscribed for that are kind of helpful. I know even just a PR... I think there's PR Daily that I get. I get so many of these different newsletters.

The other thing, again, is that I truly go to Google News and I look for the terms. I will actually go. I will click Google, I will click news, and then I'll put in SEO or I'll put in Google or I'll put in rankings. I mean, that's my own approach because I want to see things that are happening by the hour and not everyone is necessarily searching that way. For me, I think it's important.

Same thing with PR, with everything else that I'm researching. I think the reason I got into that habit is from doing news segments. I could literally be booked to talk about something and then two hours later that story has changed.

So I constantly... It's one thing to sign up for newsletters, but it's another when you're in a breaking news environment and the story could have changed.

Kathleen: That's a really good point for anybody who's preparing to be interviewed to just do a quick Google news search right before your interview to make sure that nothing has changed.

Kristin: Yes. Because a lot of the time everything changes. And then you could be-

Kathleen: So true.

Kristin: ... watching a teaser and they go, "Coming up, so and so is talking about this." And you don't want to be caught off guard by saying, "Who is so and so," and they go, "That's you, and you're live and go."

Kathleen: Right.

Kristin: You want to avoid that from happening, which again, goes back to the importance of media training and being prepared. I'd also say try not to check your email, especially from clients right before you go on air.

Kathleen: Yes.

Kristin: Because that can really throw you. A really important media training tip.

How to connect with Kristin

Kathleen: That's a great piece of advice. Well, so many good nuggets here Kristin. I really appreciate you sharing all of this with us. If somebody is interested in connecting with you or learning more, what's the best way for them to reach out?

Kristin: Sure, so if you want to reach out my website is and my other site is And then I have a third site for PR for doctors at You can also connect with me on LinkedIn and let me know you heard me on this podcast or email me at

Kathleen: Fantastic. I will include links for all of that in the show notes so head there if you want to reach out to Kris.

You know what to do next...

Kathleen: And if you're listening and you learned something new, or you liked what you heard, of course, please leave the podcast a five star review on Apple Podcasts. That's how we get found.

And if you know somebody else who's doing kick ass inbound marketing work, tweet me @workmommywork, because I would love to interview them. That's it for this week.

Kristin: Thank you for having me.

Oct 28 2019



Rank #12: Ep. 87: Building a Personal Brand Ft. Dennis Yu of Blitzmetrics

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There's a lot of hype about what it means to build a personal brand, but in reality there are a few simple things that anyone can do to establish themselves as an expert in their space.

This week on The Inbound Success Podcast, BlitzMetrics CEO Dennis Yu shares the simple process he says anyone - from successful CEOs to younger professionals just getting started in their careers - build a strong personal brand.

Dennis is a master at building easy-to-follow, repeatable processes, and his approach to personal branding is no different. In our conversation, he breaks it down in a way that anyone, regardless of their marketing or technical skills, can follow.

Some highlights from my conversation with Dennis include:

  • Personal branding is really just a sum of stories that you collect that you sequence together.
  • Four or five years from now, personal branding won't be a thing because it's just what we do as part of communicating, as part of marketing, as part of growing, as part of operating.
  • Dennis's approach to building personal brand involves the creation of a series of one-minute videos that are lightly edited in tools like Apple Clips and sometimes in Premier or Lightweight Aftereffects or other tools so that they can be distributed then on LinkedIn, on the blog, on Facebook, on Twitter.
  • Michael Stelzner of Social Media Examiner is a great example of someone with a strong personal brand because he obsesses about creating content to answer peoples' questions and solve their problems - but he's also an influencer because doing this has built a very large audience. 
  • The secret to creating effective one-minute videos is to share stories that are empathetic, that are educational, and that bring people along in a sequence towards an overall mission that anchors your personal brand.
  • When Dennis works with clients to create a personal branding strategy, he starts by building what he calls a "Topic Wheel."
  • Then, he identifies experts in those topics and does one-minute videos with them. The videos aren't about him - they are about the people he is interviewing, who are all recognized experts.
  • The Topic Wheel has three rings - why, how and what. Why is your mission, how is how you do things (educational content), and what is your offers. This is very much like a circular sales funnel.
  • The outside layer of the Topic Wheel - the why - is personal branding.
  • There are many tools that you can use to create one-minute videos, from Apple Clips to the Adobe Suite, regardless of your skill level with video.
  • Once you've created your video, think about all the different ways you can reuse or repurpose your video, and distribute it out across a variety of platforms.

Resources from this episode:

Listen to the podcast to learn more about the exact formula Dennis uses to help his clients build their personal brands.


Kathleen Booth (Host): Welcome back to the Inbound Success Podcast. Welcome back to the Inbound Success Podcast, my name is Kathleen Booth and I am your host. This week, my guest is Dennis Yu, who is the Chief Executive Officer of BlitzMetrics and the author of Facebook Nation and, and, and I could list so many other things. Conference keynote speaker, expert on personal branding, Facebook, et cetera. Dennis Yu (Guest): Kathleen, you're too kind.

Dennis and Kathleen having a blast recording this episode

Kathleen: I was so impressed reading everything that you've done, when I saw your bio. I was really excited that I got to meet you in person a few weeks ago at DigitalMarketer, so thank you for joining me for the podcast.

Dennis: Thank you.

Kathleen: Before we start, I have a really important question. I was reading your bio and I saw that you have run 20 marathons, but you have run a 70 mile Ultra. What were you thinking?

Dennis: I know, what was I thinking? It's my first one and my last one. I said to myself after running all these marathons because you know the thing is, it's a slippery slope because you run one and then you do more and then people are like, "Oh, you should run this Ultra marathon because you're gonna have this spiritual experience." I thought, all right I'm up for that and I ran a 70 mile race. It took me 12 hours. I set the course record. It was just outside of Microsoft's headquarters and when I finished, it was so bad that I had to be put in a wheelchair and wheeled to my gate at SeaTac airport because my legs were so stiff.

Kathleen: Oh my God, I was gonna say, when people talk about spiritual experiences, all I can think about is when you're dying and you see the light.

Dennis: Yeah. I didn't get a spiritual experience, I got a lot of pain. Maybe I didn't see past the pain, who knows? Maybe I needed to run 100 miles. Maybe that's what it needs to be.

Kathleen: Oh my God, I am so impressed because you talk about how people run marathons and then they wanna run more. I ran one and only marathon the year I turned 40.

Dennis: That's smart.

Kathleen: I was like, I better do it now or it's never gonna happen. It's a good thing I did it because after that, I was like, no way, I'm too old for this. I'm glad I did it and I checked the box. That's awesome that you did that.

Building A Personal Brand

One of the reasons I was excited to have you on the podcast is that as part of the presentation you gave at DigitalMarketer's Agency Training Day, you touched on some of the work that you do building personal brands. You actually have a really cool process behind this. I think a lot of people talk about personal branding, but I've never heard anybody actually express it almost as a definable process. So I just want to dig into that and learn more about it and hopefully come away with an idea for people who are listening who might be interested in building their own personal brand, what goes into that?

Dennis: Yeah, a lot of people think personal branding is this Tony Robbins, keynote speaking, motivational figure head who's doing the private jet and mansion lifestyle.

I think personal branding is really just a sum of stories that you collect that you sequence together. If you're an agency, if you're an entrepreneur, it's not that you're showing only these highlight moments of the figurehead.

It's the sum of what your people are doing, of your customers, of anyone that you engage with, someone you just had lunch with and they said something that's interesting and you pull out your cell phone, you say, "Kathleen, wow. That was so awesome. Can you just repeat that again? I want to share that on social." So you need a process to do that.

So we're here in Miami and the last couple of days, we've been capturing one-minute videos for a fintech company that provides loans to small businesses. The kind of marketing they were doing is the kind of stuff that you'd expect that they would do.

We go the CEO on camera. Literally, I was holding an iPhone and I was recording the CEO, asking him, "What's your favorite restaurant here in Miami? Tell me about your parents and the kind of business that they started and how that influenced you to run this particular kind of company. Tell me about what kinds of things stress you out at night."

Then we drove to different small businesses, one is a pet store, another one is a food truck, another one is a computer repair place in the strip mall, and we interviewed these people, asking them about their why, how, what. Then I would put all of that in the bucket of personal branding.

In fact, you know how a lot of people are talking about influencer marketing, content marketing, social media marketing? Now, those things have expanded to be so big that they mean nothing. It's just like digital marketing has expanded to be so big that you really can't define it anymore. Just like the phone was 50 or 60 years ago, or the internet was 20 years ago. It started off as this niche thing that people were specialists in and once it becomes so big, you can't really define it.

I think personal branding is in that teenager stage where now everyone wants to do personal brand until the stage where, four or five years from now, personal branding won't be a thing because it's just what we do as part of communicating, as part of marketing, as part of growing, as part of operating. Because we see that's where things are going.

We have everything we do, from a client standpoint or from our own internal operations or how we train people, encapsulated as one-minute videos.

Everything's a one-minute video. For example, one of our guys this morning recorded a one-minute video on how to quickly see all of your tasks inside of Basecamp. In one minute, he said "Literally, did you know if you press control K plus whatever, it immediately shows you this screen with all of your tasks of the day and your schedule?" I'm like, "Pssh, I didn't know that." Or a one-minute video about this restaurant that's two blocks around the corner and how awesome it is. That's cool, that's very specific.

Personal branding isn't this, I aspire to climb Mount Everest or I want to live a life of riches and make six figures every month. It's individual stories of other people, and thus our approach, which I think you find interesting and other people do too, is that we have a particular process on how we collect one-minute videos. It has to be particular because all of our work is being done by young adults.

So these are 22, 23-year-old kids, if you will. I'm over 40, so I know younger than 40 is a kid. They go through our training. Maybe they served four years in the military and now they need a job and they wanna be able to make 35 thousand dollars a year, whatever they were making before, right, because they have a kid now or whatever it might be.

We have everything check listed out, it's not that it's about personal branding, it's that the collection of one-minute videos. So instead of saying personal branding, I'll say the collection of one-minute videos are lightly edited in tools like Apple Clips and sometimes in Premier or Lightweight Aftereffects or other tools so that we can distribute then on LinkedIn, on the blog, on Facebook, on Twitter. Then amplify them for a dollar a day to be able to drive views, leads, and sales. That is mechanically what we do.

It's not about me trying to motivate other people. We have a number of high profile personal brands like entrepreneurs that are billionaires. We have some of these guys as clients and boy, it's very shiny. But that is not what personal branding will be in five years from now.

It'll be so defacto that anyone who's doing any kind of marketing, by definition will be doing personal branding and social media and SEO and all of that, not as separate functions, but they're all now the same thing actually.

Personal Branding v. Influencer Marketing

Kathleen: Yeah, it's very interesting. I have so many questions for you from what you just said.

The first thing that comes to my mind is it's fascinating to me to have this conversation at this time because you use the word influencer earlier. There is this really interesting evolution of what it means to be an influencer now, especially with people from younger generations who grew up with Instagram and Snapchat and Facebook. They're very comfortable being in front of an audience and being very personal. Their definition of privacy, I think, is different than other generations.

So I guess my first question is really, how do you draw the line between influencer and personal brand?

Dennis: I don't like the word influencer because it's got that taint, look at me, I'm an influencer. You might as well replace that word for thinker. Oh I'm a thinker. I guess you're not allowed to think, Kathleen, because I'm a thinker. I'm an influencer and you're not. I even wrote an article on Influencive, which is the site for people to talk about being an influencer. The title of the article was Why I Am Not an Influencer. I think it got 23 thousand shares.

Kathleen: It's like a dirty word now, especially after the Fyre Festival.

Dennis: I tagged Michael Stelzner, who is one of my mentors. He is the guy in social media marketing. He runs social media marketing world, he's the founder of Social Media Examiner, he's got the biggest blog, biggest conference, makes the most money, has the biggest audience of anybody in the world of social media marketing.

He told me how he was not an influencer and really he was a servant leader and how he does everything to take care of his team. I thought, wow, he is the exact opposite of all these people that are beating their chest. Look at me, look at me, look at me, it's all about me.

Yeah, I would define him as an influencer because he influences the behavior of other people. He has the biggest audience, so by definition he's an influencer because he has the best education. His approach has been to be an influencer in the world of social media marketing to actively do research and find out every day, what are the things that people are searching for? What do they care about? He is so scientifically in tune with the data of what an audience wants that that's how he was able to grow Social Media Examiner to getting millions of visits per month on the site.

There are a lot of people that are social media consultants, there are a lot of people that have a blog, lot of people with podcasts. We had an episode on his podcast, I think it was ... what was it called? He even chose the title because he knows what people want, so he came up with the title, What Marketers Really Need to Know About the Facebook Algorithm. The thing got 50 thousand downloads in the first month. I thought, holy moly. Mike and I chatted for half an hour and he got 50 thousand downloads. People are wondering, wow this guy is so big, will he interview me? I hope I'm next. Oh, will he let me speak in the Social Media Marketing World? That's what all of the moths are doing when they come to the flame.

I ask him, because we spent the day together after Social Media Marketing World? After all that kind of stuff, he and I just hung out. I said, what question do people not ask you? He said, "They don't ask me how I was able to grow Social Media Examiner from nothing to the largest property in this space. The answer is because I use the data and I create content that satisfies that because I look at what the search engine queries are." 2% of his traffic comes to the homepage for Social Media Examiner.

Kathleen: Yeah.

Dennis: The other 98% is on every little micro-topic like why is my Facebook ad disapproved or how do I make a video or how do I use my Google Analytics and what's a good bounce rate? Those micro, micro moments. I define him as an influencer because it's not the tip of the iceberg of him speaking on stage in front of seven thousand people. It's his conference, so he can do that. It's the stuff beneath the water in the iceberg of lots and lots and lots of little stories and his process.

Where he and I have massive alignment is we have deep process. The way he runs that conference that has seven thousand people, the way he organizes volunteers, how he trains them, how they come in a few days before, how they line up and they wear name tags and they know exactly what to do. Every single part of the process. You guys run and event, so you know what I'm talking about. The level of detail that's required.

Can you imagine being a conference organizer? If you were to approach influencer marketing or personal branding the same way that you run a hospital where there's lots of processes and there's lots of detail. I think personal branding and this influencer marketing thing will have to evolve from witchcraft and Ouija boards and voodoo dolls to actual established processes for how you become a doctor, anything that requires an actual process like running a factory.

I believe that's where we'll be in five years, but right now, people can get away with nonsense because there's not a lot of accountability. So it's easy to say, oh personal branding, well what the hell does that mean, right? You can't say hell, that's not good. What the heck does that mean?

Kathleen: You can say hell on this podcast.

Dennis: All right.

Kathleen: Yeah, there's a lot of throw it at the wall and see what sticks. This is the sense that I get, then there's also a lot of copycat like oh, I see so and so doing this and it seems to be working, so I'm just gonna do that because that must be what works, because it worked for them, right?

Dennis: Yep.

Kathleen: I think in some cases that can work. Somebody might have stumbled upon a good tactic, but I think the thing that I've at least observed with people who talk about wanting to build their personal brand but then they don't really do it is they don't have a plan. Therefore, they're not consistent with what they do, so there's a lack of follow through. There's a lot of one off, here and there things, and ultimately that prevents them from getting traction which is why I thought your approach was so interesting to create the process because when you have the plan, you at least have something to follow. Then you know if you're on track or off track.

Dennis: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Kathleen: I was gonna say, you mentioned in the beginning, meeting with the CEO of the fintech company and getting him to do one-minute videos. I'm really curious to know if you find any sort of, again going back to the idea of a generational divide, is there any kind of reticence, especially amongst the more established business leaders you work with, to get as personal as you're looking for them to get?

One Minute Videos

Dennis: Yes and no, because if you broad brush with the stereotype and you say, "Oh, those people under 30, they were born with a phone glued to their hand and Snapchat and all that." Actually they're digital nomads or whatever you want to call them. I don't think that's necessarily true. At the 40 thousand foot level, yes.

Three days ago I was in Denver and I was with the CEO of a new company, it's my buddy Mark Karloff, he does MNA and buys himself billion dollar companies. I wanna say he's 56 or something like that. I said, "Mark, for your company, we're gonna have to make these one-minute videos to help explain what it does."

It's the Hoover for law firms to be able to serve, it's called Proof Serve, you have to serve people documents, right? That's what happens in the world of the lawsuits, right? A lot of law firms have to do the serving in different states. He wanted to get more law firms to enroll and I said, "Well, you need to collect one-minute videos of the paralegals and what they do day to day because they're the ones who are choosing who's serving. You need to talk to the different people that are doing the serving so that you know that they are legit and not these crazy people that just signed up. You're trusting them to deliver your documents for you. It's an important case, you can't afford these documents to get lost."

Collect one-minute videos so that people can see how real it is, so they can see that there are other personal injury attorneys that are doing the exact same thing, that they trust in their neighborhood, to collect at it's scale across all of the hundreds of customers that he has. Because other than that, what would you do? You'd create a glossy commercial or you're do a website. You'd sign up for InfusionSoft or there's all these marketing technology, but those are all ways that I believe people who, whether they're old or young, they try to hide behind the technology instead of connecting with people directly. I don't think that's an old or a young thing. Are people willing to connect at a human level to show empathy because they really care about their employees, because they really care about their customer?

I think that you have a spectrum where the people who are 40 plus are actually more likely to really care because they're more likely to be more mature, they have more business experience, but maybe they don't understand exactly the mechanics of having to press record. The young people, maybe they make more video, but they are less likely to make video that is uplifting other people, that is sharing deep knowledge based on experience. If you're over 40, like you and me, you're gonna have a lot of stories. We have a lot of experiences to share and it's not just take a look at this food that I'm having, that I'm at the beach. Two days ago I stayed in this penthouse in Miami downtown on the 50th floor. I made some videos from the top.

If I was a 20-year-old, I would more likely make videos showing how amazing this penthouse is. But instead, I made videos showing how this looks glamorous, doesn't it? Look at this view, all the way out to the ocean, there's South Beach, and there's downtown. Do you know this is an Airbnb that I paid $200.00 a night for and it's paid for by the client? Did you know that I flew here on Southwest airlines and I sat in the middle seat for four and a half hours all the way from Phoenix? I didn't tell you that, did I? Do you wanna know what it's really like? Do you wanna know some of the things that I struggle with in growing my company? That's exactly the opposite of what you'd expect of someone who's out on a balcony and overlooking the ocean in a penthouse at the 50th floor, right?

Kathleen: Yeah. Yeah, that's so much more real.

Dennis: [crosstalk] between older versus younger, it's not that the younger people are more willing to make video. It's who can share stories that are empathetic, that are educational, and that bring people along in a sequence towards an overall mission that anchors your personal brand.

So anyone who's going into personal branding and I have to ask them, "Do you have a mission that's bigger than you, that's authentic? Not just because you want to help the world in some vague way, but you want to help small businesses save on their tax bill. You want to help local university students overcome crack addictions because their parents left them."

It doesn't have to be some Mother Theresa kind of thing. We all have some kind of bigger thing that we're doing, like us, we're training up young adults. A lot of them that maybe they didn't go to college, where they just graduated from high school or that they came out of the military and they just had a kid that popped out and now they have to work. They're not trying to be a CEO, they're just trying to pay the bills, right?

When you tie your mission to that, it's a lot easier to then build a sequence. If the personal brand is just look at me and my food, it's pretty shallow because you can't build a whole story around it, you can't get all these other people around it, you can't build the infrastructure that's necessary, what we call the topic wheel.

What you saw when we were DM in Austin, we explained the structure of the topic wheel, about what anchors your brand are all the different topics and the topics move out to the individual stories of all the people you're connected to.

Start With Your Mission (and Build a Topic Wheel)

Kathleen: That's fascinating. So I love the idea of starting, if somebody's thinking they want to build their personal brand, of starting with figuring out what your mission is.

Once someone has been able to successfully identify that, you talk about the topic wheel, the question I think people listening probably have is then, are all my videos about this mission or is it just a certain percentage? How does that fit in to this topic wheel?

Dennis: The topic wheel allows us to all be humans, because there's something that you might do to make money, but you also might like to boogie board at the beach, you might also like Italian food, you might also have a parent who is disabled, you might also have a particular hobby, right? We start the topic wheel with six topics, we call this why, how, and what.

So on the outside, we have different people that are telling stories around six particular topics. One of my topics is education, so Doctor Karen [Freeburg] is one of the people in my topic wheel because she is authoritative on education and we have lots of stories around that, we made one-minute videos around that. There's other people in education that are part of that particular topic.

Another topic of mine is digital marketing and I'll put in people like Ryan Deiss because he's authoritative in the world of digital marketing and I've got plenty of interviews with him, where we've made one-minute videos where I'm not trying to get him to talk with things about me, although he has, but I'm interviewing him like a journalist. It's not about me, but it's about his knowledge and his experience, and I'm making it about him. Maybe I'm interviewing Tony Robbins or maybe I'm on CNN talking about the Facebook controversy or whatever it might be.

Those are all different topics that are not to show that I am an awesome person or famous, but to precede the authority because I am spending time with people that other people recognize are legit in that space.

When I make one-minute videos with these people and I boost it out there on Facebook and LinkedIn and YouTube and all this, that allows me to re-market for my topic, all the way into my product which is when I can sell courses on digital marketing, I can sell packages on implementing the things we talk about.

The idea of why, how, and what is, why is your story, it's your passion, it's a particular moment in time. It could be when I was 18, I dropped out of high school and I wanted to be a professional athlete working for Nike.

True story and I have a one-minute story talking about that and how eventually, they didn't except me, but then we got Nike later as a client to do digital advertising for them and how I learned that what the 18-year-old Dennis thought Nike would be like versus the 40-year-old Dennis was completely different. That Nike was this big corporate and it wouldn't have worked out for me as an athlete because it's long travel on the road. I guess I do a lot of travel on the road, but if your career only lasts a couple years as a pro athlete versus a 20 year career as a digital marketer.

So those stories, the why stories are the outside ring of the topic wheel.

Then move to the middle ring, which is how. Expertise, tips, how to do stuff, checklists, right? Remember, Kathleen, you saw all these checklists that we were showing, like how do you [crosstalk] manager? How do you get a drive in golf down the middle of the fairway or how do you tie your shoes with one hand or how do you juggle the ball? How do you do all the things that you know how to do, especially when you interview these other people who are experts. They've got tons of how do you do a very specific thing, right? So you're marketing from the outside of very specific stories. Not just, oh I was once really sad and now I'm successful, but specific things that had happened, specific moments in time where you point the camera, you can follow the scene of what happened, right?

The beauty of the Pixar is that they focus on specific scenes. So the why we market to the specific scenes of the how, which are specific, let me show you how to do something very useful, like a recipe. Let me show you how to make my brand of chocolate chip cookies with macadamia nuts. I really like macadamia nuts.

Kathleen: That sounds so good.

Dennis: I know a lot, for example, about how to make a perfect batch of popcorn. I have a movie theater popcorn maker in my kitchen.

Kathleen: That is so cool!

Dennis: Do you ever walk to the movie theater and you're like, "Mm." You're almost willing to watch a bad movie just to eat the popcorn, or no?

Kathleen: I, 100%, think that popcorn is the highlight of the movie. Then, so I have to ask you one important question then, this is a slight digression, but are you an add the butter oil to your popcorn person or are you a eat it as it comes out of the maker person?

Dennis: Yes. Whenever people ask an either or question like do you want to eat the fish or do you wanna eat the burger? Yes.

Kathleen: Yeah, I like adding the extra butter, myself.

Dennis: Yeah, I add the extra butter to the popper, then when it comes out, I actually have the movie theater quality bags, right? I wanna simulate the whole experience. I've got a butter pump and I'll pump the butter in there too, on top of that.

Kathleen: Dennis, you're a man after my own heart. I'm all about the extra butter. Gotta do it.

Dennis: See? So then when we get together, maybe just outside of Baltimore, we can make some popcorn together. I'll ship you a popcorn maker, you'll see what I'm talking about. I'll show you how to do popcorn the way Dennis likes to do popcorn.

Kathleen: I love it. I love it. Send me that one-minute video.

Dennis: I'm gonna make a one-minute video, yeah. Yeah, and then we're sharing expertise on how is this different than microwave popcorn, which is garbage.

Kathleen: Yes. 100%.

Dennis: Yes, very different, and how movie theater popcorn tastes so good because it has coconut oil, did you know that?

Kathleen: I did not know that. That's interesting.

Dennis: If you try to use olive oil or butter, the flashpoint is so low that you burn it and that's why movie theater popcorn can go so high because coconut oil has a really high flashpoint.

Kathleen: Oh, interesting.

Dennis: We could make several one-minute videos about microwave popcorn and then you'd come away from that thinking, wow, that's really cool, I didn't know that. So I'm sharing how.

Then I get specific again, into the very center of the onion tootsie roll, multi-layer thing, into the what, which is how you sell. See, conversion is about ... We all understand conversion, buy my stuff, it's on sale. The thing ends on Friday, it's got these many features, it's better than the competitor, fear, uncertainty, and doubt. There's only a limited quantity, but all these different ways of trying to get people to buy, right?

All the things that you say, features versus benefits. That is the what.

Everyone understands what. The trouble is when they get to marketing, they're so eager they can't help themselves. When they're supposed to be making why content, they somehow end up selling it again and they pollute the whole thing. It's like mixing chocolate milk and Coke together. I like both of them, but I'm not going to drink them in the same can. It's nasty, right? Or we ask them to, let's make a series of how videos. So around your product or service, maybe you're an agency, you wanna get more clients, you do additional marketing. Okay, talk about how you set up PBC Canvas. Talk about how you optimize, talk about how, but do not ... Resist the urge to start selling because that's the what.

So if you keep these things separate from the why to the how to the what, then you actually have a funnel, which is a circular funnel. That's the topic wheel, it's every day content meaning you don't have to keep replacing it. It doesn't go stale. I believe if you do it right, from the very outside are all these people that you're interviewing. That's personal branding. The outside layer of your topic wheel is personal branding.

Personal branding is not some separate thing about ... I was thinking, it would be fun Kathleen, we could rent a Lamborghini, how about? You and I, we could rent a Lamborghini for one day and just make all kinds of silly videos and drive around real slow.

Kathleen: That's like Jerry Seinfeld's Comedians and Cars Drinking Coffee. That's what he does. He does a different car each time and they just drive around and talk. He has a whole show that is just that. I love it.

Dennis: Yeah, this is my garage. There's many ways of doing it.

Kathleen: Yeah.

Dennis: But that's the superficial kind of personal branding. That's look at me and look at my lifestyle. If you have actual depth, if you have a structure, you have a process, then you're gonna build the topic wheel because it's the personalities that are the outside that are sharing knowledge, that are organized by topic. The topics then go to the very center, which is your company, your figurehead, the product you sell, whatever it is that you're trying to monetize. When you link why to how to what, you use the what to fund all the why and the how, so it's a self-funding funnel. Because all the people that do personal branding, guess what? It costs money, just like SEO costs money. It costs money to produce video, it costs money to edit, it costs money to put traffic against it, right? So what's gonna pay for that?

Kathleen: Right.

Dennis: Are you just gonna spend money for the heck of it?

Kathleen: Yeah, exactly.

Dennis: I don't see ROI off of this. I ask any of these people to do personal branding and they can't answer this question. I say, "What's the ROI of your personal branding?" They can't answer the question. Why not?

Kathleen: That's a great point. Now, that was a really fantastic explanation of the topic wheel. I think that gives everybody a very clear framework, at least, within which to begin to break down what are they gonna talk about on video.

How To Create Your Videos

Kathleen: So I feel like there's, what am I gonna talk about? Then there's making the video, and then there's distributing the video. So let's talk for a second about making it. Earlier, you mentioned a couple of different tools and my ears perked up because I started to experiment with making videos and I'm gonna just say, I am the least technically competent individual on the planet when it comes to video, but I discovered one of the tools you mentioned, which is Apple Clips. I think it is the best thing since ... I was gonna say since sliced bread, but I don't actually like sliced bread, so I think it might be better than sliced bread. It is the greatest thing ever. I'm wondering if you could talk a little bit more about the types of tools that the average person out there can use to do this and produce a decent looking video.

Dennis: So, there are 30 different tools that we use.

Kathleen: Wow.

Dennis: But that's a mix. We organize them into people that are just everyday people like you and me. Intermediate folks that are specialists that have maybe a year or two of training. Then we have our pro level, the full Adobe Suite, where you're doing things in Premier and Aftereffects. That's pro. I don't think any of us, unless that's what we do for a living, we have 10 people full-time as pro video editors. They are doing things according to standards that we have. But should you and I be learning how to do that? No.

Kathleen: No.

Dennis: You and I should be learning how to use Apple Clips and and the different video tools built into Facebook ads manager, through transcription. We should be pushing things out to fancy hands and Fiver for lightweight editing. Some of the editing that you can do, for example, Apple Clips allows you to transcribe live and it's pretty accurate.

Kathleen: I did that last week and it blew my mind. Then I didn't realize you could also go in and edit it's live transcription so that if it messes something up, you can correct it. It was so easy.

Dennis: There are apps that are built into Snapchat and Instagram and Facebook has 10 different tools that are part of Facebook Mobile Data Studio that allow for editing for free. Adobe has Adobe Express. There's lot of these tools and every day, I get three or four more tools that people say, "Hey, try this editing tool. On your app, it'll add these really cool filters." I even bought a ton of apps on my phone that will add motion, that will add just super cool effects, that you can lose hours of your day downloading dozens of these different apps that do different kinds of things. I would say just use Apple Clips and one or two other ones, and not-

Kathleen: I think that's great advice. I may or may not have spent six hours last week downloading apps and doing exactly what you just described. Then I discovered Apple Clips and that rabbit hole ended.

Dennis: A lot of folks, I know will say, well I'm not a video person. They're secretly afraid of all these tools, like I don't really have time to learn all these different tools. You know what? You have something called an iPhone in your pocket, okay? When you hit video and you hit the red circle to record video, that camera is so smart. The way it does multi point filtering and focusing and light, that if you literally do that and you have decent sound and you don't point it directly into the sun, then you will get good enough video that you can pay $5.00 or $10.00 that someone who's a pro can do the editing for you. I've learned this the hard way because I've probably spent 100 hours, 200 hours of my time playing with all these different apps and figuring out exactly which effects I like from which app. That's a waste of your time.

With that said, Apple Clips,, the native tools inside Instagram and inside Facebook Ads Manager, that's all you need to know. The pro stuff, for example, at TNC, I flew in one of my friends from Facebook to speak. Same thing at Social Media Marketing World, I brought three other people to speak at the conference. I had professional videographers that I flew in that recorded on expensive equipment, everything miced up properly, everything sent off to our VAs in the Philippines, that do the video editing. So we do understand the pro side, but you gotta know when you're doing a lightweight video that's just walking along do a cell phone style video at the beach reflecting on some thought that you had, versus on stage, speaker reel, high authority, in front of 10 thousand people giving a keynote address. You're not always using one tool. Sometimes you need a butter knife and sometimes you need a chainsaw.

Kathleen: Yeah, that makes sense. I love that you just mentioned all those specific tools because I'm totally gonna go out right after this and check them out.

Dennis: We have a guide, I'll give it to you.

Kathleen: That's great. Oh yeah, a link to it in the show notes.

Dennis: All the cool videos and then how they fit into our process. Just because you can use a tool, doesn't mean it's worth anything because you've gotta figure out how it fits into a process with all the other tools and who does what because it's unlikely that one person knows how to do everything. So then take the finished video and turn it into an ad and write copy against it in a headline and to be able to look at the performance of it and to be able to go back and re-shoot. Usually whoever is the one recording the video is not the one who's editing the video. So that requires a process step. Anytime something's gotta move between different people, it requires a process step, right?

How to Promote and Distribute Your Videos

Kathleen: Yeah. Now assuming people figure out a way to get these videos made, whether they make them themselves or they get help, they're gonna wind up with all of these one-minute videos. How do you then ... What is your process then for getting them in front of an audience because obviously that's the objective? If the tree falls in the forest and there's no one there to hear it, it doesn't matter. So can you talk a little bit about that?

Dennis: So once we've gone through video production, which could be as simple as me doing a video on my iPhone and automatically saves to my Google Drive. By the way, that's my little secret, everything goes to my Google Drive. I also have Dropbox and I have the Apple, whatever that's called, the iCloud. I have everything saved multiple places because I'm paranoid about losing it. Whether it's as simple as that or whether it goes through complex editing because it's speaker footage from multiple cameras, like a professional interview. We then distribute that in multiple formats. We take the long format, so it could be a 40 minute interview, and we'll put that in landscape format on YouTube on a channel.

Our buddy, Matthew Januszek, who is the CEO of Escape Fitness, he's interviewed all the top names in the world of fitness. It could be Arnold Schwarzenegger, Lee Haney, the CEOs of 24 Hour Fitness and Lifetime Fitness. All the people because he's the guy. He does professional interviews. So the full length episodes, we'll show on YouTube. Then, we take one-minute snippets that are square, just the highlights, think of it as like movie trailer compared to the movie. The trailer's only a minute, it shows you all the big explosions, all the big scenes, but you don't really get the whole story, just enough to tease you, right? You know, movie trailers.

Kathleen: Yeah.

Dennis: Then we put the movie trailer on Facebook and we boost those through video views to build re-marketing audiences, to then sequence them to other pieces within the topic wheel. We take vertical, 15 second commercials, and we put those on Instagram as stories. We take the same one-minute videos that I mentioned on Facebook and we post those to Twitter and we can promote those posts. We have an annual bid at three cents of engagement, we never select Twitter's automatic thing because they'll bid it to $2.00 and spend all your money. We also will post it organically to LinkedIn, to our profiles. That way, you can create one piece of content, chop it up into 30 or 40 other little pieces of content and be able to use it across all your different channels and obtain multiple, multiple value.

Gary Vaynerchuk posted something on LinkedIn a week ago, showing how he does that in his content pyramid. It's the same thing that a lot of us that are prolific agencies do on behalf of our clients because often you can't get the client to do this everyday. If you put it as part of their process and teach their support people, every time they repair that HVAC and get the customer right there, saying, "Oh, how is it?" That's obviously the best time. Wedding photographers, get them right then when they're happy, when they just got married, don't try to get the feedback two weeks later and get their review later. Try to get it right then. If you can't build it into the process, then you have to collect it every three months or every six months and you try to collect it all at once, with multiple people and you can chop it up.

The odds are, it may be, Kathleen, you and I were expert interviewers but we're not going to be able to get 60 minutes of quality content because it takes 15 minutes to warm up. In the middle, they'll say some things that are good, but are you gonna force someone to sit through a 60 minute video to be able to catch those pieces in the middle? No, you pull those out and use those as carrots.

Kathleen: Yeah. Now, how often should somebody be posting these videos?

Dennis: As often as you have good content. So I think of Facebook, you can get away with once per day, maybe twice per day. If you're in news and media, sports media, you can do maybe six, seven times per day. The Washington Post and some of these other local news guys will do 40 times per day, local sites, 20, 30 times per day. But most brands, once per day. But don't feel like you have to post once per day. What we'll do is, maybe we'll be at Social Media Marketing World and wander around in the hallways and interview a lot of people, just for one-minute interviews, not some scheduled thing, but just by walking around in the hallway, we'll run into people that we know. We'll collect a bunch of one-minute videos, all in one day, and then sprinkle them out over the course of several months.

So I was on CNN in Atlanta, talking about the whole Facebook controversy and Russian interference and senator we run ads, the whole congress thing. I was in front of three and a half million people, live, where they were, in the studio, asking me questions about all this Facebook nonsense. I made the most of that because I got that four and a half minute clip and chopped it up into a few different pieces. I'm now able to recirculate that as different pieces of content, and I've taken some of those highlight components and I've sprinkled them in to my speaker reel, to our company mission reel, to other reels where we're teaching about personal branding. If I can mix and match from all different kinds of videos that we have an reassemble that. Do you know the analogy of Mexican food, Kathleen?

Kathleen: No, tell me.

Dennis: You can take meat, cheese, beans, lettuce, tomatoes, and rearrange it into a chalupa or a tostada or an enchilada or a taco or a chimichanga or whatever it is, but it's the same ingredients, but just in a slightly different format, right?

Kathleen: That's so funny and very true.

Dennis: So that's what we're doing with our ingredients. So the wrong materials come in, meaning like the 30 minute interview with the client, right? Or you're doing it on behalf of a client and you're interviewing the customer and you have a continuous shot of 30 minutes where you're asking them a series of questions and saying, "Hey, don't worry about what you're saying because we're going to edit out the good pieces or whatever it is. If you stumble, just pause for two second and restart, and then we'll chop up different pieces and we can reuse those pieces into whatever combination that we want." So we think about the Mexican menu or the Chinese menu, you now have the ability to produce any kind of marketing material that you want.

So a sales piece about a new product that you have, maybe you could reuse stuff that you already have. 80, 90% of what you have is what you can reuse and then the 10% is the stuff specifically about that new product. Then you don't have to create all this stuff from scratch again. Maybe it's because I'm lazy, but when we do this, it's like I don't want to have to keep redoing things about who we are and what we've done and who our best customers are.

For example, when we first got Nike as a client, I thought that was incredible and making videos out there at the Nike campus, interviewing the executives at Nike is stuff that makes us look highly authoritative, but it also looks good because I can quote them. I can bring them to speak on stage like at the Adobe Summit where Nike says, "Hey, yeah, we use Blitz for social analytics." Well, how awesome is that? In front of the other people who are using Omniture, saying oh, yeah, Omniture doesn't do that. It's Adobe Analytics now, but oh yeah, we use Blitz for social analytics. I can reuse that, I guess we could call it a testimonial, but I can use that snippet in so many different places.

Think about things that have been said to you, that have been said about you, that have been said about IMPACT, about your business partners, about the people that you have met. Think about all those amazing situations, imagine if you could wave a wand and you could reuse them anytime, anywhere, how powerful would that be?

Kathleen: Well, and it certainly sounds like, from what you're saying, that it's making me realize, there are probably a lot of businesses that have a ton of gold nuggets in their B roll and in their video archives and it's like, half the battle is keeping it organized and knowing what you've got in there so you know when to pull those pieces back out and incorporate them. The other half, really what this is telling me, is that if you're gonna be serious about this, especially if you're gonna do it as a business, it probably makes sense to invest in in-house video expertise because you really just need to incorporate this into the fabric of your everyday life within your company.

Outsourcing Your Video Process

Dennis: Amen. You don't have to be a big agency, big budget, big team, or a big marketing group. We literally started with hiring VAs from the Philippines as $3.00 an hour. So you hire one person full-time. Do you know what that costs you for a year?

Kathleen: No.

Dennis: $500.00.

Kathleen: Wow.

Dennis: So $500.00 a month, Kathleen, for someone who's working for you full-time, 40 hours a week, college educated, a real human, they care about you deeply, they're better than Americans in the standpoint that they are loyal, they will stay with you, and they're happy, they're joyful, and we will send them stuff at the end of the day, say 5:00 PM, you know it's the other side of the world, so their time zone's upside down. When we wake up in the morning, it's ready.

Kathleen: That's so crazy. That's the part that I think is actually kind of cool about working with folks in Asia is that if you're organized and you can get stuff to them at the end of the day, it's freaky how fast you can move.

Dennis: Let me tell you my secret which is not so much of a secret anymore. There are one million Philippino's that do digital marketing at When I found this site 10 years ago, I could not believe my eyes. I said, "Wow, I can hire this guy at $1.50 per hour? Why don't I just hire this guy for fun, just to see. It's only $1.50 per hour. I'll buy him for like 50 hours, just see what happens," right?

Kathleen: Right, can't hurt. That's a good tip. Side note, I absolutely love the people from the Philippines. I spent a lot of time there. Before I went into marketing, I did international development consulting and my last year that I did it, it was right before I had my son, I went to the Philippines, I think six times. That is such a cool place and the people are some of the best people.

Dennis: We go there twice a year and it's just incredible. They love us and I love taking them out because I feel like I'm a big shot. We'll take them out to eat to the nicest places in Manila, send them off on a full day massage. I'll look at the bill, like we'll go to the nicest restaurants, right? Even Makati, which is the most expensive business area.

Kathleen: That's where I used to stay. That's beautiful, yeah.

Dennis: We're doing the penthouse thing and they think we're ballers. At the end of the meal or at the end of whatever it is, we'll go take them out karaoke. We have seventy in the Philippines. I'll look at the bill and I'll work it out, that's like four bucks a person. All right.

Kathleen: Let's do it again tomorrow.

Dennis: Yeah, maybe it's five bucks or whatever it is. I'm thinking, wow, you could live like a king for nothing. You could have an entourage, if you wanted to, I'm not saying do this. But you know this Kathleen, for $200.00 you could have six guys with machine guns follow you around the entire day as bodyguards.

Kathleen: Yeah.

Dennis: I've wanted to do that just for fun because I go there twice a year with our people. I was thinking, it would be cool if I had six guys with machine guns, all dressed up, walking with me as I'm walking downtown. Then have a couple people that follow me around with video cameras, just to see what would happen in the mall. This people think this guy walking in the middle here must be a celebrity.

Kathleen: Yeah, this brings us full circle in our conversation because it goes right back to the very beginning where you talked about if you were in the penthouse standing on the balcony and if you were an influencer, you'd take a picture of yourself with a glass of champagne living the life. Instead, you were very real about, I flew Southwest. Your Philippines example's great because that's where you could be like, "This is just how I roll."

Dennis: Yeah.

Kathleen's Two Questions

Kathleen: I love it. I could literally sit here and talk to you all day, but I'm sure you have things that you need to be doing and I want to be respectful of your time. The last two questions I have for you are questions that I ask every guest that comes on this podcast and I'm really curious to hear your response because you do know so many people in the world of digital marketing. Today, when you think about the concept of inbound marketing, company or individual, who do you think is really killing it and doing it well?

Dennis: Nathan Latka.

Kathleen: Ooh, there's a name I haven't heard before.

Dennis: Oh, you need to look him up. I think he's number one or number two in business podcasts on iTunes.

Kathleen: How do you spell his last name?

Dennis: L-A-T-K-A.

Kathleen: Okay.

Dennis: I first met this kid because he signed up for one of my podcasts or webinar like 10 years ago. He's just some 17-year-old and I'm like, "Who is this punk?" He kept hitting me up. I saw that he had started a company that did Facebook ads and Facebook apps, and he grew it to millions of dollars and he sold it. Then he started to take his money, invest it in other companies. He would go to a taco truck, for example, and say, "Hey, I'm willing to write a check right now to buy your business. Let's make a deal." Then he started turning the camera on, then he wrote his book that became an actual best seller. Then he started interviewing all the people that were entrepreneurs and running SaaS companies and asking them about their revenue and their conversion rater and their cost per conversion and their lifetime value and all their stats. How much revenue, how many employees they had, what's their turnover, and turned it into the dominant podcast for SaaS entrepreneurs. Now he's on TV all over the place.

I think we had lunch, I think it was three years ago, we were in Austin. He was living in downtown Austin, one of the high rises. We were remarking about Donald Trump and how Donald Trump, whatever you say about Donald Trump, who cares what your politics are, he knows how to get your attention.

Kathleen: Yeah, he sure does.

Dennis: Gary Vaynerchuk knows how to get your attention. I consider them the same person. Dennis, what if I became the Donald Trump of digital marketing? I'm like, "You know dude? You're exactly the kind of guy with the personality and the shine and the intelligence and the speed to be able to do it, but just like with Donald Trump or Gary, you're gonna have a lot of haters." If you're willing to deal with the haters, you will kill it. You are so good. That's what he did. The next day, I saw on Facebook, all this commotion and it was Michael Stelsner and the other folks saying, "Who does this Nathan Latka kid think he is?"

He sent out this email to his mailing list of all his customers saying, "You know what? If you don't engage on my emails, I'm gonna delete you from my list." All these influential social media people are saying how dare he do that? He can't do that. He can't be saying things like that to his customers. He can't be saying that to Michael Stelsner. He did. He's like, "You know what, Michael? You don't like my stuff, you can leave." I'm like, Nathan, dude, I know we talked about that, but I didn't think he'd actually do it and he did. Look at how successful he is.

Kathleen: That's cool. I can't wait to check that example out because I get a lot of interesting answers when I ask this question and it's always really fun to discover somebody completely new.

Dennis: Look at his videos. It'll just be a minute, you're in line at Whole Foods and you open up and do a search on Facebook or Google or YouTube, and you're like, "Okay, I'll just watch a little bit of this video." Then before you know it, you've lost two hours watching his videos.

Kathleen: Oh dangerous. So in other words, don't watch them when I'm under a deadline on something, I guess.

Dennis: I'm warning you. He's so good. Full disclosure, he's a client.

Kathleen: Well, thank you for alerting me to him. That's gonna be an interesting one to check out. Now, the other question I'm interested to hear about from you is digital marketing is obviously changing so quickly. Technology is fueling a lot of it. How do you personally stay up to date and keep yourself on the cutting edge?

Dennis: I don't. I know it's kind of a flippant answer because you could say, "Oh yeah, but I know your network and you know these people and these people and these people." Here's my little trick. When I was a younger man, I thought that I could work harder than everybody and keep up with the news and read harder and work harder and I've since discovered, since I turned 40, that I can't do that. So all I do is I associate with the smartest people out there. So the reason I go to conferences is not because I want to be on stage or because I'm trying to get more clients or because I wanna be famous, it's because I want to hang out with the people that have that knowledge so that if I have a question, I know who I can chat up and they will answer my question.

So I don't at all pretend like I'm somehow the most knowledgeable person about everything going on in digital. You and I know there's so many different thing and so many different niches, it's just, even if you had 500 hours in a day, you couldn't keep up with all the things that are going on. All the different tools for video editing, no way I could keep up with that. But I do know that if I have a question about anything, I can literally pick up the phone and I know who to call and I know I can get the answer.

Kathleen: Yeah.

Dennis: So that's my secret. It's not what I need to know, it's who I need to know and that list of who is my topic wheel. So the people that pay us money, the people that we've worked with to be able to create influence is also who I count on for my expertise. So the way I make money is also the way that I'm able to educate. Even if I didn't make money off of these people, I would even pay money to hang out with the people like Michael Stelsner and Nathan Latka and David Burg and Ryan Dice, but we're being paid by these people. Isn't that incredible?

Kathleen: That's a pretty great gig if you can get it, I'll say.

Dennis: Yeah.

Kathleen: Yeah, for me it's my podcast. That's why I do this. People who listen, know I am always saying I would keep doing the podcast, even if nobody listened. Thank God, people do, but I learn so much and today is a great example of that. I feel like I've learned so much from you, so thank you.

You Know What To Do Next

Kathleen: If somebody is listening and wants to learn more about you or Blitzmetrics or has a question about personal branding, what's the best way for them to find you online?

Dennis: They can go to, of course, and they can also look me up on LinkedIn, but please do not friend me on Facebook. I've been at the five thousand friend limit for the last eight years. Don't ask me for a blue check mark, don't ask me if your ads were disapproved, but absolutely, if you want to reach out to me on LinkedIn or go to my website, happy to chat with you there.

Kathleen: Fantastic. Thank you so much, Dennis. If you are listening and you learned something new or you liked what you heard, of course I'd love it if you'd give the podcast a review on iTunes or the platform of your choice.

If you know somebody who's down kick ass inbound marketing work, tweet me @workmommywork because they could be my next guest. Thanks so much Dennis. It was great chatting with you.

Dennis: Thanks Kathleen.

Apr 22 2019



Rank #13: Ep. 116: How to Generate Traffic to a New Website Ft. Martin Ochwat

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What's the fastest way to generate traffic for a new website?

This week on The Inbound Success Podcast, entrepreneur and business growth expert Martin Ochwat shares his strategies for driving organic and paid traffic to a brand new website. 

As the co-founder of a new direct-to-consumer brand of zero-waste personal care products, Martin is dealing with this exact challenge right now as he prepares to bring his new business out of stealth mode. 

In our interview, he talks about what it takes to create a high performing website, and how to use strategies like paid ads, podcasts, video, and guest blogging to quickly drive traffic and build domain authority.

Highlights from my conversation with Martin include:

  • Martin is currently launching a new direct-to-consumer company called Moop and is working on strategies for driving traffic to his new website.
  • Before he works on driving traffic, Martin says it's important to ensure your website is optimized. Specifically, it should be a good looking site that showcases a clear value proposition and delivers visitors the information they are looking for quickly. 
  • One way to test if your site will perform well is to run limited paid ads on Facebook.
  • There are two main types of traffic that Martin focuses on - organic and paid.
  • When it comes to organic traffic, Martin suggests using podcasts, video and guest blogging to quickly drive traffic.
  • With podcasts, you can start your own, but two very quick ways to get traffic are by being a guest on a podcast or by sponsoring a podcast.
  • He also suggests creating video and using it to start a YouTube channel.
  • Another way that Martin has successfully gotten backlinks and built domain authority is through posting guest blogs on other high authority websites.
  • Finally, he says that public relations can be helpful in driving traffic, but advises that you don't necessarily have to hire a PR firm. There are plenty of ways to DIY your PR strategy so long as you have a compelling story.
  • When it comes to paid ads, it's very important to figure out where your target audience is and then test to see if your ads are successful in reaching them there. 
  • Once you identify the individual ads that are performing well, you can double down on your budget and you should see strong results.
  • It's important to have tracking pixels correctly set up on your website. With those in place, you can use tools like Criteo and Adroll to do retargeting campaigns.

Resources from this episode:

Listen to the podcast to learn more about driving traffic to a new website.


Kathleen Booth (Host): Welcome back to the Inbound Success Podcast.

My name is Kathleen Booth, and I'm your host. And this week my guest is Martin Ochwat, who is a growth marketer and a serial entrepreneur. Martin, you've had lots of different reincarnations and I'm really excited to talk to you about some of the marketing lessons learned that have come out of that. So welcome to the podcast. Martin Ochwat (Guest): Thanks for having me, Kathleen.

Martin and Kathleen recording this episode.

Kathleen: Yeah. Now, can you tell my listeners a little bit about who you are, your background, the types of businesses you've been involved in, and what you're working on these days?

About Martin Ochwat

Martin: Sure. So I'm a growth marketer by trade. And initially started with more of a mathematics background in school.

What happened is I ended up in Silicon Valley working at a gaming company, which at the time we were one of the largest advertisers on Facebook and many channels in the world. So we promoted two games, mostly Game of War and Mobile Strike. And during my short stint there, I learned a lot about running digital paid ads across several channels with Facebook and Instagram being the core.

After two years in the Valley, I decided to quit my job and start working remotely while starting a new eCommerce business. So over the next few years, I started several different brands selling products from jewelry, fashion, swimwear all types of niches.

And eventually, we're working on a new eCommerce brand now called Moop. And we're creating zero plastic waste personal care products. Trying to take plastic out of your day to day routine.

Kathleen: That is such a hot topic right now. I think that's awesome. That's what you're working on. It's shockingly, well it's interesting to me how shockingly difficult it is to cut plastic out of your life. I've seen a few news reports on the impact it has, and I've tried to go in that direction to no success whatsoever. So I do think it's only going to get solved by companies creating new products that reduce our reliance. The products themselves as opposed to workarounds if you will. So kudos to you.

Martin: Thanks.

Driving traffic to a new website

Kathleen: But what I am interested in talking to you about is you have this new company. And obviously with any new business, one of the challenges from a digital marketing standpoint is just driving traffic to your site, right?

I'm in a similar boat to you. I just joined a really early stage startup that for all intents and purposes, doesn't have any website traffic. So I'm faced with a similar challenge of how do I get people just to come to my website? And you have some interesting thoughts on that. You've worked on that before.

That's really the topic I would love to focus on for you. So maybe you could just start with where do you begin with that?

Martin: Sure. Yeah. So starting out is always really difficult no matter what business you're in. Even once you launch your product, you need to get a bunch of users and validate if it's the right project you're working on, which happens over time. So I think a good way to think of it is first look at what channels can you use to acquire users?

I usually break it up into two segments. So you have paid, and you have organic.

On the organic side, a lot of that's content. So blogging, video, podcasting, Whether you're doing your own podcast or you're a guest on other podcasts. It can include things like guest posting. So writing content on other high domain authority sites. PR, the list goes on. There's a ton of organic ways you can get users.

And then on the paid side, it usually involves running ads on channels like Facebook, Google, Twitter, and the dozens of networks out there. So high level, it's good to separate paid and organic. And then within those, you can try to find which types of channels make the most sense for your business.

Kathleen: So let's actually start with your website, because this is something that I think about a lot at the company I'm with now. What shape does your website have to be in before it's worth it, especially from a paid media standpoint, to begin paying for traffic? Because that's one of the things I think about a lot is am I going to pour money into pay-per-click and drive traffic to what is essentially a leaky bucket? How much of the value in those early days is really getting people in and capturing them versus just getting the traffic, getting the backlinks, beginning to build domain authority? How do you approach that?

Building a high performing website

Martin: Sure. So if you're going down the paid route, it's especially important you have a really high performing website to begin with. The reason is if you don't have a great site and you just start spending a bunch of money to drive traffic, that traffic's not going to convert, they're probably going to leave and you're just going to end up wasting a lot of money.

So going down that route, it's really important to start with having a good looking site. It doesn't have to be super beautiful, spending hundreds of thousands of dollars to make it perfect. But it should have a clear value proposition. When people land on your website or your landing page, they should know very clearly within the first few seconds exactly what the website is about. And it should give them relevant information.

And one way you can actually help with making sure your website is high converting is maybe running a little bit of paid traffic to test how are users interacting on your site. And that could be as simple as spending 50 or 100 dollars on Facebook ads, getting traffic to your site, and see are users bouncing? Is there a certain section of your website that they're skipping over? And there's a ton of great tools like heat mapping tools and even free ones like Google Analytics that can help you get all this data to make sure your website is high converting.

Website analytics software and tools

Kathleen: Can you talk a little bit about those tools? If somebody is listening and they're in that situation of just getting started, what would you say, if it were you, what tools would you put in place and what key metrics would you be watching in those early days?

Martin: Yeah. So number one, I'd start with Google Analytics. First off it's free and a really great suite to get started with. In Google Analytics, usually you can just set up some code on your site and it'll track different metrics like website visitors, bounce rate (which is how many of those new website visitors leave right away). You can look at page views - how many pages in your site they've gone through.

And the other great thing about Google Analytics is setting up goals. So let's say for example, you're an eCommerce site, right? So you can set up a goal when someone reaches the add to cart page. And then when they reach the checkout page and finally when they make a purchase.

So by setting up all of the metrics that are important for your specific business in Google Analytics, you can quickly go through different reports and see, if I spend $50 on Facebook ads, I get 200 visitors. How are they performing on my site? Are they dropping off after the first page? Or are they dropping off at the checkout page? And this will help you make small tweaks and improvements to make sure your site is high converting.

Kathleen: So Google Analytics. Any other tools beyond that, as far as heat mapping or things like that?

Martin: Yeah, there's a bunch of great heat mapping tools. One I use is called Sumo. Honestly, there's a ton that are great in the market. Other than Sumo, I don't have a specific one I can recommend you.

Organic traffic growth strategies

Kathleen: Okay. No, that's great. I just always liked to hear what you're using. So now, let's go back. And we've talked about the website and getting your house in order, if you will, assuming that that's the situation and you're in a position where you can start to go out to the market.

Let's start with breaking down the topic of organic traffic. So you're going from nothing to hopefully something. You mentioned a variety of ways that you could start to generate traffic back, starting with podcasts. So maybe we can begin there.

Martin: Sure. So actually before we jump into all of the organic traffic channels, one thing I want to say is when you are launching a new website, it's really important to know who your target audience is. So if you already know, that you're ready to jump in. If not, try to understand your users a little bit better and see which specific channels they live on. So that way you can decide which channels to go after.

But yeah, let's say we know our target audience and we want to go into podcasting. So do you have any specific questions of how to generate users?

Kathleen: I think there's probably a lot. I mean obviously, I spend a lot of time with podcasting. But there's probably a lot of people out there who either don't have a podcast or haven't been a guest on a podcast. They might listen to them. So if they're thinking okay, podcasting. Can you break down how do you do that? How do you go about getting on podcasts and building that strategy for which podcasts you want to be on, etc?

Martin: Sure. So I'll break it down into three different ways you can take advantage of podcasts. One you mentioned is starting your own podcast, whether that's daily or weekly. Or it's in a podcast with just you where you have guests every single week. So that's one channel you can definitely pursue. It's a lot more work. It can be a great longterm strategy though.

I think for a lot of people starting out, it's easier to do number two, which is being a guest on a podcast. Or number three, which is sponsoring a podcast.

So being a guest is essentially trying to find a podcast within your niche. So where are your target customers? What are they possibly listening to? And trying to build a relationship with hosts, reaching out and seeing if you can provide value to the host.

Number three with sponsoring podcasts would be paying a set amount of money, whether it's $50 to thousands of dollars depending on the podcast audience size. And having a sponsored message. Let's say you're Calm. They're an app that helps people with meditation. They might sponsor the Tim Ferriss podcast, pay him a few thousand dollars, and he'll give a one to two minute shout out with a promo code to try out their app and get users that way.

Kathleen: So if somebody wants to reach out to a podcast host about coming on, any tips or tricks on A, how to do that correctly? And B, any advice on what kind of expectations they should have as far as how likely it is that they'll get a response?

Martin: Yeah. So first when looking at podcasts, you want to see what kind of audience they might have, what kind of reach. Different metrics I would look at is how many episodes do they have on say, Apple Podcasts? How long have they been going for? Is the podcast brand new just getting started or have they been around for a year or several years? What kind of guests do they have on the show? Would you fit a similar profile of these guests?

It's unlikely get onto The Tim Ferriss Show, for example, starting out. But there's hundreds, if not tens of thousands of smaller podcasts that you can start with, build your way up and your reputation, and eventually get onto larger podcasts. So I think it starts with really evaluating the podcasts themselves and making a short list of say 10 to 20 to start.

After that, it's looking at how can you get in touch with the host. Some podcasts will have a dedicated website with a page that says contact us, or if you want to be featured as a guest, fill out this form. That's great. If not, you may need to do a little bit of digging to find the email. Or say Twitter, social media handles of the host. And make your pitch. And with the pitch, it's really about trying to see how you can add value to the host and their audience. And that can be as simple as sending out a tweet or sending out an email with a little bit more information about yourself.

Kathleen: Great. And you're a guest right now on this podcast and you've done this with other podcasts. What do you look to get out of it? Obviously people will listen. But in terms of either traffic to the site or leads, how do you set goals for your involvement in things like this?

Martin: Yeah. So when you're a guest on a podcast, I think a common misconception is you want to be selling your audience on your services. I'd say the best advice is try to provide as much value as you can to the audience. It's similar to other types of content marketing. If you can provide value to listeners, they'll often come back and provide value back to you.

So being on a podcast after you, just talk about general topics and provide value. At the end, you can usually give a shout out to your website. Or if you have a special promotion or offer for the audience, say you might be an eCommerce store, or like the Calm app. You're selling meditation services. Maybe your audience can get 20% off by using a specific promo code from that podcast.

So there's definitely a way to acquire users at the end. And if you have Google analytics set up, you can track where those users are coming from. Or with different promo codes, you can also see how much of that traffic is coming from the podcast.

Kathleen: Yeah. And is there any such thing as how small is too small with podcasts? I know it's hard to really nail down what listenership a podcast has, but how do you think about that?

Martin: Yeah, it is something you definitely need to consider when looking at podcasts. The most obvious way is try to find podcasts that have been around for maybe a year. They have a few dozen Google reviews. And then it's likely you'll get more traffic to serve more viewers. But on the opposite side, if you find like a brand new podcast. They might just be starting out, but it looks like it has a lot of potential. There is value in being one of the first guests on their podcasts. A lot of the times if people listen to a podcast, they like it. They might download all the episodes. If you're on one of the first episodes, you can get perpetual traffic for once or years to come just by getting in early on that podcast.

Kathleen: That's so true. It's like the Netflix phenomenon where people, I just discovered the show Freaks and Geeks, which was on a million years ago. And I'm currently binging it, starting from episode one. And I mean, it's like years and years after the show came out.

But you're totally right. It's that habit that we've gotten into with places like Netflix and Hulu now. We're trained to find new things and start from the beginning, and binge right through it. So that's interesting.

And then you talked about podcast sponsorships. How do you approach that in terms of identifying the right podcasts and expectations in terms of what you should spend and the results you should get?

Martin: Yeah. So it's, honestly the process is very similar. When you're looking at sponsoring podcasts. The types of podcasts you're going after generally will be a little bit larger.

So a lot of brands or companies, they might go after ones that have at least a few thousand or 10,000 viewers on every audience. Or sorry, on every episode. And usually, charging for podcast sponsorship. It's based on a CPM, so it's a cost per thousand impressions. You'll usually be given a rate. You might have to negotiate one-on-one with a podcast host. Say it's $20 per thousand viewers, or it might be $50.

The rates can vary a lot in the industry. But overall, you're still looking for which podcasts have a larger audience and which audiences are relevant to you. And then a lot of that is just testing. You might allocate sponsorship for 10 different podcasts, see how they perform. If there's one that performs really well for you, you can go back to them and sponsor future episodes. Or you might find a specific niche of maybe self-help people. Or, you find the niches that are resonating with your audience and you try to find similar podcasts within that niche.

Kathleen: Yeah. So we've covered the topic of podcasts. What are some other strategies you've used to drive organic traffic in those early days? Referrals, I guess would be the other category.

Martin: Yeah, great question. So I think a lot of people starting out with organic, they really think heavily about SEO and how can they rank for top keywords in their niche. I actually think that's very difficult to do when you're a brand new company. In many niches it's very competitive for keywords. And it might take you years to show up in the top of Google search results.

A great way to start getting traffic earlier organically is through guest posting. So guest posting usually involves reaching out to recognize websites in your space. Say for me on, I give digital marketing tips for small business owners.

So I would look for high domain authority websites. Let's say you have social media today. You have even larger sites like And a lot of it is trying to reach out to those sites to do a guest post where you're essentially writing a blog post or a piece of content for free on the website. And in return, you get a link back to your site. And because these websites are so large and they get so much traffic off their posts, you can generate a lot of traffic through that guest post. And you might even be able to get it to rank highly in Google, which will just continue to give you longterm organic traffic over time.

Kathleen: Now when you say high domain authority, is there a certain number that you're shooting for when you evaluate what sites that you would spend your time to create guest posts for?

Martin: Yeah. So I think it depends where you are. If you're starting out as a small business, it's okay to start with smaller domain authority sites. Let's say they might just have a couple, like 10,000 monthly visitors. A domain authority of 30 to 50. It's okay to get started. Often, you need to build your reputation as a business or as a brand. So if you can get a few small wins with different guests posts, you can then leverage those to get larger guests posts.

So it's unlikely I could go to as a new brand to like Forbes and say, "Hey, let me guest post for you." You don't have anything to show. But if you've done a few dozen guest posts on smaller sites and then on mid tier sites, that might be a domain authority, like 50 to 70. Eventually, you can work your way up into being an industry expert or a leading brand in your space. And then that opens up a lot opportunities to get the very best websites sponsoring your content and allowing you to guest post.

Kathleen: Got it. All right, so podcasts, check. Guest posts, check. What else on that organic side?

Martin: Yeah, so video's a great one too. It's really hot these days. And the great thing about video is it's a little bit, it's less competitive than blogging.

So with blogs, it's really easy for anyone to start a blog. I think there's a stat, Neil Patel said there's almost a billion new blog posts that come out every single day. It's really hard to stand out in a crowded market.

With video, it's obviously more work to get started. But that work creates a barrier to entry in the market. So by creating videos, you can start say a YouTube channel. Or you can even start posting videos on your social media. Like if you use Instagram, they have IGTV now, which they're really heavily promoting. So you can get a lot of views or even videos on channels like LinkedIn.

And just starting to create content that resonates with your audience I think is a great way to connect and start building organic traffic through different channels. It might show up initially on search results in YouTube, or it might show up on social media. But over time, you can build up an audience there and also have that rank in Google.

Kathleen: So one thing I'm curious about with regards to this, and I've been thinking a lot about this for my own marketing strategy. How important, if that's the approach you're going to take in the early days, how important is it to focus on the personal brands of the people involved with your company versus promoting the corporate brand? Because it seems to me that you kind of said it earlier. If you're a company that doesn't really have much of a track record, it's easier to open doors with a personal brand than it is with a corporate brand.

Martin: Yeah, it's a great point. So I think a lot of it will be business dependent. Starting out any new business, whether you're a B2B or B2C, you won't have much of a track record. If one of the members of your team might have some, a larger following on LinkedIn or different social media channels, you can leverage their personal brand to amplify the company's brand.

So let's say you're just an eCommerce store. You can still have your founders speaking on different podcasts for example, or making videos that just provide value to people in the niche. And then over time, as you start to build up more background and more credibility for your brand, I think it's important to shift resources towards brand building. Really a lot of value in many businesses comes from the brand. When you look at big brands like Nike. Starting out, Phil Knight was very important to that brand. But today, Nike continues to live on even without its founder. So it is a great way with personal branding to get started, but you do want to make sure you shift those resources to the company's brand over time.

Kathleen: Yeah. Now I guess one other topic we haven't talked about, which I would say bridges the organic and paid categories is PR. And I've heard different viewpoints on PR in early stages. And I'm curious to hear where you think it fits in a strategy like this, or if it fits.

Martin: So I think PR is a great strategy. It definitely fits for most businesses. But the way you will approach PR might be different.

So one, a lot of people when they think PR, they think of a PR agency. Hiring an agency might cost you 5,000 to $50,000 a month on a retainer starting out. For a lot of businesses, they simply don't have the resources to do that. So there are many ways to pursue PR. Just do it yourself.

And often, that involves building relationships with reporters or people of influence in your niche. And once you build a relationship, whether that's starting with liking their posts on Twitter, retweeting, sharing some other content with your following. You can often start pitching them to get your website or your brand onto the news.

And PR can take really a lot of forms. It doesn't have to be getting featured on Forbes, or TechCrunch, or any of these big publications. It can be local PR. It's often easy to get started with, say you're based in a specific city or there's a town you grew up in. Like I grew up in Toronto. It'd be much easier for me to get PR in local Toronto based publications rather than national or international ones.

So I think there's a lot of ways you can use PR to get an initial boost, and it doesn't have to be really hard or really expensive to get started. Even with a few resources and a bit of emailing and building relationships, you can start to get publicity and traffic to your site.

Kathleen: And in your experience, what do you find you need to have essentially to get promoted? Are you promoting content you've created? What's the basis for asking a reporter to provide editorial coverage of something you've done, that has worked well for you?

Martin: Right. So it usually starts with a story. A lot of reporters are looking for something that will be of value to their audience, right?

There's a few strategies you could take. Let's say for example, there's a hot topic in the news like sustainability or the fight against plastic right now. If I have my brand Moop and we're creating zero plastic waste products, I don't necessarily have to promote a blog post about that. I can talk about general trends we're seeing in the industry or market insights on how the plastic industry works and how we can find ways to fight plastic.

Another thing you can look at is general trends. How is the environment affecting politics or financial markets? So you want to look at what is the audience of the publication you're going after, and what kind of information would they be curious about? And it can just start with giving commentary and value to that audience. And like we said earlier with podcasts, if you can provide value to an audience, later you can have a link to your website where people can come back and they might check out your product or buy your services.

Kathleen: Got it. Anything else on the organic side that you think is important?

Martin: I'd say those are the main channels to get started with. So we talked about podcasting, video, PR. Blogging, as I mentioned before, it is a very competitive space. I think it can be important for your brand if you commit to doing broad blogging very well. And that usually includes writing original content. So not just rewriting other people's content in different forms, and committing to the strategy longterm. It can be a great way to rank in Google search results, but just know that it is a longterm play. You might not see a lot of traffic coming from that until many years down the line. But if you do invest in it today, you'll eventually reap the rewards down the line.

Driving paid traffic

Kathleen: Yeah, it makes sense. All right. Shifting gears to paid. So early stage, probably don't have a ton of money. There's a lot of options out there with paid media, pay-per-click advertising. How do you get started? How much should you spend? What kind of results should you expect?

Martin: Great, great question. So paid can be a bit scary for people starting out. Just because there's so many different channels, you're not sure what it's going to resonate with your audience. So a lot of it starts with going back to the audience first and trying to see where does my audience exist?

So for example, I was helping launch this eCommerce brand called Lilac and they were selling swimwear. So we found that a lot of their audience exists on Instagram. They might look at pictures of clothing or swimwear, make a quick impulse decision, see how it's worn on other consumers. And then go to the website and make a purchase.

So if you can first try to narrow it down to where your audience might exist. Whether that's on Instagram, on Google, Twitter, Facebook, that's a great first starting point. And then the second important thing with paid ads is a lot of it has to do with testing.

So testing means creating ads or content to share on different social media channels, and see how it performs. So you might run say an ad for swimwear against an audience of females, 18 to 34 on Facebook. And you might test different audiences. So maybe there's beach goers, maybe there's travelers, maybe there's fashionistas.

It's really trying to narrow down, what audience on that platform is going to resonate with your ads? And then testing different types of copy, and images, and videos that might help them resonate.

Kathleen: Is there any particular amount that you think someone should be prepared to spend? I mean earlier, you mentioned you can do little tests for as little as $50 to $100. I've heard other people say depending upon the platform, you shouldn't bother if you're not spending a couple thousand. Do you have any rules of thumb you go by?

Martin: Yeah. So I think you don't need a lot of money to get started. There's businesses I've started spending $100 or $200 on a single channel to prove it out. Of course, the more money you spend, the more data you can get. But starting out, you're just trying to get directional feedback. So let's say you could spend $100 on Facebook, 100 on Google, and then maybe 100 on Twitter ads.

While you might not have all the data you need, you can get directional feedback seeing okay, we're getting a lot of visitors from Google. We're not really getting any from Twitter. And Facebook, somewhere in the middle. So that helps you narrow down. Let's leave Twitter off for later, and let's focus on Facebook and Google.

And then with that small test budget too of you probably are collecting data in your Google analytics of how are people performing on your website? Is your website converting as well? Are the ads they're seeing congruent with what they're seeing on your web pages?

So using that small test data, you can really get started. And then I would at that point continue to focus larger and larger amounts of budgets onto your preferred platforms where you see some early success.

Kathleen: Okay. And one thing I've been thinking about, I'm curious to hear your take on this, is the importance of getting your site set up properly to lay the groundwork for pay-per-click. And what I mean by that is making sure you have different tracking pixels installed. Giving them some time to build up some history. Do you have any thoughts on that? What tracking pixels should be on your site, and how long should they sit there before you try to do anything with them, that sort of thing?

Martin: Yep. Great question. So when starting with paid, usually each channel has its own pixel. If you start with Facebook for example, they'll have the Facebook pixel. Google will have its conversion tracking codes. It's always best practice to set up those pixels and codes as early as possible, ideally before you start running any traffic.

The reason being the pixels usually help these platforms to spend the ad dollars more efficiently, right? You're essentially sending data back to say, Facebook or Google. And they're able to see from your website visitors, what kind of people are visiting your website, how are they interacting with it, and which ones are converting? And that will help you drive lower ad costs across the specific platforms.

And then I'd say in addition to the main pixels you can set up with each social media network or paid channel, there are other pixels you could set up for retargeting. There's tools such as, there's Criteo for an example. One that does retargeting across lots of different channels.

Kathleen: Wait, what was that one?

Martin: Criteo.

Kathleen: Can you spell that for me?

Martin: Yeah. So it's C-R-I-T-E-O.

Kathleen: Okay.

Martin: It's a competitor to AdRoll. You might've heard of AdRoll before. Basically these channels look if someone visits your website, maybe they performed an action and then they left. You can re-target them with ads across different channels.

So here's an example. Let's say you are running an ad on LinkedIn. I came to your website, checked out some content, and I left. If you have the Criteo or AdRoll pixel set up, I might later go read an article on Forbes and there'll be an ad showing up again for your website. Or I might go to see, even go scroll through Facebook and there's again a retargeting ad for your website.

So there's a few different platforms you can use that let you re-target across all types of channels, no matter where the visitor is on the internet. And also with those, the earlier you can set it up on your website, the sooner they get data, and the better those ads are going to perform.

Martin's results

Kathleen: Okay, great. So I would love to hear from you now. We've covered the gamut of organic and paid. I would love it if you could talk a little bit about your experience doing this, and what kind of results you've seen, how quickly you've seen them. Do you have any examples you can share with that?

Martin: Yeah, definitely. So usually with organic, it will take you a bit more time to see traffic compared to paid. So I'll start with an example of paid.

So earlier, I mentioned brand Lilac I was working on selling swimwear. So we looked at our target audience, found that Instagram's the right channel. Started running ads on Instagram.

Starting out, we created some say images and videos of content. If you're an eCommerce store, it's pretty simple. You can just show images of your product. If you're a B2B business, you might need to run more video ads explaining your product. But regardless, in our case we'd run several different images and then against several different audiences. So as I mentioned before, it's mostly younger females. We try different targeting groups and see which targeting and which images resonate together.

After some initial testing, say a few hundred dollars, we found that one specific audience was resonating well. And this was fashionistas. So we know that fashionistas 18 to 34 female are doing well. And we found that one or two images or one or two specific swimwear products were also having the lowest ad cost.

So at that point, what we would do is double down on what's working, right? If you have creative that's working and an audience that's working, try slightly different creative of the same product. So we might show a different image of that same swimsuit. And we might try to tweak the copy a little bit. Instead of saying, "Hey, new website. Check out our swimwear brand." We would say swimwear brand that's ethically sourced, or sustainable, or promote some of the other features of the product.

And essentially by doing tweaking and doubling down on what's working, over time you can get your ad costs to continue to go lower. And once you have a lower ad cost, you could scale, right? Because if you're paying less per user or per purchaser, you can invest more money onto that platform. And it's just a snowball effect that compounds over time.

Kathleen: Great. And what about any examples of organic growth? I know you said it takes longer, but how long?

Martin: So organic, it can take a while to see large amounts of traffic. But to see small traffic, it doesn't have to take that long. So for example on my site, Again, I'm giving digital marketing tips for small businesses. I started guest posting on dozens of different websites. Probably within my second month, I got a feature on Content Marketing Institute. And from that site, the article went pretty viral, it got almost a thousand shares. And even today, I'm still getting five to 10 visitors every single day coming from that article.

So it can take a while to like find more guest posts similar to that one that can compound. But I think with guest posting especially, it's really great way to get longterm traffic. If you want to get more short term quick wins, I think podcast guesting is a great way to do it. Or getting featured with anyone else who already has an existing audience and tapping into that audience to get users to your website.

Kathleen's two questions

Kathleen: Yeah, absolutely. So interesting. Thank you for sharing those examples. Now, there's two questions I always ask all of my guests. And I'd love to hear what you have to say. The first one is, we talk a lot about inbound marketing on this podcast. So company or individual, is there someone you think is really knocking it out of the park with inbound marketing these days?

Martin: Yeah, great question. So inbound marketing, it is pretty competitive. One company I really look to is Hootsuite. And Hootsuite essentially, if you don't know them, they're a platform that helps you schedule social media content. So if you're posting on Facebook and Google, or sorry, Facebook, and Twitter, and LinkedIn, you can schedule a post ahead of time to manage your content there. So they have a really great blog. They do video. And with their blog specifically, they generate content all the time about teaching people how to do social media marketing better. So a lot of small businesses will be looking at that content. They're very in depth guides. And just by continuing to publish really great articles and blog posts over time, they have been able to amass tens of thousands of users and really become an industry expert in at least the digital marketing space.

Kathleen: I love Hootsuite. I do use it for myself. What about, everything's changing so quickly. Digital is, as soon as you feel like you've mastered it, there's some big algorithm change, or one of the social media platforms changes the rules of the game. How do you stay updated?

Martin: Yeah, so there's again, few good resources I like to follow. A popular one on the more organic content site is Neil Patel. Usually at, he'll post a lot of updates about changes in say the Google algorithm or how to work with podcast guesting. He goes not just blog posts, but videos. And you can follow him on all the social channels. He's a really great resource for that side.

I also like Unbounce. I think, they're basically a landing page building tool. But similar to Hootsuite, they have a great blog that focuses on not just social media, but also how can you make changes to your website and improve it. So I think those are two great examples.

The third channel I'd like to add is Twitter. So I often follow people in the space that are knowledgeable. For example, Rand Fishkin, creator of Moz. He gives great tips on SEO. There's Noah Kagan that gives a lot of great digital marketing tips. So it might be more specific to which part of marketing you're focusing on. But there's a lot of great influencers on Twitter that are posting regular updates and content that can provide a lot of value.

Kathleen: Yeah, I love Rand Fishkin. And he is a great example I think of what you talked about earlier. He has a new company SparkToro. And you mentioned if you're going to blog, commit to doing it regularly and really write great content. I think that's exactly what he is doing over at SparkToro. He doesn't write a huge volume of blogs. But when he writes something, it is always worth reading. It's really good content and nobody knows more about SEO and building up domain authority than Rand, so totally agree with you on that.

How to connect with Martin

Great. Well if somebody has questions, wants to learn more, or reach out to you, what is the best way for them to find you and connect with you online?

Martin: Sure, yeah. You can find me on Twitter. If you search Martin Ochwat, I show up there. Usually number one. Same on LinkedIn, very active on LinkedIn. And I'm often just sharing content and helpful advice on my website So any of those channels are great to reach out to me.

You know what to do next...

Kathleen: Great. Well, thank you so much for joining us. This was really interesting and I love hearing how somebody else is tackling the same challenge that I'm facing right now. So I appreciate you sharing your story.

If you are listening and you learn something new or you like what you heard, of course I would love it if you would leave the podcast a five star review on Apple Podcasts or the platform of your choice. That's how we get found. That's how we get traffic. So please take a moment and do that, especially if you're a loyal listener.

And, if you know somebody else who's doing kick ass inbound marketing work, please tweet me @workmommywork, because I would love to interview them. That's it for this week. Thank you so much, Martin.

Martin: Yeah, thank you Kathleen. I've had a great time today.

Kathleen: Great having you.

Nov 11 2019



Rank #14: Ep. 74: How to Combine Two Successful Websites While Improving Traffic and Rankings Ft. David Meerman Scott