How to Stop Getting Ignored and Break Through the Clutter in Your Prospect’s Inbox

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Back in 2010 when I first got started with email marketing, I thought I knew what I was doing. I embedded a form on my site, offered something of value for free, and people opted into my list.

Overnight, I fancied myself a highly sophisticated email marketer. My list was growing steadily, I was converting prospects to customers, and my revenue steadily increased.

Damn, I’m so smart….or so I thought.

The problem I began having was that my email open rates (how many people opened my emails) started to decline.

Why did this happen? Because I was sending everybody on my list exactly the same stuff, without stopping to check in with them on what they were actually interested in.


Now that I have the benefit of hindsight, I can see that the huge mistake that I was making was that I wasn’t segmenting my list into groups of similar people.

The Power of Segmentation

If you are using your website to build a list of subscribers (prospects) and you aren’t segmenting them into groups, you are making a HUGE mistake. (If you aren’t yet even building a list, you are making an even bigger mistake!)

Assuming you want to create an engaged audience (and who would want a disengaged audience?), the reason segmenting your list is so important is that the only way to create engagement is to send out high quality content that is relevant to the wants, needs and desires of the people you are sending it to.

For example, if I was building a list by offering up a free training course on email marketing, some of the people on that list might be solo-preneurs just starting out, whereas others may be running a small company that is already doing email marketing and looking for ways to improve their results.


Do you think that both of these types of people (personas) would find value in exactly the same content?

Hardly. For the first group, they need the basics: how to set up and auto-responder, how to install a web form, etc…

If you sent basic information like this to the second group, what do you think would happen? You’d bore them to tears and they’d either unsubscribe or just ignore your emails.

The fastest way to kill your list is to send them content that is not relevant to their needs, wants, and desires.


ignore1When you don’t segment your list, you can’t send out content that is highly relevant and when your content is irrelevant, so are you.

Think about some of the lists you are on. Whose content do you value most? Why do you always open emails from these people?

Could it be that they seem to have a knack for always sending you content you find extremely helpful?

What do you do when their content ceases to be of value? At first, you probably just open fewer of the emails. Over time, if they don’t improve the relevancy of what they are sending you, chances are you are going to start regularly ignoring them, and, in the worst case (for them), you unsubscribe.


When you take the time to learn more about the needs, wants, and desires of your subscribers, and then send them ONLY content that fits with what they’ve told you about themselves, you are going to see all sorts of benefits.

First – and most obvious – is the fact that your open rates are going to remain higher than they would otherwise be. When you have high open rates, you have an engaged audience.

The next major benefit will be that your audience will have a much higher propensity to share you content on their social networks. As you might guess, the reason for this is simple: the more helpful your content is to your audience, the more likely they are going to want to share it with others.

In fact, if you really want to be a rock star, make your marketing content so good that people would want to pay you for it. This is something that New York Times best selling author Jay Baer outlines how to do in his new book, Youtility. (If you’d like to see how Jay made his book such a huge success, I suggest you read a post about Jay’s success that was recently published by past BrightIdeas podcast guest Michael Gass.)

The final major benefit is that a more engaged audience is much more likely to trust you, and with increased trust comes increased revenue.

Getting Started with Segmentation

Segmenting your list need not be difficult. In fact, if you follow a similar strategy to the one that I’m about to share with you, segmentation will actually be the natural by-product of your digital marketing strategy.


ask1The first step in segmenting your list is to determine your goals. In my case, I want to accomplish the following things:

  • Increased engagement
  • Increased social sharing
  • Increased revenue

Once you know your goals, you need to make a list of the things you want to know about your subscribers. What makes them different? What are they most interested in? What can they afford? What type of business are they in?

As you might guess, when you begin to learn this much about the people on your list, you can start to send them content that is a lot more relevant to their individual needs…and when you do that, your open rates (and subsequent conversions) can only go up.


In order to segment my list, I ask direct questions. I also pay very close attention to the behavior of my subscribers.

In fact, I probably place more value on my subscribers’ behavior (at least initially) than I do their answers to my questions. The reason I track behavior so closely is because I believe I can learn a lot about each person by paying attention to what they DO as opposed to what they SAY.


Whenever I ask a direct question, I am collecting external data. In my case, at the time of this writing, I ask my subscribers to answer the following four questions:

  • What are you struggling with most?
  • How much revenue does your business generate?
  • What kind of business are you in?
  • What do you want to learn about most?

When I have their answers, I have a much clearer idea of each of their needs, wants and desires.

The way that I collect this data is pretty straight forward. I put a web form under each video in my Conversion Tactics free training series.


Whenever a subscriber clicks a link, downloads a file or watches a video (etc), I track that activity. In other words, I pay very close attention to each subscriber’s behavior so that I can learn as much about them as possible. Armed with this data, I can actually adjust the frequency and type of messages I send to be better suited to their behavior. (I demonstrate this in a video later on in this post.)

Subscribers who are eager to watch everything unlock the next video right away; whereas subscribers that aren’t as engaged are reminded to take action several times, and then, as soon as they do act, the reminders stop.

This works so incredibly well that I often receive emails from new subscribers asking me how on earth I knew what actions they did (or didn’t) take!

(If you aren’t yet a subscriber and would like to see my marketing automation in action, become one now.)


Not every subscriber is going to be willing to answer my questions and fill in a form on my site. Some will be in a hurry, some won’t yet trust me enough, some simply choose to remain more anonymous.

Regardless of their reasons, it’s just not practical to expect to get 100% of my subscribers to answer every question I ask. It is possible, however, to offer them additional incentives to get them to fill in my web forms.

For example, in video #1 of my Conversion Tactics video training series, I actually tell my viewers that I’m tracking how much of the video they watch, and if they watch it all, I will send them an additional bit of content that I know they will find extremely valuable. (I know the types of things that ALL my subscribers want because I carefully target my audience.)

In my case, because I use BrightIdeas.co as a platform to teach people about digital marketing strategy and marketing automation, the more transparent I am in my marketing funnel, the better my funnel actually works. The reason for this is that the vast majority of my subscribers are marketing consultants and they are looking to me to learn things that they can use to attract more clients for themselves – so much of what I’m “using on them” will actually work very well in their own funnels – and once they realize that, they become very engaged with my content.


Over the years, I have tested all sorts of ways to increase engagement with my audience. Of all of the things that I have tested, video is by far the most powerful tool for tracking engagement. There are several reasons why I think that video works so well in this regard.

First, when I put my face or voice on camera and then serve up that content to a new subscriber, they are going to be exponentially more engaged with me than if there were just reading a written post like this one. With video, they can see my face, hear my voice, watch my eyes and connect with me in ways that simply aren’t possible in a written post.

The other reason that I find video so powerful for tracking engagement is that I can actually track how much of my videos each subscriber watches and, depending on how much they watch, I can trigger additional automation to occur.


For example, in my funnel, if you watch 100% of each video (like I ask you to), then I’m going to send you the additional gifts that I promised you in each video. If you watch less then 100%, you don’t get the bonuses I talked about. If you click a link to watch a video and then don’t end up watching it, I treat you differently yet again.

In other words, by tracking how much of my videos you do or don’t watch, I can adjust the behavior of my automated campaigns.

Behavioral Marketing allows me to automatically adjust my marketing campaigns to match your behavior, creating a far more personalized experience with my brand.


A mid-funnel lead magnet is most often a free report that is offered to existing subscribers. Hubspot is among the best I have ever seen at doing this. The number of reports they offer for download to existing subscribers is nothing short of amazing.

Unlike the initial lead magnet whose goal was to capture the email address, a mid-funnel lead magnet’s goal is to tell me more about the things that my subscribers are interested in.

For example, if I offered up a free report on how B2B companies could generate more leads for their products and services, that would tell me quite a bit about what this subscriber is most interested in right now. Shortly after someone has downloaded this report, it would serve me when to send them to the sales page for The Best Buyer Formula (my training course on B2B lead generation).

Even if I didn’t have a product for sale to match that need, offering mid-funnel lead magnets is a very powerful tactic because people who are downloading a free report on lead generation (or whatever) are obviously quite interested in learning more about lead generation. If I didn’t have a product, I could either follow up with them to do some consulting, or – if I see that the report is downloaded often enough – I could create a product to match this need.

So rather than put up a web form that asks, “are you interested in learning more about lead generation?”, I could simply put up a form that said “enter you details to instantly receive a report on how to generate more leads”.

Regardless of whether I ask the question directly or indirectly, I’m still going to learn more about my subscriber and that is absolutely key to my being able to properly segment my list.

What To Do With Your Segments

Now that you have all this data about your subscribers, it’s critical that you put it to use, and there are plenty of ways to do this.


If you don’t yet have a library full of original content, the easiest and fastest way to leverage the knowledge you gain about each subscriber is to reach out and talk to them. When you engage in conversations like this, you are going to learn a great deal more about each subscriber, not to mention create a qualified sales opportunity.


One of my products is a mastermind group for marketing consultants and whenever I learn that a new subscriber is a consultant interested in growing their business, I make sure to give them the opportunity to go directly to my online calendar to book a time to speak with me about joining the mastermind group.  This approach works very well because by the time they actually get on the phone with me, each of my prospects has already been exposed to quite a bit of my content. My close ratio for these calls is north of 70% and the call they book is often the very first time I have ever spoken to them.


One of my past guests, Forrest Walden, CEO of Iron Tribe Fitness, reports even better results than mine. In his case, when a prospect comes into the gym for a face-to-face consultation, his trainers are able to convert that prospect to a customer 98% of the time!


Regardless of how much I know about some people, they might not be ready to buy something right now. This is something that I keep in mind whenever I’m building the follow up sequence that is triggered when a certain goal is achieved. (Downloading a free report is one example of such a goal.)

For example, if a subscriber clicks a link to register for a demo of Infusionsoft (the marketing automation software I use to create my funnels and run my business), I make sure that over the next few weeks they receive links to the many interviews that I have recorded with successful entrepreneurs who also use Infusionsoft in their business. That way, even if they don’t actually attend the demo, they are going to continue to receive helpful content from me for a few more weeks yet.

Remember, as Jay Baer suggests: make your content so good people would pay for it!



Regardless of the type of business you are in, at some point in time, you should give your prospects (subscribers) a chance to become a customer. When you segment in the way that I have explained above, you are exponentially increasing the odds that they will want to buy and I strongly encourage you to ensure that you regularly give them the opportunity to do so. Additional manual follow up, calendar appointments, and more automated follow up are just 3 examples of how you can do this.

Let’s Review

  1. Segmenting your list into groups of people with similar needs, wants, and desires is absolutely critical to maximizing results
  2. When you segment your list, you will increase engagement, get more social shares, build trust and generate more revenue
  3. If you don’t segment your list, you will burn your list out over time and lose subscribers
  4. The type of information you need to collect will be determined by your goals
  5. There are two types of data to collect and track: external and internal
  6. External data is what subscribers tell you when filling out web forms
  7. Internal data is what they do (links clicked, videos watched, files downloaded, etc…)
  8. Offering additional incentives will significantly increase the amount of external data you collect
  9. Make extensive use of video to increase engagement and track how much of each video is viewed
  10. Offering mid-funnel lead magnets is another very powerful way to segment your list
  11. Once you have segmented your subscribers, ensure that you only send them content that is highly relevant to their needs, wants and desires.
  12. Whenever you collect more data, be sure to offer your subscribers an opportunity to do business with you
  13. When you send highly relevant content, your audience will be more engaged, they will share your content and you will make more money
  14. For maximum results, automate, automate, automate (or just hire an army to work 24×7, but that sounds pretty expensive to me)

A Behinds the Scenes Look at How I Segment in my Funnel

In the video below, I’m going to share with you version 3.0 of my marketing funnel. This funnel contains the sequence of follow up emails that I send after someone opts into the top of my funnel. My goal with this initial campaign is to learn as much as I can about the needs, wants, and desires of my new subscribers so that I can continue to send them content that will be as helpful as possible; ultimately leading to their choosing to purchase one of more of my products.

The video below is just under 15 minutes long and is an excerpt from the the last Bright Ideas Mastermind Elite monthly meeting (hence why you hear some other voices). If you’d like to apply to become a mastermind member, click here.

If you’d like to learn more about Infusionsoft (the software I used in this video), you can register to get access to an on-demand webinar here.

Next Steps

If you found this article on segmentation helpful, go and become a VIP for my new book on Digital Marketing. As important as segmentation is, it’s just one of the digital marketing strategies you need to implement to become a  digital marketing maven (I cover the others in my book). Become a VIP today and you will receive 25% off the book on the day that it is released.

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chris handy 4in x 6in x 300dpi x FC

Digital Marketing Strategy: Chris Handy on How He Built a $400K 2-person Agency in 24 months

If you’re a marketing agency owner who’s struggling to get traction, how would you like to hear from an agency owner who was very successful early along? Chris Handy built a $400,000 two-person agency in just 24 months, and he has generously agreed to share what worked with the BrightIdeas audience. (For more agency Bright Ideas, check out our other posts that are especially relevant to marketing agencies.)

Chris has excellent strategies for lead generation, LinkedIn and other social promotion, lead nurturing and more. In addition to the ThinkHandy digital marketing strategy, Chris shares ideas on how to select a profitable niche.

Listen now and you’ll also hear Chris and I talk about:

  • (5:00) Introductions
  • (8:50) His background with eBay
  • (12:30) How his exposure to process has molded his thinking
  • (14:50) Overview of #1 lead generation
  • (15:30) Overview of how he’s using LinkedIn
  • (19:50) Overview of how they are blogging for leads
  • (24:20) Criteria for selecting a profitable niche
  • (26:30) Overview of lead nurturing
  • (31:00) Overview of retained income and how assessments lead to it
  • (40:00) Overview of how they systematize the deliverables
  • (43:30) How they are using client interviews to create blog posts
  • (45:00) Overview of deliverables given for retainer
  • (51:00) Overview of social promotion strategy
  • (56:00) Advice on how to get started at content marketing
  • (58:20) His biggest mistake and lessons learned

Resources Mentioned

More About This Episode

The Bright Ideas podcast is the podcast for business owners and marketers who want to discover how to use online marketing and sales automation tactics to massively grow their business.

It’s designed to help marketing agencies and small business owners discover which online marketing strategies are working most effectively today – all from the mouths of expert entrepreneurs who are already making it big.

Listen Now

Leave some feedback:

Connect with Trent Dyrsmid:


Trent: Hey there, bright idea hunters. Welcome to the Bright Ideas
Podcast. I am your host Trent Dyrsmid and this is the podcast
for marketing agencies, marketing consultants and entrepreneurs
who want to discover how to use content marketing and marketing
automation to massively boost their business without massively
boosting the number of hours that you have to work every week.
As a matter of fact, the goal is to help you reduce the number
of hours you have to work every week. The way that we do that is
we bring proven experts onto the show to share with us what’s
working for them. When I say a proven expert I don’t mean a guru
or a theorist, I mean someone who’s actually using this stuff in
their business and they’re getting significant results by doing
so.My guest on the show today is a guy by the name of Chris Handy,
and he is the Founder of a marketing agency by the name of
ThinkHandy.com. He and his wife are actually the two people that
are behind that agency. He launched that in the beginning of
2011 and here we are just not even two years later he’s at
$20,000 a month in recurring revenue from retainer business.
They’re on track to do $400,000 in revenue this year and as you
can imagine with no overhead and only he and his wife as being
the two key employees that also translates into a very
profitable business venture.In this interview I get Chris to share all sorts of stuff with
us in great detail. For example, I want him to, or get him,
rather, to explain how he’s using LinkedIn to generate leads and
he does something that’s very unique and interesting. It’s
different than what I do and I’ll go so far as to say it’s
smarter and better than what I am doing so of course I need to
adjust my action as a result. You’re going to hear that at
roughly the seven to nine-minute mark and then after that we
start talking about his criteria for selecting which niches that
he pursues and that is a real key part of his business strategy
is choosing those niches correctly because as he points out not
all niches are created equal. Some are going to be a whole lot
more profitable for you than others.Then we walk through his four-step process for taking a lead
that goes through the funnel and requests an assessment then
there’s four steps that he does to convert them to a client and
it was very interesting as he shared the details on that because
the one thing that he doesn’t do is he doesn’t ever go and meet
them face to face. The really wonderful thing about this is no
matter what town you’re in or where you live you can get clients
that are anywhere if you listen to this interview and you
replicate the process that Chris explains.His background involved a lot of work with process improvement
and process automation and that really shines through in the
systems that he’s using to run his agency. We talk about that as
well. When a client says yes, how efficient you are or aren’t in
delivering the work that you’ve promised to them is going to
make all the difference between whether you build an agency with
lots of revenue and no profit or you build an agency with lots
of revenue and lots of profit. You really need to get good at
this whole systematizing and process management and in this
interview Chris shares a whole lot about that.Finally, towards the end of the interview he shares one of the
biggest mistakes that he made early on and the lessons that he
learned as a result of that. Do make sure that you stay tuned to
the very end and check that out.We’re going to welcome Chris to the show in just a second, but
before we get to that I want to very briefly tell you about a
new book that I’m working on and how you can get an advance look
at it, some free chapters and a discount when it comes out if
you go to BrightIdeas.co/book all of the information will be
there and this is going to be a book that covers extensively
everything that I’ve ever learned plus everything I’ve learned
from all the guests that have been on the show about two really
important topics, content marketing and marketing automation.Why are those topics so important? Because in this day and age
that’s the magic sauce that gets you all the business and all
the clients and the growth and the profits. I didn’t really have
a name for the book yet but if you go to BrightIdeas.co/book
you’ll see there a landing page that I created and you’ll be
able to opt in and get all the things that the landing page
says. With that said, please join me in welcoming Chris to the
show. Hey Chris. Welcome to the show.Chris: Thank you, Trent. Great to be here.Trent: It is a thrill to have you on. Just from what we were talking
about before we hit the record button we have a very good
interview coming your way so for the listeners who have not
heard of you please take a moment, introduce yourself, who you
are and what you do.Chris: Sure. My name is Chris Handy. I’m in Fort Worth, Texas, and I
operate a company called Think Handy and we’ve really decided
against putting anything as a definer on the end of that name
because we were kind of in marketing sales and operations and
we’re a consultancy in helping people streamline those and get
more out of their marketing dollars, but also integrating sales
and service into that.Trent: In the last, so you started this firm at the beginning of 2000,
and we’re going to get into your background and everything in a
minute, but I want people to know the results that you’ve
achieved in a pretty short period of time. You started in the
beginning of 2011, correct?Chris: Yes.Trent: Here we are, 2013 now. Middle, I guess fall and in the last, so
you started off from zero. Nothing. Right?Chris: Started off from zero. I took a few freelance web design
projects in 2010 and really proof of concept is, we were just
trying to see if we could get clients and found out that we
could so in 2011 went ahead and took the plunge and got started
and it was a slow ramp up. We’ve grown quite a bit in revenue
and in recurring revenue specifically so this year we are on
track to do about, hopefully about 400,000 by the end of the
year.Trent: In the last six months you said, off air you said you’d done
200.Chris: That’s correct.Trent: That’s pretty good. Your recurring revenue is at how much per
month now?Chris: We’re at about $20,000 in retainer relationships for each
month.Trent: That’s pretty fantastic. It makes, when you run a lean business
like you do with virtually no overhead, then 20,000 a month
coming in on the first day of every month makes for not a whole
lot of stress of, ‘Hey, where’s our next meal coming from.’Chris: It’s definitely improved our quality of life a little bit. Not
having to worry but we’re investing a lot back into the business
and in our marketing. Really we’ve spent a lot of time figuring
out where we go. We can obviously grow now so which way do we
grow? That’s very important to me. I want to make sure that when
we do make that next hire, who’s it going to be? What’s that
role going to be for and how can we make the most of our future?Trent: I have a lot of people who listen to my show based upon the
emails and so forth that I get that are solopreneurs. A lot of
marketing consultants, [freelance] web designers and I think I
speak for the when I say they all want to grow up. They want to
get, they want to make their firms bigger. They want to get more
recurring revenue. They want to be able to hire some more
employees and they want to use some more resources. They want to
grow like every other entrepreneur on the planet.I really want to make this episode for them so let’s, I want, I
really want to walk through kind of how you made that transition
from that first freelance client and I know there’s a lot of
people who listen to my show as well who maybe aren’t even in
business yet and you talked earlier how you kind of did a little
project with some freelance work to see if you could even get
clients. I want to talk about that.Before we get into both of those things I want you to tell a
little bit about your background because you have this rather
unusual background, this eBay consignment thing. You want to
talk a little bit about that so we have context?Chris: Sure. A lot of people bring up the 40 year old virgin when I
bring that up because you’ve seen that movie. The girl that
Steve Carell was going after, she managed an eBay store and what
an eBay store is is where you walk in and you hand the item to
the person at the counter and say, ‘I’d like to see this on
eBay.’ What they do is they take the item back and list it on
eBay or another online sales channel and basically sell it on
consignment so they’re going to take a commission and give you
the rest. Email you a link to the auction so you can see
everything that’s going. I was in that business which was
definitely interesting and that business has kind of, that whole
industry’s changed a lot in the last few years obviously.Started off in a small shop and then was recruited to the big
boys of the eBay consignment world, and I found myself managing
a distribution center that we routed trucks and went out and
picked up items from different people’s homes. We had five
stores in the Dallas Fort Worth area, that’s where we’re located
so all over the Metroplex. It’s a really large area so we had a
lot of ground to cover.I found myself routing all these trucks, managing the creative
team. Working on marketing these items. Actually getting them
listed onto eBay, working with software, working with people.
Managing a lot of people, customer service. Really just
everything that you could possibly think of with that business.
I was the operations director but that just included all these
different things. I learned a lot from the upper management
there. A lot of the people that were in management there were
former executives at Radio Shack and they had some great
processes. That was one of the things I really picked up during
that, what I called boot camp for sales and marketing and
operations.I was taught there that you don’t have to manage people as long
as you can manage the process and that was the most important
thing that I learned. We would create detailed process books for
everything. Now when I say everything I mean this is what you
say when you answer the phone. Scripts are easy to identify but
we encourage people to riff on those, obviously but also this is
what happens when an item comes in. Let’s say we get an item
from a person who wants us to sell something for them. This is
exactly where it goes, this is the process here, here, here.All the steps are detailed on an online document that everyone
can see. What we found was if ever there was a situation where
the, where something went wrong, rather than saying, ‘How, why
did you mess up or how did this happen,’ you simply say, ‘Well
did you follow the process?’ Either yes or no. If they did
follow the process, well, then you change the process. You don’t
have to do anything with the person because it’s not their
problem. That if they follow the, or if they didn’t follow the
process then it becomes a situation where, ‘Hey, here’s our
process book.’ You point to the book and you don’t have to
really do any disciplining of any kind. It’s just letting the
process manage the business for you so manage your team.Trent: Now being a guy that runs a marketing agency, how did all that
exposure to the importance of processes, how has that influenced
how you’re building and running your business, right, the way
from, and we’re going to go into detail on all these things but
just kind of at the high level right the way from lead
generation all the way to delivering your service. How has that
influenced you?Chris: Well it’s kept me, kept my eye on the prize of duplicating
myself and making sure that I don’t have to be the one pushing
all the buttons and following all these processes. If I work to
build these processes as we grow our agency then it won’t be
very difficult at all to manage people and every agency owner
wants to grow. Every agency owner wants to have a team of X
number of people. We have our own growth goals and I want to
make sure that we’re ready when we get there and that we have
detailed processes in place.We use a lot of online tools to get there so you have to kind of
come up with a process before you build the tool. That’s been
really important in our marketing process and then everything
that we do as far as client service.Trent: Where do you store all these processes?Chris: Well we use a project management system called Podio, but many
of them can do similar things. I found that this one works for
us because we can customize certain things with regards to
marketing campaigns specifically we can trigger actions based on
creating an item. We have a very detailed process on how we run
campaigns so if we have a client we know that we need to create
a downloadable offer for that client and we know we need to
create some blog posts to promote those downloadable offers.Every time we come up with a marketing persona to market to we
know we need at least one marketing offer and at least eight
blog posts to promote that marketing offer. As soon as we create
that persona, all these other tasks are created automatically so
it helps manage me. I’m extremely ADD. I don’t know what’s going
on.Trent: Join the club.Chris: If I don’t have it written down or if I don’t have somebody
bugging me to do it then I’m going to forget. There’s no
question. I built the software and built it on top of the
software basically just to keep me in line.Trent: My wife does that for me along with software. Let’s go back to
the thing, I want to talk about lead generation here because I
think a lot of people really struggle with it. Can you tell us
what you’re doing? What’s your number one method of generating
leads?Chris: Number one method of generating leads has got to be creating
content. I’ve had the website for two or three years now and so
I’ve done a lot of, before I really got into inbound marketing I
did a lot of SEO work, so I spent time making sure I was getting
found for some local stuff here in Fort Worth. That really
doesn’t bring me any business to be honest.Now our focus has been to get global and to not worry about
local because our best clients are not anywhere close to us so
we got away from that and really started getting active in
social networks. I think LinkedIn is the best place to promote
our content that we’re creating. [inaudible 15:45]Trent: How do you promote your content on LinkedIn? I want to see if
it’s similar to what I do.Chris: Gotcha. We’re writing blog posts that promote offers. That are
behind a form so that we’re gathering leads that way. I’ll look
for conversations where information we’ve written about is
applicable. I’ll go and I’ll say, ‘Hey we wrote this. Maybe this
can help you out.’ I’m a member of a lot of different groups. We
do have some verticals that we target and we’re always looking
to figure out what the best verticals are going to be for us to
go after. We’re still defining that.We’ve done a lot of construction marketing and home contractor
marketing which is interesting. It just kind of found us. We’re
testing out a new market right now and I’m involved in some of
those groups and I’m starting to kind of get in on those
conversations and help people. I think that’s the number one way
is helping people. Eventually they’re going to either need your
help or need more of your professional help or they’re going to
refer you to someone who does.Trent: How much of your time do you spend going into, how many groups,
first of all how many groups are you a member of?Chris: I think I’m a member of 45 right now. I had to delete myself
from some groups that I just wasn’t all that active in in order
to pursue some other ones in the verticals I want to see.Trent: Define specifically your activity in these groups. When you
produce a blog post on your blog, like when we do, we can put a
check mark in every group and say Add to group and it puts a
link to your post and your little intro. It’s not really like
one on one discussions. How do you do it?Chris: Sure. We use HubSpot for marketing automation. It does the same
thing and I think that’s the number one mistake people make when
they go in and they see this fancy social media tool, and they
can just check all the group boxes and then they end up spamming
everyone in their LinkedIn feed. That’s not good for anyone
because everyone sees that you just posted in 15 different
groups and that really doesn’t add any personal value.I really do spend time watching the groups and figuring out who
the influencers are there. Then when a conversation is heating
up and someone actually has something that I can add to, so
there’s a question about marketing in that particular instance
and I have something that’s of value to them I’ll add it into
the conversation manually. I will go ahead and automate some of
the posts, like when I do a new post on the blog. We’ll put that
out there to everyone on LinkedIn but I’m not spamming it into
groups. I really do consider it spam if you just add it to
everyone’s group. That’s how we do it. Even though it’s
marketing automation I think you really need a very human touch.Trent: I agree. I don’t think the way that we’ve been doing it is
ideal. It was, I had a past guest on the show was a LinkedIn
expert author of a book and that’s what she told us to do and so
we’ve been doing it since.Chris: That’s how you do it. I’m sorry.

Trent: No. I don’t mind. This is how we get better, we see what other
people are doing. How much time per day do you spend on LinkedIn
monitoring these conversations? Because with 45 groups, I mean
dude, you could spend like four hours.

Chris: You have to pick your battles. I’m not active in 45 groups. I’m
a member of 45 groups right now. Some of them are professional
groups. Some of them are places we’re targeting so maybe four or
five different groups really right now I’m active in and
actually helping people, and I spend maybe an hour throughout
the day monitoring LinkedIn. It’s one of the first things I look
at when I get up in the morning just to see because I get the
emails of what was going on yesterday, the hottest
conversations, that kind of thing.

Trent: So you . . .

Chris: I just look for anything that I might be able to help add value

Trent: Do you subscribe to a daily email for every group that you’re a
member of?

Chris: Some of them. Yes.

Trent: Some. You wake up in the morning and you check and see what
people are talking about and say, ‘Can I add value to that

Chris: Correct.

Trent: That’s a good way to do it. I should probably do that too. What
other things are you doing for lead generation?

Chris: Aside from LinkedIn, just creating content around those
personas. We do a lot of keyword research. Now we’re trying to
actively solve problems. I prescribe to the Marcus Sheridan
school of blog topics. Marcus Sheridan made his pool business
grow by answering his customers’ questions online. I know that
you’ve interviewed him before.

Very much inspired by his process. Let’s just figure out what
questions our customers are asking and each one of those is
going to be a blog post. I look for questions that have not been
answered in the industries that I’m targeting and I answer those
questions. Simple as that.

Trent: Is that working well for you yet?

Chris: It is. Absolutely. I’ve got a few blog articles that are just
machines. They’re bringing in more leads than I need. A lot of
them we have to qualify throughout with some nurturing sequences
and stuff like that because it’s bringing in more than I
probably need to but you need to kind of cast a wide net at the
top of the funnel and then figure out who’s going to be a fit.

Trent: Absolutely. What types of lead magnets do you find are working
really, because you’ve got your blog posts and people are
getting there via either LinkedIn or search? They’re reading the
article. Are you using one lead magnet across all your posts or
using ten different lead magnets? How many do you use?

Chris: We rotate them out. I’ve got a few. I’ve got one that’s Inbound
Marketing 101 that is a really nice go to for the top of the
funnel and for some of our more basic blog posts. We categorize
our blog posts by three levels, introductory, intermediate and
advanced. I try to make sure that people that are visiting see
that, ‘Hey, they’re on an intermediate article, or they’re on an
advanced article.’ I’ll have it even suggest introductory
articles to folks who found us on an advanced just in case it’s
above their heads because this is an education game.

People need to understand when we’re talking about marketing
automation or even sales process improvement they need to
understand a little bit more about how we work so we’ll always
suggest a previous post to try to educate them along the way.
To answer your question I’ve got probably 15 different offers
that we’ve got and we use five or six of them more than all the
others. We kind of refined those fringe ones every once in a
while and repost it every once in a while.

Trent: What would you say is your number one lead magnet for top of
the funnel?

Chris: I’ve done this really interesting thing. If you’re familiar
with Facebook marketing you’ll have a cover photo at the top of
your Facebook page. I found myself always going and Googling the
dimensions to create a custom Facebook cover photo for my
clients and for me. We create a new one all the time. I found
there wasn’t any great place to find it, so what I did is I
created a Facebook page that is called Facebook Cover Photo Size

In fact, if you Google Facebook Cover Photo Size it’s like
second or third result. What it does, it puts the actual cover
photo shows all the pixels on it so you can see exactly how to
build a perfect cover photo for you. Then I link to, I
constantly post some of our articles, and I link to a landing
page where you can download an even bigger guide on how to build
Facebook cover photos.

Trent: What’s the, I just did that search criteria. What is the URL
for your particular?

Chris: It’s Facebook.com/coverphotosize.

Trent: Yeah, okay, number two.

Chris: Right behind Facebook’s Help article.

Trent: Smart, smart, smart. Look at that, 9,643 likes.

Chris: And growing.

Trent: That’s a smart idea. I might even have to call that one a gold

Chris: Sure. It brings us 15, 20 leads every single day.

Trent: How many of those, because not every lead, not all leads are
created equally of course. Do you, how many of those leads are
converting to customers?

Chris: I’d say we’ve gotten two or three referrals off of that.

Trent: You mentioned earlier that you are targeting a few different
niches. Can you talk a little bit about the criteria that you
use to analyze the viability of a niche?

Chris: Sure, Trent. I think that, especially when you’re talking about
a retainer relationship, now we really shy away from projects
but every once in a while we’ll take a project, if it’s a
referral that we think is going to help an existing relationship
we’ll do a project. That is different criteria but if we’re
going to go after someone that we think can be a pretty sizable
monthly retainer with a multi-year agreement or 12-month
agreement, we’re looking for something that is a large decision
purchase so it’s a business that has to do a lot of education
before a sale can be made. Maybe something that has really long
sales cycles.

I would not go, we found ourselves doing some construction
marketing and home contractor marketing. That’s just kind of how
we grew. That’s some of the first projects I took on so I keep
getting them, but I would not, today target those industries
because they are kind of one time and the need for recurring
services is not there. I want something like a big software
purchase or a managed IT company, something like that that
targets maybe huge facilities. Just an example of something that
is really a big decision and they need to have a lot of
expertise in any particular field.

Trent: Interesting that you mention managed IT. That was the industry
that I was in before and I’d never want to deal with those guys.
Once you get your leads into the funnel I’d like you to talk
about how you are segmenting them and if you’re using mid-funnel
lead magnets. Because where I’m going here is, as I said before,
not all leads are created equal. There are, and even if they
have the same need they’re at different phases in the buying
cycle. Some people are early. Some people are ready to buy. How
do you handle all of that using automation?

Chris: Sure. Everyone that signs up for any one of our offers is
automatically subscribed to our blog. I’ve had people give me
different feelings on that, whether or not you should just put
everyone on your blog but I find that it really works because we
get a lot of social shares. That’s something that immediately,
they’ll see everything that comes in every week. [inaudible

Trent: I’m sorry to interrupt you. Do they get an email for every post
that you publish?

Chris: I choose to have it go out once a week.

Trent: A weekly summary?

Chris: Sure. Weekly summary. We’ll do three or four or five blog posts
every week. In a perfect world we’d have one for every day or
two but right now we’re producing about three or four every

Trent: They get those on Sunday morning.

Chris: Mm-hmm. I find we get the best open rate then. I’m sure once
this thing goes live if you have enough listers that now
everyone’s going to be coming through on Sunday morning and
we’ll need to change it to another day. There’s no hard and fast
rule I’ve found. People will tell you it’s Tuesday at noon.
Well, it really is just when your audience is getting up. I find
early in the morning is great for me. No matter which day.

Trent: What type of, what are some, how are you segmenting? Just kind
of walk us through that. I opt into your funnel. What happens?

Chris: Now you’re signed up for the blog and if you click on any of
the links in those blogs I can identify that you’re somewhat
interested. That’s the only criteria I have to go into an
automated list. I’ve segmented that list off then I will segment
off the agencies because there are a lot of other agencies that
read our content. Then I narrow it down further and I look and
see where people came from. I’ve got some other smart lists that
tell me where they came from. If someone came from that Facebook
cover photo size helper and they’re not an agency then I send
them more introductory content on basic marketing and I look at
that as a way to get more social shares, more cheerleaders out
there because not everyone that comes through there is going to
be a fit for large scale retainer services.

Once I kind of siphoned off all of those other folks, I look at
everyone by industry and I’ll try and send something very
specific. We’ll create new landing pages all the time with
webinars because I can write a webinar. If I see that I’ve got
five different, for instance, managed IT companies that have
come in and filled out forms I might decide to try out a
webinar. I’ll say, ‘We’re going to do a sales and marketing
alignment webinar specifically for the managed IT companies.’
I’ll send them all an email and if somebody signs up, I do the
webinar. If somebody doesn’t sign up, I don’t.

It’s just something else out there a lot of times that we do, we
do end up getting that. I’ve got a real quick process on
launching new targeted landing pages and so we do that all the

Trent: Define all the time. How often would you say you do it?

Chris: Once every week. Probably creating a new vertical just checking
it out seeing what comes up and then it’s another page out there
on Google to be found. Especially, we do have a field on all of
our forms that’s biggest marketing challenge. I think I saw that
on several different marketing automation software original
forms and so I started doing it. It’s kind of my gauge on what
questions to ask folks.

I’ll go and create content around that and make sure it’s in the
weekly email coming up. Even if it’s not a direct, ‘Hey,’ I’m
targeting this person,’ it is something that I can answer and
I’ll find that, let’s say managed IT, I’ve got ‘How do I build a
workflow for marketing automation with a managed IT company?
I’ll build that blog article. I’ll make sure it’s in the next
week’s weekly RSS email that gets sent out. Oftentimes those
folks click on those and then they go straight to an assessment.
Our bottom of the funnel’s always that request a free

Trent: That was going to be my next question. What’s the main call to
action? You mentioned that you’ve been particularly successful
to the tune of $20,000 a month in generating clients that pay
your retainer. How long did it take you to get from zero to
20,000 a month?

Chris: Actually only about four months. We had all the pieces of the
puzzle we just hadn’t put it together really until early this
year. I read a book called the, god. Is it “The Agency
Manifesto”? I think it’s, “The Marketing Agency Manifesto.” I’ll
make sure that you can have a link to this but it’s basically a
quick read but it has 12 proclamations. Unfortunately, I’m
unable to think of the author’s name right name but basically
one of them is, ‘We will specialize.’ One of them is, ‘We will
charge for our services.’ I just really was inspired by that and
a lot of different things that is said in there is how can we
charge more for our expertise?

We really don’t accept projects anymore unless, like I said
earlier it was a referral or it’s something that we think will
further our business. We’re just very steadfast on that. I’m not
sending out proposals. I will flat out tell you I’m not in the
proposal writing business because I don’t want to spend my days
writing proposals. We are right now a two man shop and we can’t
do that. We really want to do business. Make the verbal
agreement that we’re going to go forward at that time a contract
will be signed and we’ve eliminated the proposal process
entirely. I think that’s allowed us to spend most of our sales
time on getting quality clients and then weeding out those that
must present a proposal to a board and all those extraneous
steps that end up getting in the way.

Trent: What is the average size of your retainer right now?

Chris: Right now it’s about $5,000, $6,000.

Trent: You’re talking roughly four clients that you have on retainer.
Do these clients all go through your funnel and do the call to
action for the assessment that’s at the bottom of your funnel?

Chris: They all filled out the assessment. Some of them were referred
straight to the website and one of them just called me actually
but in equality I guess he requested an assessment. But two of
them came all the way through the top of the funnel.

Trent: When you do this assessment, so I want to make sure that we,
the listeners and myself understand what this assessment is. Is
that them filling out a form on the website with lots of
questions or is that you on Skype with them asking them a bunch
of questions? What is the assessment?

Chris: Sure. I’m really just wanting their information with that form
and then it’s a 20 to 30 minute conversation. We run a
consultative sales process. It’s very defined. I’ve got four
steps basically in the process. Starts with the assessment. I’m
going to identify what your goals are, ask questions. That’s
really a question and answer session. Sometimes if we need to do
a little coaxing to actually do the assessment once we get on
the phone after they fill out the form we’ll set an appointment
for this assessment. The way it’s positioned is that we’re going
to give you some tips on things you can do online, things you
can do in your sales process to improve. No obligation.

It’s just an opportunity for me to give them a few things that
they could change right now and either get more visits to the
website or drastically improve things and it’s an opportunity
for me to really interview the client and understand if it’s the
right fit. Start to identify some of the questions I’ll ask in
the next call.

Trent: All of this stuff is done on the call? You don’t get face to
face with your clients to do this?

Chris: I try not to, even here in town because what it does is it
takes another hour out of my day to go and drive across town and
get in front of someone and it’s just a big waste of everyone’s
time especially with that first call. I really refuse to even
have people out to my office for that first call because I just
want to get a feel for what they’re after. If the first question
they ask is how much does it cost, I know that that’s going to
be a big factor in the whole relationship and it might not work.

Trent: Do you do these calls with video like you and I are doing right
now where you can see each other?

Chris: Typically, what we’ll do is we’ll use Go to Meeting, and I’ll
have their website or lack thereof up on the screen and we’ll do
a screen share.

Trent: If that’s step one. What’s step two?

Chris: Step two, after we have an assessment we’ve identified their
goals, we’ve identified that there is a need and they’ve
identified that they would like to continue talking with us. We
go to a goal setting call where I send them homework beforehand.
They’re going to fill out a lot of different questions. Here’s
where they fill out a lot of questions and it’s basically just a
spreadsheet that asks them the frequency of marketing and
different channels. How often are they blogging? How often are
they performing these X marketing activities and it’s designed
to do a few things to give us an end result of an arbitrary
score, sort of holistic score based on their entries.

Also the process of that prospect filling out this form and
saying, ‘No, I’m not doing any of this stuff,’ it’s a
psychological trigger and it’s sort of an “aha” moment. ‘Oh my
gosh, I’m not doing any of this.’ That’s been really effective.

Trent: Is there any chance that you would share that spreadsheet that
we can make as a downloadable from this episode?

Chris: I can give you a PDF copy of it, yes.

Trent: That would be wonderful. Thank you. For my show notes, what am
I going to call that?

Chris: Let’s call that an assessment questionnaire. This will be
homework between my assessment call and my goal setting call.

Trent: Very helpful. Thank you for that. That’s very generous of you.
What’s number three after that goal call?

Chris: After the goal setting call we get on the phone and we’ve
identified, ‘Hey, we want to increase revenue by $1 million next
year and it’s going to take us three big projects to do it.’
We’ve kind of gone through the process of, ‘Well how many visits
do you have to your website right now? How many more are you
going to need to get? How many leads are being generated by your
website?’ We can reverse engineer a number of visitors that we
need to bring to the website so we’ll have to put together a
plan. That plan will vary based on how effective their website
is right now, how many calls to action we need to add. Are they
doing anything or do they have any offers? Do we need to create
some? That will all kind of go into the last call [inaudible

Trent: What do you call this third call?

Chris: Sort of just a deal presentation or a solution presentation. I
won’t write up a 20-page document but what I will do is, I have
a PowerPoint presentation that has some of this stuff in it
already. I will just manipulate that to show what our plan might
look like. It’ll detail out the services that we would perform
on an ongoing basis and it’s really a visual meeting so we’re
screen sharing that and we’re talking about, ‘Hey, this is the
plan that we’ve put together. Based on the things you told me
this is what we think we can do and this is how long it’s going
to take us to get there and here’s the cost.’ Only after they’ve
said, ‘All right, let’s do it’ will I go and actually draw up a

Trent: That’s the fourth call?

Chris: Yes. That would be the fourth step.

Trent: You just review the contract, get them to sign it and send it
back to you?

Chris: That’s right.

Trent: How do you collect payment for retainer? Credit card or direct

Chris: I require a credit card, recurring payment. I found that when
we did not do that they’d come in late, they’d come in early,
they weren’t as reliable. I don’t mind taking a hit on the fee
because it’s peace of mind. There’s no question it’s going to
come in.

Trent: Absolutely. That’s been very interesting and so now you’ve got
to the point, and I promised early in this conversation, at
least I think I did, that we were going to talk about process
automation and how it’s fitting into your business because I
know that having run a service business myself in the past and
now launching another one how efficient you are or aren’t in
your service delivery can make the difference between being
wildly profitable and making no profit whatsoever.

I think a lot of people especially the solopreneurs or even
people who haven’t started yet maybe haven’t had that experience
and they just assume that if I get more revenue I’ll naturally
have more profit. Doesn’t always happen. Can you describe to us
and let’s stay on the thread of a retainer client, so you’ve got
this spreadsheet, you’ve got a solution, you’re going to need to
do all these things, how do you then systematize the delivery of
the deliverables so as to maintain your efficiency?

Chris: During the process of the sales process we’ve already detailed
out exactly what we’re going to do. Typically that’s going to be
creating offers, promoting those offers and then working on lead
generation. I’ve got in my project management system, which they
have access to, I’ve got built in templates for all these things
so once I launch the new marketing persona that we’re going to
craft for this client, let’s say they are managed IT and they’re
performing managed IT services to let’s see, theme parks, right?
You have to solve very specific problems for that theme park IT

We want to create a construct of that person so I said all that
to say once we create that persona we know we need to deliver an
offer for that persona to download on the website. We work
backwards. I don’t start with the blog posts. I start with the
offers; I start with the personas then the offers, the promoting
blog posts.

I’ve built my project management system the same way. When a
persona is created we know an offer needs to be created. When an
offer is created we know a blog post needs to be written, in
fact eight to ten. It’s automatically going to create all those
tasks for me. This helps me keep in line because I’m prone to
forget things and I have to have a system that allows me to go
back and make sure we’re on track.

The number one thing we’ve done is make all this open to our
clients so we have complete visibility. The clients can see what
we’re doing all the time. As we create these offers they can
comment, like. They can add files; they can contribute as we’re
working. This makes our meetings so much more productive because
we’re not having to recap, ‘Hey here’s everything we did this
week.’ They know what we’ve done this week. That’s already been
established. Let’s just talk about our strategy for next week.
Let’s talk about the results so that we don’t have to spend so
much time educating them on what we’re doing.

Trent: You’re using Podio to make all this happen?

Chris: That’s correct.

Trent: Do you speak to your retainer clients? Is there a weekly
meeting with them just as though you’re their director of

Chris: Yes. Weekly or bi-weekly. That’s how often we meet and we
structure our meetings based on the week number so we’ll have a
different style of meeting at the beginning of the month than
from the end of the month. Then during the middle of the month
we’ll have what we call interviews so we are talking about
topics that we’ve identified are going to be good keywords for
them to target. We’ll put an outline out there and just have
them talk about it and we’ll record the session on Go to
Meeting, come back and use that interview content to actually
build the blog post so that each blog post will be in the voice
of that particular business owner or marketing director.

Trent: That is an excellent idea. Did you think that one up or did you
learn that from Marcus?

Chris: Marcus definitely talked about that and we had already been
doing it for a while when I heard him say something about that
and it’s been a great thing. Once I heard him giving it I said,
‘We’re on the right track.’ We implemented processes around
that. Now it makes our meetings a lot more fun, we don’t have to
spend as much time digging up, ‘Oh god, what are we going to
talk about this week’ because I know a lot of agency owners that
have to speak to clients on a regular basis.

You might find yourself struggling to come up with, ‘What are we
going to talk about?’ That was genuinely a problem I used to
have. Not much has changed. We’ve gone up a little bit. This is
really where we thought we were going to be as far as visits,
leads and sales but we have this meeting on the books. Now we
have something to talk about for these meetings and it’s way
more productive and way more fun honestly because people love to
talk about what they do. It makes them happy.

Trent: Let me feed this back because I want to make sure that myself
and the audience has understood this. In these meetings you come
into the meeting with an agenda of keywords that could be
targeted, correct?

Chris: Yes. They’re framed in the form of a question.

Trent: Like give me an example.

Chris: I have a client that is an HVA, commercial HVAC contractor.
People have questions about how to better cool a commercial data
center. ‘How do I keep my data center cool?’ We’ll just come in
with that and have that business owner share their expertise.

Trent: Your team knew that that was a keyword that you should target?
You then do this meeting with them and you ask them that
question, you record the answer so now you have it in his voice.
You transcribe it and edit it and turn it into a post.

Chris: That’s correct.

Trent: For these clients that are paying you the $4,000 to $5,000 per
month, how many posts per month, like what is the deliverable
that they’re getting for the $5,000 a month?

Chris: It depends on the level of retainer, but we don’t suggest
having any less than ten blog posts every month. There are some
graphs that I’ve got in my presentations that show when you get
to 30 blog posts a month, which we’re not even at, but when you
get to that point the leads start coming in like crazy. It’s
just all about having more content out there on Google but we’ll
have anywhere from ten to 20, in some cases 25, blog posts per

Trent: That’s a lot of posts.

Chris: It’s a lot of posts. That’s what it’s all about though is
creating content that is going to get found.

Trent: You’re doing these, so in one of these calls then, if you’re
doing this once per week you must have to have four different
blog posts in mind that you’re interviewing them for, and so
four questions and they’re giving you the answer to those four
questions and those four questions become four different blog

Chris: That’s right.

Trent: Tell me what the process that goes from recorded answers
through to finished blog posts and are subcontractors playing a
role in any of this anywhere?

Chris: In some cases yes, we use a content marketplace to fill out
questions, if we didn’t have a chance to do interviews and we
look for experts. For instance I have a client that is in the
hockey space and we found a contractor who is awesome at writing
about hockey and he just knows hockey better than I do. We’re in
Texas. I don’t know anything about hockey. It may be different
from up north but we’re Cowboys football, Rangers baseball down
here. We have the Starts, but it’s just not as big of a deal so
we really struggle in that area but we’ve been very successful
with the content we’ve been able to create because we found an
expert to help us. We do have a few contractors in different

Trent: Going back to the first part of that question, you’ve got the
recorded answer. You’re not going to use a contractor so do you
then pay a transcription service to transcribe it and then you
or your wife edit that into a post?

Chris: We don’t pay any transcription services. I take a lot of notes
during so I’m bulleting things out and I do this in Podio where
the client can see so as I’m typing they can see all this stuff
go down. Then we have the transcription so that by the end of it
we’ve got a nice bulleted list of maybe 15, 20 bullets of things
that they hit on during the conversation and then we also have
the recording to fall back on. We can go in pretty soon after
that meeting, we like to go ahead and just type it all out. Get
it ready; get it into a finished format.

We might go over one or two passes as an editorial pass and just
clean it up. Make sure we’re matching it up with the right offer
but we’ve typically come up with that offer and matched it up
well before the interview even takes place.

Trent: How long are these posts typically?

Chris: Six hundred to 800 words is our normal rule of thumb.

Trent: If you’re doing, you said ten of these a month or 20 a month
per client?

Chris: Depending on the client it would be minimum ten. I don’t think
we’re doing only ten for anyone but 15 to 25.

Trent: Let’s just use a number of 15. You’ve got, say five clients
doing this. That’s 75 posts per month?

Chris: Yes.

Trent: Written by just you and/or, well not written, edited, crafted
because it’s already there in the transcription.

Chris: Correct.

Trent: That just seems like a boatload of work.

Chris: It’s a lot of work. We’re putting together a growth plan right
now. We don’t envision us doing that forever.

Trent: I was going to say because that doesn’t scale very well is my

Chris: Not for the business owner or the agency owner, for sure, but
what it does it doubles as service. You spend this time client
facing, they’re talking about something they love to talk about.
They’re seeing their ideas realized. They’re seeing the results
they’re getting based on that content. It’s a very positive
experience so that client time spent is actually helping us
produce the content so we’re overlapping a little bit there.
Client service.

With our software being so open they can see everything we’re
doing. We minimize the time on the other side of constantly
struggling to prove your worth. I know that a lot of agency
owners are constantly trying to prove their worth so I’ve tried
to eliminate that step by making everything as transparent as

Trent: I think that’s very smart. That was a big challenge that we had
back when we ran the IT company because if the computer network
didn’t break, why am I paying you $10,000 this month? Well,
because it didn’t break but it was challenging at times. Where
do I want to go next? Yes, so what strategies do you do to
promote all of this content that you’re creating for clients? Is
it purely an SEO strategy or are you going to town on social

Chris: We go to town on social networks. I’ve got very specific
numbers of posts for each client that we’re going to make on
each day. For instance our own, we treat ourselves as a client
so the exact same processes you’ll see for our clients are being
used for us. I’ll interview with my wife. My wife and I co-own
the agency together, we work together so we’ll have interviews
together just to kind of extract this content. We find it’s the
best way but for our business, our Twitter account, we post 20
to 25 times a day. Almost every hour and I found that when we
did that we increased now, month over month, 20 percent every
single month in followers. That same growth in my retweet reach,
so our reach is growing at the same pace. If we drop down to 15,
that growth lessens quite a bit. I found that’s optimal for our

Trent: What tool do you use to schedule Twitter posts and get

Chris: We use HubSpot for pretty much all of our marketing automation.
That’ll be different for each client. Sometimes the client
preference is simply, ‘I don’t want to have that many posts go
out on my Twitter account.’ That’s understandable. We can show
them, ‘Hey, this is how you get results,’ but we can’t always
convince 100 percent.

Now Facebook’s a different story. We found three to five
different posts every day is appropriate for some and then in
some cases it’s only one.

Trent: Are you sharing other people’s content like in your own Twitter
account, are you only tweeting out your own stuff or do you
share other people’s stuff as well?

Chris: We do both and there are a lot of different schools of thought
on this. A lot of people will say, ‘Share 80 percent of other
people’s content and only 20 percent of yours.’ I found honestly
that’s not the way to go. We’ll schedule out 18 to 20 posts of
our 24, of our own content. We’ll spend time interacting with
other people as sort of an alternate to that plan of sharing
everyone’s content. We’ll retweet. We’ll reply to people’s
tweets. We will generally share the love online but tweeting out
other agencies content, we’re not doing that. I generally don’t
want, I’d rather get the leads. I don’t believe that’s selfish.

If somebody writes a really good article that I used, I found,
‘Hey, how do we use this marketing automation tool in this way?’
If I found value in that, absolutely I’m going to retweet that
because I found personal value but typically we’re going to
write about things as we discover them and that’s the content we
want to promote.

Trent: You guys are doing a lot of writing.

Chris: You have to. It’s content marketing, right Trent?

Trent: Absolutely. You know what? Writing’s better than cold calling.

Chris: That’s true.

Trent: I gave a talk here in Boise just last week. I was given zero
notice. Guy calls me up the night before. He had broken his
tooth and he was supposed to speak and I had lunch with him that
day, just met him. He said, ‘Can you go talk for me?’ There was
like 80 small business owners that were in the room, mostly I’m
going to say three person companies and fewer. A lot of
solopreneurs in there.

The beginning of my talk I asked, I said, ‘How many people here
know what content marketing is?’ What would you guess, let’s
just say there was about, about 70 people in the room. How many
hands do you think went up?

Chris: I’m going to say not many, right?

Trent: Like six. Then I said, ‘How many people here are cold calling?’
Three quarters of the room put their hands in the air. I said,
‘How many people here receive cold calls?’ About half of the
room’s hands went up. I said, ‘How many people who receive them
like getting them?’ Nobody’s hands went up. Then I said, ‘Of
those of you who are making them, how many are getting results?’
Nobody’s hands went up. I’m like, ‘Stop. You’re just pissing
people off and you’re not getting results.’

Chris: Exactly. You’ve got to make warm calls, right?

Trent: Absolutely. So much more I could talk about that, but I’m going
to make a blog post actually about that, that talk that I gave.
Folks will be able to get that at BrightIdeas.co. Let me look at
my questions here and see where I want to go with this.

For the folks who are listening to this and they’re thinking,
‘This is content marketing and marketing automation thing seems
like it’s a pretty good idea, but man oh man does it ever seem
overwhelming. There’s like so much stuff to do.’ A lot of times
people get overwhelmed, they don’t do anything. What advice
would you give, Chris to someone who wants to get started? Who’s
the cold caller and they want to stop being the cold caller and
become a content marketer.

Chris: Start answering folks’ questions online. I will not shy away
from spreading Marcus Sheridan’s advice there. That’s the big
thing because it solves a few problems, well, it solves your
customer’s problems, right? It also solves the problem of what
do I write about? That’s the biggest challenge that I had at the
beginning. I’d write about what my customers are asking me and
you should do the same. Start writing. Don’t worry about what
domain name you’re going to use. Don’t worry about getting a
logo. Don’t worry about getting business cards. If you’re trying
to start a business don’t let any of that get in your way and
just pick something. Just put something out there. Don’t worry
about the design because Google doesn’t care about the design.
[inaudible 57:16]

Trent: You can host it on yourname.com.

Chris: Sure. Anything. That, ultimately it doesn’t matter because
that’s not what people are going to be typing into Google. If
you’re truly going to attack content marketing you’re going to
be attacking questions people type into Google or phrases people
type into Google. They’re not going to be Googling for your
website address, at least that’s not going to be the effect
content marketing has for you, so start writing. Start answering
questions and pick a vertical. Pick an industry that you want to
target because there are a ton of content marketing agencies, if
we’re talking to agency owners, there are a lot of content
marketing agencies, inbound marketing agencies. It’s becoming a
saturated market. It’s not a differentiator anymore so pick a

Trent: Absolutely. Is there anything that you thought we should have
talked about in this interview which I’ve neglected to ask you
about? Anything that has worked exceptionally well for you or a
big mistake that you made that you learned a lot from? Anything
at all that we’ve missed that you think we should talk about
before we close out?

Chris: Sure. I think that the biggest mistake I made at the very
beginning was relying on marketing automation and not
remembering that each piece of automated action and all that
stuff really requires a human touch. That’s why I spend so much
time on LinkedIn personally answering questions. You can’t just
set it and forget it. A lot of material online would lead you to
believe that. Remember that each person that you’re trying to
get as a lead is also a real person and they’ve got their own
challenges, their own problems that need to be solved. Start
identifying with them.

Speak with these folks, even if they’re someone who’s not
qualified pick up the phone every once in a while and ask them,
‘Hey, how’d you find us? What did you find valuable in the
content that you read and that you downloaded?’ I do some of
that. I like to spend time just speaking with people even if I
know it’s not a good fit, just understand what challenges they
have and really work with them to better understand. That helps
me build out better lead nurturing sequences, helps me send
better emails. It helps me identify better prospects and that’s
what you have to do over time to improve your efficiency is to
spend time with the folks who are going to be a better fit for

Trent: Absolutely. Those are your biggest cheerleaders and with the
80, 20 rule they’re also going to be responsible for 80 percent
of your revenue.

Chris: That’s right.

Trent: Chris, thank you so much for making this time to be on the
Bright Ideas Podcast. It has been a good time to interview you,
rather a lot of fun to interview you. Download [sounds like],
the episode number of this but I’m just going to pull it up and
so I can rattle that off. Actually I’ll put it in the, I’ll do a
recording here just after you and I are finished so again,
thanks so much for being on the show.

Chris: Cool. Thanks man. I really appreciate your time.

Trent: All right, so that wraps it up for this episode. To get to the
show notes where you can download all of the things that Chris
and I talked about, go to BrightIdeas.co/80. It’s just the
number 80. Then the other thing that if you could do is go to
BrightIdeas.co/love, there you will find a prepopulated tweet
and you’ll also find a link that will take you to the iTunes
store where you can leave some feedback for the show.

I would really appreciate it if you take a moment and do that
because the more feedback that the show gets, of course the
higher it goes in the iTunes store and the more exposure that it
gets and the more entrepreneurs that we can help to massively
boost their businesses with all the bright ideas that are shared
by my guests here on the show.

That’s it for this episode. I am your host Trent Dyrsmid. Thank
you so much for being a listener. I’ll see you or hear you or
we’ll see you again in another episode very soon. Take care.

About Chris Handy

ChrisHandyChris Handy is the Founder & CEO of Thinkhandy, a sales and marketing alignment consultancy in Fort Worth, TX.

Clients working with Thinkhandy find a helpful partner dedicated to shortening their sales cycle and generating more qualified leads.

We create a much more efficient business development environment with an aligned marketing and sales strategy.





How to Profitably Scale Blogging for Clients on Retainer

Click Here to Discover How to Increase Retainer Income

Are you looking for ways to create predictable revenue for your agency? Have you considered creating blog content for your clients on an ongoing basis for a monthly retainer? If not, you are missing out on a huge opportunity.

We all know that the number one way to drive traffic and conversions (which leads to new clients and customers) is to create content and then to promote the heck out of that content. When you create content, you position yourself or your firm as an authority, you provide value to your audience, you benefit from the social sharing of this content, and you build trust – which ultimately leads to a more engaged audience, more traffic, and more conversions.

But, I’m not telling you anything you don’t already know, right?

So, if blogging is working for you, why not offer it as a service to your clients? Just imagine how good it would feel to have 10 or 20 clients all paying you a monthly retainer of $500, or $1,000, or $2,000, or more.

Never Start a Month at Zero Again

Just imagine never having to start a month at zero ever again.

When I ran my prior company, we had $80,000 a month coming in on retainer every month, and let me tell you, that made running my company a LOT more fun and a LOT less stressful!

It also made my company a LOT more valuable, which is why I was ultimately able to sell it for $1.2 Million – far more than it would have been worth if I didn’t have $80,000 a month in PREDICTABLE retainer income.

Many of the agencies that I have interviewed on my show are already producing blog content for their clients on an ongoing basis and they report that doing so has not only added to their bottom line, but also really deepened their client relationships.

Position Yourself for Higher Value

Now, instead of being seen as just the web designer, these agencies have elevated themselves to the status of “Director of Inbound Marketing” for their clients.

That is the kind of positioning that happens when your clients start to see you as a valuable strategic partner, instead of just a service provider, and it’s positioning like this that will give you pricing power and long-term client relationships.

If you are already blogging and seeing good results in terms of traffic and social sharing, then you are perfectly positioned to begin offering this service to your clients. If you aren’t yet getting traction with your own blog, read how we here at Bright Ideas have recently started to see a HUGE increase in our own traffic as a result of some new content promotion strategies that we have recently begun to use.

Why is Scalability Important?

If you are going to begin to offer this service, or you already do and want to increase revenue (more clients on retainer), then there is an issue that you are either already facing, or will face as soon as you reach 4 or 5 clients on retainer. The issue that I’m referring to is how to scale your services (add more clients) without the wheels falling off and destroying your profit margin.

Consider this challenge: what happens when you have 10 clients that each want one blog post per week. That is 40 posts a month to produce, edit, and publish. That is also 10 editorial calendars to manage. Then there are all the people (clients) involved in the review of this content prior to it being published. Then, there is the team of writers to manage, and the time it actually takes to create all this content. Oh, and don’t forget that you will also need to promote all this content, too.

Can you see how there are a lot of moving parts here?

You bet there are. But with the right tools and processes in place, you can definitely do this very profitably.

For example, when my IT services firm started to remotely manage our clients’ desktops it was pretty easy to do when we had just 50 desktops spread over 3 clients. However, when we had 800 desktops to manage, things became infinitely more complicated. To solve this problem, we had to invest in some productivity tools as well as to create very specific (and repeatable) processes for how we delivered our support services.

Starting From Scratch

For the remainder of this post, I’m going to assume that you aren’t yet offering this service. If you already do have a few clients on board, it’s my hope that you will still find value in the tools and processes that I’m explaining. If you have pearls of wisdom to share, please do so down in the comments as I definitely don’t know everything there is to know about this topic and would love to hear from you.


Even if you have just have your own blog to manage, I’m a big believer in having an editorial calendar. We use one here at Bright Ideas and the goal of the calendar is to help us to ensure that the posts that we plan to publish all fit together with our strategic plan for that quarter, as well as to tie into the products that we are promoting.

If we didn’t have this editorial calendar, the posts that we would publish, while still valuable on an individual basis, would not be nearly as effective at helping us to increase our revenue because they would not be aligned with our strategic plan and the products we have to sell.

Instead, I’d just be producing a post here and a post there on a whim, plus, I wouldn’t have a clear idea of whether or not we had enough content in our production queue to ensure that we keep on publishing our posts on schedule!

Creating an editorial calendar is pretty easy to do. In our case, we have a dedicated Google calendar which we always look at in the monthly view. Then, each post is shown as a day-long event with a color coding to indicate the status of the post. Red = planned, but not started. Yellow = in progress. Green = Proofed and ready to publish.



Once you have got your editorial calendar ready to go, you need to figure out what to write about . To do that, we refer to our strategic plan, think about the products we have for sale, and any that we might be launching – like my book.

Once we know what we are hoping to sell, we start to study what our readers are most interested in and consider how we can deliver educational value in the post in such a way as to segue to a call to action at the end of the post that will help us to achieve our revenue goals.

[Ed note: do you think it would be a good idea to write about blogging strategy for your own blog as a tool to help you to convince clients to put you on retainer to create blog content for them?]

Now that you know what your (or your clients’) strategic plan is for the quarter, and you’ve mapped out the content that you want to create in your editorial calendar, it’s time to set to work to actually create the content.

Fear not, it’s not nearly as hard as you might think. In fact, if you are smart about it, it can actually pretty darn easy to do.


One popular method for content creation is curation. With curation, you are essentially acting like an industry news portal. What I mean to say is that the posts you create need not be all original content. Instead, you could be aggregating industry news that is of interest (that is the curation part) and then expressing your (or your clients’) opinion on the industry news. Just be sure to use proper attribution links in your posts so that you give credit where credit is due.

Curation isn’t anything new. News sites have been curating for years, and if done correctly, your readers will appreciate the value of finding all this good stuff in one place, especially if you have strong opinions about why the news is important.

I suppose you could concentrate entirely on curation, however, when mixed in with my next idea, you might get even better results – not to mention the fact that you will help your clients to realize that YOU will able to help THEM produce epic blog content with very little effort on THEIR part – and that is the kind of thing that clients are going to pay you for!



Interviewing Mike Michalowicz, author of one of my favorite books, The Pumpkin Plan. Listen to Mike’s interview at http://brightideas.co/1 (or just click this image)

Having now completed north of 100 interviews with entrepreneurs, I can assure you that conducting an interview is really easy to do. The key is to know what you want to talk about before you actually start the interview. I’ll cover more on that in a sec.

Once the interview is done, you now have a piece of valuable content that can easily be used as a podcast, or turned into text and published as a post (with some editing), and the best part about this is that the content is not some low-quality crap from someone who doesn’t know jack about the industry. Instead, you now have high quality content that came from the mind (mouth) of an industry expert: YOUR client!


The key to a good interview session is to brainstorm with your client and figure out what questions should be asked to get the answers that their readers are looking for.

To do this, I always start with the end in mind. What are the major points that I want to cover? How long does the interview need to be? Have I left room for follow up questions so that I can dig deeper? Can this interview be divided into multiple sections that could each be a post?

Whenever I do an hour long interview, I end up with about 10,000 words of text. After editing spoken text down to good written text (easily outsourced), those 10,000 words will probably be reduced to about 6,000 to 7,000 words – more than enough for 4 blog posts of 1,500 words each. So, with the idea of doing one interview to create 4 posts, be sure to structure your questions in a way to meet the needs of your editorial calendar.

Important Point: Can you see how 90 day strategic plan, editorial calendar and interview questions all kind of tie together?

Oh, one more thing. Another idea for interviews is to ask your client to express their opinion on some news items that you have “curated” as doing so will create value for the audience, as well as to further strengthen your client’s position as an authority in their industry.


skype-logoRecording the interview is a snap. Here’s what I do.

The interview itself is done via Skype. If your client doesn’t use Skype, you can simply call their phone from your Skype account. I then record the interview onto an external mp3 recorder that serves as my primary recording. To be safe, I also record the interview with Call Recorder for Skype (costs about $20) so that I have a backup copy.

Having done over 100 interviews, I can promise you that it’s not a matter of “if” your primary recording will fail, it’s a matter of when, so be sure and always have two recordings for every interview.

For a more detailed look at all the technical parts of producing my podcast, read this detailed post.


Once the interview is complete, the next thing to do is have it transcribed. You can either use a VA for this, or you can outsource it to a transcription service. I have used both. The service that we are currently using is called Speechpad and they charge $1/minute and take one week to do the transcription. If you want it faster, you can just pay more.


Now that the transcription is done, you are going to need to have it reviewed and edited. The reason for this is that a transcription of spoken text, while full of valuable content, makes for awful reading because the way most people speak is full of um’s and ah’s, etc… Plus, they may ramble a bit here and there. This editing should be done by someone who is a good writer and has a strong grasp of the primary language you are writing for.

To ensure that this editing is as easy as possible, I strongly suggest that you structure the interview questions in such a way as to help your client give you the most direct answers possible. If you don’t plant to publish the interview as a podcast, this is easier to do as you needn’t concern yourself with producing an interview that is pleasant to listen to.

Oh, and by the way, these interviews don’t need to be done by you. This is a task that can, and should, be outsourced to an intern or VA that speaks English very well. The portion that you should not outsource is the planning of the interview and coming up with the questions.


Once the content has been edited and saved as a draft post, you are going to need to get your client to review and approve it so that it can be scheduled for publication. They key here is to have process that ensures that nothing falls through the cracks. I do not recommend relying on email alone for this as, at some point, something is going to slip through the cracks, especially if you have 10 clients on the go all at once (which you will, at some point).

One method that I have devised to address the issue of basic project/task management is to set up a Google spreadsheet that you and your client have access to. In each column, you list the title of the post you are working on, and then in each row, you make a list of all the activities that need to be done for that post. One of those activities is going to be the editing and approval. In our spreadsheet, we use color coding to make it easy to manage. Blue = new task. Yellow = task in progress. Green = task complete.


The benefit of the Google spreadsheet approach is that it’s FREE and it’s very visual – which works well for most people.


Once the content has been approved, it’s time to publish it. On the surface, this seems like a pretty simple thing, right? Well, let’s consider it when you have 20 clients and 5 writers.

Who is going to be in charge of what? How is access to client blogs going to be managed so as to not allow access to client blogs for writers that have left your team? Even password/access management can become a big issue as the number of blogs you manage increases.

My suggestion is to either have ONE dedicated person on our team in charge of publishing content, or to make use of the spreadsheet technique I spoke of earlier. Just be sure that whatever you are doing now will also work when you have 20+ clients.

A good tool for managing access to clients’ blogs, along with many other ongoing tasks that you can charge for is ManageWP.com. I have used this tool for several years and LOVE it.


speakingContent that is written and not promoted might as well not be written in the first place. That’s a strong statement, but I make it only because for much of the first year I ran this blog, I completely sucked at promoting my content. Actually, it wasn’t so much that I sucked at promotion. The truth is that I didn’t really do much in the way of content promotion! Shame on me.

Once we did start to aggressively promote our content, our traffic numbers went through the roof.

It’s because we struggled for our first 11 months and then got such amazing results so fast that I formed the opinion that if you aren’t going to promote it, don’t bother writing it.

At the time of this writing, our weekly traffic numbers are about 4x what they were before we began aggressive content promotion.


Content promotion is one area where you could actually tier the pricing for your clients. Tiered pricing can significantly increase your profits, as my business partner Nathan Barry wrote about in this post on WPEngine founder, Jason Cohen’s blog. (disclosure: I’m a happy WP Engine customer)

When it comes to your blogging service, you should offer 3 tiers of pricing; each of which will offer a specific number of posts per month as well as a different amount of content promotion.


spreadthewordSocial sharing is actually something that could be completed as a completely different service that you could charge a retainer for and I plan to cover this in a future blog post. If you aren’t yet a subscriber and don’t want to miss this future post, become a subscriber today and you’ll be notified when that post is live.

For the time being, we’ll consider social sharing as a part of the blog creation/promotion process.

Like everything that we’ve discussed so far, the key here is to have a scalable process for social sharing so that, as your client roster expands, the wheels don’t fall off and kill profits.

If you have already created an editorial calendar and you have a Google spreadsheet for task management, you are in good shape. All you need to do is to create some extra entries in the calendar so you can plan the social sharing in advance (and discuss it with your client), and then create more row(s) in the task manager so that you and your team can easily track when social sharing has been completed.

In our case, we pre-write all of our social shares in a spreadsheet and then we upload that spreadsheet to Hootsuite ($10/mo) so that we only have to deal with it once per week. If you have 10 clients, you will need to repeat this process 10 times.


Whenever you have a client on retainer, it is critical that you regularly reinforce the value of what they are paying you a monthly fee to do for them.

Back when I was running my IT support company, this was especially important because the better we did our job, the fewer IT support incidents our client’s would actually see. In other words, the better we did our jobs, the less it LOOKED like they needed us!

As you might guess, this can make client retention quite a challenge, UNLESS you are regularly reinforcing the value of what you are doing. The way to do this is with concise reporting.

For a marketing agency, the key to reporting is to show your clients the positive trends that are the result of your work.

How much has traffic increased? How many leads did we get? How many calls did we receive? How many sales have been made?

These are the key metrics that all your clients are going to care about, so the reporting that you create for them must cover these items as succinctly as possible.

There are many reporting platforms from which to choose. Here’s a short overview of four tools for social media analytics from the Social Media Examiner: http://goo.gl/5hYEfY. Hootsuite also provides fully customizable reports. So does Google Analytics.

Creating SHORT reports that drive home the VALUE of what you are doing can take a LOT of time if you don’t have the right tools, so make sure that you determine what is right for your business and then find a way to create these reports in as short a time as possible. If I’d found just one tool for this, I would have shared it here. Sadly, I’m not (yet) able to point you to one such tool.

Managing all the Moving Parts

jugglingAs you can see, for just one client, there are a lot of moving parts to manage. Just imagine having 10 or 20 clients to look after. While that can be challenging to do, I can assure you that, speaking from experience, once you have clearly defined processes in place, supported by tools that are easy to use, the value that you create, both in terms of cash flow, and the value of your company, will have made this all very worthwhile.

Plus, with all that retainer income coming in, you will never have to deal with the stress that comes from the peaks and valleys that are the result of relying solely on project-based revenue.

Let’s Review

If you do a good job for one client, you will get more clients. The key is to create a scalable process that will allow you to steadily add more clients without the wheels falling off. Here’s how you make that happen:

  • Develop a 90 day content strategy for every client: sit with your client and figure out what their goals are
  • Create an editorial calendar for every client: research what your client’s audience is interested in, then combined with your clients strategic plan, and populate the editorial calendar accordingly
  • Use curation and interviews to easily create content for each client so that you are able to create high quality content quickly
  • Create a process to handle content editing so that the finished product is something you are proud of
  • Create a process for content approval so that nothing is ever published that your client hasn’t already approved
  • Create a process to support content publication so that you don’t have to deal with the wild west for password and access management
  • Create a process to support content promotion so that clients actually see a lift in traffic from the content they are paying you to produce
  • Create a process to support social sharing to maximize content promotion and traffic
  • Create reports and a process to continually reinforce the value your client is getting for the monthly fee

Automating the Process

As you can see, there are a lot of moving parts to manage as you grow your retainer income from blogging for clients. Earlier I mentioned that I’ve interviewed many agencies that are already doing this, and, in every case, when I asked them how they were managing all the moving parts, the answer that I got was the same: “we use spreadsheets and email and it’s killing us”.

Each time an agency told me that they didn’t yet have solid processes in place, I thought…hmmm…there must be ONE tool that could be used for this. I wonder why no one has told me about it. Maybe it doesn’t yet exist for small agencies?

As it turns out, I was unable to find an affordable version of such a tool, so my business partner and I have decided to build one.

As of the writing of this post, we have showed our tool, which is still in development, to over 20 agencies and they have all said some version of “Wow! That would help us to save a LOT of time! When will it be ready?”

I’m happy to say that we are just about a month away from releasing our tool to a small group of users for beta testing. Click here to apply to become a beta tester. If you are a good fit and are willing to help use ensure the best product to market fit as possible, when we come out of beta, you are going to be able to get a lifetime license for less than it would cost you to use the tool for a year.

There is no fee to become a beta tester. To apply for our beta program, please click here.

If you have any thoughts to add or comments to make, please use the comment form below. Thanks!

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Digital Marketing Strategy: Jermaine Griggs on How He Used Marketing Automation to Build a 7 Figure Online Business

Jermaine Griggs, 30, is a minister, musician, entrepreneur, and public speaker. Having grown up in the inner city of Long Beach with just his mom and sister, he always envisioned life on the other side of the tracks. At 16, he started Hear and Play Music, an instructional music company specializing in teaching piano by ear. With only $70, he bought the domain name HearandPlay.com and launched the company that would not only change his life but hundreds of thousands of musicians around the world through his books, DVDs, and online training courses.

Today, what started as a high school hobby has gone on to produce 8 figures in revenue since inception. More than two million aspiring musicians download his online lessons every year and over 301,700 loyal students receive his regular newsletters.

While in college studying Law & Criminology at the University of California, Irvine, Jermaine relied heavily on automated follow-up and marketing processes to run his business while he made good on a promise to his family to graduate school. What resulted was a unique automation strategy and philosophy that he follows religiously til’ this day.

As a result of his success and uncanny ability to mesmerize audiences, Jermaine started attracting the attention of the business world. He’s been featured on Msn, Yahoo, Kiplinger, D&B, Aetna’s Innovators, Msnbc, and more. In 2011, he was awarded Infusionsoft’s “Ultimate Marketer of the Year” and teaches entrepreneurs how to repeat his success by working smarter and not harder. He recently launched AutomationClinic.com in 2012 as a place to share his marketing automation philosophies and strategies.

Having seen his company grow from a few hundred dollars a month into a multimillion dollar business without venture capital or loans, he now shares his inspiring story with young people and entrepreneurs all over the country. He’s been a mentor in organizations like Operation Jump Start, NAACP / ACT-SO, NCCJ, and speaks to school districts, churches, and youth groups regularly.

Listen to the Audio

Our Chat Today

  • What happens when a user opts into the funnel
  • An overview of how he uses negative tags
  • An overview of how he tracks how long people stay on a page
  • An overview of how he evergreens a product launch
  • How to do a broadcast to increase profits
  • How to ensure people aren’t receiving more than one email in a day
  • An overview of how he’s driving traffic
  • An overview of is custom dashboard and leadsources
  • An overview of how he’s using upsells
  • His advice on whether to focus on traffic or conversion

Additional Resources Mentioned


The Bright Ideas Traffic Report: Amazing Results From Effective Content Promotion

I have a confession to make: up to very recently I was horribly disappointed with the pace at which I have (not) been able to increase the traffic here at BrightIdeas.co and in today’s post, I want to share with you some of the lessons I’ve learned so far, plus a startling realization that has made a massive difference in the traffic to this website.

But first, some background is in order….

While I have never professed to be an SEO or traffic generation expert, I still had high hopes that the popularity of my podcast would translate into consistent increases in my website traffic.

Sadly, that hasn’t been the case.

Since launching BrightIdeas.co one year ago, traffic has been pretty much “stuck” at about 4,000 visitors per month; which is pretty damn anemic, in my opinion.

Its also been incredibly frustrating!

The reason that I didn’t let this frustration stop me, is that my list has grown steadily and the feedback that I have received via email and twitter has been nothing short of amazing.


Despite wonderful praise like this, and consistent increases in all other the key numbers that matter, try as I might, thus far, I have not been seeing the increases in website traffic that I’d hoped for.


How can I produce a podcast that gets such wonderful feedback and have a website whose traffic doesn’t grow? WTF?

As my podcast alone had thus far not produced an acceptable level of traffic growth, obviously, something needed to change.

The Pros of Podcasting

I am a huge fan of podcasting. I love doing the interviews, and, for me, it’s an incredibly easy way to create very high value content that my audience consistently tells me they love. (thanks to everyone who’s taken the time to tweet and write to me; it really helps!)

As a result of my podcast, I have had the opportunity to get a “free hour of consulting” from each of the 80+ successful entrepreneurs that have been on my show. With rare exception, I am very happy to report that I have learned at least one “bright idea” from every guest I’ve ever had.

Without my being the host of a podcast, there is no way that all these folks would have given a total stranger a full hour of their time. So joes-tweetwhy do they come on the show? They get exposure, plain and simple.

The #1 reason that I will never stop podcasting is that it has proven to be the very best networking tool that I have ever discovered. Without my show, I would definitely not have anywhere near the circle of influence that I currently enjoy.

If you have ever thought of doing your own podcast, stop thinking about it, and do it. The benefits FAR outweigh the investment of time and energy required.

The Limitations of Podcasting

With over 80 episodes in the can, I have come to realize that there is a downside of podcasting, and that is this: if you are only publishing a podcast and not doing much in the way of written text, you are going to have a difficult time attracting a new audience – unless you are pumping out an episode every single day like John Lee Dumas does.

In my case, I have too many other things that need my attention on a day to day basis to allow me to produce 7 episodes a week. I’m the co-founder of a software company  (our product is still in development), as well as the founder of a marketing agency that is brand new and in need of plenty of attention, plus I run a mastermind group and am getting close to publishing my first book.

The reason that a podcast isn’t particularly good at attracting a new audience is because episodes take time to listen to and if someone has never seen any of my work, their desire to invest even 10 minutes to see if my show is worthwhile is limited. Plus, if they happen to find my show in the iTunes store, they don’t need to come to my website to listen to it.

What all of this boils down to is this: my podcast has been phenomenal for audience engagement, but it’s pretty much sucked at helping me to grow my audience; hence why my website’s traffic numbers have been relatively stagnant.

And Then I Met James Clear

JamesClear2-1Just over a month ago, I was introduced to James by a new friend here in Boise (who I’d also just been introduced to by another new friend). My friend here in Boise, Nathan Barry (who inspired the new design of my site) is a very successful entrepreneur and author of 3 books, and after listening to me gripe about my sucky traffic numbers, Nathan said, “You need to talk to James. He’s killing it.”

“Killing it?”, I asked. “How well is James doing?”

Back in January of 2012, James had a subscriber list of just 500 people and website traffic of 11,000. When I talked to him a month ago, he told me that his list had grown to over 20,000 and in the most recent month, traffic to his site had exceeded…wait for it….100,000 visitors!!

Holy crap!

As soon as James told me this, I got out my notepad and proceeded to ask him to explain to me how he’d accomplished so much is such a short period of time.

Did paid traffic play a role? Nope.

Did he do a big product launch? Nope.

Was he using black hat techniques? Nope.

James told me that he focused on 3 key things to achieve such amazing results.

Thing #1: Know Your Audience

I’ve actually already written a full post on this topic already…but in case you haven’t read my blog before, I’m going to give you the very quick summary: if you haven’t yet selected a specific audience and don’t fully understand exactly what keeps them awake at night, you will probably completely suck at thing #2.

Thing #2: Write EPIC Content

For me, the key word in thing #2 is “write“.

Like I said above, for me, podcasting alone has been a weak strategy for attracting a new audience because they have no reason to come to my site to consume the content.

When you write content (like I’m doing now), first time visitors can quickly scan the article’s headlines (you are using headlines, aren’t you?) to see if your content is something that they actually want to spend 5 to 10 minutes to consume.

With a podcast, this is impossible to do….unless, of course, you are creating extensive show notes for each episode like they do over at the Social Media Examiner whenever they publish a new podcast episode.

Thing #3: Promote the F*** Out Of Your Content

This is where the magic happens.

Without promotion, based upon my recent results, I would say that there is almost no point in even creating the content in the first place.

Why do I say this?


Well…consider this: if you write an epic post and only publish that post on your site, how many people are going to see it?

In my case, not nearly enough. And, even if that post was the greatest thing ever, how many times can that piece of content be tweeted or shared on social networks?

To answer that, lets do some really basic math….

Ok…screw that. Forget the math. Let’s just jump right to the answer: NOT ENOUGH TIMES.

Unless you already have a high traffic blog, then the likelihood of your content “going viral” is about as big as the particle of dust that is somewhere on my keyboard.

Social shares is merely a percentage of total views. The better your content, the higher percentage of people that will share it (duh), but, unless you get a LOT of people to read it, the total number of shares just won’t be as much as they could be if you got more exposure for the piece of content to begin with.

Ok…so…with all that said, what was James doing that was working so well?

James Clear’s Content Promotion Strategy

Here’s what James does to promote his blog. Besides publishing his content on his blog, James republishes all of his content on several other sites. These sites include medium.com, quora.com, The Huffington Post, Lifehacker, and Google+.

Even if the sites where James republishes aren’t the best ones for your target audience, focus instead on his successful strategy and leverage your content as much as you can. His results speak for themselves.

Once James was published on the Huffington Post for the first time, he repeatedly asked for blogger log-in credentials for the site. Eventually the team at HuffPost provided James with these credentials, which makes it much easier for him to continually distribute his content there.

When James explained his strategy to me, I asked whether his blog had suffered any penalties for having duplicate content. He told me that he had not.

James doesn’t profess to be an expert in SEO, but he felt that Google was smart enough to figure out where his content was originally published. He underscored the point by saying that every major Internet news site does pretty much the same thing as he does.

He added that his traffic from SEO had not decreased as a result of this strategy.

What About Duplicate Content Penalties?

mythbusters-1Despite the fact that James had told me that he had not experienced any penalties for duplicating his content, I wanted to investigate further.

To do that, I re-listened to my interview with Joe Pulizzi, founder of the Content Marketing Institute (CMI) and I also bought his new book, Epic Content Marketing (my affiliate link).

CMI is a powerhouse in the area of content marketing and Joe is a very bright guy, so I was sure that I’d probably find some more bright ideas for content promotion by giving Joe’s work a closer look.

Turns out, I was right.

Content Marketing Institute’s Content Promotion Strategy

According to Joe, there are plenty of sites out there looking for “epic” content in virtually every industry. Whenever you find sites like these, there may be opportunity to syndicate your original content on their site. It turns out that CMI syndicates its content with business2community.com.

Business2Community gets roughly 500,000 visitors each month, many of whom are looking to learn more about content marketing. That’s the audience that Joe’s Content Marketing Institute (CMI) wants to reach, and here’s how they do it:

  • About two weeks after CMI publishes a piece of original content on their own site, they allow Business2Community to “republish” the content (the delay lets Google know for sure that CMI was the original publisher).
  • Inside their content, CMI includes informative links back to relevant blog posts on the CMI website, as well as receiving an all-important “author’s link” at the bottom of the page (James Clear emphasizes the importance of the author’s link as well).

After learning how CMI republishes their content on Business2Community, I visited the site and quickly found a link to apply to become a contributor. At the time of this writing, we’ve been syndicating our content to this site and the results have been nothing short of amazing (see results section below).

I strongly suggest you do the same.

Here’s what to remember:

  • You want to publish your content on high-traffic sites whose visitors and subscribers match your audience. That’s very important.
  • As you research sites, it’s essential that they allow you to categorize your content with some kind of tag. Doing so makes it that much easier for your target audience to find your content on these high-traffic sites.
  • Some sites like medium.com, quora.com, and Google+ allow you to self-publish your content without the need to gain anyone’s approval.
  • Other sites, such as the Huffington Post and Life Hacker, require that you submit your content for approval. Just Google around a bit and you’ll figure out how to do this.

Actions Taken

ActionSince discovering all these bright ideas for content promotion, we have kicked our content promotion into high gear. Below is a summary of the actions that we’ve taken thus far:

  • Produce more text-based content
  • Ensuring that we interlink all our posts to other posts (increases engagement)
  • Syndicate our content to Business2Community, Medium, Quora, and Google+

In addition to the above, we have just started using Hootsuite to pre-schedule our social shares a week in advance (tweet every hour + 4 shares on FB and LinkedIn/day). While we have been using Hootsuite up to now, we have only been using it on a limited basis due to a lack of making repeatedly sharing our content a top priority.

If you are thinking this sounds like it would take a lot of time, you’d be right. That is why we’ve hired a full-time VA for $500/month to handle it all.

The reality today is that we live in a world where the key to driving growth is to get eyeballs on your content, and as such, I consider the $500/month that we are going to be spending to be worth every penny – especially given how fast the results have come in.

The Results Are In!

Take a look at the numbers below. All numbers are for the most recent 30 days compared to the prior 30 days.

After months of flat lining, visits are up a whopping 68.57%, page views are up 97.5% and average time on site is up 33.20%.

(picture me dancing for joy around my office)


At this point, I suspect these numbers aren’t sustainable long-term, however, they don’t need to be. If I could grow my traffic by just 21% per month over the next year, I will have hit 100,000 visits in a single month.

I can hardly imagine the benefits of 100,000 visits in just one month, but I’m sure it’s going to be pretty awesome.

Only time will tell if what we are doing will continue to work; however, as the basic logic is unlikely to change (more exposure = more traffic), at this point, I cannot see why our traffic won’t continue to increase.

Lessons Learned

socialsharingstatsTake a look at the volume of social sharing for my most recently published article on Business2Community.

There are 98 tweets, 15 shares on Facebook, 16 shares on LinkedIn, 6 shares on Google+ and 14 people have added it to their buffer.

In the words of Borat…thatsa nice!

I have never seen that much social heat for just one article in such a short period of time. (the article has only been on their site for a few days).

How did this happen? Did I write a better article? Well, maybe I did…but why do I only have 7 tweets on my blog vs 98 of Business2Community?

The reasons is simple; they are getting about 500,000 visitors a month, which is about 100 times more than I’m currently getting.

Getting your content on high traffic sites is naturally going to lead to your receiving more exposure.

So why didn’t I guest blog then? Why did I syndicate?

In my (limited) guest blogging experience, the sites that are going to post your article want exclusive rights to publish that article. That means that I have to write more articles for other sites than I do for my own.

That blows. If I’m going to write epic content, you can bet it’s going on MY blog.

With syndication, I get the best of both worlds. My epic content get published to my own blog, PLUS, I get to republish the exact same content on many other sites.

In my books, this is a win-win. (FYI…it’s also what the Huffington Post and a gazillion other news sites do.)


From now on, my team will be putting as much effort into promoting my content as I do into writing it. The results that we have achieved are just too compelling to ignore.

If you’d like to discover even more content marketing and content promotion strategies, then you will definitely want to sign up and become a VIP for my new book. When you do, you are going to get access to a free sample chapter, and, as you might guess, that sample chapter is all about content promotion. As a VIP, you will also get 25% of the price of the book on the day that we launch it. Click here to become a VIP today.

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Tom Martin 4IN X 6 IN X 300DPI X FC

Content Marketing Strategy and Tom Martin on His Painless Prospecting System and How You Can Use It to Make Client Attraction Easier Than Ever Before

Tom Martin knows a thing or two about developing a content marketing strategy. He’s a regular contributor to standout blogs like Ad Age, Copyblogger, Social Media Examiner, Social Fresh and MarketingProfs, to name a few. So when Tom shares his well-tested strategies for content creation and content promotion, you might just want to listen. (One Quick Tip: Use social media to identify where your target audience hangs out, and then place content in those places.) His content strategies come together to form a Painless Prospecting System. In other words, if you do content right, clients will be attracted to you and you won’t have to work so hard. (As you may know, I’m a firm believer that content marketing has forever changed client attraction, and to succeed in business you need to learn to take advantage of this shift.) Listen now and you’ll also hear Tom and I talk about:

  • (3:25) Introductions
  • (6:10) Overview of the Painless Prospecting System
  • (8:55) Overview of his target customer
  • (10:45) How he finds places to put his content
  • (13:55) Overview of his content creation strategy
  • (16:55) How he’s using dictation to produce effective blog content
  • (21:55) How to find Propinquity Points
  • (28:05) How he suggests to become a contributing author

Resources Mentioned

More About This Episode

The Bright Ideas podcast is the podcast for business owners and marketers who want to discover how to use online marketing and sales automation tactics to massively grow their business. It’s designed to help marketing agencies and small business owners discover which online marketing strategies are working most effectively today – all from the mouths of expert entrepreneurs who are already making it big.

Listen Now

Leave some feedback:

Connect with Trent Dyrsmid:


Trent: Hey, there Bright Idea Hunters. Welcome to the “Bright Ideas” podcast. I am your host, Trent Dyrsmid. And this is the podcast for marketing agencies, entrepreneurs, and marketing consultants who want to discover how to use content marketing and marketing automation to massively boost their business. And the way that we do that is we bring proven experts onto the show to share with you the specific tactics and strategies that they use to make themselves successful.And today’s episode is no different. My guest on the show today is a fellow by the name of Tom Martin. He’s the founder of an agency by the name of Converse Digital. And he is also the author of a book that is just about to be released called The Invisible Sale.And what Tom has done and what we’re going to talk about in this interview in detail, is he has created what he calls a “painless prospecting system.” So, if you’re suffering from making cold calls and doing all sorts of expensive and exhausting outbound marketing strategies and you’re not getting the results you would like to, this is definitely going to be an interview that you will find very helpful.For example, in about the seven-minute or so mark in the interview, after we get through the introductions and we give an overview of what the painless prospecting system is and how to find customers, we go into detail on how on some specifics of how to get your content placed in all of the right places where your target audience is going to find it, so that they are going to want to come back to your blog and learn more about you.He is also going to talk about how he is rapidly producing content and then reproducing that content so that he’s able to get published on so many different places. And some of the places he’s published are on Ad Age, Adweek, MarketingProfs, Copyblogger, Social Media Examiner, Social Selling, SOCIAL FRESH. So, he’s getting a whole lot of distribution for his content. So, if that’s something that you would like to learn more about, make sure that you tune in to this episode.So, we’re going to welcome him in just a minute. Before we do, the other thing I want to tell you about is the Bright Ideas Mastermind Elite. And you can get more information at brightideas.co/mastermind. And here, on a one-by-one, hand- selected basis, we are assembling a group of people who all have one goal in common. And that is to build a very successful online marketing agency or marketing consultancy. And they don’t want to be just stuck out there in isolation without anyone’s help and without anyone’s ideas. And that what the mastermind is there to do is to bring us together to allow us to share, encourage, support, and motivate each other. So, if you’d like to learn more, brightideas.co/mastermind.So, with that said, please join me in welcoming Tom to the show. Hey, Tom. Welcome to the show.Tom: Hey, Trent, thanks for having me. Trent: No problem. It is a thrill to have you have here. I really want to learn more about this painless prospecting system and this propinquity theory that we talked about just before we hit the record button. But before we get to that, I want to make sure that the listeners understand what they are about to get by listening to this episode. So, let’s start off with who are you and what do you do? And after that, we’re going to talk about some of the pretty amazing results that you’ve achieved. Tom: Well, I’m Tom Martin. I founded a company here in New Orleans called Converse Digital. And it’s a digital strategy and lead- generation firm. We work with digitally-challenged clients to help them understand “How do you take a traditional lead gen process and power it with digital tools”? I’m 20 years in the ad business, most of which was spent actually as the business development person at an ad agency. And since a lot of that experience has now translated into what we call “painless prospecting.” But it’s basically the methodology I use to both launch and power the growth of my firm since 2010. Trent: Okay. And that growth has averaged how much per year? Tom: We’ve averaged about 25 percent year over year. I’m not a big fan of huge, gigantic growth. I’m much more of a fan of a nice, easy- measured growth that I can manage. So, we’ve kept it right in that 25-percent range. Trent: Okay. And you mentioned one other statistic to me, too, that I want to get out in front here real early, is your close ratio for clients. It was pretty impressive. You want to talk a bit about that? Tom: Yeah, I think it’s probably the thing that most has excited me as a guy who was the biz dev guy in an ad agency environment where, if we were closing 25 percent of the pitches we got into every year, we were super excited. We thought we were doing great. Since I’ve converted to this painless prospecting style in Converse Digital, we are looking at, right now, at about an 85 percent close rate. We very seldom don’t close a lead. And if we do, it’s always price-oriented. They thought we’d be less expensive than we are, and we just don’t fit their budget model. Trent: So, now we’re going to dive in to how you’re closing 85 percent of the people that you’re talking to. And I think that’s really the dovetail into the conversation that we’re going to be having about the painless prospecting system and the propinquity theory. So, can you just, in a short a period of time as you can, sort of explain at the high level, what your painless prospecting system is? And then, we’re going to get down into the nuts and bolts of exactly how someone can do it for themselves. Tom: Sure. The painless prospecting system is all premised on the concept that today’s buyers are self-educating. They’re hiding behind Google searches or they’re just going online and looking for information to help them make buying decisions or just do their job better. And the whole idea behind the painless prospecting is that we all have our sort of go-to set of online resources that we use to educate ourselves and figure out what things we need to purchase to do our jobs better. In a painless prospecting world, what we do is identify and categorize those locations online, we call them “propinquity points.” And then, we plan and schedule our own content to appear repeatedly at these propinquity points, thus giving a prospect the opportunity to sort of trip over us and find or discover us, as well as repeatedly be exposed to our content and our messages. Which, you know, just like advertising, frequency creates awareness, content frequency creates awareness or what we call “propinquity” that ultimately leads that person to move from a “I know who you are” to “I get to know about you, I like you and ultimately, I want to buy from you.” Trent: Okay. So, the key, it would seem to me, is two critical success factors. One is, “I’ve got to make sure that I’ve got the right content that is going to resonate and speak to the audience that I have chosen.” And then, “I also have to make sure that I get that content to the places where they’re already hanging out.” Is that correct? Tom: Absolutely. It really comes down to those two simple points. And if you can nail both of those, then you can painlessly prospect. I like to laugh about how my painless prospecting system is generating leads while I sleep. Or last year at Mardi Gras, while I was having fun here in New Orleans at Mardi Gras, there was a new business lead that was coming through my system and ended up calling me and saying “Can we have a meeting because I’m going to be in New Orleans for Mardi Gras.” I had one meeting and three weeks later, I have a new client. I didn’t do a thing other than have him meeting with a guy and then write a contract. But, my system did all the work for me while I was out with my family having a good time at Mardi Gras. Trent: So much better than making cold calls and doing every other kind of thing that people spend all that kind of money doing. So, let’s get into some more nuts and bolts. Who is your target customer? Because I want to walk through the specifics of how you did this. Tom: Well, my target customer tends to be one of two people. They’re either a mid-size business owner or they’re the senior person on staff in marketing. It might be a VP, a director, their titles vary. But they’re the senior marketing decision-maker, again, at a mid-sized firm. That’s kind of where I play right now is in that mid-size arena. Trent: How much revenue is “mid-sized” just so we understand? Tom: Say around $25 million or less. Some of our clients might be $5 million or $6 million. But I would say if it’s a true B2B group, they tend to be in that sort of more $15 million to $25 million range. Trent: Okay. And what industry are they in? Tom: We really do not specialize in a particular industry. Currently, we work in a pharmaceutical, liquor, restaurant, travel, and hospitality. People come to us for the process and the approach, and then, we help them meld it to their industry. I have a pretty rich background in terms of, throughout my 20-year career, I touched a number of industries throughout my advertising career. So, once we get in with a company, we understand what are the business levers that power their particular industry. We can usually help them figure out how to turn our system to really fit and maximize the effectiveness of the system in their industry category. Trent: Okay. So, in your case, you wanted to make sure that you were creating content and that that content was placed in locations that your target audience would find it. Can you walk us through, what are some of those places and how did you find them and how did you make that happen? Tom: Sure. Early on, one of the core platforms that I was able to penetrate is Advertising Age Magazine. In the advertising world, there are two trade mags: Ad Age and Adweek. And I’ve always felt Ad Age was probably the bigger of the two; it was a little bit more national. And so, early on, I’ve secured a reoccurring writing position there in their small agency diary column. And that really did two things for me. It put me on the radar of the senior marketing people. Not so much that business owner, but that senior marketing person, not only at the mid-size, but at the national level. It also gave me an enormous amount of clout. The real kind, not the online version. And people saying “Wow, you write for Ad Age. You obviously must know a thing or two.” And it really opened the doors to a lot of the things. Because you tell people, “I write for Ad Age.” When you try to then go to some of the other, more targeted. So, like MarketingProfs, because it’s a huge B2B community. Copyblogger, because I think it’s one of the premier social media content marketing destinations. A lot of people go read Copyblogger. Social Media Examiner. Again, people that are interested in social, Social Selling. A lot of them are there. SOCIAL FRESH. A lot of these big, sort of aggregator-type online blog areas. All of those, when we said I write for Ad Age, that was an instant credibility check. You can write for them, you probably can write for us. So, laid the Ad Age, then began to lay all of the social media sites. Primarily because when I first launched Converse Digital, it was in the height of social media. It was 2010, everybody and their dog was getting interested in social. So, it created a really nice niche that I could populate very quickly and establish myself as an expert within that niche. And from there, as social media has begun to become saturated. Anybody with a laptop is now a social media consultant, then I really began to dial my choke down to where it is today, which is really focused on helping people use social media, e-mail and Web content to shorten the sales cycle and improve the conversion rate, which really dovetails nicely into my professional background. Because that selling of professional services has been what I’ve done for more than half of my career. So, I’ve just been slowly dialing down into a real niche core that, currently, not a lot of people function in. There’s a whole lot of people talking about social and digital and e-mail. You don’t have a lot of people really talking about social selling, yet. That’s sort of the next big thing I think that’s coming through. Trent: So, you’re producing content for other people’s blogs as well as your own. What percentage of your time do you spend sitting and writing this content? And when you produce a piece, does it only go to one location? Or can you cross-publish the same piece of content to more than one? Tom: Well, I’d say a couple of things. One, it varies because the way I think about content creation. I think, fundamentally, content creators are thinking about content creation at the wrong level. Everybody thinks about it at the individual blog post level. And I believe that you need to look at it from an ecosystem. So, I try never to write or produce anything once. Big believer that you have to look for ways to take anything you create and place that in multiple channels. Now, I don’t just copy and paste though. So, for instance, there’s a section in my book that talks about using voice to text software to make it easier to write more blog posts. Trent: Like Dragon? Tom: Yeah, like Dragon. Specifically, Dragon. And how you can use that software along with an iPad or your iPhone to, instead of just driving to work in the morning, you can write a blog post while you’re driving to work. And I take people through step by step how you do it. It’s super simple. It’s made it real easy for me to create a lot more content. So, I might write a blog post on my own blog about that. I might take some of that content from the book, build it into a nice 700 to 1,000-word blog post, put it on my blog. But then, and for instance, I actually did this. You can go to MarketingProfs, for instance. I took that and I angled it to where I just focused on the mobile application of it. And I wrote a post for MarketingProfs that was “How to lose weight while blogging.” And it was all about how you can take this mobile device and this mobile application and go get on your own your ellipse or your stationary bicycle or whatever. And while you’re walking and running and getting a little exercise, you’re actually writing a blog post. Trent: So, now, I’ve just purchased Dragon, myself. I was actually messing around with it for the first time yesterday on my desktop here. So, do you use the mobile version and put it on your iPhone, so that you can create your content while you’re on the move is question number one. And the second part of that question is do you lay out, in form of bullet points, for example, just on like a postcard or whatever, so that you have your, sort of, talking points so that you don’t end up rambling on? How do you do it? Tom: Yeah. I actually wrote entire sections of my book while driving to and from speaking engagements. And what I did learn, in fact, I talk about this in detail in the book, is the number one thing you have to figure out is when you move to a dictation model of writing, you do have to write down, sort of, your core, thematical outline, if you will, of whatever it is you’re going to create. Blog post or white paper or whatever. Because, yes, if you don’t, you just roll into these tangents, which is fine because once you transcribe it over, you can copy and paste. But you end up losing so much time in the editing process that it kind of outweighs the benefit of being able to work out or drive and write a blog post at the same time. But if you can do it well, it’s perfect. In fact, because I know you produced a lot of content. Another nice opportunity, and again, another way I spun that particular blog post, is I wrote one about how you can use this type of software to break through writer’s block. Where I can’t get any words on the page. Okay, fine. Put the headset on, go for a walk and just start rambling. And what happens is that, you know, just the act of talking through your idea, you end up kind of finding some points, getting into a theme. And before you know it, you’ve got a rough outline for a blog post. Versus just sitting at your desk with your hands over the keyboard going “Oh, man. I have nothing to write today. Nothing’s coming to me.” And so, again, it’s a way of looking at, “Okay, I wrote one blog post.” But I was actually able to take that base post, pull a piece of that, angle it a different way and create a new, valuable piece of content that solves somebody’s problem. One being writer’s block. The other being a little bit more fun with MarketingProfs that was a “Hey, here’s how to solve two problems content creators have, ‘How to Create Content and How to Find Time to Exercise.'” And it was fun, but people liked it. And that’s the way I look at the content. You always are looking for ways to “How can I take this? Spin it to where it makes sense as a new, valuable post and makes sense on that person’s particular platform.” So, for instance, that “Lose Weight While Blogging,” I would have never offered that story to Copyblogger. I just don’t think that’s Brian’s style. But, Ann Handley over at MarketingProfs, she loves fun stuff like that. That’s her style. And MarketingProfs has a sort of fun angle to its brand. So, you offer that story over to them because it fits their brand. And so, I think that’s a big part. When you’re planning this content distribution to your propinquity points, you really have to understand “What is the platform? What is their style? What do they value? What kind of information do they like”? And then you take your core content and you spin it to fit and then, of course, you back link across so that’s there a reason for the person for the person at Copyblogger or SME or MarketingProfs, there’s something there that you’re not going to explain in-depth because it’d be a whole other post. But they kind of need to understand it to understand the post they’re reading today. And so, for me, a lot of times, that is one of the core strategic underpinnings of a painless prospecting platform is the social theory called propinquity. Real world, most people have never heard of it, few people know how to say it. So, when I write guest posts that talk about painless prospecting or social selling, I always try to find a way to work in the concept of propinquity. It’s usually very easy because it’s a foundational element of my thoughts. But I never define what it is. It’s always a link back to a post on my website that explains, “What is propinquity and why does it matter to marketers?” I always get a lot of back traffic from that, and it’s a good use of a propinquity point to then drive inbound traffic to my blog where then I can hopefully maybe capture somebody with, register to get a newsletter or get the blog sent to you by e-mail, etc., which, again, escalates that ability to move someone through the sales process. Trent: So, the question I asked earlier that you didn’t give us, probably because I asked two questions at one time, was what percentage of your time do you spend creating content? I’m still curious about that. Tom: Right, I didn’t. I would say on a weekly basis, three to four hours. But, then, what will happen is at least once a month, I might do a six to eight-hour binge where I’ll sit down and really create more of that, sort of, ecosystem. I’ll create my core posts that I’ve written and then, I’ll begin to create the spinouts that are going to be sent off as guest posts to other platforms. I’ll set aside a day, six to eight hours, maybe sometimes more. And I try to do it all in one sitting because I just find it’s a more efficient way to do it than to try to one-off stuff, a little bit here, a little bit there. Trent: The concept of bucketing, I guess, would be a good way to describe that. Tom: Absolutely. And it works. Trent: All right. So, what advice would you give to the listeners who are thinking “Okay, this makes some sense. I want to get started.” What advice would you give them to start? Should they be, I guess, they’ve got to research the locations where they’d like to have their content seen. Would that be the first place? Tom: Yeah, the first place really is to define those propinquity points. There are lots of tools and techniques that can be used. If you’re fortunate enough to have access to social-listening software like a Zissimos [SP] or a NetBase or a Radian 6, those are very helpful. But if you don’t or you’re just not sure you want to go to that level, the easiest thing to do is to, for instance, in Twitter, create a Twitter list of all of your prospects that are on Twitter that you’d like to business with. And put them into a single Twitter list, throw them into a client like a HootSuite, make a column. And then, get an intern or a receptionist or somebody that doesn’t necessarily have a lot to do every single day that requires them not to be able to look at a computer because it’s a better use of their time than yours often, because your time is best spent selling. And have them just simply catalog every single URL in a spreadsheet that is shared by members of that list. And what you’re looking to do and this will take you six weeks, maybe a couple of months because you need time to allow the trends to appear. But, like, for instance, every single time somebody shares a link from Social Media Examiner, you document “Hey, that’s one more tally or tick mark in the Social Media Examiner column.” And what you’re going to see is over time, you’ll start to see certain websites. A lot of times, those that you’re familiar with, but sometimes ones you’re not so familiar with, will bubble to the top. So, then, you can be pretty confident that those are valid propinquity points. Because you’ve got, it’s a highly-shared website by your prospects of a sub-segment of your prospects. And that’s usually a really good place to start. Because that content is obviously drawing the right kind of people. It’s obviously considered valuable because it’s getting shared. And if you can get your content there, you increase your opportunity for virality of your content because again, you already know that content is getting shared by prospects within your target audience. Trent: That’s a cool idea. Tom: It’s super dead-simple. And like I said, it’s the perfect job for an intern or a receptionist who, in-between welcoming people to your building or accepting phone calls, they’re going through Twitter and going “Oh, there’s another one. There’s another one.” It’s just super simple and easy. Again, it takes a little time to allow to have enough. You can do the same thing with hashtags. If there’s a hashtag that’s relevant in your industry, create a list in HootSuite that searches for every instance of that hashtag. Do the exact same thing. Look for what websites are being shared under that hashtag. And you know, you will find, sometimes, a little niche-y, like a blog or a forum that doesn’t show up in Google searches because it’s just not that big. But you will see an overabundance of those content links being shared by your prospects. And so, what it helps you really do is that it helps you discover those little niche-y blogs, forums, etc. that you just otherwise don’t see. Unless you’re really paying attention and looking for the patterns that are emerging. You can do the same thing with LinkedIn. Follow all of your prospects on LinkedIn, see what they’re sharing in their news feed, Facebook, you name it. Any place where somebody is sharing content, you can do the exact same thing. In fact, we like to bring it all together, which is why if you have something bigger like a Radian or a Zissimos, you can do it inside those platforms. It just makes it a little bit less heavy-lifting. Trent: So, with Radian or Zissimos, do you still have to have a person manually collate or count how many times the links are all shared? Or is there some type of reporting mechanism that you could essentially say “Here, I want to follow these 37 people and I want to look at their tweets over the last 30 days and da, da, da” and now I know, instantly, which are the most popular sites? Tom: Zissimos makes it a lot easier. It’s not a complete turn-key system, but it’s infinitely easier. You can create the list and the system will help you find it, the URLs and tabulate some stuff. Radian can do some of it. The biggest challenge with Radian is when you look at their URL share report. If they’ve used a short link, a bit.ly, a t.co, it rolls all that up under the short link. Doesn’t look underneath the short link to see, the, what really was the media that was shared? And so, that becomes a challenge. Whereas Zissimos will look underneath and return back the underlying URL which really gives them an advantage. But they’re also three times as expensive as Radian. So, really, it’s an enterprise-class platform. If you have it, great. If you don’t, yeah, you can do some of that through Radian. Or you can just do it yourself with a simple spreadsheet and HootSuite. Trent: What’s the URL for Radian? I can’t seem to find it. Tom: Radian6.com, I believe. I think that’s what it is. And Salesforce bought them, so maybe they’ve switched. I just have it bookmarked because we’re a subscriber to it. So, I just have it bookmarked. Trent: Okay. And folks, if you’re listening to this and you’re driving, don’t worry about writing all this stuff down. Everything is going to be in the show notes. You can get to those show notes at brightideas.co/78. There it is. It’s now called salesforcemarketingcloud.com. Tom: There you go. Trent: Good enough. So, that has been absolutely a very, very interesting way to go and find out where your audience is hanging out. Now that you know where they’re hanging out, what would be some suggestions to you when you’re reaching out to some of these blogs or websites and you want to become one of their contributing authors? I’ve got to think that they’re getting a lot of people saying “Hey, let me write for you.” So, how do you separate yourself? Tom: Yeah. I think, especially, the smaller, niche-y ones, not so much, maybe. But definitely the bigger ones. Really two. Some of them will have, they’re looking for contributing authors. You go to socialfresh.com. And Jason Keith has got a form that says “Hey, you want to write for us? Fill this out.” He’s actively looking for and he’s got his process. Others won’t have that. And even if they do, I think it never hurts to really do what I would suggest, which is, get to know the people that own and operate the platform. There is just no replacing the development of relationships. Good old fashioned sales 101. People like to do business with people they like. And you know, every platform that I write for, I personally know the people who own or are the key editors at that platform. And I knew them before I wrote for the platform. So, I was able to meet Ann Handley over at MarketingProfs, get to know her. Meet Jason Keith, meet Brian Clark, meet Michael over at Social Media Examiner. All these places I write for, I was able to meet those folks through either Twitter. Fabulous, I think one of the best uses of Twitter in a social selling environment is it’s using it as a platform to meet people that you don’t currently know. And start to form the budding of a relationship that can then maybe be transferred over to, maybe, like a Facebook where it’s more of a private friend. You can kind of get to know them a little bit more. Maybe LinkedIn. Or just exchanging e-mails and so forth. So, I always tell people “Identify where you want to be. And then start to build a relationship with the people who own that outpost.” Because if you get them to like you, respect you and appreciate your content, then, when you make that ask and say, “Hey, I really think I can bring some value to your readers. Here’s an example of something that I might want to do. Would you be interested in a post like this?” And it doesn’t have to be a finished post. It can just be a really tight outline that gives them a really good sense of what you’d want to write. I think you’ll find that your listeners will find their take ratio will be much higher. Than if they’re just Joe Blow sending in an e-mail. “Hey, I really love your site. I think I have something for your readers and I’d like to write for you.” You and 10,000 other people. Because you’ve got to remember, these people are making money quite often through the sale of advertising or event monetization, things of this nature. And so, by giving you a guess-posting capability versus forcing you to pay for access to their audience, that’s a big give. So, if you’re not really bringing high-value content to them and creating value in the other direction, you’re not likely to get it. You’re not likely to get it at all. Trent: Okay. So, this whole propinquity theory and painless prospecting has worked very well for you. I want to thank you for sharing the nuts and bolts of how to make it happen. Before we wrap up, have we missed anything, Tom, that you think is really salient to this discussion? Tom: No. From the prospect of using digital tools as an inbound selling strategy as opposed to cold calls, I would encourage your listeners to pay very special, close attention to it and begin to experiment with it. But I would also encourage them to make sure that they understand that this, I think it’s a slower selling process than, like, the cold call process is. I always just say “This is sort of like fly-fishing versus tuna- fishing.” Tuna-fishing, you throw out a bait, you troll, you dang near run into the tuna. Fly-fishing, much more elegant. You’ve got to keep dropping that bait in the water, presenting it, in hopes of getting a bite. And that’s really what this is. It’s a much more elegant way of doing it. It’s a hell of a lot more fun. And if they want more information on how to do it or if they’re looking for a guidebook, next month, my book The Invisible Sale is coming out. And, literally, that book is a field guide for anybody that wants to do this. I give you the arguments to make to your boss, the statistical arguments for “This is why we need to it.” I show you exactly, step by step, how to build the painless prospecting platform. Show you how to create every type of content imaginable. And give you apps and shortcuts and tips and techniques, both my own and from pros; podcasters, videographers, etc. And then in the end, we talk about how do you actually close that self-educated buyer. Because it’s a little different. You have to come it at differently than maybe the traditional sales. And it’s really a tool for anybody that wants to learn this in- depth. And really begin to do it themselves and I would highly encourage anybody to go pick it up or pre-order it at theinvisiblesale.com. Trent: That’s The Invisible Sale singular? Tom: Singular. Trent: Okay, I’ll put that in the show notes, as well. All right, Tom. Thank you so much for being a guest on the “Bright Ideas” podcast. I, as I always hoped to, got some really good golden nuggets. I loved what you shared about going on Twitter, going on LinkedIn using hashtags, figuring out all your prospects, websites they’re mentioning and using that as a way to start your outreach program, so that was terrific. And if people want to get a hold of you, what is the easiest, single way to do that? Tom: They can follow me on Twitter. I’m @tommartin. Or visit conversedigital.com. Both will find me. Trent: Okay. Terrific, Tom. Thanks for being on the show. Tom: Thanks for having me. I really appreciate it. Trent: All right, so that wraps up today’s episode. If you want to get to the show notes, just go to brightideas.co/78. The other thing that I would really love it if you would do is go to brightideas.co/love. There, you will find a pre-populated tweet and also, a link to the iTunes store where if you would take a moment and if you thought this episode was valuable, leave a five-star rating in the iTunes store. I would really appreciate that. It helps the show to get more exposure and build the audience. And the more people that are aware of the “Bright Ideas” podcast, the more people that we can help to massively boost their business. That’s it for this episode. I am your host, Trent Dyrsmid. Thank you very much for being a listener. I look forward to being with you again in an upcoming episode very soon.

About Tom Martin

Tom Martin headshotTom is a no nonsense, straight-talking 20-year veteran of the advertising and marketing business who favors stiff drinks, good debates and helping companies grow their businesses. As an internationally recognized digital marketing keynote speaker, blogger, founder of Converse Digital, and Author of The Invisible Sale, Tom marries his two passions, marketing & technology, to teach companies how to leverage digital marketing channels to achieve and sustain sales growth, enhance brand perception and painlessly prospect for new customers. His first book, The Invisible Sale, is now available for pre-sale at TheInvisibleSale.com.  You can follow him on Twitter @TomMartin, connect with him on LinkedIn, circle him on Google+ or contact him at http://ConverseDigital.com. You can find Tom’s marketing missives on his blog at ConverseDigital.com, Ad Age, where he is a regular contributor, as well as many of the top social and digital marketing blogs like Copyblogger, Social Media Examiner, Social Fresh and MarketingProfs, to name a few.


How to Avoid Overwhelm, Hack Growth, and Get Results 3X Faster (in your pajamas)

mastermind-eliteIt’s been about 3 weeks since the Bright Ideas Mastermind Elite mastermind group was launched, and so far, the participation and ideas shared have been absolutely wonderful.

But more on that in a minute.

First, I want to address a very real problem that I, and many other entrepreneurs experience on an all-too-regular basis. The problem I’m talking about is overwhelm; caused largely by information overload and trying to do too many things simultaneously.

According to Dr. Paul Hammerness and Margaret Moore, authors of Organize Your Mind, Organize Your Life, multitasking increases the chances of making mistakes and missing important information and cues. Multitaskers are also less likely to retain information in working memory, which can hinder problem solving and creativity.

And when do I find that I try to multitask the most?

When I’m feeling overwhelmed and am trying to “beat it down” by being uber-productive.

Yeah, right.

Let’s be honest here. NO ONE is productive when they are feeling overwhelmed. I’m sure as hell not. Just ask my wife.

(Feeling overwhelmed was one of the reasons why we recently spent all day working on our 90 day strategic plan.)

What Causes Overwhelm?

The root cause of overwhelm is simply having too much to do at one time. You didn’t need me to tell you that, did you?

Of course not.

Like you, I’m a hard-charging, fire-breathing, gonna-kick-some-butt entrepreneur, and because I’m wired this way (thanks mom and dad??), I find it very difficult to just ignore what I see as potential opportunities.

So, instead of ignoring them, I just add a “little task” to my to-do list, because I’m “sure” I’ll have “more time” later to investigate the idea.

Sound familiar?

Do I ever get back to investigating the idea? Yes, sometimes I do, but more often than not my to-do list just grows…and then keeps on growing to the point that I can’t bear to even look at the bloody thing any longer.

If you can relate, go ahead and leave a comment below. Or, if you don’t have time now, you can just put it on your to-do list and come back later *smirk*.

How to Growth Hack

half-life-2-3478Back when I was in my 20s, I spent waaaaay too much time playing a first-person-shooter game called Half Life. The game was insanely addictive and I poured hours into it.

Often, I would get “stuck” in a level and would then invest far too much time trying to figure out how to complete the level.

One day, someone told me about something called a “walk through”.

A what?

A walk through is a guide that was created by someone else who’s already completed the level. Not only do they describe in detail how to get through the level in the least amount of time, but they also would tell you how to find and unlock every bonus along your way.

Talk about helpful!

With walk throughs, I no longer had to spend hours trying to find the super-duper bonus or hidden room. No more frustration, no more taking 3X as long as I needed. Armed with a good walk through I could now blast my way through the level in record time.

So what the hell does a walk through for Half Life have to do with feeling overwhelmed?


In a game, many people actually enjoy the time-consuming hunt for the bonuses, etc…

But in business? I don’t know about you, but I have absolutely ZERO interest in learning things the hard way. When it comes to business, I’m all about speed and efficiency. I want results now, dammit.

A Mastermind is a Walk Through for Business

If you are like me and you want to avoid overwhelm and get results faster, then I suggest that you find yourself a mastermind to join because being in a mastermind is like having your very own “walk through for business”.

As the name suggests, the collective intelligence of a group of people all focused on solving the same problems is far superior to just one person trying to do it on their own.

Back when I ran my Dyrand Systems (IT Managed Service Provider), there was always so much to learn and do that I often felt extremely overwhelmed.

mastermind-tpAnd then I decided to join a mastermind full of other people that ran companies like mine.

Now I was a part of a close-knit group of like-minded people, all trying to solve similar problems. Did participating completely eliminate overwhelm? No, but, thanks to my not having to re-create the wheel with every new idea, my participation drastically reduced overwhelm-related stress.

As a member of the group, each time I discovered a new idea that I wanted to test, the very first thing I would do was to communicate with the other members of the group to ask them if they’d tested it. Many times, I found that my “new idea” had already been tried by another member without success.

Phew! Now I didn’t have to blow X hours figuring that out for myself. What a relief! (Remember, the mastermind members are all experienced business people, so I could trust what they told me.)

Not only did I not have to waste time testing ideas that had already been proven not to work, but I was also regularly exposed to new ideas that I probably would not have otherwise discovered and many of these ideas are why my company was ranked as one of the PROFIT 100 fastest growing companies in Canada for two years in a row.

Thanks to my fellow mastermind members, I was able to hack the hell out of growth!

Bam. Take that Mr Overwhelm!

What to Look For in a Mastermind Group

There are literally thousands and thousands of mastermind groups on the planet, so finding one that will be a good fit can be a chore.

Here’s how I find the ones that I joined back then: I called other CEOs in my industry and asked them for recommendations. Brilliant, eh?

Of course, now, thanks to the Google, if you don’t feel like calling other CEOs, you can also search to your heart’s content.

That said, I think you are nuts if you skip making the calls, because, as was the case for me, making those “cold calls” most often led to some very productive discussions and a few of them even led to what have become long-term friendships (Hi Mike, Josh).

IdeaLightBulbHandsNurturingAside from recommendations from others, I would also suggest that you pick a mastermind whose members are as closely focused on the business you are in as possible. Ideally, they do EXACTLY what you do, because the more similar the business, the more valuable the ideas shared in the group will be.

How Much To Invest?

In terms of cost, I would suggest you join the most expensive mastermind group that you can afford.

Why spend top dollar?

Simple. High priced groups attract more successful members. Simple as that.

Who would you rather surround yourself with? People just scraping by, or people who are running 7 or 8 figure businesses? The answer is kinda obvious, isn’t it?

Does that mean that you should join a group that costs $1,000 a month right away? If you can afford it, yes; however, if you can’t and your business is tiny compared to the size of the other member’s businesses, then no. Instead, I’d suggest you find a group more suited to your current situation for now. You can always join the more expensive group later on if you find that you are outgrowing the current one.

Does Your Location Matter?

In terms of location, the groups that I used to be a part of, and the the group that I now run, all have members from all over the place. In the old days (2005-ish), I’d hop on a plane 4 times a year to fly down to a resort for a three day meeting. For the more expensive groups, this is still pretty common; however, given how easy it is to meet online to share ideas, I don’t feel like flying to a location is as necessary as it once was.

Instead spending money on hotels and plane tickets, join an online group and then spend what you saved either on the dues for the group, or, if you can afford it, hire yourself a VA to help get some work off your plate.

If you know of a good group, please share the name down in the comments.

If you are an independent marketing consultant, freelancer, or small agency and you want to mastermind with others who are building the same type of business as you are, then check out the Bright Ideas Mastermind Elite.

The Bright Ideas Mastermind Elite

The group that I currently run meets online once per month and we have a daily discussion via a private Facebook group.

The online meetings are just that. We use GotoMeeting and hold an online discussion during which we all take turns sharing what we’ve learned since the last meeting, what is working, what isn’t, etc… We also have a hot seat each month where one member can volunteer to have the other members do a critique on whatever they like. Could be a website, a landing page, a free report, a proposal template, etc.

Possibly even more valuable than the monthly meeting has been the Facebook group. In the group, on a daily basis I and the other members are sharing ideas and asking questions.

Here’s just a few examples of what has been shared recently:

  • Mike shared a landing page that he is testing for lead capture in the dental niche
  • I shared how I’ve increased website traffic by 59.44% over the last 30 days
  • Todd asked questions about how to handle recurring billing to clients and got several answers
  • Bobby shared a diagram of his 3-step lead generation direct mail campaign
  • I shared the results of a recent mailing that I did and promised to do the same with the next one
  • Todd shared an interview he did with a guy who’s getting a 38% conversion rate on a lead generation campaign

What Current Members Are Saying


If getting to participate in our discussion is something that appeals to you, then I encourage you to apply for membership now.

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Digital Marketing Strategy: Brennan Dunn on How He Launched His SaaS Business in Under 4 Months

The software business – like so many others – is extremely unpredictable. If you’re not careful, it can suck up more time and money than you ever thought possible, and never generate enough cash flow to even get off the ground. But it can also be one of the best businesses, with the potential to progress very quickly from cash-guzzling monster to cash-generating machine.

If this is a business model you’re considering, you’ll want to learn from others who have already had success. Someone like Brennan Dunn, who has taken his Software as a Service (SaaS) business from concept to launch in under four months.

Brennan shares his story, as well as valuable insights for other new businesses (software or not). He provides insights on how to come up with an idea worth developing, how to attract potential buyers and generate cash flow even before your product is ready, and how he structured his marketing automation so that once he started paying for traffic, he got a 10 day ROI on his investment.

Quite impressive!

Listen now and you’ll also hear Brennan and I talk about:

  • (5:00) Introductions
  • (7:00) An overview of Planscope
  • (11:00) How to come up with a software idea
  • (14:00) How he developed his minimum viable product
  • (17:30) How to build software if you aren’t a developer
  • (20:30) How to attract leads
  • (26:00) How to generate cash flow before the product is ready
  • (30:00) Lead generation that doesn’t scale
  • (33:00) How he created his newsletter each week
  • (36:00) How and why he wrote his first book
  • (40:00) Why he was able to charge for content that he also gives away
  • (43:30) How he’s using drip email to generate leads
  • (45:30) How he’s structured his funnel to give a 10 day ROI with LinkedIn paid traffic
  • (48:30) Why he chose LinkedIn for paid traffic
  • (57:00) An overview of his concierge service product
  • (58:00) The biggest benefit of using Infusionsoft vs Mail Chimp
  • (1:03:00) An overview of an experiment he’s running for SaaS signups
  • (1: 07:00) An overview of how he manages his time

Resources Mentioned


More About This Episode

The Bright Ideas podcast is the podcast for business owners and marketers who want to discover how to use online marketing and sales automation tactics to massively grow their business.

It’s designed to help marketing agencies and small business owners discover which online marketing strategies are working most effectively today – all from the mouths of expert entrepreneurs who are already making it big.

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Trent: Hey there, bright idea hunters. Welcome to the Bright Ideas
podcast. I am your host, Trent Dyrsmid. I am so thrilled to have
you on the show with me today. This is the podcast for marketing
agencies, marketing consultants, and entrepreneurs who want to
discover how to use content marketing, and marketing automation
to massively boost their business. The way that we do that is we
bring proven experts onto the show to share the details of how
they became successful. I don’t have people on here who are
gurus who aren’t doing it. Everyone on the show is living,
eating, and breathing it.On the show with me today is an entrepreneur by the name of
Brennan Dunn. To say that he is doing well online is just an
understatement. He is bringing in multiple six figures from a
variety of sources, all of which we talk about to a certain
degree during this interview. He has authored a couple of e-
books that are being sold. He has consulting training at $1,800
a pop. He’s got a SaaS application called Planscope, and we’re
going to talk in detail about that during this episode.This is also an episode that is absolutely stuffed full of
golden nuggets. Now those of you who haven’t heard my episodes
before, a golden nugget is one of those ideas that makes you
want to pull over and write it down, because you know that the
second you hear that idea you can put it into action and start
to see immediate results in your business. You are really going
to enjoy this episode. There is some really good stuff. At about
the six-minute mark, we are going to talk about how he came up
with the idea for Planscope, his software as a service
application. At the nine-minute mark, we’re going to talk about
how he came up with a minimum viable product, so if that’s not a
term that you are familiar with, you definitely want to hang
around and learn what that is.If you are not a software developer, and you’d love to develop
some software as a service, he’s going to talk to you about how
you can get that done. Just to give you an idea of how good this
business can be, by the way, he is doing just over $10,000 a
month from that one product alone. It takes him about two hours
a week of his time to maintain that particular business. In the
episode, we are going to talk a lot more about what he is doing
to grow it, but as you can see the profit margins are really
crazy. You don’t need millions of customers. You figure $50 a
month, 500 customers-that is a pretty phenomenal business.When we get to the fifteen-minute mark, we’re going to start
talking at length, we spend about half an hour about how he is
attracting leads. There are so many people who have come up with
software, but they don’t sell any, or they don’t sell enough,
and so the business ends up not being successful. So if that’s
you or you think that might be you, and you are struggling with
how to attract more customers for your business, you are going
to love this episode, because we go into a lot of detail on
which social networks he’s using, how he is incenting them. He’s
given specific examples of landing pages, landing pages by the
way with opt in rates of 30% and 40%. One of them he said was
47%, which is phenomenal. We’re going to talk a lot about that.
Then we are going to talk about the specific tools that he uses
to generate leads and how he has structured his sales funnel so
that he can get a ten day ROI on his paid traffic. He’s using
LinkedIn for that paid traffic and we are going to talk about
how he does that as well.Finally, we are going to talk about how he’s using InfusionSoft
to automate a whole bunch of the portions of his business so
that he is not working a gazillion hours a week, and he can
still be a husband and father of two. This is really going to be
a wonderful episode. When you get to the end of it, and enjoyed
it, please head over to iTunes and leave some feedback, because
that really helps the show out.With all that said, please join me in welcoming Brennan to the
show. And one more thing, I am a big believer in masterminding,
because it is a way to surround yourself with other like-minded
entrepreneurs, and Bright Ideas now has a mastermind available.
It is called mastermind elite, and you can learn more about it
at brightideas.co/mastermind.Hey Brennan, welcome to the show.Brennan: What’s going on, Trent?Trent: Just sitting here recording a podcast with another successful
entrepreneur who has a very good story to share. Welcome aboard,
and I’m really happy to have you here.

Brennan: Awesome, looking forward to it.

Trent: For the folks who are listening, who don’t know who you are or
have never heard of Planscope, just very briefly take a minute
or two to introduce yourself, who you are and what you do, and
then we will dive into the meat of what we are going to talk
about today.

Brennan: Sure, so my name is Brennan Dunn. Planscope is probably my
primary business, though I have quite a few different things
that I am working on. I’ve written two books, Double your
Freelancing Rate and The Blueprint. I also teach two online
workshops, and I write a weekly newsletter that is targeting
consultants that just passed 7,000 subscribers. I am juggling a
lot of different things, I guess.

Trent: Yeah, no kidding. One of the questions that I wanted to get to
eventually, but I will bring up now, because it seems so
relevant, is VAs. Are you using a lot of VAs in your business?

Brennan: The only real assistant that I have is somebody that helps me
with the coding of Planscope. I still handle all of my front
line support. I still book all of my interviews manually. That
is getting better now that I am doing some automated things to
send out booking requests and everything. When it comes to
person to person communication it is still just me.

Trent: Here is what we’re going to talk about and why I asked Brennan
to come on the show with me. I want to talk about his company
Planscope, because so many people, myself included, want to make
a success of a software as a service business, because the model
is so compelling. For the folks that aren’t familiar with you,
let’s go right to the results. Well first of all, let’s say what
is it and how well it is doing financially right now?

Brennan: Planscope is a project management app for specifically for
freelancers and consultants. There is Base Camp, there are a lot
of different, it’s a very saturated market. It’s a very niche
project, and it’s doing very well actually considering that I
don’t even work on it full time. We just crossed five figures a
month in recurring revenue. One of the benefits, I’ve done SaaS
and I have quite a few different transaction products like books
and workshops. The amazing thing about SaaS, and I think the
thing that attracts most of us to it, is that I’m going to wake
up October 1st, and I’m going to know how much money, at a
minimum, how much money I will be bringing in through Planscope.

Trent: How much is that going to be?

Brennan: There’s no restart. With books, you kind of always need to be
promoting, or doing something to keep sales up. With a SaaS app,
you have a churn rate, meaning a cancellation rate, and a growth
rate, and as long as churn is less than the growth, it is just
going to keep moving up and to the right.

Trent: Which is right where you want to go. How much comes in on
October 1st for you?

Brennan: It’s going to be, it’s hard to predict, but it will be about
$10,500-ish, I would imagine.

Trent: That’s not bad. Now is there much cost in running this

Brennan: My total overhead, if you include my time, or if you don’t
include my time rather. I put up a challenge, kind of like an
apprenticeship challenge, and I have a part-time developer that
is at $1,000 a month. I also have my webserver that is at $80 a
month. Then I have a few different monitoring apps and
everything. My total is probably about $1,200 or $1,300 a month
in expenses.

Trent: How many hours a month of your time does it take to operate
this business?

Brennan: The baseline is most likely two, maybe three hours a week.
That’s for maintenance. Right now I’m working on a lot of high-
touch sales with bigger, more enterprise, great clients. That’s
requiring a lot of phone time, but if I were to do nothing and
keep the standard trajectory that we’ve been at for the last
year and a half, I could get away with two hours a week. That’s
really just support, and something that I could eventually
delegate out to a VA, to do at least the front line “how do you
do this,” copy and paste jobs.

Trent: That’s pretty phenomenal. One thing I hope the listeners take
away from this, and we’re going to talk about costs and how he
funded it and the whole thing, but you don’t need this world-
changing idea and you don’t need a gazillion dollar marketing
budget to make a very, very nice-I guess I’ll use the word
lifestyle business for lack of another word, for yourself that
you can run from anywhere in the world, and Planscope is a
really awesome example of that.

Brennan: Thank you, like you said, actually I just started doing paid
advertising. That’s sort of just retargeting, so it doesn’t even
count as much. If you know what you are doing, and know what
problems people have, and can build at least the minimum to
solve it, you can get something off the ground, usually pretty

Trent: Absolutely. That seems to be a big stumbling block for a lot of
people. They say, “I don’t have an idea.” What would you say to

Brennan: I would say look online, and find people that are willing to
pay for problems to be solved, and look for consensus. Look for,
or do a Google search for, “Why Base Camp sucks,” and find what
people are talking about, or what a certain segment of people,
or what I like to call a cash flow of people, that is people who
are all willing to pay money to solve the same problem. Look for
consensus. The way I look at it is my price point is between 24
to 200 a month. My average customer monthly recruiting revenue
is about $50. So it is about $50 a make on average per paying
customer. I don’t need more than 500 of them to do pretty well.
500 people on the whole wide Internet is not a lot of people.

Trent: And that makes for a very nice life. By the way, with respect
to discovering that idea, is that what you did? Did you start
off with “why Base Camp sucks?” Or was there a more specific
process, or did you have experience in this space already?

Brennan: I built Planscope largely for my own consulting business.
Before Planscope, I had an eleven person consultancy. I was just
frustrated with the tools we had. Specifically, I was frustrated
by the fact that I couldn’t find any project management app that
actually cared about money or cared about budgets. I wanted to
build one that took into account, is this project going to get
done for the money that we are hoping to get it done for? That
was sort of the core premise that I built Planscope around.

What was nice about having that pain of knowing that myself and
a lot of other people I talked to and a lot of other consultants
that I have talked to were frustrated by the fact that there was
a disconnect between invoicing and project management. I wanted
to build the minimum viable product, and it’s a cliche term, but
it’s an accurate term, that somebody would pay for to solve a
part of that problem. As I’ve developed Planscope, it’s
continued to solve more parts of that problem. I think the
biggest hang up that people have is that they look at a mature
product and say nobody will buy it unless it rivals this company
with 20 full time developers working on it. They just give up,
because it’s such a big undertaking.

Look at an app like Buffer. It was a simple, plug in a tweet and
we will post it at a certain time. Now it is much more complex,
but at its beginning, and this is true of just about any product
you find on the Internet, at its beginning it was much different
than what it is today. I think people get hung up on the whole,
it needs to be huge, it needs to be perfect, it needs to do
everything that the competitors do.

Trent: So the minimum valuable product. Let’s go back in history. When
did you decide okay, “Hey, I’m going to build something?” Then
how long did it take to get your MVP, your minimum valuable
product, out the door and how much did it cost?

Brennan: Okay, so I have two things going for me. The first is that I’m
a developer and designer in one body. The second is that I ran a
team of ten other people at my consulting firm who effectively
paid my bills for a few months. I bootstrapped it. I’ve never
taken any outside funding, and I really don’t plan to. I decided
to break ground on it in late October 2011, and I had my first
customer February 1st. We’re looking at about four months or so.

Trent: So four months of development or was it sort of two months of
digging around, making sure that the idea was really accurate,
talking to a lot of people. What did that phase look like?

Brennan: It was really all at once. Development really has never ended.
What I would do, first off was to put together a one-page
landing page. The benefit of when you’re not focused more on the
idea, but on the problem that you are solving, you don’t need to
put up screenshots, you don’t need to put anything up really
about the product. You just need to say, this is the problem
that you have that I empathize with and here’s the solution that
I’m proposing. If you’re interested, put in your email and I
will keep in touch.

I had that kind of opt-in page, and I develop each week, and
then sometime during the week I would email that list as it grew
and let people know what I would be working on next and solicit
feedback with real life examples of how a new feature that I
might be working on to build the app, and if it was a worthwhile
thing that they had a problem with. I kept a conversation going
at scale, and I learned specifically about what I could do
either make a company money or make it lose less money, because
those are the two big things that if you nail one or two of
those, people will pay you if you can make them more money or
you can help them lose less money than they’re paying. That was
the big focus for me.

Trent: That’s not unlike the focus of my old business where we helped
them to lose less money and we built a couple million a year
revenue as a result of that. I will say, though, that having
been in two businesses, one where I help you to lose less and
one where I help you to make money, it’s a whole lot easier to
sell something that people believe will help them make money
oddly enough.

Brennan: That’s right.

Trent: Now, I’m not going to turn this into a call about the technical
of how it was developed and so forth, you already said you were
a developer and designer, and obviously if someone isn’t a
developer, do you think that that should stand in their way?
What advice would you give them?

Brennan: I was in the business of building SaaS products for non-
developers. That was my consulting firm. That’s what we did. I
saw a lot of them that never took off. The reason that they
never took off wasn’t really a product or technical issue. If
you pay a competent developer and point them in the right
direction and let them know what you need, you can get what you
need built built.

A lot of my clients had an issue with shipping. As a non-
developer they had a very binary perspective of products, I
think. They either saw a product as not done or done. The issue
that I would see time and time again was that we would build
something and they would keep tweaking little bits and just
never getting it out and never launching anything.

One of the most depressing parts of my consulting career is how
many clients I had that we put months into their project and
they never shipped it, never put it live. I think just
understanding the, it’s kind of a black box for a lot of people,
software. If you don’t know how to write your own software it
can be intimidating I think. I think the best thing that you
could do is go to Treehouse or one of these online coding
platforms. Don’t even necessarily, the goal isn’t for you to
write your own app necessarily, but the goal is for you to know
how to program out a problem that then you can at least have a
little more context when working with a developer that you hire.
That’s what I would do.

In terms of design, you can go to Theme Forest and find a really
good looking landing page for nine bucks. Most buyers don’t know
necessarily that it is a template, and as long as the copy and
the messaging and everything else is good, it probably shouldn’t
matter. Copy writing is one of those skills that I think, it’s
somewhat a technical skill, but for the most part-learning
Photoshop requires a lot of time, learning how to code requires
a lot of time-good copywriting just requires knowing the English
language and knowing enough about sales, persuasion, and things
like that I think.

Trent: Yeah, there’s definitely a format to follow when producing
sales copy. Just as a side note for folks, I used to be really
intimidated by building software. Start small. I went to
freelancer.com and I put up this description of this WordPress
plugin I wanted to get built, and miraculously it got built, and
I’ve sold almost $20,000 of it so far. I really encourage you
not to let limiting beliefs, by the way, I only paid $1,000 to
develop that thing, so commercially it’s been quite successful,
and it taught me a lot. If you’ve never done software before and
if you are listening to this thinking you could never do that,
banish that thought from your mind, because you can do anything,
and if you have enough vision, and you can get your MVP
developed on the cheap, you will also be able to find investors,
because it is a compelling model. Building it is great, but if
you don’t have any customers, then who cares, right?

Brennan: That’s the reason, I think, 90% of startups fail is that you
focus too much on the product and that idea that you completely
miss first of all, how do I find people? And secondly, am I
actually solving a viable problem for them. For me, the way I
found customers and the way I find them still to this day is to
engage with them more on the product as it relates to their
company. What I mean by that is, when starting out, I would just
loiter around Internet forums where consultants hang out.
There’s a sub-Reddit for freelancing. There’s a lot of these
different community sites.

Trent: Can you list a few of them off? I want to put them in the show

Brennan: Yes, there’s freelanceswitch.com. They have a somewhat active
message board. There is Hacker News. It’s not exactly a
consultant community, but there are enough consultants on it
that it was viable. Then there is Reddit slash freelance I
think, which is a sub-Reddit dedicated to freelancing I think.

Trent: So that first one was freelanceswitch.com?

Brennan: Yes. So I would just kind of hang out here, and I would look to
see what kind of problem, the thing about Internet communities
is that the same topics keep coming up again and again. What’s
the common stuff that people keep talking about? Considering I
had a lot of experience when it came to consulting, having built
an eleven-person business, I decided to start writing about
those topics. I put together a blog, for Planscope, and just
started writing general purpose consulting and freelancing

Usually what I would do is instead of replying in the community,
I would reply, and I would put in a few sentences of copy and
then I would say that this relates to something that I wrote in
my blog and I would include a link to my blog or to the article
in question that relates to that topic. It definitely was not
scalable, but starting out it helped me build up an announcement
list of about 300 people, and when I launched within four months
I had people ready to go.

The biggest mistake that you can do, and I see this all the
time, is that you collect an email address and then you sit on
it until you are ready. So six months later you vaguely
remember, but don’t really know who they are and why you should
care. Then all they do is talk about themselves and say, “We are
ready, us, us, us,” but you just delete the email. I really
build up the conversation each week, while building Planscope,
and by the time I was ready to go, people were eager to get in.

Trent: That’s very good advice. I’m writing like mad on post it notes
for stuff I need to do for my own SaaS application, which we are
coding like mad right now, and I have not yet put up a squeeze
page, shame on me.

Brennan: You’re violating the number one law of selling anything online?

Trent: I’ve done a different thing. I obviously here with the Bright
Ideas podcast have a fairly sizable audience of marketing
agencies, and I have done demos, because we developed a mock up
for $500 to get a mock up done and Twitter bootstrap, and I have
been showing that mockup one on one with people for some time to
validate, “Hey, are we actually solving a real problem? Would
you pay for a solution to this?” You can sort of get a feel from
the tone of peoples’ voices when they see stuff. For one portion
of the application, we actually have a desktop version that is
fully coded and we’ve sold quite a bit of it. People say that
it’s awesome and you know that it is resonating.

Brennan: You know what I would put on top of that, I would say, “Okay,
would write me a check for it now.” The thing that I’ve
discovered, and I know from talking with a lot of people about
this is that people don’t want to be critical, necessarily. When
you can actually put them on the spot and say, “Will you pay for
this? Great, pay me now.” You can learn a lot about really what
people think and if it something that they would actually pay to
implement in their business.

Trent: I can hear the collective limiting beliefs of a few of the
people in the audience, and I’ll throw, myself under this camp
as well. They say they don’t have anything for sale yet, how can
I ask someone for a check, so what do you do?

Brennan: I didn’t presell Planscope, because I didn’t know enough about
preselling back then, but I have presold both of my books and
all of my workshops. Workshops are kind of a no brainer. You
typically collect payment and then you have a workshop some
point in the future. With a book, though, the way that I was
able to establish that early cash flow, with both my books.

I’ll talk first about my first book, because at that point I
didn’t have an audience. The second book was a little easier,
because once you’ve already written a book and successfully
delivered it, people trust that you are going to be able to do
it again. But with the first book, the same rules applied. I
talked about pain, I presented a solution, I countered
objections through just knowing about why people would buy this
and talking with a lot of different people about how to set your
rate. I knew kind of what common things people kept throwing
back at me when I pitched the book over Skype.

I had this long-form sales page. At the bottom, I had a
prepurchase link. With my first book I did a discount, so I did
20% off. On my second book, instead of doing a discount, I kept
the price what it would be on launch but I included an exclusive
one-hour webinar. If you preorder the book, you get the book
first before I go public with it, and a seat in this webinar
that you and all the other preorder people would get. Both sold
very well. The benefit was, for me at least, when there’s money
sitting in your account, and it’s really a liability, because
you need to actually deliver something, otherwise you are going
to get charge backs. It really lights a fire for you to get it
out there; wrap it up, get a production ready and ship it. I
really focused on that and having preorders was a really smart
move on my part.

Trent: I’ll echo that, because maybe a year ago, I think I did a
mastermind group for some people and I had about $12,000 in
preorders, and I hadn’t developed any of the content, but then I
knew that I was going to really knock their socks off with the
content that I promised. It was only twelve people, but they
paid $1,000, so I wanted to make sure it was really good. When
you already have the money, it makes it so much easier to put
the time in, because you’re like, “I’ve been paid for this now.
I have to make sure that I come through for everybody.

Brennan: Right, it’s a good solid move and the best proof you can get of
your product. It’s much better than an email address.

Trent: Yes. Okay let’s go back to… Here’s the thing in case
listeners want to know why they should keep listening. I want to
cover a little more on generating leads and converting those
leads to customers. Then we will talk a little more about
outsourcing. Brennan, do you use InfusionSoft?

Brennan: I do.

Trent: We will probably spend some time on how you are taking
advantage of all of the horsepower that InfusionSoft offers. If
time permits I also want to talk about some of the paid traffic
that you’re using, if you’re using any, to sort of ramp things
up. That’s where we’re headed.

With respect to lead generation, you did this thing, you said it
didn’t scale, but it did work very well. Every startup, I wish I
could give credit to the guy who I’m about to quote. He was a
very well-known VC in the valley and he said, “In the
beginning,” I think it was Dan Morris that sent me this article,
“you need to focus on stuff that doesn’t scale.”

Brennan: That was Paul Graham’s article on doing stuff that doesn’t

Trent: Thank you. Exactly. That’s what you did by hanging out on
Freelanceswitch and Hacker News and Reddit in the beginning.
What did you do after that?

Brennan: It lasted through Summer 2012. It was in the Summer of 2012
that I started writing my book. The thing you’ll discover about
SaaS, if you eventually get one, it’s very slow to ramp up.
Twenty percent growth rate month to month when your income is
$100 is a very slow growth. But given the law of time, give that
three years and it becomes a very large investment.

What I realized is that I wanted to do a lot of things. I wanted
to go to a conference in Europe and I just didn’t have the
money, so I decided to write a book. Actually doing this was
probably the best marketing decision for Planscope I ever made.
The thing that I’ve learned about building a B2B heavy duty SaaS
that people need to convince themselves to use, and, in my case,
then switch their team and clients to it, is that isn’t an
impulse thing. You’re asking for a lot. If you’re sending
traffic to your marketing site, you probably don’t have any
rapport built up with that person yet.

What I ended up doing was I started really promoting this book I
was working on, and the thing about a book is that it is an
impulse buy. You spend $50 on an e-book, and you get the value
within a few hours. You read it, you get that value out of it,
and it’s done, and there’s very little risk, right? There’s very
little risk for will you extract value out of it. So I did a

Trent: Brennan, I’m sorry to interrupt you, but the dog barking in the
background, is there a door or anything you can close?

Brennan: It’s downstairs. Let me get the nanny and tell her to put the
dog outside. Can you hold on for one second?

Trent: And we’re back, no more dog.

Brennan: What was I just talking about?

Trent: So the question that I’d asked you which got us going down this
path was how long did you focus on things that didn’t scale?
Then you talked about the book.

Brennan: So I started really writing this book and building excitement
around the book. I did the same thing I do with Planscope, I
started writing the book. In this case, the book prepurchase
list grew weekly, and I felt like I had to then. If they already
paid me money, I don’t want to take their money and disappear
and come back in the future at some point with a book. I just
started writing them about what I was writing about in the book.
I would just kind of extract chapters and sum it up in a
newsletter format. And after launching the book, I just kept
doing it. I realized I could stop, the book was out, and my duty
was done, but I converted it into a newsletter.

Trent: Paid or free?

Brennan: Free newsletter. By buying the book, you get on the newsletter.
Eventually, people outside of the book wanted to get on the
newsletter, so I started putting opt-ins on the Planscope blog.
The thing about a newsletter is that if someone just reads a
high-quality article of yours and you say that you deliver
things like that to an exclusive list, I mean my opt in rate for
my newsletter squeeze page is something like 40 or 45%, which is
something I’m very happy with and frankly could be higher.

Trent: What is the URL for that?

Brennan: That is freelancersweekly.com. I would send a lot of traffic
there and have opt-ins on my blog posts. I just started building
a list and started writing to them weekly. These weekly emails
weren’t kind of your typical graphic heavy newsletters. They
were more or less plain text-ish from me to them. I just kind of
built up a relationship with people over time.

What ended up happening was, I would drop very soft and subtle
relationships to Planscope like, “Here’s my thoughts on
estimating, and I actually built into my product Planscope,
things that actually correlate or complement this philosophy
towards estimating.” Actually, these days, more than 60% of my
new Planscope customers come from my mailing list first. They
are usually on it for months. They will sit on my list for
months. They might buy my book a month into it, then my second
book a few months later. Then they sign up for Planscope and
then six months down the road they buy my $1,800 workshop.

The thing is, what I’m doing, I’m able to really, everyone on my
list and all of my products focus on consulting. They focus on
freelancers and consultants. They’re all just different facets
of it. The Planscope, my SaaS, focuses on helping consultant be
more transparent with clients, and be basically better at
managing their projects. My first book, Double your Freelancing
Rate, helps consultants price higher. My second book helps them
deal with inbound marketing better.

All of my products are complementing a different part of
somebody’s business. For a lot of them it’s sort of natural
like, okay I paid Brennan $50 and he helped me raise my rate,
and I’m making $10,000 more a year this year. I’m very open to
spending more money on him and his SaaS business or SaaS
product, and expecting that same sort of investment to output

Trent: So your book, without going into a ton of detail, I’ve never
heard of anybody say I needed money to go to a conference so I
wrote a book. Most people say I went out and got a new client or
something like that.

Brennan: I could have done that, and I’ve thought about that for a
while. What I realized is when you’re working with a client
project, I compare it all the time to crack cocaine. It’s
immediate gratification. You work an hour and you get paid for
that hour. With a book or any sort of product, the delay is
longer, if that payoff even ever comes. Secondly, you’re
building equity in something long term. By focusing on the book,
and making that money through presales, that I could have made
through consulting, I built up more long term equity that to
this day I still sell a few copies a week. I’m really not doing
much to make that happen. Secondly, it’s building up my personal
empire of consulting products, which further strengthens things
like Planscope.

Trent: But a book. Isn’t that a big deal? How many pages are we
talking here?

Brennan: So it is about 110 pages. I did it in about a month. I focused
on writing daily and making it a habit.

Trent: Like an hour a day, or six hours a day?

Brennan: I want to say I spent about 100 hours total, so we’re talking
about an hour per page. I mean I’ve been so comfortable with
blogging a lot that writing this stuff wasn’t really, I wasn’t
needing to pull teeth. It was things that I’ve been talking
about to a lot of people over email and phone calls and things
like that. The material was all up in my head. I just needed to
commit it to paper. I did it, and I’ve got great reception. I’ve
sold something like 3,000 copies. I don’t know specifically what
it is off the top of my head. So 3,000 times 40 to 50 a piece
depending on whether they had a coupon code of it was during
presales. I mean that is still, for 100 hours, and that’s just
as it is right now, and I’m still bringing in at least 1,000 to
2,000 in revenue from it.

Trent: That’s very nice passive income. How big was your list when
you started to do presales for the book?

Brennan: I had the Planscope list, but they thought they were on a list
for a project management app, so I didn’t really have a list.
The book started my list. I heavily cross promoted to my
Planscope list, which at that point had about 2000 people on it
at that point. Through Twitter, and really through a lot of
content. I would just extract the best parts of my book as I
wrote them, convert them to a blog post, and promote them. And
people would go on the different aggregator sites and… I’m not
afraid to put my best content forward for free as a way to
generate leads.

Trent: That’s a very good point, and I am so pleased that you brought
that up, because I know that when I first got online, and I know
a number of listeners can relate to this, I really struggled
because I had a membership site, “Well, what do I put on the
blog for free versus what I put in the membership site that is
not free?” Can you talk about with a book, or anything that’s
behind a paid wall of any kind, why do people pay for stuff that
they can get for free? And is it unethical to charge for stuff
that you make freely available in some other format, somewhere

Brennan: I don’t think so, and here’s why. I think when you are selling
something to somebody wearing the hat of a business owner or
wearing the hat of a general business, there is no such thing as
free Internet research anymore. The best example I’ve ever heard
of this is my friend Patrick once said he put together a video
course on life cycle emails, and he got a lot of rebuttal from
people from Hacker News and other websites saying all this stuff
is available for free online. He said sure if you want to go
around and Google and get hit or miss articles for two weeks, go
for it. Or you can spend $500 and get a very curated, to the
point, start to finish overview of life cycle emails.

He put it in the business perspective that you are trying to
sell a CEO on having one of his developers implement a life
cycle email campaign. The CEO does not want to write a payroll
check for $10,000 for two weeks of this person’s time that has
in the memo field, “reading free information online.”

There’s two things. First off, you’re able to put it into your
own voice and into your own way of thinking about a problem.
Secondly, it’s up to you, as a content provider, to organize it,
make sure it’s relevant, make sure it’s cohesive and so on. I
say this all the time. When I’m confronted with a problem, do I
want to Google around for a week finding articles that might be
crappy, or outdated, or whatever, or would I rather pay $50 and
get the concise guide to it that I’ll have all that info pretty

Plus, I back everything of mine with a money-back guarantee. If
you don’t think it’s worth more than the $50 you paid, write me
and I’ll gladly refund you. I think I’ve had 3000 sales and only
five total refunds. It’s a great way to kill an objection people
might have and a worthwhile thing to include I think.

Trent: This is kind of a parallel to the best way to attract the best
clients is to raise your prices. That might sound unrelated to
this, but what I’m trying to say is that by charging for stuff,
you are going to attract people who really and truly understand
the value of their time, and therefore your time, and those are
the ones that are the most enjoyable to deal with. And in your
book about how to raise your prices, I’ll bet that’s probably in
there somewhere.

Brennan: It’s almost funny. The people in the highest tiers of
Planscope, the people paying $200 a month, they hardly ever
reach out for me when it comes to support, or anything like
that. A lot of the $24 a month people can be very persnickety.

Trent: Yep, so very true. Are there any other ways that you are
generating leads, because we are still actually on that thread,
for Planscope that we have not talked about yet?

Brennan: Yeah, I have a drip email campaign that I have set up. This
kind of crosses into the paid advertising realm, but I’ve done
two different ways of acquiring eyeballs, I guess. The first is
something I started doing a long time ago, which was drive,
through LinkedIn ads, traffic to my page because I saw it had a
high conversion rate. If that rate was consistent, I could make
a pretty good return, probably, from LinkedIn advertising. I did
that and it paid off pretty well. I got about a five to one
return and still do to this day off my LinkedIn ads. That is
really just driving people to my newsletter. I don’t really have
a lead [magnet] or anything, I just have the opt-in page. I get
a pretty good amount of people who sign up through that and then
I have about one out of every ten people who join . . .

Trent: Let me interrupt you, you’re sending paid LinkedIn traffic to

Brennan: That’s right, yep. I do have an auto-responder sequence set up
that actually asks three questions. The first email that I send
out says this is who I am and this is why I think I am qualified
to talk about consulting and freelancing. The second email is,
what is the number one problem you have right now with your
freelancing business? The third email is, here’s what the number
one problem that people have told me is and that happens to be
about undercharging, so I promote my book there, and I get about
a 10% conversion rate just then off of paid traffic to buy my
book. Considering what I pay to get the click, I pay about $5 a
click, I’m basically breaking even when it comes to acquiring
people through LinkedIn.

Trent: Yeah, but you’re doing that in a week, you’re getting your
money back in a week.

Brennan: Actually ten days. But the benefit of that is that the book is
just a stepping stone, I guess. I have a more expensive book
that gets up to $250. I have Planscope, where my average
lifetime value is between $200 to $1,000. I have my $1,800
workshop. I’ve had people who I’ve spent $5 a conversion on who
I broke even on with the first book, but I’ve had products
waiting in the wing that were contextually relevant to them that
then they bought and everything was pure margin, I guess.

Trent: That’s a very nice sounding funnel. You’ve mentioned earlier
that it was okay to save people research time by packaging up
knowledge and putting it all in one place so long as it was done
high quality. You have a lot of products, so I think some of the
listeners are thinking it might take me forever to create all of
those products. Do you think it’s okay for somebody to say, “I’m
going to produce a report on whatever, and I am going to go and
do all that research, and I am going to curate like mad, and
give credit where credit is due of course, and assemble my
workbook, for lack of a better term, that is the result of all
of my research on whatever topic it is, and I’m going to sell

Brennan: I think that if the deliverable is going to measurably impact
somebody’s business in such a way that it outweighs the cost of
getting that product in their hands, then I don’t see any
problem with that. I would just complement that by-it’s so easy
for a virtually 100% margin product for a book or an e-book to
put a money-back guarantee, that look, if my product doesn’t
help you, I only want you to buy this if can deliver $500 in
value to you. I think that’s a great way to do it, and if
somebody doesn’t take value from it, don’t take their money.

Trent: Its’ really about being clear with setting expectations up
front and backing it with a guarantee.

Brennan: That’s right.

Trent: For people who have not yet bought any paid traffic, why did
you choose LinkedIn over any number of other sources like
Facebook, Google PPC?

Brennan: Okay, so I actually have done Facebook also. I did Facebook and
LinkedIn. LinkedIn was a little better overall. So I phased out
a lot of the Facebook ads. I’m using Facebook, now, for
retargeting, which is amazing actually.

Trent: You should explain to people what is retargeting.

Brennan: Retargeting is when you go to a website that is using a
retargeting advertising provider, what happens is, when you go
to another website, like Facebook, you will start seeing ads for
the website you were on before. It’s kind of like when I was on
a gardening website, and I saw SendGrid, which is like an email
service provider, ads. I knew that SendGrid is not spending ad
budget on a gardening site by default. But because advertisers
know that if you have been to their website in the past, you’re
more than likely in their demographic, so you have a higher
click through rate for them, which means more money in your
pockets. But for the advertiser, it’s more money in your pocket

I heavily used Facebook retargeting. Now that they have newsfeed
ads, which if you’ve been on Facebook and you see advertisements
in your newsfeed, that also are websites that you’ve been to,
that is why. Those ads, I get 4 to 5% click through rates
sometimes on that. A good click through rate is sub 1% usually,
so I am kind of using both.

Trent: Are you using AdRoll for retargeting, or is Facebook itself got
its own retargeting service?

Brennan: I’m actually using a service called Perfect Audience, which is
a [Y-combinator] startup, and they do display ads, so they do
your general website banner ad retargeting, but they also do
Facebook ads. One thing I like about them, I don’t know if
Adderall does this, is that they allow for email for targeting.
Considering that I have a big email list, I’m able to put in my
email template the pixel ad for Perfect Audience, which will
then start retargeting for my list.

You can also segment that list to say not to show ads to people
who already have an account or already bought this, then you can
make it so that only the right people who, so if you have a free
newsletter, instead of hammering your newsletter with book
stuff, you could have your newsletter have this tracking pixel,
and then in somebody’s Facebook feed, you put a free email
course that directly relates to your book. You put your picture
and your name on it, and they already know you produce awesome
content. They join that email course and the goal of that course
is to sell them on the book, which is one really clever way to
sell your products through a newsletter.

Trent: So everything that you just explained in the last three minutes
or so, you can achieve using Perfect Audience, is that correct?

Brennan: That’s correct, yep.

Trent: So you don’t have to be some coding genius to be able to figure
out to do everything.

Brennan: No, if you are able to put Google analytics code on your
website, you will be able to figure it out.

Trent: Okay, and folks, the show notes for this episode where I will
be putting all of these links is going to be found at
brightideas.co/77. That’s just the number 77. All right unless I
missed something, I think we pretty much talked about how you’re
attracting leads. Is there anything else that you are doing for
lead generation that we have not talked about?

Brennan: It’s pretty much give away great content. Get people into, what
I call, my ecosystem. You know, get them to know who I am. The
amazing thing is when people reach out to me with support
requests for Planscope, they almost always start out with, “Hey
Brennan” comma. People know that I’m behind Planscope. I make
that a very public thing. It’s just a different medium. The
books are one medium, Planscope is a different medium, but they
all achieve that same goal, which is to help make somebody have
a better consulting business.

I have a have a very stepladder approach, where at the bottom is
my newsletter, and from then on up it goes to my impulse buy
with the book, and then bigger purchases, and ultimately
Planscope and my workshop. People sell segment. If somebody
spent $50 on you and got a great return, those people are more
than likely to spend $1,800 on you for an even bigger return.
It’s funny, I can go to my workshop customer database and plop
any of their email addresses into my CRM, and all of them bought
a book of mine a few months ago, or something. I could drive as
much paid traffic in the world as I want into an $1,800
workshop, no one will register. There needs to be a gradual
approach to doing that.

Trent: How much do you spend on advertising in a typical month?

Brennan: I spend about total, I want to say, maybe 400 or 500 a month.

Trent: Okay, and what would you say your annual run rate for your
revenue is right now?

Brennan: So my workshop, I do now just about every other month, and
that’s $1800, and I sell 14 seats, so whatever that would be.
That’s about $20,000 or so. I usually consistently sell them
out. My books bring in total about $3,000 to $3,500 on
autopilot. Planscope just passed five figures. It’s hard to say
for Planscope, because that one keeps growing, which isn’t a bad

Trent: No, definitely not, so somewhere between 25,000 to 30,000 a

Brennan: About that, yeah. That’s pretty consistent.
Trent: For a business with one programmer, and only $500 a month in
advertising. You’re doing pretty good.

Brennan: It’s funny, when I was consulting, I was billing $200 an hour.
If I was full time, I would be bringing in $32,000 a month. I’m
actually making less than I would at consulting still, but it’s
a lot better.

Trent: Because your income is not so directly tied to the amount of
hours you work now.

Brennan: That’s right. If my primary client fired me, I’d be out, but if
one person decides to quit Planscope, it’s whatever.

Trent: Right, no big deal. Do you still have the 11 people in the
service business working for you? Did you shut that down, or
sell it off? What happened?

Brennan: What I did is promote my business development guy to run it in
my absence, and I basically converted everyone to a 1099,
because if I was inactive, I didn’t want to deal with having a
fixed, expensive payroll each month. Some of them still relate
to us, but for the most part, a lot of them are just kind of
independent consultants now, so it’s intentionally gone
downhill, but the goal wasn’t to keep it alive.

Trent: The service businesses can really be wonderful. I interviewed
another guy by the name of Sam Ovens-that’s at brightideas.co/69-
he also has a SaaS business, but he, like you, funded it on the
back of his consulting business. So service businesses can
really be wonderful. I’m doing exactly the same thing. Bright
Ideas makes money from doing services in our agency and we are
taking that money and reinvesting it in assets and recurring
revenue products, because ultimately that’s where I’d like to
have the money come from.

Brennan: Yeah, I actually think that there’s a lot of room for what we
think of as turn-key products like SaaS businesses to have more
concierge services to it. If you look at something like, Rob
[Walling] who has a new project called DripOut, which is a very
simple throw this job description on your page and you will have
an email course option widget on the bottom of your screen. One
of the things he’s doing is have a concierge service where yes,
he has a platform that will help you plug in all of your email
courses, but you can pay him X amount and they will write them
for you. It’s kind of like consulting, but it’s kind of your own
marketplace in a way. You have the product that people are
paying you monthly for, but you have these transactional one-
offs that allow you to charge significantly more to deliver
personal value, I guess.

Trent: And what website should people go to for that?

Brennan: That is getdrip.com

Trent: Okay, I’ll put that in the show notes as well, so if you’re
driving, don’t try and write that down. All right, I’m such a
big InfusionSoft fan, I can’t help but ask you some questions.
We’re going to finish up the interview with how InfusionSoft
fits into all this, so if you don’t care, you’ll probably have
gotten all out of this that you wanted to, but InfusionSoft is
some of the most amazing marketing software on the planet, so
we’re going to talk about it. What do you think is this biggest
benefit to your business of using InfusionSoft versus AWeber,
GetResponse, iContact, all the cheapies?

Brennan: So for the longest time, and still to this day, I haven’t fully
transitioned everything yet. Before I was doing everything
through MailChimp. Kind of the pain for that was, there wasn’t
really, I have one massive list, while you can’t segment or
group something out, it’s very hard to say something like, “Hey
I’m putting together a workshop on recurring revenue next month,
if you’re interested, click this link.” The only way to really
do that with MailChimp would be to drive people to a landing
page where they would then need to type in their name and email
address again, submit the form and opt in for a new list.

Right now, I’m using InfusionSoft for all of the life cycle
emails for Planscope. It’s kind of nice, because you can do
things like, well the first email they get from me is, what’s
the number one thing you want me to help you with? The three
options are, I want you to help me estimate, I want you to help
me better manage my clients, or I want you to help me better
manage my team. I ask them to click one. It’s the standard where
I have a goal that is to click on a link. Depending on what they
choose, it creates a task in my InfusionSoft account, where then
I will follow up with them manually and ask how I can help them

Again, if I had a thousand new accounts a day, there is no way I
could keep doing this, but what I’m doing is actually using this
to build out an eventual email sequence for each of these three,
so eventually clicking the I need help estimating will spin off
a sequence that’s all about estimating that’s going to be based
off of the conversations that I’m having now. That’s one cool
thing that I’m able to do.

When somebody activates or pays, I tag them, and then I have
certain sequences kick off from that; likewise, when somebody
churns. The biggest thing for me is having a centralized CRM,
where I can know this person that just bought Planscope bought a
book three months ago. Before that was a very manual operation.
I had to cross reference things to figure that out. I can better
do things like when somebody joins my newsletter, if they happen
to stumble upon the Planscope website, using the web analytics
InfusionSoft capabilities, I can then start getting in touch
with them selling them Planscope.

It’s a very nice, from that point of view, where everything is
in one place, and I don’t need to have multiple lists and juggle
things around it. Instead of having a Planscope list, a book
buying list, a general newsletter list, and a workshop list, I
just have one list, but I’m better able to kind of know who on
that list has done what.

Trent: And what enables this is called tagging. Tagging is I think it
is the greatest thing ever with respect to InfusionSoft, because
it allows you to categorize the people that are in your
database, it allows you to trigger automation based on their
activity. I could probably do an entire podcast just talking
about examples of how I’m using tagging, and it’s pretty awesome
stuff. It’s so much different than, like you said with
MailChimp, where you have a list for this and a list for that
and it’s really painful to get one person from one list to
another and there is a lot of friction, whereas, with
InfusionSoft, it’s effortless.

Brennan: That’s right. Considering that the value of a team account,
where a bigger enterprise account is so much more valuable to me
than a freelancer account. When somebody says, “I need help
managing my team,” I prioritize that task. That’s permanent. Now
I know that this person is probably running a team. Then they
are the ones that I promote my higher value, more team focused
products to versus the college student who is moonlighting some
additional revenue on the side.

Trent: Absolutely. That’s right. All right, I think we are at about an
hour here, and I could ask you so many more things, but in the
interest of keeping my episode to just an hour, I think we are
going to stop here. Before we finish up, is there anything that
I have not asked you about, which you particularly stoked or
want to talk about? Number one.

Brennan: I could talk about an experiment that I’m running now if
anything is interested. It’s a sort of SaaS logistics. So before
I was doing a credit card up front sign up process, where you
would need to sign up, put in your credit card, and you would
have a two-week trial. If you didn’t cancel in two weeks you
would get billed. I did this for a while and it worked well. I
was having a 40% conversion rate from trial to paid.

What I’m doing now, I kind of have a squeeze page for
Planscope’s website. Instead of having a full blown marketing
site, it’s really just type in your email address and a password
and jump directly into Planscope. What I do is I have a very big
on-boarding process that has like an interactive video. At the
end I ask somebody to create their first project for a client,
because when somebody is using Planscope on a client project,
they are deriving business value out of it. It’s no longer about
seeing if the interface is friendly for them or whatever else,
and what I do then is capture their card then and bill them
immediately, but I put a 60-day money back guarantee.

I launched this on Friday. I don’t have enough data yet, but my
earlier site would get maybe a 1% conversion rate to trial and
now I am getting about a 10 to 11% trial rate, which means more
email addresses that I can build up relationships over time
with. So fewer drive-bys right? A lot of people, they stumble
across Planscope and they don’t know who I am, they’re not going
to give me their card, any of that stuff. Now it is much quicker
to get in, but I charge you immediately, so if you’re going to
be using this for a client project, I’m going to charge you
right now, but you have a full two months to ask for your money
back. I’m excited to see how this will work.

Trent: Are you doing this right from the homepage of planscope.io
right now or is there a different landing page?

Brennan: No, so you go to the homepage, planscope.io, there’s really no
navigation except for signing in, type in your email and
password and get started. I’m getting an 11% conversion rate on
this page.

Trent: Is that connected to InfusionSoft?

Brennan: Yes, it is.

Trent: Is that just an InfusionSoft form behind the interface or is
there an API?

Brennan: I’m using an API to do it. The form actually submits to
Planscope, and creates an account and inserts a bunch of stuff
into my database, and then I’ll replicate it over to

Trent: Okay, so if someone says, “Hey, what’s my password,” you would
be able to tell them, because it is going to be stored-obviously
you can get it out of Planscope-but it’s in InfusionSoft, yes?

Brennan: I don’t put password info in InfusionSoft. I actually encrypt
all the passwords so you’d need to reset your password if you
were locked out. All I send to InfusionSoft is their email
address. Once they activate I get the account name and the first
and last name, so I’ll update the record then, but for most
people I just get the email.

Trent: Okay, I’m going to ask you one more question. How on Earth do
you manage your time? I know for me it is a massive struggle.
There are so many projects on the go, so many things you could
be doing, from tweaking the sales funnel, to testing sources of
paid traffic, to split testing landing pages, to creating a
podcast, to getting a guest, to writing a post, and on and on
and on. You seem like you get a lot done.

Brennan: I work fast. I like to say I live in organized chaos. I think
the best thing that I do is I usually get up at around 5:00 or
6:00am. I’ll start before the world is awake, I guess, and I’ll
just bang stuff out. I’m trying now to really focus on bucketing
where I’ll have a certain day be Planscope day and another day
be newsletter day, and another day be new product day. That in a
perfect world would be ideal, but the biggest issue for me right
now is how much my day is spent in my inbox. That’s actually the
biggest problem that I have because one of the things that I ask
people with a lot of my newsletters are, “Reply and tell me what
you think about this.” And I label it all in Gmail, and it’s
great for-one great marketing lesson is throw people’s words
back at them. So if you know how people describe in their own
words a problem, and you reflect that on your marketing site,
it’s better overall for sales.

Now that I’ve got quite a few thousand people, I send out an
email and say, “Tell me what you think about this,” I might get
200 or 300 replies. And I tell people, “I’ll reply to everything
I get.” That is starting to get pretty hard.

Trent: I want to offer up a resource for that. Chris Ducker did an
interview with Amy Porterfield. Her last interview on
AmyPorterfield.com, and Chris is actually going to be on my show
coming up soon too, and he’s the guy behind Virtual Staff
Finder. He actually describes at length in the interview how he
outsourced his inbox, and he has a VA do the first round of
filtering because he’s much like you. He says, “I want to get
people back answers,” but many time as I’m sure you’re aware,
the answers are the same or more or less the same over and over
again. So you can absolutely train a VA, or even have something
like [YesWare] installed on your browser, so your stuff is
already prewritten and someone else can go through that first
round for you, so when you log into your inbox, it’s only the
stuff that nobody else could actually answer for you.

Brennan: It’s a great idea. I think there’s a benefit in that it’s the
author’s own voice replying to you. Frankly, there’s a lot of,
especially if somebody’s emailing me about spending $1,800 in my
workshop, I’m going to talk to them as myself. I’m not going to
hire a VA to do that.

But I think you’re right. For at least delegating to me what’s
important or what needs my focus is a great idea. I’ve never
been good with delegation admittedly. It’s one of those things,
I’d love to be much better at it than I am now, but it’s more of
a mental hurdle I think for me.

Trent: I think it is for a lot of people. You eventually get to the
point where you decide I can have either massive growth or
massive control, but I can’t have both.

Brennan: That’s a good point. That’s a really good point.

Trent: You just can’t do it all. There are not enough hours in the
day. Brennan, thank you so much for doing this interview with
me. I learned a whole bunch and got lots of notes going into the
show notes here. There is going to be a transcript. Again folks,
you going to be able to get to that-I’d like to say, “If you’re
just tuning in . . .” But that doesn’t happen with a podcast,
you’re either here from the beginning or you’re not here-at
brightideas.co/77. All the stuff we talked about will be right

Brennan, if people want to get a hold of you what is the one
easiest way for them to do that?

Brennan: Easiest would be my personal website, that’s brennandunn.com or
I’m the same thing on Twitter, @brennandunn.

Trent: Okay, terrific. Thanks so much for being on the show. I look
forward to crossing paths with you again soon.

Brennan: Awesome, thank you, Trent.

Trent: So that’s it for this episode. To get the show notes and all
the links that Brennan and I talked about head to
brightideas.co/77. And please do me one other small favor, head
over to brightideas.co/love, there you’ll find a tweet you can
send out, as well you’ll find a link to go ahead and leave
feedback in the iTunes store. So if you thought this was a
valuable episode and you found some golden nuggets, I would
really love it if you would take the 60 seconds or so that it
takes to fire up iTunes and go leave a five-star feedback for
the show. When you do, more ears get to hear the show in the
future because iTunes ranks it higher and the more entrepreneurs
that we can help to boost their business with all the bright
ideas that are shared here by guests like Brennan.

So that’s it for this episode. I am your host, Trent Dyrsmid. Thank
you so much for tuning in. I really cannot wait to produce
another one of these fabulous interviews for you in the future.
If this is your first exposure to the show, you want to make
sure you never miss another one, head over to brightideas.co, go
ahead and opt in, and you’ll make sure you get notification of
every episode we ever produce. Thanks so much. Have a wonderful

About Brennan Dunn

brennan-dunnBrennan Dunn provides great software and products to freelancers and consultants.

He is founder of Planscope, a project management software for contracts and freelancers; author of “Double Your Freelancing Rate“; and owner of We Are Titans, a consulting company that focuses on improving their clients’ profits.


How to Test the Viability of a Niche Marketing Without Wasting Valuable Time and Resources

Once you’ve chosen your niche, I suggest you test that niche in the way that I’m about to describe before fully committing to it.

The reason for this is that I often see people putting a great deal of time and effort to building a complete website for their chosen niche before ever running any tests. As you might guess, pursuing the wrong niche can turn out to be a massive waste of time and resources.

To avoid what could be weeks or months of wasted time building the site, creating blog posts, and in promoting those posts, you can greatly minimize the risk of picking the wrong niche by putting up a few landing pages and then driving traffic to them.

In my book on marketing automation, I cover in detail how to create landing pages and lead magnets. What I will be covering in today’s post is quick and easy way to drive traffic to these landing pages so that in a very short period of time you can determine, with a high degree of certainty, if a given niche is worth pursuing.

Two Ways to Generate Immediate Traffic

There are two ways that I commonly use to drive traffic to a landing page in the shortest possible amount of time. While neither method is free, the cost of testing a niche using the method that I’m about to outline pales in comparison to the cost of putting weeks and/or months into pursuing the wrong niche.

Use Pay Per Click (PPC) Advertising

PPC can be a great way to test your niche. (image source: 123rf.com)

PPC can be a great way to test your niche.
(image source: 123rf.com)

Depending upon the niche you’re going after, you’ll want to try Google, Facebook, or LinkedIn paid advertising to drive traffic to your landing page. If your business is B2B, I would suggest that you use LinkedIn because you can target your ads very specifically.

If your business is B2C, I suggest you use Facebook for exactly the same reasons.

As a last resort you may also want to try Google Adwords; however I suspect you’ll find the costs are excessive when compared to either Facebook or LinkedIn; especially given the fact that you cannot target your audience nearly as well with Google as you can with the social platforms I just mentioned.

When using a PPC campaign to drive traffic to a landing page, you need to be aware that there are several variables that you’re going to need to test before you can determine if the experiment was a success or not.

Test Several Variables

The first variable that you want to test is the image in the headline of your ad. I would suggest that for the first part of this test you keep your headline consistent and use anywhere from 10 to 20 different images. Once you have identified the top performing image that I would suggest you test different variations of the headline.

After you are getting a satisfactory click through on your ads, you’re going to need to look at the conversion rate of your landing page. I cover how to split test the landing page in detail in my marketing automation book.

Direct Mail

Some niches will be easier to reach with direct mail than with PPC advertising. For these niches, I suggest you use three-dimensional direct-mail, otherwise known as lumpy mail.

Old fashioned mail is another great way to test a niche.. provided you use it the right way! (image source: 123rf.com)

Old fashioned mail is another great way to test a niche.. provided you use it the right way!
(image source: 123rf.com)

The reason that 3D mail works so much better than conventional mail is that the recipient of your direct mail will be pretty curious as to what is inside the envelope and, as such, the likelihood that they are going to open your envelope is substantially higher.

The costs of sending out 3D mail will, of course, be higher than the costs of sending out conventional mail or postcards; however, I believe that the increased response rate will be more than worth it. (And yes, you could actually split test this, too!)

When choosing a 3D object to including your mailing, I suggest that you find something that closely relates to the captivating headline you put at the top of the letter you are going to include in the mailing (you should also split test your headlines over time).

The more creative you are, the better your results are going to be, so be sure and put sufficient time and effort into coming up with

ideas for what you’re going to send before you reach into your wallet.

There are numerous suppliers from which to choose (Google the term “3d mail” or “lumpy mail”). The one that I am currently using is www.3Dmailresults.com.

In our case, the call to action in the letter is just the same as it would be with the PPC ad, and that is the landing page URL – which we personalize to the recipient.

How to Maximize Landing Page Conversions

To maximize conversions, we’ve built landing pages that are customized to each individual. On these landing pages we display a video was specifically created for the intended recipient. As we are attempting to test this niche’s appetite to outsource their marketing to our marketing agency, the video shows 3 to 4 minute review of their website. In the videos we identify the 5 to 7 critical factors that are wrong with their site, and share how each factor is costing them money.

As with all the marketing that I do, this strategy relies heavily on some ninja marketing automation tactics to increase its effectiveness. To be able to replicate what I’m about to explain you’re going to need to use Infusionsoft, FuzedApp.com and Wistia.com.

Wistia is the company that I use to host the video, which I embed on the landing page. Producing the video takes less than five minutes. All I do is have a look at their site, make a list of the deficiencies, and then record the screen share where I introduce myself and explain what these deficiencies are and their negative impact.

This video is then exported to a dropbox folder, and, thanks to FuzedApp.com, it is automatically uploaded to the appropriate folder in Wistia. I then use FuzedApp.com to set up video tracking so that I can apply the tag in Infusionsoft if my prospect watches more than 75% of the video. (I chose 75% but you can pick any percentage you like.)

In each case, we have done our best to obtain a working email address for the prospect. The way that we do this is to go to their contact page and then view the source code to find an email address (search for “mailto:” and if an address is available in the code, you’ll find it). This is the email address that we use in their contact record within Infusionsoft as well as in the URL of the landing page. To mask what is now an ugly landing page URL, we simply create a “pretty link” (easy to type) that includes their name. To do this, you’ll need the Pretty Link plugin for WordPress.

Using Automation to Track Video Engagement

By taking this approach, when a prospect receives our lumpy mail and then visits the landing page that we have specified, if they watch more than 75% of the video we receive a notification from Infusionsoft.

The goal of the landing page is to get them to opt in and download our lead magnet – which is highly relevant to the niche. When they download the lead magnet, we will have captured their preferred email address and then an automated follow-up campaign begins in Infusionsoft.

The reason the video tracking is helpful is because if they do not opt in, we are still able to tell if our prospect visited the landing page and watched at least 75% (or whatever we specify) of the video.

If, over time, we see the videos are being watched and we are not capturing leads, we’ll know that our direct mail is effective at getting them to visit the landing page, however, the landing page is not effective at getting them to give us their contact details.


There are unlimited niches out there, but not all are good targets - pick wisely! (image source: 123rf.com)

There are unlimited niches out there, but not all are good targets – pick wisely!
(image source: 123rf.com)

As I hope you can now see, testing a niche using either of the methods that I have outlined above will give you immediate feedback on whether this is a niche that you can get traction with – and, best of all you will not have had to build an entire website.

It’s not enough to believe that a niche needs your help, or that they can afford to pay you for it. If you cannot acquire a customer at a cost that is less than your average customer value, you will not be in business long!

Moreover, if you really want to grow, you are going to need a system for attracting customers on a regular basis, as opposed to just getting one every now and again via personal relationships. Niche testing will tell you if this is likely to be possible.

If you succeed in getting traction using this test, then it is a good idea to dive in, build a site and begin creating and promoting your content on an ongoing basis as I describe how to do in my new book.

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Brett Labit

It is always impressive to line up a speaker a month or two in advance and have them come deliver dynamic and relevant content. I think it is even more impressive when they have zero notice and step up to the plate and knock it out of the park! That’s exactly what Trent did for Local Impact Zone. He is engaging, accurate, relevant and timely with his delivery. More importantly, his depth of knowledge and ability to execute and apply his knowledge will be extremely valuable to any business wanting to grab market share and be an industry leader. If you want a great speaker, I highly recommend Trent Dyrsmid.

~ Brett Labit