Do you want more online visitors and more leads? Justin McGill describes in this episode 3 content marketing techniques to help you achieve this result. Justin McGill is the Founder of LeadFuze, an online service to help businesses to generate more leads online. He’s also the host of the podcast Zero to Scale, where he and his co-host discuss their journey building profitable businesses. Listen in as Justin shares his experiences as an entrepreneur and specific marketing techniques he’s used to grow his business.
Listen to this Episode:
Topics Discussed in this Episode:
- Justin’s journey from corporate manager to professional poker player
- Launching consulting and software businesses
- Being transparent and facing competitors
- Using the skyscraper technique to create valuable content
- How to write good email subject lines and cold-contact people successfully
- SaaS Content Marketing: Why Education is a Powerful Approach
- 5 Content Marketing Promotion Tactics You Should Try Today
- Zero to Scale
- Justin’s Twitter – @Jus10McGill
- Google Search Console
- Moz Blog
- HubSpot Blog
- Kissmetrics Blog
- Backlinko Blog
- Matthew Barby Blog
- Quick Sprout Blog
Louis: Bonjour, bonjour. Welcome to everyonehatesmarketers.com. I’m your host Louis Grenier. everyonehatesmarketers.com is a podcast for digital marketers who are sick of shady, aggressive marketing. I interview no nonsense marketers who are not afraid to cut through the bullshit and say things as they are. During this show, we learn how to get more visitors, more leads, more customers, more long term profit by using good marketing, by treating people the way we like to be treated.
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Welcome to episode number six already of everyonehatesmarketers.com. Today I’m talking to Justin McGill. He’s the founder of LeadFuze, which is a service to help business to generate more leads online and he’s also the host of a podcast called Zero to Scale, which is a podcast that they share, him and one of his friend who also has a business. They share their journey to build a profitable business. He has a very interesting life story. He went from being a manager on a well-paid job to becoming a professional poker player, overnight he won $24,000 and used that to buy a watch and the next day lost $24,000. He’s going to go through this story a little bit more. And then he also went cold turkey into launching his first consulting business that turned into the software business that he has today.
In this episode, you are going to learn how competitors started to actually pop up, compete against his business because of the fact that he was being very transparent about it. How to use the Skyscraper Technique to actually create content that people will like. You’re going to learn also how to write good email subject lines and contact people who don’t know you and contact them the right way so that they can reply to you. As usual, have a listen and let me know what you think.
Louis: Welcome to the show. Thank you so much for your time. The first question I want to ask you is what’s better, is it to run an agency or is it to run a SaaS business?
Justin: Good question. An agency certainly has its advantages because digital marketing in particular, because the skills you learn at digital marketing can really apply to any business that you decide to do next. For me, I was ready for the challenge. I grown that business successful and I wanted to get into software. For right now, I’ve made that transition, I put a team in place to run the agency and I moved on to start LeadFuze, which is a software as a service company. Right now, that’s where my passion lies. I guess for me it’s better to be running a SaaS business at this point.
Louis: How many people is there in the agency now?
Justin: There are eight people and a couple of those are freelancers but full time essentially.
Louis: So this agency was your first business, right?
Justin: It was. Yup.
Louis: What did you do before that?
Justin: I was actually a supervisor at a trucking company. I actually ran inbound dock ironically enough. Inbound dock being we get shipments in and I need to get the trailers, make sure my crews are loading the trailers and getting it out for delivery. Completely irrelevant. But when I was in high school, I actually taught myself Dreamweaver and Photoshop and enjoyed it. I thought it was so cool that I could actually put together something and then it would be on the web and other people could see it and I thought that was so amazing.
I was in line to be getting promotions and everything else and I just felt like at some point, you’re going to be making too much money and it’s hard to leave, that’s not just a career path I wanted to go down. I’d reached the end of the line there. I was interested in getting my own thing going and I decided it was going to be websites. Got my first customer for a web build and realized I don’t think I like building websites for other people so much. In any case, that quickly led me to switch gears slightly and focus on the SEO side of the business which had this monthly recurring revenue angle and that was what excited me most about it. I heavily pursued that. I still offer web development just as part of that solution that. But yeah, that’s how it evolved.
Louis: So you are too scared to make too much money?
Justin: Yeah. Once you’re working in corporate America, if you start making $100,000 a year in your job, there is no way you can walk away from that and go to zero or switch career paths and do something different and go back to $40,000. Because your lifestyle’s changed too much. Essentially, I was afraid of making too much money in the industry, in a career path that I didn’t really enjoy.
Louis: How long did you work in this industry before you started this agency?
Justin: Six years. Out of high school, I just got a data entry job, I was doing billing at the trucking company. My mom actually worked there, so got the job that way. And then just worked my way up. I was a supervisor at 21 which actually was a great experience for me, managing people three times my age. I learned pretty early on that I wasn’t going to be able to please everyone, that’s not what I should be focused on. Just had to make my way as a leader there which obviously helped me later on as an entrepreneur. So I did that.
And then I actually left that to play poker professionally for a little while. That was fun and that was good times but had a mortgage and a kid. I needed to make about $5,000 a month just to cover my monthly expense at that point. That was a little tricky, playing poker professionally just because you needed to make that just to get by, not even to move up levels, if you will, in poker, if you’re familiar with that. Any case, that worked for a year and a half and then I went back into trucking again because that was obviously where my experience was and I didn’t necessarily know the path I was going to go on yet. During that time I was switching majors, I actually ended up dropping out of school because I couldn’t settle on whatever I wanted to do. Didn’t have a clue there yet. Just felt like I was wasting my time. I got back into trucking and went cold turkey into my agency when I decided to hang up my cleats, so to speak.
Louis: Cold turkey is a great expression for that. What kind of expenses are we talking about for professional poker player?
Justin: A lot of times you see younger kids, 19, 20, 21, they don’t have a wife, they don’t have a baby, they don’t have a mortgage, their commitments are minimal. It’s so much easier to make your way when you don’t have outside expenses to worry about. I was not in that position. Had a wife, had a baby, had a house, so needed to be able to afford those things. Cars, lot of professional poker players, like I said, they’re 20, 21, they’re living in Vegas out of a hotel, don’t need a car. Their expenses are super low in that situation. When you’re doing that, all you need to worry about is just making money at poker, making sure you got a place to stay and have some food and you can work your way up blind levels pretty easily. Just a different situation though.
Louis: A little secret for the listeners out there. I’m quite familiar with poker. More online poker that actual poker, I don’t think I ever played in a tournament or anything in poker, but I lost a lot of money online when I was a student. At the time actually I was a student in the US, I spent nine months in Kansas, I played online poker months and months and I lost a lot of money. A lot for me as a student, money that my parents were giving me to feed myself. Yeah, I am familiar with the poker side of things.
Justin: When I was doing it professionally, I was going online and in person. Online I was playing $100, $200 and I was playing shorthanded, 3-4 players. It was wild. Literally one day, I won $25,000 and I bought myself a Rolex and the next day I lost $24,000. The swings were pretty wild but I realized at that point, I wasn’t bothered by it like most people would be. I felt like I had a slightly different mentality than most and obviously that certainly served me well in the business landscape.
Louis: To come back to the agency you created, because you’re a first time entrepreneur by then. Did you have any money set aside when you started?
Justin: No money. Maybe a month worth of expenses covered. It was a dramatic change. I was ready for it and honestly I would not recommend that for anyone. It was highly, highly stressful, it was definitely some tough times in the very early going. But at the same time, I think it was pretty amazing what people are capable of when their back is to the wall. My back was certainly to the wall and I needed to figure out some way somehow to make it work. You start just diving in and just figuring it out. This even lead to ultimately what I would be working on now, which is LeadFuze, which is the software business I was telling you about at the top of the show. Through that, what I realized is I needed to figure out a way to grow the agency and I needed to do it fast.
What I was realizing is early on, people were posting jobs, SEO was becoming more and more important at the time, this is in 2008. Still relatively an unknown marketing channel for most small businesses at the time but it was starting to become a little more popular. People were actually posting jobs for those roles. I would actually go to Craigslist and I would open up every single city and open up both the jobs board and the gigs board and I would manually go through every single day looking for any job posting in all of the cities that referenced SEO in the title or digital marketing or internet marketing or online marketing. All these different variations and I would submit just an email through the systems saying, don’t hire someone, use me instead at the fraction of the cost and get the same result and yada yada.
I was spending literally six hours a day doing this and this happened for about three weeks and I realized I was going to need to spend my time doing other things too. Heaven forbid, I actually get a client on this and I need to provide some service. Luckily that ended up happening, got my first client and they’re paying me $1750 a month and that was a strategy that worked. But I ended up from there building some software that would automate some of that which certainly helped. I was now just needing to look at a list and I didn’t have to go one by one through all these cities anymore, so that was one way I was able to automate some of the lead generation aspects of the agency early on. I can share more too if you like, or if you want me to go down a different path, that’s fine too.
Louis: Sure, we’ll talk about more tactical things in the second part of the podcast on marketing. I’m interested about do you remember roughly how many emails did you send to land this first customer?
Justin: This is about eight years ago, I don’t know the number off hand but let me think here. I was going through every city, obviously not every city at the time had job postings for that. Some of them might be once every two weeks you see something but I was probably sending 30 or so a day at the end of it. Some of them that just weren’t really applicable to what I was doing or they were needing way more than just SEO type work. You’re going through these posts, you’re reading them, seeing if it fits. Maybe even doing just clicking through to their URL, if that was in there just to see what kind of business they have. I was probably sending about 25 or 30 a day and I was doing no follow ups either, which is a catastrophic mistake, you should definitely be following up.
Now, there are so many more resources. LinkedIn was not really a thing then, whereas now, it’s like okay, we’ll do some research, see who it is that could’ve actually posted this. If they’re a smaller business, go right to the business owner, find them on LinkedIn. All these things weren’t really part of the process back then that you can leverage now. Little different situation. I was sending probably 25-30 but by the time I got the customer, I probably sent 300, if not more. Does that answer your question?
Louis: That’s not bad. That’s not a bad return, especially if I heard you well, you said that the client was paying you $1750. That’s quite a good amount, as a first client.
Justin: Yeah. Absolutely. What it did is it gave me a lot of confidence because I realized at that point, I could answer question. Going into that interview, I did not have an SEO background. I literally absorbed every ebook and book that I could on the topic and blog. I started to play around with it on my own. Felt like I could hold my own there but I had really no experience talking to another business about it. I went into it pretty nervous, not knowing what they were going to be asking and if I was going to be able to answer those questions but luckily it worked out. Certainly, it gave me confidence. People can smell that confidence in you. They know when you actually know what you’re talking about. Not having that initially I think probably hurt in some of my conversations, but gradually, over time, you started to learn more about it and have that confidence, that other people can sniff, if you will.
Louis: Do you have any entrepreneurs in your family?
Justin: None. Very interesting, I didn’t really have a role model. I know with my management experience that I had the work ethic and the know how to probably pull it off. I didn’t have anyone to lean to. I just dove into a lot of books. If there was something I did not know, I would get a nook on it and I would dive into it and figure it out that way. That was my coach, if you will, it’s just the different books that I would read.
Louis: I’ve been reading your blog for quite some time now, your personal blog and you’ve been very transparent in your journey on it until a certain point and you’re sharing a lot of emotions, a lot of side projects, a lot of mistakes you’ve made, you were sharing your financials and all, and you have also community that will share the notes and the podcast notes where you are pretty transparent with the entrepreneurs who are part of it and quite vulnerable, which is something that I like as well. Why are you so transparent with this community?
Justin: You’re talking about Zero to Scale podcast. I got the inspiration from Alex Turnbull from Groove and I remember coming across his blog and I just thought that it was so amazing to see these insights. I wanted more. He would post one blog a week on a specific topic or issue and I always look forward to those. I’d always wanted to take that concept but even go further and do it in a different format and so that’s how ultimately my co-host with that podcast also got his own business and was interested in that kind of a model where basically we just share everything we worked on for the week, we share where our revenues are at, and what our plans are for the upcoming week, and then if we have any fails from the previous weeks planning that we wanted to get done. It’s real. These are the things that people are doing.
Often times when you’re reading the blogs, it just seems like man, everything just came together for these people. And how lucky, all of this, but you don’t really see the nuts and bolts that really helped construct that process and that success. What I wanted to do with just being open like this in that podcast is to be able to provide people a glimpse into what it takes, how to actually grow from nothing. We basically started it, no idea if it was going to work or not. I could’ve easily failed, I’ve had projects before, different business ventures that started off great and ended up failing because at some point there was something that didn’t get validated along the way, whatever it may be. But at the end of the day I just felt like there were lessons in that too, that would be valuable for people. I just wanted to share the story, get people to realize it’s not all roses and you’re going to lose customers and you’re going to have partnerships that go bad. All these things that can happen, we just wanted to expose that and let people know that it’s not the end of the world when these things happen.
Louis: Did you lose any customers or did somebody steal one of your idea because you are too transparent?
Justin: Absolutely. That is risk that you make when you are open and transparent like this. Had several competitors actually start to pop up at the time. When we first started, we provided a done for you service and that was it. I used some of the software that I built up at my agency and just wrapped the service around it because I didn’t want to spend $50,000, $60,000 like I’d done before on a SaaS product only to find out it wasn’t going to work. I wanted to not only cut out the development time to actually get it started but wanted to validate that it would be a viable business before investing too much into it. Basically taking some of the software I’d built to pull in businesses and then find contact information, I would run that software internally myself and then customers would sign up for me to write their email copy, basically a cold email service. Write their email copy and find the leads and just forward them leads as they were interested essentially. I had people sign up for that which then allowed me to start to self-fund the business at the same time. And then obviously it helped proved that was something that people would pay for.
That’s how it get started but through that done for you service, one person actually just ripped off our entire website, used the same exact website theme, had the same exact message, it was crazy. The crazy part about it was we were talking, we actually knew each other. That happened. Actually had a close friend who we had done business together in the past, worked on different projects together, he ended up starting a competing tool. That was definitely an interesting situation. Yeah, you open yourself up to that when you’re just so open and transparent and if there’s any level of success with that business, people are going to try and replicate it. That’s definitely happened.
Louis: It’s a good way to select your friends, isn’t it?
Louis: I guess I’m going to try to challenge you on this in the sense that even if you wouldn’t have been transparent, the website would have still been live. This person would have stolen the same regardless, right?
Justin: No, he listened to the podcast so he knew what we were doing. It’s not like you just oh I like this team. He knew what we were doing, was even talking to me, we’d talk via Skype. Because he was in San Francisco, I’d actually planned to go out there and meet up with him at one point. It was pretty wild, it caught me off guard, obviously have since moved on. They still provide the service, we don’t even provide the service anymore, it’s just purely software. Completely different now, honestly we don’t talk. That transparency has led to that.
That’s not to say that if people feel you’re onto something that your idea won’t get copied and used but when you provide the vehicle for them and share how to get it going and how to grow it, here’s the revenue so you know it’s working. Basically just cut out all the validation step that needed to take place, it’s helpful for people to do that, for them to get started competing against you.
Alex with Groove, his blog, he didn’t get started with that journey until they were like $32,000 in monthly recurring revenue. There was no risk of it being a failure at that point. Obviously you know the business is viable and it’s a proven concept and all that. I wanted to get earlier than that but the problem there is obviously you don’t have any market share yet. When you’re open and transparent like that and people come in and take the concept, now you’re straight up competing with them regardless of you started it first. It doesn’t really matter, you’re still early enough, it’s still an open race at that point.
Louis: I guess that transparency, it didn’t really have a bad effect on you. As you said, validation is a very important step as an entrepreneur, you want to know that your problem is worth solving and that the solution is good enough to solve this problem. But I guess what matters at the end of the day is the execution of it and the passion for the actual problem you’re solving. You mentioned, which I really like, the fact that this person who stole your idea has evolved differently than you. You moved onto a different business model and so I guess sometimes the line will cross but then you’ve since moved about, it’s not like in five years you’re going to be the same business competing in the exact same space.
Justin: At the end of the day, someone that’s just copying you, they don’t have the vision for it. They’re always going to be behind you at the end of the day. Our done for you service, that was not going to be the business model, it was never intended to be the be the business model, it’s just the way to a, get more money upfront quicker and at the same time validate that people would buy something like this. If we had that, I felt a lot more comfortable building out the software and going through that whole process. Our end game was always to get to this point whereas people that were trying to copy us early on maybe didn’t know that or have that same end in mind, whatever. At the end of the day, if all someone is doing is just copying you, they won’t be able to compete for too long just because they’re not forward thinking, they don’t know what to do next. Obviously, you’re going to keep evolving. It’s a good point.
Louis: I think it’s Amazon CEO who’s saying that if the competitors can just follow them, keep the eyes on Amazon, then Amazon will keep the eyes on the customer and they’ll just end up fine.
Moving on to digital marketing more in particular, is there any best practices or conventional wisdom that you hear quite often around digital marketing that you think are completely wrong?
Justin: I don’t know about completely wrong, I think you see a lot of bad recommendations on some of the black hat things out there, people trying to just game Google. Obviously over the years, Google’s gotten smarter and smarter and have done everything they can to eliminate those things or at least minimize the impact. When I got started in LA, you’re always looking for the easy way, spinning content and directory submissions for links and social profiles and all this link back to your website. This was the service we offered initially. Because these were ways that you could shortcut the systems and get results. What transpired now over the years is you really do have to be legitimate.
Content, for me, is always the number one recommendation. It’s what I got started with, with LeadFuze, pumping out content consistently. Quality content, there’s a difference between just doing content and doing it right. Literally in the last two months, we’ve had 1100 inbound sign ups and it’s because of the compounding benefits of content. Takes a while.
One post to get you 10 visitors a month and then the next week, whatever your post cadence is, you publish a new blog and that also gets you 10 visits a month. Now you’re 20, the next one gets you 10, now you’re 30. There’s this compounding benefit to content marketing that happens overtime and you’re starting to acquire more and more links and that helps your rankings. Unfortunately there is not just a shortcut. It takes time and takes energy, takes an effort to make it happen. If anything, stop looking for shortcuts and just invest the time and resources into actually making the content happen.
Louis: There is still a lot of shady content being created and formatted every day. More generally I think there is still a lot of marketing BS out there, especially on internet. What do you think marketers should do to make the internet better?
Justin: I guess being a little more intentional with what they’re doing on the content side because there is a lot of a, bad content, b, just rehashed content. Bryan Dean over at Backlinko has this strategy that he calls Skyscraper Strategy where you look up few words that are relevant for your industry, you’re taking what’s ranking at the top for those keywords in terms of the content and then what you’re looking to do is just 10x that content. Make it more amazing, include an info graphic in it if you can. Get more tips and strategies from other influencers. Just go above and beyond. If it’s 25 steps, add 25 more, make it 50. Do whatever you can to just have so much better content than what ranks currently. If that’s your focus, what you’ll find is a, that content is going to start ranking at the top of the search results for those keywords but b, you’re going to start to set this expectation so your subscribers will start to look forward to the content you’re producing. People are going to want to link to it because it’s higher quality. Just has a snowball effect, that would be my recommendation there.
Louis: Let’s say I’m a digital marketer, I’m working in an agency, a small to medium sized agency, from 5 to 20 in the agency. My goal is to help this agency grow, to get more quality leads, more leading quantity as well. I’d like to get a little bit actionable in this. You’d been already going into a lot of details which is really interesting, if you are this person, what would you do today or tomorrow to get more leads?
Justin: The digital marketer, is it working with the client of the agency or this is a digital marketing person wrapping the actual agency to grow the agency?
Louis: Let’s just simplify it to say to grow the agency.
Justin: Okay. His job is to grow the agency. Again, I keep harping on this but to me it’s focusing on content. The Skyscraper Technique is one way of coming up with content ideas. Another things that you can do, obviously you should have analytics installed, and your webmaster tools installed, making sure those are installed first and foremost.
Once that happens, going and looking at what exists already. If you’re 5 to 20 employees, obviously you’ve been around, you’ve had some success, one of the things you’d want to do is go into webmaster tools and then go into search analytics. You can filter by impressions and clicks and click through rate and all that. What you want to do is go ahead and select all the filters, the other one being position. There are four filters, take that result and export it into a CSV. And then what I do is I’ll actually sort by the position column, so that your average position that your website ranked for for those keywords.
I start 99 at the top and work my way down. What I’m looking for as I scroll down is impressions. If my average position is 99th and there is 20 impressions for that keyword, that’s probably a pretty popular keyword. I know if I ranked 89 even, page 9, let alone page 1, those impressions are going to go up. You can get some ideas there as far as what type of a, content to produce or b, look at those pages that are already ranking and figure out how you can make those pages better and more targeted for those keywords. SEO, it’s still a thing. I use SEMrush and it’s so interesting to go into that and see age, the total volume of keywords that you’re ranking for. For us, a subject line related content has been just driving a ton of traffic to us, almost a quarter of the traffic to our blog is related to subject line research. It’s been a big driver for us and honestly, we would not have known that had I not seen in SEMrush that we’re ranking for this keyword and it’s driving a lot of traffic. It’s like okay, let’s revisit a couple of these posts that we wrote about the subject lines and let’s really dive into this and make it amazing. Since we’ve done that, just page one rankings for so many different keywords.
The other thing to think about too is Latent Semantic Indexing. Meaning, alternative versions of that. If you say digital marketing and internet marketing, Google knows those two are interchangeable. You can use other words that are similar to that keyword you might be targeting as well just to pick up additional keyword rankings. Don’t ignore SEO, I guess that’s my point because it’s definitely something that’s impactful, it’s made a huge difference for us and just continues to make a difference for us. Basically every month that goes by, it’s just that stair stepping graph, if you will, just keeps going up. Don’t ignore SEO.
Louis: Those are really, really good tips. I love them. The first one is Skyscraper technique which is you find popular content for specific keywords and you just make it 10x better. Second one is using Google search console where you identify the biggest search queries where your website appear and you rank them by impression and try to find ideas to create better pages for those key terms. The third is one is trying to find synonyms or other ways to say certain things, to also rank for those keywords, right?
Justin: Yeah. Exactly. When you’re producing that content too, for us, we have multiple posts on subject lines and researching data. You want to actually link to those other posts within your content, it’s called interlinking, that helps you rank more too. Your marketer for your company should have a really good beat on all of the content that’s been produced, the keywords that that content is trying to target. This way when they’re coming up with new content, they can look at this Excel document, Google spreadsheet or whatever and say okay, this is for this category, what other content do we have that’s targeting similar keywords within this category that we can link to within this post?
I know for us, part of our content guideline is finding three inter pages that we can link to. In addition, we also link out to other resources, linking out is actually a helpful technique to rank better as well and particular to third party well respected sites. It lends more credibility to your post too, when you’re linking to research and statistics and whatnot. We also want to try and link out on all of our content.
Louis: I’m really interested about what you mentioned about subject line, so what are the key tips or actionable stuff that digital marketers could use to be better at their job regarding subject lines?
Justin: You know what’s interesting, because obviously there is cold email subject lines but then there is subject lines on your emails, newsletters to your current customers. Those are going to be completely different. All of this needs to be tested, what I say now for some of these tips might not be applicable or might not work in your case. For example, 4-7 words in your subject line is best, you don’t want to really go beyond that. Three words is actually best. 4-7 is where that sweet spot is, too short might not work, too long might not work and in some cases it may. At the end of the day, you’re just going to have to test these things but there’s a lot of research that shows that.
Another thing is having some key trigger words. Free works pretty well, urgent works really well, when there’s that sense of urgency that you’re building in. But if it’s a cold email, it might not work as well. You have to take it in context too with some of these cold email tips. Like I said, there’s so much data out there and what starts working for some people, as it gets used more and more and more will become less and less effective. That’s really with any marketing effort, not just your subject line but any marketing channel, at some point there is a saturation level. By the time a lot of this research comes out, it’s already starting to be saturated. You gotta be careful when you’re actually doing some of this research to try and implement some of the strategies that you’re not too late to the party.
You look back on Aaron Ross, he wrote Predictable Revenue. He was the person at Sales Force that grew that sales team and used cold email. The approach he used was trying to get introduced to the person that would handle whatever responsibility, in his case, the sales responsibility. He would go to the person above his target level and try to get introduced to whoever was handling that responsibility. The theory there being if it comes from the CEO to the head of sales, it’s going to be much more likely that that head of sales actually looks at this email and acts on it because it came from the CEO. That’s the theory, it worked amazingly well.
He wrote the book six years ago about something they were doing 10 years before that. It’s so outdated now that that strategy doesn’t work, yet people are just now coming across the book Predictable Revenue thinking, oh this is what I have to do. You have to be careful about how long this research has been out there. Be ready to test I guess is the most important take away.
Louis: That’s a really good tip, really good. I think it’s Gary Vaynerchuk who’s saying that marketers take every new channel out there and just turn it into shit. He’s mentioning Snapchat, he’s saying that Snapchat is already gone. So many marketers going on it and just turning it into a shit show. I have actually listened to a video of him today at Inbound and he was saying that the cost of Facebook ads, it’s going to go through the roof in the next three years. That’s because exactly what you said, I guess once it gets trendy and once it gets popular, it gets expensive, it gets crazy. Everybody uses it and people get desensitized to it.
Justin: Any paid channel like that, you can bank on it, everyone of them is going to go up through the roof. AdWords is so costly for most businesses that it just doesn’t even make sense anymore. In 2008, you could get clicks for $3 that are now $13, $15. It’s a huge, huge difference. In three years, absolutely, Facebook’s costs are going to go through the roof. Any paid channel like that will gradually go that direction as more and more people get into it. It’s unfortunate but marketers wouldn’t be doing their jobs if that wasn’t the case. That’s what their job is, is test new channels, find channels that are working and when it’s working, double down and go all in with it.
Other marketers start to learn about the success people are having and then they start to do it. Gradually, that’s what happens to every marketing channel. There’s a brief window where you might be the only one on the playground but at some point, if it’s working, you can expect it’s going to get more costly and more competition is going in the fold at that point.
Louis: I want to come back a little bit to the cold emails. I don’t know if I’m good at detecting them or just the people sending them are just too bad. I’m sure I don’t receive as many as you do, but I do receive a few per day that don’t get detected by Google and the little things I can notice, even when they try to be smart about it and try to say hi Louis, I know you’re busy with Slices Consulting, I can see that the placeholders are there. Even then, there is little mistakes like formatting is different, the hi, Louis, the formatting is different slightly than the body of the email. There’s even sometimes an unsubscribe link at the bottom. If you’re sending it only to me, you don’t need to put in the unsubscribe. Anything that’s in cold email particularly that people shouldn’t do, that people should be very careful of.
Justin: Oh, yeah. You touched on one thing right there at the end is the unsubscribe link. That is just a dead giveaway that this is a blast email. It might try to come off personalized but at the end of the day, that’s obvious. What people think are Can Spam laws in the US, you have to provide a way for people to opt out. What people tend to confuse is they think if I need to provide a way for an opt out, that means I need to provide an unsubscribe link which is not the case.
For me, I never use as an unsubscribe link. What I do instead is reference in the PS if they’re not the right person, let me know. If they’d like for me to not follow up with them, just go ahead and reply to this email, let me know that too. What that does is a, you’re offering the opt out that way, but b, if they reply, what that does is actually helps your engagement rates. It keeps your future email deliverability higher because your email sender can see that there’s incoming email coming back to you.
That’s a work around to requiring or having an unsubscribe link. That’s an alternative. I can go through a handful of best practices with cold emails. What do you want me to go through?
Louis: One or two more if you want. Yeah, of course.
Justin: Okay yeah. Another thing that I see oftentimes is people will send a cold email and they’ll start off by introducing themselves. I know that sounds like that’s what you should do but really, you’re immediately telling this person you have no idea who I am so now I have to introduce myself. Unfortunately, that comes up as in the email client, in the preview, in your inbox, on your phone where a lot of people are reading their emails. It’s almost half the people see an email first on their phone now. When it says hi, I’m so and so with XYZ Company and that’s all they see. Immediately, they know they don’t know you so this shouldn’t be too important and it’s a cold email, on to the next.
What I recommend is just going straight in. I have this formula that I’ve called QVC somewhere to the shopping channel but basically what it stands for is question, value prop, close. I’ll usually lead in with some sort of a question or I’ll recommend leading in with some sort of a question that pertains to what your value prop offers. For us it might be, are you and your sale team utilizing cold email as a lead gen strategy? That’s just off the top of my head. That’s not something I would send but that gives you an idea, right?
My value prop, I spend one, maybe two sentences talking about the benefits, not the features. Rule of thumb, anytime you’re using I and we, you need to change that to you. Not just literally the word but obviously when you use the word you, it changes your message to focus on the benefit to them and not the feature of your product. I always recommend trying to eliminate any “I’s” and “we’s” and just focusing on the benefits, whether it’s saving time, it’s making more money, it’s more exposure, higher ranking, whatever it is that you want to highlight.
Your close should just be, I like to use another question. In my case, one of the questions we would use are, “Are there any types of businesses that make good customers for you?” That’s it. Often times, I see people trying to, do you have time tomorrow or the next few days on your calendar to talk about how we can benefit you? You’re asking way too much. You have not brought any value to the table, they’re asking somebody they don’t even know to go and book a 15 minute, 30 minute time slot with you to be sold something. People just aren’t going to do that.
In your follow ups, you can certainly alternate the approach a little bit. By email three or four, if you haven’t got the response then go ahead and go for it. You’ve tried other channels. Typically, my next email is another question, and that’s it. Literally a one line email, just simply a question. My goal is to get a response, it could be a bad response, but that’s okay because it’s still a response, it shows engagement. It could potentially start the conversation. There’s a lot of benefits to just getting a response. My focus is just simply to start a conversation, get a response. I’m not trying to sell them, I’m not trying to get them signed up and closed on my first cold email, just simply ask a question. I’ve got a lot more I can go into but I don’t know how much time you want to dedicate to that necessarily.
Louis: Those are awesome to be honest. There is quite a few that I’ve never heard before, the reply, the fact that even if somebody replies and it’s a no, or it’s a fuck off, it’s still good. I guess you can deal on that and if you’re good at writing then you can really get them to say why they told you no and start a conversation, I suppose.
Moving on to the future of marketing. Obviously, our field is changing very rapidly like any other fields, we need to adapt, we need to adapt or else we’ll die. In term of skills that any digital marketers should have in the next five years, what are the most important ones, do you think?
Justin: Certainly. One of the top traits that we’re looking for in everyone that we hire, not even marketers. Our content process will be including everyone in the organization. Our salespeople will be writing, our customer success person, everyone is going to be contributing. But outside of that, I think just in general to have this thirst for knowledge, I use Feedly, I’m subscribed to a lot of blogs. Both in my industry with sales but also certainly with digital marketing. Literally every single day I go through it, I’m subscribed to probably 130 different blogs. Every day I’ll go through it. If there are articles that I really find valuable or want to go back to and look at again in the future, I’ll save that. In Feedly, you can save for later, there are other tools like Pocket that you can save it too but in any case, I like it in one spot.
For example, I just finished putting together our content strategy for 2017 and over the past eight months, I knew I was going to be, around this time, diving into content and putting together a plan. Over the last eight months, I’ve saved a lot of different articles on, in particular content promotion, and different strategies that people are using and reading case studies and all that. From that, when it came time for me to sit down and start putting our plan together for 2017, I went back through all of these articles I had saved and got ideas. A lot of them were all the same but every so often, you’re going to find new little nuggets that you can use and incorporate.
Basically, I was able to put together a promotion playbook just from all of that research, and that research happens because this is what I’m interested in and I like the idea of growing. Our business last two months has had 1100 inbound trials for our software from our content efforts. What do I need to do to make that 2,000? And that part excites me and so there’s this natural thirst there.
Probably, the number one trait that I look for when I hire somebody is are they curious? Are they going to go out and do this level of research? Are they going to stay on top of things, just keep their blade sharp, if you will? Are they going to try and find the answer themselves or are they going to come to me all the time? Curiosity is probably like I said, it’s the number one trait that I’m looking for in someone. Which you don’t hear about too often, but for me that’s a big deal.
I think just staying on top of things, in your industry, and strategies you can apply not only to yourself but if you’re obviously in a marketing agency, you can do that for your clients as well but I guess that would be my recommendation.
Louis: You mentioned that you’re reading a lot of blog posts and a lot of blogs, what will be the top three blogs that every digital marketer should read?
Justin: Moz, HubSpot does a phenomenal job and Kissmetrics content is really good as well. They usually have an in-depth how to on something specific. And outside of that, Matthew Barby, he’s got a really good blog. Brian Dean brought up Backlinko, that one is a really good one. Those are similar ones off the top of my head that I would recommend.
Louis: I think I talked about it with Matthew Barby at a conference in Dublin a few months ago. He’s a great guy. He’s in HubSpot now, actually.
Justin: Yeah. I saw that. Very cool, man. He’s really good, I like his content. Quick Sprout would be the other. Neil Patel obviously does a phenomenal job with his content. Those are some of the top ones I recommend.
Louis: You’ve been really, really helpful with all those actionable stuff. I think the listeners can take away a lot from what you said. Thank you for that. Where can listeners connect with you, follow you?
Justin: You bet. I’m on Twitter, @Jus10McGill. Feel free to hit me up on email, email@example.com. I have this inbox zero approach to my email so I always try and get through all my emails everyday so feel free to reach out via email too.
Louis: Tell me more about your podcast and the community you have behind it.
Justin: Yeah. Zero to Scale, thank you. Zero to Scale is the podcast and myself and Greg Hickman is my co-host and he has his own business, I have mine. We just go in depth on a weekly basis about what we’re doing for our businesses to try and grow them. Hopefully, if you’re trying to get the business going, you’ll learn some things along the way.
Louis: Justin, thank you so much once again for your time.
Justin: You bet. Cheers!
Louis: The listeners, you can get access to the notes on the blog and you’ll get access to all the resources that just been shared, all the blogs, everything we mentioned. And until next time, take care.
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How to stand out: 9 bullshit-free lessons from world-class tech marketers
Insights from Seth Godin, Rand Fishkin, David Darmanin and 6 other world-class tech marketers.
I’m a no-fluff marketer living in Dublin, Ireland (but yeah, I’m French).
I believe you can treat people the way you’d like to be treated and still generate results without using sleazy, aggressive, hack-y marketing. This is why I’ve started Everyone Hates Marketers – a no-fluff, actionable marketing podcast – as a side project in April 2017.
I’m also the Content Lead at Hotjar – a powerful way to analyse people’s behaviour on your website or app and understand how you can improve their experience.