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How Inbound Marketing Can Revolutionize Your Local Business - Interview With Marcus Sheridan

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On this episode of the Small Business Marketing Show I talk with inbound marketing expert Marcus Sheridan...a/k/a The Sales Lion!

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Listen as Marcus describes how he used inbound marketing to grow his local pool construction company during a down economy.

  • Discover the Law of Compound Information
  • What it takes to be successful with content marketing
  • The simple "They ask, You answer" formula for creating great content
  • How the content marketing "CSI" affects your success

If you want to attract your ideal clients online you need to listen to this interview with Marcus!

Go here to learn more about Marcus Sheridan.

Episode Transcript

Steve: Welcome to the Small Business Marketing Show. This is Steve Gordon of Steve Gordon Marketing Systems. Today, I want to welcome you to a really special show. We’ve got a great guest today. I’m really pleased to introduce you all to Marcus Sheridan.

Marcus is going to tell us his story in a minute. I love the story he’s going to tell, because he comes from what I call the real world of business. He doesn’t come from a business that was built on internet marketing or built solely to marketing on the internet. He comes from what I consider real-world business and has done some amazing things. I think it will be a very informative call for everybody today. I want to thank you for being here.

Marcus, thank you for being here. I’m excited to talk to you. If you would, please give everybody a quick little background. I’d love for you to tell the story of how you got into internet marketing, because you’ve done some really neat things.

Marcus: Steve, thanks for the intro. Hello everyone out there in the podcast world. It’s a pleasure for me to be here, because I love talking about actionable stuff that works for businesses, especially having gone through this myself. You asked for a brief overview of my story, right? I’ll try to be as brief as I can.

In 2001, I opened a swimming pool company in Virginia. We started to grow that company. We installed inground pools. It’s called River Pools and Spas, by the way. Things were going okay until about November 2008 when the market crashed. The housing bubble burst. All of a sudden, people left and right were withdrawing the deposits they had put on inground pool installations. We were in big trouble, man. We were in big trouble. Our company had to install about 70 inground pools a year to meet our overhead and be successful, based on the amount of employees and such.

When the crash occurred, our big problem was that we didn’t have any money for marketing and advertising, as we had always done. We had to increase our reach, because there were so few people now that could actually afford to buy a pool, because so many people were in the water with their home values.

It was during this time that I started researching. I stumbled across the site HubSpot. For those that aren’t familiar with them, they’re the ones that have really become champions of the phrase “inbound marketing.” I started reading about inbound marketing—the process of becoming attractive to consumers because of the information that we have on our website. For me, as somebody with a degree in teaching, it made total sense to me.

So our approach was, okay, we see where the trend is going. People are doing all their research online. We don’t want to be left behind. We can’t afford all this shotgun marketing that we’ve always done: yellow pages, radio, tv, all that junk. We spend a couple hundred thousand dollars a year on advertising.

What we did, Steve, was a really simple strategy. I sat and I brainstormed every single question that I had ever received from a client, a prospect, a consumer. I wrote all those questions out. Then each question, I turned into a title of what would become a blog post. Then I answered it, just like I would answer it if I was talking to a homeowner sitting at their kitchen table, right?

So really, our golden rule for our marketing approach became they ask—the consumer asked—we answer. So they ask, we answer with our compass of what we should write about. I didn’t use any keyword tools, didn’t use Google, didn’t use any of that stuff. If somebody asked me a question, I think, “Okay Marcus, have you answered that yet on the website?” If I hadn’t, I would go and I would turn that question into a title of a blog post. I’d write out the answer.

A couple of things happened, man. First thing that happened was, Google quickly fell in love with our stuff, because there was somebody that was finally thinking like a consumer, talking like a consumer, acting like a consumer, and willing to address their questions. I was number one.

Number two. Consumers, pool shoppers, they fell in love with us too and started spending an incredible amount of time on the website, which changed our sales process, which changed of course traffic leads and sales, our brand.

Today, to make a long story really short, we have the most trafficked swimming pool website in the world. We are very successful. All of our advertising or marketing is essentially the internet. It’s really, really amazing. It’s changed my life.

Now, I talk about that experience on The Sales Lion, which is my marketing company and blog. I still have the swimming pool company, but I talk about all those experiences that I have with River Pools and the techniques that I used, and now the techniques that I’ve implemented with other companies. That’s found at www.thesaleslion.com. That’s our story, man. That’s it.

Steve: It’s a great story, because you’ve taken something that a lot of people talk about. You mentioned a term, inbound marketing. Some people call it content marketing. Can you kind of describe the process and how it works?
A lot of the folks who listen to this are probably getting hit up by the yellow pages rep and the tv rep and the newspaper rep who are coming around trying to sell them ads on a regular basis. For a lot of businesses, that’s the framework that they have for marketing.

This idea of publishing content I think scares a lot of people, because it sounds like an awful lot of work. You’re talking about writing blog posts and you’ve got to get a blog set up, and all these seemingly complicated things. Can you kind of just break it down a little bit in terms of what you did?

Marcus: Absolutely. Just so you know, when it comes to vernacular, we’re crazy about this, because we say the word inbound marketing, content marketing. To me really, I look to them as essentially, close to the same thing.
The bottom line is this. If we want to be great in the information age—which is the age we’re now in, in a digital world—we’ve got to be great communicators and great teachers. That just starts with great listening.

If you listen well, you hear what consumers are saying, you hear their problems, their concerns, their issues. When you hear that, you do something about it. So you teach them through producing content in the text or video format on your website or other website in a digital form, right? And you communicate that in a way that they can understand it.
In other words, the goal isn’t to sound intelligent. The goal of all marketing that we do—certainly content, inbound, digital, social—the goal is the person that reads it says, “Ha! I got it. I understand now. I know what I need to do. That answers my question.”

That’s the goal. The goal isn’t that we use our industry speak—if you will—and confuse people, because that’s what happens too often. You see all these crazy definitions of content marketing and blogging. Let’s just throw all that out for a minute.

Our goal is to listen well. If we listen well, we teach well. By teaching well, we’ve got to communicate well. If we communicate well, we’re going to get the reward. The reward goes back to those two parties I mentioned earlier: the search engines like Google and real consumers. When they read your stuff, they say, “Man, this guy, this gal thinks like me. He cares about my needs. He’s willing to answer and address my question.”

I think we make it way, way too difficult. I’ll tell you what, man. Those whole outbound marketing techniques, they’re so short-lived. In 2007, to achieve about $4 million in sales, I had to spend $250,000 on advertising. In 2012, to achieve almost $5 million in sales, we spent a little bit under $20,000 in advertising.

We’ve grown our business yet decreased advertising. We’ve grown in a time when most pool companies are still—to this day—down somewhere between 40% to 70% of what they were four years ago. Do you know what I mean? That’s all because we’ve decided to become the best teachers in the world at what we do.

When a company changes its mentality to that of teachers, everything changes. They see the world from the eyes of the student. Most never do that, man. They’re always like, I love using this phrase, “It’s called a blog, not a brag,” right? Because companies want to just talk about how awesome they are on their website. Well the fact is, nobody cares how awesome you are until you’ve taught them something they didn’t know, until you’ve addressed a problem that they have.

90% of my website is a teaching mechanism, where I’m teaching and teaching and teaching; helping them understand stuff. 10% is, “Hey, I’m awesome. Give us a call.”

Steve: As I work with a business, one of the things I try to get them to understand is that paid media can be good. It has its place. But you’ve got to understand that when you stop paying for it, they stop delivering leads.

What you’re really talking about is, over time, building up an asset that if you do it well, if you do it right… and I don’t think it’s all that hard to do it right, as long as you’re thinking about your customer. But now, you’ve got an asset that is likely to be shown in the search engines because they’ve got interest in connecting searchers with good content. If you produce good content that is customer focused, you’ve got it.

Now you’ve got that asset. You don’t have to pay for it over and over and over again, like you do if you’re running a tv commercial or a pay-per-click ad. I would imagine your investment will actually decrease over time. Initially, I’m sure you had a huge time investment. There are certainly costs to that, not necessarily hard cash out the door. There are costs to that. But that investment, I would imagine, even decreases over time.

Marcus: I look at it like this, Steve. Content--when done right--is a gift that keeps on giving. I always like to use the phrase “compound information,” because most people understand the law of compound interest. The law of compound interest is what allows us to be rich by the time we’re age 60. It’s really contingent upon two things: when we start investing and how often we make the investment.

The law of compound information is the exact same thing. If you want to be great, if you want to be rich as a company—I wouldn’t say rich; I’m just talking about being financially stable, generating leads continuously now and long-term—you’ve got to start producing content now. You can’t make up for time.

The person who starts investing at 30 versus the one at 20, even if they’re investing twice as much at age 30 to their account, they’re not going to be as wealthy by the time they’re age 60. It’s the same thing when it comes to the law of compound information. We’ve got to start investing now, not later. It’ll kill us if we wait five years. By that point, so many have jumped onboard this train.

The second component is how often we make the investment. If you have a blog—in other words, if you’re producing content—are you producing content and teaching people on your site once a week, once a month, once a year?

When I started this—like you said—I didn’t have a lot of hard cost. It was just me spending time. When people say to me, “Marcus, I don’t have the time.” I didn’t have the time either. I was working 55 to 65 hours a week like most other entrepreneurs. I would get home late at night—11:30 PM—and write blog posts on my kitchen table with a little lamp on, and nobody else in my house was awake. That’s what I did. I have produced content in crazy places. I’ve written blog articles in parking lots, in between appointments. You pretty much name it, I’ve done it. That’s what I had to do, because I was going to lose my business, Steve. I had no choice.

Unfortunately, the sad reality is, most people will not do this until they’re faced with financial hardship and they’re on the brink. It just doesn’t make sense.

There’s one single article I’ve talked so much about. I’ve briefly described this they ask, we answer mentality or they ask, you answer—which by the way, is going to be the title of my first book on hard back. I’m really excited about this whole principle of they ask, you answer.

For years, I had people ask, “How much does a fiberglass pool cost?” That’s always the first question a pool guy gets. How much does a concrete pool cost? In business, people always bring up cost within the first 5 to 10 minutes. I don’t care if it’s service, product, B2B, B2C, local, national. It doesn’t matter. It’s all the same. We all want to know about money.

Three and a half years ago—when I started this principle of following the golden rule—nobody, no website in the world, Steve, had addressed the singular question, “How much does a fiberglass pool cost?” No pool guy had done this, which is preposterous considering it’s always the first consumer question. We all know the reason why: they’re afraid of competition, they’re afraid to scare people, blah blah blah.

The fact is, in this day and age… let’s say you’re looking for how much something costs, Steve. When you go on a website and you can’t find it quickly, you bounce. You’re gone. Every single person listening to this podcast right now is the same way. We’ve all grown incredibly impatient online. We want answers fast and furious. We want them quick. If we can’t find them, we’re going to bounce and go to the next website. But if we do find the information jackpot—the site that’s willing to think like us and talk like us and answer our questions—man, now we’re more loyal than ever. We’ll stay there for a long, long time. That’s just the facts. It’s like that in every single industry.

So I wrote that article—how much a fiberglass will cost—because I was following the golden rule of they ask, you answer. Immediately, Google said, “My goodness, somebody finally answered this question.” It was the first page for almost every fiberglass pool cost-related keyword phrase you could type in.
Right now, if anybody types in “fiberglass pool cost” or, “How much does a fiberglass pool cost?” or, “What’s the average cost of a fiberglass pool?” or, “How much does an inground pool cost?” we’re going to be on the first page of Google, usually ranked number one every single time.

Because we can track the people that have come to our site from that article based on the analytics that we use—we use HubSpot—and if they fill out a form which says, “Hey, contact me,” I’m able to see how that particular lead came into the system.

In other words, what the keyword that they typed in was and what article they landed on. Eventually, I’m able to say, well, because these leads became customers and because these customers typed in these particular phrases and landed on these particular blog articles, I can give an actual return on investment (ROI) to a specific article. This is available to any company.

To make a long story short, Steve, that one article, “How much does a fiberglass pool cost?” has led so far to—at a minimum, what I can track—$1.2 million in sales. That is a huge amount for me as a pool guy. That’s a lot, a lot, a lot, a lot. These are phrases that, had I not shown up in the search, they never would have found me, man. They just wouldn’t have found me.
The principle applies to everything. Literally, there are no exceptions. In some markets, I’ve been hearing that there are certain problems with fiberglass pools. So be honest, what are the problems with fiberglass pools? Again, that’s a question. That means I’ve got to answer it. I have an article titled “Top 5 Fiberglass Pool Problems and Solutions” on our website. It’s gets about 30,000 to 40,000 reads a year. So far, it’s made somewhere around $500,000 in sales.

The number one lead generating phrase that people type in to become a lead—other than River Pool and Spas, which is a direct one that doesn’t count—is fiberglass pool problems. Think about that. I’m actually talking about the problems of my own product. I am honest in that article. We say, “There are certain drawbacks to fiberglass pools. Here’s what they are.” So you see, that’s the beauty of being willing to answer.

I call it the antithesis of ostrich marketing. Most companies are like ostriches, possibly one of the dumbest animals on Earth. When they see a problem, they bury their head in the sand. They think it’ll go away and that by the time they come back out, it’ll be gone. It doesn’t work that way for the ostrich, and it certainly doesn’t work that way for businesses.

If somebody asked you a question like, “How much does your product cost?” you shouldn’t ignore the question and say, “Well, I’ll just wait until they get to the store,” or, “I’ll wait until I talk to them.” It doesn’t mean that you have to specifically give a cost. But you have to be able to address it. There is a big difference between addressing and answering questions.

For example, you can go read the, “How much does a fiberglass pool cost?” article. Never once did I say, “Your pool will cost you this much.” I said, “It’s like buying a car. It can range. It varies. Tons of options here, folks. But you might be anywhere between $20,000 and $80,000 on average. It could be higher than that depending on what you get.” But I did at least address the question.
Google views that as an answer. Consumers are satisfied that somebody’s taken the time to think like them and address their question. Now they’re in my house, a.k.a. my website. They’re going to start to read more content. The more content they read, every single article induces more trust. With more trust comes the fact that they’re closer and closer to filling out forms for or calling the source, “Hey Marcus,” or, “Hey River Pools, help me with this.”

Again, people think that what I’m talking about, their industry is the exception to this principle, Steve. It’s not the case. Whether you’re a B2B or a B2C, this golden rule applies. If you’re a great listener, you’ll never run out of blog content, content for your website. Search engines will love you and people will love you. You’ve just got to figure out how to apply it to your industry, because the principle of communication and listening is the same.

Steve: You mentioned a really important word there—trust. I think a lot of people and a lot of businesses want to walk away from the price question. It’s important to answer the price question because most of the time when people ask it, they just want a frame of reference. They’re not necessarily using it to price shop.

If you’re buying something that’s totally commoditized—something you could buy on amazon.com—yeah, maybe they’re doing that. But for most of us in business, we’re selling stuff that’s a little more complicated than that.

Really, the trust piece is more important than the price, as long as the price is somewhere within reason. They just want a frame of reference. By putting it out there while everyone else is hiding it, you’re building trust. You’re showing that, “Hey, we’re transparent. We’re going to give you an honest answer.”

I think it goes a long way especially in making a complicated sale, like a lot of the people listening to this deal with every day. Having that transparency, talking about the problems is important, because every product and every service has its weaknesses. People actually appreciate it when you let them know, “Hey, here are the pros and cons. Here are the pros and cons of maybe a competing thing. You figure out which one is best for you, but I’m going to lay it all out.” If you’re the one that lays it all out for them, who are they going to trust?

Marcus: That’s exactly right. It goes back to… you have a choice. You can be the ostrich or not. Also, every second somebody is on your website, they’re closer to buying your stuff.

When we talk about price, people raise their hand and say, “No, this won’t work. It’s a service-based business.” Again, that’s a bunch of hooey, because if somebody called up a service-based business and said, “Roughly, how much can I expect to spend?” eventually, they’re going to get some type of answer. It might not be a direct number, but like you said, you’re at least giving a range. Your answer might be, “It’s impossible, because our customers spend between $0 and $1 million, and here are the factors that dictate it.” But at least, hey, you addressed the question.

You can simplify this even further. What we’re talking about here is how the mind of today’s consumer has changed. Ten years ago, Steve, if you find a car that looks really cool on a car lot and you call in and say, “Hey, I saw you have this car. How much is it?” what’s the guy going to say back then? He’s going to say, “Oh Steve, yeah. That’s a good car. Why don’t you come on in? We’ll show it to you. Come on in. Have a look.” You didn’t ever answer the question.

Often times, people would still go to the lot and look. Today, we don’t have the patience for that and we don’t put up with it. Today, if you called the car guy and you said, “How much is this?” and he didn’t answer your question, what would you do? Everybody else, the same thing. We would get mad. We would maybe hang up. If we didn’t hang up, when we got off the phone, we’d never talk to that company again, because we’re in a different era.

This is the era of transparent marketing. It doesn’t mean that we show every single price in the world. But it means we’re willing to address every single question you ask.

Steve: If folks who are listening to this are saying, “Okay, this is great. I want to start blogging,” so they go to their web person and they get a blog set up. They start brainstorming all the questions that their prospects and customers ask and write the answers to that and put some posts up, that will get them moving forward.

But as I was reading your e-book—it’s over on thesaleslion.com—the thing that just jumped out at me was that you said you didn’t start networking quickly enough. I found this to be true as well. Why is networking with other folks that are also publishing online in your industry important?

Marcus: Networking is the answer to what I call CSI, which is the content saturation index of an industry. The higher the CSI or the more content is out there, the more you’re going to need to network in order to help your content get noticed and to develop followers, fans, readers—whatever you want to call it.

With River Pools, because the CSI was so low—in other words, people weren’t producing content in the pool industry, and they’re still not for the most part—I didn’t have to network at all, man. It was easy. I just had to answers questions. Because there were no answers out there, Google fell in love quick and so did the consumers.

When I got to the marketing realm and started teaching about marketing from The Sales Lion, immediately I was like, “Doggone, man. I’m not getting traction here.” That’s because every single marketing company, agency, consultant or whatever, had a blog. I had to network, and I had to get my name and my voice out there. They’re two different strategies.

Networking is important. It’s not as critical in certain industries, because if you’ve got nobody to network with—and sometimes it’s the case, believe it or not—well then, you just be your own little content renegade like I was in the pool industry. Produce the content and answer the question, you’re going to be successful. But if you’re writing about a niche like sales, marketing, personal development, politics or religion, there are a lot of content out there, there might be a lot to cover, and you might need to build your network. You might need to use social media.

For River Pools, I didn’t use social media. I didn’t use Facebook and Twitter to build that huge audience, because I didn’t need to. All I needed to do—because the CSI was so low—was answer the questions. Well again, I had to use social with The Sales Lion, because I was in the marketing, sales and business realm, where there were lots and lots of content.

Keep this in mind, Steve. You mentioned something that I don’t want to forget at this point. People get confused about this. A blog is simply a way of formatting information on your website. So your blog should not be a separate component of your website. It’s just more pages. Every blog article is a new page of your website. It shows differently though than your average page.

Sometimes people say, “Well, I have a blog and I have a website.” I’m like, that’s messed up. If somebody is reading your blog, they should feel like they’re on your website. They shouldn’t feel like they’ve gone somewhere else, to a different home. They should feel like they’re still there. Your blog articles—in fact, links to your blog articles—are sprinkled throughout your website. That’s very, very important. It’s amazing to me how many businesses screw that up.

Steve: That’s a good point. I guess I kind of take for granted that in this day and age, that most websites are being built on what I would call blogging platforms like WordPress and so many others that are out there. But I came across a client that hired a web designer. What they proposed originally was a static website. I said, “No, no, no. We can’t do that. There’s no way to grow that for the future.” So thank you for pointing that out, because I think that is an important distinction.

Marcus: Like I said, it’s critical. Most of the clients I had—especially when you get closer to mid-sized businesses—they’ve got custom junk that the website was built on. So at that point, they had to figure out a way to integrate a blog platform like WordPress.

We just can’t predict that, because to this day, there’s this misnomer about what blogging is. I think the definition has actually changed. Like I said, at present, a blog is a format of information on your website. That’s what a blog is.

Until people fully understand that, they’re still going to misconstrue, really, what we’re talking about. I don’t even like to call it blogging. I like to call it, in a sense, education-based marketing. We’re answering questions. Each question gets its own specific page on the website. It happens to be considered a blog article.

Steve: I think that’s real helpful. As folks get started on blogging… you’ve been through this, I’ve been through it. You get going, you’re writing articles left and right, you start out, and you’ve got all this energy that you’re just going to overtake the world with this blog.

Then maybe you make it a month into it, maybe you make it two months into it. You’re looking at your statistics, your analytics, and it doesn’t seem like you’re getting quite the traffic that you had expected. The world hasn’t rushed in.

I think all of us have kind of experienced this dip that you go through, where it gets a little bit tough to keep the momentum going. How long does it take and what was your experience with the dip, in getting through that? How did you kind of maintain momentum?

Marcus: That’s all industry-based, Steve. It’s all CSI based, depending on the content saturation index. When you start to have success is really going to be based on a couple of factors.

The number one factor is CSI. The number two factor is the way you title your blog posts, the pages of your website. People jack that up all the time. It is the number one screw up for new content marketers and bloggers. Number three is, how often you’re producing the content. You’ve got to be consistent. For the majority of businesses, produce at least two new pieces of content a week. Everybody wants to know how much. Well, at least two.

I’ve sat down with companies. We’ve brainstormed consumer questions. When we spent any bit of time on it, I’ve never come up with less than 100 in a brainstorming session with any company. Usually—if it’s say 5 to 10 employees—we can come up with 50 unique consumer questions within the first 5 to 10 minutes of brainstorming. In 30 minutes, we can come up with at least 100. That’s just the way it is.

Unfortunately, most don’t do that. They’re so attached to the numbers, but they’re not attached to doing it the right way. Doing it the right way is okay. So here is let’s say 100 blog posts. If you’ve got 100 blog posts, and if you do two blogs a week, that’s a year’s worth of content, right? You just need to write those questions out.

Now you have the titles. You know when you’re going to put them out there. It’s your editorial calendar. Then you just go. You just do. You don’t question. You don’t go, “Well, what if we don’t reach this number? What if that…” You just do it, because it’s who you are. It’s the culture. The culture is we’re teachers and we’re going to do this.

The other factor is, you have to implement that content into your sales process. So you shouldn’t write a blog article and die out. You should constantly be referring your customers, your clients, your prospects, to the content that you’ve written. If somebody comes to you and had a particular problem and you’ve written about it a couple of times on your blog, the next time you send them an e-mail, you should have links to those two blog articles. It’s amazing to me how many e-mails we send out that do not include content. It’s a huge mistake.

Can there be a dip? Yes, absolutely. But usually the dip comes with the fact that the person doesn’t truly see themselves as a teacher, has not disconnected as much with the sheer numbers as they are with, “This is who we are. This is what we do.” It’s like, “We do paychecks on Fridays. We blog Mondays and Wednesdays, because that’s what we do.” That’s the approach. That’s the mentality.

I’ve written at least two blog articles a week on The Sales Lion for three years. With River Pools—I don’t have to write as much now, but I still do—usually at least one a week. But for the first year, I did three a week. I’ve never hit a dip. The only reason why I’ve slowed down with River Pools is because I have so much traffic and I get so many leads, my company is not built to even build the number of pools that could be sold from the marketing that we do, which is a good problem to have.

I think people go through dips when they have unrealistic expectations, when they don’t understand the whole purpose of their content. For example, let’s say I never got another new visitor to my site because of my content. I would still produce content, because I use that content as part of my sales process.

Just like if somebody comes to me and says, “I want a pool,” they have to read the e-book that came from the blog articles that we wrote on River Pools. See? We’re refurbishing that content. We’re using that as part of our sales process. When they read that, they’re so much better as a lead—as a customer—than they ever would have been otherwise.

If somebody comes to me at The Sales Lion and says, “Hey Marcus, I want you to help us with our content marketing,” I’m going to say, “Have you read my e-book?” If they haven’t, I’m going to make sure they read the e-book first, because that is going to establish the relationship of expertise. They’re going to know how I roll. They’re going to know how I think. They’re going to know my essential content marketing doctrine, if you will. That’s very, very important. So now when we have a deep conversation, they’re more advanced. The foundation has already been laid out.

When people get caught up solely on more traffic, more traffic, more traffic, they’re missing the mark of really what content marketing is all about. Yes, that’s a huge deal. But the other deal thing is, are we using the content to push that person down the sales funnel so they pop out as a great client? If we’re not, we need to start doing it.

Steve: I think that’s absolutely great advice. Now, a couple of things I want to make sure we get to before we wrap up. One is HubSpot. You mentioned that. I know you have a lot of good things to say about HubSpot. I don’t know if you want to share anything now about that.

Marcus: I like HubSpot. I was their first customer that actually became a value-added reseller. With a lot of marketing clients, they use HubSpot.

The thing about it is this. HubSpot is a great all-in-one tool. It’s an e-mail marketing tool and it’s an SEO tool. It’s also a lead tracking tool. That’s a huge deal. In other words, let’s say Steve, you come to my website right now at River Pools. You fill out a form. I looked at your information. But now I can look and say, “Okay, Steve. Before you filled out the form, you looked at this page, this page, and this page. This is the time of day that you came onto this site.” I can see exactly what content that you have read, any content that you have read after you filled out the form.

I can essentially track you, right? That is a huge deal. If I’m going on a sales appointment and I know that you’ve gone and read 30 pages and I know what those 30 pages are, I know your hot buttons. I’m inside your head. The sales appointment is going to be way more productive.

At the same time, I know that if a lead comes into the system that has barely read any portion of my site. I use this on The Sales Lion as well. People come to me all the time and say, “I’ve been reading your site.” They fill out a form. They tell me how they’ve read the site, but they’re just pitching something. I can look and see how they went to one page and then went to my contact page. They’re lying to me, and I just trash it.

Or if somebody tells me, “I’ve been all over your site, Marcus. I’m really interested,” I can see if they’re being sincere or not. I can see that sincere person that really just dove into the content and sucked it all up, and is really trying hard. I can see that they’re going to be a great client.

That’s what HubSpot does. It does lead tracking. They’ll promote things too. I don’t find it very expensive it all. For most people, it’s a few hundred dollars a month. For mid-sized companies, it might be $1,000 a month or so.

It’s not for everybody, because unless you’re producing content regularly, unless you’re looking at your analytics, unless you’re trying to be great online, it’s going to be a waste of time. It’s just a tool. It’s only as good as the person that’s using the tool. That’s why there are a lot of folks I say not to use HubSpot, because they would just be wasting their money.

Steve: I think that’s wise advice there at the end. Tell us a little bit about The Sales Lion. I want to make sure we direct folks over to your e-book there, because if they’ve listened to this and they’re thinking about getting into content marketing or they’re doing it already, you’ve got to go get the e-book that Marcus has written. It’s outstanding. How do they get that?

Marcus: I appreciate that, Steve. The site is The Sales Lion, like the animal. So thesaleslion.com. You’ll see right away that there’s a free e-book there. It’s a couple of hundred pages. It’s called “Inbound and Content Marketing Made Easy.” It’s literally been downloaded thousands of times all over the world. It’s changed businesses and lives all over the world. It is something that I’m incredibly proud of. It’s free. It’s my gift to everybody.

Content marketing, inbound marketing, changed my life so much. I was on the brink of financial ruin. It brought me out of that. I have so much passion to talk about it. That’s exactly why I give that e-book away for free.

Hopefully, your listeners will go there. If they read it and they apply it, they’re going to be on the top 1% of those that are in their particular niche and field. I’m telling you, they’ll be elite level and they’ll be there quickly. So thesaleslion.com.

Steve: It’s a phenomenal resource. I can’t believe you’re giving it away. Most people would get something that’s got that much meat in it and think, “God, this has got to be sold for a couple of hundred bucks.” But you’re giving it away. So everybody ought to go get it. It really is valuable.

Marcus, thanks so much for being with us today on the Small Business Marketing Show. This has been really informative. It’s been a lot of fun. I wish you luck.

Marcus: My pleasure, sir. Thanks everyone for listening today. Good luck to you and your business.

Inbound vs Outbound MarketingWho wins in a knife fight?

Lots of talk these days about inbound vs outbound marketing.

If you're part of the inbound marketing crowd, you peer over your latte with disdain for outbound marketers with their plaid jackets and offers of goods for sale.

If you're in the outbound tribe, you think…

"Those fools!"

"Relying on the all powerful Google to send you leads. Just wait until the next Purple Petunia update…your site will go from Page 1 to Page 342."

Here's the problem with this debate…

At the center is the word "OR."

This inbound vs. outbound choice is a false one.

The best inbound marketers are blogging and doing social media and generally getting themselves found.

Then they're using outbound emails and offline marketing to drive sales.

The top outbound marketers are driving web traffic and social media engagement using offline media--direct mail, TV, radio and print.

They work better together.

If I'm designing the ideal strategy for a company it's outbound marketing (probably direct mail or paid search) for quick results…

Combined with a strategically planned blog to begin building an inbound stream of leads (this takes time).

Studies show that inbound leads generally cost less to acquire.

That's great.

But you NEVER want to be reliant on one or just a few sources of leads.

ANY lead acquired at break even or at a profit is a good lead.

Happy hunting!

Steve Gordon

P.S. Looking for a clear path to generate leads consistently? Let's talk.

Danny Iny Interview - Engagement From Scratch (Transcript)

Listen to the audio of this episode of the Small Business Marketing Show

Complete Transcript

Steve: Hello everyone. Welcome to the Small Business Marketing Show. I'm your host, Steve Gordon. I'm the founder of Steve Gordon Marketing Systems, where we help small business owners get more clients on autopilot. You're on the Small Business Marketing Show. We are laser-focused on bringing you the real strategies that are working now, straight from my underground network of marketing experts.

We've got a real treat for you. Today on the line with me is Danny Iny. Danny is the author of "Engagement From Scratch!: How Super-Community Builders Create a Loyal Audience and How You Can Do the Same!" He's also the author of "Naked Marketing." Danny is known as the Freddy Krueger of blogging, which we're going to make him tell us all about in a few minutes. He's one of the guys behind Firepole Marketing.
Danny, welcome to the Small Business Marketing Show.

Danny: Thanks, Steve. I'm really excited to be here. I'm excited to be part of your underground network.

Steve: I'm really excited to have you here. I think we've known each other for a little over a year. I've really enjoyed watching you build your online audience--really, a fairly large online audience. You've built it in a really short time. I've really been impressed watching how you've gone about it.
Today, I'd love to have you share with our listeners why having an audience is important to small businesses, and how they can get started building an audience and engaging their audience.

Danny: Sure. At the core, when you think about smart business strategies, when you think about making your business sustainable, what you want to do is try to create some disconnection between the works that you do today, and the money that you make today.

Now, it's not saying you want to set up your systems and just see income on autopilot, make money from a beach in Tahiti. That's all nonsense. But you don't want to have to go out and hit the pavement today to find customers today, because that puts you in a very vulnerable situation as a business. If nobody knows who you are and nobody trusts you, if there's no reputation, no engagement around what you're doing, then you're basically starting from scratch with every sales conversation, with every marketing interaction.

Having an audience just means that people know who you are, you're invested in that relationship, they trust you and care about what you do. You've got that kind of fanbase that you can always draw on as a base that drives your business. The classic examples that people like to point to, they're all online businesses, they're all blogs. But really, the best example is a very traditional kind of business.

Look at Apple. Apple is a perfect example of an audience-driven business. They do really well not because of their technology, not because of any of the things that they're doing--not that I'm knocking any of those things--but they do so well... when they announce that they've got something new coming, and they've got people lined up around the block for three days, that's not because of the technology. That's because of the enormous amounts of engagement on the part of the audience.
So imagine what it would be like if you could announce some new thing that you were doing, and people would just line up because they're that excited, because they care about what you're doing. Because when you put out an announcement, it's not some press release that nobody's interested in; it's a piece of news from somebody that they care about, about something they're interested in. So they watch and they pay attention.

Steve: When we talk about this particular topic, for a lot of the brick-and-mortar businesses that I work with day in and day out, when we start to use words like "audience" and "engagement" and all that, they go, "God." Their eyes roll back in their heads and they go, "Well, that's just for big online businesses or big businesses like Apple." The first thing that I hear from almost every business that I encounter is, "Well you don't understand. All that marketing stuff doesn't work for my business.
My business is different because of X or Y. We're really in the commodity business."

What I have found from building my own audience--and I'm sure you would agree with this--is that by building an audience, you create this little market almost all to yourself. You really eliminate much--if not all--competition, because you've got people's attention, and they're paying attention to everything that you're doing. So you don't have all of these competition or all this price pressure, and the things that most folks run into when they work in sort of the traditional marketing advertising model.

Danny: That's absolutely right. You said something really interesting there that is actually kind of true. If someone said, "This doesn't apply to me because we're selling commodities," there are situations where an audience-type business is probably not the best way to drive your business. If you're doing these very large B2B contracts where you're responding to RFPs and putting through proposals and doing all that stuff, does reputation matter? Yes, of course. But is audience the best way to drive your business? Probably not.

Likewise, if you're selling something that is totally a commodity, you're selling RC Cola in the supermarket or you're selling a generic, no-name gum at the checkout counter or apples in the grocery store, these are things where you don't need an audience. An audience is probably going to be a lot of work that you're going to do and would not accomplish very much. But most people are not really in that kind of business. Because even if you're selling commodities on the face of it, the reason why people buy from you is not a commodified reason.

Let's make up an example. Let's say you run a hardware store. That's as traditional brick and mortar as you can get. Why would someone come and buy their hammer and nails or whatever from you, as opposed to somebody else's hardware store, as opposed to going to Home Depot or Lowe's or wherever? First of all, it's not the commodity reason, because I don't think anyone's price comparison shopping, based on the cost of nails or the cost of a hammer. It doesn't matter all that much. Yes, proximity, location is going to matter a little bit. I'm not going to drive across town for a box nails when I can get them nearby. But assuming there are a few providers, a few stores, a few places I can go to to get these stuff in more or less the same range, how am I going to choose?

I'm going to go to the one that I like the guy, the one where I walk in, the guy says hello, I like to see his face, I like to have a little bit of chitchat. Maybe I'll tell him what I'm planning on doing, and he can advise me which of these nails should I actually be getting. This is opposed to walking to some superstore where nobody knows anything and just trying to grab something off the shelf, getting home, and then destroying my new IKEA bookshelf because I got the wrong equipment.

The reason why people buy from you is not a commodified reason. That's how you stand out, if you are selling commodities. I could argue it the other way around. If you're selling something that's so unique, if you're Apple, and you're the only one who can provide the iPhone, maybe you don't need the audience, because if people really want an iPhone, then there's nowhere else they can go to get it. But if you're selling nails, then what choice do you have? How else are you going to differentiate and distinguish yourself?

Steve: I think I'd even argue that Apple was in the commodity business. You can go to a dozen different places and get a phone that will allow you to browse the web, download your e-mail, get on Facebook, and answer telephone calls--if you still take telephone calls. What they've done by building that audience, one is they had a market to take that very exceptional product to, where they knew that they would get a return on their investment for developing it. But they still have competition all around them. Yes, they've done a very good job.

I've used iPhones for I don't know how long they've been out now, but for a number of years. I wouldn't go with anything else, because I'm part of that audience. I'm a locked-in sale for them. The iPhone 5 just came out a few weeks before we're recording this. My wife has already got us pegged for when our upgrade date is. That sale is already made for Apple. That's the advantage of them having an audience. But it's not as though they do that in a vacuum where there's no competition.

Danny: No, for sure. Something I like to say is that if you're really great at marketing, you don't actually have to be very good at marketing. I think Apple really embodies this, because the way that they engage their audience, turns them into a super loyal fanbase, it's really phenomenal. It's very impressive. There's a lot to study and learn from: the way they promote stuff that's new to make people who are part of that community feel like they're getting something really special, the ads that just show the device because it's that sleek and that cool, that's also very well done.

On the other hand, when you look at how they launch some of their stuff, look at the slogans for the last three or four versions of the iPhone, "It's coming," "It changes everything," "It changes everything again," there is really not a lot of compelling originality to anyone who is not already part of that community.
So having that engaged audience, doing a good job of kind of building that initial groundwork and brand work, it really alleviates a lot of that burden to actually be particularly good at marketing further down the road.

Steve: I've gone through your book "Engagement From Scratch!" It's actually the second time that I read it, in preparing for our talk today. As I read it, it's really almost a how-to from a lot of different perspectives of getting going with building an audience and building an audience that you're really engaged with. If I'm a small business owner and I'm listening to this, I go, "Well yeah, these ideas make some sense, but what's the first step? How do I get going?" How would you advise them?

Danny: There are three steps to effective marketing, like really solid, black belt level marketing. Those three steps are first of all, you've got to align yourself with the right customer. Then you've got to attract the attention of that customer. Then you've got to engage them.

The first really key insight that you need is that each of these steps matters to a different degree. What most people think is that attraction is the role of marketing. It's to attract attention. Alignment and engagement are peanuts; those are on the side. But it's really the other way around.

The good marketer is going to spend a lot of time on alignment, a lot of time on engagement, and attraction really doesn't take all that long. If you're well-aligned with the audience, it's quick, it's easy, and it's a moment in time before you can hand off to engagement. Assuming you know who your audience is, you know who it is that you want to reach, if you haven't reached them yet. You understand them in and out. You know what matters to them. You know what motivates them. Getting their attention should not be that hard.

Nine times out of ten, when people have trouble getting the attention of their audience, it's because they don't know their audience as well as they think they do. They really need to go back to the drawing board, do their customer profiles and their one person and all that kind of stuff.

But assuming you've got all that in place, we can turn all of our attention to engagement. It's a really simple, two-step process. The two steps are commitment and reward. So you give someone an opportunity and a reason to make a commitment. Then you reward them for making that commitment. Then you repeat that cycle with a slightly bigger commitment.

What a lot of marketers--so-called marketers--will take this to mean is that, "Oh, so you sell a $7 product, then a $27 product, then a $197 product, and keep kind of going up to this marketing funnel of escalating dollar value." That is one way in which this can be expressed.

But what it really comes down to--and this is the key insight--investment is not primarily financial. Investment is something that is emotional. People invest with their time. They invest with their attention. They invest their trust. They invest by sharing their dreams and their ambitions. All of these things are kinds of investment.

A great example is the hardware store guy. Sure, buying stuff from the hardware store is one kind of investment. But going to the hardware store, asking my questions, saying, "I have this shelf. I need to put it together. I don't know what to do." I'm sharing my vulnerability. I'm listening to the guy and getting advice. I will probably be more invested in that particular relationship if I go, I ask the question, I get my information, I listen to the answer, and don't buy anything, than if I just go in and buy a box of nails and walk out.

I'm not saying don't sell stuff. Because when people spend money, that is also an investment, and that's great. But I'm saying, recognize that most of the rungs on that ladder are not financial in nature. So it's, how do you get people to invest their time, their energy, their attention in the relationship with you? Then, how can you reward them and ask them for a little bit more, and continue that cycle? Does that kind of make sense?

Steve: I like it. It makes perfect sense. So often, we get focused on those transactional events when money is exchanged. We think that that's all there is to it. But everything that leads up to that is critical in making that exchange of money occur.

I know when I'm working with small businesses, we talk about changing the mindset from making a sale as this event, to it's a process. That's really what you're talking about, is what has to occur for you to begin to build a relationship with a potential customer. In a lot of ways, this isn't very different from what we've done kind of all along in business, but we've done it one on one.

What I like about what you've outlined in the book, is it's really a methodology for taking that type of one-on-one interaction, and now being able to scale it, so that you're not just one on one, you can attract a much bigger audience. Or maybe you're not looking to attract a million people, but you'd like to attract people that are in a very specific niche or have a very specific problem, and you need to attract them in a larger geographic area. Well, the magic of the internet now makes that possible. But you've got to figure out how to build a relationship at a distance like that, and still give it the richness that it would have one on one. I think it's very possible to do that, but you have to think differently about it.

Danny: Yeah. The beauty of this engagement cycle--this cycle of commitment and reward--is that it is completely industry and market independent. The attraction part, the kind of how do you track down your customers, get in front of them, and wave your hands so they notice you... that'll be different from industry to industry. It depends on who you want to connect, in what context, et cetera. Everyone knows their own industry.

Let's assume you know how to connect with someone to begin with. From that point to then go from, "Hi. Hello. Nice to meet you," all the way to someone being a loyal, engaged, evangelizing customer for you, there's always going to be that escalation of investment. The beauty of what you can do with technology--I mean, this is not a technology kind of strategy. It's just a strategy that leverages technology to automate the kind of stuff that is always a best practice. It's just you couldn't always afford the time to do it, unless you were selling something that's really expensive.

Steve: Danny, as I go through the book, some patterns kind of emerged, as I was reading. One of those patterns was get really, really focused and clear about whom you're trying to reach and what you're trying to accomplish. In other words, have a clear picture of the goal. You alluded to that earlier when you're talking about getting clear on who your customer is.

One of the things that I find very interesting--and I've watched you do this as you built your audience--is I think the kind of silent importance of networking with other people; in a lot cases, networking with other people who you might perceive as competitors. Now, a lot of businesses will think online marketing and they're thinking, "Okay, I've got to be on social media and I've got to make all these posts and blast these messages out." Or, "I've got to buy pay-per-clicks ads," or do this or do that.

But really, as I've looked around and studied the people who've been very successful at building large audiences and getting a lot of attention, they do it the old-fashioned way. You're picking up the telephone and talking with people. You're building a relationship with other people who have audiences. How has that process worked and how does that fit in the kind of overall scheme of audience building?

Danny: In a few ways. Fundamentally, the first thing you've got to remember is that people generally connect with people. It's much easier to connect with another person than it is to connect with some amorphous brand. You can do it. Apple did it. But it's a lot easier to connect with a person.

There's a psychological phenomenon. I don't know if it's the halo effect or something else. I confuse these two. But the way that it expresses itself in behavior, is that if I'm talking to someone and I tell them that I think you're an idiot, the fact that I am saying that about someone else, makes them think that I am an idiot. If I'm talking to someone else and I tell them that I think you're great, the fact that I am saying that about somebody else, is going to make them think that I am great.

So the kind of sentiments that you're putting out there all the time, is what people will associate with you. Connect with the people who really are great. Let their level elevate you. You work on elevating them. Teach them. Help them. Work together. There's a lot of room to collaborate in just about any kind of market.

Let's go with the hardware store example. I have a hardware store. You have a hardware store two blocks from here. One would think that we're pretty direct competitors. I don't want anyone to know about you, because the more they know about you, the less they're going to buy from me. But what if we get together to put together some public event where we teach people how to do home repair? We're both going to put on workshops. Yeah, you'll make some sales out of that event. I'll make some sales out of that event.

But what we get out of it is a general population that is much more empowered and aware about what they need to do to fix up their own home. So they're all likely to spend more money. So you grow your market size. You're one of the people that organized this thing. You're the one that explained it to them. So you're the obvious person to come to with their questions. And you're a hero in the eyes of your colleague as well, because you just grew your market and did the same thing for him.

Steve: For most businesses, if they really look at their competitors, there are places that they don't overlap. The fact that they are avoiding promoting one another in those places is really leaving I think a great opportunity on the table in most cases.

This podcast--this series of interviews--is a great example. I'm interviewing you. You and I do very much the same thing. We consult with business owners. But we each have different strengths. By sharing with an audience, we both benefit. There are a lot of ways to do this, especially for folks who get paid for what they know. Because very rarely do two experts have identical expertise, have the exact same domain of experience and knowledge.

So there are always opportunities where you can combine. In doing so, as you said, you explode the size of the market. You multiply it. I see a huge advantage in doing that. But very few people see it. Very few people see it and take advantage of it.

Danny: Which is unfortunate. I'll two things to what you just said, which is, you said that this is the case for most people who are selling what they know. What I'd add to that is that most of the people who are selling things that are not what they know, they are still selling what they know.

We can come back to the hardware store example. The guy is selling hammers and nails. But it's his expertise that guides me in how to use them that makes me trust him and buy from him. The second thing is that you don't even need to have expertise that other people don't have.

Let's say, hypothetically speaking, that Steve, your expertise and skill set is exactly identical to mine. Right? Which is unlikely, because we're different people. The odds of that happening is very rare. But let's say that we're exactly the same in every way. You still have your personality and style, and I have mine. You can have the two hardware stores, and one of them, the guy is very hands-on and very friendly and will explain things to everyone who comes in the door. The other guy is also helpful, but not as direct. He gives people more space. Some people prefer this style. Some people prefer that style.
So in a lot of ways, even if you could in theory serve these customers, the business that you're supposedly losing is business that you never had to begin with.

Steve: Saying that and having the courage to live it, I think, are two different things. I think in a lot of cases, you get folks who are afraid of losing any business. They have an attitude that anybody with a heartbeat and a wallet is within their market. That's often the hardest and most expensive way to grow a business.

Most of the time, in fact, I haven't found an instance yet with any of the companies that I've worked with, where we couldn't shrink the size of the market and get very focused, and actually let that business do much, much better with less work, with less headaches, because they were serving a very specific group of people.

You and I will sit here and say, "Well, that's Marketing 101." But in a lot of cases, that's a novel idea for folks. With what you explained with the experts that you have in the book, I just see that theme over and over and over again: get focused, get focused, get focused as the route to building this audience.

A couple of other things that came out as I read through the book, is the importance of building an e-mail list. I know that's sort of blocking and tackling, but a lot of folks aren't doing that right now. I think that's really critical. You've got to have a way to reach out to your audience. If you're going to scale the building of this relationship, you've got to have a way to get to them.

I believe that e-mail is one of the most personal forms of communication that we have today. Probably, a third, you've got one-on-one telephone, and then I think a third is probably e-mail.

Because with e-mail, you can get to places that you just can't get otherwise. You get past gatekeepers. You get people at home on the weekends, on their iPhone. You get into their personal space. So that was one of the things that I heard over and over again as I read the book, from the experts that you had contributing to the book.
Then the fourth point was to pay attention. I'd like for you to talk about that a little bit, this idea about paying attention. As I read the various stories from the contributors to your book, they mean literally pay attention to folks, not just see what the audience is doing.

Danny: Yeah. I would say the same thing. The way I started is by saying that there isn't enough paper in the world for me to make a list of all the brilliant ideas that people think I'm a genius for having, that were not my ideas. I was just paying attention and saw something cool happening. I was like, "I'll try that." I give credit where credit is due. I don't pretend those ideas are mine when they're not. But just by paying attention...

You don't have to be some kind of marketing or business superstar. Just pay attention to what is working and what is not in your own business, in other people's businesses. See what people are actually responding to. See what is resonating well with people. See what is grabbing their attention. See what is grabbing yours. Just learn from all the things that are all around you. You can be phenomenally successful, like unbelievably so. You know this and I know this.

When we're doing the marketing to consulting, there are definitely situations when people will come to you with a question that they are just not... it requires expertise that they don't have, right? We have the expertise. We answer their questions, and that's great. But there's also a lot of cases where people come to us with questions, and you just turn the questions back on them. It's kind of a Socratic dialogue where you guide them to ask the questions that they should be asking, and reach the answers themselves. Is it valuable? Yes. Do they get a valuable outcome out of it? Was it worth their time and their money? Absolutely. But could they have figured it out on their own if they just asked those questions to begin with? Yes, they probably could have.

Just pay attention, because there's so much great stuff happening all around you all the time, particularly with your audience. The beauty of having an audience and aggregating an audience, is you get all these live, rich, instant feedback from real people about all the things you're doing. You don't need to put together a product and a launch campaign and wait until six months later to see what's working and what's not. You can get instant feedback on everything you're doing before you launch anything, to see what people like, what people don't, what they're responding to, what they aren't, how you should tweak, how you should adjust.

I can say, right off the bat, one of my most profitable offers is a training that I never intended to develop or sell. It's something I was doing just for myself as a practice. So many people e-mailed me and asked me, "Explain how you do this." I was like, "Okay, fine. I'll put something together." It became this enormously profitable offer. I didn't have to have a great idea. I just had to listen to the great ideas of other people who were e-mailing me every day. That's the beauty of having an audience.

Steve: I was reading Copyblogger not too long ago. Brian Clark talked about how that business evolved. It has become a fairly large business, and all driven by the audience. He started building the audience first. The audience told him what they needed, and he offered it. It's a very low-risk way to start a business, and it's a very low-risk way to grow a business. I think that's a very good point.

I want to give you the opportunity to do two quick things. One, share any final thoughts that you have. Two, explain why they call you the Freddy Krueger of blogging.

Danny: [laughs] All right, I'll do the Freddy Krueger story first. Then I'll share some closing thoughts here. In 2011, when I was first establishing Firepole Marketing--my brand--as kind of a player to be noticed, I did a lot of that initial outreach and promotion through guest posting. That means, that I would write a post that would run on somebody else's blog, kind of like writing an article and submitting it to some larger magazine instead of just publishing it on my own newsletter.

I did an awful lot of that. I wrote 80-something guest posts in one year. I started getting a reputation. The posts started going up all the time in all these different places that a lot of the same people were reading.

Pretty soon, this one guy, Eugene--who is actually a mutual acquaintance of Steve's and mine right now--he started leaving comments on a lot of these posts saying, "Wow Danny, it's like you're Freddy Krueger. Wherever I turn, you're there." It just stuck. That's it. I became the Freddy Krueger of blogging.

Steve: You alluded to a product that you offer earlier. I assume that's your guest posting product that came out from that.

Danny: Yeah, that's right. It's my guest posting and writing training called "Write Like Freddy," which is a total play on that. If you had asked me at the beginning of 2011, "Write Like Freddy," would you ever think of that? I'd have been like, "Who's Freddy?"

Steve: When we met--I think it was mid-2011--and you were kind of in the middle of this process. I kind of put you on my radar. It's just been really interesting to watch you build a very large and vibrant audience. If folks go get the book--and I know in a minute we're going to tell them how to get a copy of the book for free--and you've got people like Guy Kawasaki in the book, Brian Clark... celebrities are in this book. To think that you started from scratch like everybody else a little more than a year ago at the time we're recording this.

Danny: No, pushing on two years.

Steve: Pushing on two years. Sure.

Danny: But yeah, let's say January 2011. January 2011 was like ground zero.

Steve: So we're a year and nine months away from that. It really is, I think, a testament to what can be done with focused effort in a fairly short amount of time. It's been great to watch. Any final thoughts?

Danny: The final thoughts I'd like to leave people with is I guess two things. The first is that, whenever you guys are talking about marketing, specifically around the online space, social media, all that kind of stuff, people get caught like deer in the headlights. All the flashing lights of--there's Twitter, Facebook, AdWords, Pay-Per-Click, SEO. All the acronyms and technologies go on and on.

Audience building is not about any of that. It's about recognizing that the people you're trying to connect with, ultimately, they are people. They will respond the way that people respond, and you want to connect with them in a way that people really connect. It's worth doing.

We haven't talked about any kind of specific metrics. It's not just about becoming the rock star in your industry for the hell of having 10,000 people following what you're doing. But the more engaged that audience is, the more they're invested in what you're doing, the more profitable each and every one of those customer relationships are.

I didn't build an audience just for the hell of I want to have a lot of people read my e-mails. We went from zero to a very fast-growing, multiple six-figure business that employs a whole bunch of people. It's by virtue of the relationships that we built with the audience, with the people that are following us. It's powerful, it's profitable, and it's sustainable, because next month, the audience doesn't just disappear. It provides us enormous amounts of stability and security to a business that otherwise wouldn't really have it.

Which is why, I strongly encourage everyone to think along these lines. It's not about how you're going to make sales tomorrow. It's about how you're going to future-proof your business in the coming months and years.

Steve: I want to thank you for being on today, for sure, and for sharing what you've shared. I think it's important information. I'm glad we have this opportunity to talk and to get it out there. Now, folks can get a copy of your book "Engagement From Scratch!" You want to tell them how they can get that?

Danny: Yeah, sure. You can go to Amazon. You can pay the $15 or $20 or whatever it is. It's certainly worth it. It's got 90-something five-star reviews. It's one of the top 20 best-selling marketing books on Kindle.

But you don't have to do any of that. You can just go to engagementfromscratch.com. I'm sure Steve will share a link somewhere near wherever you're listening to this. You can just go download the whole thing, all 241 pages. Nothing missing. It's not like download two chapters and buy the rest. You can download the whole thing completely for free.

Once you do that, reply to anything that you get from me, because I'll send you a bunch of bonus and cool supplementary content, too. Say, "Hey, I heard about you on Steve's podcast." I'd really love to connect. I appreciated this or I appreciated that or I didn't appreciate that other thing. Or, "I'm wondering about this marketing question for my own business."

I'm really happy to connect and engage with anyone, regardless of whether you buy anything from me or not. That really doesn't matter to me. I just hope you grab my book and enjoy it. If there's something I can do to help you based on what you read, I'd love to connect.

Steve: That sounds great. I encourage everybody to go get a copy of the book. We'll put a link both in the show notes and on stevegordonmarketing.com. Or you can find "Engagement From Scratch!"

Danny, thanks so much for being on today.

We're out of time. I want to thank everybody for listening in. If you found this valuable, please jump over to iTunes and give us a rating. You can get directly to our podcast by going to stevegordonmarketing.com/itunes. Leave us a rating and help some other folks find this. Hopefully, you found it a valuable resource. Goodbye everyone.

Why You'll Never Succeed at Social Media Marketing

Dear Business Owner, I write to you today with great sadness. I've come to see that you will never achieve the success that you, frankly, deserve. You've looked at all of the 'new media' and 'social networking' tools as fad. It's not your fault. In the beginning you were right to be skeptical.

As you sit back, continuing to promote your business using the old 'tried and true' methods you've used for years, your business is slowly disappearing from the world.

Your yellow pages ad that worked so well doesn't pull anymore. The 15 second TV spots you've been running for years, aren't working. In a few months new telemarketing rules will render the phone useless as a sales tool. Your print ads look good and make you feel proud, but you silently wonder are they still sending out those magazines...because your phone isn't ringing.

Hey, like I said, it's not your fault. Your customers just decided to spend their time using this new thing called the Internet. They decided that it's better to TiVO their favorite shows...and hit the fast forward button when your commercial comes on...that's not your fault.

Those crazy customers decided to join Facebook and Twitter and spend more time having a virtual party with their friends instead of reading the newspaper with your ad in it.

So you decided to get a Facebook account (I know, you're not sure about Twitter yet, after all, what self respecting business person 'tweets'). You've connected with an old high school flame or two...but you're not sure how to turn that into the millions you've heard you'll make with social media.

You read that every business needs a blog, but damn, you've got enough to do. And who the hell wants to read what you'd write anyway.

So you'll never be successful at social media marketing. And your business is slowly disappearing. I can't find you in Google and my Twitter followers referred me to your competitor. I love his YouTube videos...

But it's just a fad. And you don't have time this week anyway.

With Regrets,

steve-web-sig

3 Things Disney Can Teach You About Content Marketing

I love Disney. There are few companies that deliver the total package of marketing and operations (which is really just fulfillment of the marketing promise) better. In my house we've been living on Planet Disney since our first daughter was born. With two girls in the house, we get more than the recommended daily dose of the Mouse...and that's just fine with me.

You see, Disney provides some of the best marketing education in the world for free. All you have to do is watch and learn.

I can hear your cries now..."but Steve I'm not in the entertainment/themepark/movie business"...that's where average business owners stop. But you're smarter than that. You're going to figure out how you can apply what Disney does to your business.

So here are the 3 things Disney can teach you about content marketing:

1. Create your own celebrity (that means you).

Disney is a master at selling the content they produce. The Disney Channel, which is essentially free (included in most cable TV packages) pumps out TV shows featuring a regular parade of tween and teen stars.

The shows build up the stars from unknown to celebrity status with factory-like regularity. Kids from age 2-15 (and beyond) go nuts for these stars because they're presented in sit-coms and Disney Channel Original Movies as cool, but approachable characters. They've copied and updated the successful formulas from sit-coms and movies from my childhood like the 'Facts of Life', 'Different Strokes' and 'Grease'.

Notice there's no innovation here, just a new twist on an old and proven idea. It's smart for two reasons:

1. It removes most of the risk of a new idea 2. It's easier and faster to implement

With a blog or YouTube channel you can have your own media outlet to turn yourself into a celebrity in your specialty.

2. Monetize, Monetize, Monetize

When one of Disney's home-grown celebrities reaches critical mass, Disney pops out a movie, DVD, licensed toys, clothing, books (every kind of licensed widget you can imagine), concert tours, celebrity cruises...and on and on.

Disney is the world's largest licensing company. They don't try to do it all themselves. They create the irresistible content and gather together the market.

They package and sell the content and let licensees create and sell the products. As a result they extract maximum revenue from the investment in content without having to produce and sell every item themselves.

They could never achieve the success they have without sharing the wealth and sharing the work.

What can you add to your core product or service (even if it's delivered by someone else) that will enhance your customers' lives? If you added just 10% to every customer transaction what would that mean to your profitability?

3. Cross-Sell, Cross-Sell and Cross-Sell Some More

Go to a Disney resort and turn on the TV. Every TV starts on a resort version of the Disney Channel with the latest batch of teen stars selling activities in the theme park.

Watch the Disney Channel (which doesn't show outside commercials) and you'll be inundated with inside interviews and 'behind the scenes' infomercials for the latest Disney feature film, theme park ride or Disney Cruise special (the latest is a cruise with cast members from some of the sit-coms).

The Hanna Montana craze over the last few years is probably the best example of the brilliance of this play. The character was introduced in a sit-com. Music CD's and licensed products followed.

Popularity among young girls exploded (I think I live at the epicenter of it) and a concert tour was launched (with the highest priced ticket scalping in history). Then a 3D concert movie, followed by a second movie and a mainstream music career for star Miley Cirus.

Each piece reinforced the others driving the popularity (and sales) higher and higher. It'll end at some point, but Disney's already bringing up a couple of successors.

So you don't have 10 businesses you can cross promote...so what. You know 2 or 3 or 10 other business owners who you can strike deals with to cross-sell to each other's customers.

Done right, you all help your customers by bringing them good products or services and all of the businesses involved benefit by growing the pie.

So take some time to digest these lessons from Disney and figure out how you can use the ideas in your business.

Tell me what you think of this article in the comments below. Your feedback really helps us know what content you find most helpful.

I'm Appalled...And You Should be Too

I'm about to piss off my web designer friends, but I owe it to you, dear reader, to share this...

In the last month I've met with three entrepreneurs that all killed their budding businesses the same dumb way--they spent all of their money on websites.
All three are in bootstrap mode, trying to get their businesses off the ground with a very small amount of cash. And they all fell prey to the notion that they need a "big company" website to be able to do business online.
In the worst case of the three, the entrepreneur spent nearly $20,000 on two different web design firms and had a clunky and crash prone site to show for it. And now, no money left to promote the business.
If You Have a Website, But No One Visits Does it Really Exist?
Answer: It doesn't matter. Nobody Cares.
The gigantic mistake made by these entrepreneurs was focusing on the wrong thing at the wrong time in the startup process. A fancy, image filled website is not important at the beginning. Frankly, it may not ever be important. But it's certainly not the FIRST place to spend your precious capital.
The place to spend is on marketing and sales. You want to prove that a market actually exists for your product or service. Invest your capital on this first. If you have a strong offering, your market will overlook a less than perfect website.
But, if you're offering is weak or doesn't fit your target audience even the prettiest website won't deliver the critical CASH you need to reach launch velocity.
Your mantra should be "Good enough today, is better than perfect next week..."
We've worked with entrepreneurs to get websites launched in less than a week and for less than $1000 (often less than $500). That leaves most of their money to be spent on marketing to actually get people to the site (what a concept).
Once you have cash coming in from sales, you can improve the website, if you need to.
If you're a do it yourselfer...you'll want to want to check out our favorite tools for getting a good website up super-quick:
We use Wordpress to run every site we create. Every web hosting company worth using has a 1-click automatic installer for the Wordpress software so anyone can get it setup.
Then we use the Thesis theme for Wordpress. While the out-of-the-box design looks basic, it is easily and inexpensively customized. It handles all of the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for you. And, when you're ready to juice up your site Wordpress and Thesis are the perfect foundation, so you won't have to scrap what you've done.
I'd love to hear your website creation story. What did you do...how did it work? Share you're experience with the Black Belt community...post a comment below.

In the last month I've met with three entrepreneurs that all killed their budding businesses the same dumb way--they spent all of their money on websites.

All three are in bootstrap mode, trying to get their businesses off the ground with a very small amount of cash. And they all fell prey to the notion that they need a "big company" website to be able to do business online.

In the worst case of the three, the entrepreneur spent nearly $20,000 on two different web design firms and had a clunky and crash prone site to show for it. And now, no money left to promote the business.

If You Have a Website, But No One Visits Does it Really Exist?

Answer: It doesn't matter. Nobody Cares.

The gigantic mistake made by these entrepreneurs was focusing on the wrong thing at the wrong time in the startup process. A fancy, image filled website is not important at the beginning. Frankly, it may not ever be important. But it's certainly not the FIRST place to spend your precious capital.

The place to spend is on marketing and sales. You want to prove that a market actually exists for your product or service. Invest your capital on this first. If you have a strong offering, your market will overlook a less than perfect website.

But, if you're offering is weak or doesn't fit your target audience even the prettiest website won't deliver the critical CASH you need to reach launch velocity.

Your mantra should be "Good enough today, is better than perfect next week..."

We've worked with entrepreneurs to get websites launched in less than a week and for less than $1000 (often less than $500). That leaves most of their money to be spent on marketing to actually get people to the site (what a concept).

Once you have cash coming in from sales, you can improve the website, if you need to.

If you're a do it yourselfer...you'll want to want to check out our favorite tools for getting a good website up super-quick:

We use Wordpress to run every site we create. Every web hosting company worth using has a 1-click automatic installer for the Wordpress software so anyone can get it setup.

Then we use the Thesis theme for Wordpress. While the out-of-the-box design looks basic, it is easily and inexpensively customized. It handles all of the Search Engine Optimization (SEO) for you. And, when you're ready to juice up your site Wordpress and Thesis are the perfect foundation, so you won't have to scrap what you've done.

I'd love to hear your website creation story. What did you do...how did it work? Share you're experience with the Black Belt community...post a comment below.

Thesis Theme for WordPress:  Options Galore and a Helpful Support Community

Disclosure: The links to the Thesis theme are affiliate links, so if you click them and buy the theme, we'll make a small amount of money. I'm sharing this with you, because we want to be upfront with you. I also want you to know that we never recommend a product lightly. Frankly, our reputation and relationship with you is worth far more than any commission we might receive. We use Thesis to run this site, and know first hand how good it is AND how what great support you get from the creator Chris Pearson. And that's why we recommend it to you.

How to Use Social Media in Your Business

It feels like you can’t turn on the TV without hearing someone talking about Facebook, Twitter or blogging. If that all sounds foreign to you, don’t worry, we will catch you up. But how can all these fads help your business? Believe it or not, social media marketing can help your business. BUT, it is possible to waste a lot of time, so make sure you have a plan.

Social media is no longer for teenagers talking about what party they will attend this weekend. Social media has evolved into a new way to talk about you, your company and what you do. The catch is, you have to first establish yourself. If you enter the social media world without first earning the trust of your followers…you just become another “sales” person in cyberspace.

In all honesty, the rules of the game are not all that different from regular business. Think back to networking, isn’t it always better to give a referral before you receive? The more you give the more you receive. The same is true in cyberspace.

To get started, the first site you should setup a profile on is www.LinkedIn.com. The site is completely geared towards business and if you are not on it, sign up as soon as you finish reading this article.

LinkedIn is a great tool for business because you can use it to make new connections (make new friends), learn about people (it is a mini resume), learn who your friends know and show off your expertise.

My favorite experience with LinkedIn is when I used it to find a new connection. I was once introduced to a friend of a friend. Before talking to her on the phone, I went to LinkedIn to see if she had a profile. I found her profile and realized we had a common friend. Once we started the conversation, I broke the ice to ask her if she knew Sara. We spoke about how we knew Sara and we had a warm friendly conversation - a GREAT ice breaker. No longer was the call a “cold call” but a friendly warm conversation. We ended up not being able to do business, but many referrals were sent back and forth.

LinkedIn also has question and answer sections on the site. This is a great way to help others and be able to showcase your expertise on a subject.

Finally, you can use LinkedIn as a tool to introduce friends, you do not have to do anything other than send an email and you get TONS of credit for your efforts.

So get started with social media and join LinkedIn. If you want to get your connections list started, send me a request to connect. You can reach me at http://www.linkedin.com/in/kimalbritton.

Another great tool for business is blogging. Blogging has become the most cost effective and easiest way to stay in front of your clients. In the end, social media is cool, but if it does not do anything to help your business, it is worthless. So, let’s tie blogging to your business.

The most important part of your marketing plan should be consistent interaction with your customers. Blogging is just that! An easy way to stay in front of your clients. It also serves as a way to help keep your website fresh and updated. Since you have all the great content for your blog, find more uses for it. Use your blog articles in your company newsletter, submit to article sites like ezinearticles.com or even submit them to the local paper. Make the most of your content and do not be afraid to reuse material.

Hopefully, you are excited and want to setup your blog. I already know your next question…yes I am psychic. How much is this going to cost?

Well, here is the good news, you can get started for free! Below are some sites to get started:

www.blogger.com

www.wordpress.com

Once you get your site up (or if you have one already), send me a link – kim@blackbeltbusinessprofits.com.

LinkedIn and blogging are the two places most businesses should make sure they have a presence. Other social networking sites include the popular Facebook and Twitter, but not every business should be on every social site. Believe it or not, there are over 15 different categories of social media, such as photo sharing, podcasts, RSS, video sharing, social networking, micro-blogging, event sharing, article submission, bookmarking, music sharing, document sharing, wikis and more. The possibilities with social media are endless, which is why you must have a plan - or you will end up wasting a lot of time.

I recommend that each business examine the different types of social media and decide on 2-3 different types (or sites) to get started on. Focus on 2-3 types and decide how much time you will dedicate to keeping them updated each week. Go in with a plan and you will be successful.