Today I’m talking to Noah Kagan, a successful entrepreneur and founder of two multi-million dollar businesses including AppSumo, Sumo and Briefcase. Noah is someone who does marketing all day long, but rarely calls it marketing. He has a successful blog, podcast, YouTube channel, and over 700,000 subscribers on his email list. He has worked for Intel, Facebook and Mean.com before striking out on his own. Listen in as Noah takes us through how he would launch a business with $1000 anonymously and his thoughts on marketing today.
Listen to this Episode:
Topics Discussed in this Episode:
- Launching a business idea
- How to find a marketable service to provide
- Starting by working for free
- Validating ideas manually before starting with automation
- Networking methods to find clients
- The 80/20 rule: Spend 80% of the time sticking with what works, and 20% experimenting
- Becoming a better marketer and Noah’s advice and resources
- Moz, GrowthHackers, Product Hunt, Angel.co, Inbound.org
- Just Do It by Art Williams
- The Ultimate Sales Machine by Chet Holmes
- AppSumo, Sumo, Briefcase
- The 18 Books That Changed my Life by Noah Kagan
He has a successful blog, a successful podcast, a successful YouTube channel, a humongous 700,000 subscriber email list. He founded two multi-million dollar businesses. He worked for Intel, Facebook, mean.com, and then launched his own business, his own stuff. You have guessed who this person is, it’s Noah Kagan. Noah, welcome to the show.
Noah: Louis, right? As they say in French. Thank you for having me.
Louis: You’re very welcome. Let’s start right away into the meat of things because I know we don’t have a lot of time and I know that listeners really enjoy this kind of question. Noah, we’re gonna start a business together right now.
Noah: Sure, what do you wanna do?
Louis: It has to be a digital business. A few condition and then we’ll get started. You have $1000 to start with. You have six months to make it to $10,000 in return.
Louis: But there’s one thing you can’t do.
Noah: Oh, no. What can’t I do?
Louis: You can’t use your name.
Noah: Can’t use my name, okay.
Louis: No. You can’t use your network, anything like this. You have to start from scratch. How would you do it?
Noah: Wow. You wanna do something harder like the meaning for life?
Louis: Yeah, let’s do that.
Noah: I have six months to make $10,000 a month?
Louis: $10,000 in total. It doesn’t have to be $10,000 a month.
Noah: Oh, easy.
Noah: I will go drive for Uber. Here’s the thing, one, you said something that I disagree with which is it can’t be offline. I think too many people just assume like, “Oh, I wanna make money. It has to be this internet thing.” I had dinner with a guy last night and he said, “How do I make passive $2000 a month?” I said, “Well, you do active work for one year. Hopefully, you’d make $2000.”
The way I would start looking at that, Louis, is breaking the math down. If I wanna make $10,000 what are my different options? I think, with an Uber driver, literally, you can get set up in one day. I think France and Europe are some of the larger markets. I think you generally make somewhere around $15 an hour. If I needed to make $10,000, $15 an hour, 660 hours or 666 hours divided by six months, 111 hours a month. There’s also 160 hours a week. I could just do it in basically four weeks and then make it in a month.
I think what I’ve noticed about marketing and business is that I would do this for a month, figure out what’s working, and then I’d probably start advertising in my car, or selling things in my car to supplement it, then try to find other people that I could get to drive for me, or some other way to then evolve and iterate that business. But in terms of, brute-force-straight-let’s-make-money, I would probably just do something like that.
Louis: I enjoyed this answer. I love the fact that you contradicted me there. I wasn’t trying to say the only way to make money is by doing a digital business. I was just trying to frame the question so that we can find an idea together about a digital business.
Noah: We could do a digital one too, if you want.
Louis: Let’s go for it as well.
Noah: The other digital one, one of my favorites – you’re saying I can’t use my name, I don’t know anyone, I’m maybe in Serbia. I think, there’s two that I will probably approach. The first one I would do is I would look at some of the most popular articles on moz.com or any of the online marketing blogs, Moz, and Growth Hackers that show people how to do something, like how to write an article, how to optimize your blog.
One of the things that I’m still shocked at that no one’s really monetized well is how to do content refreshes. How do you go to old blog posts, update the images, update the texts, add more links, remove the dead links. I would find one or two of these articles that gives a template on how to do this. I would probably approach a certain target market. I’d probably approach SaaS companies.
I’d go to Product Ton, I would hit up probably angel.co, hit up 50 or 100 of them and be like, “Hey, can I do this for you for free? Here’s exactly what I’m gonna do. It’s from this article. Here’s the checklist that I’ll do, I’ll execute for you. There’s no cost.” Then basically, that would be my way in the door. If they like that, I would charge them a subsequent fee to do it on second article or for referral.
Louis: Let me break it down because the first step is to find the idea. You already have kind of an idea in mind. I think you know the pain points. It seems like more and more companies are spending money a lot of money doing content marketing, they are writing blog posts left, right, and center. After 6 months, 9 months, 12 months to a year, they forget about the blog post they wrote last year. They just tend to write new stuff but instead they could definitely refresh, as you said, the content they created before, right?
Noah: Yeah. The idea there or the concept at the highest level is just look at what something that other people have done that works for them, that there’s already a formula out there. Then just go do that for other people. You see these articles like how to optimize emails.
A lot of people, what they wanna do is, “I wanna create software. How do I take this $1000 and build software with it?” I would just go do that stuff manually, and then from the manual process, I would start the automation, then I would start looking on Freelancer or Upwork, and things like that, or India, Pakistan, whatever to find someone to then automate some of the work that I’m doing.
Louis: Alright. Sorry to cut you there.
Noah: Cut me out, man.
Louis: It’s very important stuff because people enjoy the step-by-step methodology that you will go through.
Noah: Yeah, let’s do it.
Louis: First of all, you search online for repeatable methods, repeatable frameworks that people have used successfully in the past.
Noah: Or just any article. I’d look for an article like, how we grew our SEO 50%, or here’s the checklist. You’re gonna search for checklist. You can search for templates. Anything that someone’s already done that seems like it works. Then I would go offer that as a service to different people.
For me, I’ll tell you, a service I’ve wanted and I’ve actually paid someone to do it, is content refreshes, where they change my title, they change my images, they change my texts, and I’ve paid them per article.
Louis: Great. Let’s pick this one in particular in order to launch it and try to find customer. The second thing you said was actually once you have this method of or this case study that you find useful, you turn into a service, a manual service to start with.
The second step you mentioned was to actually go to where your market hangs out. You said you’d probably start with SaaS companies. Let’s say we do content refresh for SaaS companies and startup SaaS companies in particular. You will go to Product Hunt, and angel.co, and those places where they hang out.
Noah: There are other places that you can go. There’s a lot of Facebook groups with a lot of people that have online businesses. Whatever market you’re targeting. Go to Facebook, search SaaS. There’s 50 groups with people posting with things they need help with or people that are running SaaS companies that you can approach to offer the service to.
Louis: You’re right, sounds good. Then, step three, you said, would you offer this service for free. How will you deal with this?
Noah: Yes, free.
Louis: Alright. The first article that you refresh will be free?
Noah: Yes. Here’s the thing, a lot of times when people are starting businesses, they’re intimidated to ask for money. I don’t like asking for money in the beginning because then, people take it more seriously, and they value what you’re doing. But I think, for most people out there, I find it easier if you’re just like, “Go do it for free. It’ll build up your clientele. It’ll build your skill set. It’ll build up your referrals.”
Then, you’ll get so busy that you’ll be like, “Hey, I need to charge you a little bit amount of money.” If you’re actually creating something they want of value then it’s gonna be a no-brainer for these people.
Louis: Especially because as we framed it at the start, we are anonymous, we have no credibility, no trust, nobody knows us, so why would somebody who has no profile, no experience, or no history of doing anything anything as such.
Noah: Other people could think of ideas like, “Oh, I built this software and now I’m trying to sell it.” I’m like, “You don’t know anyone.” You don’t have an email list, you don’t have a social media presence. I think the idea, and actually Seth Godin mentioned it really well in his episode with you which is just ‘pick a market of people that you understand or like and then focus on them one at a time’. It’s kind of the model that I’m suggesting. Find something that you can offer them that you think will help. Do it for free. Then keep doing that.
Louis: We do it for free, and then you mentioned something around automation, or starting to automate stuff but I do enjoy the fact that you say keep it manual to start with. I think, a lot of people I talk to, tend to think about the smartest way possible to automate their funnel, and make it so sexy, and automated, and perfect. But they really don’t do step one which is actually do something, first of all, that works.
Noah: Yeah. I think it’s true for all things. I’ve noticed with marketers especially everyone hates these marketers which is this outbound marketer which they spam you seven emails, it’s like, “Hey, did you get this? Hey, here’s a shitty gift. Hey, here’s a meme photo or hey, can you add this link to my article?” I’m like, “Oh, yeah. Anything else? You want my girlfriend? Oh, yeah, you want my scooter?”
Louis: Do you have a scooter actually?
Noah: I do have a scooter. I love my scooter.
Louis: Nice. Can I have it?
Noah: You can borrow when you come by Austin. You can go for a ride.
Noah: I don’t mind. I think the thing that I try to encourage people is just get away from the shitty – what a lot of people try to do for marketing is they try to jump ahead. They’re trying to drive a Ferrari on a racetrack and they don’t even know how to drive a car.
For instance, I was talking with a guy on our team where we’re working on growing our Shopify presence with sumo.com, and he’s like, “Oh, let’s automate the emails. Let’s automate emails to send people to get them to give us reviews. I was like, “How do we know what emails are gonna work?” “Well, let’s just do it manual, and let’s just see what stuff works, and then we can get to the automation.”
I think with most business especially with SaaS, what SaaS is software as a service, is not just S-ass. It means that you’re doing a service but then you’re using software to repeat that service instead of you doing it yourself manually.
Louis: I very much like that. I think it’s a way to validate the ideas. Once you don’t invest that much resources and money into trying to automate or creating software or building something, once you do it manually, the cost of switching from this method to something else or changing the way you work is minimal.
Noah: Yeah. I think what I notice people is that they build the software and then they have to go look for customers. It’s like, “Oh, I wonder who I can find to buy this.” My mentality was always been spend the least amount of time, the least amount of money, to find what people actually want, and what they will actually pay you for before you waste money and time, from there, go do it yourself, and then you’ll actually understand what they really want.
I have other businesses ideas I can recommend too that I’ve thought of but yeah, I think for SaaS stuff, go to content refreshes. I have a friend now, all he does is literally manually set-up their autoresponders. In the future, you could say, “I’m an autoresponder company and I create software that we magically set this up for you.”
But do it manually enough times so that you can understand it, you’re too busy, and then you can either automate it, there’s actually another caveat. You can automate it with people or automate it with software. I think too many times in the tech world we’re just like, “Oh, just put more software. Put more software.” When it might actually be cheaper and faster to do it with people.
Louis: Yeah. That’s something that is sexy. This stuff with a solution they think about the software referrals and they work backwards to try to find a problem that would be solved in this particular solution. That’s an interesting first step. It’s all about the manual work, and as you can hear, Noah doesn’t necessarily believe that you should build something from the ground up straight away but at least in small incremental changes, small incremental improvements, manual work or very much like that.
Let’s say we have a few first free clients that we’ve done the work for once. What do you do next then because we do need to make money. We spend many hours doing the work for those people. What do you recommend they do next then?
Noah: Yes. I will keep doing it. I will keep doing it, and doing it, and doing it. There’s a speech called Just Do It by Art Williams which is probably one of my favorite speeches online. It’s just very motivational. The point of his message and the point that I encourage people is that if you’re just reaching out to people and helping them one by one, just go do more of that.
I think a lot of times people are, “How do I do content marketing?” They’re like, “Well, okay. How do I do now Facebook ads? How do I do platform marketing? How do I do PRM?” “Well, have you finished doing what was already working?” Which is reaching out one by one or posting in groups like, “Hey, I’ll do this for free or I’ll do the first one for free,” and they’re like, “No.” I’m like, “Go do more of that.”
Number one, just do more with what worked to get those first few customers. The second thing that I would recommend is go through your LinkedIn contacts. When we’ve launched sumo.com and when I didn’t have sumo.com, I literally went through every single contact I have. You’ll be shocked when you actually do that. You’re like, “Oh shit, there’s this girl that works at that company that I could actually help with.” It’s really surprising. When we hire people at our company, we go through their entire LinkedIn contacts, every single person, and we say who’s a great person that should work here at Sumo? We do it with every single person.
Louis: I love this idea. But beyond LinkedIn, because in five years’ time, LinkedIn might be not LinkedIn anymore it could be something else. But the principles still apply. I very much like this idea of – when I started my business four years ago, the first thing I actually did was to make a spreadsheet with every single person I knew, from my cousins, my aunts, my uncles, my ex-colleagues, everybody I knew that I could remember. I did contact them one by one in order to get introductions, in order to get the first clients. This works. It’s not the sexiest, most effective method when you think about automating your funnel and whatever, but it just works.
Noah: Chet Holmes, one of my favorite authors, he wrote a book called Ultimate Sales Machine, what he calls, I can’t take the credit for it, he calls it his dream 100. A lot of companies, if you’re trying to do mass market, it’s a different play, but if you’re if you’re trying to do a target market of 500, or 100, or 1000 customers, just make a list of your dream 100.
If I’ve met you on the street and you’re like, “Hey, Noah, help me with internet marketing.” I’m like, “If I could bring a customer to you on a plate, who would you bring? Who can I bring?” You should have answers. If you make that list you’d actually be shocked when you go to your LinkedIn, or you ask your friends, or you ask your current customers, “Hey, do you know any of these three people?”
But still, I think, a lot of the methods I’m recommending especially earlier on are very manual instead of kind of hope marketing. Hope marketing to me is, “Hey, let’s write a blog post and hope that it eventually gets read. Hope that someone joins my newsletter. Hope that they might click something and go buy something at a later point.” I’m much more of a, “I wanna guarantee it. I don’t like surprises or hope in marketing.”
Louis: To you, the way to really guarantee that we’re gonna get our first paying customers is to contact people directly to find out where they spend their time, offer your work for free to start with, prove that what you do works, and then optimize and scale a little bit more on what works.
Noah: Yeah. Most people, what I’ve noticed, Louis, in my 17 years of internet world, is that most people haven’t finished the target market, they’re like, “I’ve talked to all customers.” I’m like, “Have you?” They’re like, “No, I’m guilty,” number one. Then number two is that they’ve stopped doing the marketing activity that was the one of the original ones or the ones that used to work because the wanna do ones that are easier.
I think it can get easier but frankly, at the end of the day, if it’s working, just go do more of that one. The way that I look at it, I have when people say this, but it is the 80/20. Just do four days of what works and one day, you can fuck around and experiment other activities that you’re not sure of, maybe content, maybe PR, maybe Facebook ads, maybe partnerships, whatever it is.
Louis: It’s a good point. It’s trying to fix something that is not broken and trying to just find something easier, as you said. I was very much guilty of that. But it’s true that one of the easiest way to do marketing effectively is ready to just double down on what works, instead of trying to find those new hacks, those new tactics, those new shiny objects in the horizons that people on LinkedIn have been talking about for the last two weeks. Don’t be afraid to just keep up to what’s working and avoid those shiny new objects.
Noah: That’s hard, man, because I’ll tell you, everyone knows the grass in greener mentality and the shiny object syndrome and I’m guilty of that not a victim. I’m guilty, I’m like, “Oh, this next features’ gonna help me or this new marketing channel’s gonna help us.” A lot of the times it’s like, “Okay, what’s been working?”
For sumo.com, for instance, content marketing’s been working, Facebook had been mostly working, and it’s like, “Let’s just keep doing more of those,” and then we experiment. We kind of experiment recently is we tried a partner program where we paid people if they refer customers. We tried it for a little bit, it worked well, so now we’re putting that as part of our regular marketing strategy.
Louis: Obviously, you need to try new things and experiment, but as you said, you should probably spend 80% of your time on things that are already working, 20% on testing new things.
Noah: But here’s the thing, the problem with that, Louis, is that everyone knows that. Everyone knows it but we don’t do it. It’s one of these things where it’s like you’re the average of the five people, or be around A players. No one ever thinks they’re around shitty people or maybe they do. But I think with marketing, one of the things that I’ve started to get really strong on, and I’m really proud of, and I’m trying to remind myself and hopefully influence others is that, it’s not about what you should do, it’s about what you gotta stop doing especially with marketing. What are you not gonna do anymore because it’s not working and how do you just keep doing more of what already works.
Louis: Yeah, this is tough to do. It’s really tough to do. It’s a little bit the same with this podcast and the concept behind it. Everybody agrees that you should do ethical marketing, that you should treat people the way you’d like to be treated, that you shouldn’t trick them. But when your boss is telling you everyday, “Listen, you need to reach your target this month or else you’re fired.” When the pressure to grow your business is really high, people go back to sleaziness, the aggressiveness because they have no choice. It’s easier to say something than to actually do it. I definitely agree with you on this.
Noah: Yeah, I agree.
Louis: You mentioned something I picked up and I know a few listeners probably picked it up as well. You said, “I also have a few other business ideas that I could talk about,” when you mentioned this content refresh thing. What else did you have in mind that you can inspire listeners with?
Noah: The number one thing that I would say, and I would give you a concrete business, but I think, more conceptually, and I like how you’re asking questions about that like what’s the take away or the high level, I’d say the high level thought is how do you solve problems for yourself? Because if you know that there’s something that you have a problem with, at least you’re gonna be happy.
It’s easier for you to go convince others. You have to go and make sure that other people want it. But for me, I have a blog. I wish I could have people refresh my content. That’s my own problem. Next problem, recruiting. I can go to a more specific detail but I’d love recruiting help. These are my own problems. It’s easier for me to be excited about them. It’s my very reason to work on them. Then probably convince other people about that too.
Recruiting is a huge problem for everyone. If you run a business, recruiting is a problem. Go look at anyone’s job page and then hit them up and contact them about how you can help them hire that person. I don’t know the solution, I don’t have the exact formula of how you can help people find that person, or how you can do it yourself, but I know that we spend over $250,00 a year on recruiting, to give you some idea of salaries, and software, and ads, and all this crap.
We’re already spending a lot of money. It’s a good way to look for business opportunities. Where do people are already spending a lot of money and it’s very valuable for them. I’m clearly spending money on it and there’s clearly money in that I could give to someone else instead.
Louis: Another tip as well for this is when you work for a client, or when you have your own business, or work for another business, write down the key problems that this business suffer from on a daily basis. The small things, the big things, that’s what I used to do. I used to have this huge list of small problems that I saw other business had suffered from or all the business I was involved in. That usually leads to ideas and potential stuff you can do later on based on those raw ideas.
Noah: Yeah, love it man.
Louis: Noah, I want you to be honest with me, 100% right in this question. What is the sleaziest, shadiest, marketing tactic you’ve ever used?
Noah: Ever used. What have I used in the past? One thing I will say is that it’s hard to say because I think sometimes, what someone might do others might call, “Oh, that’s sleazy.” But I don’t think it is.
Louis: It’s your own definition of it at the end of the day.
Noah: What’s that?
Louis: Your own definition of it. What is sleazy in your own definition?
Noah: I like using the Wall Street Journal test which is if your mom read the Wall Street Journal and what you did is in the front page of it, how would you feel? If you’re okay with it and you’re like, “Hey, mom…” or maybe your mom’s a bad person too but if she reads it and is like, “Oh, I can’t believe you did that.” Then, that’s probably not something that you should be doing.
I think some of the things, we haven’t actually done it with AppSumo which is one of our companies which is a daily deals for entrepreneurs, we’d never change the timer. If it’s a deal that ends in a day, we ended the timer but maybe we ran an ad to it for the next day, wasn’t really public but I’m not even sure if we actually ever did that or we just talked about it. I don’t got anything, man. I don’t really know what I do that’s shady.
Louis: It’s okay. It’s a tough question.
Noah: No, I wanna think, I’d love to give you stuff that’s juicy like, “Oh, back in the day, I was a shithead.”
Louis: Listen, you can think of it while I ask you more questions. Maybe it’s gonna come back to it. But I love the way you define shady in your own terms. If what you’re doing will be in front of the Wall Street Journal or the public newspaper, would you be proud of it, would your mom appreciate what you did, or would she be ashamed and tell you to get another job? That’s a good definition of things.
Noah: Yeah. The only thing shady I could say that, I’m trying to think of something good, I’m not saying that I don’t do bad things or I haven’t done wrong things, I definitely have, I think I’ve matured over the past 10 years. One of our companies is in a payment space, we did affiliate offers where you can get FarmVille credits if you signed up for NetFlix, and I think that shit sucked.
Noah: Because I don’t know if people actually wanted to sign-up for these offers to get their FarmVille credits. I ended up leaving that business after a year or less. I just didn’t think that actually ended up really good for the customers. Not all the offers, there’s like, “Sign-up first, give us your cell phone,” and then we’d bill people. I didn’t think that was good stuff for people to be doing.
Louis: It probably creates bad customers. People, as you say, who don’t necessarily want your service, and only want it for something else just to collect points or whatever. But this is the reason why affiliate marketing and affiliate could be very tricky for business when you set it up because those affiliates actually bring the price down, like you have one business that would start offering affiliates 20% of the cut, and the other business would start offering 30% of the cut, and the other business would do 40% , 50%, and then just the entire industry around it just fails because of it as well.
Noah: I think affiliate in general is scammy. I think that it’s a lot of sleazeballs. The problem is that a lot of this bad industry make so much money, it’s unreal. But it’s been interesting to dabble with that with sumo.com which I feel like we’re good guys and good girls but doing partnerships in this way is a bit interesting because it’s like, ‘Hey, we wanna work with people we know. If you wanna promote it…” Affiliate, I think, has gotten a bad rap over the years because people have abused it.
Louis: Outside of affiliates, why do you think marketing in general has a bad reputation?
Noah: I don’t think marketing has a bad reputation.
Louis: No, you don’t?
Noah: I don’t, no. I think what’s interesting is like when you say that I think about college. I went to UC Berkeley and people are like, “Well, what’s marketing?” It’s like, “When someone has a thing and it comes into a marketplace…When people are meeting around a product.” I guess I have looked at marketing in my career is one, I never think of myself as a great marketer. I still don’t. Two nights ago, someone’s like, “Oh, you’re a great marketer.” I’m like, “I’m not.”
The way I look at it is that marketing to me is finding something that I truly believe in and I think will genuinely help people, a certain type of person, and being more of an evangelist, an ambassador, and making sure I do whatever it takes to let the right people know about it. When I worked at Mint, it was like, “Hey, you guys have gotta use mint.com and AppSumo, and now sumo.com, and we just launched briefcase, hq.com, like that plug.”
I think what we make is great. I don’t think of marketing as a negative thing. I think of it as like, I’m an educator and evangelist. For me it’s exciting to go share that with the people that I think should know about it.
Louis: I think the issue, I mean it’s not an issue, it’s a good thing. Your definition of marketing is my definition as well. It’s the good marketing. You just defined to me what is good marketing but trust me on that, a lot of other people wouldn’t define marketing as such and therefore that would carry a lot of bad reputation.
As you mentioned, you’re kind of sick of receiving those seven emails from the same person saying, “Hey, can you do this. Can you do that for me?” Those cold emails that don’t make any sense. To me, this is part of the marketing realm and this is also one of the reason why some people think that marketing is bullshit, marketing is shady.
Noah: You know what’s interesting and I’ve noticed this man, with the people that are shady, they’re the ones that are like, “Oh, it’s not shady.” I think people that talk about how much money they make or they won’t tell you anything that they do, they won’t actually say anything, they’ll be quiet about what they’re doing are shady. I don’t know.
Sometimes it’s weird too when people are like, “Oh, yeah.” I just definitely think there are questionable people, but I think for the most part I think people do it with best intentions whether they don’t even realize what they’re doing is shady. I think that can be the problem.
Louis: Yeah, that’s true as well for sure. This is why I’m trying with this podcast to evangelize the good marketing side of things. As you mentioned, this is exactly my definition of marketing as well, and I think the more people share this definition, the less people will actually do shady stuff without necessarily realizing it.
Noah: Yeah. What is your definition just to be clear because I wasn’t quite clear on that.
Louis: My definition would be to understand people so well that you can provide them what they need and just communicate that with them.
Noah: Yeah, that would be damn cool. I like that one. One thing just to kind of come back full circle to what we were talking about earlier, I was just on Reddit entrepreneur, I’m a big Redditor, and there’s this article, how I grew my Instagram account. This is literally like what we were talking earlier, take this article and go do it for other people.
Just propose, “Hey, here’s a checklist from this article. I’ll go do it for you.” One of the thing I was thinking for a lot of people who are starting, I don’t know if that’s a lot of your audience, is that I don’t think they’re actually committed to doing it for that long and that’s part of their problem.
Louis: Amen to that. Because that’s exactly what my issue was when I started out. I was expecting results within a week, within a day. I was pissed off because nobody would give a shit to what I was doing and I just gave up. I did that so many times you would not believe, but with this podcast and the few things I started before, I told myself, “Listen, I don’t give a shit whether 1 person, 10 persons, 1,000 persons listen, all I want is publishing one episode every week for the next year, and then I’ll see.
Noah: I think that’s a great thing. Someone asked me when I launched my podcast, they’re like, “Oh, you’re in the rankings. Look at the ranking and shit.” I was like, “Ask me the ranking in one year,” because anyone can start anything for a month, but in one year most people won’t persist. If you just do anything, literally, if you do marketing, or start a business, or sales, or any skill, and you commit 15, 30 minutes a day for a year, even 15 minutes, you do that for a year, you’re golden. You will get most of what you want if not further ahead of that.
Louis: This is why when people request and ask, “How do you get on the first page of google? How do you do SEO better?” The answer is well, blog about this particular subject every day for a year, and you will see who will rank on the page one of almost every single search results, search keywords related to what you’re blogging about.
Noah: Yeah, it’s that easy, I think sometimes, I’ll tell you Louis. Is it Louis? Am I saying it correctly?
Louis: It’s Louis actually, but I don’t mind.
Noah: No, Louis. I like saying people’s real names. I’ll tell you, even myself, I’ve been running online businesses and companies about 17 years, give or take, and I still think there’s gonna be some secrets. I still think there’s gonna be some marketing secret or something that’ll make it all easier. Then at the end of the day, I always keep ending back at the same thing I said, you just gotta go back to work.
I just gotta keep going back to work. If you put in the time, it’s like going to the gym. Someone asked me “Oh, how’d you get your body? Blah, blah, blah.” I’m like, “Who cares what I’m doing?” Besides diet and that’s a whole another story. I just go to the gym, I just keep showing up three times a week and that’s it.
Louis: That’s simple.
Noah Well, people wanna know like, “What’s your routine? What’s your diet?” I’m like, “Just show up.” “What do I do?” “Just get there.” “How do I lift the weight?” “Just lift it up and put it back down.” That’s the same thing with marketing or writing, or sales or customers, or whatever gonna be you’re good at, just show up.
Louis: Yep, just show up. Do you have anything that sprung to mind about the question about the sleaziest and shadiest stuff you’ve ever done? Anything that brings back memories? Or do you wanna move on to the last questions?
Noah: Let’s move on.
Louis: What do you think marketers should learn today that will help them in the next 10 years, 20 years, 50 years?
Noah: What I wanna know today that will help me in the next 50 years? I think what I’m concerned or scared of and or excited about is how does marketing get to such an individual level. How does marketing become like I am marketing to Louis, is it right?
Louis: Yep. Perfect.
Noah: How do I market exactly to you? I think that’s number one. There’s different software out there. Our software soon will do more of that retargeting. You can start targeting the person in this city of this thing. Start thinking more about of the personalization of it. That’s kind a more general. I’d say the second thing for marketers is that just learn to be a better copywriter. Go learn how to write well.
Everything at the end of the day is communication. I’m either selling you something. I’m communicating something. I’m trying to explain something. Practice writing more often. It could be an emoji format, I don’t give a shit but just practice communication and being a better communicator.
I think there’s something interesting about the new mediums out there. Marketing at the end of the day is the same thing. Marketing is like how do I share this thing to that person? But there’s new mediums like podcast, and social media and videos. I think it’s healthy for marketers in general to understand them at least.
Are there channels that maybe you’re gonna be better at? There’s probably other things, one thing, oh man. I’ll give you one other one I’d be excited about. I think marketers should learn math better, specifically just like spreadsheets. Learn how to use spreadsheets better. I wish someone would have taught me more of that. I still think there’s more for me to learn around that stuff.
Louis: Why do you think spreadsheets are helpful for marketers?
Noah: I think most marketers, including myself at times, think we know. We’re like, “Oh, here’s how to do something.” I think it’s working out. I don’t really know. But if you could do it in basic analysis, if you can do pivot table, or if you can do some index lookups, or do correlation stuff, it actually will makes you that much stronger in deciding things about your marketing activities. I even look on YouTube and look up spreadsheet stuff.
Louis: Yep. If Noah does it, you can do it as well.
Noah: I’m not better than anyone else. I never think I’m so much more gifted. I think I’ve just found products that I really like and I pretty much do whatever it took. Do whatever it took to find right customer. The only thing I’d say that has helped me is that in marketing where most people get mistaken is that they do the channels that everyone else is doing. I generally find it harder to get ahead with those kind of channels. You have to be looking what channel there’s no ads on yet. What channel are there no other people that are kind of already paying attention to it?
Louis: The best way for me to find that out actually is not to start with a channel, it’s to start with a customer, and interviewing them, and finding out where they spend their time online, or even out flying in real life. I’m trying to pick those places where not a lot of marketers are in already. The issue with marketers in general is that we ruin everything. As soon as we get into a channel, we flood it. Good luck with that trying, to find channels that are not overused and that works.
Noah: Well, that’s part of the fun. Because most marketing, and this is something that I thought a lot about, is that most marketing doesn’t work. I like your point about finding the right customer and you can ask them where they are. But I’ll tell you, throughout this year, I’ve experimented with just a bunch of different marketing on Quora, and Pinterest, and Twitter, and Facebook, and Instagram, and Google. It’s mostly things don’t work. Coming back to the original sentiment, you just gotta keep trying.
Louis: Yep, just have to keep trying. Personalization, communication, copywriting, spreadsheets, probably the four top things you would recommend marketers to learn today that will help them forever, really. Noah, you’ve written this huge list of business books that’s really inspired you, and books in general, I would actually suggest people to Google that books, Noah Kagan, and they’ll find what I’m talking about. Outside of those books, I’m curious to hear what would be the top three resources you would recommend marketers and even people looking to learn more about marketing today. It doesn’t have to be books. It could be podcasts, it could be anything, really.
Noah: For people wanting to learn more about marketing.
Louis: Or to become better marketers in general.
Noah: What I would do to be a better marketer. I think number one, just go do marketing. Find something to practice marketing on. There’s no book that’s gonna give you a better information than experience. Go do it. Just go do it. I think that’s number one, pick any product you like and practice marketing on it. I think that would be the first one.
Second one, you can go to the generic places that most people know about like growthhackers.com and inbound.org which I still really like. I think the other thing I would probably do is look for some of the old school marketers. Look at Jim Rone, look at Zig Ziglar, Chet Holmes.
A lot of these guys that have kind of been, who’s some of the other guys, the BluBlocker guy, J Abrams, some of these are kind of more traditional, Gary Halbert. Look at their stuff on YouTube, it’s free. I think it’s interesting to kind of learn because most of this stuff has been tried and you can learn a lot from their stuff. That definitely helped me with learning a lot more about marketing.
Louis: Alright. Noah, you’ve been a pleasure really. Thank you so much.
Noah: Yeah, good questions. Man, shit, this is tough. This felt like a college exam.
Louis: I’m gonna keep these, by the way, I’m not cutting anything out. This is gonna be in the final episode. What is the best way for listeners to get in touch with you and learn more from you?
Noah: Checkout the companies I work at, really quickly appsumo.com, daily deals for small business owners. Sumo.com, free tools to grow your email list. We just launched briefcasehq.com which is basically Netflix for software. It’s the tools you need to grow your business. If they wanna hear more of me, you can check me out on YouTube or Podcast World, just search Noah Kagan.
Louis: There’s one video on YouTube that I saw of you today that was really funny and I can’t remember it anymore, oh man. Yeah, there’s a lot of business videos and then there is this one about you talking about losing your hair which is a serious subject for a lot of people but it was quite funny to see all of those, how would I make money today, and those kind of stuff, and then losing my hair, and then moving on to business videos. Kudos to that for sharing all of this. I very much enjoy watching all these videos of you and I will keep doing that.
Noah: Thanks, man. It’s just like marketing with the YouTube thing. Looking for what’s working, doing more of it, experimenting a lot, and then being consistent. I put up two videos a week for this whole year. Not all of them are great. I try to bold one out just to kind of see how it work. Yeah, it’s pretty interesting.
Louis: Well, Noah, once again, thank you so much.
Noah: Thanks for having me.
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.