Cover image of Inbound Success Podcast

Inbound Success Podcast

Updated 2 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.

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.

iTunes Ratings

22 Ratings
Average Ratings

Interviews with Marketers with Real Results

By Princ3ss_S - Oct 11 2019
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I love that Kathleen interviews marketers who are crushing it. They have real results and you can tell by the way they talk about it. No matter what industry you are in you will be able to take something away from every guest.

Great host with valuable marketing insights

By Martin Ochwat - Oct 03 2019
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Kathleen is a great podcast host! She is very knowledgable in both organic and paid marketing. And is great at interviewing guests to share concrete examples of their marketing insights. Would recommend listening to if you work in or are interested in digital marketing.

iTunes Ratings

22 Ratings
Average Ratings

Interviews with Marketers with Real Results

By Princ3ss_S - Oct 11 2019
Read more
I love that Kathleen interviews marketers who are crushing it. They have real results and you can tell by the way they talk about it. No matter what industry you are in you will be able to take something away from every guest.

Great host with valuable marketing insights

By Martin Ochwat - Oct 03 2019
Read more
Kathleen is a great podcast host! She is very knowledgable in both organic and paid marketing. And is great at interviewing guests to share concrete examples of their marketing insights. Would recommend listening to if you work in or are interested in digital marketing.

The Best Episodes of:

Cover image of Inbound Success Podcast

Inbound Success Podcast

Updated 2 days ago

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.

Rank #1: Ep. 93: How Adam Sand Gets 3300% ROI By Integrating Direct Mail With Digital Marketing

Podcast cover
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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 #2: Ep. 50: Speeding Up the Web Design Process Ft. Charles Drengberg of

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Website redesign projects are typically of high strategic importance to companies, but they can be painstaking and time consuming.

On this week's episode of The Inbound Success Podcast, Founder Charles Drengberg talks about how he has shortened the amount of time needed for website redesigns, made it easier and faster to update sites over time, and in doing so, helped clients see a greater return on their website investments.

Listen to the podcast to learn more about Charles's approach to website redesign projects and how you can apply these lessons to your own site redesign.


Kathleen Booth (host): Welcome back to The Inbound Success podcast. My name's Kathleen Booth and I'm your host. Today, my guest is Charles Drengberg, who is the CEO and co-founder of Welcome, Charles.

Charles Drengberg (guest): Thanks, Kathleen. I appreciate you having me on.

Kathleen: Yeah, I'm excited to have you here. A little story before we get into this. I met Charles at HubSpot's INBOUND Conference in 2017, and I was standing at IMPACT's booth. We sponsored the conference and had a booth in Club INBOUND. If you've ever been to the conference, it's a huge conference. I think there was like 20,000 people this year. Club INBOUND is like the central nervous system of the conference. Everybody passes through there. It's a packed space.

We had our booth and I was working. Charles was at the booth next to us and was super friendly and came over and introduced himself. I just wanted to tell this story because it's one of the things I really love about, at least my experience that I've had to date in the HubSpot world, which is that whether it's other HubSpot partner agencies or other sponsors at the conference ... I think some other conferences you go to and people feel competitive. Like, "What do you have at your booth? Why are people there and not at mine?"

For whatever reason in the HubSpot world, things are so collegial and friendly. I just appreciated that. I remembered our conversation and enjoyed it, and then was very excited when I had the opportunity to have you on here.

Charles: Yeah, I feel the same way. It's a little odd at first when you go to the HubSpot Conference, because you're like, "When is the shoe going to drop?" I've been to a lot of different tech conferences, marketing conferences, and there's definitely more of a family feel. Everybody wants to work together. They have the same mission, so it feels organic.

Kathleen: Yeah, it's really refreshing. I think part of it is that INBOUND mindset of, "It's not about keeping things secret or holding things in." It's, "If you've got a great product or a great service, you shouldn't be afraid to," as one of my mentors used to say, "Open the Kimono and share it with the world." You don't worry about competition, you worry about doing your stuff better than anybody else, right?

Charles: Absolutely.

Kathleen: Charles before we jump in and talk about websites, which is one of the things we're going to discuss today, I'd love it if you could tell our audience a little bit about you. You have kind of an interesting background that has spanned the service industry, as well as SaaS and IT and technology, so tell us a little bit about your history.

Charles: Yeah. Every time I tell this story to different people in different positions in marketing, it's interesting, especially with agencies, it's interesting to hear everybody else's story. Sometimes they line up, and sometimes people are like, "That's crazy that you're at this point coming through this path."

Where it really started was, I guess, 10, 12 years ago, something like that, a friend and I started a sports blog. I had been writing content and getting published in local newspapers and magazines and things like that for different stuff, like sports and news and politics and a lot of satire and comedy type of writing.

We started a sports blog. When we started that sports blog, we had no money. We were doing it for fun. I learned a lot from that process. We grew very, very quickly, so I was forced to learn a lot of things, like how to build a WordPress site once you maxed out what you could do on Tumblr is, I think, where we started originally. I had to learn how to build a website. I didn't have capital to start it up. That was my first time even learning how to code anything.

I used to ask my wife how to add embed codes to MySpace, I think we went back that far. Once we did that, we grew to about a million readers a month, visitors a month unique. It kind of spiraled into something else where a friend of mine brought me onto his team. He was working at an IT services organization, it was a Microsoft partner. He knew I was a sales guy. He knew I was a content type of person. He knew I had a lot of ways to use digital to help him get this off the ground within that organization.

I only spent about a year and a half, two years with them, but I learned a lot about what was happening in corporate marketing, where the deficiencies were with the agencies we were working with. Even our internal team at the company that I was at, they were doing ... A lot of the things that they were trying to do were right, but the execution wasn't there. I felt like I needed to step in and start doing some of that stuff myself. My entire salary and compensation was tied to success.

I kind of introduced the idea of putting content out there and bringing people in, teaching them about cloud, launching Office 365 and the cloud products. We had a lot of success. I think our company became best region partner of the year for Microsoft Cloud, which was a big step for them at the time. I proved what I believed, which was put out good information, be helpful, bring people in and then just have a good process of continuing that through the sale.

As I got more confident with that, a lot of people started pushing me towards doing this on my own. I had clients at night. I had startups that I was helping write pitch text for. It was all stuff I learned with my first couple of companies, my first couple of online businesses. We had a lot of success with the small clients. Then, eventually it flipped. Once you're doing more work and making more money at night than you are during the day, it's time to make that the day job.

I opened up Big Presence quietly, very gently, in 2014 and just worked with contractors for a year, got my footing, found what I wanted to do. Found HubSpot as the right solution, bailed on Marketo because it just wasn't a good fit for small businesses at the time. Once we got HubSpot in place, I started hiring people in 2015. From there, it's turned into let's create products. Let's create things that people could use that make their lives easier, and that's where we're at today with Belch, which we created out of Big Presence originally.

Belch is a HubSpot builder. It's a visual builder for pages, for emails, creates templates but also curates the actual pages. We're just literally trying to make marketing easier for digital marketers who are being asked to do five jobs at once when, in the past, they only had to do maybe one or two, be a content writer, maybe do email marketing. Now, they're doing branding pages and campaigns and strategies. We know it's piling up on them, because we've watched it up close. We're just trying to make it a little bit easier for everybody now.

Kathleen: Yeah. It's really serving a big need in the marketplace. I mean I know this because, gosh, I owned a digital marketing agency for 10 years before I joined IMPACT. Like you, I am very self-taught in a lot of things. Maybe, unlike you, I don't have as much of the technical background. While I know enough to be dangerous with a WordPress install, I wouldn't say I'm the best website builder on the planet. In the earlier years of my agency, I was super scrappy. I would get out there and figure it out and build little websites, but I would be way out of my depth today.

Things have evolved so much, even WordPress, and HubSpot has too. I think that's because, at least in my opinion, what marketers are asking to be able to do on these platforms has gotten more and more sophisticated. We want to be able to use smart content. We want to be able to create these really slick experiences that are super mobile friendly for people. What you gain in functionality and features, you might lose a little bit in user friendliness. I would never try to build a website today. I would be terrible if I did. I would certainly never charge anybody for it.

I think there are ... And HubSpot tries really hard to be user friendly. I think it is a very user friendly CMS. At the same time, the average person jumping in can be very overwhelmed. Most of us are visual learners. To have a builder that is more visual and doesn't require you to understand any CSS or HTML or anything like that is a tremendous, tremendous asset not only for when you first build your site, but when you have to then maintain it.

Let's be honest, getting a website launched is just the first step. Then, you have your whole marketing life ahead of you where you have to add content and update it and make changes. I see a tremendous need for it, which is one of the reasons I was excited to talk to you.

Charles: Yeah. It's become obvious. I mean I picked WordPress as my platform of choice in 2013. I knew where it was going. I had watched it evolve pretty quickly from 2009 to 2013. The introduction of page builders for WordPress was huge for a lot of people, especially small agencies that don't have developers. I went the hard route where I had to learn how to actually code for whatever amount of time until we got to a point where I could hire a good developer that could do those things for me.

Then, we found page builders. It was, for me, it was like an a-ha moment. I knew it was going to get this point. MailChimp, Unbounce, LeadPages, all the ones that have good drag and drop builders that are really intuitive, are easy to use, that's where all software is going. Software is meant to get easier, not more complicated. The people using it are going to have probably less technical knowledge than ever when you're talking about marketing. Most of the people working in there are 22 to 28, and it's one of their first jobs, their first, second, third job.

They don't have those skills yet necessarily, unless they want to be a developer. Not a lot of developers want to work in marketing. We're trying to get rid of the need for developer in marketing, because we just know that people don't have them, especially HubSpot customers. That's the whole reason our agency exists I think.

Kathleen: Yeah. Even where you do have developers who want to work in marketing, because we certainly have a bunch of them on our team, those really good developers are incredibly hard to find. I think my experience has been, not so much with IMPACT, but with other companies with which I've worked, they get poached really easily by big tech companies. I work out of a home office in Annapolis, Maryland, even though IMPACT is up in Connecticut.

In this area, this is where I used to have my agency, most good developers would get hired by Under Armour, because they're the 800 pound gorilla in town. They can pay a lot of money and there's some pretty sexy projects that you can work on. A lot of the agencies in Baltimore really struggle to find and keep developers. If they find them, they have to pay them ungodly sums of money. That's not necessarily an option for a lot of companies out there.

I would add, a lot of companies don't have enough work to keep a developer occupied full-time. If you're a company that is selling, I don't know, a widget for construction or something, you're probably not updating your website so much that you constantly need to have a developer on staff.

Charles: Right. The other thing that we're seeing, agencies are a little bit different. We have developers at our disposal and we can use them for those things. One thing we've learned on the agency side is the customers that we deal with don't have a developer. Or if they are a software company, which a lot of my clients have been software companies, they don't have anybody that's going to step into marketing and help out with marketing. They're building applications, they're doing things that are more mission critical maybe to the operations side of the business.

For us, we're looking at helping agencies is one thing, especially smaller agencies, but customers too. Those are people that they go direct to HubSpot. They might not have an agency attached yet and they still have one marketer who has to design the assets, who has to write the content, who has to put it into HubSpot. If they get hung up on trying to build a custom template and that's somewhere they're uncomfortable, it slows things down. They end up cutting corners. They start using the same templates over and over. We know for a fact that reduces the conversion rate on those templates that you're using over and over and over all the time. 

Kathleen: We've talked about why there's such a need for this. Clearly, having a good website is important. Clearly, keeping your website up to date is important, but it's challenging. I want to take a step back from what we've been talking about here, which is why Belch came into existence, and I want to talk about really the underlying pain point, which for most companies is having that awesome website and in my years of doing this, I've seen so many companies come to me with dramatically outdated websites or they don't have a website at all if they're a new company and they need to either do a redesign or create a website from scratch and particularly in cases where companies are redesigning sites, that can be a very long drawn out, very, very painful process, but it's vitally important for them to get to the other side because that's where they know they're going to have a site that accurately reflects what they do. That is a better selling tool for their business, et cetera. You've been involved in a lot of website redesigns. I mean, that's really what led you to creating this product. Do you have any examples of a website redesign projects where there have been pretty dramatic improvements before and after?

Charles: Yeah. I hate to say to us but a lot of the clients we've worked with for the last three or four years were in bad shape or like what you're talking about. They had something but it wasn't serving them at all. One thing we do is we literally will track people before we do a redesign, see what people are doing on the website and specifically find what we need to improve, so that when afterwards, we're looking back at the stats, we're seeing numbers on average, double organic traffic on a redesign on the month or two or three, whatever we measure following a redesign. So organic traffic is usually number one. Most companies with a bad website, SEO is the last thing that we're going to probably do with a bad website.

So we see traffic there, but the bigger part that we really focus on is conversion rates. If we're getting people into the site, we're obviously going to be more and more work to push into the site. But if you're not converting people on the site, you're not getting data from people when they come in, like email addresses to reach out to them later, you're missing out on a lot of opportunity and that's the biggest place that we focus is, just get email addresses, let's build databases. People with bad websites generally have bad databases, usually fed by salespeople who bought lists.

So one, we're coaching them and teaching them, that's not gonna work anymore. GDPR is a good reason to pull out in 2018 to point to. But it also just doesn't work. Lists are dead. It's the worst thing ever to be on a call team and have to do cold calls, which I've done in the past. So when we do a redesign, we're trying to solve problems, but the biggest ones that we see are organic traffic through the roof after a redesign, and then also the conversion rate, usually double or triple within a couple of months than they before.

Kathleen: So can you share maybe a story of when you've been able to do that?

Charles: Sure. So one company that I can point out is XQ Innovation. XQ does something that's really cool, which we're partners with them and we're friends with them now, one of the owners is a former fraternity brother of one of the guys that works for me. So that's how we got introduced to them. What they do is executive coaching, emotional intelligence training. They work with executives, they work with teams, they help them communicate better and they do it all based on like data driven assessments. So anybody out there that's listening to you or done DISC assessments and gone through that whole thing, it's that but like on steroids. So what we did with them, if you went to their website a year and a half ago, it looked like an institutional website with tons of content, which was good. They had a lot of tons of content, lots of research, lots of studies and all these things.

But I think if you went to it, you would never have hired them necessarily because yiou didn't really know what they did. It was very confusing. We're going to coach you on this, some classes for this and help you with that. But it wasn't focused. So we did a rebrand for them last year, I think, the beginning of last year. A full rebrand and then redesign the website. The key was really who are they and what do they do. So I sat down with their ownership and helped them decide like, "This is who you are, this is who I think you guys are, because that's who you are to us." They said we nailed it on the first try. So now when you go to their website, it's very, very clear, XQ Innovation, which is at, if anybody wants to look at it.

It's very clear what they do. It's very clear how they help people. They have their free assessment on there, which is kind of their offer right now. We have eBooks and stuff like that too but a free assessment is what everybody should try because it'll give you a report, tell you exactly who you are, what your behaviors are, kind of tell you why your behaviors are the way they are in many ways. Then if you take it with somebody else on their team, they can match you up and say, "This is how you two need to communicate with each other." It changes the dynamic of a company when you go through it as a team. So with them they've seen an immediate lift.

I think they're in Bahamas right now doing a training for a huge furniture company down there that they got from their website, that they wouldn't have gotten before and that's a big deal for them. They're a small startup, but everybody needs what they do. They just needed to present it in a new way. I think we've done a good job with that because they don't really call me and they just ... They're always on a trip. They're always meeting with a new company. We've used every aspect of HubSpot, it's going to do that for them. So we built the HubSpot site using Belch, so we could get it up quick and easy for them and now we're just running everything through HubSpot as far as marketing too.

Kathleen: So if you had to say what the top three or four factors were in kind of the transformation that you made on their site that delivered such great results. It sounds like if I'm hearing you right, one of them is putting in place a really good lead magnet, which is this free assessment. Another was the messaging, being really clear about what they did. What would you say the other two would be?

Charles: I think simplicity of the design of their site. There's not a lot of content on it right now. There's content on their blog and resources and things, but if you go to their services pages, you want to learn about their assessments, you want to learn about their coaching programs, it's very straightforward. It's only enough to get the conversation going and hit the pain points that people have inside their business and let them self identify. Because we want them to talk to the guys at XQ, the whole team at XQ because once they talk they can find out what the real problem are, is. For example, if I went to their website three years ago before I met them, I would have thought my problem was getting the most out of the younger people on my team, how do I motivate them, I don't have enough time, maybe I'm not the right coach for them and I'm not and we found that out through the assessments, but I wouldn't have hired them because I wouldn't have seen that part of it.

When I look up on their site now is performance. When I see the word performance, I'm immediately drawn to it. Then when I go and talk to them, they'll say, "Oh, well that's not your problem. Your problem is really that everybody just needs to be more self aware." That's something that we're working on as a team. It wasn't me being a bad coach. It wasn't them being lazy or anything like that. It was people needed to be in the right job with the right responsibilities that motivated them and we needed to know what motivated people and some people don't know what that is. So they helped us kind of understand like I'm not motivated by money, I'm motivated by helping other people and I'm motivated by building something that can be proud of but not necessarily money.

So learning that about myself helped me understand like, "Okay, I need to focus more of my time on this. Let somebody else worry about the money aspect of what we're doing because that's not going to motivate me everyday." If I have to look at it, I'll probably get annoyed after awhile.

Kathleen: Yeah. I don't think there's anybody who couldn't benefit from learning more about those aspects of themselves. I think that's so powerful. I'm a huge believer in DISC. I've probably taken it 20 times over the years. I used to teach a class that involved it and I've used to make everybody at my agency take a DISC when we hired them and I've taken a number of times. Anybody who knows me would not be surprised at all to know that I'm super high D, but I'm fascinated by what it can tell you because it's not about ... I always look at those assessments and I think it's not about like, "Okay, this is who you are, get used to it." It's just it's self awareness, it's understanding what drives you and what your strengths are and what your weaknesses are and learning how to adapt from that. The best example I ever saw of what to do with that information is I took a communications class about two years ago and it was a company that I wound up sending everybody who worked for me to take this class and the man who taught it had everybody do DISC.

Of course I came in with my usual extremely high D and then I think I have some C and I'm like barely any I and S at all. So you show everybody your results and then at the end of it he says, "Can anybody guess what I am?" Everybody was kind of stumped on that one and it was so interesting because he's probably one of the best listeners I've ever met. Like really able to pace himself in conversations and let ... Draw other people out and this and that and if you know anything about DISC, you know that Ds like I am are super impatient, we like to ... We cut people off a lot. We interact. We talk over because our minds are thinking fast and we're impatient and we just want to get it out. I was totally shocked that he had the exact same DISC profile as me and we could not have been more different. I was like, "Wow, you're my role model. I aspire to be you because I never would have pegged it."

Charles: Sounds very similar to my situation with Joe at XQ. We're the same profile, actually three of us, Joe and Cyrus, we're same profile, but Joe's 60, I think he's in his 60s. Sorry Joe if you're not. Cyrus is my age. So it's funny because we're watching Joe and going, "I want to be as relaxed as him. I want to be as calm as him," and that's literally what I work all the time. It's just slowing the D down, that's the problem.

Kathleen: Yeah. It's like they're more evolved human beings.

Charles: Yeah, self awareness for everybody on our team has been huge. So, that project was probably as beneficial for us as it was for them. I know they're doing better, but we're also doing better just working with them.

Kathleen: That's so cool. Well, I can't wait to take that assessment. I'm curious, how long did that website redesign project take you guys? Because I know from experience these things always A, take longer than you think and B, they generally take a very long time.

Charles: Yeah. This one didn't take very long at all. We have iterated on it since then, initially, I would say from start to finish maybe a month and a half or two.

Kathleen: What?

Charles: The key was that Joe and Cyrus were very trusting of me in making a lot of the decisions of how we want to lay this out, what the content needs to be. Because I think I put a lot of energy into the brand development and helping them identify who they really are that Joe admitted this to me, he's like, "I just want to let you do it because I'll just get in away. I don't know marketing." One of the greatest things you can ever say to a marketing agency by the way, I don't want to get in the way.

Kathleen: I trust you. Yeah.

Charles: So it went quicker. Then we built it with Belch. So if we have built this just with built our own templates and we did it with the design tools inside of HubSpot, probably would have taken an extra 25 to 40 hours somewhere in between there of development time, but I didn't have to pass it to a developer. I'll admit I can't build on HubSpot that well, that's not my thing, but I can build with Belch. So as I was designing it, I was building it with Belch and publishing the pages and then just linking up the pages inside of HubSpot. So we were ready to launch it instantly. There was no hold over, there was no waiting. There's no staging and moving it or anything like that. So it was a little faster than a normal project and the site's not that big. So I don't want to take too much credit.

Kathleen: No, but what I think is meaningful about what you just said is it would have taken an extra 25 to 40 hours of development work and if you consider that most marketing agencies bill out somewhere between call it $125 to $175 an hour, that's what? That's at least $3,000 to $5,000 of money saved.

Charles: Right.

Kathleen: By using Belch to design because you didn't have to spend that extra 25 to 48 hours.

Charles: Right.

Kathleen: Or 40 hours rather to hire a developer.

Charles: Yeah. The other good part about it is like saving money is a big part of it, obviously. Saving the pass through back and forth from design to developer, developer needs to change something because it's not going to work, we don't have to think like that when we're designing and building with Belch because we know what it's capable of. We know what's going to work so we don't design something that's not going to work inside of it and if we do it's custom and we're just going to build up inside of HubSpot anyway. But it's a lot more clear cut and the steps are a lot faster because there's not as many people having to touch it. My designers can literally be my developers at the same time, which is huge.

Kathleen: Yeah. And then you avoid that game of telephone that happens when you have your designer sketch something out, and then it goes to a developer, and it may or may not always come back looking exactly like the designer wanted, so you don't have to deal with that at all. The thing that I find kind of compelling about the value proposition is shortening the time to develop this site. I mean, yes, it's nice to save a couple thousand dollars, but for most of these companies, that's ... They would be willing to spend more to get something great, but what's really valuable is getting the new website faster. When, you know, you were talking about how they're traveling all over doing these workshops and things from leads they got on the site, every month, week, whatever that the site has not been launched is a week, or a month, or what have you of time when you're not getting those leads, and it's lost business opportunities.

Charles: Right.

Kathleen: So, the time to realize ROI from the project is much shorter if you can finish that website faster.

Charles: Yeah. That, and after the project, adding new pages, adding new content, changing the content. So, the way that Belch works is, we're not an external builder that isn't going to work inside of HubSpot. It's not going to be a static template that you can't change. We've written it, and we've integrated it in a way that, you publish something out of Belch, and it goes into HubSpot, it still functions as if you had built it in HubSpot. You still have rich text editing, you still have all the modules that you would normally have, so for our client, if they don't want to call us all the time, they're a startup, so they don't really want to spend 150 an hour on us doing custom development on it or whatever.

So if they want build another page, they literally could just use some of the existing templates, and they can just clone them, change their content, anybody on their team, and they have no developers over there, anybody on their team can build a new page, add a new service, and add a new row, put something else on a page that didn't exist before, so their cost, long-term, is much, much lower than it would have been if we had built it custom, and then they're locked in to stuff and had to call us every day. That's good for an agency to keep getting calls and keep bringing in money, but eventually a client may get tired of paying for things that they don't see as necessary, and they see all these flashy tools every day in their emails saying, "Website builder," and "Build a website in an hour," which you see on TV with Wix all the time. It's like, please stop telling people that because it's making it hard for us to validate what we're doing over there. It's not that easy.

Kathleen: Yeah. And I think when agencies create websites in a way that their clients can't update them, it breeds resentment. Because, I can tell you, we have a client at Impact that we're working with, and we're about to redesign their website, and they came to us from another HubSpot partner agency, and one of the reasons they came was that agency built their site in a way that it was totally locked down, and this client couldn't go in and change or update anything without not only booking the agency's time, and sometimes that can take a little while, but paying them, and it's ridiculous. It is completely ridiculous. If you have people on your staff who are able to do this, they should have the ability to update a website, and it just bred such resentment on the part of the client that they couldn't change anything.

We can't change anything in it they way they set it up. So, this other agency, they're going to have to unlock the functionality, or what's probably going to happen is we're going to completely redesign the site because they just don't want to deal with it. It's a horrible situation, and I would actually say to anybody listening, if you are not from an agency, if you're in a company that has a website, that is a major red flag, in my opinion.

This is something that I've believed strongly since I started my agency a long time ago, which is that you should never be shackled to the agency you're working with and dependent upon them. The relationship should be one of, more of them empowering you, and if you want them to take things off your plate to save time or be more efficient, great, but you should never be completely dependent upon them.

Charles: Yeah.

Kathleen: And that goes for, you should have all the passwords to everything, you should ... I'm a big believer that you shouldn't have your agency host your website. You should have your own hosting account. You should own all of that because your website, in this day and age, is your most important marketing asset, so why would you give some other company control over it? It's crazy.

Charles: Right. Yeah.

Kathleen: Anyway, end rant. But ...

Charles: It's a good rant, though. It's what I preach, and I'm still in it, so I'm still doing this with people every day, and every time I run into a site like that I pull my hair out, I get frustrated, I get angry at the other agency, and that's why we build on WordPress, on HubSpot, on Shopify. Everything is built so I can hand it to my clients and say, "Do as much as you can with this. I want you to be able to use this. I want you to be spending your time in there and building. I want you calling us when there's something that you don't know how to do, or there's a strategy that needs to be created, or a new process needs to be developed, or there's just skillsets that you don't have internally. I want you to call us for that, but managing a website in 2018 is something you should be able to do on your own."

Kathleen: Yeah. You know what it reminds me of? It reminds me of the old Gold's Gym membership model where you had to commit to 12 months, and then if you didn't submit your cancellation in, like, the two-day window 30 days before the 12 months ended, you literally had to, like, send them your death certificate to get out of the membership. I mean, I remember, and I will say it on air, I had my cousin who owns a company in New York fake an employment offer letter so that I could get out of my Gold's Gym membership because they were never going to let me out of it. I literally was going to be like an indentured servant to Gold's Gym for the rest of my life.

And what you've seen is that that model has disappeared because people hate it, and if you are in a position where your customers are literally lying to get out of your agreements, something is fundamentally broken in your business model.

Charles: Right.

Kathleen: And that's what that reminds me of, is just, you know, trapping people into keeping their websites with you is not a way to grow a great business. So ...

Charles: And I think this is why we all get along at the HubSpot INBOUND Conference. Because I think all of us feel this way, and if we all had this conversation with a hundred people we met at INBOUND, it wound be the same thing. 

Kathleen: God, I hope so.

Charles: Yeah.

Kathleen: Yeah, it's terrible. So, listeners, if that's your situation, run, flee, get out of it, and find another agency.

Charles: Absolutely.

Kathleen: Well, cool. That's a great ... it's a great story, and I think it holds some important lessons. You know, it's all about, you've got to have a high-performing website, and it shouldn't take forever to build it, it shouldn't cost an ungodly sum of money, and then you should be able to maintain it going forward. Barring, you know, really highly customized or specialized features, you should be able to add content, add pages, so that not only are you moving fast, and being agile, and keeping the site up to date, but you're keeping your costs down, and you're not dependent upon an agency.

Charles: Absolutely.

Kathleen: So, if somebody is listening and they're interested in using Belch, who is it right for?

Charles: Really, anybody that's creating landing pages, website pages, or emails for HubSpot. Right now, the HubSpot ... I'll give you an example. We built an additional tool that goes side-by-side with our builder. So, if you want to try the builder, it's, and you can go right in. All you do is log in with your HubSpot account, so everybody should at least go try it. You get free trial. As you enter into it, you can publish for free, so don't worry about having to pay to publish anything.

But even just something simpler for people that maybe want to kind of put the toe in the water, we built a form styler, too, using the same technology, the same kind of interface, at, and all you have to do is go in there. You can either put the embed code for your HubSpot account if you don't want to connect it to the form styler, or you can connect through HubSpot and pick any form in your database and change all aspects of the design of it, the width of it, the height, the padding, colors, background, inputs. Anything that you can do CSS, you can do with the builder, and it takes ... Anybody can use it.

So, we want creatives, we want marketers, we want the people that are driving marketing to be the ones that are building marketing, and we think it'll be faster, more affordable, more will get done. We're trying to break that mold of, just use what's there, and just plug in whatever you have. We want people to feel like, "I need an email that has this, this, and this in it. I'm going to go make it," and a half hour later it's ready. It should be that easy, and we're just trying to get people there a little bit faster.

Kathleen: So, we've talked a lot about websites, but now I want to make sure that I understand correctly. Belch can be used by a non-developer to design a website, an email, style a form ... Anything else on that list?

Charles: And landing pages.

Kathleen: And landing pages. Okay, great.

Charles: Yeah.

Kathleen: And that form builder tool, is that a free tool that anybody can use?

Charles: Yup. It's free. Just, We're leaving it open. We want people to learn how to use our builder, and that's really just ... That's something that ... I'm also just tired of seeing the default form out there, the HubSpot form.

Kathleen: Yeah.

Charles: No offense to HubSpot, but just tired of seeing people with that on their site. You should have that branded. It should look clean. That's the gateway to your lead, and if you're just leaving it there, and it looks like whatever, people are not going to treat it with the same respect, so we want people to be able to do that. You don't have to call a developer to style your form. 

Kathleen: Nice! Well, I will definitely put links to all of that in the show notes, so check that out if you're interested in styling your forms, gettin' 'em stylin'. All right. So, before we wrap up, two questions for you that I ask all of my guests. The first is, and I'm curious to hear your answer because you've been in different aspects of the world of inbound marketing, company or individual, who do you think is doing inbound marketing really well right now?

Charles: Yeah. It's hard to pick one, so I'm going to give you three, but for three different reasons, too. Design, I'm always about Google's marketing whether it's what they put up on their site and draw people in with, the videos they make. The emails: how simple, and clean, and to the point they are. So, I always look to them for design inspiration.

When it comes to content and substance, Shopify has done a really good job over the last two and a half years of upping their game as far as creating good content, but also sending email marketing that feels really tailored to me. I don't feel like I need to swat it down or unsubscribe. I feel like if I don't need it, it's okay. I can look at it later. But they do a good job of giving me the right content.

And then I'd say methodology. Databox, which is also a HubSpot ... A lot of HubSpot agencies are using it. We are, too. The method that they're using for inbound marketing is awesome. Like, I'm even learning from what they're doing over there. Give Pete Caputa some credit 'cause he knows marketing very well. They're good at creating content through their users, through their customers, which was something that was, like, why didn't I think of that? That's a good idea. If you have a lot of users, and they're engaged, they want to contribute to your content and say, "Here's how I'm doing it," "Here's how I'm using your tool," "Here's a great way to do this," that's something that we could all learn from. I think they're doing a really good job of it.

Kathleen: Yeah. I actually interviewed Pete Caputa for the podcast. He was one of my earlier guests, and he talked in detail about how he does those crowdsourced blog posts, and I think he got a 600% increase in organic traffic in six months doing that. And it was funny. When I interviewed him, he said, "I tell people all the time how I do this, and nobody ever goes out and copies it, so who's going to be the first one?" And I haven't seen too many people do it since then, so I'll put that link in the show notes, too, and people can check that out again.

Charles: We're on our way. Well, I'm watching very carefully. I talked to Pete last week ...

Kathleen: Nice.

Charles: So, I'm going to be doing more and more of that. We're kind of more focused on getting the app ready for everybody, and we launched it only a few weeks ago, so ... The web app we only launched about three weeks ago, so for us it's, we're building that up, and we're having those conversations with customers, and now we're going to start creating that type of content 'cause it works. It's a great way to get people involved.

Kathleen: That's great. I can't wait to see what you guys do with that, and then you'll get the gold star badge for being the student who finally did what Pete told everybody to do.

Charles: Perfect.

Kathleen: Second question. With the world of digital marketing changing so quickly, how do you stay up to date and how do you educate yourself?

Charles: That's a good question. Being that I'm in the thick of it so much and we're working with so many other technologies that are kind of at the front, I feel like I'm in it. So, when things are changing, we're part of the change and we're usually leading some of the change; but I read everything. So, I'm subscribed to every newsletter that anybody's probably subscribed to for marketing and I'll take an hour or two every other day to read through those and find things that are new; because I'm only focused on new. I'm not looking at optimization necessarily, I'm not looking at other tricks, I'm looking for what's coming out.

So, when something comes out, we can be out in front of it and know this is going to be impactful for these clients or these clients, or this is something we need to wrap into Belch that's going to help people do things. So, Google's newsletters, everything. SEO partners, development, marketing, AdWords. All of it, to me because I am the technical side, I understand enough of it. I know how it drives things for marketers. I know how it affects different parts of marketing or sales. So, I'm watching everything that's happening with cloud platforms. From posting to partnerships, to acquisitions; and then our partners. So, Shopify, HubSpot, WP Engine, Amazon, Google obviously and then a lot of the other ones. Even SharpSpring nowadays. We're talking to them more and more.

Watching what they're doing and watching the features of the ad and the thing that they're focused on and the things that they talk about are generally a good indicator of what's happening with their customers and if we have customers that they have, we'd need to be paying attention to it too.

So, even little things like news. This is something that's important, or a new hire. Sometimes just watching who HubSpot hired, or who Google hired, or Shopify hired will tell you a lot about what they're about to do the next year or two. So, I pay attention to those things too, just in small press release that kind of go unnoticed because you can get out in front of things that way.

Kathleen: Yeah, there's just so much information out there and so much to absorb that I always liken it to drinking from a fire hose.

Charles: Yeah.

Kathleen: It's tough. But yeah, you kind of have to know which companies you admire and follow those.

Charles: Absolutely. Partners are a good thing to do. If you have good partners and they're doing good content, which all of ours do great content. It makes it a little bit easier because they're doing a lot of the hard work for you but a lot of the times, we're bringing stuff to them and saying, "This is something you don't realize is a problem yet but you should." Because we're ... I work in the agency world, we do different things. From eCommerce to software companies, international companies. We hear about things and we feel it coming a little bit sooner than maybe the bigger players, who might not be thinking about it yet but when you're down on the ground, you feel it and you know you have to do something different. Which is why we built something like Belch. We saw the complaints, we saw people didn't want to pay for custom templates and that generated a need for us.

So, hopefully everybody else sees the value in it now too.

Kathleen: That's great. Well, if somebody has a question about what you've talked about, wants to reach out to you individually, what's the best way for them to find you online?

Charles: Yeah, you can just email me, That's really ... I spend all my time in my inbox. Not on Twitter, doing much over there. So, yeah. Just email me directly, especially if you want a demo. I'm happy to walk people through how to use it. Not everything is obvious as far as benefits of Belch. So, we like to hear what people are thinking about trying to solve and if you're trying to build a website, there's a right way to do it. There's tricks and there's work arounds to making the HubSpot CMS more user friendly as far as managing a website. So, we're helping people through those things and we're building things into our app every day. Literally every day something new is coming in there and we need people to tell us what they want.

So, my best conversations are customer feedback calls, where they're saying, "Hey, this is awesome but what if it could do this?" Or, "What if it could do that?" And it's cool that people are willing to tell us what they want because we can build it. We just need to know that there's a real need for it.

So, you can always reach out to me via email.

Kathleen: All right. I'll put your email on the show notes too and thank you so much for joining me this week. Really interesting to hear about how the product came about and where it's heading and the problem that it's solving.

If you are listening and you liked what you heard today, I would love it if you would consider giving the podcast a review in iTunes or Stitcher, or wherever you happen to listen to podcasts; and if you know somebody 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, Charles.

Charles: Thank you, Kathleen.

Aug 06 2018



Rank #3: Ep. 20: 2018 Inbound Marketing Trends Ft. Eric Siu

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What are the top trends that will influence inbound marketers' ability to be successful in 2018? 

That's the question I set out to answer in this week's interview with famed marketer and podcaster Eric Siu. Eric is the CEO of Single Grain, a marketing agency focused on helping companies to grow their online revenue; the Founder of Growth Everywhere, a website and podcast that provide entrepreneurs with tools to grow both personally and professionally; as well as the co-host (with Neil Patel) of Marketing School, a daily podcast that provides marketers with actionable tips and insights.

Eric has been on my list of top marketing influencers for some time now, so I was excited to talk with him about what he sees as the top trends that will shape how we do inbound marketing in the future.

Listen to the podcast to hear what Eric thinks will influence inbound marketers in 2018, or read the show notes below for a quick summary.


Kathleen Booth (host): Welcome to The Inbound Success Podcast. This is Kathleen Booth and today my guest is Eric Siu, the CEO of Single Grain, co-host of the Marketing School Podcast and the founder of Growth Everywhere. Welcome, Eric.

Eric Siu (guest): Thanks for having me, Kathleen.

Kathleen: Thanks for being on. I'm excited to have you. Tell our listeners a little bit about yourself.

Eric: Like you mentioned, I run a marketing agency called Single Grain. So we mostly focus on paid advertising and SEO, and we get to work with a lot of technology clients like Uber, Amazon, even Lyft as well. And you know the Growth Everywhere podcast - I've been doing that for about four years, and I get to interview great entrepreneurs such as people that have invented the little credit card stripe you have on the back of your credit cards, and you know really smart people. I also co-host Marketing School with Neil Patel. We've been doing that for a little over a year now and then I also have a SaaS SEO tool called Click Flow. I stay busy around the world of marketing, so happy to be here.

Kathleen: I was going to say, you are a very busy guy. I think we can have a whole separate podcast on time management!

Eric: Yeah, totally.

Kathleen: I just listened to your Marketing School podcast with Neil on buying back your time so we can have a separate discussion about that, but we're going to put that on hold because you have generously agreed to be the first guest to kick off 2018 on this podcast. And what I really want to focus on is what you see as the big trends coming in 2018 for marketers and what's going to really contribute to the success of inbound marketing as we enter the new year?

Eric: Yeah, so I think what Neil and I have been talking about on the Marketing School podcast a lot, perhaps not in the next year but for sure a lot more automation is going to be happening. So you know when people talk about AI, machine learning, and also kind of general AI, general AI is basically robots that are going to be smarter than us or talking maybe. Could be you know 15, 20 plus years out but you know the fact of the matter is a lot of jobs are going to be replaced through automation, right, whether it's automating videos or just writing content, making things a lot easier and then so we can focus on things that are higher impact. I think that's coming but kind of in the near term future.

Neil and I have been investing a lot of resources into video, so we're building out video capabilities as an agency but also if you go to his YouTube channel and my YouTube channel, we've put significant time and resources into investing there and also making ads through video too. Because the fact of the matter is you and I, even though this is not a video podcast, we have our video on right now and it's a lot more personal and you can tell kind of what's going on too and you build more of a relationship versus just being a voice.

Kathleen: Yeah, I love that. It definitely helps to be able to look somebody in the eye when you're speaking to them as opposed to just having the audio and doing it over the phone.

Eric: Right.

Kathleen: I'd love to start by digging into the topic of AI a little bit more. That was the first thing that you mentioned and I feel like there's a lot of talk going on about that in the world of marketing and people have been discussing this possibility that some jobs will be replaced by robots. So if you had a child who was in college or entering college - I have a couple of them - what would be your advice if they said they were interested in a career in marketing as to what to focus on so that they did not fall victim to being replaced by a robot?

Eric: Yeah, you know this is interesting. One of our clients had about 520 million dollars invested in them and they are a toy - it's a STEM toy that teaches kids how to code. During a Christmas family gathering a couple days ago I was looking at some of my cousins' kids - they have kids now, I don't have kids yet. But it's like, okay, well you know when they're like four, five years old I'm going to buy a couple of those toys and give them that because they're actually going to use it and they're going to get smarter.

My background comes from online education. I used to work at a company called Treehouse, taught people how to do coding, web design, so that is required at least in my hypothetical future house. So I think there has to be coding. Look at Mark Cuban, right? He's a billionaire and doesn't have to learn other stuff, but he's still teaching himself how to do Python so he doesn't get left in the dust, right, so he knows what's going on. I think coding without a doubt has to happen. There's just so many resources out there. I'm seeing like some schools in Chicago where coding is required now in high school. So that would be the first thing.

Kathleen: It's very interesting because when I talk to younger people who are interested in going into marketing, what I often hear is that they love the creative side of it and you know they watch Mad Men and they think of it as like this creative brainstorm, and a lot of the people that go into marketing tend to be people who say "oh I really don't like math" or "I wasn't a science kid and so I'm going to be a marketer." From what you're saying and also from some of the things that I've been observing, it does sound like that is a somewhat old-fashioned notion of marketing and while there still is absolutely creativity involved, it seems to me that you can't be that person who says "I just don't like math and science and I'm going to ignore that and be the creative." I'd love to get your thoughts on that.

Eric: Yeah, so I think growing up we're kind of instilled that we're not good at certain things. It's the same thing in business right? People like to compare themselves to other peoples' highlight reels on Facebook or Instagram or YouTube or whatever. But maybe those people are practicing more, maybe they weren't good in the beginning right? So I remember growing up I always gravitated more towards writing. I just liked English more than math and my parents were always like yeah you're not good at math, da da da, whatever. But then I mean, you just start practicing more and more, and you just naturally get better. It's kind of cliché. So I still think, yeah, coding is going to be required. And I see a lot of people that code that aren't necessarily "good at math" so I just think it's an excuse at the end of the day and you've just got to suck it up.

Kathleen: I also think marketing is one of those disciplines that if you're not a committed lifelong learner, you're going to fall behind regardless and so you have to constantly be challenging yourself and stretching yourself. So with AI ... our listeners are a mix of agency people, in house marketers, etc., maybe not all from really big brands so they have limited budgets ... what are some accessible AI tools that you think they might bear looking into by the type of listener we have. 

Eric: Yeah, so there's this one that uses natural language processing, which is a segment of AI. But basically here's the high level of it. The tool is called Automated Insights and I think one of their tools is called Wordsmith or something. But you know there's a lot of companies like the Associated Press, you know they publish a ton of news, they might take financial stats, might take sports stats. It just makes life a lot easier so you don't have to hire like someone like a human to do it. It just pulls out the stats, makes it into a really readable format and all of a sudden they have three, four thousand plus unique pieces of content per month and it's only going to get better, right. This is just the beginning. You know it's just pulling stats right now to make it barely readable so I think that has a long way to go but that's just one thing that can be done that is kind of a sub-segment of AI.

Kathleen: Yeah, I've seen some interesting analysis tools also. I just did a demo last week of Atomic Reach, which is doing some pretty cool things in analyzing marketing content to determine what level of emotional input into tone strikes the strongest chord and what length of posts, etc. So a lot of that analysis that we used to have to do very manually is now starting to be accomplished via artificial intelligence.

Eric: Yup.

Kathleen: One resource I would definitely point listeners to if you haven't checked it out, is Paul Roetzer, who is doing some great work with his Marketing AI institute. They're doing a ton of research on all the different tools out there so that's a great website with lots of really helpful information.

Okay so AI ... we've kind of checked that box, talked about that a little bit. Video, that was the second thing I think you mentioned. Tell me a little bit more. I mean video has been kind of a hot topic for the last year or two, how do you see that continuing to evolve in 2018?

Eric: Yeah, so I think it just depends on the style, right? So you know you look at the Gary Vee's out there, you know everybody, especially everybody in an agency where, it's funny I talk to a lot of agency owners and everybody wants to build a 100 million dollar agency now, right, just because he says it all the time. So I think that he certainly had that kind of effect, you know the documenting works for him. But the kind of videos Neil and I tend to do it's Neil does a lot of how-to videos. It just depends on your style, right. He likes how-to, he's got a really private life. I do how-to, I'll do some Vlogs too, I might do some interview series. So I like to try, for me, I like to throw a bunch of things against the wall and see what sticks.

Also, I think that the other thing around if you're doing video you probably want to grow a YouTube channel. Maybe you know when you think about, I've talked to a couple other YouTube people and you know they say yeah it's a tough slog to get to the first 10 thousand subscribers but once you get to the first 10 thousand it's really easy to just start growing from there. 10 thousand to 100 thousand, then 100 thousand plus. But it just takes time. So that's kind of the recurring theme and when I was recording the podcast with Neil yesterday, what we found ourselves saying for a couple episodes for becoming an overnight success or achieving your goals, it just takes time at the end of the day. And I think a lot of people just, yeah, just stop comparing yourself to other people all the time.

Kathleen: Any tips for brands or agencies that are starting to invest in YouTube and are in the middle of that tough slog? You know other than "hey, have patience and wait it out," anything that you've seen work really well?

Eric: Yeah. So look at your analytics, you want to look at your watch time definitely, and you want to look at your retention rate, right. What you can do is, let's say you have this really long-winded introduction and you see you lose 50% of your listeners throughout the introduction, you know you need to fix that intro. Maybe that becomes 20% in the future and then your retention rate starts to get better, people start to get more interested. You also have to make sure you're publishing on a consistent schedule too, right. Right now the top YouTubers they're publishing one, two, three times a day. It's like if you're going to do something you better be consistent with it and you better be willing to stick it through for a long time and not see any returns for a while.

Kathleen: Yeah and it's interesting that you mentioned testing out different formats because I interviewed Ameer Rosic a few weeks ago and he's got a huge YouTube following; he's got like 150 thousand followers. I was asking him that same question and he said the same thing, which was to test out different formats because you can't assume that just because a longer form Vlog worked really well for somebody else it's going to work for your audience.

Eric: Well yeah. He really took off after he started publishing cryptocurrency kind of videos or blockchain videos. So you know, riding the wave too always works from a marketing perspective.

Kathleen:  On Marketing School, I listened to you and Neil talk about being everywhere - the importance of being everywhere these days. One of the things that I've been observing is Facebook's move to really reward native video that's uploaded directly to the platform instead of, for example, sharing your YouTube video on Facebook. So if you're somebody who wants to build a following on YouTube but is also actively trying to build their following on Facebook and wants to leverage the video they're creating for YouTube on Facebook, any advice for how to balance cannibalizing your own audience through those two platforms?

Eric: On YouTube there's a tool called TubeBuddy that allows you to also publish to Facebook. So when you're uploading a video you can also publish to Facebook. That's not exactly sharing - it is publishing to your channel and you can see how that performs. We've been doing that just in the last couple weeks and the videos get a decent amount of views, some even more than what we're seeing on YouTube. Then kind of similar to that note, we just submitted our videos to be on YouTube Watch too because we see some other people like Grant Cardone appearing on Facebook Watch. So that's something to take a look at as well.

Kathleen: Yeah, it seems like YouTube is introducing a lot of really neat tools for brands that are committed to video but in my understanding is that a lot of them are not accessible until you reach a certain follower count, I believe is it 10 thousand?

Eric: Yeah. So there's different tiers. I mean there's a thousand, I think there's 10 thousand and 100 thousand. But the tool I'm talking about is accessible to everyone. You've got TubeBuddy and then there's another one called VidIQ. They're both very similar, they're competitors. But there's a lot of tools in there like creating thumbnails, publishing to Facebook, finding the right tags, seeing what you're ranking for, things like that.

Kathleen: Great. So outside of video and AI, any other strategies that you're seeing work really well for inbound marketers?

Eric: Yeah, so podcasting like what you're doing right now. It's no secret the fact that I'm doing that Marketing School podcast is because of my first podcast. But you know same kind of thing, it's tough slog. Most people give up way too early. Podcasting has led to many great things. If I just look at Marketing School, the fact that we're taking those podcasts and someone's writing the show notes and they're being published on the agency website, which has a pretty high domain authority, we bumped our traffic up by 25 to 30%. And then, at the same time, it's led to speaking gigs, great relationships, clients as well, just a lot of things that you wouldn't expect. You're basically building relationships at scale, which is why I like podcasts and why I like video.

Kathleen: Yeah and I find it's always surprising when and how people are listening to the podcast. One of the things I love the most about it is when I meet somebody who I've never met before and they tell me a story like I was dropping my kid off at school and listening to you talk about X or I was grocery shopping or you know I'm in the car, and I feel like it really does lend itself so well to how mobile we're all becoming today.

Eric: It's extremely personal. I mean when I was speaking at a conference in Amsterdam, a girl raised her hand during Q&A and then she was like "Eric just want to let you know that I listen to Marketing School in the shower." I was like "okay?"

Kathleen: All of a sudden it conjures up all kinds of interesting images.

Eric: Yeah.

Kathleen: Well I will admit I was listening to you and Neil yesterday as I was lifting weights so ...

Eric: Hey, yeah.

Kathleen: There you go. Yeah, one of the other things I heard you talking about on the podcast was simplifying your funnel. This is something I'm really interested in. There are so many tools available to us now as marketers. My agency happens to be a HubSpot partner, but there's also MarketoPardotEloqua, you name it. There's so many that allow marketers, if they so choose, to get really complicated with their funnels, their workflows etc. And I think it is easy to fall victim to the notion that the more complicated you make it, the more effective it's going to be. But you had a really interesting discussion that was the counterpoint to that and I'm wondering if you could talk a little bit more about that.

Eric: Yeah. I forgot what we said exactly but maybe it'll just kind of come out naturally here. Neil uses ConvertKit, I use Drip. And Drip is a really simplified version of like Infusionsoft for example. And Infusionsoft can do a lot of stuff that Marketo does, right - a lot of complex tagging, logic, things like that. But especially when you're starting out, you don't need to get that complex because, like, how much is that really going to move the needle for you?

So I recommend making a general nurture sequence, maybe the first email can find out who your customer is exactly, give a little introduction to you, and then afterwards just send them a high value kind of evergreen piece of content, which is what we do with podcasts for example. And then from time to time we'll broadcast an announcement for a webinar or something like that, but there's no need to say in the very beginning "oh if he clicks this button he needs to be moved to this service" and then you start kind of doing all these little kind of minor things and it becomes a super convoluted monster when you could have been spending that time on more higher leverage activities as a business owner.

Kathleen: Right. The law of diminishing returns definitely applies to workflow complexity.

Eric: Right.

Kathleen: So other things I'm curious about from your perspective... content. Obviously a lot more content is being created these days. I feel like six years ago when I was talking about inbound marketing nobody had heard of it, but now it's extremely widely adopted. Any particular trends you're seeing as far as what enables a brand that wants to thrive through content creation to be successful?

Eric: Yeah. Let's start with podcasts first. Everyone has a unique spin on their podcast and I think with Marketing School, one of the reasons it succeeds is because we do it every single day and it's a very short format. So it's something that has its kind of unique spin and then with Tim Ferris' stuff, he's talking to really hard to access people and these interviews can go for two to three hours sometimes. So it's the unique spin that you have, right?

And then with Growth Everywhere, the other podcast, I'm able to talk with executives about the entrepreneurial journey but also dig deep on marketing and personal habits. So if you can have something unique and you stick with it, great.

That doesn't just apply to podcasts, it applies to video too. If you look at Grant Cardone, he's very personable, a great speaker, funny guy. So whatever you can, apply to it and then you're going to start to build an audience over time. It's not like Growth Everywhere was built over one night. I was spending six hours a week on it in the very beginning while I was trying to save this company, which I just took over at the time.

Was the juice worth the squeeze in one year? No, but that's when people would have given up. I was only getting nine downloads a day after the first year. I kept going for another year, I was only getting 30 downloads a day. So you would think after one year I should give up, but after two years, like, I'm stupid for continuing to go on after 30 downloads. But if I didn't go on, it wouldn't have led to getting up to 100,000 downloads a month and wouldn't have led to Marketing School, which gets about 600,000 downloads a month.

Kathleen: Yeah, I love that story and it's very personally applicable because I had a podcast before and it wasn't specific enough. I learned that lesson pretty quickly so it wasn't going to develop a really big following. And that was why I changed gears and started this one. And this is still a very young podcast; we're approaching our 20th episode. But I was just telling this story because I actually did publish a Christmas episode, this comes out on Christmas, and it was funny I heard that you guys did as well. A part of it was to be consistent and one of the things I talked about was that even if nobody ever listens, I love doing this because I learn so much and I feel like that's a piece of it too. You have to love what you're doing and it has to be something that nourishes you because then it gives you that patience that you need to wait for it to pay off. And if it's going to nourish you, it's going to nourish some other people. You're going to find your people out there eventually.

Eric: 100%.

Kathleen: So what about paid online advertising? I feel like that landscape has changed dramatically in the last year.

Eric: Yeah.

Kathleen: Between paid social, traditional Google pay per clickretargeting, programmatic, native, there's so much going on, what do you see as holding the greatest potential for brands?

Eric: What we've been noticing more and more is you can't just drive people to the product page and get them to buy off paid social. Clicks are becoming more and more expensive on Facebook and Google as more and more people go online. This is why we're putting more resources into video. So what is effective is to drive people to a video piece of content. When they see the video, you can retarget them after they watch 10 seconds, 25% of the video or so on.

You're basically getting visits for really cheap. You're building that audience and then you can build lookalikes off that both on YouTube and Facebook, and then you can get them to take an action afterwards. After they've gotten to know you a little bit, they start to understand what you're about. Or maybe you can have a free offer for them first, instead of saying "come buy my stuff "because everything is relationship-based. Those that can actually build a relationship quickly versus saying "hey come buy my stuff," those are the ones that are going to do better in the long-term.

It's like what you're doing right now. You're building a relationship with the audience with podcasts. It just takes time. I think people just need to be more patient, and this is something I tell my paid advertising team. It's not all direct response all the time. You know, when I first started learning digital marketing it was like "oh we have the internet now there's no need for brand marketing." Now it's kind of shifting to the other side where you actually need that stuff. It's important. You can't just think about direct response all the time because the intangibles matter.

Kathleen: Yeah, absolutely. And would your advice differ if you were giving it to a B2B company as opposed to B2C? I know Single Grain is B2B but you're working with a lot of B2C brands as clients, so I'm curious how you see that differing.

Eric: For B2B I think it's the same thing. We work with a lot of SaaS companies, and we typically will drive them to a lead magnet first. So like with the billing company we work with, like it's freaking subscription billing, right? We drive them to a lead magnet that's interesting to people and it does well in terms of hitting their goals, driving leads that are at an acceptable cost per acquisition. And we do something similar for an applicant tracking system company we work with and sometimes we might drive them to a lead magnet or a webinar, like an on demand webinar, and that works well. Webinars still work really well for B2B even though they're kind of becoming more saturated.

Kathleen: Yeah, I've seen the same thing. A few years ago e-books were hot and now it's like you have to beg to get people to download some of these e-books because there's so much crappy content out there and people have become very skeptical of whether it's worth giving their email address out for an e-book that may wind up being really crappy. So one of the things that we've seen is a trend towards putting the e-book right on the page and then not only are you giving the content away, but you're getting all the organic SEO value out of that keyword-rich content. And then you can just say "If you want to print it out, put your email address here and we'll send you a PDF." And because people know it's good content, they're much more likely to convert on it so it's a little counterintuitive, but seems to work pretty well.

Great. Any other last tips you want to share besides the ones you've given us?

Eric: No, I think with marketing you just have to - and I'll keep repeating this - you just have to stick with it. The reason I keep saying stick with it is because I came back from Japan about three weeks ago and I met up with this group that I'm. It's a worldwide entrepreneur's organization called Entrepreneur's Organization. One of the guys in my group is a Japanese guy, and he's being running his marketing agency for 20 plus years. The first year or two it was just him and within the first five years there was just him and a couple of employees. The business is now a publicly traded company in Japan and it does $200 million USD per year. And he's added a lot of things certainly, but I was like, "So why do Japanese stick with their businesses longer?" Because he introduced me to a couple other people, and they've all being doing their business 20 plus years. He's like, "Well, we're not like Americans where we can just sell our business easily." They really can't do that and so they just stick with it longer and you see what happens, it just compounds; it's like investing.

Kathleen: That's interesting so it's like they have to make it work because they don't have any other option.

Eric: Right.

Kathleen: So when you look out at the world today of marketing, who do you think is doing inbound marketing really well, company or individual?

Eric: Yeah, so obviously my podcast co-host Neil, he's very prolific with his content production. Even though a lot of it's not him writing it anymore, it's still compounding on itself. And then yesterday we were just sitting recording. To have that kind of commitment where we spend three to four hours, two times a month driving to a studio and he has to fly back from certain places, I have to fly back from certain places just to get that done, that just shows what kind of commitment it takes to be successful as he is with content marketing.

I also like where Tai Lopez and Grant Cardone are. I'm not saying I'm 100% in agreement with what they do, but I do respect their work ethic because they're just, again, they're very prolific, they've got great personalities, they know how to get their audience going. And that's the important thing with marketing, you have to know who your target audience is and what really kind of makes them tick, and they both know how to do that really well.

Kathleen: Awesome. And any bigger brands that you think are really crushing it?

Eric: When it comes to content marketing I think Red Bull always does really unique things. I'm sure there's a lot of other ones.

Kathleen: And speaking of big brands, I've got to ask you this question because I'm from an agency and you mentioned when we were starting out that you're doing work for Uber and for Lyft. How do you work for competing brands and do it in a way that you can really kill it for both of them and be effective and put up that Chinese wall? I'd love to hear a little bit about how you handle that.

Eric: I mean when I've talked to other people at large agencies, what they'll typically say is that the same team that works on Uber is not going to be the same team that works on Lyft. They're going to be in separate rooms so to speak. And what's good for us in working with these two companies, is that we work with two different divisions that are really not competitive. It's two kind of completely different things. You'd think like they're both just ridesharing how are they different, right? But they are fairly different. So that actually helped us win the deal with Lyft seeing that Uber was one of the clients. So sometimes it does help to see that kind of validation.

Kathleen: Yeah, it's an interesting balance because I feel like you do learn so much from working a particular industry and it's almost a shame that you can't leverage everything you've learned to do better for somebody else. But in doing better for somebody else how does that affect your first client? It's something I'm fascinated by having been in the agency world for 15 years.

Eric: That's a really good point because the fact of the matter is a lot of agencies try to be full service, they try to work with everyone. I think especially in the beginning it's really important to kind of niche down. So for us, our sweet spot is software as a service and education companies. Sometimes we'll work with bigger brands but it's harder because you have to keep relearning everything each time and it's just like starting over again. It's like the same thing, like things compound if you just kind of focus in and if you focus in you can actually charge more because that's one of your unique selling points. Like we just focus on SaaS companies and that's why we charge more because we have this proven playbook versus saying we work with everybody.

Kathleen: Yeah, it's always fascinating too on the prospect side because I speak with prospective clients and I would say 50% of the time they say "I want to see that you've worked with companies in my industry so that I get that understanding of what we do." An example is we work with a lot of cybersecurity companies and they're like "we want to know that you know cyber." But then there's the other half that say "I want to make sure you're NOT working with anybody else in my area because I don't want there to be any hint of competition." So it's always interesting to see the mindset that the prospective client comes with as well.

Eric: Totally.

Kathleen: All right, last question for you. You're somebody who's involved in so many different things and obviously testing out new strategies and approaches and taking risks. Where do you go to educate yourself about marketing and to stay abreast of the latest thinking?

Eric: I have this Chrome add-on called Panda and what it does is I can open up three columns for feeds that I like reading. So I've got Growth Hackers, I have, those are good sites where people are just publishing new stuff all the time. And then I have Hacker News and then sometimes I'll switch over to The Verge or things like that. But it's just a feed, right? So those two are really good enough. If you just want to focus on two, I recommend Growth Hackers and And then I have Feedly which has a bunch of subscriptions too, whether it's entrepreneurship or marketing, where I can just scroll through it and then I can click on things and I can save it to my Pocket. Pocket is my reader. Basically I can save things for later. Those are just a couple things that I do that kind of keep me up to date.

Kathleen: Great. Well, thanks for sharing those. Those are really good tips. So if somebody has some questions for you about anything you've mentioned here, what's the best way for them to find you online?

Eric: Yeah, they can just email me directly. It's Eric E-R-I-C

Kathleen: All right and I'll put that link in the show notes. Last question for you. What social platforms are you most active on?

Eric: When I look at my phone, it shows a lot of time spent on Instagram. But I would say I've been spending a lot more time on Twitter, that's where I've become the most educated because I very much curate who I follow. And then YouTube just because we're constantly trying to optimize that. So Twitter would probably be number one and then Instagram just on time spent, and then yeah you have YouTube, just to kind of continue to tweak things.

Kathleen: I love that. Twitter is the most misunderstood platform. I feel like that's the one I hear the most complaints about, the most people saying they've abandoned it. But I feel like you do. I mean I have a really small list of influencers I follow - you're on my influencer list - and I feel like as long as I can keep up with that list on Twitter, I stay fresh on what's happening and it's been great ...

Eric: Because it filters out a lot of the junk out there too. So this is why there's no real reason for me, at least for me, to watch the news because the big things really pop up on Twitter.

Kathleen: Yeah, absolutely. Well thank you so much. This has been really interesting. I'm glad we had an opportunity to connect and that you were able to share some of the things you're seeing for 2018. Again, I'm going to summarize a lot of this in the show notes so go check those out if you have a chance.

If you like what you've heard today, I would love it if you could give us a review on iTunes or Stitcher or whatever podcasting platform you happen to prefer. Lastly, if you know somebody doing really kickass inbound marketing work, tweet me @WorkMommyWork because I'd love to interview them. Thanks so much. Thanks Eric.

Eric: Thank you.

Jan 08 2018



Rank #4: Ep. 79: How A New Blogging Strategy Broke HubSpot's Website Traffic Records Ft. Kieran Flanagan

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HubSpot has experienced incredible growth since its founding in 2005, but in the last year, the company's marketing team has broken the company's website traffic growth records with a new strategy. 

This week onThe Inbound Success Podcast, I spoke with HubSpot VP of Marketing Kieran Flanagan about the company's "hearts and minds strategy," and how it has driven 80% year over year traffic growth (and a commensurate increase in new leads). 

The results that Kieran and his team have gotten are so strong that they have inspired a change in the way the company's editorial team is structured, and a new approach to how they carry out keyword research, develop editorial calendars, and measure their results.

Some highlights from my conversation with Kieran include:

  • HubSpot is targeting marketers and business leaders and its new strategy does this by appealing to their hearts and minds.
  • All of the company's editorial content is segmented into those two categories - hearts and minds.
  • Content for the mind is more tactical in nature and targeted at attracting existing search volume for a particular keyword.
  • Content for the heart is more emotional and meant to tap into a pain point that their audience is experiencing and wants to solve for.
  • Because there is not necessarily existing search volume for the "hearts" content (as there is with the "minds" content), HubSpot has an aggressive content promotion strategy for the hearts content.
  • They started by rolling this strategy out on the company's english language web properties, and it has been so successful that they are now expanding it onto their non-english language sites.
  • For the minds content, because it is targeted at existing search volume, HubSpot is using a pillar content and topic cluster strategy to establish authority for its target keywords with search engines.
  • It is relatively straightforward to identify topics for the "minds" content using tools such as Google Adwords, Ahrefs, etc. For the "hearts" content, HubSpot relies upon customer research and interviews to understand the questions they are asking and the pain points they are experiencing.
  • Kieran believes that when it comes to hearts content, brands must choose a side and be prepared to attract some audiences, and repel others. 
  • Even in a B2B sale, you are selling to individual people, so it's important to appeal to things that matter to the individual, and be problem-focused before you are solution-focused, with your content.
  • When it comes to content promotion, it is very important for any company (large or small) to have a strategy for getting back links. There are a variety of ways to do this and Kieran talks specifically about the "surround sound" strategy and the broken link strategy.
  • If you are doing marketing for a smaller company with a lower domain authority, it is more important to produce less content that you heavily promote than to create more content that you don't promote at all.
  • For the minds content, you should focus on keywords that have a high "search click volume" as opposed to simply high search volume.
  • Kieran's hearts and minds strategy has resulted in 80% year over year website traffic growth for HubSpot.

Resources from this episode:

Listen to the podcast to learn how Kieran's "hearts and minds" strategy for content creation has broken all of HubSpot's traffic records.


Kathleen Booth (Host):Welcome back to the Inbound Success Podcast. I'm your host Kathleen Booth, and this week my guest is Kieran Flanagan, who is the VP of Marketing at HubSpot, and the host of The Growth TL;DR podcast. Welcome, Kieran. Kieran Flanagan (Guest): Thanks for having me, Kathleen. I appreciate you having me on.

Kieran and Kathleen recording this episode

Kathleen: Yeah. I'm interested to pick your brain. I always love talking to people from HubSpot because, obviously, you guys are at the forefront of the inbound marketing movement, and so rarely do most people get the opportunity to get a peek inside the kimono and find out what's really happening with the company.

I'm excited to do that here today, but before we jump in, if you could tell my audience a little bit more about yourself and just a little bit about what you do at HubSpot. That would be great.

About Kieran Flanagan and HubSpot

Kieran: Yeah. Absolutely. I've really had three roles during my time at HubSpot. Pre-HubSpot, I worked for other SaaS companies.

Then, I was lucky enough to join HubSpot when we opened up our first office outside of Cambridge, way back when I think the company was maybe 300 people. There was a small group of us who were tasked with growing out the international business. I did that for two and a half years. That business grew quite quickly.

Then, I joined another small group of people that were in HubSpot that had the mission of growing a Freemium business - so like a go to market, where you could try our software for free, then you could upgrade as you needed to get more functionality.

That went really well, and I did that for, I think, another two and a half years. Then, HubSpot really just adopted Freemium across the entire go to market.

Today what I do in HubSpot is manage all of the different teams that are responsible for our global demand, and that demand is a mix of leads. We generate leads, turn them into marketing qualified leads, and send them across to sales people, turn into opportunities and customers.

Then, we generate users who use our products for free, then can upgrade through either reaching out and talking to a sales person or actually upgrading themselves and buying the products themselves.

Kathleen: You are based in Ireland, correct?

Kieran: Yes. That's another interesting thing about my work in that I'm based in Ireland. I have a team of about 50 people. Four of them are based in Dublin with me, and everyone else is based in the States. I have gotten very used to remote working and appearing as a box on Zoom to everyone else.

Kathleen: I always tell people that I live my life on Zoom and that soon my headphones are going to grow and become a permanent part of my body, because it's the same for me. I work out of my house, and I'm on Zoom basically 24/7.

Kieran: Right. I usually check every single moment of every single day, and I've still got my AirPods in. I'm never sure if I've taken them out or not.

Kathleen: Yeah, I feel like Zoom needs to sponsor my podcasts because we talk about it so much on here, about how we live our lives on video. It's great. It's the greatest thing. I honestly couldn't do my job without it. I imagine it's similar for you with people scattered all over.

Kieran: Yeah, I'm very passionate about remote work. I believe that it's good for, not only companies, but just good for the world. It's a really great way to redistribute wealth across the different cities, not just all within a small group of cities that just become overly expensive.

Kathleen: Yeah, it also - to me, I used to own an agency. I transitioned halfway through my tenure as an agency owner from hiring everyone locally to hiring folks remotely.

For me, the greatest impetus behind that was really just to find the best person for the role no matter where they happened to be. Boy, what a difference that made to my company. It all of a sudden opened up this world of possibilities that was pretty amazing.

Kieran: Yeah, it's actually the exact same for me. Obviously remote worked, it was just a good thing for me because I took a role that would generally be based in Boston, to take over a bunch of U.S.-based teams. I was allowed to do it because HubSpot allowed me to do it remotely, which was really good of them.

They've done a lot to make remote work within HubSpot. The other benefit was because I was remote, I really didn't mind where I hired people.

It's definitely been one of the best levers to both hire and retain talent into my teams, and having that flexibility and allowing people to work where they want to work within reason. We do have some guardrails, but generally we've gotten pretty good at it over the last couple of years.

Kathleen: That's great. You said you manage all the teams that are responsible for this growth. I think you mentioned there are 50 people, is that right, that you manage?

Kieran: Yeah, it's about 50 people spread across different offices that are regularly charged with growing the global demand of HubSpot.

Kathleen: Wow, that is a lot to wrap one's head around.

How Kieran's Blogging Strategy Broke HubSpot's Traffic Records

Kathleen: One of the reasons I was excited to talk to you is that I was reading that in the last eight months you guys have broken HubSpot's traffic records, which is really impressive because for anyone who's familiar with HubSpot, this is a company that has had astronomical growth, both as a company in terms of its user base, but also in terms of its traffic.

I often think - you intuitively think - that gets harder as time goes on because you've already made those big early gains. You've identified all the low hanging fruit.

I'm very interested to hear how at this stage in HubSpot's evolution you guys are still able to break those kinds of records. What is it that lies behind that success?

Kieran: You are definitely right in that it's definitely harder because you're generally doing everything so there's not this un-hidden channel that you have not tapped into.

You're tasked with "How do I get better at the things that I'm already doing? How do I get better within these existing channels?" Or, "How do I layer on new channels for growth?"

We do that. We're in a fortunate position where we can have teams who are focused on long term bets. We have a couple of those in the works at the moment.

Really the thing that's been very successful for us over the last year is not only that the teams do get better - and they do get better just by the fact that they're super smart - but they also hire other smart people into the teams who bring you fresh ideas.

We've got to grips for our content in terms of segmenting it into what our CMO, Kipp, calls the hearts and minds of individuals. How do you win the hearts and minds of business leaders?

That approach to content marketing means you think about "How do I create tactical content?"

If you think about when you start a blog, or a company starts a blog, they generally think how do I make this blog really appealing to people? How can I get this blog known by a wider audience?

One of the things you can challenge yourself on is, does that actually matter? Does that really matter if you are trying to win the minds of business leaders through this tactical content? Content that does that is really created with promotion in mind, and generally through search.

What we do is we have our content team segmented into a team that are trying to win the minds of business leaders. We're thinking through "How do I create a huge editorial calendar based upon all the things we could create across the things that our audiences are actually searching for?"

We're not just creating content in the hopes that we can drive traffic demand to HubSpot. We actually think promotion first. There's actually existing demand for this content, and we create that content with that demand in mind.

Then, there's also obviously how do you win the hearts of your audience? That's still super important, but that content is more focused on how do you facilitate emotion within people or how do you cause emotion with people? How do you make people feel something about your brand? How do you get people to connect with your mission?

It's harder to directly measure the success of that content through the traditional things, like has it drove the lead, has it drove the user, has it drove our sale?

Generally that's worked really, really well for us over the last year. We've seen a lot of success in doing that. We're just in the middle of replicating that strategy in all of our non-English territories.

Kathleen: Oh, that's so interesting. I have so many questions. In my head I want to separate this conversation into minds and hearts-

Kieran: Yes.

Kathleen: ... Because it sounds like those are two different approaches, or two different prongs within the one approach.

Kieran: Yes.

Kathleen: Let's start with minds because if I'm understanding you correctly, it sounds like what you have done is said "Instead of trying to focus on bigger think pieces, or esoteric topics, let's get really granular and figure out what the audience is already searching for and let's scratch that itch, and tap into that pain."

Is that correct?

Kieran: Yeah, exactly. We do both of those things again, because we are very fortunate that we have the resources to have teams for both those things.

I think there are companies of certain sizes that probably need to consider which one of those is the most important one for them to invest in. Yet, the minds team is really focused on "How do we create a whole editorial calendar?" We have this huge editorial calendar broken into all kinds of scientific metrics and ways to figure out the things you create content on.

But, it's really focused on content that attracts traffic through search engines. Not trying to figure out how does this cause someone to feel a certain way that they want to share on social. How do you read this post and then you remember the blog.

We're less concerned about that. It's more of a "Hey, I come in, I want this thing, I found this thing," then there's further information if you want to download that, or there're other ways you can explore more of the HubSpot ecosystem.

It's really tactical content created with promotion in mind, and we create it with search in mind.

For other companies it may be a different platform that they create that content in mind for that's applicable to however they promote their company.

Kathleen: I feel like this sounds to me like the "Field of Dreams" approach. "If you build it, they will come."

Kieran: Yeah, it's definitely "If you build it, and you have a really great promotion planned."

Again, there're different phases of how this would work for a company. HubSpot is a company that has a lot of domain authority, so generally when we created content about something we do a little bit of promotion on that content, it ranks quite quickly.

If I'm in a more early stage company, what I probably want to do is have a plan where I create, within the minds of whoever my audience is, content and I spend a lot more time on promotion than we would probably need to because I'm trying to build up the domain authority of my website.

That promotion could be acquiring the links for it, and all these different ways that you can attract attention to it.

Kathleen: Let's break this down even further.

You mentioned that you guys have this big editorial calendar. You're really trying to map out what are the topics that these business leaders you're targeting are already searching for, and what's going to be really useful for them.

Can you speak to that process and any kind of either strategies or tools that you use to surface those topics?

Kieran: One of the things we use is the cluster and topic strategy. We think about what is the topic that this business leader is interested in learning more information about, because they're actively searching for it.

Let's take the example of content marketing. Content marketing is a topic, it's an all encompassing topic that has many sub-topics.

We will look at content marketing and break that down into the many sub-topics that people are searching for. Maybe people are searching for how do I build a content market and process, how do I create a winning content marketing strategy, how do I measure content marketing, how do I turn content marketing into customers? There's all of these different sub-topics that are related to that topic.

We take one topic and break it down into all the things we could create content around. At the centerpiece we would create a piece of content on that core topic. Maybe it's the definitive guide on content marketing.

Then, we would create all of this other micro content that's applicable to all of the different things that people are searching for given the examples that I've just gone through. We would interlink all that content.

Basically, think about it as a hub and spoke strategy where you have the central piece at the heart of that, and you have all the many pieces around, and they are all interlinked.

Generally if you do that, what you're helping Google to do is understand that you are an authority on this topic. You've not just got one or two pieces of content - you have deeply covered that topic. You have many different pieces of content that are relevant and helpful to the user.

We do that by looking for those topics, looking for all the different keywords that are related to that topic, aggregating those up, deciding on the content we can create, listing out page titles, meta descriptions - all of the information that you actually need - and then prioritizing based upon the available search traffic for each topic.

We also look at things like how relevant is it to our business. We have guardrails in place that it needs to drive traffic, plus it needs to drive the user or lead because again, remember, this is a topic that's tactical within the minds you should expect a conversion.

Kathleen: Got it, okay. It has to be relevant to the business. It has to have a sufficient volume of search traffic.

Kieran: Yes.

Kathleen: I assume that the volume of search traffic, there's not one magic number that every company needs to look for? Is it relative to your company and the slice of market you're going after? Is there a magic number?

Kieran: No, it's definitely relevant to the company.

A topic that has 5,000 total visits available search traffic when you aggregate all this up, may be a lot for a company in a niche market. If you're a company in a broad market, maybe that's not that much at all.

It's definitely specific to whatever company you are, and the product you have, and the amount of all the search traffic you can acquire. The number for HubSpot is probably very different from other companies.

Kathleen: Got it. You have these really tactical, practical topics. Then, you have the ones that are meant to appeal more to the heart.

This is the one that I think is so interesting to me because I feel like a lot of marketers who listen to this podcast, for a lot of them, the concept of finding these topic clusters, going for things of high traffic, being really practical, that's going to feel very familiar. It's much of what we're taught. That's the whole Marcus Sheridan, "They ask, you answer" paradigm.

But, I find, funny enough, many marketers, especially content marketers are really bad at the heart side of things. I'm interested to hear how your team is approaching that.

Kieran: The heart is slightly more difficult to actually pinpoint the content that's going to strike or resonate with your audience because the research piece is harder.

The minds can be more mechanical because you can physically see that there's people interested in this, whereas the hearts are "How do I create things that help people feel some way about my company?"

We actually have a similar setup in terms of how the mind and heart are set up in that we have an editorial team that creates a calendar based upon content that they want to connect to our mission, our products.

The thing that differs is actually their research process. The research process has a lot more talking to people, talking to customers, talking to prospects, talking to other teams within HubSpot, figuring out what actually resonates with those people.

Then, the way that you figure out what's going to work is actually trial and error. You create content, you see that it resonates with people, and you tweak it over time.

The way they differentiate it is the mind has more tools that you can pull in relevant information from. I'm sure your audience knows, search traffic, all these different things.

Whereas, the heart, you're spending a lot more time actually talking to people, doing what you would do if you were building a product, a lot of customer research, a lot of insights from other teams within the company.

Kathleen: Is is fair to say that the heart strategy is more about pain that the customer is feeling?

Kieran: Yeah, exactly. It's more about the emotion you want that person to have about your company.

A good example of this, back in the day for HubSpot, what actually drew me to HubSpot before I worked there was Brian did a piece that was really a call to arms for marketers about why outbound marketing was not the best way to spend your time, why there's this better way of doing marketing.

That's the piece that's more your heart. There's not people searching for inbound marketing back there and there wasn't people searching why they shouldn't do outbound marketing.

That creates a tribe of people who feel that way about outbound marketing and then feel they need to actually make a change and do something else.

Kathleen: Is it about taking a position or taking a stance? Is that part of the heart strategy?

Kieran: Yeah, I think one of the most important things to do as a brand is choose a side. I think you should always have a clear enemy in terms of - a clear enemy is really what problem your product sells.

"One of the most important things to do as a brand is choose a side"

~ Kieran Flanagan (@searchbrat)

Click to tweet this quote

Be very clear about that and know that means that you're going to have both people who are attracted to your company and people who are detractors from the company. That is way better than actually being vanilla and just having people who don't care much about your company.

Kathleen: Interesting. For somebody who's listening, if they're thinking about this in the context of their own company, particularly with the heart strategy, any tips on how to get started on this and how to begin to identify those topics that you might want to cover?

Kieran: On the heart side?

Kathleen: Yeah.

Kieran: Yeah, I think the most important thing marketers can do that they probably don't do enough of is talk to their customers.

I've worked a lot with product and engineering because previous to the role I've done at HubSpot, I was in what we call a growth role. A growth role is basically a collection of marketers, product and engineers who are tasked with creating onboarding and all these different things to help people better use a product, and to upgrade to paid versions of your product.

The thing I took away from working with product is they are so focused on the problem, so focused on stating the problem clearly before they ever jump to a solution. They are really obsessed about "Do we truly understand the problem?"

The way they get there is through a lot of really great research and talking to customers. That's the thing, I don't know if for yourself, but definitely the way I used to work is I would always think about the solution. I would think a little bit about the problem and then I would think about ten solutions because marketers are generally creative. They're always on, looking to try to sell things.

I think on the heart content, I would be super focused on the problem and being able to articulate the problem, and then trying to figure out what would resonate.

What are the points within that problem that really resonate with a customer? They're, “Oh, yeah, I feel that way about this. I feel that way about that.”

Then, you can better understand how to create content that shows them that you have solutions to this thing and that you have a certain position on this thing that you believe in.

Kathleen: It's really interesting that you put it that way. I've now done close to 80 different interviews through this podcast. I've been trying to think about some of the themes that have emerged. People that are having a lot of success with inbound, what do they have in common?

One of the common themes I've noticed is that they are more persona ... I don't even want to use the word persona. They are more problem-focused than they are solution-focused.

What I mean by that is that the marketers who build campaigns and messaging around their products and services don't tend to do as well as the marketers who deeply tap into the person that they are trying to sell to.

Sometimes it means creating content that actually has nothing to do with their products and services. What I've noticed is that particularly at the top of the funnel, in non-marketing speak, the best way to open the conversation is not always to talk about what you have to sell.

It's to talk about something that that person is feeling that they want to solve for, that may have nothing to do with what you do, but you've opened the conversation.

I'm interested to know with the hearts content that you're creating for HubSpot, does it always have some link back to the product, or is it really just purely problem-focused? Does that make sense as a question?

Kieran: No, it definitely makes sense because people are not looking for products and services. They're looking for solutions to problems that make their life better. They're looking for a certain job that they want done and when they visualize themselves doing that thing, it makes their life better in some way.

I think there's a balance because we've always tried to figure out this balance.

There was a time when you talked to a lot of people about what HubSpot was and not many people knew we actually sold software. They didn't know we sold software because we were doing exactly what you just said, which is we were creating content around problems and helping people solve those problems before we ever mention our tools.

I think that's a great way to draw people in, but I don't think you need to be overtly secretive about what you do.

I think if you have a clear viewpoint on something you can clearly state a problem. It's fine to say, “Hey, these are ways that you can sell them. By the way, we also have this thing that can help you do that thing.”

We have it tied back to our products because if you're consuming this content, you're generally on one of our web properties, so it's impossible to miss the fact that we are a software company.

We've worked on that. We're not, in any way, in your face. We're not, “Buy, buy, buy this thing.”

I think there's a thing in content marketing that most people struggle to measure the totality of their content marketing efforts because a lot of the content marketing is the law of serendipity when, if you give value through content, you know good things are happening, but it's not always easy to put a direct metric on it. That speaks to heart content.

Kathleen: How important is it when you're talking about tapping into the problems? The other confusion I see marketers experience is that there are the problems of the individual and there are the problems of the company, because we're talking about a B2B sale here, for you.

Kieran: Right.

Kathleen: How important is it with the hearts content to tap into the problems of the individual versus the problems of the company?

Kieran: That's actually a good question. I think they're one in the same in some respects. Let me try to give the example of one of our personas and see if this is true or not. I don't know if I've thought through that.

We have a persona called Marketing Mary, and when you think about HubSpot ... I'm not trying to just do a sell of HubSpot software to your audience. But I'm just trying to-

Kathleen: It is your day job, so...

Kieran: Yeah, yeah. We have a persona Marketing Mary. That's a person, in a certain company size, who we think is ideal for HubSpot.

The way that we think about how it helps her is that it makes her more efficient at her job, which is good for the individual, good for the company. It actually helps Marketing Mary figure out how she can be more successful to get a promotion because that's something she cares about.

Again, it's good for the individual, good for the company. I think most of the things within B2B, most of your personas what's good for the individual is generally good for the company.

You do want to make it individual-based, because even in B2B, it's the people making decisions, it's not the all-encompassing company making the decision.

You want to try to make sure that person understands how their life is going to be made better using your product, because they're ultimately your customer.

Kathleen: Yeah, that's really what I've observed, too. Going back to looking at all these interviews I've done, again I think a mistake that a lot of marketers make is, in the B2B area, we tend to focus on what does the company need? Yes, that's important.

Kieran: Right.

Kathleen: But, at the end of the day, I don't think you can tap into somebody's heart unless you make it about what they, as an individual, need.

Kieran: Exactly.

Kathleen: It has to somehow tie back to me. As you said, often it is either "I want a promotion", or "I want to look good in front of my boss." It tends to be things like that or, "It saves me time, and it makes my life easier."

Kieran: Yeah, great B2B companies still sell to people. It just happens that those people are in companies and the tool is making their life easier, or helping them to do something within that company.

Generally if you nail that value proposition what you'll see is your product within that company also spreads because that person is a champion of your tool. They start championing that tool within the company itself.

The Role of Content Promotion in HubSpot's Traffic Strategy

Kathleen: Yeah, now going back for a second to the minds content. You talked about how you come up with the topics and one of the things that you mentioned was that promotion is a really important part of this.

Acknowledging that promotion, as you said, is a bit easier for HubSpot because you have such a high domain authority, talk me through just a little bit, for the average person listening, what should that promotion look like, or what does it need to include?

Kieran: The hard facts about this is a promotion plan to getting better search traffic. The reality is that acquiring links still matters.

I think that it seems old fashioned because you hear all these new things that marketers talk about, but it's still super important for acquiring search traffic.

What you would probably want to have is an overall plan on how to acquire links to your site. That can be a lot of different things.

There're tons of different tactics. There's something called broken link tactics where you can go and find these sites that your competitors have links from. You can go find broken links that they have, that are relevant to content you have, suggest they link to you instead because the link they already have is broken.

There're just tons and tons of tactics you can go from. You should really have an overall domain link building plan that acquires links to your overall domain because that's going to help all content on your domain rank better.

You can have very individualistic link plans for certain blog posts. You're probably not going to do that for every single blog post. You're not going to try to acquire links to every single blog post because that's a lot of time commitment depending upon how much content you create. If you're only creating one piece of content a week ...

Again, if you're doing mind content, you may only do that because you don't create content unless there's actually available search traffic. What happens is your quantity actually goes down because you actually don't try to just plaster the internet with things and hope traffic comes in. You're actually way more strategic, so you create less content, but you put a lot more time onto promotion.

One of the teams that I have, they have this thing called "surround sound strategy." Surround sound strategy is trying to make sure that anywhere there's content related to the thing you've created content for, like listicles and "best of" posts, and all of these different things, that your content is also listed within those posts.

That is basically just building relationships with different publishers and things like that. Also, creating content that is better than what's currently available on Google.

So if you go and search something, whatever the top page is, can you create a page that has better quality than what's already ranking at number one in Google? If you can, then generally you are in a pretty good position to get people to link out to your content.

Kathleen: I feel like isn't that Brian Dean's skyscraper technique?

Kieran: Yes, Brian Dean is the person to keep up to date on if you want really solid link building strategies, so his skyscraper technique.

Finding dead back links and reaching out to people to get them to include your content is a really old tactic. I was doing SEO ten years ago and we used that, but you generally find the things that work in SEO still work today if you can do them to a high enough level, if you can do them better than other people.

Kathleen: I think this is the challenge that many marketers feel, especially marketers in small and medium sized businesses, when they hear about back linking.

I've had this conversation so many times over the years. It's, “How am I going to do this in a way that's efficient? I have a small marketing team.” Or, "It's just me, how could I possibly create the content and try to get links for it?"

Many marketers, in my experience, just fall back on "I'm just going to push it out to my Facebook, and my Twitter, and my LinkedIn, and spray and pray."

How does a small marketing team or a one-person marketing team do this?

Kieran: Again, I think if you are being more strategic about the content you create, and only creating content that you think can drive a certain amount of volume.

There's an important part in that is one of the things to think about, in terms of volume, is historically we would think about key word volume. How much key word volume is available for this key phrase?

More and more you should probably think about the available search clicks. The difference there is that with featured snippets becoming way more popular on Google, the amount of search volume available for key word is a lot less than you think. Featured snippets cannibalized the amount of actual clicks different key words get.

So, you would look at search click volume, only create content for keywords that have a higher threshold, whatever your search click volume is. Then, create a promotion plan.

Know that the time spent promoting that content is probably better spent than you creating additional content if you are not able to promote it at all.

If you're not able to promote it at all, you could create 10, 20 pieces of content within a month, and generate less traffic than creating two or three pieces of content that you actually have a real promotion plan for.

The balance of creating content to promoting content shifts from when you're a start-up to when you're a bigger company. It shifts really with domain authority. You'll see that shift happen by just how quickly you start to rank for things when you have a bigger domain authority.

Kathleen: Yeah, you said something I want to clarify because this is really important. You talked about the difference between keyword volume and search click volume.

I think many marketers are familiar with how to find keyword volume. You can go into Google Adwords, or other programs like that. Where should they look to find search click volume?

Kieran: I'll give you one tool, but there's probably many tools. Ahrefs is a tool that has click stream data. That means that you can go into Ahrefs and actually look at the search click volume of a keyword because it has enough data to show you what the effect of images or featured snippets or videos they're going to have on the amount of volume that that keyword gets.

I think it's an interesting way to start to categorize volume of keywords in the world we live in today, where Google is cannibalizing a lot the traffic we get by showing users these different things.

Kathleen: Yeah, it's really interesting. We experienced this this past year.

Last March our traffic really took a bit of a nose dive. We couldn't figure out what was causing it. I had a couple people looking at it. We were digging deep.

It was funny, I actually wound up sitting with someone from HubSpot's SEO team when I was in Boston for partner day, and he helped me figure it out. I think it was a guy named Victor who works for Matthew Barby. He's amazing. Victor is a magician.

Kieran: They're both on my team.

Kathleen: Yeah, he narrowed it down and helped me figure out that essentially we were losing traffic to featured snippets. As soon as we started optimizing for snippets, and started getting some of the snippets, it just came right back up again.

Very interesting what's happening with that, but thank you. I didn't even know he was on your team, so thank you for giving me an hour of Victor's time.

Kieran: I guess one of the things we did really well is, aside from all the different tactics, because actually the most important thing ...

There are three things a successful company does is hire and retain talent, which is priority number one.

Set people up for success in team structures. Team structures become a lot more complex when you grow. There's something you have to continually optimize, which is the second thing to get right. The third thing is actually the tactics. The tactics are not successful if you can't do the first two.

One of the things we invested in a lot in over the past 18 months is building out a really great SEO team. Two of the people you've talked to, so Matt, he's on my team, runs a whole group that acquires all Freemium users, including our search team. Victor sits on the search team.

Kathleen: I've never actually spoken to Matt, but I've always wanted to. So Matt, if you're listening, you could be my next guest.

I've listened to his entire Skill Up SEO podcast series. He's just so smart, and I love the content that he creates. I consider him one of the people I need to follow to understand best practices for SEO.

Kieran: Yep.

Kathleen: You have a good team.

Kieran: They're super smart on that team.

Kathleen: Okay, we talked about understanding promotion. I loved your point about, to me it's the 80/20 rule, you're going to get 80 percent of the results out of 20 percent of the things you do. The 20 percent, in this case, sounds like it's create less content and focus more on promotion, especially if your domain authority isn't really high.

The Results of HubSpot's Hearts and Minds Strategy

Kathleen: Talk now about results. I would love it if you could give me a sense of ... I know broad-brush that you guys have broken traffic records, but can you speak specifically to what kind of traffic growth have you experienced over what time period and how are you measuring the success of your hearts and minds strategy?

Kieran: This is where I'm always not very good on in terms of exact numbers because we're a public company.

I think the best thing to do is even if you go to Ahrefs, you can use it for free. You can look at our domain. You can look at organic search traffic. I think it's something in the region of 80 percent year over year growth. I don't know.

Kathleen: Wow.

Kieran: I would need to go back and re-look the numbers. I could be under or over that because I haven't looked at that number in a while.

Kathleen: If it's anywhere near close to that, that's amazing.

Kieran: Yeah, it's large, but I think that is probably broken out into ... We look at it broken into many different things because we have a core site, we have blog, we have academy, then we have all of the non-English sites.

Any one of those could be that number, or any of them may not. I could be wrong. It's quite substantial.

The cool thing actually we noticed was our demand grew by a similar amount. Not exactly, so it's never going to be if you grow by 60 percent, you get 60 percent more demand. It's always going to be, I think, less. But, it was still correlated pretty well.

The other cool thing was we saw, if you go into this tool called Similar Web, where you can break out your traffic by brand and non-brand. I was doing a lot of investigation, using that tool on our site and other sites.

The growth in brand traffic, people searching for HubSpot, grew in line with our non-brand of traffic, which does show there was a correlation between this law of serendipity, which are people coming into the content that doesn't overtly mention your brand and its informational key words. Then, discovering your company and coming back at some point on a branded key word. We've seen really good growth over the last 12 months.

Kathleen: That's amazing. You mentioned earlier it's somewhere easy to measure traffic growth, and specifically that's an out growth of your mind strategy. You talked about how it's a little bit harder to measure the success of the heart strategy.

Are there any other metrics you're looking at to measure the degree to which you're tapping in on the emotional side?

Kieran: There's a whole series, a whole document, that that team has put together under Meghan Anderson, who is VP of HubSpot, extremely smart, and manages and looks after all things brand.

A couple of things, I'll give you a couple because this is quite large, but you can look at things like direct traffic. It's a good signal that your brand is growing. You can look at branded traffic, again a pretty great indicator that people are searching and care about your brand.

You can look at number of mentions of your brand, which I'm sure people are all aware of, either on social or you can look at placements, the number of people who are mentioning you across the web. You can look at placements, and those placements can be put into different categories of publications, like Tier 1, Tier 2, Tier 3. I think there are some ways you can do it.

I'll give you another example not from HubSpot. I had a really great conversation on this hearts and minds with the content marketing director called Jimmy Daly. He works at an agency called Animalz. We were talking about this.

His metric for hearts was does our content create one conversation within a potential client. They figure that out by asking them on the phone, "Have you heard about us?" That speaks to a smaller company who thinks about content, and through that hearts lens, and their metric is not so easy to measure. It's something actually that you have to ask people about.

Kathleen: It's interesting because we're struggling with this. Struggling is not the right word. We're grappling with what is the best way to measure that because as a company we've moved more from an agency to really leading as a publisher.

Instead of measuring, for example, subscribers, we're measuring engaging subscribers, like number of subscribers that have really clicked on an email in the last month.

Looking beyond sessions on our website to not only unique users as an aggregate measure of the audience size, but pages per session, and dwell time on the site, things like that.

This is something I'm so interested in because I feel like nobody has really cracked this one yet. There's an opportunity here.

Kieran: I don't think there's ever going to be definitive metrics because it's just so difficult to put your finger on one thing. You can also look at, what you're doing, health of subscribers, in the same way you could look at users of a Freemium product. What is the net new users you add? What is the attention of those users over time? How many of those users actually churn  and stop coming back? I think that's a good gauge.

I think most companies would be better served to choose the things that they think are the best indicators, and be happy with those things, and know that they're still not going to be 100 percent of what they need.

Kathleen: That makes sense. It's not a perfect science at this point.

Well, so interesting to hear about all these strategies that HubSpot is pursuing. Now I'm going to pay much closer attention to your blog to see if I can determine which articles are more about the mind or about the heart.

Kieran: We should put a little icon of a heart icon.

Kathleen's Two Questions

Kathleen: Switching gears for a minute. There's two questions that I always ask everyone that comes on the podcast. In your case I'm very interested to hear what you have to say. I was looking at your LinkedIn profile, and before you were at HubSpot you've been at Marketo, you've been at Salesforce, you have a very interesting perspective on this industry.

Company or individual, right now, who out there do you think is doing inbound marketing really well? Who should my listeners go to and look at to see a great example?

Kieran: That's a good one. You can tell me if this is not a good answer and to come back with a better answer.

I've been more focused on what we call the flywheel force and friction than  inbound recently. I'm sure you've probably heard of it because you're aware of HubSpot. Just for your listeners the flywheel is basically ... in cap stage you're inbound in a loop, which basically is a tracking gauge to light. Each one of those stages you have force and friction. Force helps spin that loop and friction stops that loop from spinning.

The examples I have are actually specific to some of the customers on the force and friction because they are the ones at most top of mind because that's what we've been looking at.

Kathleen: Oh, yeah. I'd love to hear more about that.

Kieran: Let me give you a couple of examples because they're quite different from giving you companies who are doing really well at creating content. These are actually slightly different.

There's a customer called WashCard who has payment stations for car wash operators.

If you think about one of the things that drives friction in the engaged stage is not showing your pricing, which seems pretty simplistic. If I add my price in, I create better force, because customers generally like experience and transparency.

They're an example of a company that did not even just show their pricing, the simple task of being more transparent around their pricing, actually turned that page into their third biggest source of leads within two weeks.

It's a very small example of how focusing on this idea across your entire flywheel can benefit you.

There's another company called ChargeBacks911 who allows you to integrate their software into e-commerce and handles charge backs right when their customers want to give back their products.

They had some friction again within the light stage where they had an onboarding process that allowed you to set up, that they had some friction within. There was missed expectations, so sales people were setting expectations that they were not fulfilling on. They didn't have the right documentation.

What they did was took the difficult decision to put a sales rep in every onboarding with a new customer. That sales rep could then fill in the gaps. That sales rep could provide that additional context, but also the sales reps understood the friction they were creating by setting the wrong expectations.

I can't share their public numbers, but just by doing that they vastly decreased their amount of churn they were having. They are not the traditional, "here's a company that's crushing inbound," but I think that the force and friction across your flywheel is definitely something that can give you a lot of actionable things to work on.

Kathleen: I love those examples. It's always interesting when I ask this question, because it's a bit of a Rorschach test. It depends on when people hear "inbound marketing" what they think I'm talking about.

Kieran: Right.

Kathleen: That obviously has changed so much over the years, and over time. Even right now if you took a snapshot and asked ten people what it was, you'd probably get ten different answers.

I love that answer. It's very different, and I love how specific you got. I'll be curious to go look at both of those companies' websites to see more of what they're doing.

Kieran: Cool.

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

Kieran: There are three ways.

I'm lucky that we have a Slack channel within our company that is called "What's Next." I get everything sent to me on the Slack channel, as does everyone else who's part of that Slack channel.

I generally get content pushed at me outside of HubSpot through my network, which I find really interesting. I no longer actually go looking for content or subscribe content that much. I just wait until it comes to me. I probably miss out on content, but it suits me because I'm kind of busy.

Then, the other thing I've gravitated towards is I'm an introvert, I started a podcast to be more extrovert and talk to people. Talking to other smart people has been the number one way I've learned above all else. It's the best investment I've made in terms of my own time, and just learning and becoming better at what I do.

Kathleen: Amen. I talk about that a lot on this podcast. I, too, am an introvert although I fake it really well.

Kieran: Same as me.

Kathleen: I started this podcast out of purely selfish reasons because it's a good reason to talk to people I otherwise would not have a reason to talk to.

Kieran: The two of us are on the podcast faking being an extrovert, on the podcast.

Kathleen: Exactly. It's great. It's the perfect tool for that.

Kieran: Right.

How To Connect With Kieran

Kathleen: Kieran, thank you so much. I really enjoyed hearing all of this. It's fascinating to get an understanding for how you, and your team at HubSpot internally are thinking about growth and the approach that you are taking.

If somebody is listening, and they want to learn more about HubSpot, or if they wanted to reach out and ask a question of you, what's the best way for them to connect online?

Kieran: HubSpot, you can reach at There's so many different ways if you go there that you can connect with us.

Me, you can connect with me on LinkedIn or Twitter. I'm randomly called @searchbrat on Twitter, which is one of the worst handles. I've had it for too long. I need to change it. You can just find me on LinkedIn at Kieran Flanagan.

Kathleen: I love it. I will put those links in the show notes. At the end I always tell people to tweet me if they know someone doing really great inbound marketing work. You will laugh because my Twitter handle is @workmommywork, because when I first started on Twitter that described my life. I guess we now have a club of introverts with really strange Twitter handles.

Kieran: Yeah, really strange Twitter handles. Yeah, that's us.

Kathleen: Yeah, so if you're listening, and you found this useful, please consider leaving a review on Apple Podcasts or the platform of your choice.

As I mentioned, if you know someone doing kick ass inbound marketing work, tweet me at @workmommywork, because I would love to interview them.

That's it for this week. Thank you so much Kieran.

Kieran: Thanks for having me. I appreciate it.

Feb 25 2019



Rank #5: Ep. 98: How to 10X Landing Page and CTA Conversion Rates Ft. Shai Schechter of RightMessage

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Personalization can improve conversion rates by, on average, 10X, but only 4% of businesses say they're using it.

This week on The Inbound Success Podcast, RightMessage founder Shai Schechter talks about the lessons learned from his review of 500+ landing pages and calls to action and why personalizing your website copy can dramatically increase conversion rates.

Shai's process for personalizing is simple. Ask your visitor a question, and then use their answer to deliver website copy that speaks directly to their needs. The results are conversion rates 10X higher.

Sounds simple, right?

So why are so few businesses doing it?

In this week's episode, Shai shares a simple, straightforward, and easy solution that makes implementing personalization - and getting crazy good results with your conversion rates - a no brainer.

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 HubSpot Co-Founder and CEO Brian Halligan, 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 Shai include:

  • RightMessage is conversion optimization software that helps people get more email subscribers and sell more via their websites.
  • It does this by allowing the user to create a popup on their site that asks a simple question of the visitor, and then use the answer to that question to dynamically deliver personalized content on their website.
  • It can be used on any type of website and is installed by simply pasting a line of javascript code into the backend of the site.
  • Shai worked with more than 500 websites to test out different approaches to personalization and learned that by personalizing calls to action, he could improve conversion rates, on average, by 10x.
  • There is a long list of variables that can be used to drive personalization, including both implicit and explicit data.
  • The process that RightMessage uses to personalize content begins with a popup that asks the visitor a simple question. In Shai's experience, "What brings you here today?" is the question that performs the best.
  • He suggests that the best way to get started with personalization is to target website visitors that have not already subscribed to your email list, and use what you know about visitors to customize the value prop on your call to action for subscribing.
  • On average, Shai said that 20 to 30% of visitors answer the question in the popup, and then 20 to 30% of those who answer the question convert on the follow on offer.
  • Data shows that 94% of customers think personalization is critical to the success of their business and only 4% of businesses say they're doing a lot of personalization.

Resources from this episode:

Listen to the podcast to learn what Shai learned from analyzing more than 500 landing pages and CTAs, and how those insights have helped him 10X conversion rates.


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

I'm your host Kathleen Booth and this week my guest is Shai Schechter who is the founder of RightMessage. Welcome, Shai. Shai Schechter (Guest): Hi, thanks for having me.

Shai and Kathleen recording this episode together .

Kathleen: Yes, I'm happy to have you here. This is such an interesting case of how you came to be on the podcast and it's a first for me.

I got you as my guest via a tweet. You had tweeted out that you had learned a lot about what makes a great opt-in form and CTA and that you had worked on more than 500 websites and had seen conversion rates of up to 10X and I was literally just browsing Twitter and saw this and thought, "I need to talk to this guy." So, the power of Twitter, right?

Shai: Right. I don't know what made Twitter show it to you. Maybe we'll never know but I'm glad you saw it.

Kathleen: It's the black magic that Twitter does behind the scenes but it happened and that's all that matters. Before we get into that actual story of what you did and what you learned talk a little bit for me about your background, about what RightMessage is and what led you to start it and what the company does.

About Shai Schechter and RightMessage

Shai: Yeah, sure. RightMessage is essentially conversion optimization software. It's something that people use on their websites. It helps them get to more subscribers to their e-mail list and helps them sell more to those people.

But what it's doing differently and what's making it prove quite effective for the people using it is that it's all about kind of saying, not everyone in my audience is going to be the same so how can I segment them a little bit? How can I understand the different kinds of people coming to my site? How can I learn who's coming to my site and then use that to pitch more appropriately to them.

And so to say, not everyone who comes to my site is looking for exactly the same thing and the same copy isn't going to resonate with all of them. So maybe we can ask them a question. Maybe we can learn something about them. Maybe we already know something about them because of how they've been interacting with our site or with our company and use that to really say, "I'm not going to just blast every possible call to action at you at once. I'm going show the one thing that's relevant to you right now."

Kathleen: If I understand correctly, is it looking at information on visitors and I presume that those visitors will have been cookied in order to deliver that information? Is that accurate?

Shai: Yes, the absolute ... So we don't do any of the kind of ... We don't do the stuff that Facebook's doing where they're following you around the internet, none of that. It is literally maybe, "What are they reading on my own company's blog right now?" Or, here's a question to them like, "What brings you here today? Why have you come? How can we help?" And they give you that little bit of information and you can then help them. You can then give them a better experience because of what they've just told you.

Kathleen: Then that information is used to effectively dynamically update the information on the page?

Shai: Yeah.

Kathleen: Correct?

Shai: Absolutely.

Kathleen: Okay.

Shai: And that may just be the call to action itself. It may be ... You know, if they tell you that they're really ... If you sell courses to help people get started with business and they tell you that they are really struggling with finding out what their audience needs then right there and then let's say to them, "Here's my course that helps you with that exact thing. I've got a whole suite of e-mail courses that could help you or I've got a couple of ... there's a webinar coming up that would be perfect for you. I'm going to suggest you do that. I think that's going to help you the most right now."

Kathleen: Yeah, that makes sense. Now, does it work on any website regardless of how the site is built? In other words, if my site is on WordPress versus Drupal versus custom html, can I use RightMessage regardless of platform or CMS?

Shai: Yeah, absolutely. It's like it's one line of Java script you put into your site, so pretty much any website, or landing page builder or whatever, lets you do that. We don't replace your website builder and we don't replace your e-mail list. We essentially just tie the two together and say, "Now your website can do the same kinds of things that maybe you're already with your e-mail marketing where you're sending different campaigns to different people. Now you can do that on your website or any website.

Kathleen: Oh, that makes all the sense in the world. What led you to create it?

Shai: I am a developer by craft. I'm a software person and so to me when I started ... I was consulting a few years ago and I'd had a couple of software products in the past as well. So when it came to kind of saying, "Right, I need to grow this consulting business. I need to learn how to market this business. I'm not going to rely on word of mouth any more." It wasn't for me a reliable way to grow a business and I started learning more about marketing. I started doing ... I had my website and I was learning how online marketing kind of worked and because I had this software background, to me a website was something that ...

Most websites that I dealt with had been web apps, right, where everyone sees a different experience because you log in and then you see something. I see something different on my Facebook then you see on yours, right? So I was making these marketing websites for myself and for clients and to me it was like, "Why would I put an opt-in form to join my newsletter at the bottom of a blog post to somebody who's already on my newsletter, right?"

Kathleen: Yeah, correct, 100%

Shai: Right. It's not good for me because that's a bad thing. If someone's on my newsletter the last thing I want to say to them is, "Join my newsletter." That's a wasted opportunity to say something more effective to them and it's very unfair to them. They don't want these pop-ups in their face being like, do this thing that you've already done.

To me it was really common sense to sort that out. It seemed like a very natural thing to do but I think that's because my understanding about websites is that website changes. It's different for different people.

So I started doing this stuff and marketers around me were like, "How the hell did you just do that?", right? They had no idea it was possible. When I was speaking to developers they were like, they saw it as an obvious thing to do but when I started helping marketers do this on their own sites, then developers would be like, "Why is anyone paying you money for that?" The marketers are like, "I had no idea that you could do this."

Kathleen: That's so great. I feel like some of the best ideas in the world are the things that for some people have been staring them in face forever, but for other people, it's like revolutionary, right?

Shai: Right. Yeah, it's just we're like in two separate worlds and if you can intersect them a little bit. Then a friend of mine, a man called Brennan Dunn, he's kind of come to the same realization on his own. He had kind of an educational product website. He was selling courses to help freelancers. He came from the same background as me. He also worked in software and then moved heavily into marketing and he was doing the same thing I was helping my clients doing. He was doing it on his own sites and he was also seeing these amazing results.

When someone started his on-line course, his free e-mail course, he'd ask them a question about themself and that was very easy for him to do because he's just wrote some custom java scripts on his marketing site. Then later on after they'd been through his free e-mail course he would promote his paid course using different language depending on what they had said when they started the free course. So based on why they said they wanted the free course he then pitched how the paid course could help you do that exact thing.

He was also tracking results and those kind of results we were both seeing these really high, really high conversion rates. We ended up, he was the one that kind of said, "Why are we sitting here helping marketers do this one by one. What if there was something where they could do this themselves?"

So you don't have to write any code. You can just point and click and set this up for your own sites and we can help you make it easy as possible to see these same conversion rates that we were seeing.

Kathleen: How old is the company now?

Shai: What I've just described was all happening about two years ago, a little bit more. In the end, we officially launched this product a year and a half ago.

Kathleen: Wow.

Shai: It was never meant to be ... we didn't go all in on this right away. It was meant to be a little evening project and we'd kind of throw it together. He had a bit of an audience for it. I would build it over the course of a few days and it kind of ended up growing a lot bigger by accident.

Kathleen: Which I suppose is what happens when you have product market fit.

Shai: I guess so, yeah.

Shai's Review of 500+ Websites (and Lessons Learned)

Kathleen: Well, that's great. Thank you for sharing that story. Now you mentioned when you sent out your tweet that you had worked with more than 500 sites and were able to glean some insights from that. Can you talk a little bit about what led you to look at those? Are these sites that are using RightMessage?

Shai: A lot of them are. What really happened, when we started, when RightMessage started it was less about the opt-in forms and the calls to action on your site and it was more about you can personalize everything, right? You can change your headline. You can the testimonials. You can can make your entire site dynamic to who someone is and that does really help conversion rates. It's also really overwhelming to get started with. When its like, "You can change anything on your site", people were overwhelmed.

So what we started doing is kind of working really closely with people who were ... Some of them were customers. Some of them were people who had been customers but they had decided they weren't ready for it yet, as returns. Some of them were people who we thought this would work really well for but again they kind of saw it as overwhelming and what we wanted to do was find out what is important to them right now? What would they want to ... What are the metrics they're trying to improve on their website?

And what it came back to time and time again was by looking at the data of what personalization was working really well for the people who were doing it and looking at what it was that people wanted to be doing better on their site, all of it pointed to it's the calls to action.

It's those points, those make or break point where you're saying to someone, "Now I want you to do something. Now I want you to sign up for my e-mail list" or "Now I want you to take a free trial of my product" or whatever that next action is.

Those were the trigger points where the people who were doing a little bit to make those dynamics, make those personalized we're seeing 10 times higher conversion rates than the people who weren't. That's why we need to focus.

Kathleen: Can you talk a little bit about ... You talked about how you could either use data, it sounded like data on their behavior or answers to a question to fuel the personalization. Can you talk a little bit more about that and what have you seen in terms of that initial collection point of information, if you will. What is most effective?

Shai: Yeah, absolutely, and that's the important part, right? If you don't know something about somebody there's nothing you can do to talk to them in a way that's going to resonate. So we split into the two that you've just described there you've got the explicit and the implicit.

So you've got the explicit profiling which is asking them a question and we've started to gather a lot data about what the best questions are to ask. A lot of it boils down to it's really common sense stuff in the sense that it's exactly what you would ask them if you were chatting to them face to face, right? And that might not just be on their website either. That might be questions that you've asked them in a survey that you sent out to your list, for example. Anytime where they actively tell you something in a form or in a survey.

Then you've got all these implicit things where, which are things like, "Have they already bought from me?" "Are they already a subscriber on my e-mail list?" They didn't have to tell you those things, you can see those already.

Kathleen: Yeah, the latter sounds like they're more kind of where they are and which stage they're in of their buying journey, if you will.

Shai: Yeah, absolutely, the stage that they're in. If you've got a blog and it's got different categories what you'll often find is that somebody is kind of binging articles on one specific category because it's the one the care about right now. That again can tell you ... They're answering the question of which category are you interested in without being asked it.

So the categories do that and that also includes things like ... You've also got if somebody clicks through to your site from someone else's site, what does the site that they clicked through from tell you about who they are?

Kathleen: That's interesting, yeah.

Shai: So yeah, you've got little insights like that as well, but if you're just kind of getting started asking them works really well. I think it also helps, it makes for a softer pitch, right? If instead of saying immediately, "Join my course", "Buy my thing," if you first ask something you're getting that, it's kind of that easy yes. Then you can use that immediately to say, "Right, based on what you said, here's what I think you should be doing."

Kathleen: Now I'm assuming there are, some questions are better than others in the sense that it could be tempting, for example, to say, "What's your budget?" That's a very bottom of the funnel almost, like, sub-funnel question.

Shai: Yeah.

Kathleen: Have you seen the most success of much more top of the funnel, kind of softer questions?

Shai: Yes. "What brings you here today?" is essentially the softest and best performing question. The first question that we see.

You can follow that up with something that's more about the person, maybe their industry. It depends what's going to be relevant based on the field that you are in, but yeah as a first question, it's like the, "What brought you here?" "How can we help you?" kind of question works really well.

It makes sense, right? If you're in a store in the real world and the shop assistant comes over to you and they start with, "What industry are you in?" That's a little bit harder, harsher.

Kathleen: Awkward.

Shai: Yeah, it's kind of like, "Why do you want to know?"

Kathleen: Exactly.

Shai: Where as like, "What brought you to the shop? What are you looking for?" Okay, I immediately ... I know why you're asking. It's clear how that's going to help, it's going to be in my interest to tell you. That works really well as the first question.

Kathleen: Are the questions generally, well I guess this is a two part question. Let me ask you first, does RightMessage have a feature that allows you to create and present that question or is that something that you have to do for your own website?

Shai: Right, yeah, no, so that's what RightMessage'll help you do.

Kathleen: Okay, and does that manifest as a pop-up?

Shai: Yeah, so you choose. You've got a whole suite of ... If you think of any opt-in widgets at all, it's essentially the same options, right? You can show a sticky bar at the top or bottom of the page. You can put a pop-up module in the middle of the page when they, if they go to leave the site. Or it might just be in-line, kind of an embedded widget at the bottom of a blog post or a little slide up toaster widget in the corner.

It's all of those things. It's whatever you want to be doing, probably whatever you're doing right now. We're just sorting those out.

Kathleen: At the risk of getting super technical and a little too technical even for myself, you know I've had varying experiences with pop-ups. I know that there are some that Google doesn't like because they create a poor experience and there are some that because of the way that they load can slow page load times. Can you talk a little bit about the way you built the product and how it impacts those two factors?

Shai: Yeah. We're very much about ... I don't know if you've seen, there was one of these little fake gif video things going around recently. It was like the state of marketing in 2019 and it was just these pop-ups everywhere. We're trying to do everything we can to be the opposite of that. A lot of that does come down to ... A lot of the reason that you have all these competing pop-ups everywhere is because you're not sure what to pitch someone, right?

You've got your e-mail opt-in but then what if they're ready to start a trial? Okay, so we've got to put a pop-up for the trial over here. Then at the end of the blog we're going to put something else. You've got all these ... Often the reason you have all these competing, all these different pop-ups is because you've got all these different things to offer.

One of the things that we're trying to make really easy to do is to say, if you know which one thing this person needs right now you don't have to go bother them with so many touch points, right? You can be consistent with it. It doesn't have to be from a pop-up. You might just want to do one pop-up. You might want to do no pop-ups at all. It might just be that you have a soft pitch at the end of your blog article, right?

In terms of the Google thing we don't ... Google, especially on mobile really doesn't like the 'in your face' pop-ups. If you're on mobile then automatically they overcome a much softer, it's a little trade right at the bottom so it's not in the way of the content at all.

We're not doing that because of Google. We're doing it for the same reason as Google, which is that it's a bad user experience. For instance, when someone has come to your site for content and then you put something in their face that interrupts that content, yeah I understand and agree with why Google doesn't like those things and we're trying kind of do the same.

Kathleen: Does the pop-up load asynchronously?

Shai: Yeah, so it won't slow down the sites or anything like that.

How To Get Started With Personalization

Kathleen: Okay. That's great. You ask, you present ... to go back to what we started with. You present the visitor with this question and it's a soft kind of introductory question that allows you to learn something about that person and then RightMessage then gives you the ability to begin to customize things.

I imagine knowing, like, I'm a marketer. I know marketers pretty well. I imagine that the temptation as a marketer would be to go down the rabbit hole and spend a lot of time trying to personalize too many things. My guess would be that there are probably a few small things that you can do. It's that 80/20 rule, right?

What are the 20% of things that will give you the 80% of results? If somebody was to just dip their toe in the water at this do you have typical advice you give them about what the few low hanging fruit things that they should start with that are going to give them their biggest bang for their buck?

Shai: Yeah, absolutely. We actually just this week started this recipe book of really simple and high converting things that you can do.

But at it's core, so yeah, if you're just getting started I would say wherever it is right now that you're pitching that first thing to people which may be an e-mail course or joining your e-mail list or some other thing that probably isn't your kind of main end-of-the road, ultimate most expensive product or service, where ever you're doing that right now on your website just switch that to ask one question first.

Then if they are anonymous, if they haven't joined your list yet then pitch that list. Pitch it exactly like you were doing before just change the working to describe the benefits and one of the benefits of it as being related to the things they just answered.

So look at your list and look at what are the main reasons that people might want to join their list. Or if it's an e-mail course, what are the main reasons that people join it? If you don't know that yet then maybe it's time to survey people who have already done it or ask them just after they've joined, "What was it that made you join?" You can then feed that back into what your multiple choice answers should be to the question.

Once you know that, ask the question and based on the answer pitch your entry level product or e-mail list or whatever it is in a way that describes how it helps with that thing that they just said.

Kathleen: That's great and it's pretty simple and straight forward.

Shai: Right, and the conversion rate increase even of that, I've seen people go from 2% opt-in rates to like 20% opt-in rates.

What Kind of Marketing Results Can Personalization Deliver?

Kathleen: That was going to be my next question. Can you talk a little bit more about some of the results you've seen for companies that use this?

Shai: Yeah. You do see some variant. It depends on where people are doing these pitches and who their audience is as well but a lot of people, when they set up the basic thing that I just described, it's fairly typical to see something like, and it's hard to give typical.

Depending on where you're doing it you might get 1 or 2% of people answering the question but it's also, it's very common to see 20 or 30% answer, especially with a question like, "What brings you here today?" So yes, 20 or 30 and I've seen it higher than that as well. I'd say 20 to 30% I would not be surprised if somebody set this up for the first time and was seeing that kind of answer rate.

Then the pitch that comes after it, that kind of initial opt-in pitch, you might see the same again. You might see something like 20%, 30% act on that. It depends. It depends on the audience but something like that is not at all unusual.

Kathleen: Which is a very strong conversion rate. I mean, most companies that I see, their conversion rate, their visitor to lead conversion rate, is usually somewhere around 1 to 3% on their website.

Shai: Exactly, exactly and it depends. It depends where it's coming from. It depends, you know, is this brand new to a blog? It depends where the traffic is coming from. It depends where this traffic has come from. It depends where you're doing this pitch and all of those things but yeah, if somebody was getting a couple of percent opt-in rate before I would be very surprised if they didn't see that more than double when they start doing this.

I think it kind of ... It almost makes sense when you stop and think about it, right? If someone is on your website they're trying to figure out whether you can help them and anything that you can do to make it easier for them to translate from what they're reading on your site to have that apply to their own life, is going to make it more likely that they ... If someone's not sure that you can help them they're just going to bounce.

Kathleen: Yeah, I mean fundamentally we're all lazy, right?

Shai: Right.

Kathleen: We just are, all of us. As a business the more you can cater to that and hand or spoon feed the answers that somebody's looking for the better you'll do.

Shai: Yes.

Kathleen: It's just the truth about human nature.

Shai: Yeah, it's the difference between the sales person who reads off a script versus the sales person who finds out a bit about you and what you need and then tailors everything, explains how the product can help you specifically. Or like the real estate agent showing you around a house. They either just describe each room or they find out what kind of person you are and then they paint the picture for you of how, to help you see yourself living in that house.

"You have kids? This room would make an amazing playroom."

Kathleen: Right.

Shai: That would be ... they're not going to say that.

Kathleen: There's your man cave, right?

Shai: Right. Exactly, exactly.

The other thing was, so I was just listening to your, you had an episode with, with Barron a few weeks ago and when he was talking about the audience research they were doing, that really resonates with me because that's the same kind of thing. They were going and asking their audience all these kind of questions about why they had used the product and what they were doing before and all those kind of things and they'd taken that and used that in their marketing. They'd taken those phrases and that became the subheading on their website.

Other people would come and read that and they were like, "Yeah, I certainly ... This really resonates with me" because it was real language from customers, from other customers who were like them. So we're just doing that in real time.

Kathleen: It's so simple and it seems so obvious just to use the words the customers use but it's amazing how few companies actually do it.

Shai: Yeah, I saw a statistic recently that 94% of customers think personalization is critical to the success of their business and 4% say they're doing a lot of that.

Kathleen: That's an incredibly wide gap.

Shai: Yeah, and the mismatch, then they dug deeper and they're like, "What's stopping you?" It was all like, "It's hard to know where to start" and "We don't have the tools. We don't have the technical capability to do that."

How Hard Is It To Implement Personalization?

Kathleen: So to that exact point, how technical do you need to be to set this up, to use it, to run it, et cetera?

Shai: You don't. You need to be able to install a little java script or have a developer who can do that.

Kathleen: I was just going to say, so if you can't do that, if you have somebody who runs your website for you, whether that's in your company or an outside contractor, this is what, a five minute job? A one hour job?

Shai: Yeah, that part is like a one minute job. It's copying and pasting. It's the same as if you were installing Google analytics on your website or any of these other things, that is you copy this and you paste it into your website builder. Then from there it's literally a point a click kind of, "Here is a ..." It's a flow chart builder, right? You start building out these parts. Is the person on my site anonymous? Yes? Let's ask them this question and then let's pitch them this offer.

Kathleen: A series of if/then statements kind of.

Shai: Essentially, yeah, with questions along the way and an offer at the end to buy it. Then you hit, Publish in the corner. You press the Publish button and whatever you've set up will immediately go out and be live on your site.

Learn More About RightMessage

Kathleen: Great. Well, if someone's interested in learning more about RightMessage, what should they do?

Shai: They should go to In fact, they should go to I'll set something up there that will get them something that the ordinary folk don't get.

Kathleen: Aaah, special offer. I will put a link in the show notes for that.

Shai: Yeah, I'll sort something out for your wonderful listeners.

Kathleen's Two Questions

Kathleen: Great, thank you for that. I'm curious to get your take on the two questions that I always ask my guests. Company or individual, this podcast is all about inbound marketing. Who do you think is doing really great work with inbound marketing right now?

Shai: I like this question. It's a difficult question, you know?

Kathleen: Well, there are so many possible answers. I'll just preface it with, it's interesting to see the direction that people go. Some people provide answers that are within the marketing world of marketers doing inbound marketing really well. Others come with these examples that are just from out in the wild and both are equally fascinating so I always love hearing what people say.

Shai: Yeah. For me at the moment kind of the inbound, kind of the good inbound marketing is the non-obnoxious, not in your face, the softer marketing, the educational marketing. I think everyone is starting to or a lot of people are starting to move that way. They're kind of tired of the in your face stuff.

When I think of who's really good at that it's people like, I keep getting e-mails from Ben Orenstein at Tuple who just every e-mail I get from him I'm like, "He is not trying to sell me right now" but it makes me want to buy. It's so, here is tons of value and here's some cool stuff. You're learning about the product along the way but it's not a hard pitch. We love that.

Kathleen: It's interesting that you say that because I'm, somebody once said to me and now I've become a big fan if it and I wish I could remember who first said it, that the best sales people do not sell, they help people buy. It sounds like that's exactly what he's doing in those e-mails.

Shai: Yeah, and it's also, it's people that aren't afraid to say, "Maybe it isn't right for you." The assumption of marketing is that, 'You should buy this" is flawed, right? It's, "We're going to help you figure out whether you should buy this. If you should then I want to explain why it would be good for you. If it is ... but it might not be and I'll take you too."

A lot of our customers are really good at this at well and it's kind of what brought them to us is that we also don't go for that hard thing. So Alex Hillman, and Pat Flynn I think is doing some really amazing marketing at SmartPassiveIncome. Josh Duty, Fearless Salary Negotiation, he's doing incredibly at SEO and then leading from that to courses in coaching and so on. Yeah, I'll stop there.

Kathleen: That sounds like some great examples.

Shai: Yeah.

Kathleen: Well, I'll definitely put those links in the show notes because those are some new ones that I haven't heard before and that always makes me excited.

Second question, with the world of digital marketing changing so quickly how do you personally stay up to date and educate yourself?

Shai: Yeah. So much of what I'm learning about marketing at the moment is just from interacting with our customers. I don't have ... There are very, very few websites or podcasts that I subscribe to and listen to every one. I wait until the smart people I have surrounded myself with recommend something or start talking about something. That's when I take note. That's also my hack for not getting overloaded by all the new information. It's just ...

Kathleen: It's easy to do.

Shai: And it also, it means you're getting so many ... You're learning so many strategies from people who aren't quite in your realm. Like we were saying at the beginning, right, you take marketing and technology and you put them together. Of course that happens. When we start working with our customers who are like in the Bee photography world. That is a real thing. Yeah, they take photographs of bees and and honey and it's like the stuff that they're-

Kathleen: That is incredibly niche. I love it.

Shai: They're going to have totally different kinds of conversations than I am and learning stuff. So yeah, just surrounding myself with really different people I found far more effective than following one source.

Also, just there's so much of these new marketing developments aren't new at all. It's all just kind of ... It's the old school marketing and then translated then now into the online space. A lot of that's what we're trying to do is taking stuff that makes sense in the real world and bring it on line. I find it's easier to learn about marketing from the old school. I try not to-

Kathleen: A few people have said that to me, that some of their favorite marketing books are the ones from 40, 50 years ago.

Shai: Hmm, 100%. It's the same in software. It's kind of the same in programming as well. There's these new technologies coming on the scene every week. Sometimes it pays to be just like, "The old stuff can work." Keep an eye on the new things but don't jump on them immediately. Will this really work in my business? Reason it out for best principles.

Kathleen: That's great advice because I will say I think one of the weaknesses of most marketers I know is they fall very easily for shiny penny syndrome where there's that new thing. They want to try it but it's easy to get distracted and spend a lot of time and resources chasing that new thing as opposed to investing in things that are going to deliver for the long term.

Shai: Yeah, especially when, like in the feedback look from trying sometime in your marketing to know whether it's working can sometimes be quite long. It can be really hard. You can try something new and you may not see results from it immediately depending on what it is but it may be working well and it may be about to work for your future. To that same thing is like, you start to see your metrics creep up. It could be from the thing you just did this week. It could be from the thing you did a few months ago and it's just taken time to really kick in.

Kathleen: Yeah.

Shai: So yeah, if you're immediately, it's like, "Oh no. I've tried this for week. It's not working. We've got to go and try something else" you're never going to, it's never going to work.

How To Connect With Shai

Kathleen: Well, it's so interesting hearing what you've learned through this process of looking at all these sites and I'm fascinated by what RightMessage can do and the fact that it's easy for anybody to use. If somebody wants to, has a question about what you talked about and wants to reach out and connect with you, what's the best way or them to do that?

Shai: You can always ... My DM's open on Twitter @ShaiSC.

Kathleen: This is how we met.

Shai: It is, exactly. S-H-A-I-S-C. Yeah, that's going to be the easiest way to get a quick reply from me.

Kathleen: And I can testify to that. It was very fast. I DM'd you and you responded right away.

Shai: Yeah.

Kathleen: Great, well I will but the link to your Twitter handle on the show notes and if you're listening and you enjoyed this, liked what you heard, as always I would really appreciate a five star review on Apple Podcasts or the platform of your choice.

If you're listening and you know somebody else doing kick ass inbound marketing work, Tweet me @workmommywork because I would love to interview them.

Thank you so much, Shai.

Shai: Thank you for having me.

Jul 08 2019



Rank #6: Ep. 27: How CXL Uses Email Marketing to Drive Customer Acquisition Ft. Peep Laja

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How does the world's leading conversation rate optimization expert use email marketing to drive lead-to-customer conversions?

In this week's episode of The Inbound Success Podcast, CXL Founder Peep Laja (voted as #1 most influential conversion rate optimization expert in the world) shares the specific email strategies and tactics that he and his team have used to acquire 80% of the company's new customers directly from their email campaigns.

Listen to the podcast to hear more about the email marketing strategies that CXL is using, or read the transcript below.


Kathleen Booth (host): Welcome back to The Inbound Success Podcast. This is Kathleen Booth. I'm your host, and today my guest is Peep Laja of ConversionXL. Peep, welcome to the podcast.

Peep Laja (guest): Thank you, thank you for having me, it's a pleasure to be here.  Kathleen: Well I'm excited to talk with you. Before we dive into some of the marketing topics we're going to discuss, tell the audience a little bit about yourself, who you are, your background, and also about ConversionXL, please. Peep: I have a diverse background. I worked in sales, I was a professional fundraiser for non profits, I was a software developer, a direct response marketer, affiliate marketer and all that led up to a mix of experiences that served well when I started my career as a conversion optimization person. So I started CXL, formerly known as ConversionXL, in 2011 and I started a conversion optimization agency. I did that for ... Well, the agency is still there. So I grew the agency and then two years ago started CXL Institute, which is offering data driven marketing courses.

So yeah, so I'm predominantly focused on conversion rate optimization, but have done a bunch of things.  Kathleen: How did you get interested in conversion optimization, because you do have such a varied background. I'm curious why that was the thing you chose to dive deep on. Peep: It was two things. So first I had an SEO company, or I was a freelance SEO person and this was in like 2007. It wasn't very hard to get my clients ranked page one in google, and I managed that, and they got a bunch more traffic, they weren't still making more money or just a little bit more money, not a lot more money. And then I realized making money online is not just about traffic, there's another component to it. And then I discovered the first people writing about it, you know, it was the Eisenberg brothers, this company out in Malaysia called Mindvalley had a course on it and I like started digging in. And then years went by, did a bunch of different things and then I had a start up that failed and after it failed I was "Well, now what?"

My start up failed because I did not have any money, any audience, no name recognition, nothing. So I told myself, next time around, I'll build an audience first, so I knew I wanted to start a blog. And so what do I want to start a blog about? So basically I did keyword and competition research, figured out that conversion optimization was ... There wasn't much competition, very few blogs around and that was it.  Kathleen: I love it. So you started the company, and the company has evolved quite a bit in terms of its business model. When you and I first started talking, you know, we were discussing some of the things you've done from a marketing standpoint that have really fueled the company's success over the years, and it was interesting to me that one of the big things that lept out was email. Tell me a little bit more about that.  Peep: So I started the blog 2011 and of course you need to have good content in order for the blog to get anywhere, so I focused on good content, and I focused on driving traffic to the blog, but like what do you do with the traffic? At first, I wasn't selling anything, so I was just capturing emails, so that was all that I was optimizing for, capturing more emails. And over the years, the list grew and grew and is still growing and now sending emails to people who want to hear from us including promotional messages is working really well. So I would say about 80 percent of our money is coming from the list.  Kathleen: That's amazing. To what do you attribute your success with email? I mean, obviously having a big list is step one, but that certainly doesn't guarantee that anybody's going to open it, read it, click on it, convert on it. What's went well for you? Peep: I guess it starts with the basics. You need to send people emails that they would enjoy reading and opening. For the first four years or so, five years, we did not sell anything to our email list. We were just sending our weekly newsletter, which really consists up to this day of our blog posts, so it's kind of like in a way how people are subscribing to our blog, so we publish great content on the blog, which has made us known in our space and so email is a way to get those notifications about the blog posts. So that was what we were doing for the first four or five years and we weren't sending any promotional messages, because we were running just an agency and now we're conversion optimization agents with fees that start from like $10,000 a month for retainers.

So most people in the list would not be able to afford it. So we were fully aware that it's a complicated product, a long consideration cycle, so our strategy all along was: join our email list, we will prove to you that we know what we're talking about by sending you content, demonstrating our expertise and then eventually, when you have the need and the budget, we will be top of your mind, and you'll look us up. And that worked really well. Two years ago we launched CXL Institute, so we wanted to add a more scalable aspect to the business, and most people in our email list essentially weren't making us any money because they were not hiring our agency, so it was also another way to monetize the people on our list.

And then we started sending for the first time promotional emails, sales emails. Essentially "Buy this course." And it worked, we started to make money from these emails. The way we did it was also basically everything we emailed was kind of a launch. So we sent people an email that says "Hey, we're about to do a course on xyz, are you interested?" And we just had them reply "Yes, I'm interested." And then we gathered maybe, I don't know, however many people replied to that. Maybe like 3,000 people said "Yes, I'm interested." And only then did we start to send them more emails basically building up the hype about those courses. That it's now, it's coming, it's coming and then it will contain this and that. Until the day the course launched, we sent them an email with maybe a discount coupon and they bought it.

So we instantly started making a lot of money selling courses. And then of course if something is working, your immediate thought is "let's do more of that." So we started to build more courses and sent more emails. And over time, the effectiveness of these sales emails started to come down. Because we weren't sending any sales emails and now we were sending a lot, so people were getting kind of tired and the most motivated people had already bought one or two courses from us and so budget maybe started to become an issues and there is also a limit of how many courses one person can consume.

And then we realized that we need to do two things. One, we needed to grow our email list even faster so as to bring new emails in from people who haven't received the previous sales messages and now they can get them. So that's one - we need to focus on growing the email list. And two, we need to start sending more relevant sales messages, because our first approach was we're sending the same message to pretty much everybody - you know, everybody on our list. Our list is around 100,000 people and the open rates and click through rates were in constant decline, because we were just bombarding them with sales messages essentially.  Kathleen: So those initial emails, those sales emails you talked about, were going to everyone in your database?  Peep: Exactly, we sent an email on "there is this course coming up" and then we kind of segmented, we only started to send follow up messages to people who had confirmed "Yes, I'm interested." So we were sending those emails to everybody, and we started to realize that this is a road to nowhere, and tactic fatigue is going to kick in. The people will be tired of receiving emails from us, and we're gonna die.  Kathleen: Email Armageddon.  Peep: Exactly. Email was bringing us money, and if suddenly nobody is going to open our emails, we're going to be not receiving any more money, so it was a problematic situation to be in. So what we figured out was that we need a better way to send emails. So you know, we all know we have to be data driven and all that and you know, mass blasting is so 2009, but still everybody's doing it. And mainly because your data is siloed. So you know, you have your web analytics in one tool, maybe you use GA (Google Analytics) or whatever and then you have your email marketing software, whatever you want to use, and then you have your CRM and then you have your whatever components of your tech stack. And often these systems don't talk to each other.

So we realized that we have to know who these people are in our email list and what are they interested in. Two, we need to make sure all our data is merged so there is no piece of data that's siloed, so our email marketing tool has to be able to hold data from our sales history so we can email people who have bought product A, but not product B and things like this and then it's like "how do we do this, how do we finally make this data driven email marketing happen?" And sure enough, the answer is now out there and accessible to everybody.

So you have to use something called CDP, it's customer data platforms. It's essentially a piece of software that sits in the middle of all your other pieces of martech, so your CRM, your WordPress website, your Stripe, whatever you have there. It can talk to anyone through an API. We picked a tool called Hull, It's one of the many great CDP options out there.

CDP's are of course a growing market, they are mostly for large enterprises in terms of their pricing. So if you're a small business it might be difficult still, but I think like with anything in life, like everything that used to be available for only enterprises is becoming quickly available for everybody. So anyway, so we got Hull. How we implemented our data driven marketing process was as follows. We used Intercom as our email marketing tool and Intercom also serves as our CRM. Our website is built on WordPress, so our WordPress is sending data on purchases to Intercom, because Intercom also basically has the email list, names and emails.

So we are attaching their purchasing history to the database in Intercom and then we added the CDP Hull and we're pulling all data from Intercom to Hull and then we are adding Clearbit, which is an email in data enrichment tool that will add up to 50 data points about every email you have. Well not every email, it has to be your business email, so if it's a Gmail or a Yahoo, it's likely it won't find anything. Kathleen: Yeah, we've played around with data enrichment and same challenge. We get a lot of these personal emails and you can't do much with those. Peep: So for some things Clearbit will know something, hence it's also important that in your email capture you ask people for their work email, not their personal email, although that is also a problem, because people change jobs, what, every two years. Kathleen: Right. Peep: So, you know, your email list will become obsolete in two years once they change jobs, so in that sense you want the Gmail, because that's permanent. Kathleen: Yeah, somebody's gotta invent a data enrichment solution for Gmail.  Peep: Exactly. And then another problem is that if you wanna build custom audiences, you know for Facebook advertising or Linkedin advertising, nobody has their Facebook login or Linkedin login as their work email. It's always their Gmail or Yahoo or Hotmail. So if you put a bunch of work emails and you want to build custom audiences on Facebook, it doesn't find anything, because there's nothing attached to that email.

So it's still an ongoing challenge, like should you get Gmails or work emails? But if you get work emails, you can enrich them. So we're using Clearbit for it and it's amazing and it's cheap, so there's no reason that every single person shouldn't do that. Every small business as well, as it's really affordable. I think for 50 bucks a month, you can enrich up to 5000 emails a month. Kathleen: Yeah that's really reasonable.  Peep: So basically you should set it up any time you capture an email, so it's enriched right away. Now what happens is you get data about what kind of a company it is. Is it e-commerce, B2B, B2C, etcetera? You get information about their revenue. It's an estimation of course, but still it works. It's like these guys do above ten million a year, or under a million a year. You get job titles. You can target people whether it's a marketing manager or an SEO person or someone in HR. So if we have a course on product management coming out, we're going to email it to product people. And we're targeting people based on their title so all the SEO and conversion people are not getting any emails about it and the product people who are receiving the promotion about the product management course, they're likely to be actually interested in it.

And this is assuming that your product that you're pitching is actually good, which in our case always is, you know, if I may say so.  Kathleen: I would hope that that would be how you felt about it. Peep: Yeah, so if you're sending content, emailing content to people, your content needs to be good. If you're selling courses, it needs to be good. That's a prerequisite. Everything needs to be good.  Kathleen: Yeah.  Peep: But relevancy is all about enrichment. Beause you could survey your people "Hey, are you interested in topic ABC?", but you know, how many people fill out the survey? Getting the data is very difficult, especially if a list is tens of thousands of people.  Kathleen: I also think a lot of times people don't realize how much they are interested in things that they don't mark off.  Peep: Yes.  Kathleen: Or they don't know what they don't know. So in fact data can be valuable. Peep: Yeah, exactly. That kind of solves this segmentation issue. If you can target people based on whether they're a manager or not, their job role, type of company they work in, and a bunch of other stuff like location and basically, like, your imagination can go wild with 50 data points from Clearbit.

With Hull there's also a website tracking feature similar to Google Analytics, so we can see which URLs have visited us. So now I am able to send sales emails to people who've read blog posts on certain topics. So if you read three articles on copywriting, I'm going to guess you might be interested in copywriting. I'm going to send you a promotion about a course on copywriting. And so on.

So the options here are endless. So in this day, in 2018, there is really no excuse anymore to do mass email blasts. Of course, there is an added complexity here, so you need to figure out and think logically about "What kind of segments make sense for targeting?" So we have a persona-based approach when it comes to job roles. So people like managers, who are head of digital, they have certain types of interests. And our personas for email marketing are largely based on their job role. Like what are their goals, aspirations, things like this. It's a mental model that helps us to think about personalization, it's not an accurate picture of the world.  Kathleen: So you have this CDP in place and I've got so many questions I want to ask you about this. The first is: that's such an interesting approach, because when you describe your tech stack, you have Intercom, you have WordPress, you have Google Analytics, you have all these different pieces and you went in the direction of getting Hull, which is the CDP, to be the thing that tied them all together. Peep: Yeah. Kathleen: Why was that the right solution for you as opposed to trying to go in the direction of more of an integrated marketing automation platform that has the CRM. A lot of our listeners use HubSpot for example. So instead of going in the direction of using something that has a marketing platform, an email platform, a CRM, all in one, and instead go to the CDP? Peep: Well it's a matter of a freedom of you can connect any, any piece of software to each other and you can do whatever you want. You're not limited by the feature set of your particular marketing automation software. Because, you know, whether you're using Marketo or whatever you do, there are always limitations to what you can do, so for me this is about the control and the ability to just hook anything up with each other.  Kathleen: Yeah, it's certainly not an either or, because I guess you could use the CDP with Marketo or HubSpot.  Peep: Oh yeah, for sure, because I mean if you start look into it, the CDP opens up new doors that you can't do with HubSpot or Marketo, right now. I recently attended this higher education marketing conference, so basically colleges who were trying to recruit students. So recruitment marketers or whatever you want to call them, and the universities, the people that I talked to, they were telling me awful stories about data being siloed. They have their student enrollment database and they have their website that has like application forms and then they have their web analytics and then email marketing is separate and all these pieces are not talking to each other. It's like "Oh my God, you guys are running a huge organization with a lot of complexity and these different pieces are not talking to each other." And when I asked why, it's different departments with different often conflicting goals and they have different budgets and different tech stacks and so again, you put a CDP in the middle of those, and the problem is instantly resolved. Everybody can still be in their own silo, but the data can still flow between departments very easily.  Kathleen: That's great. When you talked about sending sales emails and the kind of decreasing returns you were seeing, you mentioned there were two things you did to address that. One was put in place the CDP, so that you could really do more contextual, personalized marketing. The other one was you wanted to grow your email list. So tell me a little bit about what you did to try and grow that email list beyond organically attracting people through great content.  Peep: Right, so the personalization dramatically helped our open rates and click through rates, you know, like when sending a promo email to the overall list versus a personalized segment. We're personalizing to an extent of not just "Hey Judy," but "Hey Judy, you're a product manager, right? So for companies of your size that are doing ten million plus and using Google Tag Manager in your tech stack," because I can see it with Clearbit. I can personalize the whole thing about their email and they're like "oh my God, how?" Kathleen: Who is this man and how did he read my mind? Peep: Exactly. So open rates went up. People responded to the emails like "How did you do that?" You know?

Kathleen: Did anybody respond saying "This is creepy, why do you know so much about me?" Peep: Actually no creepy comments. I received a lot of compliments from fellow marketers, like "Oh my God, how did you know?" Or sometimes Clearbit had their title wrong, like their previous title and they're just like "I'm a director now." You know?  Kathleen: Right. I feel like it's a power you have to use with care because it can verge into the realm of creepy if you don't do it right.  Peep: Sure, but I think we're also human beings living in 2018, we're just getting used to the creepy.  Kathleen: Yeah, totally.  Peep: Creepy is the new normal. So that's one thing. And growing the list... So there is this thing that is the bane of all marketers called tactic fatigue, right? Like popups when they became popular again in like 2012 or whatever, oh my god, what were the opt-in rates like 15 percent, 20 percent? It was crazy. And these popups that take over the full screen, what do they call them?  Kathleen: Oh the overlays, yeah, they're terrible.  Peep: Yeah, when those first came out, oh my God, how effective they were. It's ridiculous, I think like I had 35 percent opt-in rates and then of course everybody started using them and tactic fatigue kicks in and the effectiveness goes down. So now when you run a popup, and you get a higher opt-in rate than one percent, you're doing fine. You know, two percent is great.  Kathleen: It's like direct mail response rates. Peep: Yeah. So growing lists the old way is hard. And of course we're not even going to talk about static opt-in boxes on your website, like in the sidebar or the bottom of the blog post. The performance is so horrible for those that popups are still better. It's still the best thing you can use on your own site. Just the effectiveness is down and you know.

So for us, we are basically lbuilding anding pages for free email drip courses, so like "ten lessons about conversion optimization" or whatever it may be and then we're driving paid traffic onto those landing pages so we're building the landing pages with pixels, using Facebook and Google to try to retarget traffic. In order to do that, you need to know how much you should pay for an email. It's very easy to pay 20 bucks per all depends on the keywords you're bidding on and you know, all that stuff, plus your conversion rate on your landing page.

So it all plays a role and you need to optimize your keywords and your paid campaigns, you need to optimize your landing page and so let's say that you pay 20 bucks per email, which in some niches is cheap, like if you're in insurance, you know, it's ... You pay way more.  Kathleen: Yeah. Peep: So in order for that math to make sense, well, you just need to know your unit economics. Unit economics meaning I pay 20 bucks per email, and what is the conversion rate for all these people that I got through this landing page? How many of them will actually buy something within a certain timeframe? So you need to have proper tracking in place. And of course, depending on what you're selling, you often can't just come to the landing page and then buy something, you know, right away. Your product needs to be very simple and very cheap. For us, selling courses and predominantly we want to sell a subscription, so we're talking $300 to $500 per purchase. That's expensive and the product is complicated.

So we need elaborate drip campaigns in between. So we drip them the course content, add value and eventually we'll ask for a sale or ask them to buy something. And then we need to be of course measuring the conversion rate and how much they pay and tie that back to our ad spends. If you do that, basically you need to make sure that you have all the data available. Without that, you might easily just spend all that money trying to grow your list and end up with nothing.  Kathleen: And what kind of audience targeting are you doing for those ads? You mentioned you're doing some retargeting, so obviously people who have been to your site or looked at certain things. Peep: Exactly.  Kathleen: And you're doing some keyword targeting. Are you doing any other demographic targeting or lookalike audiences or anything like that?  Peep: We do lookalike audiences. What we also do is we buy email lists. And not to email them, because it doesn't work, it's spam. So we buy email lists of people that we're trying to target, but we use those for lookalike audiences. So we run ads. So like for instance, we bought a list for growth people, people whose job title is growth manager or growth hacker, bla bla bla. And then we have their emails and a bunch of other data points and we advertise to them and try to get them to opt-in to our list.  You can of course build those lists yourself. Especially if you have a sales team, you have BDRs going through Linkedin, maybe using Linkedin Sales Navigator or Datanyze, one of those prospecting tools, and you can build your own lists. You can do B2B sales to them, that's fine, but you can also just mine emails and just use them for your list, because retargeting and lookalike audiences and display is so much cheaper than doing keyword bidding.  Kathleen: Yeah, that's such a great idea, I love the "buy a list and then use it to retarget." One thing I think is interesting about inbound marketing is people can get really dogmatic about it and say like "Buying lists is not inbound-y ", but it's not about buying a list, it's how you are going to use the list you buy and that is a great way to use a list that is inbound-y. Peep: Right, because even Facebook, you know, when it comes to targeting your ads, there's one thing that is missing. You can't target people who are in a group, you know, because that would be amazing, because that's exactly how you could really target people based on their interests. And you can't target people based on their job roles, you know?  Kathleen: But you can do it on Linkedin. It's just more expensive in my experience.  Peep: You can, but Linkedin advertising is so ineffective, you know, the click through rates are zero point zero, zero, zero, and the cost per click is like ten bucks.  Kathleen: Yeah.  Peep: So it's not economically viable for most, maybe if you're P&G or I don't know who you have to be to make it work. You know, for a small business like ours, the unit economics just don't make sense, but buying a list, you can buy a list I think ... And sometimes you get these cold emails, you know, some of the list vendors pitching and then I used to always just delete or hit spam, but now I'm like "hmm, okay, tell me more," you know. So like recently I think I was offered a list of 180,000 marketing people for like I think $4,000. And I bought a list of like 2,000 growth people for like $200, something like that. And you can heavily negotiate. You know, whatever, they say "Ah this is $20,000." You say "I pay $2." And that's it. Kathleen: You put on your serious face when you said that. People can't see that when they're listening to the podcast, but I just got to see Peep's serious negotiation face, I think.  Peep: Yeah, because you know, being a list vendor, I think is a hard job, because you get so many nos, because as you said, it's- Kathleen: "I pay $2" Peep: There's a dogma against not buying lists and it's true, because you should not email those people, but it's all about just refining your targeting for ads.  Kathleen: So I'm assuming that that has been an effective approach for you and that you're seeing more list growth come out of that. Peep: Yes, exactly, so to be honest this is a pretty new thing for us, we've been only doing it for a couple of months now, this list thing, but so far, it's been I would say our emails per day, which is a key metric for us, emails per day has significantly gone up.  Kathleen: Great. One thing I'm curious about, because we have a fairly large email list and we're looking to grow it and the thing that keeps me up at night is how do we get our heads around the experience that an individual person in our database is having with regards to the emails that we're sending them. They can be subscribed to the blog, they can be converting on different offers in our resource center, they can be registered for a webinar. You know, they might be getting a sales or promotional email and obviously with the right systems in place you can certainly go in and look at that cadence, but from an organizing standpoint, like when you're running your marketing, how do you control that and ensure that your audience isn't feeling overwhelmed?  Peep: Yeah, it's a very valid point. So some tools, like Intercom does this, it will show you a list of people who are getting too much email. And then you can save those people as a segment and exclude them from your mailings. So in your email marketing tool, you need to have a way to craft the segment of people that have received five emails in whatever time period and just exclude them from the regular mailings.

I think the tools are still not good enough and I think in a couple of years maybe we'll have more intelligent email marketing systems that this can happen automatically and there will be dynamically changing segments and stuff. I mean, segments can change dynamically right now, but this over emailing aspect ... Yeah. Kathleen: It's a big challenge, yeah. Peep: Yeah, yeah, email fatigue. I mean, somebody who is looking for a start up idea.  Kathleen: There you go. Peep: That's a problem to address for sure, email fatigue.  Kathleen: The other thing I'm curious about kind of on the opposite end of that spectrum is ... Or maybe it's not even the opposite end, but gray mail. People who are disengaged with your content. Do you have any particular strategy either for excluding them or for trying to reengage them? Peep: Yeah, so I do the strict MOFO strategy where I email people who have not opened my emails for six months and say "Okay, if you're not going to open this email too, I'm just going to unsubscribe you in bulk." And I do it. So typically, the open rate for that email is sky high, everybody opens. Kathleen: What is your subject line?  Peep: The subject line is "I will unsubscribe you."  Kathleen: Great.  Peep: And then people will say "Oh, no please don't." Some are also really offended, and I get emails like "Ah, this is the rudest email I've ever got."  Kathleen: You can't please everyone, that's for sure.  Peep: Yeah, so I'm like "Well you haven't opened my emails for six months and I'm paying for you to be on this list, because that's how email marketing softwares work." So I think the dead weight just needs to go, because you know, your list size is kind of a vanity metric. "Oh my list is 200,000 people." You know?  Kathleen: Right. Peep: But how many actually click and buy? So once a year, I purge my list and I delete 10,000, sometimes 20,000 people at a time.  Kathleen: Got it. Really interesting. Any other kind of actionable takeaways you would offer to somebody who's listening and wanting to get more mileage out of their email strategy. I mean, anything from like, things to know about subject lines or any of that.  Peep: If you want to dramatically increase response rates to emails, so you know, people actually hitting reply and replying to you, or taking action like clicking on something, then try to limit your email to two sentences. People are busy, they won't really read a long email. But like ultra short emails, I mean, this is what I use in my personal emails. Like my question to somebody is the subject line and ... so for instance yesterday I emailed my friend Morgan Brown and my subject line to him was "Do you know anybody who could teach a course on SaaS retention?" And the email copy was "Need somebody to teach a course on it." So, you know?

And then I get an instant one sentence reply back, you know, with a name and that's all. I could have gone on "Hey, how's it going, how are the kids, the family?" And bla bla bla.  Kathleen: Yeah.  Peep: But this is how you get responses, especially if you're sending cold email. So ultra short emails really work well.  Kathleen: That's really interesting, I'll have to test that out. I have a couple of ideas I wanna use that on.

Well there are two questions I always ask every guest that comes on this podcast. I'm curious to hear what you have to say. So the first one is: company or individual, who do you think is doing inbound marketing really well right now?  Peep: There are three start ups that come to mind. So one is this sales software I think these guys came out of nowhere, or so it seems, and now they're everywhere. They're founder now is like a celebrity speaker at every conference, because their blog is just good and it's everywhere. They're doing a great job at content promotion.

Same goes for Drift, the messaging software. They have their podcast, which is becoming very, very popular. They have their blog stuff and like, overall, they push the agenda of like branding is the new growth hack. And so they think like their approach or thinking is of content marketing as branding. And they're doing a great job at it. Growing like wildfire.

And Intercom, I think the Intercom blog is top notch. They have a wide range of topics like their engineering people talk about engineering and their HR or managers talk about how to run one on one interviews with developers and they release a lot of these books, you know, like their guide to growing a business and their guide to this and guide to that. So there's a significant content production machine happening. The blog is also visually stunning. So yeah, those three.  Kathleen: Awesome, I love it. I'll have to check all of those out.

The other question is how do you stay educated and on the cutting edge of what's happening in marketing? Obviously our whole conversation today, or a lot of it, has revolved around technology and how quickly that's changing, and I think that's one of the biggest challenges that I hear people say to me as marketers is just keeping up with everything. So, what are your sources for that?  Peep: Yeah, you know, I used to read ferociously, I used to spend multiple hours a day reading, when I was starting my business. Now I have a team. The company has evolved to a new stage and I just don't have the time to read a bunch of stuff and look for great content. So for me, curation is everything. So I need to go to places where there are curated lists. There are very few blogs that I constantly read. Like the only one that comes to mind is co-elevate by Brian Balfour. He writes these growth essays, which are amazing, but this is like once a month that he writes. But otherwise I rely on Twitter, some people that I'm following, what are they tweeting, so that's kind of like validation, somebody has still done the curation for me.

Too, I use this extension for chrome called Zest, so every time I click a new tab in my chrome browser, the plug in, the extension opens up like a curated list of articles. And sometimes I find something. Half of it is garbage, half of it might be interesting.

I used to look at, but I think the content there is just ... I think they're on their way out. My subjective opinion, it's just garbage. Or it's just very ... The audience there is just somebody who just doesn't know anything about anything. It's very low level, basic content.

Growth Hackers, again mix and match, hit or miss, sorry. Yeah, so I don't google stuff, I just have other people curate it for me.  Kathleen: It's interesting that you mention Twitter. I had this conversation with another guest, because I had taken a Twitter break for a while and this year I decided I was going to really get back into it and the big game changer for me was removing 80 percent of the people I was following who just were tweeting about stupid things that I wasn't interested in. And as soon as I did that, it was like this revelation of Twitter is now so interesting for me and so relevant. So you know, when you talk about curation, I do think a lot of people, a lot of people think that Twitter is useless and the advice I always give is you really have to look at who you're following, because it's all about that.  Peep: Right and you know, you need to use like a Tweetdeck or some sort of a management tool, because if you use just, the feed is overwhelming. You need to organize it.  Kathleen: Yeah, agreed.  Peep: Yeah, so I have organized it by topics. These are the UX people talking, the analytics people talking, the CRO people, etc. So like by topic I'm watching the feed, so that's how I filter it.

Kathleen: Before we go, you have an event coming up that I think a lot of our listeners would be interested in. Tell me a little bit about that. Peep: Mm-hmm (affirmative). CXL Live 2018. So it's taking place March 28-30, and it is a three day conference about four topics: Growth, Digital Analytics, Customer Marketing, and Conversion Optimization.

We have a killer line up, like top optimizers, growth people from like, Instagram, Shopify, and Dell, you name it. Look at the speakers, it's very impressive. So, you're going to get really, really good content, but even, I think, more important than content is what we do on the networking side.

So this is the place where you can meet other great practitioners doing interesting things because the best learning happens, not by reading blog posts but by talking to other people, learning how they do stuff. So our event is unique because we book a resort that's on the outskirts of the city, like far from everything, and everybody stays at that resort. Everybody stays together for three days, parties last all night long. Kathleen: Oh boy, get your sleep now. Alright, I love it and if you want to register for the conference use the code "impact-sent-me" for $350 off your registration fee. Great. Well, thank you so much. This has been really interesting and I appreciate you sharing all this. This is the first deep dive we've taken into email on this podcast. So a lot of good takeaways that I think people are going to appreciate. Peep: Thank you for having me.  Kathleen: It's been my pleasure. Well, thank you all for listening and if you found this useful, please give us a review on the platform of your choice and if you know somebody else who's doing really great inbound marketing work and getting awesome results, please tweet me at @WorkMommyWork and let me know. I'd love to interview them. That's it for this week.

Feb 26 2018



Rank #7: Ep. 16: SEO and Facebook Ads Featuring Anthony Sarandrea

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Most businesses build websites to promote their offerings, but for my guest this week, websites are his business.

Anthony Sarandrea is the Founder and CEO of and a serial entrepreneur who has successfully built and monetized a portfolio of websites without ever raising outside funds. His secret? Rock solid SEO, user-centric content, and an aggressively optimized Facebook ads strategy. 

In this episode, Anthony shares with me how he used this strategy to grow from zero to over $1 million in less than a year.

Listen to the episode here, or read the transcript (below), to learn more about Anthony's process.

This week on The Inbound Success Podcast, my guest is Anthony Sarandrea, the CEO and Founder of SiteFlood.

Here’s what Anthony and I discussed on this week’s show:

Kathleen Booth (host): Hi! My name is Kathleen Booth, and you are listening to the Inbound Success Podcast. Today my guest is Anthony Sarandrea, and he is the CEO and founder of SiteFlood. I am so excited to have him here today because he is one of Inc. magazine's top branding and marketing experts to look out for in 2017, as well as Entrepreneur magazine's Five Marketing Trends Business Owners You Should Know in 2016. So, lots of recognition from top marketing publications, top business publications, and Anthony was actually recommended to me by another guest, and I was fascinated to read his bio. I'm going to actually let him tell you a little bit more about himself, so welcome, Anthony, and tell us a little bit about who you are and what you do.

Anthony Sarandrea (guest): Thanks, Kathleen. Excited to be here. I run a full-service digital marketing agency, and we specialize in inbound marketing, SEO, and paid ads as well, too. What makes us a little different is, the same people that are working on clients' work also work on my internal brands and internal sites, so they manage my ad dollars, out-of-pockets, they're creating the content for my SEO sites that I actually own with partners of mine as well, too, and work to monetize and drive traffic to the sites, things like that. So, we put the same resources to work for our in brands as we do as clients as well.

Kathleen: And can you talk a little bit about all of the different properties you own? Because one of the things that I think is interesting about you, as opposed to some of the other guests I've had ... I've had people that are agency people, and I've had people that that are in-house marketers, but not many that cross over. As you alluded to just now, you do a lot of work for clients, but you actually have an extremely robust marketing and advertising program for quite a few web properties that you own.

Anthony: This is correct. Thank you for saying that. We own sites in anywhere from the health niche, so, to the financial niche, which I think is what we wanted to talk about today, which are basically helping people get out of debt, fix their credit. Student loan debt is a huge problem in our country, and it's something we sought out to do with Student Wallet or Scholarships For Students, as well as finding ways to help take people down the buyer's journey. You know, we can dive a little bit deeper there, but I think today, specifically, I'd love to talk about how is one of our good properties in the financial space that has a great branding community, that drives a lot of inbound success, so would be happy to touch on that more.

Kathleen: Tell me a little bit about that site, and who the audience is, and what the objective is there.

Anthony: Great, great questions. So, I think a lot of companies start with what you're selling and then work backwards, or vice versa, and we like to work backwards. So, at the end of the day, is we're connecting people to providers that can help with debt consolidation, debt settlement, or credit repair, which at its surface isn't very sexy, for lack of a better word. So what we did is we worked backwards, and we said, "Okay, well, how can we help these people start saving money today and educating them down the sales cycle?" A lot of content that gets put out today is, "Okay, what is debt consolidation? What is debt settlement?" We asked, how can we get even deeper in that audience or deeper in that individual? Today we provide weekly shopping lists for individuals, so, how they can save money when they go to the store, so, when they're going to Target or something like that, or Walmart, what deals are going on. And what we found is, by gaining that trust, and by driving people to literally bookmark the site for Target's deals for the week, and they get on our email lists, and we start nurturing them and teaching them about finances as a whole, we're able to take them down the buyer's journey of eventually speaking, one day, to a debt consolidation company, and actually signing up for a service. And I think the reason we've had such success with that site in particular, which is less than a year old, and it's already a seven-figure business, is because we've been able to be more integrated and educate them more than just, "Hey, we're a debt consolidation company. Come work with us." I think you see a lot of push marketing that's out there today, a lot of pushed content.

Kathleen: I just want to pause there. You're less than a year old, and you are a seven-figure business.

Anthony: Correct.

Kathleen: That's amazing and really impressive. And to take a step back for a sec, one of the things that I think is really interesting, at least my perception, is that you come at business the opposite way, maybe, from the way most entrepreneurs come to it. I feel like most entrepreneurs have a business idea, and then they create the plan around that idea, and then the website is a part of that plan. And it almost sounds like you're the type of entrepreneur for whom you recognize that the website, if it's done well, and the marketing, if it's done well, can essentially be the business idea, and then you just focus that around specific niches and kill it. Is that accurate?

Anthony: Yeah, I think so. My background's in sales originally, and marketing, and I learned early on just how much noise there is out there from salesmen, and cold calls, and all this, and even if you take it online, how much content is out there now. People are bombarded with what they get and what they get in front of them, and I think early on, I didn't learn it on my own, but was directed to learn that, the more you can help people accomplish what is really important to them, and what's important to them today, the more you can gain their trust, and you can eventually continue to be with them for the rest of their life in whatever that niche or that vertical is. So, that's kind of where you get the idea, as far as working backwards, we say, okay, how can we help these people today, relevant to what we want tomorrow?

Kathleen: I love that. And it really reminds me of ... I don't know if you're familiar with Marcus Sheridan. He owns The Sales Lion, and I've heard him speak a couple times, and he always says that we're actually all in the same business.

Anthony: Yeah.

Kathleen: Whether you're McDonald's, or you're Deloitte and Touche, or you're Boeing, we're all selling the same thing. Essentially, we're selling trust, and if you don't have trust, nobody's going to buy from you, and so what you're saying is really in line with that, that you first have to build trust, and once you have that, it's almost like you could sell somebody anything.

Anthony: Yeah. It's true, and I think it's becoming increasingly more difficult, depending on how you look at it, to gain trust today because people's time, like we talked about, that's the currency for most people. I mean, obviously dollars or whatever country is their currency, but their time is really a valuable currency that people don't even realize that they're spending and you're acquiring, so, even if by grabbing someone's time, let's just take, on a website, pertinent to our conversation, they've invested in you. They've bought from you in some way with their time. So, looking at time as a currency before dollars, or before actual money or revenue in the door, I think, is how we're able to get deep-rooted into that trust, like you mentioned.

Kathleen: I couldn't agree more. I think these days, content creation has become sort of commoditized, and so there's a lot of information out there, and it's a buyer's market in the sense that visitors to websites have a lot of other options. And so if you're not delivering, and delivering really quickly, and really easily and painlessly, then we have so many other places we can go, so that makes a lot of sense what you're saying.

Let's talk a little bit more, let's go back to the specific business that you were talking about earlier. So you were looking to target people who wanted to get out of debt, and this started less than a year ago?

Anthony: Correct.

Kathleen: What did you do? Start from day zero. You created a site. Did you have a strategy? How did you first start reaching out to that audience?

Anthony: Great question. I think it started with looking at market potential, and what we were passionate about. So I was passionate about helping students get out of debt, and seeing the debt crisis in America. Not just student debt, but credit card debt, and all other types of debt.

When we sought out to go into this market, we realized just how massive it was, and how it's been an increasing problem year to year. The growth in specifically credit card debt, every year has risen, for 20 plus years at this point. And I could get into an hour of talking about how big of an issue that is. But just seeing the market potential out there, and then the opportunity to actually make a social impact, I think is what really drives most people and what drives businesses to be wildly successful and profitable, is not going out to say where can I make the most money, but where can I make the biggest impact, and then a by-product of that is you help a ton of people, you can make a ton of money or you can touch a ton of lives, whatever that is.

So specific to marketing, we looked at the market potential, market size out there. I love taboo, ugly markets too, you know what I mean, that people want to stay away from. I love non-sexy markets, because then they tend to be less crowded for lack of better words.

Kathleen: And there's so much potential to innovate, usually, too, because generally those are the markets where everyone ... that's where they've been doing the same thing the same way for ever.

Anthony: Exactly. So it checked both of those boxes, and how we got into it was exactly how I mentioned. We started off day one, running Facebook ads, video ads on how to save money at target. And what we would do from there is we would then retarget or we would custom audience, individuals based on the length of time they watched the actual video itself, within Facebook. And then we just started an email funnel, started segmenting them differently based on how engaged they were with our content. 

Kathleen: When you initially put up those video ads, I assume there was some kind of initial target that you were going after? How did you focus that?

Anthony: Great question. So when we launched Facebook campaign, I think a struggle with a lot of people with Facebook is they get really, really detailed, and Facebook doesn't like that. So if I'm an ice cream shop in Scottsville Arizona, a lot of people will start targeting a two mile radius around the place.

You have to like ice cream, it has to be parents and grandparents, and your audience size will be like 100 people, and Facebook doesn't like that. So Facebook loves big audiences, and Facebook even a million person audience is considered smaller or right where you want to be.

So in that same example, we'd start with just targeting Scottsville, and we would maybe even just start with some age things. So people, parents that are maybe 45 and up, so it's gonna be grandparents and parents.

And then we make sure we set the pixel correctly for tracking abilities, and then we let Facebook figure it out, when they start saying out of this million plus size of people in Scottsville, who are the best people that are engaging with your content, or whatever the actual ... for us, it's engaging in a phone call or downloading or clicking on something on the actual page that we're driving people to.

But Facebook starts to find those conversion points, and then starts to optimize their own ad. So for the debt example, specifically, it targeted nationwide, and it was just people that liked Dave Ramsay for starters. So Dave Ramsay, and then Christians as well too, so we said let's find Christians because debt is something big in the bible to get out of, and it's good for religious people. I'm Catholic, I'm Christian myself too, and that was it. That was really all our targeting, was nationwide.

Kathleen: That is so interesting. I never would have thought about that as a targeting factor. I love that you went after people who like Dave Ramsay, because obviously that's just identifying that somebody else has an audience and that that's the right audience for you. So can you piggy back on it.

We had a conversation in another episode I did about influencer marketing, and it's really the same principal there. You're just gonna go after the same audience that someone else has already captured.

So you created the content first, and you started with these videos about how to save money at Target. Did you produce those videos in house, or do you outsource that?

Anthony: Yeah, outsource it. It's a simple Fiverr video. We put together the script, what we wanted it to look like, and walked it through on a whiteboard. And of course now the production value's a little bit higher. But initially, that was it. It was a $5 Fiverr video, we put together the script and we were up and running in a day.

Kathleen: I love that. So that's takeaway number one, which we'll come back to. But I think that one of the biggest myths people buy into is that you need to have a large budget to do video. This is a great example of how you've got to be scrappy and for anybody who hasn't heard of Fiverr, it's a fantastic outsourcing platform for all kinds of things. And in this case, you used it for video.

Anthony: We also had one of our content writers in the office literally do a screen share. She was on Camtasia or whatever it was, like a Zoom meeting, and it was recording her screen. It was a "Here's the target site, here's the biggest deals" little two minute video and it was out. Even easier than hiring someone, you can literally do it in the next five minutes and download that.

Kathleen: Yeah, just capture your screen, I love that.

Anthony: Screen capture, yep.

Kathleen: And that goes back to a point that I really believe strongly, which is that the best marketing isn't always the most slickly produced stuff. If you look on YouTube, some of the most viral videos are things that people did on their cellphones. It's like the baby singing in the backseat of the car, or the cat doing something funny. It isn't about production value, it's about authenticity and it's about sharing really useful information.

Anthony: Well I think it goes back to what you said, it's trust. High production value might seem like a big corporation, where the girl in the office just sharing her screen and stumbling on her words, it's like, that's me. That's how I am everyday.

Kathleen: That's great. The video was produced, you decided to do the Facebook ads, did upload the video natively to Facebook? Instead of posting it somewhere else. That's something big for anybody who hasn't done Facebook video advertising, I know my experience has been - and I'd be interested to hear your feedback on this - that Facebook really rewards video that is uploaded directly to it, as opposed to if you post something on YouTube and then share the link. It doesn't like sending people off of Facebook, which makes all the sense in the world, when you think about it.

Anthony: Well it's powerful too in the sense that, by doing that, you can track percent, or I should say you can bucket audiences based on how engaged they were with the video. So if they watched a certain percentage, you can bucket them differently into a re-targeting list or into another, then a campaign. 

Kathleen: Now when you first began, you said that you were really doing nationwide targeting. I assume the audience was fairly large. What kind of budget did you start with?

Anthony: It was huge. We started with $300 a day. Now we're up to about $15,000 a day.

Kathleen: 15 thousand dollars a day?

Anthony: Yep.

Kathleen: And ... obviously to go from $300 to $15,000 a day, I assume number one, you're watching it closely and you know it's working, because you wouldn't be pouring money in if you didn't think that.

 And two, that you're somehow adjusting on a regular cadence. Can you talk a little bit more about ... especially in the beginning, I'd love to know, when you first started, how often did you look at it? How often were you in there, tweaking things? Did you A/B test? From a very tactical standpoint, how did you set this thing up, and how do you monitor it?

Anthony: Great question. We use a platform called AdEspresso, that you're familiar with, right? It allows for us to split test a lot of variations very quickly. So I don't think we did more than three or four different ... tones of the ads, if you will. Like "get excited about these deals", versus, "you need these deals or you're gonna die." Not literally, but you know what I mean?

Kathleen: A, B, C and D testing.

Anthony: Right, exactly. What I like about AdEspresso is you get a cap. So for us we had CPA caps, and what that meant was we were willing to pay a certain amount for a certain action.

So for us, initially, it was for people to actually click through to Target's site. So it meant that they were actually more engaged. Even though we didn't monetize that, or we didn't get paid on that. For us that was an engaged viewer. They read our shopping list and they clicked through to Target's site. Or they downloaded I think it was Target's app or it might have been Wal-mart's app. Whatever it was, we were tracking those and we had a certain threshold where after it crossed, let's say we were willing to pay $10 for every click through to Target. After it crossed $30 and there wasn't any clicks, shut that ad set off. So shut that little segment off.

So a lot of it was actually working, I don't want to say in the background, but there was a ton of set up with it. And then by setting up these rules within AdEspresso, a lot of those were able to just, I don't want to say run in the background like it was super easy to do, and just set it and forget it by any means. But we were watching hour to hour, to answer your question, and still are. I think the second half of your question, or what might be coming is, what do we do now? We're always moving towards localized audiences, as much as we can.

So a look alike of the highest intent. So for us now, today, the highest intent is someone who's spoken to someone from one of our debt consolidation partners, for 10 plus minutes. So if you've talked for 10 minutes plus, we now have your phone number uploaded to custom audience and now you're a look alike, a one per cent of anyone who's talked for 10 minutes plus.

So those are the highest quality individuals, and we're just running a one per cent look alike to those individual ad sets.

Kathleen: How are you tracking that?

Anthony: Great question. We run mobile-only traffic on Facebook, and the second someone clicks to call, it fires the pixel that that individual clicked to call. As far as the 10 minute length, so we use CallRail, there's a ton of call tracking softwares as well.

But basically we just do an export monthly, and it may even have it now that the APIs talk to each other, but it's to stay less technical if you were just starting off. We literally export calls, filtered by anything over 10 minutes, upload that into Facebook, and then we run for that look alike.

Kathleen: So you have to have at least a decent CRM that is capable of tracking call duration?

Anthony: If you were gonna do it how I just said, yeah. So CallRail is super affordable, I think we do like 2,000 calls a day and I don't think our CallRail bill is anything massive, relatively speaking I should say.

Kathleen: What do you think, if you didn't have that sophisticated of a system, and you had a basic marketing automation platform, a CRM, you could probably ... and if you were channeling calls into reps who were manually recording that, you could probably just accomplish the same thing by having a list that you added highly engaged callers to. And it would maybe update less frequently to your Facebook campaign, but it would accomplish the same thing, essentially.

Anthony: A list absolutely, and even easier would be setting the Facebook pixel to fire when someone actually clicks the click to call button. So you could accomplish relatively similar results. We're just trying to get as granular we can, as everyone should eventually. But even early on, we were just tracking if someone clicked the click to call button, it was how we identified those people differently within Facebook.

Kathleen: Now you are running these ads, and you're actually trying to direct the person that sees the ad to one of your partners, not necessarily to your own company, correct?

Anthony: Great question. So they do come to our own company. Think of us as like a ... what's a good example? Like a ... like a news source. I want to say like a Forbes, but obviously not anywhere near that.

If you've heard of Nerdwallet, we're like a mini version of that right now. One day we'll buy that dot com and we'll be the Nerdwallet of the industry where people will reference us, hopefully. But we're really just a financial resource right now.

And we come in as very educational, and I think almost any company can do that for themselves. And today, yes, we send to partners, after they come to our site. So the ad comes to us, they get into our network, we grow trust, we mature them, and then when they hit a call, we then send them to our partner.

But they're still ours, they're still our customer and we're still monetizing them in other ways. So they're talking to partner A, but we're still going to market them after they've talked to partner A, they're gonna talk to partner B, C and D. And very quickly, within the next year, we will be partner A, B and C, we'll be our own. So we'll do our actual fulfillment ourselves too.

Kathleen: Got it. Now when somebody clicks and calls, do they then get entered into any kind of a nurturing sequence? And if so, what does that look like?

Anthony: Great question. So when someone actually clicks to call, a couple of things happen. So most of these people are filling out a form before they're calling, as well. So we're capturing through a form fill to schedule time to talk with someone. That way we have their email address as well, too.

Kathleen: Sorry to interrupt you, but is that form being filled out on Facebook?

Anthony: Sometimes. So sometimes in lead ads, I'd say probably about 25% of our budget is through lead ads.

Kathleen: Okay, so we'll come back to that, because I know that's a topic that you have a lot of feelings about, and I have a lot of questions about. So they fill out a form, they call ...

Anthony: So they fill out the form and what actually happens is we have a system that automatically dials them right away, and says hey, someone who's ready to speak about your debt is ready to talk, press one to talk with them.

They hit one, then they're connected, the other person's phone rings, and then each of them are talking. They don't, and they're getting a text message automation sequence to get them to get on the phone. So we have an in-house machine running an AI platform that actually will text them and say, hey we just gave you a call, are you free to talk in 5 minutes?

And you might respond back and say, no. And the system will automatically say okay, well when is a good time? And you might say, lunchtime. And the system will automatically reply, like a mini-chat.

Kathleen: Like a chatbot, essentially?

Anthony: It's a chatbot, exactly, it's a chatbot for text. Exactly. And it's moving them to actually make an action to call. But to answer your question, after they talk to partner A, most of the time it's for people in credit card debt, so it's to talk to someone about how to get out of credit card debt.

 The nurturing sequence from there is to get them to, in our flow, is to credit repair. So now that you're getting your debt handled, how can we also fix your credit, and then from there, do you also have other types of debt, do you have a student loan, can we re-finance your mortgage, and that's on a number of ways.

That's on the content they're seeing on the site, in their email and then on their Facebook as well, and Google Display artwork is also going to lead to that.

Kathleen: Now do you have a marketing automation system that you're using for this? And is it off the shelf, or did you build it for yourselves?

Anthony: No we didn't build it for ourselves, it's off the shelf. We use InfusionSoft, we've used MailChimp and it accomplishes a lot of what we need from an e-mail perspective.

Kathleen: Yeah, MailChimp has come a long way.

Anthony: Yeah, they have, and a lot of times they have a lot less bells and whistles than InfusionSoft, and I think people can digest it a lot easier, depending on what it is.

Kathleen: Now what about CRM, what are you using there?

Anthony: CRM, so we have Call Around then we have HubSpot.

Kathleen: That's interesting that you use HubSpot and you're using InfusionSoft.

Anthony: Yeah, and I could be misspeaking depending on which site is using what, but I think pocketyourdollars may just be using Infusion Soft.

Kathleen: I was gonna say that's the first time I've ever heard that mix.

Anthony: Right when you said it I thought that didn't sound right.

Kathleen: You do have a lot of different web properties so I'm sure there's a lot to keep track of there. Alright, so let's go back to Facebook now.

You've mentioned lead ads, and it was so funny because, for anyone listening, Anthony and I spoke before this interviews, and this came up briefly in our conversation and he was saying, oh, lots of people don't like lead ads, but I've had great luck with them.

                                And I know I have a few clients who have tested it out and haven't had a lot of luck, which is not to say they don't work, and so I'm really interested to hear what you're experience has been, what you think works, what doesn't and how people should think about using them.

Anthony: Great question. Yeah I love them. I love them, and I love when people say they don't work, like I was telling you, because it makes it a lot less competitive, which is great.

So I love when I hear at these conferences, "don't use lead ads." I'm like "yeah, lessen the competition" even though I'm in the background like "yeah, I'm using them." So anyway, to answer your question, what I love about them is ... so how we use them and just going back to stay on topic to our example is, someone will view a video on shopping lists at Target, let's say something like that.

Then they'll get bucketed depending on how much they engage with that ad. They'll get bucketed to another retargeting sequence, where the lead ad will actually target those individuals and, say we've got a full on program built up that helps you walk through your finances, how to save money today, how to repair your credit score on your home, how to get out of debt on your home, tips you can do, apps you can download, all that stuff.

And that program actually started off selling. And we were selling it, let's just say, I know you asked for hard numbers, roughly we're selling at 30 bucks, or we were selling it at $50 but it was $30 to drive that sale. And it's an e-book, is really what it was.

And we said, "why don't we give it away for free?" So what we did is, we started giving it away for free, and we're getting these e-book downloads at a dollar, $1.50, $2 a pop, each one. And that e-book, really what it is, is it's a glorified sales letter. It helps people, I don't want to say that it doesn't help people.

But it's moving them further down the sales cycle. So they're reading how to get, how to fix their credit on their own, and by the time they get through that, they go like, "holy crap, I need to talk to a company. This is way too much work."

And what it did is it really just educated them and moved them down to actually make the phone call.

Kathleen: And then you must have a nurturing sequence around that as well, I would assume.

Anthony: Of course, same thing. Email, text message, and then re-targeting as well, so you want Google display and then Facebook.

Kathleen: So let's go back now to content. You talked about the videos, you also alluded to the fact that the site itself has a lot of educational content around getting out of debt. Tell me a little bit more about what content specifically has performed really well for you, both the format and the topics.

Anthony: Great question. So the content that performed best... Let me first start here. When we put out a piece of content, we monitor it like - to use an analogy - like a pay per click ad. So I think a lot of marketers that might be listening when they do a pay per click ad, they'll split test a lot of things, they'll go in and they'll re-optimize headlines, they'll re-optimize description lines, whatever it is.

A lot of people put out content, and they just let it sit. So they do it, and they go "okay great, it's out, let me run traffic to it, it's a great piece of content." We've got our team, you were asking how closely we watch Facebook ads. We watch content equally as closely with heat map and screen recording software.

There's a ton out there - Lucky OrangeHotJar. We'll actually watch where people are engaging with he content, and we will make updates to the content real time. Like within the day that it goes out, we might change our content up three or four times.

So back to the target list. We might have 50 deals, we might only put out 20, and we'll see the top 5 that are performing, cut the other 15, ad another 15 in there, and just keep testing it like that with the content real time.

Kathleen: That's great, I have thought for a long time that we talk a lot about conversion rate optimization and being really agile as far as how we design websites for conversion, but there's not a lot of people talking about what I would refer to as agile content and conversion rate optimizing the content itself. And so I loved to hear you say that. We happen to use HotJar. I know Lucky Orange is another great alternative. Those tools are amazing, in terms of what they can tell you. And I think you're right, a lot of people create content and they let it sit. And what I always find mind boggling is when you see companies, especially now that more marketers are moving towards creating pillar content, these really, really long form pieces of content on their sites, it takes a lot of work to stage that, to write it, to create it. And then to just let it sit and to not look and see is anybody actually reading, like after the first 10% of it? And if not, let's start to move some pieces around, 'cause a lot of work went into that and nobody's seeing it.

Anthony: Back to your analogy, it would be like building out a Facebook ad campaign, you put all this work into it, and then you set it to go and then you turn your back. It's like okay, great. Let's see how it does.

Kathleen: It's such a waste.

Anthony: Yeah, agreed.

Kathleen: Interesting. So there's a lot there, you've shared a ton, thank you so much. I'm curious to hear more about the results you got. They obviously have to have been good, because you ramped up your Facebook spend, and it sounds like the company is really growing. Tell us a little bit more.

Anthony: Yeah, so, I think specific to your question as far as results as well, too, the best content we have now, we started day one putting out ... I shouldn't say day one, but a lot of the content we produced was educating people on debt consolidation and what's wrong with student loans today, and it was good, but it wasn't great. And what ended up being great was Target deals and Wal-mart shopping deals. And it was like people literally wake up and that's their morning news, to see what the site has to say about ways to save on deals on Amazon and stuff like that. So I'd say in terms of what content performed the best, it was just getting back to the earlier part of our conversation, it was getting more integrated on how we can help people today, not just educate them, how we can actually help them today.

So not just educate them on our actual offering, but what other things around our offering can actually make an immediate impact today. And the good news is, one of the things we say is the savings we help people have, paid for tenfold whatever this service actually costs.

So the amount of money we're saving people on their grocery bills or at Target or on their Amazon deals, pays for the debt consolidation 10 times over. So it's just a nice reallocation of their money. But as far as results, as far as that site specifically, like I said, the growth of it, I'm trying to think as far as spend. I'd say week one we were spending I think $300 a day. By the end of the first month we were spending $1,000 a day, by the end of month three, we were probably up to $3K. Six months in we were probably about close to $10K, and now we're hitting a little bit of a plateau on our spend.

A lot of it is audience size limitations, so we're trying to get more creative while trying to expand into other markets, outside of just credit card debt. But yeah, I'd say the content that's performed best has been that stuff that can help people today performed best.

Kathleen: Great. And I imagine there must be a saturation point, because I did have another guest on one of my earlier episodes, Rick Kranz, who talked about how he saw a stat that after people see a Facebook ad, I think it's four or five times, you really start to see diminishing returns.

So do you have something built into your process, where you're refreshing the content so that people aren't just starting to tune it out?

Anthony: Absolutely. So they get segmented differently if they've seen the ad after I think it's a frequency of two times. They start getting different language, different angles or different messaging, so instead of ... just back to my example, "this thing will help you live the life you want" versus "use this or you're gonna die," type of feels.

It's taking different angles to see which one resonates best with people. So yes, to answer your question, definitely.

Kathleen: What type of quality scores are you going for with Facebook ads? I've heard a lot of people talk about, everyone seems to have a different threshold, where they wanna be. What's yours?

Anthony: Yeah, we aim for tens, and really the metric we're actually watching more than quality score is our click-through rate. So we're watching to see if that click-through rate is ... I mean, we've got click-through rates upwards of 5 plus per cent on Facebook, which is phenomenal.

And the higher the click through rate, the more we're telling Facebook's algorithm that we're getting the right messaging for the right person. To me it's the leading KPI that we focus on most, to say whether an ad is performing or not performing is the click through rate of that actual ad.

Kathleen: Interesting. So shifting gears, we've got a lot of people listening who are practicing marketers, they tend to be marketing director level, they're involved in strategy but they also are involved enough at the tactical level that they're looking for some really concrete takeaways.

I would love to hear from you both the positives and the negatives. What would you say are the things you wouldn't do again, the mistakes you've made that somebody else should learn from, and what are some real positives that you've ... that have come out of this that somebody else could use and takeaway and apply to their own marketing?

Anthony: Great question. Let's see, so negatives, I'll start there ... specifically for marketers, I would say, not understating your audience fully, I'd say something we've admittedly fumbled multiple times, so I'm trying to think of a great example, is people with tax debt. So people that owe money to the IRS on their taxes and have back taxes.

We didn't fully understand that market, or what that looked like, and who those individuals were, and we thought a lot of the time it was the same subprime individuals, so it was the individual that ran up a ton of credit card debt or owes a lot, or doesn't have a high income.

Where a lot of times it is individuals that do have the income, that have been in divorce or other life instances happening. And we were talking to that audience the exact same way we were talking to the other one. And yeah, at a 10,000 ft level, they both have debt, right, they're the same people? But they're not. They're very different.

And I think hopefully everyone that's listening can find that same takeaway with their audiences, because although you might be a real estate agent, let's say you're a marketer for a real estate agent, you've got a single man, you've got a couple, you've got a newlywed, you know, you've got all these different segments of people that are all looking to buy a home, but they're all in much different places in their lives and they need to be talked to differently, treated differently, showed different homes, different things and stuff.

So I think that's the best analogy I can give for some failures we've had, and what I would spend a lot more time and I like to think we do now too, is to really understand a market, one before we go into it and then two as we start talking to those people.

Because I think we probably turned a lot of people off that otherwise would have been great, loyal customers to us. And we also may have gone in a totally different direction, may have never gotten into that market for that small segment.

Kathleen: So what about the positives? What are your hacks that you've come up with that other people should try? It sounds like lead ads are one. Although maybe not, because you don't want anybody else in that space.

Anthony: No, lead ads is great, segmentation really is the biggest thing I can say. It's making sure that you're bucketing people based on different actions. So getting back to the content, we'll have, like some of those pillar pages you were talking about, those 3,000 word content.

We'll put those in drawers sometimes, so let's just say it's how to get out of debt, you'll have student debt, tax debt, credit card debt, in different drawers. And if someone clicks or even takes an action to open that drawer, they're immediately in a different bucket. So they're immediately now seeing credit card related ads, they're immediately getting credit card content dripped to them, versus student loan or something like that.

And I was gonna say fail fast. I know that's not really a specific tip or hack, but like you were talking about with the video, don't get caught up ... you can get so inundated with gurus and people that are telling you what to do and how to do it, and sounds like a ton of work.

But really, this started as me and my partner at a coffee shop, and we put out an ad within two hours, and it was profitable from day one. So you hear a lot of these stories that it's a ton of work, and I'm not trying to downplay it, but I say fail fast, which was our motto and it's been successful so far.

And sometimes we do fail but at least you do it fast without spending hundreds of thousands of dollars.

Kathleen: Back to segmentation, I think we're all used to segmenting based on explicitly data, what people tell us about themselves, in forms. But it's a good reminder that implicit data - which is really behavior, what people do on our websites - is just as, if not sometimes more, valuable as a way to segment them.

Anthony: Yes, I agree completely.

Kathleen: But you have to have the tools in place to track that.

Anthony: Well, a lot of it too though, as far as the tools to track that, if we're talking about just specific to Facebook, a lot of it the Facebook pixel will help you with. You take a Google Analytics, like a tracking code on a button, submit, or something like that. You can do a lot of that with, if you're doing a Google display campaign, if you're re-targeting.

I think the easiest thing to think about is how people segment email campaigns, and email marketing campaigns, you can do the same thing with your content, and with ads as well, too.

Kathleen: This has been really interesting, and one thing I've been very excited about in advance of this interview is that you are not necessarily 100% in the HubSpot world. I've had a lot of HubSpot partners on, I've had a lot of HubSpot users on. It's a world that I've lived in for a long time, so that's been part of my network, but I have been dying to get out of that bubble. And you are outside of that bubble.

So being outside of that bubble, where do you get your inspiration for the marketing you do? Where do you look for cutting edge ideas? What's your source to educate yourself on marketing?

Anthony: Great question. I use Search Engine Land, their other online publications. Other things I do is we do a lot of testing on our own to learn, but if I were to say where do I get a lot of my education, I look in the most competitive markets possible, and I try and learn. So for instance, I'll go to "Plastic Surgeon in Miami Florida," and I'll look at the market of plastic surgeons there, because that's where the best marketers are interacting-

Kathleen: So you're basically just googling really competitive terms?

Anthony: Yeah, a dictionary ad for instance. I would look at a dictionary ad, and I know those people would pump in tens if not hundreds of thousands of dollars in there a day sometimes, into those ads, and I know that there's teams watching this.

And if I can get one takeaway on their landing page, on their ad copy, or their creative, I tend to learn a ton from that, because those are people that are actually, they're not gurus, they're actually doing it. You're actually getting actionable takeaways, that they may not even know they're willing to share.

Kathleen: That is a great idea, and nobody that I have asked that question to has said that yet. But I love it. Instead of going to the places that tell you ... what is that famous saying, those that can't do, teach? And so your example's perfect because you're not going to those who are teaching, you're going to those who are doing. And they do tend to be pretty sharp.

Anthony: Whether they know it or not, they're teaching.

Kathleen: Exactly. They're teaching by doing. So who do you think is doing inbound marketing really well? Company or individual, when you look out there and you say, "man they are killing it, I wish I could be as good as they were."

Anthony: That's a great question. Let me see who I love, just looking at a few. I look a lot in my space. I'm trying to think outside of my space who does-

Kathleen: No, in your space is okay, I just think it's great for people to hear about new examples.

Anthony: Yeah, I love The Penny Hoarder, which is in my space. It's a site and they put out great content, very viral content. And when I say viral, it's not click-baity, it's actually useful, good information and content that drive people through their follow on and they segment really well. So they got an ad the other day, it was so specific to me, I forget what it was, whatever it was, I loved it. So I'd say Penny Hoarder is a great example.

Kathleen: That's great. Well, thank you. This has been full of really fantastic information, and again, I'm really happy that I was able to interview you, because you're really in a different sphere than so many of my other guests. So it's been very interesting for me.

I am gonna include a lot of links to some of the sites you mentioned in the show notes. So if anybody's interested in learning more about the examples that Anthony mentioned, just check out the show notes for the podcast, it'll all be in there. Anthony, if somebody has questions and wants to reach out to you, what's the best way to contact you?

Anthony: Yeah, is our service company. Feel free to reach out through there and happy to answer any questions. My direct email too is anthony @ and happy to answer any questions.

Kathleen: Fantastic, well thank you so much, and if you liked this interview, I would love it if you could give us a positive review on iTunes or stitcher. If you know somebody whose doing really kick ass inbound marketing work and getting great results, tweet me @workmommywork, as I'd love to interview them. That's all for this week!

Dec 11 2017



Rank #8: Ep. 37: Personal Branding Featuring Ryan Hawk of the Learning Leader Podcast

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Sometimes, non-marketers are actually the best marketers. That is the case with Ryan Hawk, host of The Learning Leader Podcast.

In this week's episode of The Inbound Success Podcast, Ryan talks about how he went from working in corporate leadership at Lexus Nexus to starting a podcast and eventually leaving the corporate world to focus on his podcast and personal brand full time. 

Listen to the podcast to learn how Ryan's passion for learning and commitment to excellence have fueled his success as a podcaster and made him a world-class marketer.


Kathleen Booth (host): Welcome back to The Inbound Success Podcast. My name is Kathleen Booth and I am your host, and today my guest is Ryan Hawk, who is the founder and host of the Learning Leader podcast and a leadership advisor with Brixey & Meyer. Welcome Ryan. 

Ryan Hawk (guest): Thanks so much for having me Kathleen, I appreciate it.

Kathleen: Yeah, I'm excited. I heard you do a live "ask me anything" in IMPACT's Facebook groupIMPACT Elite, and it was really fascinating. I know Chris, our COO, is a long time listener of your podcast. So, having heard so much about you, and having gotten a little bit of a glimpse into what you do through the AMA. I was excited to learn more and have this conversation. I was hoping we could just start by having you tell the audience a little bit about yourself, your background. We often have as guests on this podcast marketers. You're not necessarily a marketer but you're somebody who does marketing really well. So this will be an interesting, different kind of a conversation.

Ryan: Well, again thanks for the opportunity. So, a little bit about my background. Grew up playing all sports, and then was fortunate to earn a scholarship to play football in college. Played the position of quarterback, so I have a background in being in positions of leadership, then graduated. Played a little bit after college, went up to Canada for a little bit, played in the arena football league and then eventually found my way unto the position of selling for a big company called Lexus Nexus. Weaved my way around, worked my way up into the manager role, then director, then ultimately as a vice president of sales for North America.

Along the way, about three and a half years in, I started my podcast called the Learning Leader show, really out of my desire to learn from people who have come before me -- leaders and businesses, whether it's Fortune 500 companies, CEOs, best selling authors, coaches, world class athletes. So, I've done 250 of those episodes over the last three and a half years, and it's my favorite thing in the world to do. And because of that it's created other really interesting opportunities for me including the opportunity to leave the corporate world full time and do this podcasting, speaking, consulting, helping others 100% of my time. So, there's a lot there but that's the gist of what I have going on.

Kathleen: It's interesting that you say that what got you to start the podcast was a desire on your part to learn from others. So you're really solving for yourself first. That's actually exactly why I created my podcast -- because I've been working in inbound marketing for so long and I'm just very interested in how are other people getting really great results and what's happening behind the curtain to contribute to success. So, I always enjoy conversations every week with people who are doing this, and that was the reason I wanted to talk to you.

As I said when we first started out, you're not necessarily a marketer by trade, that is not what you do in your job. You're not selling marketing services, but what I have observed is that you are doing all of the things that great marketers do. In terms of being a prolific content creator and really not holding anything back, sharing the secret sauce if you will. I mean there's so many companies, businesses, experts that feel like if they share their secrets they'll put themselves out of business and the story with you really seems to be that it has been precisely by sharing the secrets, you have created your business, is that accurate?

Ryan: Yeah, I think one of the compliments that I really enjoy receiving -- it sounds weird saying that -- but I enjoy hearing that the audience of my show feelslike I'm learning along with them. I'm not speaking down to anybody, we're speaking and learning together. So I approach each conversation with a curious mind, an open mind, looking to learn, to grow. I think my audience senses that and that's why it's grown from the beginning. And again that's what created all the great opportunities, is the fact that there's a place for that. 

There's a place for long form conversations, as you know Kathleen, that people, especially on-demand listening, just like people like on-demand watching, whether it's Netflix, DVR, things like that and I think podcast provides that for somebody as a secondary activity. They can listen to my show while they're working out, doing the dishes, mowing the lawn, driving in their car, and that's really helped. And I think podcasts are only going to get bigger and bigger as we see more ad dollars shifting from TV and radio into podcasting, and that's good news for us, who are in this business. And you never really know what all could come from the content that we do on a regular basis.

Kathleen: Yeah, it's funny, I listen to podcasts when I'm working out, when I'm grocery shopping and when I'm vacuuming.

Ryan: Yeah.

Kathleen: Those are my three times when you know there's nothing else you could really be doing with your ears, and so you might as well educate yourself.

Ryan: The grocery shopping one is great, I'm with you. I definitely grocery shop much more now since I've become a huge podcast listener over the last few years. Because it's a really peaceful, enjoyable experience to listen to a good podcast, and to pick up the food we need for the family.

Kathleen: Yeah, although I will say I'm finding my grocery shopping is taking longer than it used to, because I lack the incentive to finish fast.

Ryan: For sure, 100%. 

Kathleen: So, if anything, it's the opposite. I spend longer intentionally so I can hear the end of the episode I'm listening to.

Ryan: Yep.

Kathleen: So, when you first started the podcast, you were looking toward more of that leadership, the podcast is about leadership. Can you tell me a little bit about how you first, first of all how did you choose the format you did? Because there are many different styles of podcasts that you can do. How did you find your guests? And really how did the podcast begin to get traction?

Ryan: Okay...

Kathleen: That's a lot of questions, combined into one.

Ryan: So first one, how did I choose the format? I have been interviewing hundreds and hundreds of sales candidates in my role as a sales leader, both for my own team and other teams in my business that I got brought onto projects to do it. So, I had a lot of experience interviewing people prior to recording my first interview for my show, and I like that format. I listen to shows like Brian Koppelman's The Moment, he's the best interviewer that I know. I listen to Joe Rogan, another really good interviewer. So, Terry Gross from NPR, she's an incredible interviewer. Some of my favorite shows are interview formatted, so I choose that same route as some of my heroes, people that I look up to. I like that.

Then the next part of the question is, how do I get my guests? Is that right, is that what you're asking?

Kathleen: Yeah.

Ryan: When I started, it was much harder than it is now. When I started I made a list of 100 people that I wanted to speak with. It was a dream list, and some of them were not really attainable -- or at least I didn't think were attainable -- and some of them were. And then I was on a mission to send cold emails, so I'd find their emails. We could have another conversation about what the actual email looks like that you have to write when it's cold in order to get someone to reply and say yes.

But I made that list and then I'd spend time researching the people, so I could make it a personalized email to them, and I would ask them to be on the show. And a certain number of them fortunately said yes, and then I was able to record. I recorded 22 episodes, prior to launch, because I had studied what seemed to work best with iTunes at the time. Remember this is about three and a half years ago. So for the first eight weeks when you have New and Noteworthy, I landed the number one in three categories and in the top five in overall iTunes for those first eight weeks, which was really the rocket ship that my show ... it really took off from there.

I found that it seemed that the proper algorithm was releasing three episodes per week, for the first eight weeks, during that New and Noteworthy time to maximize potential downloads. And then I asked all my friends and family, and everybody I knew to write a review in iTunes, to subscribe, and to rate the show. Cause I know that helps, as well as just the number of listens. Fortunately, people liked it, and they still like it, so they were listening and sharing with other people.

It's hard for a podcast to go viral if you're not a famous person, so I wouldn't say it went viral. But it started spreading by word of mouth, and from some hustle from me, and my wife helped me as well. Really emailing everybody we knew asking them to give it a shot, and if they liked it to keep listening, and tell their friends. And if they didn't, that was fine, they just wouldn't listen. So that's really how it got going. I think landing at number one on iTunes for that period of time, really helped it take off, because before then it was just a handful of listeners and from there it went to hundreds, and then thousands, and hundred of thousands, and then in the millions now. So I think that's how it really got started though.

Kathleen: So you really did your homework?

Ryan: I spent four and a half months studying how it worked. Then making that list, and then crafting the emails, and then doing the recordings. So I think that was part of it -- playing the long game.

Some people say "Well, what are you waiting for?" I had friends that knew I was, just a few friends, who knew I was doing this, who said "Why haven't you launched? What are you doing?" And I said, "I think I know what I'm doing here, you have to trust that I have done the research and that I'm going try my best for this thing to take off."

As you know with most things, whether it's a book, a podcast, a TV show -- whatever it may be -- the launch is very important. If the launch goes well, it could be the catapult for the entire endeavor. And so for me, I did not want to mess that up. So I took good care to do that right, and it seems like it was the right way to do it.

Kathleen: So for someone who was going to start a podcast today, based on the experience you had, what would you say they should or should not do at that critical point of launch to be successful?

Ryan: I would prepare a lot of episodes prior to launching, because if it's an interview show, some people would prepare a handful of episodes and then they get stuck and they can't find a guest for week five and they reach for a marginal guest, and before you know it they have another marginal guest, and before you know it people listen, and there's no value from the show. If there's no value being brought from an interview show then they'll stop listening. So I would get a lot in the can, so to speak, before you get going. That's one thing I would do.

I don't know the exact New and Noteworthy terms for iTunes, for Apple Podcasts now, it might have changed. It seems like there's more famous people shows, or big corporations who are owning those spaces now, which makes it a lot harder for somebody who's not a part of one of those. But I would certainly still do a lot of work prior to the launch, to make sure that you launched, and you have good support behind you. People who are ready to rate, review, and subscribe. People who are ready to share.

The bottom line though, as you know Kathleen, is that none of that matters if the show's not adding value to the lives of the people who are listening. So, it doesn't really matter what your launch is like if the quality of the show isn't good.

Benjamin Hardy told me this too when we recorded because he writes blog posts, and he says "Look, I can get you to click and I can do all those things -- the marketing side. But the actually content of the article has to be great or you're not going to come back, you're not going to share it, you're not going to tell your friend. Yes, I can get the initial clicks, but I'm not going to have the long term sustained excellence, and that's what I want." And that's what I want to, so I would say you focus on the great content obviously. Becoming a great interviewer, or producing a great show. But you also have to learn the marketing side too.

So, it's not an or, it's an and. You have to be good at both if you want a chance, I think. Especially if you're not a part of TED or NPR, or one of the well known companies. If you're not a part of that, and you're just doing this on your own, you've got to learn both the quality content side, as well as the marketing side.

Kathleen: Yes, specific to interview style podcasts I would really second what you said about having a backlog, because I know for myself, when I first started I think I had 8 episodes in the can. That was my second podcast. I made so many mistakes my first time around. And even with eight, which felt like such a nice cushion, because I published once a week, it was amazing how around the holidays, and different times when things would get busy, how quickly that cushion turned into a very thin one. So, I really think that's key if your ability to publish depends on the participation of others.

Ryan: Yeah, I mean it's critical. I've advised friends and others on this, and the ones who have not listened to that part of the advice typically kind of peter out and they have 10, 20, 30 episodes and then it just kind of slowly goes away. And that's unfortunate.

Kathleen: I want to go back to your cold emails. Because you intrigued me there. You mentioned there's certain ingredients that go into making those really effective. Can you talk a little bit more about exactly what your approach was there?

Ryan: Sure. I need to write a post about this. I'm asked this more than anything. I love it though -- it's a good topic.

I know they're probably going to be reading on their phone, and you want to try to fit it on the main screen as much as possible. Anyway, I start the email by telling them specifically why their work has made my life better. Specifics, that's where the research comes in. So, "Dear Mrs. Smith, your work has inspired me to do this because of this" or whatever. But it's very specific. It's not just "I am inspired by you," or "I am inspired by your work" but it's a specific part of the work.

That's shows that you actually do your research, that there's something there that is meaningful to them, and that will probably catch their eye. Because it is their work, right? It's a form of flattery but it's true.

Then I try to find an uncommon commonality. So, something that we have in common that is uncommon, and that is very hard, and sometimes it takes time. For example, I'll share the example that I used with Adam Grant, one of the greatest leadership thinkers in the world right now, a great author as well, a great speaker. Adam happened to go to school at the University of Michigan. I played a football game at the University of Michigan. I scored a touchdown in one of those end zones and we were there at the same time. And so I said there's a chance you watched me score a touchdown in the south end zone, at the Big House, University of Michigan. That is very uncommon, but we did have it in common and so I had to look at the timing of when I played that game and when he was there and everything, and try to map that out to say, "Is there a chance that we were there at the same time?" So I wrote that, and that generated a response from somebody who gets thousands of emails every single day. So find an uncommon commonality.

Then I share a little credibility about my show, which at the beginning by the way, I had none.

Kathleen: Right.

Ryan: I didn't have that part, so that was just gone. But I did share a little bit about myself and hoped there was some credibility. So now it's Forbes talks about the ink and all of that stuff that I've had, and some things that some other people who have been on have said about the show. And I ask them in bold letters, "Would you like to be a guest on my show?" so they can see it clearly. And I thank them for their time and that's it.

My older cold emails were longer, now they're shorter. I try to get an economy of words -- as few words as possible, but they all mean something, so really it starts with flattery that is specific and true, uncommon commonality, credibility, and then the ask, and that's it.

Kathleen: Yeah

Ryan: And I ship it.

Kathleen: I love it, that's like a formula you could build.

Ryan: It is.

Kathleen: A few weeks ago, I had Peep Laja, who is the head of, the founder of CXL. And he's been named, probably, one of the top conversion rate optimization experts in the world. He was on the podcast and one of his main take aways for how you get better responses on email, was to make emails shorter. So, I think what you're saying about stripping away all the unnecessary, and really boiling it down to the most important things, is spot on and definitely -- I'm hearing the same thing from others.

Ryan: Yeah, I mean most people read on their phone. We know how we are, they read on their phone. I get cold emails everyday, whether they're asking me to be on their show, or they're just, some of them are just very kind and saying thank you, or they have questions based on the show. And the ones that I'm most compelled to respond to -- I try to respond to all -- are when they're very specific about why they like my work. That shows me that they're really thinking about it. They're thoughtful people, and they're intentional about their ask in their email. So, that's the one thing I would say, is just take the time to be specific with what you're going to say to that person that you're emailing to show that you're different from the thousand other people that email them everyday.

Kathleen: Yeah, and that really goes for all cold email outreach.

Ryan: Absolutely.

Kathleen: Whether you're looking to guest blog or get on somebody's calendar, I would think the audience you're trying to reach is also just very busy. They are leaders, by definition. So they don't have a lot of time to read a lot of extraneous stuff, and so that makes a lot of sense.

Ryan: Yeah.

Kathleen: I'm curious, so you started the podcast and you were very intentional about your strategy at launch. You were very intentional about your guest acquisition. You had your list and your method for reaching out. Outside of the podcast, are you turning that into any other form of content? And how are you promoting the podcast?

Ryan: I also write. So I share some of my learnings via social media platforms, LinkedIn, obviously, on my website. I've written for Huffington Post, so I write based on my learnings, and my thoughts on certain topics. So that's probably the number one way that I share content outside of the podcast. I have show notes for every single episode, which are very detailed. I write them myself, that's a way for me to learn and relearn, and to reinforce what I've learned from those conversations. That's big too, that's also found on my website So those are the primary ways that I create other content outside of just an audio form.

And then I'm doing a ton of video work recently. We have not released all of it yet, but I've had my video guys following me to every single engagement I've had over the last three months. We have hours and hours and hours of footage, and we're doing a lot of work to create video here. I just met with them this morning for a few hours to go over all the video we're creating, so that will be another form that will be coming out here over the next few months that I'm really excited about.

Kathleen: Tell me a little bit about the volume of publishing you're doing. Because you're on all of these different channels, you've got your own show, and it's your own blog, you're writing for these other publications. In a given week, how many articles does that turn into?

Ryan: One podcast a week, so Sunday night at 7:00 o'clock eastern, I release that. There are show notes with that, that are on my website as well that I release at the time of the episode. And then the articles are much more inconsistent, as far as when I'm writing them.

Typically, the way I write an article, or why I write an article is because I'll get an email from a friend, or fan, or listener who asks a question that is interesting enough, that is worthy of a thousand word answer. And then I will answer that in the form, and publish that answer.

So those have really been the prompts for me to write. I'll get a question from somebody that I think is a really thoughtful, interesting question that takes some time to answer rather than just sending an email. I'll send it in an email, but I'll also publish my thoughts on that to. So, there's not a consistent day for that, but I'm going to be doing it more frequently as the questions roll in. And I also do these AMA's within my own Facebook group the Learning Leader community and I'm going to publish some of those outside the group too. Mainly my answers, not necessarily the people, if they don't want, but the answers to some of those questions.

Kathleen: I love that, so one of my colleagues at IMPACT is a man named Marcus Sheridan who is fairly well known in the inbound marketing world. And he has written a book called They Ask, You Answer. And has built his personal brand around teaching other people that the most effective content marketing strategy is to do exactly what you are doing instinctively, which is to really to listen to the questions you're getting and turn your answers into great content. So that certainly tracks really well with that. Also, when I have spoken to clients over the years, one of the big push backs that I always hear is that "I don't have the time." And when you think about it, you do have the time. In many cases, you're answering those questions anyway. It's just a matter of, what are you going to do with those answers, and how are you going to make them work harder for you?

Ryan: I think the prompts can be helpful. Marcus is great. He's been on my show. But the prompts can be very helpful to make you think, to make you see what your audience wants from you, what questions they have and then you can share. Because if one person has the question there's probably a good change that other people do as well.

Kathleen: I'd love to hear how doing the podcast, and how creating content has transformed your life. Because you have this background, as a sales executive, you were with a really large company Lexus Nexus. Now you have a completely different career, really.

Ryan: Right.

Kathleen: It seems that was very much created because of the content you're creating.

Ryan: 100%! I started three and half years ago with the thought of just wanting to create my own leadership PhD program, and learn from the wisest, most thoughtful people in the world. And from that, people started emailing, asking me to come give speeches whether it was at a conference or at their company, or universities, student athletes -- I do a good bit of that as well. So that was one part.

Then because of the show, people started saying "Would you consult with me one on one to help me run my business, or help me in the profession of selling?" in some cases, and so that become another revenue stream. Then I started getting groups of people who wanted to have follow up meetings, so we would have regular meetings -- so leadership circles, so that's another stream of revenue.

Then we have projects that we do with my co-workers and my colleagues at Brixey & Meyer. We do projects together that are creating leadership development programs for huge companies, or really companies of all sizes. We go in and help them create leadership development programs. So there's multiple streams of revenue coming in, and obviously directly from the podcast through ads sells, things like that.

So there's a number of streams of revenue that all tie back to that decision to start the podcast, to have it go well, to have it consistently grow over time. So really 100% of everything, you can look back at that decision to say "yes." The chain of events that allowed me to leave the corporate world and a job that was obviously a well paying job, and I was able to leave it to do this, the stuff that I love all the time, as opposed to doing it just doing it part time.

Then I'm able to double down on this. I hired a writing coach, and I'm writing a book, which will be a whole other series of things that happen that will take some time but we're right in the middle of that too. So there's just a lot of things going on because of that one decision to say "Yeah, I wanna do this." And not only do I want to do it, but I'm going think about and find a way to do it right, so that I have a chance for this to go well. I never envisioned leaving my job for it, but an opportunity came to me for the chance to create the leadership advisory group within Brixey & Meyer, because Doug Meyer offered that up to me. It was his idea, and it was too good of an opportunity for me to pass up because now every day I do the stuff that I enjoy most all the time.

Kathleen: That's amazing that it all began from the podcast. 

Ryan: Yeah, it's cool.

Kathleen: Now you talked about video, you mentioned a book, can you tell me a little bit more of what's coming for you?

Ryan: Videos, books, much more speaking. I just got back from Croatia. I did an engagement over there -- a half day workshop with two hundred fifty leaders from twenty-one countries. That was amazing. There is more of that happening. I'm getting ready to go to Toronto at the end of this week and then to Vegas a couple of weeks after that, and South Carolina a couple of weeks after that. So its a combination of keynote speaking, as well as half day work shops.

There are things like that happening, that I look forward too.

And I'm going to hold an event that we're in the early stages of planning -- one event where we will host probably ten to fifteen leaders to come in and we'll do some deep diving from a leadership perspective for a couple of days. We're doing that and we have also started doing live podcasts, so we get a bunch of leaders in a room.

Last time, we just did this one in Columbus, Ohio, with my friend James Clear, an incredible writer, and we record in front of an audience of about 110 people in that room. So we're going to do probably three of those per year. That's a lot of fun. I really enjoy having an hour to mingle with all these great leaders we invite, in an event, talk them, then do the recording with James, see the engagement with them and then have post-show conversations with them as well. We filmed it and recorded it, obviously, and released it as a podcast and the video.

It's a lot of fun, and it's a good way for all of my team members at Brixey & Meyer to invite clients and prospective clients to help them to try to foster and develop relationships. I think if you're focused on trying to create a community of great leaders, only good things can happen in the long term. And that's really what we are trying to do.

Kathleen: I love it. So, where do you see yourself in five years?

Ryan: I have absolutely no idea. I mean, I really don't, because if you would've asked me that five years ago, there's a couple promotions within that five years and then there was ultimately saying "peace out," I left that too. So, I would've never seen any of that, I don't know -- I think it might be more clear now because I'm doing work I love so there's no reason to change. The only thing I see happening is that I hope that I'm much better at this. I hope that there's a lot of growth involved, and I hope there is something that we do that I haven't even thought of yet that's fun.

I mean, because one of the things that Doug and I, when we sat down to create this role for me, wanted to do was to make sure that we were having fun in addition to adding value to the lives of the people that we were serving.

For example, when I went to Italy, Slovenia, and Croatia, for that workshop to lead, I thought it would be much more fun if I brought my wife along, and I talked to the host of the event and they said that would be great, and she joined us, and we had fun dinners and got to see a couple of cool countries, and that was the example of actually putting the fun into the events. It's not me traveling by myself, it's me getting to do something like that with my wife -- experience we'll remember for the rest of our lives.

So I hope to be having fun. I hope to be doing something I haven't even thought of yet, and I hope to be much better at what I'm currently doing in five years, and maybe a few books will be out by then too. I don't know.

Kathleen: Great, well you are certainly a busy guy, and I love the goal of having fun while doing it. That's so important because you can easily let life get away from you, and always be thinking that fun will be coming in the future, and the future never arrives. So, that's really important.

Ryan: Yeah, that's a great point.

Kathleen: Well, I have two questions I always ask all of my guests at the end of our conversations, and I'm curious to hear your answers. The first one is, company or individual, who do you think is doing inbound marketing really well?

Ryan: Are you familiar with Ramit Sethi's work, the Growth Lab, and I Will Teach You To Be Rich, do you know Ramit's work?

Kathleen: No, and I love hearing about new examples that I'm not familiar with.

Ryan: He is really good, constantly putting out content that will make you want to talk to him, and I think that is what inbound marketing is all about, right? Creating content that makes people want to call you.

So Remit's good, and Shane Parrish at Farnam Street is incredible. I read Shane's stuff every day. So, I would say, I think you asked for one, but those are two...

Kathleen: Two's good.

Ryan: Those are two guys that I'm regularly reading, and noticing. I think Ramit's a little bit more intentional about it. Shane's just intentional about getting out great content, and I think that's really changed his life because you become such a great writer. He shares the best stuff, and it's really forced him into thinking outside of just writing. And Ramit, I think is more systematic about it and has a great team around him. But they're both doing it great, in different ways.

Kathleen: That's fantastic. I love hearing new examples, and I can't wait to check those out. I will include links to those in the show notes for anyone who wants to check them out as well.

My second question is, and I'm very interested in this, because again I speak to so many marketers so their answers tend to be somewhat homogenous. But coming from a different background, you are a non-marketer who has a really good natural instinct for marketing, and you've obviously made a habit of doing your homework on how to do things right -- the podcast is a really great example of that.

The world of digital marketing is changing so quickly. I'm curious, how do you stay up to date, when you need to learn things, like the best ways to promote a podcast, or best practices on other types of content creation, where do you go to educate yourself?

Ryan: That's a good question. I think I'm fortunate to be surrounded by some people who are really good at that, so in a way I see what they do. Or for example, Ryan Holiday is one the best in the world, his company Brass Check and just his own way that he understands to market himself and his material is really good. He's written a number of books, and his head of PR Brent Underwood is one of my friends now who helps me get guests, and they only represent the best of the best when it comes to authors. So, I watch what Ryan does a lot.

I'm a part of a few private Facebook groups of professional speakers, and professional authors, so I study and see how they do something whether it's in the speaking business or writing books. I talk to a handful of people who are in the podcast world, and learn some ideas of how they're doing it from a marketing perspective. But really I'm constantly on the look out for that.

I'm very active reader of Twitter, and following or unfollowing people if they're not bringing value. Really seeing who's doing interesting things and then taking notes and figuring out ways to do it the ways others did it. If somebody has a really successful book launch for example, I'll call that person or find a way to get in touch with that person and then just ask them to explain to me what they did, and then the people who helped them do it. And then I ask to be introduced to those people too. So, I'm just trying to build out relationships with people who help people launch things really well, whether like I said, the launch of the podcast was critical, or a book, or videos, so I just try to get in touch with these behind the scenes people -- not just the famous ones out front, but the behind the scenes ones that really know what they're talking about. So that when the day comes for me to need that, we can work together to make that happen.

Kathleen: It's funny that you say Twitter, because I feel like that is a platform that is so polarizing and people seem to either love it or hate it.

Ryan: Yeah.

Kathleen: You mentioned deleting or adding people when they do or do not add value, and I found something very similar. I used to have a lot more people that I followed on Twitter and then about a year ago I decided I wanted to do an experiment and see if I could get more value out of it, and I went through and deleted something like 80% of the people I was following because there was nothing I wanted to read. And that was like a revelation. Now I go to Twitter, and there is so much value there.

Ryan: Yes, I really believe it's the best news aggregator in the world -- at least for me. Facebook is the opposite of that.

Kathleen: Yes.

Ryan: The value from Facebook is all in the groups. I have my own group, and then I'm part of a few other private groups. Outside of groups, there's almost zero value in Facebook. But with Twitter, if the person doesn't provide value, I just unfollow them. So, I am constantly curating that list, and I'm only following people who I'm interested in what they do, so that's how I became aware of Ramit, and Shane Parrish and Farnam Street. James Clear, one of my friends who writes at, who is also an incredible marketer and doesn't even try, he's just a great writer. James, because of the great people he links to on Twitter, has made me aware of these other interesting people and that's expanded my mind a little bit. So, that's why it can be such a valuable tool, and I would encourage people to use it the right way.

Kathleen: Yeah.

Ryan: It's not about sharing meaningless facts, or things like people used to do, but it is about curating interesting people and their thought process and articles and news. It's really perfect for that. That's why for me it's so helpful, and I learn so much from that platform.

Kathleen: Amen! I've had a very similar experience with Twitter. Great! Well this has been so much fun. Thank you for joining me. If people have a question or want to reach out to you, what's the best way for someone to get in contact?

Ryan: They could send me a note at, and on Twitter I am @ryanhawk12. The podcast is at

Kathleen: Great! Again, I'll put all those links in the show notes.

Thank you again for joining me.  If you liked what you heard this week, please consider giving the podcast a review on iTunes, Stitcher or the platform of your chose. And if you know someone doing kick ass inbound marketing work, I would love to know about it. You can tweet me @workmommywork. Thanks again Ryan.

Ryan: All right. Thanks!

May 07 2018



Rank #9: 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 #10: Ep. 33: Leading With Brand Ft. Dave Gerhardt of Drift

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Conversational marketing company Drift entered the crowded martech space and quickly garnered a lot of buzz. In the last year, the company has grown from 25 people to 100, opened a new office in San Francisco, and increased revenue by more than 10x.

In this week's episode of The Inbound Success Podcast, Drift VP of Marketing Dave Gerhardt shares why brand is the company's key differentiator and how leading with brand has fueled Drift's growth. 

Listen to the podcast to learn what Drift is doing to get results, or read the transcript below.


Kathleen Booth (host): Welcome back to The Inbound Success Podcast. My name is Kathleen Booth and I am your host. Today, my guest is Dave Gerhardt, the VP of Marketing and Drift. Welcome, Dave.

Dave: Thanks for having me.  Kathleen: Yeah, I'm excited to have you. Dave: I hope you're excited! Kathleen: Well, I'm particularly excited to have you, more so maybe than my normal level, because- Dave: Good, good.  Kathleen: In every podcast, I ask the same two questions at the end, which I will be asking you, one of which is "Company or individual, who do you think is doing inbound marketing really well?" A lot of the people that I have interviewed in the last 30+ episodes, a lot of them have mentioned Drift specifically- Dave: Wow. Kathleen: ...and you specifically. These are people, many of whom are considered to be thought leaders, and they're role models of mine, and so it came to the point where I heard your name five or six times, and I was like, "The universe is telling me I need to interview Dave Gerhardt for this podcast." Dave: That's amazing. I mean, that makes my day hearing that, because ... Not because I have an ego. I have a little bit of an ego, of course, but ... No, but I love that because I think I'm really passionate about doing things differently, and so it means a lot to hear people recognizing that and that's awesome. I'm happy to be here, I love doing this type of stuff. Kathleen: Yeah, and I particularly love when talking with one person leads to talking to another, and then- Dave: Totally. Kathleen: It's just a great way to meet a new podcast guest. Dave: Oh, 100%.  Kathleen: That's why I'm so excited to have you here. Dave: Yeah. I had a podcast of my own before, a couple years ago, and the number one way it grew was at the end of it I would just ... People would, they'd mention like, "Oh yeah, the person I learned the most from in my career was this person." Then of course, what would I do right after that? I'd go email that person.  Kathleen: Before we dive too much into this, I would love it if you could tell our audience a little bit about yourself, and your background, and how you wound up where you are at Drift, as well as about Drift and what the company does. Dave: I've spent the last seven and a half, eight years working, just by chance, at SaaS companies here in Boston. I worked at Constant Contact. I worked at HubSpot and now I'm at Drift. I started off my career in PR, and I spent about a year at a really early stage company in between, but I think the story that I tell is just by chance, I happened to work for all these SaaS marketing companies and that's where I spent my career and they all happened to be marketing roles, selling marketing software to marketing people.

It wasn't intentional. I had no idea that I wanted to do marketing, that I would love marketing, but especially over the last couple years I've really fallen in love with doing marketing, and figured out that's what I'm good at. I didn't realize that what I'm good at had a name, and it was this marketing thing, which I always thought that marketing was spreadsheets, and Google Analytics, and workflows, and nurturing, and all that stuff. We can talk a lot more about that other stuff, but that's what I'm doing now and that's what I love doing every single day.  Kathleen: That's great. Tell me a little bit about Drift. I mean, I'm a Drift user, so I could probably do it, but I always like hearing how people within the company do their own elevator pitch. Dave: Well, I want to hear your elevator pitch after mine, because I love hearing how other people describe it, because it doesn't matter what we say. Kathleen: Yeah. Dave: We're a conversational marketing and sales platform. I mean, for this audience, I can describe it that way, because basically the reason Drift exists is, a shift in how you and I communicate and buy. Okay? You and I are on video right now, so nobody else will see this, but I have my phone in my hand, and we all spend our days communicating in real time, on demand. I can call my wife right now. I can call my mom and text my mom. I can order a car, order food, order anything. I can basically do every single thing in my life in real time on demand, except buy something from another business, right? That's what we believe is broken in marketing and sales, and so that's what we are solving with conversational marketing.

Conservational marketing's all about having real time conversations with the people who are interested in your business. When I explain it that way, sometimes it sounds so obvious that people are like, "Yeah, but I can't have conversations with the people who are interested in my business. It doesn't scale." It's just crazy, because if you think about your website as a brick and mortar store, you would want to have conversations with all the people that came into that store, right? But over time, people have just gotten this thing in their head where, "It's not valuable enough," or "There's too much noise, I can't talk to everybody." We're all about helping you scale that and have one-to-one conversations with everybody that's interested in your business.  Kathleen: I love that. It's funny, so you asked how I would describe it, and maybe this isn't exactly how I would describe the company, but the way I think about what you guys do, and one of the reasons it appealed to me to use at Impact, was that I always liken it to the grocery store. The most valuable real estate in the grocery store is right at the checkout counter. Dave: Totally. Kathleen: That's why vendors clamor to get their stuff in there and that's why they have to create aisles that don't have candy, because it's so powerful to put that candy in there that your kids can't ... They can't help themselves. I feel like the conversation that Drift enables a company to have on their website is the equivalent of getting the most important stuff in front of the potential customer in the checkout aisle. Dave: I love that. Kathleen: When they're ready to engage and when they're ready to quickly grab it and make a decision. If you miss that window, if you're not in that checkout aisle real estate, you miss your window to get in front of them at the time that they're most likely to engage.  Dave: 100%. I never thought of it that way, but I love it.  Kathleen: When I see that show up on your marketing, I'll be like, "That was me." Dave: Of course. We'll shout you out, we'll give you credit. Don't worry. No, but I love that example because the thing that happens all the time is, I bet before you guys -- I know this for a fact, actually -- before you guys bought Drift, probably, you knew who we were, you knew what we were doing, and you probably had two or three very specific questions that you wanted answered. That's exactly why we exist, because that's how I buy, that's how you buy, is I'm going to come to your website, I'm going to do all the research. I'm going to listen to your podcast. I'm going to watch your videos, read your blog, and then when I'm ready I'm going to show up at your store, which is your website, and I'm going to say, "Hey Kathleen, I have two very specific questions. Does it integrate with Slack? And your pricing is just confusing, does it work for $1,000? I can get it?" Then you're like, "Yeah." If you just think about the traditional marketing world, where does that happen?

Does it happen after somebody fills out a form and then waits four days and gets on the phone? We've created a way for people to have that question and I see it all day. I go in our inbox for our own version of Drift on our site, and I watch conversations, and people say ... The bot says, "Hey, what are you doing here?" They just say, "Just browsing." Normally, that conversation would be over, but then somebody on our team hops in and is like, "Okay, cool. Let me know if you ... I'm here if you have any questions." All of a sudden, that evolves into a conversation, that persons ends up buying something or booking a meeting. In the traditional marketing world, there was no term for that, there was no mental model for how people come in. It was just like, "Nope, you come in my funnel, you come in this way. You put your first name, last name, company, role, budget, in this form." Then I talk to you and now we've just opened up the funnel and said, "Come on in, ask what questions you want and we'll get you routed to the right person." Kathleen: Yeah. I feel like we are so insanely inpatient as a society these days that if we can't get our questions answered in that moment right away, we're out of there.  Dave: You nailed it. This is what drives me insane, is that we all as people, we feel this way, and I have this conversation at least three or four times a week with somebody like you, and you're like, "We're inpatient. We want answers in real time. We want this and that." Then something happens where then we go into our jobs in marketing and sales and we become like, "No, now I'm marketing Dave and I'm going to do all the things that I hate as a person, but I'm going to make you do them in my job as a marketer." I think that the thing people get caught up on a lot is, "Yeah, but we're a B2B." People ask, "Yeah, but how does this work for really large enterprises?" I'm like, "What? Those are still humans, right? Those are still people." Kathleen: People always say, "We're different," but actually your customer isn't different. They are still that impatient person. Dave: Yeah. People say, "Yeah, well we sell something that's really expensive and has a really long sales cycle." I'm like, "Well, wouldn't you then want to have a conversation to have a personal touch if you know it's a long sales cycle, right?" If you're going to buy a car, you want to walk in the car dealership and feel like you have a relationship with that person. Kathleen: Yeah, it's so true. We implemented Drift a couple of weeks ago. We're later to the game than I would like, but I'm so excited just to see it evolve on the site and to see what it does for our ability not only to close more deals, but honestly, to shorten the sales cycle. Because yes, we are a company that has a longish sales cycle, but I think we could probably make it shorter. Dave: Yes. Kathleen: If we do this right. Dave: I'm glad you mentioned that, because that's the thing, is we get a lot of conversations and obviously people want more conversions, right? Everybody wants more leads, or more revenue, but I think sometimes we go too deep in that hole, and we worry too much about the conversion piece of it. I think the biggest value prop of Drift is speed. It's the speed of somebody coming to your website who has a very specific question right now and they're ready to buy. How do you handle that, right? The traditional model would be they fill out a form, they wait weeks, or days, weeks, or months, and then you talk to them.

To me, it's all about the speed. "Hey, I'm here right now." Especially, in your world. I mean, you guys have ... Your website is crazy. You have a ton of organic traffic from an amazing job that you guys have done with content marketing and SEO, but even still, right? I'm guessing most of those keywords, nobody's just casually browsing ... I believe that nobody's casually just browsing our website.

We sell business software. Nobody's on our website on a Saturday morning being like, "I wonder what Drift's up to," right? They're on our website for a reason, and so you just have to enable yourself to actually be able to talk to people. That's exactly that.  Kathleen: Well, you as a company have had, I feel like it's been a pretty meteoric rise, especially in recent years, or at least that's what it looks like from the outside.  Dave: Yeah, it's real. It's real, people don't believe it, but it- Kathleen: The rocket ship is taking off. Dave: Yeah. It is.  Kathleen: I would love to just hear a little bit more from you about what you think has contributed to Drift's success, because from the outside looking in, it can be very easy to just look at this company and this product and be like, "That's just another live chat software. Live chat's been around forever." I'm curious, you guys have coined a new term around it, conversational marketing. Dave: Yeah. Kathleen: Can you talk a little bit about that? Dave: I'll answer that part in a second, but my first answer is, you asked about how the meteoric rise and how we've grown, and it actually has nothing to do with the feature, like live chat.

It has everything to do with a brand and we entered this space, and I'm sure you guys have talked about it a lot, you've seen it. There's the famous martech landscape slide where there's literally 7,000+ vendors in the marketing and sales space. For us, in the early days of Drift, we knew we were coming into the most crowded market, and so we knew that we had to do things differently. We weren't going to be able to win customers if our strategy was like, "We're going to get more people to download eBooks than this other company," right?  That wouldn't have been a good marketing strategy. We had to think of things differently and the example that I always use is, if right now on this podcast, if you and I had said that the best time for marketers to send an email was at 2:08pm on a Tuesday, they would all go do it at 2:08 on Tuesday. We're trying to find maybe we could ... Could we send an email on a Saturday night when nobody else is doing it? From the beginning, we tried to go in a completely opposite direction, and this all comes from David, our CEO. He has this talk that he's given where he talks a lot about how we're in the third wave right now, which is like everything in marketing and sales is a commodity. You and I could both quit our jobs and go start our own marketing and sales software company, and build almost 80% of the features that any company has out there, because it's so easy to copy any of that stuff.

The one thing that people can't copy is the brand, and so we focused from the beginning on building a brand, and creating that emotional connection with people. Because you and I as buyers, we're more skeptical than ever. I don't want to talk to any sales rep and I do this for a living, right? I don't want to get a demo. I don't want to answer cold calls, I don't answer cold emails, so it's harder to sell to me than ever, but the companies that I do buy from, there's always a personal connection with them and something deeper than something about a feature. From day one, we focus on building a brand. That was what set us apart initially, especially in this very crowded B2B martech space. Kathleen: Well, it must be working, because not only does everyone talk about you on my podcast, but I actually answered a cold email from one of your sales reps. I don't usually do that, but I was like, "Okay, it is time. I really should take a deeper look at this. I'm going to do it."  Dave: I guess so. It's funny, because the brand secret actually has been, we haven't tried to manufacture anything. We've just been us, we've been real, we've been authentic, we've been human. There's a quote from Patagonia's founder that I love, which is ... He says, "It's easier to write nonfiction than it is to write fiction." For us, you can see it, it's LinkedIn videos with us talking. It's a podcast, which is like the most intimate marketing channel you could have. I mean, you know. You're hosting one, right? You could literally walk around the street and somebody's listening to you.

Either our faces, or our customer's faces, are in all of our marketing. We write, we talk, we only send plain text emails. We don't use any banners or design in any of them. Everything we've done has all been about being real and being authentic and that's what I sum up our brand as being. It's not something that we manufacture, say, "We really want to be a cool B2B tech company." No, we just want to be human, and we want to be real, and that ends up being a perfect fit with the product that we're selling, which is all about having conversations. 

Kathleen: How do you ensure consistency in the way that you deliver upon that brand promise? Do you have some kind of a document that is a guiding light for, "Hey, if you're about to send an email, look at this and make sure that you're doing it right." I'm not talking about, "What should it look like?" But literally, what should it sound like? Dave: Yeah. Kathleen: Is there something like that, that exists within Drift? Dave: Yeah, there is actually. There's a couple things. Well, we're on video right now so I won't show you, but I have a stack of copywriting old school books out on my desk and that's something that David, our CEO, put me on a couple years ago and really said, "Don't study all the SaaS marketing stuff, study that stuff." We've taken those things and basically we have an internal checklist that we use, which is our copyrighting checklist. It's just a Google Doc and we're always adding to it, but I has about seven or eight key principles like, "Make sure it's urgent, unique, and ultra specific. Make sure the headline has this." It's nothing that we've invented, but it's kind of like a collection of our favorite copyrighting tips, and so people have that that they can rely on.

Then also, for building out new website pages, we have a checklist that our designers and anybody that builds pages on our website and product marketing team uses that says, "Everything needs to have ... " This is really obvious stuff, but most people just skip it. It's like, "It needs to have a headline. It needs to have a compelling call-to-action. It needs to have urgency. It needs to have scarcity. It needs to have social proof." We've basically written that stuff down once we know it works and then given that to everybody on the team to say, "Here's the checklist for how you write an email, how you create a landing page." Everyone's version of it is going to be different, but this kind of allows, "Hey, you have these five or six basic ingredients in your recipe." Kathleen: I love the idea of the checklist, because this is something that I'm working on tackling at IMPACT. We're growing really fast and as you scale, you're introducing new people into the mix, and every time you introduce somebody new, there's that element of uncertainty -- especially if they're doing copywriting, or if they're customer facing in communications, there's that element of, "Are they going to deliver the message in the way we want it delivered?" You don't want to make it so consistent that it sounds robotic, but to have a set of guardrails like that in the form of that checklist, it just sounds super practical. Dave: The other thing that has helped here is we have this ... We have a culture of transparency, and that sounds cliché, "Every company is transparent today." I think you have to be in order to have people who want to be there and work there, but inside of marketing, everybody shows their work all the time. You have to basically show what you're working on in our Slack channel, so before somebody sends out an email, they'll take a screenshot of it and say, "Hey team, this email's scheduled for 2:00 today. Here's what it looks like." Basically, you're opening yourself up to get feedback on that email before it goes out and you don't always have to take that feedback, but it's an opportunity. You have to show your work, and so the rest of the team knows like, "Hey, what is our style?"

It's something that isn't necessarily written down, but just organically within the team you'd know, "Ah, that doesn't sound right. We wouldn't use that word, or it doesn't look right." You build in this culture of accountability because everyone is always showing their work, and even writers are sharing drafts of their blog posts, even if it's just 500 words in a Google Doc before it even makes its way into WordPress, for example. We built that in, which has been super helpful in kind of just scaling the feedback and the knowledge across the team. Kathleen: That's great. I love it. It reminds me of my son's teacher. He's in fifth grade and they're always saying, "Show your work, show your work." Because it's not about the answer, it's about how you got there. Dave: Well, when I was in fifth grade I never showed my work, I just looked over at what the person was writing on the test next to me, because I was terrible at math, and so I just would write down their numbers, and I would turn in my math test with just the answers. The teacher would be like, "These are right, but you need to show your work." Kathleen: Karma is a bitch and now you work at a company where you have to show all of your work. Dave: Now I'm preaching show your work. Kathleen: That's right, that's right. It sounds like what you're saying is that you guys have really led with the brand and that the brand has been the thing that has delivered the greatest results in terms of differentiating you in a very, very crowded marketplace. Dave: Yep. Kathleen: Moving beyond brand, which is I guess the foundation of all of this, once you have your brand nailed down, obviously you do need to then engage in some more tactical activities as a marketer. You need to determine what channels are going to work well for you. I'd love to hear a little bit more about what's producing results for Drift. Are there particular channels that are really driving either visitor traffic, leads, or customer acquisition? Dave: Yes and no. The reason I say no, is because we've grown entirely through organic, and word-of-mouth, and content. The biggest challenges for us have been, number one, our brand. You could sum that up as our content, plus who we are, or lump it up as its own channel. I just kind of lump it together and say "our brand," which, to me, is word-of-mouth. Our podcast has been the number one thing that is measurable, but hard to measure, and that makes people outside of here uncomfortable, because they're like, "How do you know? How do you know the podcast is working?" We're always like, "Well, because every single person that we see is like ..." David, our CEO, he's next to me right now. He'll literally be walking through ... Our office is in a mall in Boston and people will be walking through and be like, "Hey, you're that guy from Seeking Wisdom, right?" I'm like, "Tell me about ... " We can't measure that channel, like tell me- Kathleen: Yeah. Dave: Literally, every person that we talk to mentions that. Every candidate that comes in mentions that, so that's been a huge channel. The other big thing is, when you have a strong brand, and you have content like our podcast and our blog, we also have a free product, and so on top of that we have this viral effect from our free product, which is public facing on tens of thousands of company's websites, and so you get this perfect storm of people listen to the podcasts, they watch our videos, they read our blog posts, and then they happen to be browsing the web, and they come on your site, IMPACT, right? They see the little popup and it says, "Hey, we're powered by Drift," and they're like, "Oh, that's Drift." It's that combination of things, that's how we've grown.  Kathleen: Speaking of videos, you mentioned that a couple of times, can you talk a little bit more about the strategy behind video? Because I heard you mention you're doing it on LinkedIn, using it in a couple of different ways. I'd love to hear more about what your plan is there. Dave: Yeah. Overall, we use video to basically support everything that we do and we're obsessed with video, because back to what we were saying earlier about how our brand is real and authentic, we love video because it's the hardest channel to fake, right? I mean, you and I, we don't have this. This is a podcast, the video won't be on here, but we're looking at each other, we're talking to each other. It's the most real thing that ... The most authentic form of marketing, and so we try to have video that supports everything.

One of my favorite examples of a video that we've done is on our pricing page, we had a couple questions, I think it was a month or two ago. People were a little bit confused about something on the pricing page and so we said, "You know what? Let's have ... " Will, who runs ops here, he actually owns our pricing. He makes our pricing, so we're like, "Let's just make a video with him." The video on our pricing page, if you go there, it's, the video is him and the video's literally like, "Hey, I'm Will. I'm literally the guy who makes pricing at Drift and I'm going to explain to you what our pricing is." To me, that's everything about why we love video and how we use video. Kathleen: Cool. Dave: Your other question about LinkedIn is, we've just been experimenting a lot with video on LinkedIn and the engagement has been insane. We stumbled on this. LinkedIn unlocked video in everybody's accounts and people could start posting videos. I posted a video and it got 10,000 views and I was like, "There's no way that's real. They're probably just juicing the numbers so more people use video." I made another video and in that video I talked for like a minute and then at the end of the video, I said, "Hey." I was literally just walking down the street drinking an iced coffee and I said ... At the end of the video, I said, "Hey, if you're watching this video right now, do me a favor. I'm fascinated by LinkedIn video right now, so if you're still watching this video, do me a favor and email me

Apr 09 2018



Rank #11: Ep. 60: Get $64 Million in Revenue From a $6,000 Marketing Budget Ft. Ryan Bonnici of G2 Crowd

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What if I told you that you could invest $6,000 in your marketing and get a ONE MILLION percent return on investment? Sounds pretty good, doesn't it?

This is exactly what Ryan Bonnici did during his time at HubSpot, and what he is planning on repeating now that he's taken on the role of CMO at G2 Crowd.

This week on The Inbound Success Podcast, Ryan shares exactly what he did to deliver unheard of results and how you can do the same thing for minimal investment. His approach is simple, accessible and something that any business can replicate quickly with a bit of out-of-the-box thinking and the help of a web developer.

Listen to the podcast to find out how Ryan helped HubSpot generate $64 million in revenue from a $6,000 marketing investment - and what it takes to get similar results for your company.


Kathleen Booth (Host): Welcome back to The Inbound Success podcast. My name is Kathleen Booth, and I'm your host. This week my guest is Ryan Bonnici, who is the CMO at G2 Crowd. Welcome Ryan.

Ryan: Hey, Kathleen. It's so great to be here.

Ryan and Kathleen recording this episode

Kathleen: Yeah, I'm excited to talk with you today. Before we jump in to our topic, tell our audience about yourself.

About Ryan Bonnici

Ryan: Absolutely. So, I'm the chief marketing officer at G2 Crowd, and I've been here for, gosh, a little under a year now.

G2 Crowd is the world's largest business intelligence software reviews platform. We do a lot of different things, but ultimately, we help millions of buyers every month find the best software and services to use for their business because, I think we all know, just like you and I right now Kathleen, are speaking on software to make this call happen. Software really fuels business today. You can't really run a business without software, even if it's a top of the line. So, software's huge. It's a $4 trillion industry each year. And so, yeah, we're right in the heart of that, and it's a really fun place.

A little bit about me and background, gosh. I started my career at Microsoft doing consumer marketing, loved that, and then I moved to a company called ExactTarget, which was an email marketing service provider that folks might remember. It was acquired by Salesforce a couple years ago for two and a half billion I think.

I was at Salesforce then for a couple of years leading their APAC marketing team - Asia Pacific marketing - which was fun so, got a lot of experience with link building, marketing, and demand generation in different regions and launching in new countries, and no cross language fun.

And then from Salesforce I moved to HubSpot, where I was doing a similar role leading their APAC marketing, and then I moved over from Australia to HQ in Boston and was leading their corporate marketing.

So running everything from all of their social media accounts, to all of their PR strategies, to their campaigns, so all things digital and brand marketing really. So, that was a crazy time and a really fun time, I mean HubSpot was an amazing company.

And then I moved to G2 Crowd late last year and have just never been happier Kathleen. I just love this role, I love this company and it's been such a crazy year.

When I started, there were five marketers on the team and now I have thirty marketers. I've hired like 25 people since the start of the year. And the team's just like-

Kathleen: Wow.

Ryan: ... Yeah crazy growth. I've hired a lot of people over the last decade, but never have so many people, so quickly ... and it was kind of a whirlwind, but we hired some amazing people and we had to relocate a lot of different folks from different places. I'm really happy and excited and so really happy to be here with you.

Kathleen: Yeah you know it's interesting. I've been familiar with G2 Crowd for a long time.

Before I was at IMPACTI used to own my own digital marketing agency that I had for eleven years and we were HubSpot partners, so I certainly reviewed HubSpot on G2 Crowd, as well as a number of other software platforms.

But where I really found G2 Crowd could be extremely helpful for me, both at my agency and then at IMPACT when I first joined, I was on our sales team, was in a sales capacity. We were looking to sell marketing services and we always did marketing on HubSpot. It just so happened that that was our platform of choice.

So, inevitably, when I would be talking to a prospective client that didn't yet have a marketing automation software platform and I would mention HubSpot, the question would always come up, "Why HubSpot, why is it so great?" And I always found that the most powerful thing that I could do, instead of signing HubSpot's phrases or sending them to a page on my site or HubSpot's site - I mean I of course did all that - but the most powerful thing was to be able to just say, “Here's this third-party review site. Look at how it's ranked. This is completely impartial and you can compare and contrast it against everything else here.”

That was the thing that always seemed to seal the deal for people, because as much as you can establish yourself in a position of trust as a sales rep, they're never going to trust you quite as much as the thousands of other people out there who've reviewed the product. So, it's a great platform.

Ryan: Yeah, absolutely. It's a great platform. Software is kind of going through this really interesting renaissance and progressing growth, and I think that if you think maybe back twenty or so years, software was in its infancy and it was really clunky and it was typically very enterprise focused, with a long sales cycle, and complex, long implementations.

I remember when I was at Microsoft, which was only ten years ago, the implementation time for a Dynamics CRM, which wasn't in the cloud back then even, was just very different to how technology is today.

I mean all people that have bought software, have been burned by software that they were told will do one thing, and then when they get it, they realize that it actually doesn't do that.

So yeah, I think marketers, we do a really good job at marketing products and sometimes we do too good of a job whereby I call it vaporware. It's like software that a product marketer has made look really pretty on the site, but the reality is that the product doesn't actually exist today.

That's what I love about moving from software companies to now, you know, G2 Crowd, where we're really impartial to your point and we're this marketplace that helps connect buyers with sellers. It's a really fun place to be.

Kathleen: And I will say the other thing about marketers, is that we do have a little bit of 'shiny object syndrome' when it comes to software. I'm responsible for my company's marketing software spend and I get a case of angina every time I look at the recurring monthly expenses of that budget, so I'm constantly trying to figure out, do we really need this? 

Ryan: Yeah.

Kathleen: Being able to vet those expenses before they come on, is fantastic.

So, you came on to my radar when somebody said this is a guy who is able to generate - what was it? - 64 million dollars in revenue, from a six thousand dollar marketing budget. Somebody said that and I was like, “That is someone that I need to interview.”

Because that's like the perpetual challenge as an inbound marketer right? Every company of course has a goal for their marketing, but not every company has a budget to match their goal. It's that old 'champagne taste on a beer budget' kind of conundrum.

And so, when I heard that, I thought, “Wow. There's got to be some really great lessons to be extracted here, that really anybody could use.” Because six thousand dollars is an amount of money that's incredibly acceptable for the vast majority of my listeners.

So, let's start at the very beginning. Where were you when this happened? What were the goals that you were going after? Who was the audience? 

How Ryan Generated $64 Million in Revenue from a $6,000 Marketing Spend

Ryan: So, this all started in early 2016 and at the time I was living in Sydney Australia, which is where I'm from originally as you can probably tell from my accent. I was with HubSpot for about a year at this point.

I always find this as a random side note that when you move to a new company, I feel it takes the first six months to just learn the basics of the company like how things work, how the strategy works, like get programs up and running.

It was kind of at that one year mark where I was finding really cool, creative ideas that maybe will surpass what others in the organization are thinking.

I don't know why, I'm just an ideas person. I love thinking outside the box and doing fun things.

And so, at that year point I was starting to get to know the business and I was hitting all of my goals really easily. I had an amazing team under me, and our goals at that time were to drive marketing qualified leads to the sales team.

So, that was kind of the core goal. And one of the things that I always said to my team was that generating MQLs isn't that much thought, it's pretty basic.

You create content, that content converts to a lead, and then you write an email to them saying ... we would send emails every Tuesday and Thursday, and they would have a download for the person. And then there'd be a follow up CTA of like, “Hey, you've enjoyed this email marketing ebook, would you like to chat with someone from HubSpot who can help you assess your email marketing strategy.”

So very value ad ... and helps when you have a sales team that understands this approach. They do a really good job of actually adding value to the person while also obviously trying to prospect them and see if they could buy HubSpot's tools.

So we'd been doing that for a while and we started to consistently hit our goals, and I think to me, in any job that's when the fun begins, once you've worked out, "Okay, I know what I need to do to hit my goals."

Hitting the goals is typically the boring part. It's the creative testing outside of the standard that you can have a lot of fun with.

So, the team and I sat down ... and I remember just thinking back, we kind of sat down and said, "Okay, so the people that buy from HubSpot are businesses, typically small businesses, but businesses of all sizes can use HubSpot."

And so, we said, what are some of the things that business people do? Because we kind of exhausted the typical things that marketers and sales people do, right?

So, as we were sitting down, we're thinking that, okay, where a business starts, like let's just think of a very early stage business. What does someone do? They buy the domain name, they probably buy Google apps, or maybe in the minority they buy Windows or Microsoft 365 for their email. And then, they get business cards and then they set up an email signature for their Gmail. And that's stuff that everyone does at every company.

When I joined Microsoft I remember ... I vividly actually remember designing my email signature and looking at other people in the org, and copying and pasting what they had. And, I noticed that at HubSpot that was the same and everyone had different email signatures.

And so, this is I think what I try and teach people to do, that we I think did well at HubSpot, and I've had my team do as well here. When you have an idea about content to create that you think your buyer persona might like, don't just create it because you have a gut instinct or you know they will like it. Use a tool like SEMrush or Ahrefs to actually work out whether people searching for this term in a high volume.

And so, we looked at it and the search terms "email signature" and "email signature generator," they both have combined on hundred thousand plus monthly searches in the US alone I think. Globally it was much larger than that.

And we were thinking about it like, what better to create than an email signature generator because all the things that go into creating an email signature are the things that typically go into a lead form - you know, your name, your job title, your cell phone number, your email address, et cetera.

And so, we worked with a HubSpot partner in Sydney - there's a guy called Ken that runs it and I still work with Ken today, he's building a tool for me right now at G2 Crowd, which is gonna drive lots of leads in the traffic for us here. Which is a secret for now, but I'll tell you about it when it's live.

Kathleen: We'll have to do another episode.

Ryan: We'll have to do another one when I complete it and have results. I've done this a few times now, and it's never not worked for me yet.

And so, yeah we made it, it took maybe a month or two to build, six thousand dollars like ... crazy cheap money.

I had a rockstar on my team, her name was Alissa, and she, over the course of the first month of launch, she looked at generating links to our email signature generator from other sites that ranked highly for that term. And then, yeah, gosh, from when we launched it like I think in April 2016 till about August 2016, we were generating upwards of 50 thousand organic visitors a month.

Kathleen: Wow.

Ryan: And it has something like a 50 to 70% conversion rate to lead, which is crazy high for a landing page. But, this wasn't like your typical landing page, this is a tool, and anyone that clicked through kinda knew what they were getting into.

And yeah, so over the course of two or three years while that was up and running, I emailed this friend recently, maybe a couple months ago, my colleague who is on the ops team over at HubSpot ... “Hey, like can you give me the latest stats for the tool, I wanna see how it's doing.”

And yeah, it's still consistently the number one organic lead source driver to HubSpot. It generates something like 50 thousand monthly leads, and 64 million dollars in net new source revenue.

So, these are people that weren't in HubSpot's database before they came organically through ... found it through the tool, then started getting nurtured by HubSpot and then became customers.

Kathleen: That's incredible to me because I have worked with HubSpot long enough to know that it has this mammoth contact database. Sometimes I feel like the entire world is in HubSpot's contact database.

Ryan: Yeah. It's about seven million contacts I think.

Kathleen: ... it's a huge number. And so, it's pretty incredible that such a high percentage of the leads that were generated through this were brand new. When-

Ryan: Yeah. Well it makes sense if you think about it cause this is kind of a different topic than the persona, that we would normally always create content that marketers were actively looking for. But, I think what we realized on the inside was that marketers are just people in business, they search for other things.

That's where I think most businesses go wrong. They only think about offers where the content or free tools are really close to their offering.

When I went to my boss at the time - that was HubSpot's CMO, Kip Bodnar, who I just absolutely adore, loveliest, smiliest human ever and one of my best mentors - he thought it was a stupid idea, and he was like, “No, that's crazy. That's going to attract really low quality people to our site and generate low quality leads. It has nothing to do with marketing.” And I just fundamentally disagreed, and I had my own budget, so I still went ahead with it.

And I remember five months before I left, him saying to me like, “It was really good that you made that tool.” Because the year before I left, they were really struggling. They were hitting their goals, but it was really tight.

They hacked through a lot of proactive campaigns, and I remember him saying like, “If it wasn't for that tool. That tool is making up like 25% of our total leads being generated every month. Thank you.” And I was like, “Oh, that's a good feeling.”

Kathleen: Yeah. Now, to that point. So, that was kinda gonna be my question. When you build something like this, I imagine that there are a fair number of leads that come in that probably aren't great leads.

How do you separate the wheat from the chaff because if really what you're doing is just generating email signatures - I assume you're asking for basic contact information - so you don't know a lot about that contact. Are you enriching that data using a third-party tool to figure out is this a good fit for us or ... what do you do to get that information?

Ryan: Yeah. Good question. So we had a very long list of optional things that people could put into their email signature.

If anyone listening here wants to check it out, if you literally search email signature, you'll see HubSpot's email generator ranks like first, second or third on Google depending on when and where you're searching from.

But, we ask a lot of different things. You'll see some options as well, like would you like to add a social link, would you like to add a banner image, a headshot, et cetera.

Regardless of what they actually gave us, once they clicked the button they would get a visualization at the time of doing that of what their signature looked like, and they could edit that.

When they wanted to download it to go to their email or to their Office 365, they clicked a button and an iframe/JavaScript popup would pop up and would say, "Hey. Thanks so much for this. One more step, we just need to know a few more things."

And depending on what they had told us, like if they'd given us the email address and phone number, then those fields wouldn't be shown, obviously.

But the key questions that we ask are never on the form because we wouldn't get any signatures, was how many employees do you have? Do you sell ... What was the question? Do you sell services? Are you a marketing agency? And then there was one more question, was what CRM do you use? So it basically was like the final form fields from your typical HubSpot lead form.

And the reason why we use those is because when you have five thousand, five million, seven million contacts in your database, that was the way we would filter them between different sales teams, different geo's, different verticals things like that.

And so actually, once they'd given us that information, that was all we needed to then nurture them accordingly. And we just had smart nurture set up ultimately, so yes.

I'm sure a lot of low quality leads did come through that tool. But that's kind of part and parcel of in their marketing is that you're going wide so you're gonna be getting your ideal target for sure, but you're also going to get people that aren't there.

But I think that's key to our velocity and growth, when you go after everyone in that kind of an instance as opposed to just going after a small segment. Because all the students that like the email signature, that wanted to set up a fancy Gmail signature when they were going out to look at job hunting, now, all of them know about HubSpot. They're all in the database. They're all learning. They, maybe five percent of them, become marketers later in life. Now, they've got HubSpot.

It's a long game, this idea. This isn't a quick win kind of strategy. Content is not about that. But it's the most sustainable and long-term way, obviously, to grow your business. 

Kathleen: So talk me through what happened after somebody hits submit. You mentioned then they get nurtured. Give me a sense of how you take the lead that converts on something that and shepherd them through a journey that ultimately leads them to a point where you're encouraging them to enter a sales funnel. Obviously, that's a delicate thing to navigate, so I'm curious to hear about how you manage that.

Ryan: I guess I don't know, to be honest. To be honest, most companies over-engineer and over-complicate journeys, in my opinion. If you're giving high value, high quality content, it doesn't actually need to be as personalized, I think, as people think.

Because we had so many contacts in our database, we knew what kind of content worked really well for new leads. The moment any lead came into HubSpot, regardless of whether it came from the email signature generator or website grader or a standard ebook, naturally they would always get a kickback email immediately that said, "Hey, thanks so much for using email sig generator or downloading an ebook. Here's a link where you can go back to that resource. And PS, if you would like to learn more about HubSpot's marketing automation software, you can click here."

We would always have in everything that we did a fast-forward link, if you will, to basically allow people that were interested and ready to buy to do that, and that would push them to a standard MQL page to book a demo.

If they didn't click that, then they would just go into the standard onboarding / nurturing of all new contacts. I don't know the exact format and content of these, but one email might say, "We're HubSpot. We create all this great content, and we have these free great tools." And the second email might say, "Hey, would you like to subscribe to our blog?" And the third email might say, "Hey, here's one of our most popular downloads. It's a free infographics template with a hundred different templates that you can use to make infographics at your business".

They were very general downloads, right, but really high value in a sense that they were things that anyone could get a value out of.

And then once they moved through that, each of those conversion points would always have a MQL offer within it. So, if they clicked through the landing page and downloaded the templates, they would get a kickback email, or on the thank you page, saying, "Hey, would you like to learn more about how you can accelerate your marketing in other ways? Click here." Kinda just went, then, from that normal flow, if that makes sense, Kathleen.

Kathleen: Yeah, it does. And I have to laugh because I know Kip. He's great. He is very smart, as you say. And I did notice that they must be now drinking the Kool-Aid of this whole concept, because in the last few months, I saw that they released the out-of-office message generator.

Ryan: I created that. Just let me put it out there. So, I actually-

Kathleen: Nice.

Ryan: Yeah. I'm so happy to see that go live 'cause I started building that, it would've been in ... It was the start of 2017. So, email sig generator started crushing it at the end of 2016, start of 2017. Worked with Ken, the same guy, to build that. We got it to kind of like an MVP stage where it functionally was working, but the landing page hadn't been built, and we hadn't worked out the quirky responses for different things. And I remember before I left, pinging it to - 'cause at that point in time, the team I had moved onto was no longer the one that did that kind of creative stuff - I think I forwarded it to the HR team to say, "Hey, this could be a cool recruiting tool for you. People that are looking to take holidays use it." And so I think they then ... I don't know.

It took them a year or so since they left for them to then finish it off. I'm sure this wasn't a high priority, and it wasn't someone's dedicated role.

But yeah, I saw them bring that out. I've been meaning ... I have it in my to-do list to try it out, 'cause I wanna see where it got to in the end. But yeah, I remember doing that.

The big thing that I tried to teach my team was, "Hey, you wanna try and work out a way to make the tool give you the info that you need in your lead form." So, you would ask a question like, "What industry are you in?" in our normal lead forms. In my mind, I thought, okay, cool, a really creative way we can ask that question for this tool, I was gonna say, was we should say, "Hey, we wanna personalize your email signature, and every industry is different. Some are more corporate and boring, aka finance, and some are more creative and fun, aka marketing. Tell us what industry you're in, and this will help us personalize your out-of-office message."

And I don't know if they actually built that into it or not yet. I need to check it out and see if that was there.

But yeah, so, we did that.

And then one tool I wasn't involved in but was always on the list was the invoice generator. They launched the invoice generator a little bit after I left. I think they launched a business card generator, which was just basically a re-skin of the email signature generator, but basically now it's a straight out visual that you would print as opposed to something you paste into your Gmail. 

I also created a free tool for my own personal website. I have a website, It's basically a site where I curate content from executive coaches and just experts in their field to help other executives that are moving on up in their career to learn from folks that have already been there.

And personally, I'm big into reading books to help me get better. I remember a few years ago reading The Five Dysfunctions of a Team by Patrick Lencioni, I think his name is. Really good book, a lot of execs have read it.

There's this assessment in the book that I really liked. It's basically like, "Hey, answer these 25 questions, and we'll tell you if your team is functional or dysfunctional." And so I converted that into a, I don't wanna say a tool, 'cause it's more simple than that. Basically it's other questions, a lead form to give me your email address, and then I ask you, "Does your team do this?" yes, sometimes, no.

There's 25 questions like that, and they then click a button at the end that says view analysis. And then they get an email with their score. And in the email, it says, "Hey, these score results will be better if you can share this with your team and get your team to do this as well."

And so I created this free tool two and a half, three years ago, and I still get thousands of net new leads through it every month. Because what happens, it's crazy. Someone at Microsoft will do it, and then they'll get my kickback email that says, "Hey, why don't you share this with your team and see what they think."

And then you'll see if one person comes in from a new company, and then 10 or a hundred net new leads will come in from that same company. And then that gets shared to someone else, and then the same thing that happens. It has this really interesting virality effect.

I don't need to generate any press for it because people are always reading the book. So that's Five Dysfunctions of a Team assessment, and I'm the only one that has a free tool for the assessment.

I haven't touched that website, literally, or published any blog posts on it in three years, and it still generates thousands of leads a month. It's crazy.

Kathleen: What I find really interesting about this is we've talked now about three different tools. We've got the email signature tool, the out-of-office generator. Those are in one category targeting individuals, individual leads.

And then you have the one on your website which, as I listen to you talk about it, it's striking me that that is a very good example of a type of tool that somebody could build if they were interested in doing more account-based marketing. Because obviously with account-based marketing, you're looking to saturate as many contacts within a certain organization as you can, and you've got a tool that has that built into it. So, that's really interesting.

Ryan: It's pretty cool, yeah. It's pretty cool.

The way this business works, I work with executive coaches in different cities. And when leads come through from different people, I have them sorted by geo, and then I can connect executive coaches with people that indicate that they have dysfunctional teams. So, the executive coach comes in and trains them.

It's a really nice way for me to make passive income without doing anything. Obviously, they come to me for assessment, and then I connect them with executive coaches. I function like a matchmaker in that I make money from every time I match make someone from the coach.

So, it's a genius, on the side kind of thing. I shouldn't say genius. It's incredibly simple, which is, in my mind, what is so cool about our tools and so genius about them is that they're really basic.

And the point is most people just don't know how to think about their persona, right? So, executive coaches want to find people that need help, and people that need help read help books around leadership. So, this beautifully connects them.

I just love getting in the mind of a buyer persona and working out what they're looking for online.

Kathleen: Let's dig into that for a second, because I think if somebody listening is sitting here thinking, "Okay, I wanna do this. This seems like a great idea," the first thing standing in their way is how to conceptualize the tool itself. So, can you spend a second and just walk me through the thought process that you go through or how you approach this to figure out what is that right tool for the audience you're targeting?

Ryan: Totally, totally. Why don't you select a persona or someone that you want me to attract, and I'll just do it live on the spot. So, you can say-

Kathleen: Cool, okay.

Ryan: Maybe create a company. It could be a legal firm or it could be ... You choose, and then I'll think about it and go live with you and try and work it out.

Kathleen: Sure. Well, let's use my company as an example. That's an easy one. So, we're targeting marketers.

Ryan: Okay.

Kathleen: And they can be anywhere from mid to senior level marketers who run marketing for a company. So, they're the in-house person generally leading the marketing team.

Ryan: Okay, cool. That's kind of easy, though, just 'cause a lot of the tools that I've created in the past are for marketers from my experience at HubSpot.

Kathleen: I'm throwing you a softball.

Ryan: Yeah, that's a real softball. In that instance, what I would be thinking about is okay, so I'm trying to attract a lot of marketing managers. And you're selling the marketing services, is that right, Kathleen? Like, you wanna be their agency and help and support, yeah? Cool.

Kathleen: Yeah.

Ryan: So, the easy thing for you to do that most people would do, which won't work as well, is create content about why you need a marketing agency to help.

Now like this, I would say that you should have that, obviously, on your side for people that you attract through other content to then help them see that and work out why they should use you.

But before that, to get more people to your site, I would be thinking about, "Okay, marketing managers - what is something that they need to do?"

They manage marketing budgets. What's something that's hard about marketing budgets?

They have to hire people, so marketing job titles, marketing job descriptions.

They might be going to Google and searching for marketing job descriptions to work out if they're hiring their second marketer or third marketer, who that would be.

They might be going online and searching for marketing templates or marketing greetings.

I would be thinking about that, and then I would be going to your SEMRush, your Ahrefs and saying, "Okay, I put in those keywords." And then I would start to look at that and all related keywords, and then I would just go through them from top to bottom from which has the most following to the least following. And then I would start to identify which ones could be tools.

So, marketing job descriptions I know is one. Marketing salaries is a big one. Maybe you create a tool that allows a person to select their job title, and it shows them the estimated salary - things like that. Like how to become a CMO, they might search for. I'm trying to think of other tools. I already have created so many of these tools for marketers.

Kathleen: I always thought that ... It's funny. So, I used to work with clients in all different industries. I always thought that a great tool would be an RFP builder, so like, if you wanna try to build an RFP for marketing support services. Go in, and there's prebuilt modules that you can choose and drop in, and then it spits out your complete RFP. You could do that for so many industries.

Ryan: Totally.

Kathleen: It could be network engineering RFP or construction RFP or what have you.

Ryan: Totally. You know that thing I told you that I was working on? That's literally it.

Kathleen: No!

Ryan: Yeah. If you think about it, it's perfect for us because our site replaces the RFP process. So, who better to attract to the site than someone that's old school still and thinks they need to do an RFP? So, we're actually building an RFP generator for different industries that customizes the questions and the outputs. You're onto it, Kathleen. You've got this.

Kathleen: Great minds think alike, Ryan. I'm telling you what. I used to, prior to my career as a marketer, I did government contracting in international development.

Ryan: Nightmare stuff, those contracts.

Kathleen: Totally different sector. So, I used to have to respond to RFPs, and I always thought no one in their right mind who has to write an RFP ever wants to write it from scratch. So, everybody is working off of something, right?

Ryan: Totally, yeah. So, the way it's starting is they come to our site, and they're gonna select "Are you looking for a content marketing agency? Are you looking for content marketing software?", et cetera. And then from there, it'll personalize the questions we ask, et cetera. And it will just spit something out.

But then it also says, "Hey, did you know that G2 Crowd has live data from X many companies itself (insert the name of the RFP thing that you're doing)? Click here to learn who is the number one based on customers like you."

It pushes them straight into our review process. Which then, we wanna obviously then be the matchmaker to find them and connect them to the best supplier for what they need. That's how we make money, right? We don't care where they go to, 'cause we make money regardless, but we wanna connect them to the best person for them.

Kathleen: Love it, love it. Well, I obviously think it's the best idea ever because I came up with it, too.

Ryan: Yeah, exactly. Good job. Should we split the commmission? I think we should.

Kathleen: Yeah, absolutely. I didn't have to do anything, but I will 100% take half of the credit.

The other question I have is if somebody is listening, and they are thinking they might want to do this, the first thing, like we just said, is figuring out how to get to what that tool should be. But then the obvious next challenge is how do I build it? And most companies that I have spoken with don't have somebody in house who could be like, "Yep, I'm just going to build that tool."

Walk me through anything you need to consider when you're looking for somebody to build it for you.

And you talked a little bit about how much you spent building these things. Is it $600, $6,000, $60,000? What are the elements that most affect how much you're going to have to pay for something like this?

Ryan: Yeah. So even at HubSpot when I was there we had a 200 person marketing team, and we didn't have the resources ourselves in house. So I definitely don't think you need to do it in house.

I think for this kind of a thing, the thing that makes it expensive is if it's very complex, and simply just because the more complex the tool is, the longer hours of development you need to basically buy from the agency.

So like if you need an email signature generator it's pretty basic, right? You're allowing a text field for someone to insert text, and then you are just showing them that same text, but in a more stylized way.

So pretty basic kind of like, rules, and if they want to change the color, you just change what the color looks like of that text, so pretty simple.

Also I'd probably say that, in general, I think they would cost more than six grand, maybe they'd cost like, on average, 10 to 20 grand.

I think we got a really good deal partly because this partner wanted to work with us, because they thought it was a cool idea and wanted to be a part of that.

So let's say the RFP generator that we're building right now is costing around 30 grand, so quite a bit more. And that's just because it's much more complex, and the applets need to be very custom based on what the person says, and we're pulling in live data. That was one thing that the email signature generator couldn't do. So the complexity would change, so like if you want to create an image, something that creates images, or outputs a media file, that's gonna be more expensive probably. If you wanted something that outputs something basic, then it's very easy, so that would be the main thing I would be thinking about.

The process of building it though is pretty simple. So what I'd typically do is I'd get a pad, a small pad or a big pad, and I'll literally just get a pen and draw out the pages of the app, so like what the home screen would look like, and then what the first page of the app looks like, and what the buttons will be, and that will evolve over time, but I just create that and I turn that into photos into like Google Slides, and then I share that with different developers and say, "Hey, this is the tool I'm trying to build, this is the goal of it, it needs to be built on HubSpot."

Then I would literally find out from different developers who get what we're trying to do, who can do it, but then what are the different costs, and then I kind of go from there.

Kathleen: Yeah, so it definitely sounds like the costs can vary. I guess in terms of if somebody's listening and thinking, "Well, is it worth it for me to do it?" it comes down to the costs per lead, and it sounds like the example you have from HubSpot, the cost per lead is like so infinitesimally tiny.

Ryan: That's the other key is that you need to then work out before you build it, part of the validation process is is there enough demand to pay this back? So when I say demand, is there enough monthly searches around this topic specifically, and also how competitive is that topic?

So that's the other thing to think about is I speak at conferences all around the world really often, I love keynoting, and I talk about this a lot. The big thing I say is that you probably shouldn't be doing this if you are just starting out.

If you're just starting out, start with a blog, get a blog up and running. You need to build domain authority. Because if you don't have domain authority, a tool's not gonna rank, you know, realistically, unless it's a brand new thing.

So the five dysfunctions of a team, my personal website,, has a very low domain authority, and I mentioned I haven't blogged for three years, but it still ranks number one, because not that many people have created tools for that. No one has, sorry, so it's the first thing that comes up.

So you can start with this strategy from the get go, assuming it has a domain authority maybe under 20 or 30, but if it doesn't, sorry, domain difficulty, like difficulty score under 20 or 30.

So I've been thinking about that, but this should just be supplementary to your content strategy, just be another thing you're doing, in my mind.

Kathleen: That makes sense. You gotta tackle the building blocks first before you can get fancy.

Kathleen's Two Questions

Kathleen: Well this is so interesting. I love the strategy, I feel like it's definitely something anybody could do, especially given that it's pretty easy to outsource the development of it.

Shifting gears for a minute, so there are two questions that I always ask my audience, and I love hearing these answers because I always learn something new when I ask them.

I'm particularly curious to hear your answers because you have such an interesting background. You're at G2 Crowd now, you've worked at HubSpot, at Salesforce, at Exact Target, at Microsoft. You've written for - I looked at your LinkedIn profile - you've written for Entrepreneur Media and Business Insider, et cetera. So you have such an interesting diversity of marketing experience.

The question - this is a big buildup - the question is, company or individual, who do you think is doing inbound marketing really well right now? Who is a great best practice example?

Ryan: There's a few folks. So inbound's a pretty broad term. I think some people that are doing inbound or content marketing well - like attracting audience, which is what inbound is, I guess, at its essence - on social, I think that you've obviously got your big media companies, like your Buzzfeeds, but they do a great job at working out what are the exact formats for content that are really sharable, so they all go viral.

I think Gary Vaynerchuk is a really interesting person. He's a little bit annoying, I think, but certainly, no offense, Gary, love you long time. But, he gets the whole idea of being controversial and saying things that are shocking and that gets people sharing his content. He's also a master at persona-based marketing. So he does his rants and he selects a specific persona for each rant. He'll choose marketers and have a rant about why marketing is broken. He'll choose the education industry and do a rant about why schools are broken, and because he gets really specific in his rants, those personas then share - like people in education, teachers - will share his content like really crazily viral because it's so targeted to them.

When marketers see his rant about marketing, they'll do the same thing, like "Oh my god, I can so relate to this," et cetera. So I think he does a really good job at inbound marketing when it comes to social.

I'd say like in terms of web content, like in owned channels, like website blog, I think that G2 Crowd is doing a really good job now. The team has grown blog traffic in the last year by like 50% month on month, so we really approached it with a new strategy here after I joined and the team has just been rallying behind it and we've got 10 content marketers now, so they're doing an amazing job with everything we just talked about, but less so in the context of tools, more in the context of just content, so working out what our different personas want, and validating that with search volume research, and then creating content around those topics, and clustering it as well, in the same way that HubSpot thinks about content clusters, content hubs. Who else?

HubSpot's obviously doing really, really well. There's a lot of different companies, there's so many, gosh.

I think Drift is doing a great job, so Dave Gerhardt over at Drift is doing really cool LinkedIn content - a lot of good LinkedIn videos at the moment - which go quite viral because LinkedIn still doesn't have a whole lot of video content. So if you're one of the first people to move on a platform when they launch new format or content, typically you can game the algorithm because they want to get more of that content on there.

Kathleen: Yeah.

Ryan: Yeah, I don't know, got a quick list of some of them, but I'll think more and let you know if there are any others that come to mind.

Kathleen: Yeah I had Dave Gerhardt on as a guest, and he talked about his LinkedIn takeover strategy with video and how it worked is really interesting, and I have to laugh because he's done a few videos since then of when people send him swag in the mail - the unboxing videos. And the greatest thing ever was, so he did a few unboxing videos, and sort of drew out their swag and unboxed it. And one guy sent him, the swag was an actual branded box cutter, because he was like "You're unboxing all of this stuff, you need a branded box cutter."

Ryan: I remember seeing that, that's freakin awesome. That is very, very smart.

Kathleen: So, second question, obviously digital marketing is changing so quickly, how do you stay up to date and keep yourself current on everything that's going on?

Ryan: Yeah, that's a great question. So I think to be really good at digital marketing, first, you kind of just need to be in the trenches, and you need to be playing with digital and living in digital form.

So that's kind of why a lot of people on my team will come up and ask like, "Hey, you know I want to get better at digital marketing, should I do a course?" I'm like, "No, do not do a course with anyone."

Digital marketing changes every other freakin week. Even if they have Snapchat in your course or something, in a month's time the content will be old, because they'll change the platform, so just don't bother with that.

The way I stay up to date, and I think the way I try and encourage my team to stay up to date, is I just block out time every day on my calendar to check Product Hunt and to check G2 Crowd to see the new platforms that are being published.

And so I find between and between, that gives me a really good pulse on what technologies are new and growing and people have liked, and so that helps me kind of work out cool ideas and strategies because the challenge of digital marketing is it's hard to think about cool, creative cutting edge strategies if you don't know what new technologies are available.

So thinking back, a nice win where I had with that, two years ago, it would have been the start of 2017, I ran an experiment with my team when I was in Sydney with the marketers in HubSpot, and what I did was, we sent out an email like we always did for an ebook download, and 50% of the people who came to our landing page, I swapped out the form with a Facebook messenger bot download. This was before Facebook Messenger bots were a thing, and I found basically this developer in India who created this hokey little tool to do it, and ChatFuel and all of those folks weren't around then, or maybe they were, and people didn't know about them.

Anyway, what we found was that there was a higher drop off in terms of conversions on the landing page, so people were more willing to do their email address than Facebook Messenger just because they were used to email, but what we found was the conversion flow once they'd become a Facebook messenger subscriber was crazy high.

What we would do is once people had subscribed by Messenger, instead of sending those people another email the following week with the new offer, we would send them the new offer via Facebook Messenger.

And I wrote a big blog post actually I think about this on the HubSpot blog after we did this, but what we found was that we had a 90% open rate on Facebook Messenger, and a 50 or a 70% click through rate, I can't remember, one of the two, click through rate.

And it makes sense, right? If you think about it, when you get messages on Facebook Messenger, and I get a little red circle, I check it immediately because it's not a branded channel. It's not a channel that you're used to getting branded messages from.

So if you have something there, you typically think, "Oh, okay this is a friend." But they'd opted in to Facebook Messenger alerts, so they'd always open it 90% of the time, and then 50% of the people would click through, so it was able to actually convert far more many people to MQL than email was.

So fast-forward. I remember sharing those results with our CEO, and our CTO Don Mesh, and saying "Hey, this is seriously cool shit. A we need to be doing this for all of our landing pages, and B, we need to build this technology into our tool for marketers," and then I think, gosh, eight months later, HubSpot acquired, which was one of the worlds leading bot platforms out of Chicago, actually, which is where I am based out of G2Crowd.

So it's cool that my ProductHunt stalking and learning about new tools allowed me to have that really interesting experiment that had great results and led me to kind of take Hubspot down that journey or the start of the early stages anyways.

So I still am always on ProductHunt every day and I'm always testing out new things and flicking links to my team saying "Hey, check this out, we need to try this."

So that's kind of how I think I I started out. Yeah.

Kathleen: Yeah it's great, it's a great platform. Well, all of those are great suggestions, and I'm definitely going to check those out. I will include links to all of that in the show notes, as well as to the email signature generator, the out of office generator, all of those tools.

Ryan: Cool, and I'll send you a link as well, Kathleen, because I wrote a really in depth blog post on the email signature generator and how we created it, and I screen shotted a lot of my research as well, so for folks that want a really specific step by step process and folks that don't believe me on the ROI, I've got all the screenshots of the stats so they can see that as well.

Kathleen: That's fantastic, I would love that. I'll definitely include that as well.

[Read Ryan's blog here]

If somebody has a question, wants to learn more about G2Crowd, wants to reach out to you, what's the best way for them to find you online?

Ryan: Yeah, I mean, I'm a social ho, so I'm on every channel. I think I use the same handle on every platform, so it's just my name, Ryan Bonnici. That's b-o-n-n-i-c-I. Feel free to connect on LinkedIn or Twitter or Instagram, I respond to everyone that messages me, as long as they don't say, "Hey" or if they don't hate on me. If they disagree with what I'm saying that's okay. I love the discourse.

Kathleen: Great, well I'll include that in the show notes as well, and with that, thank you so much, this was really fun and interesting, and I loved meeting somebody else who also thought of the RFP generator, now I know this thing's got legs, I'm looking forward to seeing it finally come to life on your site. So we'll look forward to that.

If you're listening and you found some value in this conversation, I would really appreciate if you would give the podcast a review on iTunes or Apple Podcast or the platform of your choice.

And if you know someone doing kickass inbound marketing work, tweet me at WorkMommyWork because I would love to interview them. Thank you Ryan.

Ryan: Thanks Kathleen, thanks everyone!

Oct 15 2018



Rank #12: Ep. 57: How to Succeed With SEO in 2018 Ft. Jeremiah Smith of SimpleTiger

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With search engine optimization changing so much, what's the secret to succeeding with SEO in 2018?

This week on The Inbound Success Podcast, SimpleTiger CEO Jeremiah Smith shares his insights on what's working - and what's not - with SEO. As the head of an SEO agency, he's worked with quite a few clients to solve SEO challenges and gets into specific detail on things like how to approach site structure, navigation menus, keyword and backlink strategies and more. He also shares his predictions for how voice search will impact the future of SEO. 

So much good stuff - check it out!

Listen to the podcast to hear Jeremiah's SEO insights and get specific, actionable things you can do now to improve your search rankings.


Kathleen Booth (Host): Welcome back to The Inbound Success podcast. I'm your host, Kathleen Booth, and today my guest is Jeremiah Smith, who's the founder and CEO of Simple Tiger. Welcome, Jeremiah.

Jeremiah Smith (Guest): Thank you so much for having me, Kathleen. I'm happy to be here today.

Jeremiah and Kathleen recording this episode

Kathleen: Awesome. Tell the audience a little bit more about yourself, and about Simple Tiger, and what you guys do over there.

Jeremiah: All right. So I am the founder and CEO of Simple Tiger. We're a digital marketing agency that specializes in doing search engine optimization for softwares and service companies. We do a lot of the inbound marketing follow elements, but we really try to tailor everything tightly around how it impacts SEO, since that's been our specialty for over 12 years now.

Kathleen: Great. And I had a lot of fun combing through your website, and particularly through your profile page on the website. The one thing that stood out the most was in your bios. You guys have these really cool answers to questions and one of them was shark diving, bungee jumping, or ... I think the other one was cliff diving. And you picked shark diving, which is probably the one that would be the last on my list. So-

Jeremiah: That's funny. Yeah, I was thinking through those and I actually ... I always like to challenge myself but I'm pretty calculated with how much risk I can handle. So when it comes to bungee jumping, to me that's like right out, that's so dangerous and crazy, and it's not even enjoyable an idea to me, whipping my neck around and everything.

Cliff diving is something I've actually done a lot of. And that's fun and easy to me. It's not as scary. Shark diving is that one that's right in the midst, the Goldilocks zone for me. That's dangerous, but it's somewhat safe. And so, yeah, that's pretty much where I land on that.

Kathleen: So it's really funny. The reason that stood out to me was that I'm kind of familiar. I read what you wrote about trying to face my fears. And I have not done cliff diving yet, but I have done bungee jumping off of the bridge over the River Zambezi in Africa, which is ... At the time it was the second highest bungee jump in the world.

Kathleen bungee jumping in Zambia

And I did it back when I was 30-years-old. And it's so funny, because in the last few months ... I have this picture of myself launching off the bridge, that somebody else took. And the last time I looked at that picture, I was like, "Damn, it's a good thing I did that back when I was 30, because I would never do it now."

Jeremiah: That's amazing.

Kathleen: But I would never swim with sharks. I would never swim with sharks, though. So for me, the bungee jumping was the thing that was right on the edge, and the shark stuff is like, yeah, no way. 

Jeremiah: That's so funny. It's funny how we're different like that. I'm sure someone out there is like, "Cliff diving? That's the one that's right on the edge for me."

Kathleen: Totally. Totally. So I had a good chuckle reading that part of your website.

Jeremiah: That's awesome.

Kathleen: Yeah, so I was interested to talk with you because you all, as you said, you specialize in search engine optimization, and you work with a lot of SaaS or software service companies. And that's a super competitive field. And these are, in my experience, at least, having been in digital marketing agencies for a lot of years, I won't say how many ...

SaaS companies tend to spend money on this kind of stuff. And so it's not like being a garbage hauler and the competition for your keywords isn't as strong. These are companies that are putting some dollars behind not only their pay-per-click marketing, but they're spending money to do SEO right.

So I'm fascinated to learn a little bit more from you on both what you see as working well right now, and how you're helping to prepare your clients for the future, given all the changes that are happening in SEO these days.

What's Working With Search Engine Optimization in 2018

Jeremiah: Yeah. Yeah, that's a great question. And I got to be honest, though. You're going to have to stop me at some point because there's so many answers I want to dive into on that.

Kathleen: Go.

Jeremiah: Let's see. So having been in this for 12 years now, there are so many different things that we've done that, at the time, were valuable things. And SEO is interesting because it's one of those things ... It's one of those marketing methodologies where there are trends within that space. So there are trends in the SEO that right now, for example, might be very powerful for SEO but a year or two ago weren't, and a year from now, won't be.

So you've got to keep that in mind and adapt to those as they come and go. But there are some strong core elements that are always ... They're always strong. They may not be the leaders in the space, but they're strong. And if you do those well, you'll always be successful at SEO.

And so a couple of things that we're doing nowadays that are just a little bit different than before ...

One of the hot topics for 2018 has been content structure and structuring content on your site and navigational structure, which making sure that your navigation's set up in a way where you're actually able to dive in to the depths of the content on the site through the navigation.

That's evolved quite a bit. Google's gone from hating large menus to loving large menus to hating them again to loving them again. And it's a little bit nauseating trying to figure that out. But we've determined some patterns and seen some sites that have really good navigational structures, really good content structures. And we've seen the benefits of that. Everything from a large enterprise eCommerce site, all the way to a small SaaS company that has one product, one offering, very simple.

Like, for example, Stripe. You think about that. Such a simple offering. There's not much to it. But you can go deep on their content because of the developer applications and things like that.

So we're finding the content structure's been a very powerful thing. And I think a large part of that actually has to do with the way Google has devolved in terms of adapting more machine-learning technology to enhance the user experience of Google.

So Google's trying to get more intelligent about what they bring up or what they show as results. And as you're doing that, as you're reverse engineering that, you're noticing what they like more. And what they're liking more is just really, really good content structure, which, I guess good is a subjective term.

But you almost have to know what I mean when I say that. I could probably explain that a little more, but I'd have to show you examples, really.

Kathleen: Yeah, let's go back to the menu for a second because that's something that I think is interesting and easy to overlook, right? A lot of people build their websites and the navigation menu they think, "I need to get it right. But it's not something I need to spend a ton of time on." And I think a lot of folks don't even think of it when it comes to SEO.

So can I dig a little bit deeper in there? And you mentioned larger menus. Are you talking about actually displaying a mega menu at the top of a site? Or are you talking about the page hierarchy and having several pages, subpages, etc.?

Walk me through what that big menu looks like.

Jeremiah: Sure, yeah. So the mega menu discussion is interesting because there are cases ... Theoretically, Google would say that they don't like mega menus. And when we talk about mega menu ... And it makes sense why they wouldn't because, from a user perspective, they're not great either, usually.

What a mega menu means, when we talk about that, is usually a menu that contains upwards of a hundred navigational links or more, just massive. And you could just spend all day just trying to hover through this menu to get to where you want.

That's too much. It's too much for a user perspective. It's too much from a search engine perspective, which mirror each other. And especially with the increase in users on mobile devices, mega menus just aren't making as much sense as they used to.

However, in certain applications, on certain websites, for certain types of content, certain content structure, a mega menu is the only way. And it actually works really well. And so it's real interesting to see the cases where the rules can be broken. And that's probably the hardest thing to learn in SEO, is knowing where and when you can break certain rules in order to succeed because you're going to have to at some point.

For example, Brian Dean does some really cool posts about breaking some of the most common rules in SEO. For example, he's got over 10,000 YouTube subscribers and he's only got 10 YouTube videos.

That's a huge deal. You got a significant amount ... I think he has over 100,000 YouTube subscribers. He's got ... Whatever those huge tiers are, he's got it, right? He's only got 10 YouTube videos.

Kathleen: And he just released a course on that, too, I think. I feel like he just released a course on YouTube SEO, to talk about how he did that.

Jeremiah: Right, right. And that's a great example, though, of him breaking the common rules, where people think you've got to post a ton videos, you got to be on there every single day to get to 100,000 subscribers. He's only done a few, few pieces of content. They're rockstar pieces of content, and he is internet famous because of it.

So when it comes to menus, for example, I think some of the larger sites that have a lot of complexity, over time, I think Google is going to get intelligent enough, and currently is intelligent enough, to deduce the fact that, "Hey, this is a complex subject, what this site is about." And it can be broken off into these relevant subsections or subcategories of deeper subjects. And it makes sense.

Wikipedia is a great example of that, for example. You can't for the life of you use the Wikipedia menu to get where you want to go. You have to use search. And their search engine even sucks. So you have to use Google to get through Wikipedia, appropriately.

But their content structure and linking to deeper, relevant subjects, cross linking, and all that kind of stuff, is really what makes them successful. So I don't know if that answers your question. But there's not really a one-size- fits-all menu solution. It really depends on the case-by- case basis.

Kathleen: Okay, interesting. And then in terms of the other thing you mentioned was structuring your content well. So as you said, that's an easy thing to say but there's a lot of nuance behind that.

Can we dig into that one a little bit deeper, and maybe give some examples of different ways that companies need to think about structuring their content?

Jeremiah: Right, yeah. And I think the best way to structure content, honestly, I don't think is to look at it from a keyword perspective. We did that for a very long time. And we tried to nest everything under keyword umbrellas. And over time, what we learned is that actually the way the user is interacting with your website might be sequential and break from a keyword norm.

So let's think for a second about an example software tool. And I'll walk you through how this might apply, and how we might structure content for this one client, where previously we would nest everything under a keyword umbrella.

So let's think about ... I'll always pick on invoicing software, because I think that's an easy concept to understand and it applies to every business I'm talking to, so they get it. It's familiar.

In this invoicing software, maybe our target is CFOs at software companies. And that's who we want to sell this invoicing software to. Well, that CFO at the software company has a certain list of pain points and things that they really want to work through and boxes they've got to check for them to procure a solution for their invoicing software. They know what they're looking for.

So in the old days, what we would do is take "invoicing software" as a mothership term, and then play with subcategories of keywords related to invoicing software.

In the new days, we'll still do that, but we're going to break out of that and we're probably going to structure it a way where it's the number one pain point the CFO might have with software. Let's do that as our first piece of content, even if that keyword is not our top target keyword. Because from an engagement perspective, that might be their top concern. But that keyword may not have as much search volume as some of the other keywords in invoicing software.

And for our second piece of content, below that in the menu, is their second largest pain point, which, again, may not be a high volume keyword.

By structuring the content like that, we optimize those pieces of content for the keywords that are relevant to them. And we do our best to promote other pieces of content that are relevant to the other keywords that are higher search volume, whether that's large blog articles containing an infographic with all kinds of clickable stuff in the content or not.

But what we're trying to do is set up a flow of content on the site that's going to keep that CFO searcher engaged. And if we can keep that searcher engaged, that's going to trigger some new algorithmic metrics in Google that are actually going to help you rank better.

So I'm starting to get into some deeper SEO stuff with what Google's doing in artificial intelligence here.

But for the longest time, Google has looked at links as the number one ranking factor in search. And everyone always wondered, "How do you build links? How do you build links?" and just trying and competing with each other, and trying to find ways to do it naturally. And it's the hardest thing to do in searching software is link building. Period. No matter what anyone says, link building's the hardest.

Well, Google has now, for the first time, overstepped links in their algorithm as the most important factor with another one, which is user engagement metrics.

So Google is now using clickstream data through Chrome and through other clickstream data providers.

If you have Analytics installed on your site, if you have Google AdWords conversion tracking set up on your site, I don't doubt for a second that they're monitoring traffic usage and how people are interacting with your site.

They're not publishing that content or that information or that data anywhere because of encrypted relationships that Google wants to keep tight and internal and private. But they are using that data to determine how your site ought to rank.

So if people are actively engaging with pieces of content on your site moreso than other pieces of content on your site, those pieces that they're engaging with have a higher likelihood to rank than the ones they're not engaging with, regardless of links.

So that's a really interesting new frontier, if you think about it.

Now that doesn't mean that links don't matter. Links are still extremely important. You've got to have those, too. When it comes down to it, if everyone has 10 of the same high quality links, then whichever pages are getting the best user engagement are the ones to get ranked.

Kathleen: On the subject of user engagement, it's interesting that you bring this up because I've had a couple of other people get at this topic from different directions.

One of the things that has come up is time on page, for example. And I think I had one guest who talked about how they're using more and more video on their pages because it tends to get people to spend a little bit more time. Are you finding that that's the case or are there other page elements that you've seen successfully keep people sticky on pages?

Jeremiah: Yeah, I think any kind of mix of media that is set up in a way where it's going to either force or entice or you coerced the user into spending more time on the page is better.

So what we're looking for, first and foremost, when we're dealing with your clients, a large portion of it is not that we're dealing with clients who just need to get users to spend more time on the page and don't know where to begin with that.

Most of the time something is going wrong with their site that's causing users to leave early, like there are actual problems. And we need to address those first, because those are leaks in the ship. We've got to plug those holes before we do anything about racing the ship.

So some of those plugs are like interstitial popups that we see that aren't working well, we'll try to kill those. If they are working well, we'll try to find ways to just make them a little less intrusive, a little bit of an easier interaction, an easy way to close out. For those who don't realize it, you can just click off of it or click the little X or whatever, try to find a way to close out faster.

Random popups, random little engagement elements that interrupt the experience, we try to find ways to kill those if we see that they're killing conversions or that they're killing user engagement. Some of those things actually increase user engagement.

For example, Drift is a really cool tool that allows for this whole conversational marketing element to take place. That tool alone increases engagement on your site or increases time on page if somebody interacts with it.

If somebody clicks on it and they start a conversation, it doesn't matter that they're just ... the page is just sitting there in the background. Whatever page it is, suddenly they're interacting in this little chat box over here and that page has longer user engagement now. Little metrics like that, little things like that can help.

I would recommend the use of video so long as it makes sense to the audience.

That's something you need to test. When you do load video on your page, something I'd recommend is to use something like Wistia or some kind of video that allows you to have analytics within the video and see how many people are actually interacting with that video element out of the total visitors coming to the page. If it's a very small portion, it may not make sense and it may not help you. You may actually want to A/B test having the video on page versus not.

One thing that I've seen work well is the promise of a video but the video's embedded way down the page, so it forces you to scroll. As you scroll, you're scrolling past really interesting images and bolded text and headings and things like that that catch your eye and slow you down, cause you to spend more time on the page before you even get to the video.

These are all just interesting techniques that I don't think are manipulative, I think are intelligent. If you do it in a genuine way, I think it works really well.

Kathleen: Now are you finding that you're building out or you're working with your clients to build out longer pages because of this?

Jeremiah: Depends again. A lot of times, yes.

A lot of times, the competition is showing long pages and that's what's ranking. We're in a position where we're either going to have to come up with some stellar short content that is just silver bullet short content or we're just going to have to play the game and write some long content, too.

Most of the time we find ourselves in a position where we're trying to write a little bit longer content than whatever is consistently ranking well and just play leap frog.

That just tends to be the name of the game.

Now of course in that regard, you don't want to go stuffing fluff into content. That's something that we're very careful about and we steer away from. If we find that it's difficult for us to break an 800 word threshold on a subject, then we'll start digging into the search results for that subject and use a little bit of the skyscraper technique, which is where you take a keyword.

You grab the top several results and pull from all those pieces as sources and rewrite some of that content into your own and reorganize it. You're adding the average value of the top 10 results in Google into one article. It tends to be a lot more weighty and help you in the rankings.

That's what we find ourselves doing in the event that we can't fill up a piece of content as easily without adding fluff.

Kathleen: Yeah. Gosh, there's so much here that I want to ask you about. It's interesting.

To hit rewind, we have Drift on our site and we implemented it, I want to say, back in March. It's definitely increased engagement quite dramatically to the point where we originally had one person manning the live chat and now we have three.

It's been very interesting to watch. I think especially if you have somebody good who understands how to engage in a live chat conversation, it can make a tremendous difference. I remember though we were worried at the time about what Drift was going to do to our page load speed, especially on mobile, because Google is looking so much more closely at mobile page load times.

I don't think at IMPACT, we have not become subject yet to mobile first indexing, but that's something that we kind of obsess over. I know Drift loads asynchronously and so in theory at least, it shouldn't affect your page rank on mobile. But it's a cool product and it's hugely ... it's made a tremendous difference in terms of engagement.

Jeremiah: Yeah. There is that challenge, too. This is a huge challenge for SEO specifically is the trade-off between user engagement ... well, it's not a trade-off between user engagement. It is a feature that may help user engagement in one way but hurt it in another where, just like what you're saying, where Drift improves user engagement because you're offering a feature that they didn't have before.

There's a technical load that comes with it that actually slows down the experience and that actually hurts user engagement. It's trying to decide, well, is this worth it or not? Is this hurting us or not? There are a lot of those kinds of things that we run into where we have to make decisions. We have to tell clients to maybe cut features that are good features but they're hurting them technically.

Kathleen: Yeah.

Jeremiah: Just wait til a better solution comes around or try to develop one or find one yourself. Those are sometimes better options, but yeah, it's fun to have all these tools to play with, too.

I think that that's something us marketers get carried away with is the next flashy thing. I know we do that at SimpleTiger all the time. We're big nerds, so you'll come to our site and we don't follow the rules we're talking about on our own site. We're testing everything.

Kathleen: Neither do we.

Jeremiah: Oh my gosh. I've got way too much code on the back end tracking everything. I've got Drift and all these things popping up and sliding in. You'd just be like, "Ugh, SimpleTiger's awful."

But yeah, we're testing stuff to see what works, see what we like and what helps, what hurts. That way, whenever a client runs into an issue, we've seen it before at least on our own site. The very first client, we can go ahead and fix something for them.

Kathleen: Amen.

It's so funny because we are the exact same way. We are so "Do as I say, not as I do" because we're constantly testing to see if going the opposite direction of what everybody else is doing might work.

We've always said we need to be a laboratory. We need to make the mistakes on ourselves and learn from them so that we are not exposing our clients to more risk than they need to have.

It's an interesting dynamic with agencies where very often, they are not necessarily exemplifying best practices. That's because we are testing and trying to be a little bit more leading edge, which is interesting.

Jeremiah: Yeah. I agree. My brother and I joked about starting a side business to be our guinea pig for everything so we don't ruin our agency with all the experiments we're running, you know?

Kathleen: Yeah. I'm curious, you mentioned moving from Google used to be all about links and keywords. Now you're moving more in the direction of solving for the user. How much of that do you think is connected with this evolution that Google is undergoing right now from an algorithmic-based search result to using RankBrain and artificial intelligence and contextual information to deliver a search result?

Jeremiah: Sure. I think something that's important to keep in mind when you're talking about this is the idea when we throw around the term 'artificial intelligence', we have a difficult time ... people dream up what artificial intelligence means on the spot.

I think if you asked 10 people, their answers are going to be largely different. But really when we're using a rudimentary calculator, it is a form of artificial intelligence.

It's just a very, very simple form of it, right? It's performing calculations that are very hard for you and me to perform in our minds for us right in front of us using simple inputs that were pre-programmed. It is an artificial machine. Google always has been, in some definitions, artificially intelligent.

What we're going to see though is that Google is going to get so good at predicting what a user wants before the user requests it, that Google already is ready to serve that thing up and give it to them. They're going to do that by reading inputs and reading metrics ahead of time that we have given into Google to show them what we value.

So Google's really following us and then forecasting out making predictions and then trying to provide that forecast right now so that it can get smarter.

If we validate that forecast, then that checks one box over here for Google and they head more in that direction.

If we invalidate it by scrolling through Google and not finding what we want, then they invalidate that forecast and they move a different direction.

We're actually responsible for educating Google on all that and we do have to keep that in mind.

That said, I think the best thing that you could do right now is if you've been playing the white hat SEO game all along, this is your renaissance. This is your chance to just really keep pushing hard with what you've always done because Google now has the system set up to especially reward that.

What I mean by that is the way users are searching for things and engaging with content about their areas of interest and things that they find valuable is now going to become easier for them to do and easier for Google to reward those who provide a good experience for them.

If you are genuinely producing good quality content, you know you are. You've been giving away the farm for years. You've been following the rules, you've been doing everything right, and you're still leaning forward. You're still being innovative, you're still pushing, you're trying to create new types of content, things like that. 

You're going to start getting rewarded by watching competition disappear in search, the ones who are really trying to listen to their users in a human way, listen to your actual customers instead of surveys and things like that, have phone calls with them, listen to their pain points and stuff like that.

By listening to that and then producing content, answering questions around it, doing it through social mediums that make the most sense to that audience, you're really going to be rewarded. One example I think of a company that's doing a very good job with that who's always done a very good job with SEO is Sierra Interactive.

Will Reynolds has some really cool projects that he's worked on where they've done very deep, qualitative research into their clients' customer base to get a much better idea of what those customers value, what they're looking for, so that they know what they can provide in terms of content and experience and engagement on the site.

Their clients have been massively rewarded with really good rankings, lots of good traffic, things like that from it.

Kathleen: When you work with clients these days, are there certain things that you see when you go onto a new client's website that are really common items that should be addressed and that have been overlooked?

I'm sure a lot of the companies you're working with have pretty good SEO fundamentals taken care of. They've got their meta titles and descriptions decently well-written. Their image sizes are compressed. I don't know, maybe they're not.

What are the top five things that you're like, "Oh, that again"?

Jeremiah: Yeah. That's a fantastic question.

I've got to be honest, everyone's got a blind spot and nobody sees it better than the third point of view. Sometimes we are just in a beneficial position just because we aren't our client. If anyone was sitting in our position, they would have been better off to hire them as well as us. It doesn't matter.

Just because we're the third point of view and we know what we know, we're able to help them with a lot of the blind spots.

A lot of the stuff that we're seeing is actually stuff that ... well, for example in our industry, we tend to have SaaS companies are really, really good, I think, at simplicity to a large degree.

We work with a lot of SaaS companies who are very lean, very simple, and I love that. They give us a very clean slate to work with. They are minimalist to a large degree. That can hurt you with SEO, but sometimes they understand that all that needs to be there is that which is valuable.

So you look at their blog and you just find, wow, every article is very well-written. They only do one a month, but they're good pieces of content or something like that.

That's not all the time, but what we often see though is that due to that minimalism, they're not honoring other elements that are actually going to serve their business. For example on that well-written blog, there is no way for me to engage deeper with your company or subscribe to your blog or to get some kind of a PDF download or to get something for giving you my email address.

There's no offering, there's no carrot on a stick, there's no foot in the door offer. You're not trying to build a relationship with me, you're just showing me great content.

I appreciate the great content. From an SEO perspective, that's awesome. Once the traffic gets there, what are they going to do? The only other option is for them to just decide, "Well, it's time for me to buy this."

That is, as we know, not the case.

People aren't just going to say "I want to buy this thing" right away, they want to get into a relationship. They want to progressively create buy-in.

What we spend a lot of our times doing is actually suggesting stuff that's not directly related to SEO, but impacts it or impacts the results that make me look good. If I'm bringing traffic to your site but it doesn't move your company's revenue needle at all, you're going to fire us plain and simple.

If instead, the traffic that's coming to your site stays the same and it gets higher quality and that moves your revenue, that looks good on us. If we can bring traffic to the site, it's higher quality traffic, but then we can show you how to convert that traffic into some kind of relationship, marketing or sales relationship, then the conversion rate really improves, then the revenue improves, and we really keep our job for the long haul.

That's what we find ourselves doing most of the time is helping clients equip their sites to actually handle the traffic that we're going to send them. Sometimes by just putting that in place, they start getting conversions and they think we hit a magic button with SEO. We actually didn't do any SEO yet. We were just helping you get your funnels set up and then we're going to start doing the optimization and the improvements.

Kathleen: Got it.

How Will Screenless Voice Search Impact SEO?

Kathleen: Now one of the big changes that I've been watching closely and I'm curious to get your thoughts on is the shift to screen-less search or voice search. I've got an Alexa. I've got actually two. Amazon Echo is in my house. One is called Alexa, one's called Echo.

Jeremiah: Nice.

Kathleen: We had to give them different names, otherwise everything starts going off at once now.

When you think about ... and it's the same with Siri ... when you think about asking a voice search engine a question, really it seems like what we're moving in the direction of is search engines that only deliver one answer as opposed to the SERPs, which have delivered many, many answers and we can scroll through to find the best one.

It feels like we're moving in the direction of letting the search engine do all that vetting and deliver us the one answer.

What are your thoughts on that? How are you preparing your clients for that? What do you think is going to happen in voice?

Jeremiah: Sure. We actually, luckily enough, get hardly anyone asking us about voice search for in regards to our clients asking us "We want to be prepared for voice search." It largely has to do with the industry that we're in. Our clients, there's hardly any commercial interest in voice search whatsoever for our target clientele.

Now if you're out there and you are a pizza shop downtown or you're a restaurant in town or you're an oil change place or a plumber, an air conditioning company, something like that, voice search, I think is actually something you're gonna have to deal with at some point.

And it is going to become more aggressive and there is going to be a future there but I don't think it's quite the final frontier that people that it is.

I don't think that we're going to have a mass exodus from screen engagement into screenless engagement. I think it's just an additional feature, in the same way that the Amazon Kindle is to books. You know, you didn't get rid of books because we have the Kindle. Books still exist. You got a lot there, I got a lot over here, you know?

Kathleen: Mm-hmm (affirmative).

Jeremiah: But, I still use my Kindle a lot and I love using my Kindle, it's fantastic. It's a new feature so I think that we need to consider that when we're thinking about voice search, that it is just a new way to search but I don't think it's a replacement for search.

Now, that said, I think that since it's an input, the output is what we're always looking for as searchers. We're looking for the result. Well, is the result that you're looking for, is it contextually relevant to a voice environment or a screen environment?

For example, if I'm looking for E-commerce products, I'm not gonna do that on voice search, unless I know exactly what it is that I was and maybe it's a model number and I rattle it off and my Amazon device verifies that model number, puts it in a shopping cart then I'm fine with that. But even then I still feel a little uncomfortable. I kinda wanna see the picture so I know that it knows what I'm talking about, right?

But when it comes to what time is it, what's the weather like, when is the next full moon, when is Mother's day, things like that, you have a lot less commercial opportunity there, you know? Like what kind of companies could make money off of those searches?

That's what you have to think about and the reason you have to think about that is because search is a money making industry. 98% of Google's market cap is ads wrapped around their search results. It's advertising.

So on a voice search, if I asked for something am I gonna have to hear two or three ads spoken to me before I get to my result? Because if I am I'm not gonna be asking that machine a lot of questions, right? That's gonna drive me nuts. And if I don't hear a bunch of ads then who's making money off of that search, right? So you do have to think about that.

However, pizza shop in town, A/C company, plumber, those kinds of guys I think are gonna have to deal with the fact that a lot of people are gonna start talking to their Amazon devices and using voice search to take care of almost like personal assistant tasks in a way and so that kind of stuff there is commercial intent for.

The pizza shop in town's gonna have to find a way to get into whatever database Amazon considers important or Siri considers important when they go doing those voice searches and getting into those databases and playing with those algorithms because Amazon has usurped Bing and Yahoo as the second largest search engine.

Kathleen: Yeah.

Jeremiah: And so they're now up against Google and we have to keep that in mind.

We talk to Google, we talk to Windows machines, Siri machines, Amazon machines. We now have all these new search engines that we get to optimize for based on what industry you're in. But again, I think it all goes back to commercial intent.

Kathleen: Yeah. And side note, if you are an Alexa user, this podcast has an Alexa skill so you can go into the skills in your app and search for "inbound success" and you will find it there, if you want to hear these kinds of conversations once a week coming out of your Alexa.

It's interesting. I don't know how that's going to do. I figured go play around and put it in there but it'll be interesting how many people actually listen to it.

Jeremiah: Yeah.

Kathleen: So I'm curious. In terms of delivering that one result I feel like the corollary on a computer to the voice search is Google Featured Snippets or what people are calling "position zero." Are you working with any clients on how to optimize for the Featured Snippet or for position zero? And also, have you seen your clients lose any organic traffic to position zero?

Jeremiah: Yeah, yeah.

So we've run into some interesting situations with the whole position zero thing. We've had a couple of clients perform well in that space, a couple of pieces of content that we wrote for them got picked and converted into those Featured Snippets and that's always like high fives all around the agency whenever that happens because we're like, "Look at this thing!" because that's completely automatic.

Google is like, "Hey, we will decide if we are going to use that or not." And you really have to throw them something good for them to put it up there because they're trusting you with so much when they just say, "Yeah, here's what this one guy says is the answer to the problem of Google here."

Kathleen: Yeah.

Jeremiah: And so that's a big deal but at the same time we're finding that yeah, sometimes we do lose a little traffic to Featured Snippet results but I don't know that it's the best traffic that we're losing. Because, for example, some of our clients are actually, if they're considering, like for example, a SaaS product, they're gonna do a lot of research, they're gonna dig around and they're gonna make a decision after forging a relationship with someone.

That quick little answer may have helped them for a brief moment but if that's all they needed then they're actually not the client that we wanted in our case.

Now that's just us and that's our typical client. That's not everyone. So I totally understand that's not a blanket application there but I would say that, that's something to consider. That's something to keep in mind.

Google ultimately thinks that by providing such a clear, simple result like that, that it's going to help users have better engagement with Google.

But what we also have to keep in mind is how does that serve Google, right? In the long run, the idea there is if we give a good enough experience to the user then they will trust Google more, they'll use Google more and later on they may click an ad.

But it's not all gonna go to this zero search result because if it did then when would people ever click on an ad? And Google would never make money again and now they're a non-profit search engine. That doesn't make sense, right?

Kathleen: Right.

Jeremiah: So I don't see them going that direction either. And I feel like I sound cynical talking about it like this but I just understand the direction of commerce so much that when something like that works well it's almost like a loss leader where they're trying to give us something to keep using Google but they really want us to go click on some ads, you know, once we get there.

Kathleen: Yeah, I mean they're a business too.

Jeremiah: Right.

Kathleen: It's easy to forget that Google's a business too and they are in a competitive landscape and they have to stay on top.

Jeremiah: Right, right.

Kathleen: It makes sense.

Jeremiah: Yup. They're not a free public utility.

Kathleen: Yeah. I feel like I could spend literally hours asking you all of the SEO questions I have in my head that I want answers to but we have limited time and so I wanna make sure that I squeeze in the two questions I always like to ask every guest.

Jeremiah: Sure.

Kathleen's Two Questions

Kathleen: Just to get perspective. So taking a step back, you work with a lot of different companies. You obviously follow a lot of thought leaders online, you mentioned Brian Dean.

Company or individual, who do you think is doing inbound marketing really well right now? Who would you point to as the best practice?

Jeremiah: I actually have several, to be honest. First of all, I wanna say I genuinely and without patronizing I genuinely think you guys are awesome. I've seen a lot of the work that you guys produce and everything at Impact and I'm blown away at just how simple and clean you guys make things sometimes.

Kathleen: Aw, thank you.

Jeremiah: I like good, clean execution of the inbound marketing methodology and you guys just do a rockstar job of that. It's so cool.

Kathleen: Thank you.

Jeremiah: Kudos to you guys on that.

I think a couple of others that I'm crazy about that kind of come from my SEO industry and just like deep SEO nerds that have over time evolved as leaders, not just in SEO but in marketing in general and I've followed them from day one, would be Distilled and Seer Interactive. I really like what the guys do at those companies.

Distilled, I'm really interested in the fact that they've got this, I think they call it, their optimization distribution network or ODN, and they're constantly using their own artificial intelligence to test their results against Google to see what they're doing for clients works best and then going that direction.

So smart and so brilliant.

Kathleen: Distilled has some pretty cool training programs too you can enroll in online if you wanna learn more.

Jeremiah: Yeah. We've got our team, we have an account with them, Distilled U, and our whole team's gone through. We love Distilled. They're very cool guys. They give away a lot of cool stuff. And I know some people from there too, really good people.

Kathleen: Yeah.

Jeremiah: And then Seer Interactive, I